Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Rambling man.

Truth: I did not get the creative work done this weekend that I wanted to. There's still a pile of unwritten ideas and scrambled thoughts waiting to be put together. In fact, there are a few piles now. The best I could manage was the start of maybe something, maybe nothing, over at Field's Edge.

Still, I did finish the last of the leaf piles on Saturday, with help from my daughter. They were wet and heavy, and hauling them to the woods with a big tarp knotted my shoulder muscles a bit.

I went for a run yesterday afternoon to unstick my brain and avoid feeling like another day was slipping by. It was 40 degrees and spectacularly still and cloudless and I hadn't gone running outside in five weeks, and it felt good. (Update: 6:16 p.m. – Went to the Y and did some treadmill running. 3.5
miles in something just under 27 minutes. I've never listened to music
while running, but I loaded up the player and gave it a shot. Lesson: "Duel of the Fates"
is, as I've always suspected, tremendously fun to run to, though a) it
is very difficult not to start singing "Koh-raaaaaah! Mat-taaaaah!
Koh-ra, MA-TA-RAAAAAH" and b) miming double-bladed lightsaber moves on
a treadmill is inadvisable.)

I got up early this morning. Jenn left for work at 5:30 or so. I brought a cup of coffee back to bed and finished reading Oakley Hall's fantastic "Warlock," which my friend Jake recommended when he visited last Thanksgiving. Next up is "The Unauthorized Star Wars Compendium," a birthday gift from Adam, who, on a totally unrelated note, has some great stuff from downtown Akron's tree lighting on his blog.

I'll end this babblewanderfest with a request for good thoughts for writer Tobias Buckell, who started his Thanksgiving weekend with a trip to the hospital and is still enjoying the comforts and joys therein.

November 30, 2008 Posted by | Current Affairs, Fiction, geek, Ohio, running | Leave a comment

Whups. Got a little knot there, Russ.

Crawling through a snowstruck commute this morning, I was at least happy to see that my favorite Christmas light display has returned. (Which means, soon it'll be time for the hap- hap- happiest Christmas since – well, in a long time.)

November 21, 2008 Posted by | Film, geek, Religion, Travel | Leave a comment

R is for Rocket

This shot from NASA's "Astronomy Picture of the Day" archive reminds me that yes, there are things that I occasionally miss about living in central Florida.

Back in the mid-1990s, I'd take every chance I could to go see a space shuttle launch, and it was always just flat-out incredible.

During one of the years when I worked the 4:45 p.m.-1:15 a.m. shift in the composing room at The Orlando Sentinel, Jenn and I got up way before dawn one morning to go see a launch, and later, I wrote the following essay. I submitted it to the paper as a guest column, and they accepted it, which was absolutely jaw-dropping since I was still working on actually getting my writing published.

Then someone up in editorial realized I worked at the paper, and they withdrew their acceptance, giving me some bullshit about how the paper couldn't run "My Word" columns by employees, which I thought was a total crock.

Re-reading it is kind of weird. Its "then-present" tense wants to pull me in a lot of reminiscing directions, for starters. And even though it's in a voice that I recognize as my own, it's also a voice that's changed in the decade-and-a-half since this was written. Both of those things make me happy that I've kept it.


4 a.m. Shrill alarm. Bare feet and a cold floor. Maybe I shouldn't have gone to bed at all instead of opting for the two hours of sleep I managed to sneak, despite being excited after getting off work at 1:30.

Rubbing my eyes, I shuffled to the kitchen and managed to start a pot of coffee without spilling too many grounds. That done, the jittes of the night before (hours before?) slowly returned as morning stomach butterflies.

I've lived in Orlando about two and a half years, and during that time I've watched about five space shuttle launches from various place: my apartment balcony, a friend's swimming pool, a downtown parking lot, and the shore of Lake Ivanhoe.

I even watched one go up at 1:15 a.m. It set the Orlando sky ablaze and amazingly rumbled the warm air.

But I've never seen one from up close in Titusville. ("Up close" being a relative term, I suppose. The locals tell me their town lies about eight miles from the launch pads across the Indian River, give or take.) And that's what Jenn and I were after, stumbling half-awake in the darkness before dawn.

We threw some blankets and pillows in the back of the car, and the binoculars and camera, too. Then, under a chill and stardust sky, we cracked the windows of the car and headed out an empty State Route 50 eastbound.

Well before the I-95 interchange, we could make out a far beam of white stabbing the horizon, marking the great lights around Atlantis. Arriving in Titusville at six, and turning left at the river, we stared over the dark water at the cluster of lights and inky silhouettes of Kennedy Space Center, their silence and stillness masking the skittering of an army of workers in preparation for the space shot.

We saw a few cars parked on the wide grassy berm, and pulled over next to a small Rotary park facing KSC. Two men with video cameras sat chatting softly in the square pavilion.

While Jenn made a breakfast run to the McDonald's just up the road, I chose a grassy spot above the rocks at the water's edge, and spread our blankets in the thick dew. When she got back, we took turns eating and looking through the binoculars at the sparkling tangles of iron and light, catching glimpses now and then of the gases venting from the tip of the shuttle, fluttering in the slowly brightening sky.

The water lapped the mossy stones, stirring a not unpleasant tang of seaweed and fish into the cool salty air. Bulb-bellied pelicans skimmed the water for breakfast as the sun finally broke the horizon in a hot glow of red.

More people began to arrive, disheveled and bleary, toting lawn chairs and radios and cameras, and driven by the same caffeine thrill of watching real people, just like us, ride a rocket to the sky.

I'd be a tremendous liar if I said I wasn't disappointed to the core when the launch was scrubbed at T-Minus five minutes or so. And if I said I wasn't bitter at the reason: bad weather overseas at all three emergency landing sites. I was crushed. Even more so when the launch went as scheduled the next morning, since I couldn't make the trip.

But I know the reasons, and they're good ones, really. Going to the stars doesn't leave room for mistakes. And I know I'll get my chance to see another launch.

And all in all, there are far worse ways to spend a morning than sitting cross-legged on the ground, sharing food, and watching the sun rise over the ocean.

November 20, 2008 Posted by | geek, Science, Web/Tech | Leave a comment

Art humor FTW.

Bonus points today for Irregular Webcomic.
Click the image to read the whole thing. It's gloriously terrible. I love it.


November 20, 2008 Posted by | geek, Weblogs | Leave a comment

A connecting principle, linked to the invisible

Every so often, over at Whatever, John Scalzi opens up a "pimp thread" for readers to just plug away and mention their websites, projects, and/or just cool stuff they've found and want to share.

After dropping my own contribution into the latest one, I started browsing the other commenters' links and it took all of about two seconds to find myself sucked into a webcomic, and then into a story written by that comic's author, and I thought, "Stop. Go back three steps. Share this before you forget or before your computer decides to lock up and set you off weaving a tapestry of obscenity."

So, here's that find: MyLifeComics by Paul Abbamondi. I used to love Jim's Journal back when it ran in the Bowling Green college paper, and I still have a weakness for comics that capture those day-to-day moments of goofiness or boredom or just plain time passing. In MyLifeComics' case, this is the strip that cemented my fandom. Why? Because I drive a lot. And I've seen those trucks a lot. And even though I've laughed to myself about their naming a lot, I don't think I've ever snickered aloud or shared the admittedly juvenile giggle with anyone else. And yet, here are those internal chuckles, echoed in a comic strip I'd never heard of until a couple days ago.

Paul's comic led me to check out his blog, and then I clicked onward to read his short story "Pigment", which I also liked.

Reason #64738 why the Series of Tubes rocks.

November 16, 2008 Posted by | Books, Fiction, geek, Weblogs | 1 Comment

Because everyone needs a Cairo Swordsman.

I never got a chance to visit The Earth down in Cincinnati before they went online-only, but I've raved about the place ever since they helped me complete a set of some unproduced vintage Star Wars toys a couple years back.

Need a vintage Cairo Swordsman? (And who doesn't?) – Here you go!

Bugaloos lunchbox? Bingo.

Sea Wees? Freaking BRAVESTARR? It's like a big animated flip-book that runs from my early TV memories to the stuff I only know because I watched it languish on the clearance shelves at Children's Palace during high school.

Anyway, The Earth also rocks because they've been kind enough to post a "Collect All 21" link on one of their books pages, just a couple rows up and to the left of a field guide to Smurfs.

November 15, 2008 Posted by | 1980s, Books, eighties, Film, Games, geek, Ohio | Leave a comment

It was always Time Pilot that gave me blisters, though.

You are Robotron. To spend a lot of time trying to save your family from the dangers that come at you from all directions.  Maybe you should lay off the caffeine.
Which Classic Arcade Game Are You?

November 13, 2008 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Games, geek, Ohio, video games | 3 Comments

Sweep the producer’s leg. Please.

If released during the traditional blockbuster season, the Karate Kid re-do would make for a cruel, cruel summer indeed.

Seriously – I just watched the original with my 11-year-old daughter and you know what? It holds up.

(Okay, so she did ask once, early on, what was up with the hair, and then she answered herself: "Oh yeah, this was the '80s. Nevermind.)

I ask you: Would Mr. Miyagi find balance in this?

November 12, 2008 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Film | 2 Comments

Krieg der Sterne: Bring on the Invisible Alien Saxophones

My family moved into a new school district the summer before I started first grade, and I missed the first day of school with a raging case of hay fever.

Mike D. was one of the first friends I made that fall.

Sometimes our parents would send notes to school and let us ride the bus to each other’s house. Mike was the only other kid I knew who was really as into Star Wars as I was. I was insanely jealous because his dad had brought him some Star Wars trading cards back from a trip to Germany, and they were these cool glossy things, like playing cards, and they came in a pack of 50 or so, not like the flimsy cardboard Topps cards I collected in packs of less than a dozen.

Mike’s parents had a stereo with a record player, and they’d gotten him the 45 rpm single of the Star Wars theme (disco rendition), which we thought was particularly awesome because it included laser sound effects. The flip side was the Cantina band theme, similarly rendered. His mom had some friends over once, and while they were sitting in the family room, we put the Cantina music on and paraded through the house playing invisible alien saxophones.

– from Chapter 2 of Collect All 21!

Mike played a role in a lot of my early Star Wars memories: Running around his yard and porch, Kenner spaceships in hand; scrambling through the house with our fingers formed into laser pistols. When we were older, he actually gave me the Ralph McQuarrie Star Wars Portfolio he’d kept since childhood, and which still bore pencil indentations from the afternoons we spent tracing the pictures.

A couple months back, I talked to Mike for the first time in about 20 years – 30-plus years after the year we met – because I wanted to share the book with him.

Not long after, a thick envelope for me arrived in our mailbox. I didn’t recognize the return address.

Inside, there was no note. Just a small packet of something wrapped incredibly neatly and precisely in smooth, featureless light gray paper.

When I opened that packet, I saw this –


and I got a gut thrum and a grin like you wouldn’t believe. I was seven years old again for a heartbeat or two.

Funny thing: As it turns out, these are, in fact, playing cards.
Some kind of rummy-ish game, I think. I’ve posted the whole set in a slideshow here.

So I removed the single flat rubber band and started thumbing through the stack and they were almost exactly as I remembered: Colorful and strange and foreign and –

– a note, stuck in the middle of the pile, sized just so as not to be discovered too early: Written in the top left corner, “These were my sister’s cards.” And then, in the lower right, leaving the middle blank just the way you do when you’re creating the pause before a dry punchline, “I’m not that generous!”

– and I laughed out loud, then called Mike to say thanks.

November 9, 2008 Posted by | Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, writing | , , , , | 2 Comments

Nu kitteh: We haz it.

About three weeks back – not even two weeks after we'd lost Charles Wallace – Jenn comes home from her 2-10 p.m. shift and says, "You're gonna be mad at me."

And, I admit, she was right, because she had a kitten tucked into her sweatshirt.

Here's the thing – we had four kittehs for a long time, and the truth is, four cats plus a dog pretty much put the Booth Wildlife Sanctuary at full capacity, even in Jenn's estimation. (And that's saying something, since she's always been quite the Rescuer of Strays and Adopter of Pets in Need.)

Frankly, having just gone through the whole round of vet visits and bills and the stress of putting Chaz Waz to sleep, I couldn't stand the thought of taking on another pet.

Yet here it was. Sickly little thing. Vertebrae that felt sharp as gravel through the fur on its back, ribs you could feel like the seams on a baseball. Jenn said it came up to her when she went to get in her car. Maybe it'd been dumped; maybe it was born to a stray and gotten lost, or its mom had died. It really was too little to be on its own.

And yes, I referred to it only as It, because I didn't want to name it, didn't want Jenn & Kelsey to get attached, didn't want this new responsibility and duty, and dammit, I still miss Charles Wallace and there seemed to be something unfair about getting a new cat now.

Jenn took it to the vet to see how old it was: Six weeks, they figured, and with a gut full of wormscourge stealing its food from the inside – the vet actually described its tummy as "ropy and angry" – and no, they couldn't take it off our hands.

So we're half-jokingly discussing names within a day or two because I know, I know, I KNOW that this is a losing battle on my part, and I come up with this compromise which Jenn & Kelsey agree to: If we keep this little guy, I, DAD BOOTH, am NO LONGER responsible for ANYHING which comes out of either end of ANY CAT in the house. I will help haul litterbox waste outside because it's heavy, but this adoption hereby absolves me of any cat poop in the library or urp on the floor, no questions asked. The proposal was accepted.

(Laugh if you want, call me a softy and point out that we're back up to our four-cat limit over my objections, but seriously – NO MORE CAT EXCRETIONS for me. That's worth a victory jig.)

Now – the name. We tossed suggestions back and forth. I wanted something science-fiction-y or geekish but not incredibly obvious. (Hey, it worked with "Charles Wallace.") Jenn & Kelsey want something adorable-ish. We go through a few dozen ideas, and none of them seem to stick.

Then we're in the car – on the way to Salt Fork, I think – and we're talking about how unique-looking this guy is, and Jenn mentions how neat it is that he's pure white underneath but with a "kind of peppery" asymmetrical blotch on top, and then she freezes mid-sentence and we look at each other: "Pepper."

Cute enough for my wife & daughter, and – since at the time I was in the middleCatPepper
of "Sly Mongoose" – when I hear "Pepper," I'm thinking ass-kicking survivor type who takes on zombie armies and giant mind-controlling species and isn't above attempting an atmospheric entry with nothing but a spacesuit and a heat shield. (Yet more thanks and a few apologies to Tobias Buckell for inspiring this paste-up job of Pepper and Pepper on his "Sly Mongoose" cover. Couldn't resist.)

That was almost a month ago, and it seems like Pepper's pretty much out of the woods now: His belly's full, his eyes are bright, and his spine is comfortably deep beneath the fur on his back.

And if the interstellar zombie invasion hits our house, we're in good hands. Paws. Whatever.

November 2, 2008 Posted by | geek, Ohio | 3 Comments


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