Archive for category Non-writing

Bee Update, Winter 2014

I’ve not talked about the bees in a while.

We went into the season with two fresh hives, package bees that took the trip up from Georgia. So, as one does, we named the queens Peachtree and Umbriel. This was an entirely unnecessary step as both hives staged coups and installed new queens during the early summer.

This was a less-bad year for bees in Northern Virginia. Still not a great year, but not the horrible year that we went through with our first attempt. Both hives made it through the summer and fall looking hale and hearty.

It’s been an odd winter around these parts. We had early snow, we had our share of the polar vortex taking temperatures down into the single digits, but we’ve also had some surprisingly warm stretches. During the first of these warm periods, we saw bees venturing forth from both hives to do some foraging. Unfortunately during the warmer weather this weekend, bees only came out of one hive.

So we’ve apparently lost a hive. However, that’s the pessimistic way of looking at things. Instead, we’re looking at the positive: our hives are half full. This is a major improvement over last year when we lost one hive to robbers during the early autumn, and the other hive was empty by this point in the winter.

There’s still a lot of winter ahead, but the bees have survived some of the worst of it already. This is fantastic news because year two of a hive is the earliest point for honey harvesting. It’s no guarantee that we’ll get some nice tasty honey even if the hive does make it, but we’re in so much better of a place now than we were last year. Crossing fingers.

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Well. Damn.

Back in April, I posted my grand idea for a Drink Transfer Protocol, a way for geographically remote people to owe each other a drink. It wasn’t a perfect idea, certainly, but it was a fun idea to think about. Apparently I shouldn’t have posted it on the blog, but instead to the patent office, because someone else thought it was a good idea, too.

Starbucks.

Today they announced Tweet-a-Coffee. They’re a logical company for the idea. It immediately solved the two biggest problems I identified: needed a network of locations participating and deciding on a defined value for “a drink.” Starbucks is international, and the coffee being tweeted is actually a five dollar gift card.

There is a downside, it requires both the sender and recipient to give a lot of personal information to Starbucks for the purpose of completing the transaction. It’s simultaneously a way to move five dollar gift cards, which might not get used, and collect customer information. Delicious, delicious customer information, the currency of the new internet.

Still. Damn. Woulda been nice to get this to market somehow before a big conglomerate came up with the same idea.

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The Surrender at Yorktown

I used to live just outside Yorktown, Virginia. For two years I grew up in and around the battlefields, back when it was possible to climb all around and over them. In fact, I used to launch model rockets just outside the field where the British surrendered to the Colonial forces. I flew kites on the biggest battlefield of the fight. So I learned a lot of the history around the end of the Revolutionary War. So I’d like to share my favorite bit of trivia, perfect for winning a bar bet.

Question: Who did the British surrender to at Yorktown?

Answer: Lincoln.

Here’s the story. General Cornwallis lost that last, decisive battle at Yorktown that would lead to the British surrender. But he wasn’t there for the surrender itself, The disgrace of losing to the Colonials and French weighed on him, so he feigned illness, sending his second in command, General Charles O’Hara, to conduct the surrender. The British troops marched into the field of surrender to a song called The World Turned Upside-Down (also called Until the King Enjoys His Own Again), leaving their muskets and swords in a pile, except for the official sword of surrender.

The victorious Colonial forces stood alongside their French allies, with General Washington and General Rochambeau standing side-by-side. The General O’Hara offered the sword of surrender to the victorious forces. However, he offered the sword not to Washington but to Rochambeau. Rochambeau deferred, stating that the victory belonged to the Colonial forces, not to the French.

O’Hara then offered the sword to Washington. He, too, deferred, stating that if Cornwallis was to send his second-in-command to surrender, then he should surrender to his own second-in-command. So Washington directed O’Hara to Colonial General Benjamin Lincoln, who accepted the sword.

And that’s how the British surrendered to Lincoln at Yorktown.

Happy Independence Day.

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Brewing with Strawberries and Apples

Remember Mustache Cat? If you go digging through the blog archives you’ll see it first show up in April 2011, when I brewed up a combination of Canadian Blonde ale and a lot of strawberries. Six pounds of strawberries, to be precise. It was my first try at full-sized brewing, and it tasted like someone’s first time brewing. Not a bad beer, per say, but what my wife and I kept calling a very “sharp” beer. A little more bitter than either of us liked. A little more alcoholic sting. No real strawberry flavor.

Funny thing happened the other day. I found a few bottles of Mustache Cat hanging out in the basement, and as we were looking to create some empty bottles for the batch I’m about to talk about, we stuck them in the fridge to give them a try. The resulting beer was smooth with a very pronounced strawberry flavor, both on the front end and in the aftertaste. Like some slow working magic trick, it took only two years for a beer we weren’t all that fond of to turn into a fantastic strawberry ale. This is the kind of funny patience that’s necessary for home brewing. I’ve heard people say no stout should be touched for six months, and even then it should still be thought of as immature. Meads, which I hope to get into one day, take years to even approach complete. Part of the fun of home brewing is finding that old bottle from the less than stellar batch and discovering a decent beer inside.

So, yeah, Mustache Cat rocks.

We were emptying bottles, however, ahead of another batch I brewed based on an Austin Homebrew recipe called “Apple Peeler.” Most of the beer I make is through a process called a “partial boil.” This means I don’t boil all the water that goes into the fermenter, instead only boiling about two gallons. This is then topped off with water until there’s about 5.25 gallons (20 liters, actually). Apple Peeler was different. Oh, there were the normal steps of steeping the grains, adding the sugars, bittering with the hops, but when the partial boil went from the pot to the fermenter, it wasn’t topped off with water.

It was topped off with apple juice.

There’s a subtle brilliance to this change. More so if you, like me, are a fan of a pub cocktail called a Snakebite. In its simplest form, a Snakebite is a shandy that mixes equal parts beer with non-alcoholic cider. Or, even better, alcoholic cider. It’s refreshing, and in the shandy form makes a fantastic drink with a pub brunch. This recipe struck me as a pre-made Snakebite, so I couldn’t resist. It’s fermenting in the basement now, and will bottle sometime in July. Hopefully it’ll be ready for a taste before the summer is over, as this strikes me as a late summer, early fall type of beer. If not, it can always wait until next summer and get all the tastier in the process.

Tasting some of the wort, an odd habit of mine, it was more bitter than I expected, and I’m already prepared to dial back the hops if I try the recipe again. It’s fun to have a few go to recipes to double back on, tweak a little, and turn into better and better beer.

I’ll also need a name. Apple Peeler isn’t a bad name, but what fun is it to use the pre-assigned name? I’m thinking just Fall Ale as an allusion not just to the season but the Fall of Man, which feels like a required reference with the combination of apples and snakes. What’s up with all my Biblical beers?

I look forward on reporting the flavor.

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Teething

The little bird is teething again. She’s been a reverse rodent for a little over a month with two pronounced lower front teeth and nothing else. Now there’s a little nubbin of a top tooth through her gums and another on its way. Which…really sucks. Teething just strikes me as an unfathomably cruel part of the first year of a child’s life. These nice perfectly smooth gums are being pierced in a slow and deliberate way. I understand the evolutionary advantage to not having holes pre-existing in the gums, but it reminds me of Wolverine feeling it every time he extends his claws. Or that perhaps mythic Chinese torture method of letting sharpened bamboo grow into and through the body of a victim.

But this is somehow worse. At least in those cases, the victim would know the exact source of their pain. May be able to understand it in some way. A baby just knows this constant aching pain, hopefully the worst chronic pain of their life-to-date, and the only possible comfort is a few drops of baby Tylenol. Sometimes I wonder if the old method of a little bourbon on the gums was a decent way forward. Not enough to actually do it, but I can understand it.

Unfortunately it makes sleeping difficult. It makes being awake difficult. And whenever things are difficult on baby, they’re difficult on mommy and daddy. Which was the cause of much exhaustion in the house when the baby decided 6am was a fantastic time to wake up both mornings this weekend. Probably half discomfort, half the sun being fully up and the baby not understanding varying lengths of the day. It’s not her fault she’s ignorant, she doesn’t have much in the way of life experiences.

At least writing is happening. Words are forming, going into computers. Nearly 1000 between my wife and I this previous week. Which might not sound like much for a week, but is nearly 1000 words more than most other weeks these past few months. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the goal, after Tuesdays and Fridays turned into a bad idea after just one week. Finding those little times after the baby has gone to bed, but before we trundle our sorry, exhausted selves to bed as well.

We’ve been invited to a party next month. It’s a birthday party. “Elmo will be there,” my wife explained. This really is a new phase of my life, isn’t it?

Speaking of life changes, I’m officially on my lay-off count down at work. 53 days and counting. Job hunt is moving into a higher gear, and I’m even looking into what steps I’d need to do to become a teacher, in case that looks like the best way forward. Wish me luck.

This week on the blog: adventures in brewing, and thoughts on the deaths of science fiction authors. And other stuff. This updating four times a week thing is working really well so far.

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Nine Months On

Yesterday the little bird turned nine months old. The day my step-father has taken to calling her equinox, which I’ll leave as an exercise to the reader to figure out. It’s odd to see someone change so vastly yet so gradually. She’s now capable of hauling ass, not crawling in the way an adult who is crawling might crawl…more like an adult might crawl under barbed wire while at basic training. She crawls like someone who is bad at swimming. Her feet might kick at times, but all the power is in her arms which pull her forward.

Needless to say, baby proofing has begun in the Casa de Thurston. Annoying plastic covers on the door knobs, plug covers, and a gate at the top of the basement stairs that one of our cats is much better at jumping over than the other. Since the cat who is bad at jumping also tends to be the asshole cat, this has been a boon to the cat who can jump it.

But you didn’t come here for words, you came here for videos. And videos you shall have. About a week ago I decided that YouTube was the best way to share out videos of the baby’s exploits to far-flung aunts, uncles, grandparents, and any other number of technically adept well wishers. Now, I’ll go into this saying my camcorder isn’t the best in the world, maybe one day I’ll get one that shoots video at better than 360p, but here you go:

Video one is a game we sometimes play in which I try to keep her stacking rings on her saucer, and she tries to knock them off:

Video two shows a little of how she reads a book. I hope to get a better video of this, but her method involves turning the pages and making random noises. Since, after all, isn’t that what mommy and daddy are doing? If you hold on, it also features some waving at the camera.

And last up, it’s a short video, but it features that greatest of all sounds, a baby’s laughter.

I’ll eventually get better at editing these down.

Alright, cute baby videos are out of the way. Less cute content returns tomorrow.

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Cat Junk and Wildfires

Little Bird

Don’t trust this face.

Tomorrow the little bird turns eight months old. She’s not that little of a bird anymore. There’s another baby at her daycare that is only four days younger, but my daughter absolutely dwarfs him. Of course, he can crawl, and she has a hard time holding up her giant noggin long enough to get any forward momentum going.

Two days ago I brought her home from daycare and popped her onto the ground to roll around and do some crawling practice. As he sometimes does, our younger, derfier cat decided to come over and roll around, just in case the baby had spontaneously learned how to pet him. His reward wasn’t belly rubs, it was a baby hand slapped on his nether regions, followed by her grabbing a tuft of fur. He’s a good cat, didn’t swipe at her, but certainly yelled and scampered off. I can’t blame him.

I also never thought I’d need to use the phrase “Don’t grab the cat’s junk.” English is funny that way. Words that have no right being in a sentence together can form these novel and horrible thoughts.

This morning I was watching the news while she played in her saucer. It’s the time of year for California wildfires, and she was watching the reporting intently. Probably because they were actually showing someone talking on-screen. While we won’t ever let the television babysit her, combining faces and words is helpful, so much so that some studies have suggested that American Idol is actually better baby television than Baby Einstein, as the latter has a disembodied voice, but the former almost always shows the person currently talking/singing. Blew my mind to learn that. Anyway, baby has the posture of someone on the edge of her seat, but as soon as the anchor saying “10,000 acres have burned,” she leans back with a smile crossing her face. It’s the moment in the movie when the evil mastermind sees that his plan is working, that moment of self-satisfaction.

Sure, it’s easy to read into randomly timed movements. It’s fun, too.

That’s it. Just two little vignettes from the life of an almost-but-not-quite eight month old.

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DTP: The Drink Transfer Protocol

Edouard_Manet_006

Early implementation of DTP, recorded by Edouard Manet

Social media creates a problem. That’s a lie, social media creates several problems. However, I am not setting out today to solve all those problems, just to propose a solution to one.

Social media creates a problem. It connects people from across the country and across the world and allows them to solve problems for each other, give each other ideas, or otherwise help in creative and academic endeavors. Which is fantastic until the conversation ends with a few fateful words.

“I owe you a drink.”

Perhaps you’ve seen those words when you follow both halves of a conversation on Twitter. Perhaps you’ve said them yourself, or had them said to you. They’re easy words to say, but five minutes later you realize, “when can I make good on that?” If you’re a writer, there are writing conferences, all with handy bars. However, it requires both the party who owes the drink and the party who is owed the drink to be at the same convention. Otherwise the promise slips further and further down the road.

So what’s the solution to this? The Drink Transfer Protocol.

This is an idea that’s been floating around my head for a while, and I wanted to get down for comment and improvement. Perhaps think of this as an RFC. The Drink Transfer Protocol (or DTP) would consist of two elements. The first would be a web front end where registered users could register drink debits and credits. The second would be a series of bars across the country willing to connect to the DTP system for the purposes of dispensing these owed drinks. Let’s say that I’ve got a sticky plot point in a novel, and I just can’t figure out my way around it. I talk about it on here and a commenter from California pops up and gives a way forward. I could then go onto the DTP website, purchase a drink, and credit it to their account. He could then go to his neighborhood DTP compliant bar, enter in his password, and could order from a menu of DTP supported drinks. The drink would be paid for through the system, so that the bar gets their money and my helper gets his drink.

Now, there are some clear downsides to this system.

First, it would require a rather robust network of bars to come on board rapidly in order for the system to take off. I would say it could start local and spread from there, but the entire purpose of DTP is that the two parties involved are not local. If the only bars participating in DTP were in, say, the Washington DC area, then both the owing and owed party could meet for the drink. Perhaps two trial cities would be necessary, located on opposite coasts, which would allow for limited and specific transfer of drinks. Or, perhaps, the best trial would be to get a bar located near that year’s Worldcon (ideally within the hotel) to be a trial site, allowing those who owe drinks but are not in attendance to transfer drink credits to those who are in attendance. Ultimately it would help to get any of the national chains on board. Oh, perhaps TGI Friday’s or Applebees wouldn’t be your first choice of where to go for a drink with someone, but it would provide at least some nationwide system roll-out. Any bar participating would require a terminal of some variety from which the recipient could access the DTP system and enter their password. An iPad or other tablet might work well for this. There would be upfront costs to the bar, and there would be standards to maintain that will be outlined in downside three.

Second, and let’s be honest, would be the problem of creeping. Virgin Atlantic has taken some justified crap this week after announcing a system by which passengers on flights from LA to Las Vegas could anonymously send drinks to each other on the flight. This creates a potentially hostile environment as, unlike a bar, a plane passenger cannot simply leave if he or she feels uncomfortable. I’m hoping there’s some opt-out system for that plan, or better, an opt-in system. Now, there would be a little less of this problem within the DTP system, as the remoteness of the drink purchasing would typically not result in a “hey baby” moment as an unwelcome drinking companion sidles across the bar, but there would be those individuals would might feel uncomfortable with the potential of anonymous drinks being posted to their account. Or those who would welcome it. The solution would be to make it entirely opt-in. One approach would be the creation of keys tied to those individuals willing to participate in the DTP exchange. Both the individual owed a drink and the individual owing a drink would have a unique hexidecimal code that represented themselves in the system. To transfer a drink, the owed individual would simply share their code with the owing individual. In the case of someone who wants all the drinks, he or she could choose to share that code with the world at large. It would be necessary that these codes could be changed if an individual decides they want suddenly increased privacy within the system, and perhaps the system could even offer one time use transfer codes for those situations where you are willing to accept one drink from an individual but do not want to encourage further drink transfers.

This would also keep the system from being used for intrabar transfers. That’s not its intended purpose. You want to creep on the blonde at the other end of the bar? Unless she’s got a t-shirt with her DTP hexadecimal code printed on the back, you’re not using my system. That way the bar still knows who to rebuff if the lady isn’t interested. Would some people of either gender eventually be that open about their DTP code? Perhaps. But the intention of the system is for these codes to be as private and restrictive as the user wants them to be.

Third, what is “a drink”? As intended, the DTP system would have a single unit of transfer: the Drink. The intent is not to create a transferable gift card system where the recipient is given a five dollar bar credit, it’s that the recipient can sit down at a bar and have a drink. There would be a necessary agreement between the bars participating in the system as to what qualified as a Drink, perhaps a minimum standard that some bars might choose to implement to the letter and some bars might choose to go above and beyond. I envision there would be a menu at each bar when accessing ones DTP account that specifies what counts as a Drink, but I would think a minimum would be an imported beer or a simple drink-and-mixer cocktail made from a decent, though not top shelf, liquor. Not top shelf, but not a well drink either. There wouldn’t be change, you couldn’t get a buck back from the bar or the system if the recipient ordered a domestic beer. The Drink would probably also cost the giver a little more in the system than it would in person to build a gratuity into the price. This guaranteed gratuity could be one way of bringing bars on board.

So there it is, my concept for a Drink Transfer Protocol. Unfortunately I’m more of an idea person, and would have no idea how to even start implementing this system. However, I think it is a clear solution to a problem that will only increase as people increasingly connect online.

Oh, sure, there will be those who say that part of the owed drink is the implicit understanding of the two individuals sitting down together and getting to talk over some other notions. For those individuals the old-fashioned approach of waiting until they’re in the same city can still hold. This isn’t meant to be a replacement for that. It is, however, a way for drinks to be quickly transferred from one individual to another quickly and at any distance.

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A Papal Fascination

I’m not Catholic. Let’s just start right out with that, because it’s the most common reason to be fascinated by the transfer of power to the new Pope yesterday. Yet I was fascinated, riveted to the coverage for the hour between the rising of the smoke and the emergence of Pope Francis. I find many aspects of the Papacy fascinating. Don’t get me wrong, I find many aspects of it troubling as well, but for one hour yesterday the fascination held sway.

It’s because I love pre-Renaissance history. And names. And titles. And the history of names and titles. And really really long standing precedents. Let’s play this out.

The Pope is the Bishop of Rome. That’s his actual title. There’s a whole story behind how the Roman bishopric earned its primacy over, say, the Bishop of Alexandria which gets into ecumenical history that I don’t understand. Beneath that title lies the unofficial title Pontifex Maximus, a Latin phrase that means greatest bridge builder. This is the title I find fascinating, as it predates the papacy. Indeed, it predates Christianity by about 750 years, as the first recorded holder of the title dates to 712 BC. The title applied originally to the high priest of Rome. In the 60s BC this changed when an ambition young man named Gaius saw it as a stepping stone towards greater power. No one had ever tried that, but no one else was Julius Caesar. He passed the title on to his heir, and for nearly 400 years the title was one of those held by the Roman Emperor before applying to the Bishop of Rome.

There it is. Yesterday Cardinal Bergoglio accepted an elevation that includes a title with nearly 3000 years of history that was once held by Julius Caesar. Even if that title is largely unofficial, it’s one of the oldest titles held by any person today on the planet.

He also got a new name.

Popes choose a papal name, and they usually choose one with a history or meaning behind it. Cardinal Bergoglio chose meaning, but not history. The last pope to be the first of his name was John Paul I, though that doesn’t entirely count as he combined the names of his two immediate predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI. One difference between John Paul I choosing an unused name and Francis? It’s that ‘I’. Typically that little “the First” is added retrospectively after there is a “the Second,” but John Paul I was John Paul I during his life. Francis will, at least it appears thus far, be Francis, not to be styled Francis I until a later Pope chooses to be Francis II.

Before John Paul I, the last Pope to be the first of his name? Pope Lando. Seriously. There was a Pope Lando. He served in an era where Popes used their birth names, and he had the birth name of Lando. He also served from 913-914. When compared to a 3000 year old title, a merely 1100 year old tradition sounds almost new and quaint, but it still stands that Francis is the first pope to choose a completely unique papal name in eleven centuries. Eleven centuries minus 4-5 months. Sadly, Lando also served in a period where the Papacy was under the thrall of the secular politics of Rome, a period the church doesn’t remember fondly. This means we shouldn’t ever expect a Pope Lando II.

Now we have a title that dates back 3000 years taken by a man who overlooked 1100 years of tradition while following in the footsteps of a man who was the first Pope to resign in 600 years. A man who then got to choose his own title because the precedence for a living ex-Pope is nearly non-existent. Titles of former office holders is another fascination of mine, though one that’s hard to exercise. In the United States, tradition states that an official is referred to by the highest governmental title received, even if no longer serving in that office. Thus we still speak of President Clinton, the two President Bushes, Governor Schwarzenegger, and so on. Along this line I’ve always wondered what title Taft would prefer to now be known as. He served at the top of two branches of government, first as President then as Supreme Court Justice. Indications are he took more pride in the latter, so I always feel he should be Chief Justice Taft, not President Taft. Benedict XVI chose “Pope Emeritus” which, okay, I guess. It’s not thrilling, but then the much better title “Antipope” is reserved for far different circumstances.

Alright, enough about titles and names. One more bit of the papacy fascinates me. The power of the Bishop of Rome rose as the Western Empire collapsed. If you’re Edward Gibbon, this is not a coincidence. The death of Rome in many ways caused the birth of feudalism. Or, perhaps, the birth of feudalism caused the death of the Western Empire. It’s tough to really assign causation during those chaotic last centuries. Feudalism rose and fell. Monarchies held on in several European countries, and wherever there is a king or queen there is one last trace of feudalism, at least by name. The Pope is a monarch. It’s another one of those duties, he’s the monarch of the Papal See, and is the only elected monarch left in Europe.

One of the delays between the smoke and the appearance, along with prayers and some personal time, is a ceremony of the Cardinals affirming their fealty to the newly selected Pope. It’s ceremonial now, but this is a little throwback to a period not just when it wasn’t quite such a given and to the old feudal oath taking practices, which themselves have root in the annual tradition of Roman troops repledging their loyalty to the Emperor.

That’s all trappings. And it’s the trappings I find fascinating. I find the position troubling. Perhaps because it’s one man who exerts more power of influencing opinions than perhaps anyone else on the planet. Even if I agreed with those opinions, and many I do not, I would find that troubling. I understand that even most Catholics don’t fall in lock step with these opinions. But those that do, those organizations that do, those politicians that do, they can then exert a lot of power over others. We see that with organizations using Catholic theology as an opposition to health care reforms. And so I also track the changes in the Pope because I know that an increased liberality from these organizations will have to start from the top down. And that’s the dark underside of it all. There’s the fun, the stuff on television, the pomp, the ceremony, that expectation after the smoke, and that’s all a hell of a lot of fun. Now today there’s a new man, and there’s his positions.

The Pope, man. It’s a fascinating job, and it’s a troubling position.

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State of the Writer: March 2013

Pretend the 2013 goals are here. It’s not been the best of months, I’ll be blunt. Not much writing got done, by which I mean almost no writing got done. We’re still trying to figure out how to schedule our time, and what’s currently winning is our daughter being the cutest baby on the planet! I get home with her, and I don’t want to write I want to bounce her for most of the afternoon. That doesn’t mean I haven’t done some thinking about the Sarah Constant series, moving around some plot lines between the planned books, fleshing out some conversations I want to write, things like that.

Hopefully going into March I find a more consistent time to sit down and write. Might start doing it after baby’s bedtime, though I love having that time to devour books.

On another, and more personal front, I’ve been informed that job I currently have won’t exist in the near future due to a corporate realignment. Don’t feel too sorry for me, I’ve been given a massive five months to figure out what the hell I’m going to do with my career going forward, and I’ve already got a résumé polished and a few good opportunities to send it to. However that does mean that some of my writing time, both for fiction and this blog, will now become job hunting time over the next few weeks and months. What can I say, I guess I’ve hit one of those points in my life where changes come fast and furious, over a one year period my first baby and my first involuntary departure from a job.

So if the blog is a little light going forward, or at times perhaps the tone a little more melancholy, that’s why.

Still, I hope this pushes me to write a little more. It isn’t lost on me that if this happened when I had three novels out rather than three short stories, I’d be in a better position to say “to heck with it, I’m going to try making a go as a writer.” Maybe next time.

State of the Author’s Beer: Still mellowing, but getting more and more drinkable. Next batch isn’t yet planned, got to empty some bottles first.

State of the Author’s Bees: We’ve ordered two packages to replace our failed hives, which should arrive in mid-April, so more news then.

And, of course, we’re going into month three of the Great Hugo Read. There’s no secondary book this month, but the primary book marks both the Audible, Kindle, Nook, and iBooks debuts of the Read for those who prefer audio or electronic editions. The book is Robert Heinlein’s Double Star, the first of five Heinlein books that will come up as part of the Read, first of two this year alone. Here’s your standard where-to-find-it information:

At first blush it sounds like a science-fiction version of the movie Dave:

One minute, down and out actor Lorenzo Smythe was — as usual — in a bar, drinking away his troubles as he watched his career go down the tubes. Then a space pilot bought him a drink, and the next thing Smythe knew, he was shanghaied to Mars.

Suddenly he found himself agreeing to the most difficult role of his career: impersonating an important politician who had been kidnapped. Peace with the Martians was at stake — failure to pull off the act could result in interplanetary war. And Smythe’s own life was on the line — for if he wasn’t assassinated, there was always the possibility that he might be trapped in his new role forever!

I guess I should say a science-fiction version of the movie Dave done as an action thriller rather than a romantic comedy.

So that’s me. How are you?

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