Here we go again

First, these people have lost their damn minds. And by “these people” I mean everyone associated with the GOP. Case in point:

Florida’s vicious attack on transgender children

GOPer Sends Fake Appointment Confirmations For ‘Your Child’s Gender Reassignment Surgery’ in Fundraising Texts

Thank God for people like Ian and Mallory:

This is why I’m posting, though:

So…yeah. This is Yet Another Goddamn Moment in what seems to be a never ending series of Goddamn Moments lately where “conservatives” lose their mind over some made-up menace, let their bigot flag fly, and engage in hateful rhetoric and lawmaking that’s going to get people hurt. As Harry Vanderspiegle would say:

So repeat after me:

Trans women are women.

Trans men are men.

Trans people are people, goddamnit.


Crunch Time

This is another piece of flash fiction from Writer’s Digest Feb Challenge— day 18: time. I scrawled it in a notebook while waiting for an eye appointment, and just now came across it again. It kind of stops abruptly, due to my being called away for the exam, but I think it still works as is.

“Go! Go! Go! Everybody move!” Captain Bofin waved his squad into the waiting shuttle, giving each soldier a gentle push, not that they needed one. As the last of his unit clambered aboard, he mashed the hatch button and raced to his own jump seat. Restraints fastened, he nodded to the pilot. “Punch it.”

The pilot turned to her controls, firing the shuttle’s thrusters and pulling back the yoke. Overloaded, the frame shuddered as the craft struggled to get off the ground. “Come on, baby, you can do it,” she cooed. As if it understood, the landing claw released and the ship began to rise.

A series of warning lights began flashing red. “Not now,” muttered the co-pilot. He reached under his console and yanked out a handful of wires. The warning lights went dark.

“What the hell did you just do?” barked Sandy.

“Bought us some time, I hope.” Tevya tossed the wires over his shoulder. “Thirty more seconds and safety protocols would have kicked in.”

Sandy gave a curt nod, understanding. The ship had taken a lot of punishment in the forty-seven minutes since landfall. No wonder they were getting systems warnings, but there would be time for diagnostics later. Right now they had maybe ninety seconds to clear atmosphere before that…thing caught up with them.

“Uh, commander?”

Make that sixty seconds. “Shit. How does something that big move so fast?” She began to flip a series of switches on the panel overhead.

Alarmed, Tevya demanded, “What are you doing?”

Sandy grinned. “Buying us some time.” She raised the cover on a big red button and jammed her thumb into it.

The ship lurched skyward, rapidly picking up speed. Behind and now underneath them, a large chunk of the ship fell away. 

“You know you could get court-martialed for that, right? Hyperdrives are restricted technology, and you just left one where—“ Tevya stopped short as Sandy raised a finger indicating, just wait.

The beast that had been unleashed on them swallowed the fallen engine whole, and a heartbeat later it exploded in a technicolor spray of flesh, bone, and volatile fuel.

“There, see?” Sandy grinned from ear to ear. “What hyperdrive?”

“Yeah well, we’re still going to have to explain why we need pick up. Unless you have some other way to get to the fleet?”

Sandy dismissed his concerns with a casual wave. “It’s going to take a good thirty-six hours before anyone gets here. That’s plenty of time to come up with a good story.” Indicating the console Tevya had lobotomised, she continued, “In the meantime, you might want to put that back together. I’m pretty sure you disabled access to the head.”


Daft Punk Ain’t Got Shit On Us

Some time after I posted about movies we watched in 2021, I got a year-end recap from Letterboxd. Surprise! Their recap includes a bunch of different stats, including release year, directors, languages, etc. One of these stats is country, and USA was on top by…a lot. There’s nothing wrong with that, and given that I am ‘merican & all, not a real surprise.


Ever since I’ve been able to, I’ve enjoyed watching international films. Back in college and especially grad school, I was a regular at film screenings of all types. However, without really meaning to, I’ve more recently stopped going to art house and foreign films. Chalk it up to no longer living in a college town, I guess.

So seeing that bar chart with USA towering over every other country like Shaq in Munchkinland was kind of a wake-up call. This called for a resolution to make a conscious effort to watch more global cinema. We’re making up the rules as we go, but we’re trying to evenly distribute our viewing across the continents (excepting Antarctica, though we’re committed to at least watching The Thing), and within those trying to hit as many different countries as we can. So far, we’re doing pretty well. We’ve hit every continent twice, with only North America lagging behind, but only because we’re not counting films from the USA.

Even though we’re only in March, we’re already finding there’s a trick to finding what films to watch. Services don’t tend to list their offerings by country, even less by continent, so I’ve spent a lot of time browsing trying to track down eligible films. BUT! I hit upon a promising strategy this weekend. Rather than just blindly search by country or continent, if you search Letterboxd and set the results to show “Lists,” nearly every country you punch in has at least one curated list of films made in or about the country. Yes!

Of course, the next trick is going to be tracking some of these films down, since not everything is available on streaming services we subscribe to. My guess is at some point we’ll need to hit our local (or university) library, but that’s a problem for another day.

If you want to follow along, my Letterboxd diary should be public. Don’t look for reviews or ratings, though. I’m marking stuff I liked, but that’s about it for now. I’ll leave more detailed thoughts to others.


Dear God Just Make It Stop

Just to recap:

  • 2016: sucked
  • 2017-2019: living in suck-land
  • 2020: super sucked
  • 2021: maybe…oh, wait. No, still sucking.
  • 2022: hold my beer

Sighs heavily



This is from a recent Writer’s Digest Flash Fiction prompt, “Grim Reaper.” Tossing up here because why not.

“Hey, buddy. How’s it going?”

“Pretty good, G.R. How about yourself?”

“If I’m being honest? Not so good.”

“Aw, man. I’m sorry to hear that. Did something happen?”

“It’s just…you know, everything.”

“I hear you. If it helps, it’s going gangbusters on our end.”

“Yeah…that’s kind of why I’m calling. Can you guys maybe cool it a bit?”

“What do mean? I thought you liked to keep busy.”

“I do. It’s just…it’s kind of a lot right now.”

“Ha! What’s the matter old man, you can’t keep up?”

“This isn’t funny, asshole. Do you have any idea what it’s like for me? It’s not like the old days. There are billions of humans now, and they’re literally all over the goddamn planet. At least you guys have horses. I have to walk.”

“Oh, come on. It can’t be that bad. I know Pestilence got a little carried away, but you’ve been keeping up. And the humans have science now. It’s not like back in the day when he killed half of an entire continent.”

“Ugh. Don’t remind me. I still haven’t gotten the smell out of my cowl from that month in Paris. Listen, all I’m saying is, I need a breather, okay? Can you maybe pump the brakes, just so I can have time to get a fresh pair of sandals, and maybe sharpen my scythe?”

“Okay, okay. I’ll see what I can do. No promises, though. I overheard him giggling about something called ‘Upchuck Upsilon’ last week.”

“You’re shitting me.”

“Nope. He’s calling that his ‘summer blockbuster.’ War has a bet with him that humanity won’t let it get to that, but Pestilence is pretty confident.”

“*sigh* I can’t say that I blame him. Tell War I wouldn’t take that bet.”

“Hey, maybe you can tell him yourself. I hear he’s heading to Ukraine soon.”


“Hello? You there?”

“I hate you guys.”


2021 Movies Edition

Because why not– I did it for books (why do my fingers keep wanting to capitalize that?) & comics, and I’ve got a Letterboxd membership where I’m tracking movies, so let’s do those, too.

Before getting into this, I should note that we didn’t watch a whole lot of new movies in 2021, and there’s a larger number of rewatches than would be typical for me. Some of this is thanks to COVID, some of it not.


We only watched four movies the whole month, so I’ll just list them all:


We spent February re-watching the Avengers/Captain America movies, with a couple new items sprinkled in. None of them were particularly memorable, but I’ll give Flora & Ulysses a shout-out since that was the reason for the short story contest I entered.


February’s Marvel marathon led me to finally watch Point Break, though the better/more interesting films were:


We somehow managed to watch all three Witch Mountain movies in a day, which was kind of like watching one each Connery, Timothy Dalton, and Daniel Craig Bond flick. The movies are all in the same world, but they’re very different from each other. That aside, the two highlights of the month have to be Blood Simple and Promising Young Woman.


Three movies that were better than I expected:

One movie that I’d seen before, and would watch again in a heartbeat:

His Girl Friday


Two Disney movies: Raya and the Last Dragon didn’t do much for me, but I did enjoy Luca. My favorite of the month has to be A Colt Is My Passport, which sent me hunting for the soundtrack as soon as the credits finished. Streets of Fire was…interesting.


Two “what did I just watch” flicks: Zola and Tank Girl. Also of note:



Two action movies of note here– The Fugitive and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. Speed also holds up pretty well, though George of the Jungle maybe not so much.


October was Universal Horror month, though I have to confess that I fell asleep during half of them. Creature from the Black Lagoon is the best of the bunch, IMHO. I also watched Jennifer’s Body, which was much funnier than I had expected.

Another in the category of “what did I just watch”: Mind Game.

However, Dune was far and away the best movie of the month.



Finally got around to watching Parasite, and caught The Matrix Resurrections on opening weekend. We also took in No Time to Die, and are looking forward to the new series starring Ana de Armas that they are surely making, right? Right? Our most notable re-watch was Matchstick Men.

…and we bridged the new year with the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Whew…thassalotta movies.


2021 in Books and Comics

Quick recap— mid-2020 I made a little paper/pen holder with a deposit slot behind it. For every book or graphic novel I read, I tear off a sheet, jot down the title and date I started reading. I use it as a bookmark, and when I finish, I note the end date and write a little note about the book/comic. Sometimes I doodle a picture.

Somewhere out there, Mrs. Millen is rolling her eyes and saying to the person next to her, “Now he starts tracking what he reads?”

If you’re curious, the grand total for 2021 was 80 little slips of paper, representing 24 books, 41 graphic novels, 13+ individual issues of comics (because sometimes I’ll use the same sheet if I read multiple issues in a sitting), and a couple books that are collections of one panel comics or tweets.

Last year I published a timeline of everything, but that was more work than I want to do today. Instead, I’m going to highlight a few titles from each month that stood out, for whatever reason. I’ll note going into it that several of the comics I learned about from a “best of 2020” list, so if you’ve heard of them before, that’s why. 


Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen: Who Killed Jimmy Olsen?
This book is hysterical, and would be worth the price even if all it had was that “Bwoocy hungy” line.

A vampire and a werewolf start dating. Single panel comics, adorably goofy.

You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacy
My guess is that Black people will absolutely believe what happened to Lacy. The stories here run from hilarious to horrifying, and should be required reading for white people.

Impossible Jones
Kickstarter comics tend to be hit or miss, but this one is a lot of fun. Their website describes her as “A little bit Harley Quinn, a little bit Plastic Man.” She’s a hero in air quotes.


Superman Smashes the Klan
Yes, that Klan. Based on a radio play from the 40s, and disappointingly relevant today. Again, white people…just do better, okay?

Second Coming
I just found out the second volume of this is available, so I’ll probably be re-reading it. Jesus comes back to Earth and rooms with a super hero (who’s also in group therapy). Things don’t go well. Also, his dad is a real asshole.


Star Wars: Into the Dark
Part of the “High Republic” series of releases Disney kicked off last year. I’m still not sure about the whole Nihil thing, but this story was solid enough.


Exiles vol 1 & vol 2
Characters from different timelines come together to save the multiverse. If that sounds like “What if?” and the Loki series on Disney+, you’re pretty close. 

Gotham Central
Think “The Wire” but in Gotham. Light on super heroes/villains, heavy on detectives in Gotham PD. The Omnibus is a beast of a book, but it’s well worth reading. 


Lumberjanes (multiple)
Monstress (multiple)

I bounced back & forth between these all month. Lumberjanes is as light and goofy as Monstress is dark and intense. 


The City We Became
I dug this a lot more than N.K. Jemison’s “Broken Earth” trilogy, and am super looking forward to where the series goes next.


Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History
Four-plus decades of D&D art, with the history of the game alongside them.

The Book of Accidents
I’ve been surprised to find myself reading horror novels recently, largely thanks to Chuck Wendig. I just drew a picture of an owl on my slip of paper for this one. *wink*

The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels
More romancey than I was expecting. A fun read if you like silly Victorian magical hijinks.


Bandette vol 4: “The Six-Finger Secret”
Presto! We love our Bandette in this house.

Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?
If I were to pick a book of the year, this would (probably) be it. Eddie Gein was the inspiration behind Psycho, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Leatherface), etc… Seriously messed up dude. 

Both interesting and maddening. Interesting because it takes the story of rubber ducks dumped in the ocean and spins it out into climate change, manufacturing, supply chains, pollution, etc. Maddening because the writer meanders as much as the damn ducks. If you like stories in the New Yorker, you’ll love this.


Hawkeye (Fraction/Aja)
Bro, we have a two-book collection of these stories, not the omnibus I’ve linked to. Not sure what’s up with that cover art, bro, since the meat of the story doesn’t have him in that costume, nor is it the art style the stories known for. Anyway bro, this is the stuff the Disney+ series is largely inspired by. It also features an issue entirely from Pizza Dog’s perspective, bro.


Foundation Trilogy
This is the third (at least) time I’ve read the series. The show on AppleTV+ barely resembles the original books, which is what prompted me to revisit it. The books are…definitely of their time, but as one of the first authors that got me into sci-fi, they’ll always have a special place for me.


The Lady From the Black Lagoon
Not sure why there hasn’t been a movie or one of those limited series about Milicent Patrick, yet. She deserves one.


The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror
Second time I read this one. Yeah, that angel is pretty stupid. He means well, though.

Special mention

You Can Do Anything, Magic Skeleton!
We kept this book on the dining room table and used it for daily motivation, reading a page out loud a day. I expect it will come back out again at some point in 2022 for a second run. 


Me No NaNoWriMo. You, though? Go Go Go!

Now that we’re nearly a week into November, I think I can call it. I am officially not participating in this year’s NaNoWriMo. For the sake of completion, I’ll also note that I’m not doing Movember or that other challenge, either. However, as a past participant (of NaNoWriMo), I figured I would share my experiences in case some other soul can find them useful.

I did NaNoWriMo kind of on the sly in 2018. If you’re someone who knows me, you may be thinking, “Wait, what?” You’re not alone. Until I hit publish on this blog post, a grand total of maybe four people on the planet know I did this, and I’m not sure about the fourth. Even Chandra wasn’t aware until a good way through the month. I know a big part of NaNoWriMo is the community, sharing your progress, etc etc…but I didn’t care about any of that. For me, it was enough to have a launch date to start drafting, and a target date to see how far I could get. Plus, I had seen some advice that you’re better off not sharing your goals, and it seemed reasonable to me.

The TL;DR of my experience with NaNoWriMo is:

  • Did I finish the novel in November? No.
  • Did I finish the novel at all? Yes!
  • Did I learn anything? Oh, hell yes.

Knowing that there’s a link up top to Conviction, I should clarify something before going any further. Conviction is not a product of NaNoWriMo. That’s actually my second work of long-form fiction, and is technically a novella anyway, so wouldn’t have counted. What I’m talking about here is a YA novel titled Augusta Quilliam Gets Ahead of Herself. I’ll just refer to it from here on out as Augusta.

Moving on…

One month is…not a lot of time to crank out even a rough draft of a novel, at least for me. In order for me to pull that off, I would have to know exactly where it was going from start to finish, and I would have to have more than just spare time dedicated to the effort. Since I both have a full-time job and spend a good amount of time staring into space when I write anything, there just aren’t enough hours or energy to hack out 50,000+ words in thirty days.

But— even though it took a bit longer, I did eventually finish Augusta. The timeline gets a little weird, because when I got to the end of what I thought would be the first draft, I realized that the story had a giant hole where the third act needed to be. This was I think in December or maybe January. It wasn’t until May that I felt like I was really done with it. 97,300 words. Whew! By the strictest definition of NaNoWriMo I missed the deadline by a good five-plus months, and overshot the target by nearly 50,000 words, but I still consider that a success.


. . . .

Not really. I didn’t just want to finish the novel. I wanted it to be good. That takes more work.

Next up came a round of reader feedback and revisions, leaving me with a novel of 92,700 words, followed by a more robust round of professional feedback (from Kat Howard, who I highly recommend). Among other things, that included a note that in addition to the suggested changes, I needed to get the word count down to a more acceptable YA range of 50-80K words. Oof. Double oof, since I knew there were significant bits I needed to add in order to flesh out why one of the characters acts like such a dick.

So, more edits and more reworking, until by late October I got to a final word count of 79,400, almost a full year after I first started drafting Augusta.

Awesome. When can I find it at my local bookstore, Jason?

Um, don’t hold your breath. I did take the first steps towards getting Augusta traditionally published, which meant writing up synopses, extracting the first X pages or chapters, and sending those with query letters to agents. As anyone familiar with this game is probably expecting, I got rejected by all of them. The first one made me feel like a Real Writer™, but it didn’t take long before the novelty wore off, and I lost interest in the whole process. I know, I know, Harry Potter got rejected a bazillion times, I should keep at it, blah blah blah. The thing is, it turns out spending hours hunting for and contacting agents only to have a slow parade of “no thanks” weeks or months later isn’t my idea of fun. It’s not that I find rejection difficult, and I recognize that it’s all just business so I don’t take it personally, but the hunger just isn’t there to put up with the hassle. (And if you’re paying attention, yes– somewhere in there 2020 smacked us all in the face, but this is one thing we can’t blame on that.)

Not that Augusta will never see the light of day. I do have a web site, after all. 🙃

I will say that even if Augusta never gets past the confines of my hard drive, writing it and taking it as far as I have has been an excellent learning experience. Just as they say reading makes you a better writer, the reverse is also true. I think I get more out of the books I read having done this, and not just because now I read the Acknowledgements section— a habit I picked up while looking for agents.

…and for those pursuing NaNoWriMo this year or any other, have fun with it and remember— this is the easy part.


Stuart, 2002 – 2021

I’m…just going to skip over the usual introduction. You’ve seen the title, you know why I’m writing this.

Stuart…was a hell of a cat, and a real force of nature. I’ve written before about how we met him, screaming for freedom with his face pressed up against the bars of his cage, but it didn’t stop there. He couldn’t just chase feather toys. He had to have them, and if I didn’t give in he would pull so hard all the feathers would pop out, leaving us with just a string and plastic nub. If any cat went to the vet, that was grounds for hissing and slapping, even if the cat was him. On more than one occasion we watched the vet say, “Yeah, his teeth are fine. We’ll just skip that part.” If you tried to sedate him, he would fight it tooth & nail. Chandra still has nightmares of him howling all the way up the eastern seaboard.

Even nap time for Stuart could be a thing. If I was lying in a foof chair with Opie on my lap, Stuart had to be on my stomach. If Opie was on my stomach, Stuart had to be on my chest. If Opie was under a blanket, Stuart would find his head and trample him on the way to finding whatever snuggle spot he wanted. I have more than one picture of the two of them together, with Opie glaring at Stuart for invading his space.

A tiny cherished memory. I’m sitting in the living room, watching TV or playing video games. Nikki, our then most senior cat at maybe eight years old or so is cat loafing by the left front speaker. Stuart waltzes up to her, POW smacks her in the head, then scampers off. I say, “Dude, what the hell was that for,” even while I’m laughing. Nikki gives him a look laden with expletives, but doesn’t do anything else and just hunkers back down. Thus began the reign of the tabby cat.

Not that he was always a terror. Stuart was also incredibly sweet. I’ve spent the better part of the last several summers with him curled up by my legs in the three-season room, and have often had to apologize for grabbing his head when I fumble for the TV remote control. As a kitten, he seemed to take scoldings especially hard, and could have the most apologetic eyes I’ve ever seen in a cat. We could always scoop him up whenever we felt the urge, and if we yelled, “Stu-u-art!” he would reliably come running, often full of news.

A second cherished memory. I’m working in my basement office, and Stuart comes downstairs, hollering. I have no idea what he wants, so I get up and ask him to show me. He immediately shifts from long, loud meows to something closer to chattering— “mrr, mrow, mrr, mrr” as he leads me upstairs, explaining what he’s got to show me, which it turns out is a pile of tampons he’s pulled out of the cabinet and been chewing on. Chandra was not pleased.

And of course, if it weren’t for Stuart, we would have never had Opie. They weren’t litter mates, and were different as night and day, but were instant life-long friends. They were inseparable as kittens, even in later years you could find them sleeping next to each other, or with Opie under a blanket and Stuart next to him. They also played hard, and it wasn’t unusual for us to hear the two of them screaming at each other as they tore through the house, or to find piles of cat hair where they had gotten into it. Somewhere out there, we imagine that Opie was super happy to see his big brother yesterday.

A final…not so much a memory, just something Stuart & I used to do, especially over the last year or two. He would always hang around the dining room table at mealtime and ask to sit on my lap. He had to wait until I was done eating, mostly to be sure he kept his nose out of my food, but when I was done I would pat my legs to invite him up, and then throw them in the air to be sure he had room. As soon as he jumped up, I would give him a big hug, talk to him & give him scratchies while I farted around on my iPad for a while. He would listen, purr, and occasionally look up at me until one of us had to move on with our day.

…and I didn’t mean for this to end up here, but yeah… now he’s moved on, and I miss him a lot.


A pointless question

The following is a paraphrased chat transcript from earlier in the week. I’m not sharing names, but will note that it originated from someone who lives in one of the states currently going through a COVID spike. It starts like this:

Now, it’s important to know that there are four people included in this chat. Persons A, B, and C are all vaccinated. I don’t know about Person D, but they voted for Trump twice, still think that was a good idea, and has a media diet full of…well, you know.

I’m Person C, by the way.

After this initial exchange, I wasn’t entirely sure whether to contribute to the conversation or not. On one hand, I’m tempted to point out that there are multiple reasons people may not have gotten vaccinated, some arguably legitimate. On the other hand, Person D has no excuse, and is in dire need of a wake-up call before they or someone close to them winds up sick or worse. Of course, this person long ago stopped listening to anything I have to say, so… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I just let it go.

A couple days pass. I’m eating my Wheat Chex and browsing Twitter, when I see someone has screen-capped a couple anti-vaccine tweets from Candace “Hitler wasn’t so bad” Owens. I’m not going to bother with what she said (which would just repeat the disinformation and bad faith argument), and will instead link to the Mayo Clinic page on COVID-19 vaccines. For now, just know that Person D is a longtime follower of C.O., and has undoubtedly seen the captured tweets, among others.

This brought me back to the earlier conversation, and out of curiosity I looked up the county vaccination numbers for Person D. They’re pretty dismal (look for Platte County)— as of today, 30% completely vaccinated, and slightly more than that who have had one shot.

So I pull up the chat and ask point blank:

That was a couple days ago and there’s been no response, not that I expected one. Maybe if someone else had asked the question? Anyway, I think that confirms the answer is “No,” which is again, not a surprise. Sad, but not a surprise.

I wish I could end this on something like a positive note, but I just find the whole thing frustrating. Nationally, our COVID case rate is back up where it was last November barreling into the holiday season, when it should be much, much lower. I was in an all-staff meeting at Brown last week, and Ashish Jha said that he expects the current surge to peak in late August or early September. I hope he’s right, but that coincides with the start of the school year, and with so many states hell-bent on bringing back in-person education with no vaccine requirement and questionable masking policies, I fear that it’s only going to get worse from here. Hopefully Person D (and their family) will wise up, but I’m not holding my breath.