Cornfield Meet

Things collide here.

Moving the Woods’ Edge

Workers arrived yesterday to clear the ground above the natural gas line that runs behind all the houses on our side of the street. Our back property lines all share a border with the same woods so most of the actual tree-cutting doesn’t technically happen in our yards. I think they took down one smallish tree that may have actually been on our property.

The 20 feet or so of forest they’re shaving off isn’t affecting the big-picture landscape, but it’s altering our little slice of things a bit.

These two trees for instance:

(click for the larger version)

(click for the larger version)

They’re both marked for removal by orange spray-painted dots, but the thing I’m going to miss is already gone: The scars you can see on these two trees are the result of a third which toppled years and years ago and wedged itself between them. You can see it about 30 seconds into this video clip. When the wind blew hard enough, the trunks of these three trees all bending and rubbing together made a great creaking, groaning, squeaking sound that carried a ways up and down the street.

Of course, the work is also uncovering some fine archaeological finds, like these boards – the last two I can spot from the tree fort my neighbor and I built when we were kids. It’s pushing 30 years that they’ve been nailed here, probably seven or eight feet off the ground:

(again, click the photo if you want to see it embiggened)

(again, click the photo if you want to see it embiggened)

Those were rungs on the ladder leading up to the fort, which was maybe 12 to 15 feet up. Check out this section of fallen tree which perfectly captures the “use whatever nails we can find and use them almost at random” aspect of our construction practices:

(Hey, guess what - theres a bigger version here for the clickin!)

(Hey, guess what - there's a bigger version here for the clickin'!)

Seriously: That big spike near the top center has got to be eight or nine inches long. Where the hell did we get that? And the size and placement of those four nails tell me either a step or a floorboard must’ve gone there.

This has made me dig up recollection I started a few years back detailing all the forts we built during those long-gone summers, and now I want to walk around with my camera some more and try to track down and see what’s left of them.

May 28, 2009 Posted by | geek, Ohio, writing | , , , , | 1 Comment

Off to fight the space zombies.

Pepper – named, in part, for Tobias Buckell’s Sly Mongoose hero – launches. (Audio of the Apollo 10 liftoff – forty years ago this month, as it happens –  from this collection of sound and video celebrating NASA’s Fortieth Anniversary back in 1998.)

May 26, 2009 Posted by | Science, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of GeekDads and Star Wars and Girls and Duran Duran Trapper Keepers.

Last week, over at GeekDad, I reviewed Bonnie Burton’s book Girls Against Girls: Why We Are Mean to Each Other and How We Can Change. You should definitely click here to read the post – I’m not going to cover much of the same ground here, but I thought it was good and practical and insightful. And my daughter’s been very possessive of it since I brought it home from the library.

BurtonBookKelsey’s just wrapping up sixth grade – which has included its share of age-appropriate social drama – so Bonnie’s book came along at a good time for us. (And honestly, how impressive is it that someone who grew up in the 1980s like me can manage to write a book that somehow connects with both me and my daughter?)

And Bonnie – who writes and edits Lucasfilm’s and has done a ton of other writing you can find through her site –  was a ridiculously fun interview: We talked my office phone’s battery to death, for starters, and for my money, anytime you can look back at a conversation’s topic checklist and check off Duran Duran Trapper Keepers, Nine Inch Nails and Peter Murphy, Fringe, junior high angst, Star Wars, and Ranger Rick magazine, well, that talk is a keeper.

Also, she recently Tweeted that for instant pop culture taste improvement, “Journey is the bacon of music.” And how can you not get behind that?

May 25, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Books, eighties, Film, geek, Web/Tech, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Support Independent Publishing This Weekend!

There are five good reasons to shop this weekend: From today through May 25, grab the discount code off the front page for five bucks off an order of $25 or more (before shipping costs – I already checked for you!).

So, let’s see, to hit that magical $25 plateau (and then knock it down to twenty), you could order:

Two fun-filled nostalgia-packed 1970s-and-80s-flashbacking copies of “Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek – The First 30 Years,”


One “Collect All 21!” plus one alternate reality/love and friendship/phantom train story in the form of “Crossing Decembers,” a novel of “well-written weirdness,”


go for the Magnificently Bargainic DRM-free electronic download editions of both books (just a virtual five-spot each!) plus a print copy of Adam Besenyodi’s superb “Deus Ex Comica: The Rebirth of a Comic Fan.”

I mean, you really can’t lose here. There’s a lot of good stuff on Lulu. Wil Wheaton has distributed his last two works through the site – and as it happens, he just did an intervew about it with The Washington Times; Julian Dibbell’s “My Tiny Life” is there, too, as is the big ol’ prank “Atlanta Nights,” which has a great backstory.

Don’t be afraid! Visit Lulu! Buy stuff! And have a great weekend!

May 22, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Books, Current Affairs, eighties, Fiction, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Weblogs, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Golly-Gee / Go Ahead 3

I’ve been working the phone and computer a LOT today. Who’s up for unwinding with a rousing round of “The New Adventures of Gilligan?”

(click for the bigger version)

(click for the bigger version)

I got this at a garage sale years ago for a DIME. That’s more than ninety percent off the original $1.08 price tag, my bargain-hunting friends! (A price tag which, oddly enough, labels this product “Health & Beauty.” Maybe it was next to the coconut shampoos and banana skin lotion?)

(You REALLY want to see the big version of this. Go ahead. Click.)

(You REALLY want to see the big version of this. Go ahead. Click.)

How cool is this board, anyway? Here’s a straight overhead view. A stand-up hut, mountains in the background, and a tree-arch jungle you can get lost in. Everyone (ages 6 to 12, at least) is a winner!  (Yeah – 6 to 12. Really? Kelsey’s 12, yet somehow I don’t see her picking this over Munchkin Bites anytime soon.)

And in case you’re wondering why this cartoon version of Ginger has white hair, it’s because (if you believe Wikipedia), the creators apparently feared actress Tina Louise’s possible objections to the use of her image.

Ready? Roll to see who goes first!

May 21, 2009 Posted by | Games, geek, Television | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


(This post about Star Trek is spoiler-free, just in case you’re worried about that sort of thing. Although Rosebud’s a sled.)

Jenn and Kelsey and I finally got to catch a matinee of the new Star Trek on Sunday, so to everyone who’s been telling me, “GogogogogoGOALREADY,” well, I did. And I had a great time and I want to go see it again.

My interest in Star Trek has always fluctuated. Despite the love-of-all-things-outer-spacey that I got from Star Wars when I was six, I only had a vague interest in the original Star Trek series, which the Cleveland independent TV stations aired either late at night or on weekend afternoons which, when I was a kid, were like television Dead Zones. Honestly, I was much more into Lost in Space, probably by default since it was usually on just after I got home from school.

I remember sort of wanting to see Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but I never did catch it in the theater. (Years later, I learned just how good a thing this was. Missing it, I mean.) The next Trek, though, The Wrath of Khan? That one I did beg to go see, and it blew me away: kick-ass space battles, ooky brain-munching worms, and a climactic escape that still gives me goosebumps. I saw the next four Treks in the theater (although Trek V was in a second-run double-feature, and mostly we were there to see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade again), and as everyone says, the even-numbereds were the keepers. (The shockwave just effing slamming into Sulu’s ship during the opening sequence of The Undiscovered Country is still one of my favorite heartracers ever.)

When Generations came out, I went to see it on opening night with some friends based mostly on enthusiasm for The Next Generation and its incredible final episode “All Good Things,” earlier that year. We liked it at the time, but it didn’t hold up for long, really, although Malcolm McDowell is still entertaining as hell. First Contact was a great rebound, though, and it’s the only one of the Next Gen movies that I think I’ve watched more than once on DVD. Neither Insurrection nor Nemesis have any memorable bits as far as I’m concerned.

As far as the TV shows go, as I mentioned, I only ever really got into Next Generation. Jenn and I watched DS9 for about half the first season. Ditto for Voyager. Never even gave Enterprise a shot.

The J.J. Abrams angle, though, had me interested in the new movie from the start. I’m a big fan of Lost and Fringe, and my wife and I followed most of Alias and Felicity. Heck, I even thought Cloverfield was decent.

After one viewing of the new Star Trek, I loved it. And I think it’s for real love, not another Generations fling where it’s just the newness of the thing that makes me go Wow. And Jenn and Kelsey liked it, too, which I think is a good sign: I expected Jenn to be entertained enough, but it was great seeing my daughter – who’s never watched an episode of the original series and who hasn’t regularly seen Next Generation since before preschool – walk out of the movie excited about it and ready to tell her friends.

I thought the casting was damn near flawless, the dialogue and chemistry brilliant, and the story pretty darn good, and I can’t get over how successfully Abrams and writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci managed to not only pay tribute to and preserve all the best parts of the existing Trek characters and universe, but come up with a way to reinvent the franchise without actually rebooting it and kicking all the old storylines to the curb.(Yes, there’s bad science and at least one pretty sizable moment of improbability, but if you want to play “What Are the Odds of That” then ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you Exhibit A: “Hold your fire. There are no life forms aboard. Must’ve short circuited.”)

And the opening sequence of the movie is practically a standalone mini-epic that outdid both of the last two Trek films in their entirety.

I’m all for a sequel or two, but I really hope this doesn’t spark the notion that there needs to be another Trek TV series. It seems unlikely that you’d get this big-screen cast interested in it anyway, and they’re a huge reason the movie succeeds. This version of the universe was born big and it needs to stay that way.

May 19, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, Current Affairs, eighties, Film, geek, Ohio, science fiction, Television | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thaumatrope Fiction Relocation Project

Twitter ‘zine Thaumatrope has officially announced its Fiction Relocation Project, aiming to place its 140-character (That’s “character” as in letters, numbers, punctuation and stuff. Not “Holy crap there are 140 characters in this? What – is it The Stand SuperUncutDeluxe?”)stories into the empty nooks and crannies of convention program guides. Kind of a neat idea, particularly the notion of convention organizers being able to find local authors who’ve been published on the site. So: free publicity for the writers, and free publicity for the cons, which will get a mention on Thaumatrope, if I’m reading it right. Looks like Balticon will be the first participant.

I signed on, so my first Thaumatrope story is in the mix, and I’ve got a second scheduled for late this summer. I mean, given the sheer volume of fiction Tweets to choose from, I’m not counting on mine landing anywhere, but hey, slight odds beat zero odds any day.

May 18, 2009 Posted by | Current Affairs, Fiction, geek, science fiction, Web/Tech, writing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GeekDad contribution: Science, Summer, Dads and Daughters

I have a new post at GeekDad this morning. A conversation last week with Linda Abraham-Silver of the Great Lakes Science Center sparked this one.

May 17, 2009 Posted by | geek, Ohio, Science, Travel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Surreal Blue Saturday

For too long, this has been my (mostly) secret shame:

No – not the Star Wars stuff. Sheesh.

I’m talking about that wallpaper.

It was there when we moved into this house almost nine years ago, and since the room was initially Kelsey’s playroom, we figured, “Whatever.”

And we never got around to changing it. The playroom eventually became the computer room, of course, and then it gradually morphed into my office.

Despite my vigorous ignoring and active covering up of the wallpaper, it has not taken the hint and politely evaporated. Now that I’m working from home, though, and spending long stretches in here, I’ve reached my limit.

Armed with scrapers, a wallpaper scorer (which always triggers a mental playback of the Karate Kid muscle-memory training) glue-loosening glop, sandpaper, primer, and a gallon of Surreal Blue, I’m finally transforming the place.

And in a probably not-too-wise move, I’m doing it one wall at a time. Yes, it means it’s going to take longer, I know. But there’s just too much stuff to pack up and move elsewhere and I need to work in here pretty much every day, so I’m going with the “shift-and-renovate” approach.

Over the last couple days I got the wallpaper off the west wall, and this morning I sanded and primed it. The first coat of paint was done this afternoon, and I like the way it’s turning out.

I’ve also taken on a concurrent mini-project.

A few months ago, I visited Fresh Fork up in Tremont, and saw what I thought was a brilliant bit of repurposing: They’d hung a big sliding glass door sideways on one wall with bicycle hooks and used it as a massive dry-erase board.

I figured a smaller version would be cool to have handy in the office, and as it happens, a few days back, I made a rare excursion into our crawlspace. And back in a mostly-forgotten corner, I found a couple windows, so I brought one upstairs to clean it up. I thought about just leaving the original white paint on it, but Jenn suggested I paint it black to set it off better from the new paint. Also, when things like that Hoth Ice Planet box flat start going back up, black frames will be the standard.

So while the wall primer was drying, I took the latches off this window, gave it a light sanding – I kind of like the texture of the wood grain and existing paint, so I didn’t want to strip it entirely – and gave a black satin coat to one side. (I initially thought I could get away with just doing the front and the edges, but due to its thickness, you’d have been able to see the interior edges of the unpainted side through the glass, so after it dried, I flipped it and sprayed the back.)

Here it is with its first coat, set against its eventual backdrop:

Tomorrow, then, I’ll finish up the west wall and start moving things around for the next round. I’m thinking the south wall’s next. It’s the biggest, but it’s just got one door to worry about as far as trim goes, and while it will mean boxing and moving a couple shelves’ worth of stuff, I won’t have to move the computer desks yet.

First things first, though. I’ll have to get the wallpaper down, which means picking up the scoring tool again. And turning around for a second here, damn that wall looks big.

“…wax on….wax off…wax on…”

May 16, 2009 Posted by | geek, Ohio | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Our Valued Destiny

shellshock So Jenn & I were out shopping for prom, since it’s in a couple weeks – that’s part of my outfit over there on the left, but that’s totally all you’re getting to see – and while we were out by Merry-Go-Round we saw Claire and that Bender idiot (can you believe he’s still wearing her earring?) making out by the Orange Julius right after Ferris passed out at 31 Flavors. Of course, then we saw Johnny and Ali fighting (again) so we hung out over in front of All American Burger where we could see them without them seeing us. (Damone came over and tried to tell us he could get us Van Halen tickets for ten bucks, but seriously, dude.) Then Russ came past and wouldn’t shut up about some Antarctic Blue sports car thing he and his dad are supposed to be picking up this week. We listened for like three seconds because that’s when Lane said hi, so we blew off Farmer Ted and talked skiing and French for a few minutes, if you know what I mean. It was awesome.

May 14, 2009 Posted by | 1980s, eighties, Film, Ohio | , , , | 3 Comments

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