Wednesday, March 12, 2014

History's Remainders

Monday, March 3, 2014

Exclusive Video: CIA's Top Putin Analyst Reacts to "Surprise" Invasion of Ukraine and Her Sudden Reassignment

Thursday, February 20, 2014

30 Facts About Me

1. The nurse at the hospital misspelled my name on the birth certificate.

2. When my nieces asked me which was cooler, Star Wars or Star Trek, I answered Babylon 5.

3. I got my first literary agent at 19. I published my first novel at 47. Perseverance rules.

4. My wife is smarter than I am, but I’m the one who always knows where her keys and cell phone are.

5. I believe Stargate Universe is the greatest television show ever.

6. I once managed a 1-900 dateline.

7. As much as I mock the French, when a three-year-old girl I’m reading a story to turns around in my lap and puts a beret on my head, I’m wearing it.

8. I moved across the country for a woman. We’re still married.

9. My first job out of college was working the phone lines for a mutual fund investment group. Six weeks later, the Crash of 1987 hit. Lucky me.

10. I was a child extra in the stands during Ned Braden’s championship-winning striptease at the end of Slap Shot. My mother had no idea this was the scene they would be filming and was absolutely mortified.

11. I have a degree in English Lit. That was a mistake.

12. I’ve lived with two different cats. Both tried to kill me.

13. My wife and I got married in a library, and we spent our honeymoon at San Diego Comic Con. We are that nerdy.

14. I’ve had a crush on Catherine Bell since Season 2 of JAG. (My wife knows.)

15. I believe Toto is the greatest band ever. I’m that middle-aged and uncool.

16. I had a milkshake with Hal Clement.

17. My favorite memory from 10 long, struggling years in Hollywood as an almost successful screenwriter involves an old Warsaw Pact assault rifle in each hand and my feet resting on a nuclear bomb. (The nuke was a prop; the rifles were real.)

18. I was unplanned.

19. My wife and I have differed on nearly every major political issue since the day we met. We’re still married.

20. Sometimes, I really relate to Brian the Dog.

21. I look exactly like my great-great-grandfather. I mean, exactly.

22. I was a communist in my teens, a liberal in my 20s, a sort-of conservative in my 30s, and now a sort-of libertarian in my 40s. I don’t even want to think what my 50s might bring.

23. Thirty years after I first read it, William Goldman’s The Color of Light is still my favorite novel.

24. I once kept my Christmas tree up for an entire year.

25. I believe Episodes is Hollywood’s personal apology to me for our 10 long and co-dependent years together.

26. For my senior thesis on science fiction in my high school AP English class, I personally wrote to every author whose work I discussed. Amazingly, all of them wrote back with their agreements, disagreements, and insights except for Robert Heinlein, whose wife Ginny wrote back instead to say that Mr. Heinlein would not be writing back to me because his time needed to be kept free for writing.

27. I’m all for global warming if it melts the special snowflakes.

28. In my younger days, I was a fire-breathing atheist. Richard Dawkins had nothing on me. In the end, though, it turned out I was more angry at God than I was disbelieving.

29. My wife is Penny, Bernadette, and Amy Farrah Fowler all rolled into one.

30. I am an extremely fortunate man.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

On the Lack of Recent Politics in this Blog

Long story short, you need to have the mindset of a "Happy Warrior" to skewer and satirize all that's going on in Washington and the world these days. Only lately, it just makes me feel sad and cynical, watching the second Obama term following the tragic script so many of us predicted so early in the first term.

The "joy" of politics will come back at some point, I know, but I just don't have it now.

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Passel of One-Sentence Reviews

Black Sails: Finally, pirates I can actually be afraid of and not spend the whole time wanting to smack upside the head for prancing around like a band of hipster LARPers.*

The Good Humor Man: The absolute strangest book I have ever read that I still wish I'd come up with myself.

Memories of the Abyss: Manages the near-impossible, setting a "cozy" in an insane asylum and then actually making the story work.

My Progress on the Next Many Earths Novel: I am ashamed.

47 Ronin: Everything that is wrong with Hollywood today.

The Last Valley: The best movie you've never even heard of.

Our New Verizon FiOS Service: Look at me surf/stream/download when I should be writing the next Many Earths novel!

Choosing, Buying, and Assembling a New Couch with My Wife Without Us Having a Single Argument: Priceless.

*I'm looking at you, Johnny Depp.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Conversation with the FiOS Guy

This is how my home office looked for most of a day last week:

And this is what convinced me it would be worth it:

Me: "So what Internet speed are we going to get, really?"

Him: "You'll get blah-de-blah-de-blah-blah-blah."

Me: "And that means what, exactly?"

Him: "Four guys playing HALO off the same router with no lag."

Me: "Well, damn. I'm going to need more friends."

Monday, January 20, 2014

Four Blocks South of the Evacuation Zone

Here in Southern California, you learn to live with the fires. And living snug up against the foothills in the San Gabriel Valley (“The Other Valley,” as we call it), you get used to the sirens heading north, helicopters and fixed-wing water-bombers rumbling by overhead, smoke plumes rising just beyond the horizon, and the occasional red glow in the sky during the night. The Colby Fire this past week, though, was something different.

The sirens started sounding before the morning alarm. Not that I paid them much attention, of course, even when they kept coming, and coming in multiples of two and three and even more at one time. Even when “The Bingle” started softly baying at them from beside the bed, I didn’t think or do much, at least not beyond mumbling “Quiet, girl. Go back to sleep.”

Eventually, but still before the alarm, I realized the sirens—and the dog—were not going to let me get back to sleep. So I got up, glanced out the bedroom window, and saw the thick, low clouds of smoke catching the morning light. Still, this was nothing I hadn’t seen before, in the 10 or so years I’ve lived in this particular town. I just called the dog, found her leash and my shoes, and took her outside, like every morning.

Dark clouds of smoke were filling the bulk of the sky by that point, but I already knew there was a fire, somewhere. It happens out here, like earthquakes. Both just become part of the landscape after a few years living with them. It wasn’t until I saw the Bingle’s nose craning up and sniffing the ash drifting down around us like snow that I realized this was more than the usual.

The last time I’d seen ash coming down on our heads had been several years ago. A large fire had been burning to the north, with another, equally large fire somewhere down to the south. The smoke clouds had merged above us, and the sky had rained ash, and the horizon had glowed.

It was like living in Mordor, but with Priuses.

I stood there, remembering coming up with that line at the time, and smiled. (I am a writer, after all.) Then I took the dog through the courtyard to the street, where I would have a better view, and saw the flames, big sheets of red leaping up after and into their own smoke. And so close that you could hear their roar.

I had never seen actual flames on this hillside. They had always stayed beyond the crest in my time here. So I did what any modern idiot of the social media age would do: I went up to my office window and took a picture.

Then I started finding the news.

The mandatory evacuation stretched from the houses farthest up the slope to only four blocks north of our apartment. And the blocks in this town are not large. The fire itself had started when three young men of questionable common sense were tossing paper into an illegal campfire, only to have the wind gust and carry off embers, which then touched off what had become a 1700-acre blaze only a few hours later. All three are currently in jail facing federal charges, with bail set at $500,000 each, and are described as “apologetic.”

Maybe I should have been more worried than I actually was. My wife certainly thought so. Put me in front of a bureaucracy that can destroy my family and my life because some nameless functionary is having a bad day, and I’m a catastrophizing wreck until it’s over. But this fire was something tangible, something I could see. I knew that my wife and I might have to grab the dog and some clothes and whatever we might not be able to live without and head south, but I also knew that we would have warning. And how very, very good the firefighters here are. You can’t live out here and not learn that as well, and quickly.

So I went to work, editing someone else’s book on my laptop while the desktop streamed live coverage of a fire I could turn my head and see burning just outside my office window. At one point, I even found myself watching a close-up, helicopter view of a water-bomber making its run, then looked over my shoulder and saw the water still falling and the same plane pulling up and flying past over my building.

It was one of the most surreal workdays I’ve ever had.

By that evening, the flames on our hillside had been extinguished, and the bulk of the fire had moved out of sight and to the west. The mandatory evacuations were lifted, and most of us who had been untouched but for smoke in our lungs and ash on our cars realized just how lucky we had been. And how good those firefighters out here really are.

Kids are even joking about it now. Like a certain 5-year-old I know who yesterday spun me the tale of how he had heroically saved his family’s home with the garden hose.

Then we realize that even now, days later, the Colby Fire is still burning, somewhere out of sight.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas, with Jean-Luc Picard

Because it's Christmas, and Captain Picard is awesome.

Merry Christmas, readers!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Beating Gutfeld

If only for a day or two earlier this week, I topped one of my favorites, Greg Gutfeld, on Amazon.

Bucket list item checked.

Friday, December 13, 2013

"HELL NO: The Sensible Horror Film"

So true, and so very freakin' awesome...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Second Term Symbolism

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Well Played, My Love

For the last 12 years, I've been not-so-secretly trying to turn my Canadian wife into an American. But last night after work, I realized I was watching a Canadian TV show about bush pilots flying C-46s and DC-3s up the Mackenzie Valley, who were playing hockey, while I was drinking beer out of a stubby bottle.

Well played, my love. Well played.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

"It's Gettin' Real in the Whole Foods Parking Lot"

A memory of my West LA days...

Good times... Sort of...

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Because the Debt Ceiling Has Nothing To Do with the Debt...

Now, this debt ceiling—I just want to remind people in case you haven’t been keeping up—raising the debt ceiling, which has been done over a hundred times, does not increase our debt. Simply because we need—and will quickly usethe authority of a new and even higher debt ceiling so that we can borrow even more money just to make the interest payments on all that other money we’ve already borrowed and spent under the authority of the last hundred or so debt ceilings does not mean that our debt is going to increase. Don’t listen to anyone who says otherwise, because, I mean, seriously, these Republicans will just say anything at this point..."