gridlore: The Imperial Sunburst from the Traveller role-playing game (Gaming - Sunburst)
2017-10-09 04:04 pm

It lacks a black cover with a red stripe, but I'll deal.

Today I dropped off a ton of books and old games at Half-Price Books and got just enough back to pick up Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition. I like Half-Price because even though they don't pay the highest price, they take everything you bring in. We have cleared enough space to shelve all our books on actual bookcases, with room to spare.

My standard for removing a book from the collection is simple. If I look at it and either remember completely from reading a single line or just have no desire to ever read it again, it goes away. I know many of my friends see getting rid of books as anathema, but we live in very cramped quarters and need the space.

Now to Traveller, purchased at my Friendly Local Game Store. Whenever possible, I prefer to buy locally and from small businesses. I practice what I preach. The new Traveller is a very nice book. The print is clear and large enough to be easily read. There are some odd breaks here and there that leave you searching for where the text resumes, but that's pretty rare. The illustrations are full color and well done, evoking the feel of Classic Traveller. I love that the equipment chapter is set up as a catalog, with illustrations and sales text. This moves Central Supply Catalog to the Must Buy Soon position.

First look at the rules shows a nice, clean system that uses a simple target number system. 2D6+Skill+Characterisitic modifier. Clear rules for time (and the benefits and penalties for taking your time or rushing things) and modifiers for things like having excellent tools or working under harsh conditions. Combat is equally streamlined but will have a bit of a learning curve to master. On the surface, it looks deadly, which I approve of heartily.

Lots of options in character generation. No, dying is no longer an option. These kids today will never know that joy. But you have 12 broad career paths, each with three subsets, allowing for lots of customization. As an example, the Noble career allows you to be in Administration, serve as a Diplomat, or, my favorite, the Dilittante, a useless scoundrel living off the family's fortune and name . . . or is he something more?

In each four-year term, the character gets a misnamed survival roll and an advancement roll. Failing the survival roll takes you to a disaster table and ejection from that career (usually.) There is also an Events table for each career category. These rolls really help define the character, creating not only narrative points, but giving the character contacts, allies, and rivals; all of which create potential storylines to explore.

A character is free to try to enlist in a new career after each term, although it gets harder as you get older. One career, Drifter, is an automatic option for anyone expelled from a previous career. (This really describes the career path of Beowulf Shaffer, come to think of it.) Mustering out and aging is similar to earlier editions.

There is a 13th career path: Prisoner. Several results on the various disaster tables can send you to prison; local, planetary, or Imperial, it's up to you, and you stay until you roll for parole. Again, a great character-building tool.

Just thinking about it, I'm realizing that John Rambo was a three-term character: Army, Drifter, Prisoner. No one would say he was an inefficient character!

Delving further, we get the skill listings with subskills as needed. I might make a pistol/longarm subskill requirement for my game. The skills for shooting are quite different. But the skills are comprehensive and well described. A good chapter on environmental dangers, animals, and encounters. All sorts of way to die!

Then we get the starships! Operations, combat, and a selection of some of the classic designs all with "exploded floorplan" deck plans. Very, very nice, but I have to reread the chapter to answer some questions I have about fuel use. A short chapter on psionic powers, trade, and then a woefully short chapter on world building.

Lastly, we get the sample setting: the Sindal subsector. This one hurts a bit, as Sindal is in the Trojan Reach. I had the contract to write the Trojan Reach for Steve Jackson Games and the project got killed due to my failures and declining sales of GURPS Traveller. Still, it's a good basic subsector.

This is a good game and playable as is. I'll have no trouble teaching new players. I plan on starting a game in January. Finders, Inc. is looking for YOU!
gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
2017-10-04 02:13 pm
Entry tags:

Atomic Batteries to Power, Turbines to Speed...

I am surrounded by books on writing that are gathering dust, waiting to be read. Books on creating plots, types of plots, how to create, how to edit, how space travel works, how bodies get injured and how to turn pro.

All sitting there waiting. With National Novel Writing Month fast approaching, I need to get serious and focus my mind of getting ready and working hard on my preparation for the task of getting 50,000 coherent words in place in 31 days. That's about 1,600 words a day without fail. A daunting task indeed.

But one that's important to me. It has been 17 years since GURPS Traveller: Ground Forces hit the shelves. I want that feeling again. I want to hold something I created in my hands and take people to a world that lives only in my head. I want to entertain people.

I want to write.

Admittedly, I'm a complete failure at the Larry Niven School of Being a Successful Science-Fiction Writer. I wasn't born rich and I didn't start young. But Grandma Moses didn't start painting until she was in her late 70s, so I have no excuse. The words are in me, somewhere, I just have to find the way to get them out.

Fantasies of winning the Hugo aside, I'm realistic about this novel of mine. Odds are, it will sell maybe a few hundred copies. People will hopefully like it and maybe want a sequel. The probability is that my book will fall into the vast abyss of self-published SF and exist only as a base of the Amazon sales pyramid, coming in at 3,658,108 in Science Fiction this week!

Seriously, if I make enough money for a Chili's and movie night with Kirsten, I'll be satisfied. Look for me sitting behind a pile of trade paperbacks at Baycon!

But somewhere in the locked corner of my heart where my dreams still hold out, I hold the slightest flame of hope that Task Force Khanda (I've changed the name) will be *good* in that special way. That I'll have written a really good Space Opera. That it will be noticed. That a real publisher might pay for the rights. That I might be an author in name as well as intention.

Why now? Because it is time for me to start moving again. I'm at a point where I'm maintaining my health. I'm not getting better. I am painfully aware that I have a limited time to leave a mark on the planet. I have no kids except for a possible son who would be pushing 30 at this point and has never attempted to make contact. I've done no great thing to get me into the history books. There will never be a statue of me in the park for pigeons to poop on. Ground Forces is out of print. I'm searching for both validation and a legacy, and I have a story to tell.

Starting now the work begins. I'm going to get the ship lists together, crew them, sit down with my stellar atlas to plot the moves of the several squadrons and ships involved, and outline the three major plot lines I'm planning on, with all the complications.

I have the tools. Libre Office is my word processor of choice, I have Grammarly to catch my mistakes, Scrivener for plot whiteboarding and editing, and Dragon speech recognition if I just want to cut out the keyboard and try speaking a chapter or scene. That should be faster in getting thoughts out, although it will mean a lot of cleaning up, as Dragon sometimes gets things wrong. Still, It's worth a shot.

For those not up on this project, I'm taking the actions of the German Imperial Navy's Far East Squadron in WWI and transferring it to deep space. The feel is going to be claustrophobic in the ships while a chess game is played between the two commanders. Travel using the faster than light drives is hard on people and electrical equipment, and ships can only enter or level hyperspace when the local gravity is above a certain level. So the chase is going to be guessing where the fugitive fleet is going, while the runners try to trick their pursuers.

A couple of big fights, lots of tension on the ships, and a few surprises. And I'm not a big fan of happy endings in war stories. I just have to make it happen. I may be asking for people to comment on chapters as I go. If you'd be interested in both picking apart my grammar as well as commenting on the flow of the story, let me know.
gridlore: A Roman 20 sided die, made from green stone (Gaming - Roman d20)
2017-09-28 06:35 pm
Entry tags:

Yet another call for players

OK, this post is addressed to the gamers who live near me. In the San Francisco Bay Area. Within a reasonable driving range of the Santa Clara Valley. If you are east of Mt. Diablo, this probably is not for you. If you are east of the Mississippi, give up.

OK, are we clear? Good.

Marc Miller has a CD-ROM for sale that has everything for 2300AD. I loved this game and the setting, a hard science game of exploration, expansion, and fighting beady-eyed alien monsters that want to eat us.

Seriously. The Kafer word for human is "meat-thing."

I would *love* to run a campaign for three or four players, probably twice a month, days and times to be negotiated. I'd probably want to run a variation of my Finders, Incorporated Traveller campaign. The characters will be part of an agency that finds things for clients or helps them find things. Starships that have run out on the bank, missing persons, lost property, stolen property, anything that can go missing in the depths of space.

This would probably be an episodic game, with each job being a connected series of adventures with little attention played to downtime. I'd try to make each job unique in some way, with surprises, twists, and cliff-hanging moments. Episodic works well if we need to skip sessions for some reason (like the GM and a few players heading to That Thing In The Desert, for example.)

Characters would have to be multi-talented. Able to throw a punch, hotwire a starship, gather data, bluff past guards, and, of course, run like hell when necessary. The 2nd Edition 2300AD rules are good for this sort of thing. I would want a character generation session where we could not only roll up characters but also work out character backstories that link the characters together as a team.

We'd need a Snoop, a Techie, and a Gunslinger. Cross-skills welcome!

My favorite thing about 2300AD is the setting. The staff at Game Designers Workshop took the setting of their post-apocalyptic game Twilight: 2000; the world after WWIII and a limited strategic nuclear exchange, and played a game to advance the timeline to the year 2300. The result is a complex history where the French Third Empire is the dominant power and new nations have risen and fallen.

This gives a great foundation to build on. Faster than light travel is achieved by the Stutterwarp, a drive that teleports a ship a few hundred meters with each cycle of the drive. Cycle the drive fast enough, and you get from A to B at trans-c "velocities" while never having any velocity in the Newtonian sense. There is a limitation, drives need to discharge static electricity after 7.7 light years. Meaning that interstellar travel is a form of island hopping creating choke points. Colonies are on three main "arms", the French, American, and Chinese.

There are cybernetics, though not at the level of a cyberpunk game, and loads of fun toys to equip your characters with. For the most part, the game sticks to hard, known science. There is no artificial gravity, for example. Ships use rotating sections to create gravity. Slug-throwers are still the most effective form of weapon, although there are some advances in lasers and plasma weapons.

Planets are likewise realistic. Garden worlds are rare, and most colonies are dug into the surfaces of the inhospitable worlds they cling to. Air, radiation, potable water, and the occasional critter that hasn't figured out that humans don't taste good will all be threats in the wild.

I'm really hoping to get a face-to-face game going. Playing D&D using roll20 and Skype has been so good for my mood, and I have the itch to run a game. But I want to do it in person. Because it's more fun when we can toss dice at each other.

My home is not a candidate for hosting a game. We live in a tiny, cluttered apartment. I live close to both Game Kastle (both Santa Clara and Mountain View) and Isle of Gamers in Santa Clara. All of these have gaming space available. All three also have good food options near-by for post-game munchies, if we are so inclined. If you can host a game, that would be great.

As I said, three or four players in or near Santa Clara would be ideal. I'm almost completely open for scheduling options. If I don't get at least three interested players, I'm not going to buy the game. So please let me know if you might want to play.

Mankind is on the road to the stars! Will you join in the Great Expansion?
gridlore: One of the penguins from "Madagascar," captioned "It's all some kind of whacked-out conspiracy." (Penguin - Conspiracy)
2017-09-27 03:24 pm
Entry tags:

TV is King.

After some shenanigans with our cable feed last night - it dropped out just as they were announcing the winner on Forged in Fire - we stayed up to watch the "live" (nothing is live when you live on the West Coast) season finale of Ink Masters - Shop Wars.

It was terrible. First of all, whoever was doing sound needs to be shot. The three judges could barely be heard of the constant screaming audience. Host Dave Navarro had to repeat himself at several points to keep the show moving.

Which brings up the point that it appeared this event had a bar. Which meant half the crowd was sloshed. Which meant it sounded like a typical night in a bad club. I almost turned on the subtitles just so I could see what was going on.

Next problem, they had *all* the defeated contestants on stage, sitting on two sets of risers at stage left and right. Now, these are tattoo artists, not people generally given to the finer points of etiquette to begin with, and the show format is designed to foster bad feelings. So, early on, we were subjected to shouting matches across the stage. Charming. We got sick of these morons yelling at each other weeks ago!

All of which led to a loud rushed show. The three shops in the final, represented by two artists, had done two full back pieces at their own shops, one black and gray, one color, as well as a "live" six-hour tattoo in the studio. Fans voted for the favorite live tattoo, and the winning team went to the top two, and then the black and gray work was judged. The final winner was based on the body of work shown that night.

But the judges had almost no time to work, They had done previews of a spin-off, and the next season, announced that Spike was becoming the Paramount Network, and did everything but examine tattoos. As I said, the whole feel of the event was loud and chaotic. They didn't even have time to spend a minute or two with the winning shop, present them with their check for $200,000, get a reaction, you know, happy winner stuff.

I freely admit that I'm addicted to reality TV. Especially competition shows where talented people are pushed to their limits to perform. This is why we've come to love Forged in Fire. In last night's episode, four blade smiths had to make a good blade out of a chainsaw. Seeing the process of them all using the teeth and bar to make cannister Damascus steel, seeing the problems that can result, and getting an in-depth examination of the blades by experts is fun and educational.

Things like that. Hell's Kitchen is great because it puts chefs under a pressure cooker (NPI) like they've never experienced. Top Chef does the same, but with higher standards and less yelling. Project Runway has taught me a lot about fashion, and how *not* to make a dress. Then there's MasterChef, where home cooks get held to Gordon Ramsay's standards. If you really want to question your life choices, watch the Junior editions of Project Runway or Master Chef. Seeing a 9-year-old kid present a stunning Boeuf Bourguignon when you have just mastered not setting the house on fire with your Foreman Grill really humbles you.

There are a dozen more, many of them on the Food Network. I could spend all day watching people struggling to make that perfect Paella Mixta for the judges. But then I'd eat everything in the house, and that would be bad.

Then there are the "fix it" shows. These are where an expert goes in and rescues a flailing business. The grandfather of these was Kitchen Nightmares, which ran both on the BBC (where it was about food) and on FOX (where it was about screaming.) The formula again is simple. The expert comes in, identifies the issues. Deals with a recalcitrant owner and/or staff, makes radical changes to the services and building, everyone is (usually) happy, roll credits.

Kitchen Nightmares (US) ended after Ramsay realized that people were gaming the show to get free remodels. That's the problem. On another favorite, Bar Rescue, it seems that the drama is played up for the cameras. Still, it's a great lesson in how not to run a bar. We all miss Tabitha Takes on, where a blond Australian Amazon megastylist took over all sorts of businesses and applied tough love that was just shy of a BDSM session.

We watch a mix of scripted and reality TV, plus a lot of sports. I think the key to keeping the interest is don't get too formulaic. Especially if your show does makeovers. Make it clear that changes in the physical plant require changes in the people. For the skill shows, keep throwing curves. Make designers make a dress out of car parts, force chefs to fun a food cart in competition with the other teams. Force them out of their comfort zone and see if they can overcome.

And make sure your finale doesn't suck, OK?
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
2017-09-25 07:30 pm
Entry tags:

If I had wanted ice cream . . .

Had an annoyance this morning. I'm finally getting back to my writing group. The fall session started in late August, but I would have missed two of four sessions due to Burning Man, so why pay for that? So I was ready and eager to get back to having to explain things to my fellow writers who know nothing about science-fiction.

A ritual I've developed is hitting the McDonald's drive-thru for breakfast. I love their sausage biscuits with egg, and I get a milk to go with it. I do this because making breakfast myself requires spoons that I'll need later. Plus, yummy biscuits.

I should have known there was a problem when the line was at a dead stop. But I had given myself plenty of time, and I wanted my sandwich! So I crept the truck up to the order box. Where I gave my exceedingly simple order in a clearly enunciated voice. "Sausage Biscuit with Egg, and a milk, please."

All I get is an "OK, second window" and nothing on the order screen. This was a little disturbing, but the screen has been out for a while. And my order is dead fucking simple.

Still creeping. I have the window down and I don't care who hears me mangle Turn the Page Finally get to the window, with my formally comfortable time cushion deflating rapidly.

The young lady asks me for an amount way over what I know my order costs, even with tax. When I question this, she reads back my order as "Egg McMuffin meal . . ." I stop her right there. Where the hell does one get "Egg McMuffin" from "Sausage Biscuit with Egg"? She gets the correct order up, and after wandering aimlessly for three minutes hands me my order. Stopping only long enough to check it was my order, and not a BigMac or a half-eaten donut from across the street, I raced (as well as one can race on streets with a 25mph speed limit) to school, devouring my precious food all the way. I figured I'd just slam the milk in the parking lot. I'm an old truck driver, many times I've eaten a meal in stages in three different places.

Find parking, put up my Gimp Placard, and grab my milk. I twist the cap open and get a refreshing mouthful of . . . nothing. That, and my lips are very cold. The milk they handed me was frozen solid. It was a rock. Frustrated, I grabbed a few swallows from a water fountain and headed in for the group.

Which was terrific as ever. Good to see everyone again after the extended summer break, and see what people were working on. This group lasts two hours, 1000-1200 hours, and it was a warm day here in Santa Clara. We even stayed late to allow one more story to be read. The milk jug was still solid.

Back over to McD's, where the manager was appalled. She quickly checked the unit where milk and the like are stored and swore in a language that was both beautiful and venomous. She was pissed. I've seen this woman, always clad in the best hijab that manages to compliment the uniform of the day, running the morning shift like a pro. She takes pride in her work. She quickly refunded my money, and I was on my way.

But seriously, the problem with the frozen milk aside (which is a training issue, someone forgot to reset the temperature controls) my real complaint was with the young lady who took my order. She failed to offer a greeting, failed to confirm my order, failed to tell me my total, and I never got a thank you. This location is hiring a lot of new people, but someone that inexperienced should not be running breakfast rush by herself. I can only imagine how many errors ahead of me were the cause of the glacial movement of the line.

I know I've never worked fast food, but I have worked jobs where getting and relaying accurate information is vital to success. I've been a dispatcher, carried messages from contractors to my warehouse manager and sales staff, and, oh yeah, learned to call in artillery and air strikes! You do not want to say Sausage Biscuit with Egg and have them hear Egg McMuffin in that last one!

And it really isn't like this is my only option. Within a short drive, there is a Jack in the Box, a Burger King, and if I want to go nuts, I can sit down at Denny's. I hate to sound like That Customer, but they are in a fight to keep my money in their tills.

Oh, well. At least I got my biscuit.
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
2017-09-20 11:48 am

My brain has been interrogated.

It has been said that the unexamined life is not worth living. I mostly agree with that, it's another variant of "know yourself" and other such truisms making it clear that you need to be in touch with yourself before you can make it anywhere.

I would like to point out that I did pretty well as a blissfully ignorant soldier and truck driver, but that's beside the point I'm trying to make here. For the last few weeks, starting literally the day after we returned from Burning Man, I have been having my brain stretched by my neuropsychologist.

These evaluations and tests run the board from the kind of surveys that ask you about your feelings to tests of my ability to retain information to my critical thinking abilities and perception. The results, just from where I'm sitting, have been interesting.

Also exhausting. I leave these sessions feeling wrung out. Some of these tests are extremely hard, forcing me to really push my brain to manage them. Thinking can be hard work, especially when you are forcing yourself into areas that don't work so well due to some traumatic incident. Like a stroke.

So what have I learned just from my observations? My ability to retain and recall information is crap. I forget things really fast or lose them entirely in moments. This is even more pronounced when it comes to numbers. I simply cannot hold numbers in my head. This helps me understand why I am so bad with handling money these days. I can't keep the idea that we only have X to spend when I'm looking at an item that costs Y. Trying to keep those two figures is too much for me, so all I see is Y, and forget that X even exists.

This is why I ask Kirsten for permission to spend any money that isn't cash-in-hand. Even a five-dollar download for Civilization VI has to be cleared through her. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, since I think it's good to have one person being the final word on a family's finances, but it can be annoying. I'm a 52-year-old guy who needs permission to buy a book. But we deal with it.

While my ability to retrieve information is shot, I am much more likely to recall information if I'm prompted. We've done several exercises where there were lists of words in pairs. Trying to just remember the words was almost impossible. But when prompted with the first word, I was usually able to give the correct response. Same goes for the long lists of single words. Trying to remember them was a wash, but when asked for them by a category, like "vehicles" or "furniture", I was suddenly able to remember far more of the words than when just asked for the list.

I've also done many tests designed to examine my reasoning. Mostly puzzles and following directions. I'm happy to say those features seem to be working well. But again, when numbers come in I start to flounder. I suspect that my life-long troubles with math have only been made worse by the stroke. Thank Halford for calculators.

Where does this leave me? I'm not sure. I'm waiting for Dr. Dahl to score my last few assessments to see if we need to do a few more to nail down my exact diagnosis or if we are ready to move ahead with a treatment plan for my depression and hair-trigger emotional swings. I'm good with either path. To me, the important thing is moving forward.

But oddly, the most telling thing about my psyche that I've learned about in these past weeks didn't come in a nice office, but at Burning Man. I've volunteered with the Porta Potty Project a few times. It's a team that does education about how to keep the 1,400 blue rooms on the Playa in good shape, goes around to make sure that each john has toilet paper, and locks off the ones that have been vandalized or, um, desecrated beyond usability. This year, I learned that we might become an official part of the team that runs Black Rock City, and I might be able to drive my truck as an official vehicle to do the necessary work at the banks that lie in the deep Playa.

The way the concept of being able to drive in an official capacity again hit me is hard to describe. I spent nearly twenty years in the transportation industry, most of that as a truck driver. Even if it is just driving a couple of guys and boxes of toilet paper around, it will mean being a driver again. It will mean being part of a team. It will mean I have that part of me back if only for one week a year.

Here's hoping it happens.
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
2017-08-16 01:17 pm
Entry tags:

Damn, people are dumb.

Today, I had to go out and drop off records requests at a couple of hospitals. My new psychologist wants complete records of my treatment for my stroke, which makes sense. One of these hospitals is O'Connor, where I was brought into the ER and did my first week or so of intensive treatment.

[personal profile] kshandra had done the grunt work of filling out the forms, all I had to do was drop them off. I lucked out and got the best disabled slot in the parking structure, walked in, dropped off my forms and walked back. Now, this spot is literally just inside the structure, so I stopped while still in the sunshine to fish my keys out of my pocket. While I was doing this, a human prune walked up beside me.

"Hmph" she sniffed, through a face that had last smiled during the Nixon administration, "look at that. How do you think that asshole conned a doctor into giving him a placard?"

Remember, I'm standing there 5 feet from my truck using a cane with my car keys in my hand.

"I don't know," I said in tones of mock concern, "but judging by the truck and the cooler in the back, I'm going to guess a Transient Ischemic Attack centered in the Left Parietal Lobe causing minor proprioception issues in the right extremities along with related stroke damage as well as Peripheral Neuropathy in both legs, most likely caused by the ABVD chemotherapy used to treat Stage IV-B Hodgkin's Lymphoma. But that's just a guess." I hobbled over to my truck and opened the door, looking up to where she was still stuck somewhere between embarrassed and angry, so I could tell her that the ER could help her with getting her bitchy, judgemental, head out of her sorry ass.
gridlore: (Burning_Man)
2017-08-12 05:50 pm
Entry tags:

I think we're supplying the 8th US Army.

Because some of you don't realize what going to Burning Man means in terms of self-reliance, here's what we have packed currently.

2x 7-gallon water containers (1 more needed)
1x 5-gallon gasoline containers (2 more needed)
1x 5-gallon water cooler
1x Camp table
1x Camp kitchen

Consumables Box:
3x 24-pack Pabst Blue Ribbon (camp dues)
2x handles cheap vodka (camp dues)
1x 24-pack Diet Doctor Pepper
(dehydrated camp food from REI)
1x Beef Stew
2x Chicken Teriyaki with Rice
1x Beef Pho
2x Scrambled Eggs with Bacon
3x Scrambled Eggs with Ham and Peppers
5x Biscuits and Gravy
(end camp food)
2x dehydrated Garlic Mashed Potatoes
2x dehydrated Buttery Mashed Potatoes

Kitchen Box:
1x box of Nitrate gloves
1x box of quart Ziplock bags (partially used)
1x dish scraper
1x hanging LED light
1x stock pot
1x kettle
1x 3-quart sauce pan
1x serving spoon
1x butane lighter
4x campfire forks
1x kitchen tongs
1x bottle of Tapatio
1x kitchen shears
1x dustpan and whisk broom
1x camp stove
1x small propane bottle
1x propane hose
2x pot holders
1x 5-liter collapsible sink
2x drink cozies
1x 12-pack shelf stable milk
1x 12-pack orange juice
1x carving knife and fork
1x can of hot chocolate mix

Miscellaneous Box:
4x blinky valve stems (for the truck on Playa)
4x inflatable lawn flamingos w/ stakes
1x package sanitary pads
1x package bathing wipes
2x camp signs
1x bunny ears, white and purple
1x bag misc. batteries
1x bike lock
1x 20-foot extension cord
1x red rope light
1x Mega MadLibs
1x collapsible kite
1x spare goggles
1x compression strap
1x camp lantern
1x camo net (for trailer and shade structure)
1x trash bucket
1x 12-pack Cup o'Noodles (chicken)
4x rolls of single-ply toilet paper
3x neck coolers
1x head-scratching tool
2x collapsible water bottles
1x bag of ear plugs
1x bag of dehydrated Cheese Tortellini soup
3x spatulas
1x set measuring spoons
1x moop bag w. flashlight
1x pair of practice poi
1x bag of random lights
2x 32-ounce drink tumblers

The 4th case of PBR we need for camp dues, the solar panel (which was tested successfully today) and our dolly are all in the trailer.

And we're still not finished.

Burning Man sucks. Don't go!
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
2017-08-01 03:27 pm
Entry tags:

More brain wiggles

It's a new month, and time for some honest self-examination. I have been really, really bad about using this tool for anything. Novel preparation, Traveller world-building, even just blogging stuff. Using it as it was intended as a way to encourage the daily habit of writing 750 words every single day. Even if they are total crap, I have to be better about putting myself in the chair and opening the page and doing it.

It's been hard. My birthday stresses me out, as I wrote about earlier. Hot weather really messes with my system, and we don't have air-conditioning at our place. And my mental state has continued to get worse. I'm going to say it: I think I'm suffering from depression. My moods have gotten deeper and darker like my emotional drive is a pendulum that is slowly losing momentum. I'm spending more and more time in the dark spaces of my head, questioning my basic value as a human being and wondering why the hell they ever woke me up from that damn coma four years ago.

There's another stressor - four years ago yesterday I had a stroke and 22 years ago in late July, I was diagnosed with Stage IV-B Hodgkins Lymphoma. So the happy days of summer are not the happiest for me. Probably why I hate my birthday so much; just another reminder that I am actually past my sell-by date in terms of how Hodgkins survivors do. I am beginning to realize that I'm never going to shout "Hello, Cleveland!" to a capacity crowd at Red Rocks, and my chances of topping Chris Garcia's Hugo Award acceptance speech grows ever dimmer with each rejection notice.

But the hardest thing for me is feeling useless. I used to be things. Light Weapons Infantryman, Training Driver, Truck Driver, Dispatcher. . . all those identities, which are so vital in our culture, have been taken from me. I'm a writer who can barely write. A gadfly at conventions. Someone who is only of the slightest help at Burning Man. I feel all my days of glory have passed me by far too soon and just when I was getting good at life, it was all taken from me piece by piece.

See, that's the real horror. I wasn't struck down in a day and told: "rebuild from the ashes, Berry." No, my competence was taken away in tiny chunks. Bit by bit parts failed, slice by slice I lost chances and doors closed. Did y'all know I was on the verge of working to get my Class B license and a much better paying job when I developed pulmonary embolisms and had to quit commercial driving? Road construction company in Fremont. They wanted me and would help me get that Class B and pay me double what I had been getting at Lord & Sons, plus a per diem for overnight runs. That fucking close.

Closed doors. That's all I can see these days. Except the one marked "exit" and I'm not quite ready for that one, even if some days it's only understanding how badly my death would hurt Kirsten and my family that keeps me here.

But there may be a crack, a light at the end of the tunnel that is not an oncoming train. I finally got some referrals for therapists, with a suggestion I schedule an evaluation meeting with a therapist and they can work with me to decide if I need full-on psychiatric care from an MD or if therapy might be the best bet. Waiting for a call back from one of the offices I was given to look at. Hopefully, I'll hear back soon.

Because when the pendulum isn't down in the dark places, I'm still me. I can still feel some hope, some joy, even have some energy. I want to write the Great American Fanzine Article, I want to finish my novel and sell fifty copies, I want to volunteer at BMIR at Burning Man to see if I can help out and be part of a team again. Damnit, I want to see the 49ers win the SuperBowl and the Sharks take the Stanely Cup.

Right now, I'm just waiting for a phone call and an appointment. No idea what that will lead to, or how long it will take, or if I'm going to be one of the Happy Pill People or sitting in a group. No matter what, I want it to happen because it represents a door opening.
gridlore: Photo: Rob Halford on stage from the 1982 "Screaming for Vengeance" tour (Music - Rob Halford)
2017-07-06 12:06 pm
Entry tags:

A quick note for the asshole at the show last night.

Dear person sitting in front of us at the Iron Maiden concert last night.

You are a self-centered ass, and completely ignorant of concert etiquette.

First of all, you skipped the opening act. Sucks to be you, Ghost was amazing. But then, once Iron Maiden took the stage, you spent the entire show with your phone out, taping the entire thing. Which wouldn't be so bad, but you had the camera's light on. You keep turning the phone to take selfies, meaning you kept shining that light right in my eyes as I was trying to watch Maiden.

So I hope that when you got home and reviewed the footage, you'll appreciate the fact that almost all of your selfie shots feature my raised middle fingers waving around behind you.

Up the Irons! And up yours!
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
2017-07-02 06:14 pm

Ignore me, please.

It's my birthday in a couple of days, and I'm going to ask you all to please ignore it. I have a lot of reasons for not particularly like my birthday, which I'll go into in a moment, but I really shouldn't have to do that. I should be able to ask my friends to be cool about it. But that never works.

We'll go backward. Isn't it grand how every social media site trumpets that it is your birthday to hundreds of people you might not know that well? Well, I hate it. I've removed my date of birth from both Facebook and Twitter, but I have little faith in them remembering that setting. As a result, I have in the past received hundreds of birthday wishes from people I've never met and have little clue about. That reduces a birthday wish to a rote machine action. *Ping* Fred has a birthday. Send cake? y/n.

Screw it, let's go all over the place. I was born on Independence Day. Seems cool, right? All those fireworks and parades for you? Except that when I was growing up it meant my friends - the few I had - usually had plans with family around the 4th. Then I got a little sister for my 5th birthday. Yup, we share the day, five years apart.

So now I was not only sharing the day with the country but with a sibling. As you can imagine, this quickly meant having to alternate who got the big day. I'd celebrate my birthday on the 3rd, or the 5th, every other year. And still, trying to get parties together sucked.

To be honest, the only thing I liked about my birthday was a massive taco feast and my favorite cake. Even presents lost their luster as I grew older. I became extremely cynical about the entire 4th of July thing by the time I was 16.

Then I joined the Army. You think the US Army takes Independence Day off? Ha! I spent my 19th birthday marching in a parade in dress greens then manning a table where I explained the M-16A1 to a parade of goobers. Did I mention that this parade was in Columbus, Ga? It was near 100 degrees and the humidity had to be in the low 90s. And I was there in a freaking suit.

Needless to say, I didn't celebrate that much that year, or any year after that. I just endured my birthday. It's just another day, really. I don't see why such a fuss is made over the simple reality of surviving 365 days.

Because when I think of survival, I look at what I've been through. I've come close to dying several times since 1995, and it deeply affected how I look at like. This was where I started actively hating my birthday. I'll freely admit it was based on a rather nihilistic outlook. I'm doomed to die, why are you reminding me that I'm one day closer to that! It sounds silly, but as someone who is keenly aware of personal mortality, I prefer to look ahead and strive for the new, rather than celebrate the meaningless passage of time.

So on Tuesday, I turn 51. I'll be the same person I was the day before and the day after. Since we got the Omaha Steaks order, we'll celebrate with a nice steak dinner, and the next night we go to see Iron Maiden at Oracle Arena with Ghost opening. The weekend brings the new Spider-Man movie. This would be a great week if it were in June or August.

So this is my request to you all. If you know me personally. If we've spoken face to face or worked on a project together, if you are someone I KNOW, feel free to mention the landmark. You don't have to, but if there is some cultural touchstone that compels you to do so, go for it. If the only reason you know my birthday is July 4th is a notification, and you don't really know me, please refrain.

Look, I know this sounds really anti-social. But it's how my brain works. Last year I nearly smashed my computer over this. It's one of the myriad issues I hope to get into when I get a referral for a therapist. Who knows, this time next year I might be demanding a trip to Reno. After All, I'll be 52 and finally be playing with a full deck!

One birthday present I would like, the California Lottery's MegaMillions game is up to $167 million. The draw is Tuesday.
gridlore: Old manual typewriter with a blank sheet of paper inserted. (Writing)
2017-06-12 05:22 pm
Entry tags:

What Dreams May Come

It's not often that I wake up and remember what it is I've been dreaming, but today was an exception. I frankly had a bad night's sleep, caused mainly by some stomach upset and my legs being their usual awful selves. So I was a bit surprised when I woke up around 0645 with a vivid image of a dream still with me.

Having lost too many good ideas to procrastination, I got dressed and headed out to my computer. I was under a bit of a deadline, as I had an appointment for my regular blood work and after that my writing group, so I had to be out the door by 0830 at the absolute latest.

Even though I'm not at all a fast or accurate typist, and my spelling leaves much to be desired, I was able to flesh out the image in my head into a short, but serviceable, story. Printed it out for the writing group (I did have another piece, a long, pretty much complete story that we didn't get to this week. I'll be reading that one next Monday) and stuffed it in the portfolio and out the door.

My good seemed to be holding. I was the only car in the McDonald's drive-thru, there was an adorable baby at the lab, and everyone loved what I had written. Then I found I had locked my keys in the truck and things went a bit downhill. But I hope you enjoy this thing that has sprung from my head.

The Modern Cassandra

Working in San Francisco has many benefits, one of those being exposure to all sorts of lunatics. At least that's what I thought as I emerged from the depths of the Montgomery Street BART station on that June morning.

He was standing on a wooden crate, with a beatific smile and shiny eyes framed by what we used to call "Jesusbro-fro" back in college. What caught me eye was the silver jacket he was wearing, it looked like the cheesy space jacket we all wanted as kids. Seeing the growing crowd emerging from the station, he began to speak.

"Friends, please hear me out. I know I sound crazy, but I have just returned from . . . the future! And I leave for there tomorrow. Hard to believe, I know, but please hear me out, for I must warn you of something terrible. But first, here's Dave with sports." He subtly shifted his manner and spoke with the rhythm of a long-time broadcaster. For a lunatic, this guy was good.

"Thank you, Dave. Tonight, the Warriors will beat the Cavaliers 108-92, taking the NBA Finals in five games." That got a small cheer from to commuters passing by. "In July, the Giants will go on a record-smashing winning streak, take the NL West and sweep the Yankees to win the World Series. Finally, The 49ers will have a chance to make the playoffs as the Wild Card, but fall just short, finishing the season 9-7. Sadly, that's all the sports news left. Now that I've established my bonafides . . ."

At that point, I had gotten my coffee and muffin from the street cart and was hurrying up the street to my office. So I missed the rest of his rant. Once settled in at my desk, I took a moment to write the guy's predictions down.

That night, the Warriors beat the Cavs 108-92.

Then the Giants won 26 straight games in July. By the time the World Series rolled around, I wasn't even watching the games, I was too busy trying to find the man who had made the predictions. A friend got me access to surveillance camera footage of the plaza at Montgomery Street. There he was, ranting away. He spoke for about ten minutes after I left the scene, looked around, and dejectedly went down the stairs into the Muni/BART station. Those cameras showed him entering a station restroom and never leaving.

By the time the 49ers faltered during a late drive in Week 17 and finished the season 9-7, I was a wreck. The words "all the sports news left" haunted me. I even hired lip readers to try to figure out what he was saying and spent thousands on ads trying to contact anyone who might have heard more of his message.

In legend, Cassandra was cursed to know the future and have no one believe her. This man's curse was to know the future and have no one listen.
gridlore: The word "Done!" in bold red letters. (Done!)
2017-06-03 09:03 pm

Magic Axes and Trailers. A full Saturday

Dear gods, my feet hurt. But it was a very good day. I like busy Saturdays, mainly because it lets me spend more time with Kirsten that doesn't involve staring at some sort of video device and they recharge my brain.

But damn, do I pay for it. My floor weasels are running wild tonight, setting my feet on fire, pulling off toes, driving spikes through my feet . . . it's not the pain that bothers me so much, although it can be excruciating, it's that my brain has a library of Things That Can Happen To Feet that translates these random bursts of information from dying nerves into specific sensations.

Like right now, where the big toe on my left foot has just been ripped off. Ow.

My morning started with the bi-monthly Dungeons & Dragons game. Playing over Skype with roll20 for the maps and die rolls is fantastic. We have five players and our DM with me out in California and one in Norway, with the rest in or near Michigan. Today we reached the end of our epic side quest to clear the abandoned hold of the Ironaxe Clan of the fiends that possessed it and return the Ironaxe to the clan's last survivor.

Digenis, my pantless (it's a running joke) Half-elf Barbarian was wielding Fred the Greataxe, who was smarter than Digenis and hated the fiends with a passion rarely seen in sharpened hunks of metal. It is a testament to my love of playing my Chaotic Neutral character that not once did I have to make a saving throw to keep Fred from compelling me to fight. No, I waded right in, screaming my battle cry "Safety Third!" and hacking away. Fred and I made a good team.

Sadly, after we defeated the boss demons, Fred's mission was complete. He left my axe. Luckily, In the treasure trove was a shiny +3 Battle Axe. Mine! I've named it Fred, Jr.

But after all this, I had real world work to do. Kirsten had hooked up the trailer and brought ti to her office so we could do some work on it. She came and got me, and headed back over.

The first task was to deal with some of the drips and oversprays from the painting of the red stripes. Kiri did a great job matching the trailer's color, and you can barely see the newer paint over the old. She also painted the small window frame, and we did touch ups here and there. It looks much better now.

The second task was a bit harder. Hell, it was a stone bitch. The platform for the sleeping area is multiple sheets of thick plywood. We had removed them so the interior could be stained and sealed (it looks amazing now) and today was the day to reinstall them.

One little problem. We had forgotten to mark which holes in the supporting frame lined up with which holes in the platform pieces. There was much cursing and setting of things before we finally got the pieces to fit. We are not taking those bloody pieces out again without a very, very good reason.

After a short break, we tackled the third task of the day: our pallet. Since Burning Man requires that you support yourself for a week, you need to bring a great deal of stuff. The Army left me with a compulsive need to organize and make lists. Since we have the Free Trailer Beowulf now, our packing needs have changed. We wanted to get a feel for what we had, what we needed, and what we can get rid of.

I was pleasantly surprised. Because of my broken foot last year I was unable to take part in our unloading process. But everything was well-organized. We realized we don't need our cots, the spare tent, and a couple of other things. We will be taking the big tent and all its support material as someone will be buying it from us on the Playa.

Doing this has allowed me to better see how our loading is going to happen. A small amount of material can be carried in the trailer, not too much due to weight and stability issues, but it gets some of the load out of the truck bed (and out of the cab for that matter.) Having the trailer means less stuff and time needed for set-up and tear down. It's all coming together nicely.

We do still need a few things, a battery for our solar panels, a spare tire for the trailer, a couple of other minor things. And we still need to get the trailer's name up on it. I'm almost tempted to look on Craigslist for a graffiti artist to do the work.

But after all this, it was time to hook the trailer up and take it back to the storage yard. We decided to take 101 to avoid the rather bumpy roads on 87 and 85. Big mistake. The had been a major accident on the other side of the freeway, and the looky-loos were causing a backup.

But we made it, eventually, and got the Beowulf into its assigned bay. A run through the nearby Jack drive through, back to the office where I had forgotten my cane, and then home.

2,700 steps today. Not bad. But dear Halford, my FEET!
gridlore: Army Infantry school shield over crossed infantry rifles (Army Infantry)
2017-05-19 06:16 pm
Entry tags:

American Storm Gods

It's a pretty hot day here in the Valley of Silicon. Not terrible, that's still to come, but exceeding warm. Call it about 85 degrees right now. It's much warmer in Offhand Manor (our name for the apartment) and will turn into an Easy-Bake Oven as the summer progresses.

But as much as I dislike the extreme heat, and it's worse since all my health problems, hot days like this always trigger a memory for me, one that explains my fascination with storm gods.

Back in 1984-85, I was a stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. Home of the Infantry, Benning was situated on a bluff overlooking the Chattahoochee River valley and the city of Columbus, Ga. It is the largest infantry training base in the world. It is also subject to some extreme weather.

The winters were cold, with rain and snow. Spring and autumn were pretty brief. Then there was summer. Summers in the Deep South have to be experienced to be believed. The heat and humidity are unbearable. Moving into the pine forests was like walking into an oven. The sun beat down like an angry god's hammer in some cosmic forge. Smart people retreated to air-conditioned homes and offices or escaped to Flat Rock Park to spend the day lying in the cool water.

We weren't smart, we were U.S. Army Infantry.

But a couple of times a week, we got a reprieve. An even that cut through the muggy heat and renewed our will to live. We were visited by the storm god.

Picture the scene: a company of infantry moving through one of the vast training areas. You are all dressed in camouflage Battle Dress Uniforms, wearing steel helmets, and carrying up to 60lbs of equipment. Everyone's faces and arms are coated in camouflage paint. The temperature has soared past 90 with no sign of stopping. The humidity is also in the low 90s. The air is thick as molasses, and there isn't a hint of a breeze. You feel as if you stood still, you would use up all the oxygen around you.

Your M-16A1 weighed about eight pounds when you started out. Now it weighs a ton. Your shirt is soaked with sweat, and you can feel your socks squishing in your boots. You're limited in the number of times you can drink from your canteen. Every gulp of air burns your throat.

Then you come to a clearing and looking west, you see that someone has stolen the sky. A wall of black thunderheads, towering like the walls of hell, sliding across Alabama towards your position. Flickers of lightning light portions of the clouds in unearthly shades of green and purple. Beneath the cloud, you can see the shifting curtain of rain. The storm is coming, and coming fast.

Around you, AN/PRC-77 backpack radios come to life with chatter. The order comes down: get into the tree line and stack all metal gear at a designated point. Those who have been through this a few times tie condoms around the muzzles of their weapons. Then we disperse. And still, the storm comes.

The air remains still and lifeless. You take off your BDU blouse and use it as an improvised rain cover. Nobody bothers with the issue ponchos, they are useless and hot.

Suddenly, the wind stirs, quickly rising to a steady wind. The temperature drops like a rock, and where you were near heat exhaustion minutes ago, now you're shivering in your sweat-soaked t-shirt. The air becomes like the finest crystal glass. What was blurred in the distance seconds ago is now in perfect focus.

With almost no warning, the sky goes black and an assault of rain and hail comes down. The sky goes blue-white against the black backdrop of clouds with lightning and the near-constant crash of thunder roars in your ears and shakes your bones. Above you, the clouds boil like a living thing. Lightning flashes from cloud to cloud, and slashes down to strike the proud pines standing on the hills and ridges.

And it keeps coming. The red clay dirt turns to mud and tiny rivulets of water around you swell to small streams. You realize that you are actually sinking into the mud, and shift to a solid root. Then it comes.

For the briefest moment, the entire world turns white. A millisecond later an angry ancient spirit, freed from confinement and hungry for vengeance, bellows a war cry that smashes into your entire body. As you blink away the spots, you hear something over the ringing in your ears and the pounding rain and hail.

Cheering. Every man in your company is yelling at the top of their lungs, and you realize that you are as well. You don't know why. It just feels right, and you go with it.

Soon enough, the front passes. The God of Storms allows the Sun God to return. You're a mess, soaked through and coated in red mud. You retrieve your gear and set to cleaning it. But you know this is Fort Benning in summer.

You know that there are good odds that the Storm God of the South will be back tomorrow.

Yeah, sometimes I miss Georgia.
gridlore: One of the penguins from "Madagascar," captioned "It's all some kind of whacked-out conspiracy." (Penguin - Conspiracy)
2017-05-08 04:48 pm
Entry tags:

I Weep for Editors Now

For a couple of years now I've going to a writing "class" offered by Santa Clara Adult Education. I put class in quotes because the format is more of a writing group, with people reading their works as the rest read along, and then offering comments and suggestions.

It's been amazingly good for me, both in terms of my mental health and in encouraging me to write on a more regular basis. Each session is four weeks, meeting on Monday mornings, with 4-5 sessions a year. There is a core of regulars who come to class after class, some for years. I've made good friends there, and I'm especially proud to call Rafael my friend. He's a 94-year-old retired US Marine who served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Never once loaded a weapon, as the Marines realized very early that he could type and had been taking accounting classes. He's an incredible writer, and we have to keep him away from the women, as he remains an incurable flirt.

I am the youngest in the class by at least a decade. Which I don't mind at all, I love listening to the others' stories and memories. I like that my best friend in class is a fellow writer of fantasy and really value the feedback I get from them.

Then there's Ralph. Oh, dear Halford, there's Ralph.

Ralph is a nice enough guy, a retired engineer (like several people in the group) who wants to write fiction. However, there's a slight problem. He can't write to save his life. I wish I was kidding about this, but his work is just jaw dropping.

First of all, he writes like he's still writing engineering papers. Everything is stiff and formal, overloaded with technical details. In a series of stories he wrote about two women rowing across the Atlantic, he detailed every single building they passed while rowing down the East River towards the sea. No emotion about setting out on the trip, no description of the smell of the water, the weather, the sound of the oars in their docks . . . just a monotonous list of places. He does that all the time.

Then there are his characters. Think of the worst-acted movie you've ever seen. That's how his characters speak. Stange declarative sentences that pop out of nowhere, spoken with no emotion. No emotional reactions at all. In his latest masterpiece, a man with his family at the Santa Monica Pier realizes that the Big One is imminent, and races to reach the Mt. Wilson Observatory. At no time in this story do any of the adults question this action. Nor do any of the children react to suddenly pulled from a fun day at the beach in the traditional childish way. No one objects when a near stranger joins them.

It drives me crazy.

But today took the cake. I literally had to keep myself from screaming or writing "YOU ARE A HACK!" in giant letters across his latest. Because in today's installment, the characters, at the conveniently abandoned Mt. Wilson facility, having found the fully equipped arms locker found at all the best observatories, decide to take target practice. Just as two Evil Dudes on horses ride up. Remember, this was happening as target practice was underway. Evil Dudes seem to think that all the gun shots were signs that the people there were easy pickings. Two dead Evil Dudes and a rescued boy.

But afterward, we were confused about how long the Swiss Family Woebegone had been up there. "Oh, several months." Was Ralph's reply.

Several months. Let that roll around your head. He was writing about a quake and tsunami that devastated the Los Angeles basin. WHERE THE FUCK DID HE THINK THE REST OF THE COUNTRY HAD GONE? There would have been National Guard, FEMA, Red Cross, mutual support from fire departments across the state, aid coming in from Mexico. . . he just thought that a big earthquake in L.A. would be ignored.

Niven and Pournelle did it better, dude, and their end of the world novel was a racist, misogynistic mess.

He's no better reading your stuff. He misses the obvious and gets diverted by pointless details. I can't begin to calculate how much time has been wasted explaining to Ralph things that were in the work to begin with. As an example, I wrote a piece about our visit last year to the Museum of the Ancient Orient in Istanbul. I included how pleased I was to find a relief of Teshub. I gave his entire history, explaining how the storm god of the Hurrians moved west into Lydia and Greece, becoming Zeus along the way, and giving us the idea of God as a man sitting on a cloud.

Ralph's first comment? "This thing about Teshub, I feel I'd need to know who he is to appreciate it." I almost killed him.

He is the only thing about the group I don't like, and I can tolerate him. But I needed to get this rant out.
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
2017-04-07 06:26 pm
Entry tags:

That was just my life.

Yeah, I've been slacking a bit. I promise to be better about keeping up on my writing.

So the news today is that I have an appointment for getting my first tattoo in 32 years on Monday. If you've ever seen my one tattoo, the World's Worst Grateful Dead Tattoo, you'd know why I've been a little wary of adding to my inked hide. Why take the risk? I know the circumstances of the WWGDT were a tad unusual, but you can see why I was a little needle-shy.

There's also my changing tastes. I didn't want to end up with a design celebrating something now passe or downright embarrassing. The Dead art, while horrible, is at least a good story and Deadheads have always been a loyal tribe. There's also my ongoing health issues, which for years made me worry about getting my hide pierced a few thousand times with an ink-injecting needle. But when I asked, the anticoagulation clinic staff only asked what the design I was getting. They did say that working my appointment in to the times I'm off the Warfarin for the ongoing dermatology visits would be best.

So what is the design? Nothing fancy, just a list of the medical issues that have either drastically affected how I live my life or came close to killing me. They'll be down my right biceps, listed by the ICD-10 code, under a header reading, oddly enough, "ICD-10."

We're going in chronological order, so the festivities start off with G72.3, which is Hypokelemic Periodic Paralysis. This is a genetic disorder, so I've had it from the time I was a fertilized egg, but never knew it until a year or so ago. What it is is my body has a hard time channeling potassium properly when I'm under high levels of stress. Rather than sending the potassium to the muscles to help things move correctly, it gets locked up in red blood cells. This causes the extremities to lock up at the joints, mainly.

Looking back, I can see where I might have had an attack and just passed it off as something else. Like when I was running a marathon at Fort Benning, and my legs locked up at the 20 mile mark. I thought I was just not strong enough, or hadn't eaten correctly. But more likely I had put my body under so much stress that the HPP struct. I'm very fortunate that my threshold for attacks is very high. Some people deal with daily attacks of their limbs freezing up.

Next is C81.09. Stage IV-B Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Diagnosed after the removal of my spleen in late July of 1995. Stage IV means that the cancer was all through my lymphatic system and had jumped to my liver. At the time, I was given a 60% chance of living to see my 30th birthday, and that was with harsh treatment.

I made it, obviously, but the cancer and the treatment combined to really wreck my health. I was left with almost no immune system, I eventually lost my teeth, and all the other things on my list can be traced back to the fight of my life against Hodgkin's.

But before I could even start to fight the chemotherapy, I had to deal with I82.401, Deep Vein Thrombosis in my right hip. When I had my spleen removed as part of the lead up to my cancer diagnosis, my platelet count skyrocketed. Which led to an amazingly painful blood clot in the very large vein that drains the right leg. As a side note, I was in this kind of agony when i found out that Jerry Garcia had died. I was beginning to feel a bit like the Biblical Job at that point. Treatment required that I be hospitalized for three weeks. During this time, my weight dropped to 113lbs.

Next up, and this came quickly on the heels of the end of my chemotherapy, is J18.9, pneumonia. I have had eight or nine diagnosed cases of this disease since the first one in February 1996. Probable a baker's dozen more than never got the nod from the medical establishment. The first two cases came damn close to killing me. My lungs crackle when you listen to them, that's the damaged alveoli (air sacks) that were wrecked in my many fights with this problem.

I have never been fashionable. I've never been one to go with the latest trends. But I was on the cutting edge once, and boy did I hate it. This is when I got hit by J09.X2, the H1N1 Influenza. I never quite needed to be hospitalized, but it was close, and I was in the hot zone for people in danger of dying from this particular flu strain. Since then, I get my flu shot early.

After having the flu, my lungs continued to torture me. This one really hurts, because it cost me my job driving for Lord&Sons. I26.09, Pulmonary Embolisms. These are blood clots in the lungs, and are horrifically dangerous. Never mind the fact that they kill off sections of your lung tissue, they can move into your heart (and kill you) or into your brain (and kill you) or just stay where they are and eventually kill your lungs. Which is bad.

This was the point when I first filed for permanent disability, and was awarded it. However, the feds have an interesting idea of what permanent means, and a year later they declared me fit for work! I got a gig doing dispatch and reservation work for a small limousine company. But just over a year later, on July 31, 2013, Kirsten heard a crash in the bedroom and found me wedged between the bed and the dresser, totally unresponsive. A fast ambulance ride and a long two days (which I didn't noticed, due to the induced coma I was in) and we learned what a G45.9 Transient Ischemic Attack is. It's a stroke. My blood thinners just stopped working, and a blood clot made its way into my left parietal lobe. It's called a transient attack because the clot resolves on its own. In my case, I hit my head pretty hard going down, and that might have been enough to shake the clot into pieces.

But afterwards, I couldn't speak clearly for more than a few sentences. My memory was shot, and I had almost no proprioception on my right side. I had to learn to walk again. I had to teach myself to speak. I spent three weeks in between the hospital and the in-patient rehab clinic learning the skills possessed by the average 2 year old child. It was very frustrating. Follow that with about 3 months of outpatient rehabilitation. And sill i was never going to be the same.

Like a good mystery? Then try to explain why I developed G62.9 Peripheral Neuropathy. The sensory nerves in both my legs are dying, leading to near constant pain and sudden bursts of extreme shocks of pain. We call those the "floor weasels", because that's what it feels like most of the time; weasels ripping into my feet. Then there the involuntary muscle contractions. Usually later in the day, I'll get everything from twitches to fell on, kick like a Rockette, leg spasms. Which makes sleeping difficult. None of my doctors can figure out why this developed in me, and why it's so severe. One of the reasons i try to walk as much as I can and do my gym time is that regular exercise can slow the progress of the condition.

At this point, many of you are wide-eyed in horror, and thinking "Oh my God, the poor guy! Next time I see him I'm going to buy him a beer!" Hahahahahahaha Fuck My Life. No beer for me, you see, because about the same time I found out about the Hypokelemic Periodic Paralysis I also found out about my raging case of K85.20 Acute Alcoholic Pancreatitis. After years of moderate but steady drinking (my barracks had a beer machine, I loved the Army) and with all the other slings and arrows it had suffered. my pancreas stopped playing nice with booze. One can of Budweiser could make me sick for days. So I switch to non-alcoholic beers (I still like the taste) and face the world sober.

So that's it, my new tattoo explained. These are my campaign ribbons, showing the battles I've fought and the ones I'm still fighting. The ink will be starting high on my right arm and extend down. That way, I have room for more entries.
gridlore: The word "Done!" in bold red letters. (Done!)
2017-04-03 07:54 pm
Entry tags:

LiveJournal is Dead.

If you are reading this and have a LiveJournal, go and delete it immediately. The new terms of service are binding only in Russian, so we have no clue what's actually in them. This is the final straw.

Ever since the sale to the Russians, LJ has slowly become unbearable. Good riddance.
gridlore: A pile of a dozen hardback books (Books)
2017-04-03 03:33 pm

In The Strangest Of Places, If You Look At It Right

The title is half of one of my favorite Grateful Dead lyrics.

Went up to Half Price Books today, it what is probably the last load of decluttering books for some time. While waiting for them to tabulate my payoff, I wandered around for a bit.

Wandering the history section, I scored. My friend Bruce Norbeck had suggested two books for me as part of me research for Task Force Singh, "Dreadnought" and "Castles of Steel", both by Robert K. Massie. The first is a detailed examination of the people and events that shaped the naval arms race between the United Kingdom and the German Empire in the decades leading up the First World War.

It's an amazing read, as Massie takes the time to introduce to characters like Kaiser William II and Admiral Jackie Fisher as people. Indeed, the book spends more time on how the personalities of the movers and shakers interacting with each other shaped the balance of power in Europe. This style also gives great insight to these powerful figures as human beings. Otto von Bismarck was a brilliant statesman, but also a petulant, petty jerk. King Edward VII was pretty lost as a monarch, happily deferring to his government on almost everything. And Winston Churchill had the crappiest childhood you can imagine.

All of this is wrapped around the whirl of European politics in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870; the war that made the scattered German states into a single empire while causing the fall of France's Second Empire. It's really fascinating to see how England was stuck in the ideal of the Splendid Isolation, secure in the knowledge that the Royal Navy was a bulwark against any invasion. Even as the age of sail began to fade, the hide-bound traditionalists of the Royal Navy clung to sail. It took true revolutionaries and mavericks to drag the navy into the modern age.

In Germany, the Kaiser faced a similar problem. German had little coast line and limited access to the North Sea, so a navy had never been a concern. Besides, Germany's power was her armies. Vast, disciplined, and well led by a professional officer class, the Imperial German Army could crush any of her neighbors. Convincing the Reichstag to spend huge piles of marks on building battleships and improving the Kiel canal to allow them access to the North Sea was the work of years, and involved no small amount of dishonesty and gambling. Several times, the Kaiser ordered ships to be laid down before the funds had been approved, and then presented the assembly with a fait accompli.

All in all, a fascinating read. But as long one, and quite dense. I've already had to renew the books once, and the Santa Clara library never guarantees endless renewals. "Dreadnought" is almost a thousand pages long, and the next one is about the same length. But there's so much good material in here! I've already cribbed three characters, some setting details, and the casus belli that sets off the who plot.

Since these are library books, I've taken to taking pictures of important passages that I want to remember and emailing them to my self. Rather clumsy, but it works. I tend to do most of my reading in bed lying down, so taking notes would be an act of some contortion, and even I can't read my own writing these days.

So these books must be returned, and possibly soon. Which brings me back to Half Price Books. As I said, I was wandering the store, glancing at this and that, when I spied the Ballantine Books paperback edition of "Castles of Steel", which is more directly on point for the style of warfare I'm hoping to describe in Task Force Singh. New, this book goes for $20. I got it for about nine bucks, which I just took out of what I got for the books I was dropping off.

Now I can highlight, margin note, and page mark to my heart's content! I can take time, reread important bits, and really digest the material. Because I really want the foundations of the novel to be as strong as possible. As I mentioned in my writing group this morning, getting the basics right makes the whole story sing.

My next step in laying that foundation, is to design the Vajra, the Arjun battleship that will be one of the main locations for the events of the book. I'll be using GURPS Starships for at least an initial pass on making the ship more a place than an idea, but will be working out details of the living ship. Because down properly, the ship can become a character in its own right.
gridlore: One of the "Madagascar" penguins with a checklist: [x] cute [x] cuddly [x] psychotic (Penguin - Checklist)
2017-03-30 03:42 pm
Entry tags:

Too Much Time On My Hands

Sitting on this barstool talking like a damn fool
Got the twelve o'clock news blues
And I've given up hope on the afternoon soaps
And a bottle of cold brew
Is it any wonder I'm not crazy? Is it any wonder I'm sane at all
Well I'm so tired of losing- I got nothing to do and all day to do it
I go out cruisin' but I've no place to go and all night to get there
Is it any wonder I'm not a criminal?
Is it any wonder I'm not in jail?


The joys of being retired, sick and recovery from minor surgery at the same time. I'm bored. I have things to do, but between the thankfully lessening pain of the incisions and the general yuck I've picked up, I'm well out of spoons after doing nothing. Even playing Civilization VI seems out of reach today. I've tried doing some writing and research on Task Force Singh, but nothing's there.

To make matters worse, we're currently a one-car household until we can Kirsten's car fixed in a few vital spots. That's happening this weekend, hopefully. But it means that right now I'm at home with no wheels.

Is it any wonder I've got
Too much time on my hands, it's ticking away with my sanity
I've got too much time on my hands, it's hard to believe such a calamity
I've got too much time on my hands and it's ticking away from me
Too much time on my hands, too much time on my hands
Too much time on my hands


But even if I had the truck, where would I go? I suppose I could go sit in the library and read graphic novels, but I'm tired. I'm going to want to lie down in a bit and nap. I do that a lot these days. Dealing with the whole back epic, and trying to get work down on the trailer, and waiting for news about Baycon panels . . . it's all contributing to a spoon deficit that I never make up.

I'm even falling behind on the little housework I do here. I have to get one load of laundry down today. But I feel like the gravity has been set on high here. I am in one of those stages where doing anything at all has become an epic chore. Even writing this, even with the big chunks of song lyrics, is a battle.

Well, I'm a jet fuel genius - I can solve the world's problems
Without even trying
I have dozens of friends and the fun never ends
That is, as long as I'm buying
Is it any wonder I'm not the president
(He's not the president)
Is it any wonder I'm null and void?


While I'm sure there will be better days, the fact is that right now I'm in a bad place physically and mentally. I keep getting reminded that I'm disabled. That sounds odd, I know, but most days I'm at least marginally functional. I can get through a day with a few errands, some creative work, and a little housework. I still have a spoon left when I go to bed, or at least enough of a spoon remnant to make it that far.

But these last few weeks? Whew. Too much happening. And that has forced me to scale back my activities, which causes stress when I see what isn't getting down, which causes spoon loss . . . you can see the cycle.

But this is the reality until we finish with my back. Which will be several weeks at this rate. I'm going to have stitches after every biopsy and removal. Meaning pain, not much activity, and more boredom. I've gotten quite good at adjusting to the new normal. I just don't have to like it.

It's 1537. I guess I'll start the laundry and watch old Law & Order episodes on Sundance until it's done. Then it's nap time. Tomorrow is another flipping day. I'll try for a good night's sleep, see if I can't raise the energy level a little, but as with everything, it's hard.

Is it any wonder I've got
Too much time on my hands, it's ticking away at my sanity
I've got too much time on my hands, it's hard to believe such a calamity
I've got too much time on my hands and it's ticking away from me
Too much time on my hands, too much time on my hands
Too much time on my hands


It's funny. Years ago when I got my job at PODS I wrote a piece like this using Styx's "Blue Collar Man" in a similar fashion. Who knew that this would be the band that wrote the themes of my life.

"Too Much Time On My Hands" written by Tommy Shaw, 1981
gridlore: Doug looking off camera with a grin (Default)
2017-03-18 05:18 pm
Entry tags:

Confronted by my own Privilege.

This one is going to be difficult to write, as I'm rather disturbed about something that happened today.

Kirsten and I were out running weekend errands like any married couple. Couple of stops for stuff surrounding the Free Trailer Beowulf project, although the trip to Home Depot was just supposed to be dropping off old CFLs, we ended up buying what we needed for the stripe painting. Just a normal day.

We were done, with the groceries and other acquisitions in Darby's bed, and headed home. It's a beautiful day here, so I had my window down as Kirsten drove. There was one right turn we were waiting to make when it happened. An African-American man was crossing the street, and I was suddenly seized by not panic, but a feeling of not knowing what to do. Do I make eye contact? What do I do if he moves towards the truck? Should I lock my door?

All of this in the time it took this guy to walk in front of us in the crosswalk and go on his way. I was deeply shaken by my reaction here, because it is so atypical for me. I've spent so many years working with and living in the same areas as African-Americans and other minority groups that I thought I was past such snap panics.

I grew up in Los Gatos and the Cambrian Park area of San Jose, California. Back then I didn;t know about concepts like white flight and racial boundaries, all I knew is I have one Latino classmate, and my best friend's mom was from Peru. We got a double handful of South-east Asian kids when the Vietnamese boat people were finally granted entry to the United States. But still, mine was a mostly white, suburban experience.

But I was exposed to other cultures in music and in books. I was raised to believe that all men were created equal, and that I should judge people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. But still, I don't think I ever met an African-American until my late teens. I was the model of white privilege.

Then came the Army. While combat arms like the infantry were disproportionately white, my drill sergeants were an African-American man and a Puerto Rican. Later we got a Chinese Drill Sergeant who loved to tell us to "don't cheat your bodies! Do diamond push-ups!" In my first duty assignment I managed to end up in an entirely African-American squad against all odds. As squad mates live, work, and party together, I became, if not part of, at least accepted as a non-threat in the burgeoning rap scene in Atlanta. I also earned the most un-PC nickname in history when our First Sergeant saw us heading out for a Friday night on Victory Drive, announced, "Berry, you're a worse n___r than the rest of them." It stuck. I wore it with pride.

I've even experienced what it's like to be on the bottom of the social ladder due to your ethnicity myself in Hawaii. Get outside Hotel Street and the beaches of Waikiki, and whites are the hated bottom class. At the 25th Infantry Division, we were told never to go into Wahiawa, the town just outside Schofield Barracks, at night or in the day in groups smaller than six. Because the Samoans who worked the cane fields would beat up soldiers for fun, and the cops would charge the victims with disturbing the peace.

Hell, even in the civilian world I've usually been the palest face on the job. My PODS warehouse was mostly African-American, and at Lord & Sons, the place was heavily Latino with two bonus Russians. I should be good at this by now! I mean, our neighborhood has Mexicans (and a lot of NorteƱos living down the street from us), folks of various Asian backgrounds, Indians, and even a few women I've seen shopping in a full Niqab.

So why did this guy freak me out so badly? Was it because African-Americans aren't that common in this little corner of Santa Clara? Was there something in his walk that triggered me? After all these years, I would hate to discover that there's a streak of fear-based racism in me somewhere, I really thought that I was getting past that, and had done so early in life when I jump head-first into the Big Green Melting Pot.

To this random guy minding his own business on a Saturday, I apologize. I owe you and everyone more trust. I'll try to do better next time.