December 05, 2006
Cosmic Cocktails

Now available in bookstores, both brick & mortar and online:

Cosmic Cocktails, Edited by Denise Little

Cosmic Cocktails
Edited by Denise Little

Also available from Amazon.com and BN.com.

My story is a rather dark one, blurbed on the back as being about a 'time-traveling assasin', entitled "Everybody Stops at Boston's." I hope you like it!

Posted by at 04:19 PM in the following Department(s): Writing | Comments (0)
 December 12, 2006
Nolan at Twenty Months

Am I not the cutest little pumpkin?Our children continue to amaze me. At a little over a year and a half, Nolan is as mobile as mobile can be. He walks and runs and dances with amazing grace, and climbs with abandon up, onto, and over every piece of furniture in the house (including many pieces that simply can't support him, like a Lego table we were given by friends).

His smile (and yes, I know I've said this about Alex, as well, and its true for both of them), simply lights up the room. And while he is generally sweet-natured and even-tempered like Alex, his personality is nonetheless very different from older brother's.

He is not particularly talkative, but he is very good at letting you know what's on his mind. His favorite morning routine is to wake up before me, try to pull me out of bed (by the forefinger), point in the direction of the stairs, and say a word that sounds something like "Down!"

Nolan cleans up rather well.He loves to read, with his two favorites being the Sandra Boynton books and a couple of young readers we have about the space shuttle. (Shhh. Don't tell him, but he'll be getting a toy space shuttle for Christmas.) He can't get enough of these books. With the Boyton books, he loves to point at the animals and imitate the sounds they make. Likewise, he loves to carry around toy dinosaurs and roar. It's ridiculously cute. While he's not as talkative as Alex was at this age, he's sure to let us know that he can be vocal when he wants to be.

Now that he's over a year old, he seems to be getting more out of the holiday season. He appeared to enjoy his trick-or-treating with big brother and mom, and he's done an admirable job of not fussing with the decorations on the Christmas tree this year. (Last year, of course, he couldn't even walk yet during the holiday season, so we've done okay in that department.)

As the dust starts to settle with regard to my work situation (I've been putting in rather long hours for the past couple of years, but that should start to stabilize with the new year), I look forward to spending more one-on-one time with both of my kids. For the first year and a half of Alex's life, I was working from home, and so enjoyed the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with him when he was very young. I haven't had the same opportunities with Nolan, and I very much want to make sure that we both get the chance to spend that quality time together. Like his older brother, he's growing very quickly, and I don't want to miss it.

Nolan knows how to smile

Posted by at 11:56 PM in the following Department(s): The Boys | Comments (0)
 December 13, 2006
Alex at Fifty-Three Months

It's not Buffalo, but it'll do.Alex is just a few weeks away from being four-and-a-half years old. Yikes!

He continues to enjoy his school, where he is making huge leaps forward in his math skills and in writing. He has already composed his first short story (he drew a picture of a train and dictated a four-sentence description of what was about to happen to it to his teacher, who wrote the story down), complete with action, adventure, and daring-do. But rather, when I refer to his writing, I'm more talking about his ability to draw numbers and letters -- he can write his name legibly, and it gets clearer and clearer all the time. Various exercises in school involve writing numbers and adding them up, which he's doing with amazing clarity.

The biggest kick for me, as far as his schooling is concerned, is that *he* is now starting to read to *me*. Oh, sure -- not much. The first story he read to me was "Fat Cat". As I'm sure you can imagine, Fat Cat isn't so much a story as it is a series of sentences that build upon each other. Fat Cat is sad. Fat Cat is glad. Fat Cat sat. That kind of thing. But it's a pure joy to watch and listen to him puzzle out some parts and breeze past others and correct mistakes. Words can not convey the pride I feel as he shows me newly developed skills on almost a daily basis.

Lookin' good in a tie.Alex continues to be quite a talker, and very articulate at that. It seems that his favorite hobby is explaining things (which, I fear, is almost certainly more an imitation of me than of his mother) -- gesturing emphatically with his hands and varying his vocal pitch in an exaggerated sing-songy way, complete with dramatic pauses and head-bobbing counterpoints.

He is increasingly self-sufficient, as when he assembles his breakfast by himself (ranging from peanut butter on crackers to cereal with milk, et al).

Like his younger brother, Alex is showing an increasing interest in the space shuttle. We were going to a Christmas party this past weekend and made sure they had a computer with internet connection available for him to watch the shuttle launch, which was scheduled to happen during the party; he had been *most* disappointed when the previously scheduled attempt had to be delayed due to inclement weather, and he didn't want to miss this one.

(That said, he was still quite social before and after the launch. Alex likes parties, even the kinds that are mostly meant for grown-ups.)

We try not to over-schedule our kids' time, which means we try to only have one or two "classes" a week outside of school. Right now, Alex is taking swimming, and he's enjoying it a great deal. He is already able to swim from one side of Redmond's municipal pool to the other. Paulette and I are inclined to eventually sign up both of the boys for gymnastics, but we don't want to over schedule them, either, and we don't want to take Alex away from swimming just now. We'll have to see how that all plays out. One thought is that we'll introduce gymnastics once school is done for the summer break.

In the meantime, we're not letting the cool, dark winter nights keep us cooped up in the house. Paulette brings the kids to the children's museum or the acquarium or the like on a regular basis, and we occasionally dine out as a family (where Alex can be quite well-behaved, especially if we keep the meal from going too long).

It's been almost four and a half years since Alex came into our lives, and he still continues to inspire and amaze me. Raising him and Nolan is proving to be a most excellent adventure.

Posted by at 11:33 PM in the following Department(s): The Boys | Comments (1)
 December 19, 2006
Air Raid. It must be Tuesday.

Last week I was in downtown San Francisco to teach a database class. In the middle of one of our sessions, an air raid siren began to blare. I stopped my lecture and said:

"That can't be good."

"Oh, that," one of the attendees said, not phased in the least. "It's just Tuesday at noon. That happens every Tuesday at noon."

"What? San Francisco gets bombed?"

No. Apparently, they test their air raid sirens every week.

"Yeah," chimed in another. "If they *didn't* set off the siren, *that* would have been cause for alarm."

It's all so clear to me.

So, if you happen to be in San Francisco on a Tuesday, and noon comes and goes and you don't hear an air raid siren, then, well... duck and cover.

Posted by at 12:00 PM in the following Department(s): Tidbits | Comments (1)
 December 21, 2006
Strategery, part I

Late last week, while I was out of town on business, a brutal wind storm swept through the region I call home, knocking down a large number of very tall trees and thereby making many important roads impassable, destroying more than a few houses, and leaving roughly a million people in the region without electricity (including, alas, my wife and children).

Some folks never saw any interruption to their power supply, of course, while others in the region are quite possibly going to go without for more than a week (and possibly much more, although that remains to be seen). While my own house and business had power restored this past weekend, I have family in the area that is likely not to see power resume until Thursday, and still other friends who are being told to wait until next weekend. (I began writing this on Monday, by the way, and those estimates remain unchanged as of late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning.)

There have been two interesting side-effects of this massive power outage, beyond the expected traffic snarls and the grocery stores having to throw out all their dairy products. Oh, and the run on flashlights and batteries at the region's Home Depots, et al.

The first side effect of note: gas lines. In fact, many of our traffic snarls are being caused by very long lines at the proverbial pumps. The region was warned a day or two in advance that this storm was coming, but folks apparently failed to fill up their tanks and, worse yet, failed to get gas for their back-up generators. Power generators are not uncommon around here this is a heavily wooded region of the country, the power lines are typically left above ground, and storms like this are not rare. QED. But this power outage has been longer than we'd typically have to deal with; even folks who were appropriately stocked up with a reserve of fuel for their back-up generators have been running them for a while, and had to fill up on gas. Hence, gas lines.

The second consequence has been smoke. After the wind storms passed, we've been left with very still air. At the same time, residents who have wood-burning stoves have been using them to heat their homes and apartments. *Also*, we've had more than a few idiot locals who have decided to dispose of the debris on their property -- including green wood -- by burning it. This was just made illegal in our area last year, but some locals still do it. With all this burning and with the air not moving, the Redmond basin and elsewhere are being treated to a rather sooty haze. Asthmatics, beware.

Throughout my life, I've enjoyed several opportunities to experience polis interruptus. A blizzard or three in Buffalo and Boston, a tornado in Florida, severe flooding and severe drought in a number of places, a wildfire in California, an earthquake in Seattle. I also had one near miss with a terrorist attack in London (I had been at the building one hour prior), and another near miss with a falling boulder at Multnomah Falls in Oregon (missed getting squashed by two hours).

And given all of these hits and near misses, how prepared am I for emergencies? Well, granted, there's not much prep work you can do in anticipation of a boulder falling on your head. But with the recent (and truly sad) story of a family of four getting stranded in the mountain roads of the Oregon Coast, you'd think I'd have thrown a box of Luna bars in the back of my Suburban Assault Vehicle, along with tire chains, road flares, and the Boy Scout's Official Handbook.

Nope.

Oh sure, I've taken CPR and emergency preparedness training (then again, I had those classes just before that earthquake, and I could probably use a refresher. But what if that brings on another earthquake?) -- yet, have I ordered a backup power generator for *my* house? Have I picked up a defibrillator and taught Alexander how to use it?

Truth be told, I haven't even gone Christmas shopping yet, and I've not only known that Christmas *could* happen, I've actually known the date it *will* happen. For quite some time, I've had this knowledge.

Just as the earthquake waited for me to get my emergency preparedness training, and just as the malls *should* still be open on Christmas Eve (I hope), so, too, I imagine that future crises will belay until I am adequately prepared. (This last windstorm struck, for example, while my minivan sat awaiting my arrival from San Francisco *with a full tank of gas*, and far, far away from any trees that could fall on it.)

I've got history on my side. I've got piles and piles of data to show that I've done okay with only adequate (or sub-adequate) preparation in the face of adversity, and most years I still manage to get some presents wrapped and under the tree before Christmas day has come and gone.

But correlation does not prove causation, and it turns out that another windstorm is heading our way. Tonight. If you don't hear from me for a few days, you'll kno---az4z/!dDD

Posted by at 03:18 AM in the following Department(s): Tidbits | Comments (1)
 December 27, 2006
Notes on Christmas 2006

As I write this at the end of the day-after-Christmas, snow is gently falling on my neighborhood on the Ridge. Because the hour is late and Christmas has passed, the strings of lights and other illuminated lawn decorations have gone dark. The scene out my window is absolutely beautiful in its silence and tranquility. Any moment now, I expect O-Ren Ishii and The Bride to solemnly step out and begin their dignified sword fight to the death, as they did at the House of Blue Leaves.

Here are my notes on Christmas 2006:

* Both of our sons are into planes, trains, dinosaurs, cars, and the space shuttle. In an effort to try to minimize fighting over the same toys, they both were presented with the exact same space shuttle toy (complete with "crawler", fuel tank & rocket boosters, cargo bay arm and satellite). Does that mean they don't fight over the toys? Of course not. The most common fight is over which shuttle belongs to whom. Alex is particularly concerned by this; Nolan is the unwitting mixer-upper.

* The boys also each received one model F-16 jet plane each. But they have different paint schemes. No fighting over those at all. The irony being, of course, that they are fighter planes. Go figure.

* This isn't the first year I've thought this, but here goes: it would make a lot more sense to spread out the distribution of the gifts over several days, rather than opening them all on one day. I think the kids would get more out of it, and it might nip the otherwise inevitable post-holiday let-down.

* Alex has been unusually reluctant to do what I ask/tell him to do these past few days. His teachers warned us that this is a common behavior at this time of year for kids this age, and will likely clear up when he gets back to school after the winter break.

* Nolan's verbal skills are absolutely exploding right now. (No, not literally.) Go, Nolan!

* I had a very busy day at work today. It felt good.

* Santa gave me a very nice pair of gloves. And an excellently framed copy of my first professionally published short fiction.

* The movie Cars, which was given to boys on DVD this Christmas, is an excellent movie, but just a wee bit too long.

* Did I mention that a couple of weeks ago, I was Santa Claus for our community-wide holiday party? I got to ride in a fire truck, which was quite a perq, and lead the lighting of the Christmas Tree. Wow, do kids dig Santa. Alex and Nolan were there, too. Boy, was that surreal. Watching my kids see me without really seeing me. Alex spoke to me briefly. He said he wanted a Spiderman this year. I told him that I seemed to recall giving that to him last year (which we did, on a tip that that was what he'd asked the school Santa for last year), and that he might enjoy some of the other things he'd be getting this year. It occurred to me to mention that he broke the Spiderman from last year, and he should take better care of his toys... but that might have been a little over the top, even for me.

* Santa couldn't judge any of the homemade cookies for the cookie contest, because Santa's beard and moustache were sewn just a little too tightly to allow cookies to be consumed without destroying the illusion. Alas.

* I still have yet to mail out several gifts we'd bought for good friends of ours who live out of town. And I have yet to write our annual Christmas letter. Eeek!

As I write this, the kids and Paulette are asleep upstairs, and I see the gently falling snow outside my kitchen window. It's so unseasonably peaceful after such a busy, bustling few weeks. And I can't help but wonder... will we still have power tomorrow morning?

Ah, Redmond.

Posted by at 02:11 AM in the following Department(s): Tidbits | Comments (0)
 December 31, 2006
A comment about comments

The Comments feature on this site has done more to shape how I manage this site than just about anything else -- beyond my own whims, of course.

Thanks to comments, I can occasionally enjoy an interactive dialog with readers and a public forum on shared topics of interest. There continues to be an interesting conversation regarding gingiva grafts, for example, for any of my readers who might have any cause to be concerned about oral surgery.

That said, it turns out that the MovableType engine, which I use as my content management system, is not robust enough at present to handle the kind of comment junk attacks my site to which my site occasionally falls victim. Every once in a while, some spamtard or other will barrage my site with literally hundreds (and, one time, around a thousand) of requests to post bogus comments at a time. My web server has had a hard time with this, and has generally reacted by curling up into the fetal position and crying like Sally Struthers after the all-you-can-eat buffet has closed.

This has left me seriously considering either switching to another content management system (anyone out there have any experience with Wordpress?), which would be a great deal of work given how big this site is, or switching to one of those "free" services like Livejournal or Blogger or WhateverSpaces, which are big and (presumably) bullet-proof but which would also be a pain in the nether regions and would entail the loss of control I have over the format of my site.

[I could also shut down the comment feature, but I don't want to do that.]

Before doing anything drastic along those lines, however, I've decided to give MovableType on my server here one more shot. I've installed some new modules that should help with the barrage attacks themselves, and I've opened comments back up. I still need to tweak the formatting of the comment windows -- sorry about the uglitude there -- but I hope you'll feel free, once again, to post your responses to my recent entries.

Oh, and I'm going to start shutting down comments on any old posts that haven't seen any comments posted in a while. This is a tedious process for me, but it will also help to shut down on those barrage attacks.

As an interesting consequence, I'm re-reading older posts as I go along, closing down the comment feature on older entries (MovableType won't let me edit the comment feature in bulk. Grrr). Wow, what a long way this site and I have come since I first went to a CMS six years ago. Yikes.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

[PS: thanks, Greg Z., for being the lone brave sole who was willing to register with TypeKey to post comments while I was using their authentication tool. Too bad their tool didn't solve my comment attack woes. It did, however, discourage any other legit readers from posting their comments. Yee-ha.]

Posted by at 02:31 PM in the following Department(s): About This Site | Comments (1)

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