Sunday, June 15, 2014


My newest book is a horror novella called Slit. It's filled with gore and kinky sex and a nice seasoning of humor.

But it's not all like that. There are whole paragraphs that are entirely normal. I should have used that for the blurb: "Contains some paragraphs that are quite normal."

Monday, May 19, 2014

David’s Liberation Day #5

On May 19, 2009, along with a lot of other people, I was laid off from Quark. That was my best-paid job to date, and it would turn out to be my last full-time job.

I was 65, working in a field (IT) that has always been notorious for age discrimination, and it was during the Great Recession, a.k.a. Yet Another Grim Republican Recession, a.k.a. Please Save Us Again, Democratic Party.

Now, I’ve been laid off many times over the decades. (See my essay The Day Job.) This included times when I was in my forties, fifties, and even very early sixties. For various reasons, including a lot of luck, I was able to find a new job each time. I knew — or at least strongly suspected — that it would be different this time. 65 is old in any industry; in IT it’s, like, Egyptian mummy, dude. Even if the economy had been booming, I would have been unlikely to find a new IT job.

I set about looking for a new job, nonetheless, using the methods that had worked for me in the past. (Which you can read all about in my short book The Surprising Benefits of Being Unemployed.) I also looked for whatever contract work I could find, to provide income in the meantime, and just in case “in the meantime” turned out to be a long time.

I picked up a few tech writing and Web development contracts, but it became increasingly clear that the chances of my getting another full-time job were zilch. At some point, I basically stopped looking for full-time work and focused on contracts.

I also applied for Social Security. This was shortly before my 66th birthday. 66 was the age at which I would be eligible for maximum SS benefits, so applying before that meant that I would be getting a slightly reduced monthly amount for the rest of my life. We didn’t see a choice, though.

In fact, my original plan was to work till age 70, because SS gives you a “bonus” for every year you work past the maximum-benefits age, up to 70. If I had kept working till 70, my monthly SS check would have been more than a third greater than it is. Having just hit 70, I can now see the basic flaw in my original plan: Had I tried to keep working full time for another five years, I would have gone totally bonkers.

For the first few years after that last layoff, Leonore and I felt sad and tense every time the May 19 anniversary came around. Then Leonore suggested that we try to see the date as marking my freedom from full-time work. Except for worrying about money and the future — and that wasn’t really something new — we were really enjoying the ability to spend so much time together and being free from the tyranny of the alarm clock. She suggested observing May 19 as David’s Liberation Day.

And so we did, and so we do, and it has become a happy day, indeed.

Giving the day that name has been important. It did change my attitude, just as Leonore hoped. It marked some kind of mental transition from “fearful out-of-work guy looking desperately for a job” to “happy, free, relaxed guy who does the occasional contract because the extra money is welcome, but he’s entirely his own boss”.

As it happened, during the last five years, I also liberated myself from the traditional publishing industry and switched entirely to self-publishing. It’s true that the traditional publishing industry had liberated itself from me. I had become as appealing to editors and agents as I was to software companies. However, just as with IT work, I had stopped pursuing them. I was no longer sending out query letters, just as I was no longer sending out resumes. When I finish with this blog post, I’ll return to my current novel in progress knowing that once it’s in final form, it will be published. By me. Just thinking about that makes me happy. I feel as light as air.

David’s Liberation Day, indeed!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Dogs and ham

One of Leonore's language students brings her incredibly cute little dog with her. The dog makes a beeline for me because I always greet her with a treat — a rolled up smoked mozzarella and proscuitto delight from Costco. What dog wouldn't like that?

Well, maybe a Moslem or Jewish dog. But dogs are considered unclean by Moslems, so maybe there are no Moslem dogs. There are certainly Jewish ones (leaving aside the whole circumcision thing).

An old insult for Jews in Medieval England — or at least, in historical novels — was "dog of a Jew". I guess a Jewish dog would be a Jew of a dog.

Today's rambling thoughts brought to you by Working on Taxes, 2014 edition.

Friday, April 04, 2014

MPAD Memoirs

Which would be a nifty title, but I don't know what the title will be.

MPAD = Mission Planning and Analysis Division, simply the utterly most important and core part of what was then NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center (later renamed Johnson Space Center) in (south of) Houston. (Others who worked there, but not in MPAD, might disagree.) (They'd be wrong.)

Recently, a former MPAD coworker of mine from the days of the Apollo Project contacted me to say he was interviewing people who worked at MPAD at the time of the moon landings. He's my age and also retired, and he drives around the country quite a bit. He arranges his trips so that he can drive through the cities his old colleagues (and we are all old!) now live in and interview them. Once all the interviews are done, he'll figure out how to weave them together with the story of Apollo. The result will be a fairly substantial book.

He was in Denver yesterday, and we had a very nice and quite long meeting. Mostly, he was interviewing me about my life before, during, and after Apollo, but we also spent some of the time talking about the other people who were in MPAD back then. He'll probably want me produce the e-book and print versions of the book and design the cover.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

It’s not the Christian Bible, damn it

It's silly of me to be annoyed by this, given that I'm an atheist. Nonetheless it annoys me considerably.

Thanks to the Noah movie and to today's date*, there has been a spurt of references to the Bible in the online places I frequent. I keep seeing the Flood and Psalms, both in the Old Testament, referred to as being in the Christian Bible.

No, sirree. They're in the Old Testament, a.k.a. the Hebrew Bible.** The fact that Christians have incorporated the OT into their religion is irrelevant. Moslems have incorporated much of the OT and the NT into their religion, too, but that doesn't make those two books part of the Koran.***


* I'm referring, of course, to the obnoxious "joke" that today is atheism's holiday because "The fool has said in his heart, there is no God."

** Yeah, yeah, I know, Pentateuch. As far as I'm concerned, the whole shebang counts.

*** Maybe it does to Moslems, who I gather consider the OT prophets and Jesus to be Moslems, but that's just weird, and I haven't encountered any Moslems in the online places I was referring to.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Continuum’s Height Problem

I like the TV show Continuum and its twisty time-travel switcheroos. I'm always a sucker for those, in any show. I wonder how the various mysteries will be resolved, assuming they are all resolved when the show finishes its run. But the one mystery that I find annoying rather than intriguing is Alec Sadler's height.

In the present, he's about 20 years old. He's shorter than almost everyone else, including Kiera. In scenes set in the future, he's in his mid-eighties. Unless future medicine has solved the problem of people getting shorter in old age, he would have lost some height since his max height. But he still towers over almost everyone, including Kiera. Maybe growth spurts happen after 20, but they must be rare.

There are other time travelers, besides Kiera, and none of them seems unusually tall or short compared to people of today or the future. So unless travel itself does something weird to people's heights, Alec's height is a msytery.