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Friday, April 06, 2018 2 comments

Here's Your Sign

“More” (hungry kid)
While Charlie is still non-verbal at age 2, his speech therapist says he understands a lot more than the average 2 year old. Meanwhile, the speech therapist, daycare, and the wife are teaching him some sign language (ASL). I remember reading about kids who skip the baby talk until they’ve figured out how to speak in complete sentences, and I kind of hope that’s what Charlie will do.

Still, he usually manages to make himself understood. That’s a lot easier when your surrogate parents have raised a handful of kids, and been around a bunch more. I can often tell when a baby at a restaurant is hungry or just wants attention by the edges in the crying. It’s hard to explain, but I’m usually right, judging from what the kid’s doing after quieting down.

Anyway… back to Charlie. A lot of times, he’ll start to fuss when I put him in the playpen (a/k/a “cage”—a nice roomy cage with lots of toys, but it’s still confinement). I’ll say, “You know the drill; I’ve got to get stuff ready to go,” and he’ll calm down and start playing. He really does know the drill.

One recent morning, I was getting him ready for the ride to daycare, and his shirt rode up. Belly blast (blowing loud raspberries on his belly) time! He laughed, then signed “more.”

"More what?” I asked.

He pushed his belly out. More belly blasts!


This evening, I was getting his bottle ready. (He drinks out of a cup now, but still likes his bottle for nighty-night.) Back when Mason was a baby, I'd count down the last ten seconds before the microwave finished up, and I’ve been doing the same with Charlie. Somewhere along the way, Mason started whispering “Tin!” and pointing at the timer, trying to get the countdown to speed up (I point to each number as it counts down). Tonight, Charlie grunted and pointed at the display for the first time. He’s not saying “ten,” but it’ll come.

Sometimes, I wonder if Mason’s fascination with numbers partly stem from those late-night microwave countdowns. Speaking of Mason… as this is Spring Break week on Planet Georgia, he’s spending the week with his dad. He was supposed to come back yesterday, but asked if he could stay until Saturday. Skylar stays with us most evenings, to provide some surrogate noise, but it’s mostly been a quiet week. I’ll be glad when the rugrat is home, though.

Thursday, March 29, 2018 1 comment

Patching Things Up

Charlie is mostly laid back, but he definitely has a lazy eye. A few weeks ago, we got to head down to the 'burbs to see an eye doctor—whether they specialize in pediatric eye care, or have an “in” with the state, what does it matter? Wife wanted me to take a day off work and come along… since it was on a Thursday, I also took Friday and made it a four-day weekend.

I was curious how they would get a squirmy toddler to look where they wanted, and I found out. They have a number of gadgets designed to get a child’s attention—a mechanical owl on the other side of the room, a clown toy that does jumping jacks when you push a button—yet another one of those it’s obvious when you think about it things.

yawwwwwn uh… arrrrr.
The upshot was, Charlie has to wear a patch on his left eye for two hours per day for the next month or so. They gave us a handful of samples to get us started, and (of course) you can get nearly two months’ supply on Amazon for $20 or so (and we did).

The cool thing about the big box is that it has an assortment of patterns—camo, wizard (robe, wands, Harry Potter-esque glasses), rockets… and, of course, pirates! By the time I got this picture, Charlie was well on the way to lala-land. I ended up peeling the patch off (which woke him up a little, of course) and putting him to bed soon after.

It only took a couple days for Charlie to mostly stop picking at the patch while he has it on. Once it’s on, if we keep him occupied for a couple of minutes, he pretty much forgets about it unless he gets bored. So far so good. Getting daycare to remember the patch is kind of hit-or-miss right now, though. Oh well. One thing at a time.

When it comes time to take it off, though, I guess Charlie knows to keep his eyes peeled…

Thursday, March 22, 2018 2 comments

Back in the Saddle

Mason got a mountain bike a while back, and lately he’s wanted to… well, go mountain biking. Imagine.

Raleigh M-60… 1998?
Well, gee. I have a mountain bike, too. It has even been featured on this blog in the past, riding exotic routes like the Pinellas Trail or the Silver Comet Trail.

I hadn’t ridden it much in the last few years, and even less so after Charlie and the knee replacement. But it has been in the dry garage, and even moved around from time to time. It was a gorgeous weekend—we were all running around outside with shorts—and Charlie wore himself out riding a push-truck on the driveway. After he went down for a nap, at Mason’s incessant urging, I rolled the Raleigh out into the sunlight along with its air pump, a few tools, and the tires.

Off with the on-road,
On with the off-road!
The tires, you say? Yup. It came with a pair of off-road tires, with an aggressive tread that made it sound like an old pickup truck when riding on pavement. It turned out I rode a lot more on pavement than off, especially when The Boy and Daughter Dearest were old enough to ride on the roads. So I bought a pair of hybrid tires, swapped them on, and hung up the knobbies for later.

Later, it turned out, was last weekend. As Mason watched with great fascination, I pulled the wheels off, swapped the road tires for the knobbies, then hung the road tires up. This was made easier by dint of the tires being quite flat. Fortunately, the inner tubes held air when I pumped them back up. We took a shake-down cruise: down the driveway, across the expanse of yard alongside the road, around the gravel pile, then back to the manor. You know the old saw about “it’s just like riding a bicycle.” Yup, it all came back to me really fast. The tires and tubes were fine, and Mason was ready to start his adventure ride.

There’s a trail that leads from the back yard down to a garden area (a previous owner cleared it, although I wonder why they didn’t clear an area closer to the house… oh well). Mason found the trail on the other side, that runs to the fence between FAR Manor’s grounds and the in-laws’.

“Want to ride down to the pond?" I asked Mason. He was enthusiastic about the idea, so we went through the gate and I led the way.

The pasture was pretty rough, between all the rain we’ve had recently and the cows walking on it, and it jounced us thoroughly. Through a gate on the other side, past the campsite, and down to the pond. There were some poles and tackle left behind by one cousin or another, so Mason decided to do a little fishing:

Just as well they weren’t biting
I’m kind of glad Mason didn’t catch anything, because it would have been rather difficult to bring the catch home.


You may have noticed I said we rode down to the pond. That was a deliberate choice of words: FAR Manor is on a hilltop, and there’s only a dozen yards or so that isn’t downhill between the house and the pond. Now you can guess what that means… yup, uphill all the way home. This was the part Mason hadn’t really considered. Even in low gear, he complained a lot and had to take a few rest breaks. Surprisingly, I only needed a brief rest, and I never went below the middle chainring on my bike.

I hope Mason elects to continue riding around the manor and farm, though. It’ll build up his legs and his stamina, and he’ll be able to hustle harder in his soccer games. As for Charlie, I have a bike seat that clips onto the rack. I bought it for Mason when he was little, but he wanted nothing to do with it. I expect Charlie will have a more positive reaction.

Oh… and I need a new helmet.

Sunday, February 25, 2018 2 comments

Spring Fever Walks In

Sunny days, everything’s A-OK.
In the last couple of days, Charlie has all but given up crawling. The utility of being able to move around while holding something (especially something you treasure, but aren’t supposed to have) is not lost on him. This is exciting, because he’s progressing, but now we have to uplift anything he wants to grab… which is pretty much everything. Mason and Sizzle’s kids have a bad habit of stashing stuff on a bookshelf full of videos in the living room, and Charlie has demonstrated the ability to reach objects on the second shelf from the top. Put it up top, guys, unless you don’t care if Charlie gets it.

I’ve lost track, but I think we’re in Spring #3 right now. It has been longest and warmest of any of the mini-springs we’ve seen here at FAR Manor. I think I caught Spring Fever on Friday; I was in the best mood I can remember in a loooong time. Making big progress on a major work thing (we’re in the middle of a conversion to DITA, for you #techcomm folks, and I’m one of two people hacking on the PDF plugin) certainly didn’t dampen my spirits. Nor did driving home with the top down.

Saturday was freakish-great; I’ve often said Planet Georgia’s winters get warm when the sun goes away and vice versa, but it was sunny and warm. It reminded me of that amazing November day when Mason had a soccer game. Speaking of which, his team has started practicing for the spring league. Their first two practices got rained out this week, so the coach found us a field for a “pickup practice” on Saturday afternoon.

Maybe this is another kind of Spring Fever thing, but Mason and a girl in his class are playing girlfriend/boyfriend. Not sure what the deal is with oversight on her parents’ side, but she has her own AppleID. Mason uses mine… which means I get to see all the texts they send each other, and get notified every time she tries to FaceTime him (usually 2-3 times per day). They tend to be rather nonsensical online, and a little needy. I’ve since found that teens are often the same, so either Mason and his friend have the emotional maturity of teens twice their age, or teens have the emotional maturity of 8 year olds. Either way, it’s as hilarious as it is annoying. The teens in Blink are a lot more reserved, even the immature but brilliant Sarika (Blink’s on-again off-again love interest). Still, I don’t think I’ll adjust their texting habits… fiction has to make sense, after all.

Charlie’s enthusiasm for life in general goes up a few notches when he’s in the water. So I’ll leave you with a brief tub video, just because I can. Spring Fever is not required when Charlie’s in a tub or pool.


Until next time!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018 No comments

Horsing Around

BIG doggie!
Charlie continues to get therapy for his developmental issues. Besides the occupational therapist who makes house calls on Thursdays, he goes to a clinic for speech and physical therapy.

Part of the latter involves horses—they say it helps with his balance. The clinic has a large indoor area where they can control the situation as well as the climate.

Charlie’s first encounter with a horse went rather well, I’d say. At least he didn’t freak out. i could imagine some kids being intimidated by a critter that size.

So he was comfortable getting face to face with a horse; how about getting on and taking a ride? That went pretty well, too. He sat up straight and enjoyed it:


Check out that big grin as he goes by the wife. He’s loving every minute of it.

Of course, with so much excitement, he didn’t get a nap today. I finally finished a work project that has been dragging on FOREVER, and we celebrated with a night out. Charlie was enamored of the service dog at the table next door, and managed to eat fairly well. But he refused to go down for the night until he had his bottle. Priorities! But he did go down early…

Thursday, January 11, 2018 2 comments

Brace Yourself

With Charlie’s second birthday, he’s finally starting to take those all-important solo first steps. To give him a little more practice, I’ve been walking with him some, trying to get him to hold only one hand and walk beside me. (Besides, I’m less likely to step on his feet that way.)

A while back, one of the therapists said he would need braces to get his feet aligned properly. I immediately conjured a mental image of the hardware Forrest Gump wore in the early part of the movie. But when he came home with them, I had a surprise:

Ankle brace, really
Just a foam-lined plastic cup that goes around his ankle, and a Velcro™ strap to hold it on. To be honest, I'm not sure how they work. They’re called Supra-Malleolar Orthoses (or SMOs), and are designed to be worn with shoes.

Now shoes were an interesting issue. Charlie’s feet are still pretty thick, although not as blobby as they used to be, and he’s supposed to wear shoes over the braces. The orthopedist suggested a wide shoe, a little oversize with laces, and we figured he would need an 8W. Surprise! Most shoe stores didn’t have anything suitable. After a few attempts, I gave up and went to the nearby Target. We soon found out why the orthopedist recommended laces—between the brace and Charlie’s thick foot, the Velcro straps barely reached across at best.

Amazingly enough, I found a pair of shoes that fit the bill:


High-tops, no less!
High-tops? Well, they fit. The zipper on the side turned out to be the key there—unzipping it gave enough room to slide the braced foot in without having to unlace the entire shoe.

Unfortunately, the shoes aren’t very well-balanced… something one might expect from a big-box shoe. They’re too heavy in the toe, so Charlie was dragging his toes when we walked with him. The orthopedist gave us a set of shoes that are made to work with the SMOs—at least the Velcro strap goes all the way across. They’re kind of clompy-looking, but they do seem to work. We’ll keep the high-tops for when he’s older and no longer needs the braces.

Let the Games Begin

Now this is the world according to Charlie:

Paper is treasure.
Bread is dessert.
Anything on his feet is an abomination.

Keeping socks on his feet has always been a chore. Any time he gets a moment to think, off they come. One morning, I was taking him to daycare in the Miata (he likes riding in the little car, because I’m always within reach). He made his “heyyy” noise, and I glanced over. He had one foot in the air, and his hand on the end of his sock.

“Don’t do it,” I told him. He grinned and yanked it off. Little rat.

Now, to get his socks off, he has a couple other things to remove first. Developmental issues my rear; he may still be non-verbal, but he figured out how to pull those Velcro straps quick enough. Ah, and the satisfying ripping noise they make! Rip, and the shoe can come off. Rip, and there goes the SMO. The sock doesn’t make any noise, but bare feet in the breeze makes up for that. Usually, he works one foot at a time. Given a trip of any significant distance, and he’s either asleep or barefoot (or both) at the end of the journey. With the cold (by Planet Georgia standards) weather we got with Winter #2, it was often a mad scramble to get his footgear back on before getting him out. Sometimes, like at the grocery store, we just left the gear in the car and took him inside barefoot. Cold doesn’t bother him.

He still prefers to crawl—but as his balance continues to improve, he often free-stands and will walk short distances (four or five steps). His biggest problem is he’s trying to lean forward and run before he can walk. It won’t be long before we’re shoring up all the old baby-proofing and hearing Mason rage-scream about Charlie messing up his stuff.

Saturday, November 18, 2017 2 comments

Meet our Newest Inmates

Daughter Dearest’s cat Sprite shuffled off this mortal coil, went to meet his Maker, brought down the curtain and joined the choir eternal… Well, he was 16, so he’d been part of DD’s life for over half of it.

Of course, there was someone at church who had rescued a few kittens from a runaway mom who were almost weaned. We’ve been there before—somewhere, I have a pic of a 15 year old DD bottle-feeding three hungry kittens by… oh look, I found it:

From 2004. I remember those boys were HUNGRY and didn't want to wait in line.

Anyway, she got the two surviving ones (another got underfoot… of a cow) and brought them home. They only needed about a week of bottle-feeding, fortunately. So here they are…

Here I am—pet me!
Oscar (I joke that he has that name because of #OscarsSoWhite) is the affectionate purrbucket of the two. He’s also the explorer, often shooting out the door into the kitchen when someone opens it. He will climb right up your pants leg if you don’t pick him up. Daughter Dearest says: “He climbs my leg if I’m wearing jeans, he climbs my leg if I’m wearing slacks, and it’s very painful if I’m wearing shorts.”

Sprite was mostly white when he was a kitten as well, but then developed Siamese markings (but definitely not the Siamese 'tude). I kind of wonder if DD is hoping for the same thing to happen here.


I'm fine down here. Really.
KT, which DD informs me is short for KAT, is the more retiring of the two. She doesn’t run away, but she doesn’t run to you like her brother does, either.

Her markings are very similar to those of my first (adult life) cat, Megabyte. If she’s anything like he was, she’ll pick her person, latch on, and not be all that present for anyone else.

Charlie is thrilled to have little furballs around. But we have to keep constant vigil that he doesn’t grab a leg or torso too hard. Prying that grip loose can be a battle these days.

Oddly enough, Rosie the Boston Terrible likes them, and not for a snack. DD brought Oscar into the living room one night, and Rosie licked him constantly. She’s often over at the doors going to the porch, watching them through the window and moaning.

They share the porch with Pop, the big orange cat. He seems to tolerate them OK, but does like to be outside this time of year. Who knows what he might catch under those piles of leaves?

Friday, November 03, 2017 No comments

Chairman of the Whiteboard

Already doing math
Ever since they painted some of the walls at work with it, I’ve wanted to get some of that dry-erase paint and cover a couple of Mason’s walls with it. The problem is, his walls (and most of the walls in FAR Manor, for that matter) are paneling… aka Norwegian Wood.

My second thought was “hey, I think we have a piece of sheetrock in the garage. I could mount that and paint it.” As it turned out, I didn’t have any sheetrock in the garage… but there was this piece of shower stall board, about 4' x 4'. I scribbled a corner with a dry-erase marker, left it overnight, and found it erased just fine the next day. I wanted to find some framing boards, with a notch cut into one side, but had no luck. I ended up buying four 6' pieces of 1x4, figuring I could rabbit out a notch with the table saw.

This was back in the spring. Then I had knee surgery, and was pretty much sidelined for the summer. But old surgical wounds heal, given time, and the whiteboard-to-be was taking up space in the garage. As were the boards.

With a little time, I got on it last weekend. First step was to notch the boards. The table saw did the job, once the fence was in the right place. I cut the groove into each board, then flipped them sideways and cut off the strip of wood. A nearby chisel got drafted to finish out the notches.

Next up, the whiteboard had to be trimmed. I had planned for 48" square exactly, but somehow ended up with 48"x47¾". No problem, I hadn't trimmed the boards yet. I use the miter saw to cut 45° angles.

With all the parts ready, I grabbed the drill battery out of the charger and got to work. It went fairly quickly; I put up the bottom board, using a level to get it straight. Then I slid the whiteboard into the notch, added the side and top framing (bonking things straight with the hammer), and screwed it all up down. The final touch was a piece of angle-aluminum, once used as a hanger for 1/2" videotape cases (old pro stuff), now a place for his markers.

Mason was pleased, but… “What can I use it for?”

“Anything,” I replied. “Draw pictures, write down stuff you want to get done, do math problems—”

“Yeah!” he exclaimed, and proceeded to cover it with multiplication tables.

I still need to get him a set of colored markers and an eraser. He’s making do with the one marker we have an a paper towel for now.

Friday, October 20, 2017 1 comment

Four O'clock Charlie

Image source: openclipart.org
Of course, I’m riffing on the classic M*A*S*H episode Five O'Clock Charlie here, but it’s not terribly humorous at the moment.

After last week’s “July in October,” this week has been more seasonable. It was cold enough, yesterday morning, that I had to start the furnace. But it seems like, with fall actually feeling like fall, Charlie decided to level up in Sleep Fight Club. He has developed quite a few techniques for keeping himself awake lately, including slapping himself over the head and the classic refusing to sit still.

Then, when we finally get him to sleep, he wakes himself up around 4 a.m. and howls until someone comes and gets him. Wife has been bringing him into the bedroom and letting him lay with us… which might have been a mistake, because now he expects to sleep with us.

Needless to say, neither the wife nor I have slept well this week. Charlie likes to flip and flop, and we’re constantly worried he’s going to roll off the edge. One of us bails for the living room, not that it’s much more comfortable on the couch or a lounger.

Worst case, I’m traveling on business Monday through Wednesday, so I’ll have a couple nights in a quiet (I hope) hotel room. Maybe he’ll settle down and go back to sleeping all night. Maybe pigs will fly out my, um, jet exhaust.

Monday, October 16, 2017 No comments

Tines 1.11.1

… is out. This is a quick bug-fix release, the PageUp and PageDown keys should now work properly (on Macs, use Fn-up-arrow and Fn-down-arrow). I’ve also merged the dev branch into the master branch on GitHub.

To make things more convenient, I registered tines-outliner.org and set it up as a shortcut to the repository.

If you aren’t familiar with Tines, it’s a console-mode outliner. It runs in MacOS X, Linux, and the Microsoft thing (using Cygwin). It’s unique in that it supports a “text” tag for entries, and so can differentiate between headings and body text. It can export to Markdown, HTML, *roff, and plain text formats. You can export your outline to Markdown and pull it into Scrivener. See Getting Your Outline into Scrivener (pt 2) for details.

Tines, and a few other outliners, has support for to-do lists (basically a collection of entries with checkboxes). That means you can use it to keep outlines, goals, snippets of scenes, and notes about your stories in a single place.

Compile?

Yes, the word “compile” is composed of the Latin com (together) and the English pile (a random heap, or hemorrhoid). So, yes,  compile means either to throw things together, or a multifaceted pain in the @$$. Still, if you need an outliner, it’s available!

I want to get back to working on an install package, at least for MacOS X. I’ll probably have to leave packages for the other operating systems to their own experts (not that I’m anything like an expert in MacOS X packaging, mind you).

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 3 comments

Happy #1, Zoey!

I haven’t blogged much about Grandkid #2, mainly because I haven’t seen much of her, mainly because The Boy lives about 120 miles from FAR Manor. (Smart move, that.) But she had her first birthday party over the weekend, with a “Wild One” theme. Zoey isn’t terribly wild—she’s not quite walking yet—but her parents…

Anyway, I expected Charlie to get a good nap on the 2-hour drive down… nope! He was fascinated with the 18-wheelers and transfer trucks on the freeway. When we got all the way past one truck, he would crane his neck to look out the windshield for the next one. We got to the pavilion, and he was ready to party!

A good time was had by all. Especially the birthday girl. There was cake. With icing, of course:

Now why did someone give me this spoon? Who needs a spoon?

Charlie thought the party was fun, too. He even tried to steal the show by turning loose and trying to walk away once—for the second time that weekend. As with the first time, he got two steps, keeled over, and I caught him. He wasn’t too sure about me holding Zoey; but while the wife had him, I carried her over to say hi to Charlie. He grinned at her, she stuck her tongue out, and Charlie cut loose with the Joyous Ear-Splitting Screech™. Zoey suddenly decided she’d had enough, and started wailing for someone she knew to come get meeeeee!.

One of the cool things they did was to put out a stationary pad for everyone to write Zoey a letter. She’s supposed to get them all and read through them when she’s 18. That involves a lot of confidence that someone will be able to hold on to that correspondence for 17 years, but it’s still a cool idea.

After the party, we hit Golden Corral and hung out for a while before heading back. Once again, Charlie kept a lookout for trucks… at least until it got dark. But he refused to give in until we got about 10 miles from home. Then, he crashed. It didn’t take much longer for me to do the same.

Friday, September 22, 2017 4 comments

Boys, Books, Birthdays, and B…

Get the shot, Granddad, I’m about to pull it off!
Somewhere along the line, I’ve become Charlie’s favorite. It might be because, most days, I’m the first person he sees in the morning and the last at night. I also spend a fair amount of time with him through the evenings, usually either reading to him or helping him walk through the house. He likes to go from one end of the house (door to the garage off the kitchen) to the other (shower door in the master bath), then back. Several times. It’s beneficial in several ways: he enjoys it, it helps to wear him out and get him ready for bed, and his (supported) walking has improved greatly over the last couple of weeks. No more drunken stagger, although he does do the pigeon-toe thing.

Most mornings when I drive to the office, I drop him off at daycare. He likes riding in the Miata because there’s always someone next to him. He also likes for me to lay my right hand over on his car seat, so he can touch it. I also keep a little toy car for him to play with. When the sun shines in on his side, he starts squinting, so I grab my hat (much like the one in the pic) and put it on him. He gives me a big grin and pulls it off… I guess he’d rather squint than have something on his head. But that’s what gave me the idea for the picture, and the knowledge I’d have to be quick on the shutter.

Charlie’s favorite book
Oh, and Charlie has re-discovered his joyous ear-splitting screech. He doesn’t reserve it for Mason, either. If he’s enjoying whatever he’s doing or seeing—the dogs tug-of-warring over a chew toy, walking around, Mason doing something silly—he cuts loose. (I’ve often joked about looking forward to going deaf as I get older, even if I wear ear plugs when I mow the lawn, but I’ll likely get a chance.)

I’m sure the hat is a coincidence, but this is his favorite book. When I’m reading this one to him, he doesn’t try to flip to the end to read the blurb or whatever. Personally, I think it’s because he loves the water so much, he’s always ready for a story about a little boy getting to play in/near the water. It’s a blast to watch him in his float, screeching with joy and splashing water everywhere. I want to get him and Mason up to the resort to play in the pool before it gets too cold.

Speaking of Mason, I kind of get the impression he’s been feeling left out lately. I’m constantly taking care of Charlie most evenings and weekends, and the wife is constantly taking care of her dad, so where does that leave him? I take him to soccer practice twice a week, wife takes him to school and occasionally has a dinner date with him. But of late, he’s been hostile, demanding, and often doesn’t want much to do with Charlie. It didn’t help that I couldn’t get out much from May into the first part of August (the resort trip in July taxed my knee and relaxed most everything else). Now that I can do most of what I could do before the knee started acting up, I’m working on changing that. That’s one reason I want to get them both up to the resort.

It will also help (and cause trouble) once Charlie starts walking on his own. The physical therapist that will soon start working with him thinks once he’s fitted with leg braces, he’ll be walking in less than two weeks. On the other hand, the daycare people told me he took one step today, then got really wobbly and sat down. I figure once Charlie starts walking, he’ll be beelining for Mason’s room (his personal concept of Heaven)… the only thing that will slow him down is deciding whether to get into Mason’s Legos, cars, plastic army men, or the rest of it. Angsty teenagers got nothin’ on Mason when someone starts messing with his stuff. Mason turned 8 earlier this month—I told him now he could learn how to change Charlie’s diapers, because I was 8 when I learned how. I think only the father-in-law could have given a better “deer in the headlights” look when I said that.

Will he have the patience?
We got Mason his own book from the book fair. It’s a pretty good how-to on creating stop-motion animations (making a movie one frame at a time), and Legos are a great way to get started with that. Mason, however, is definitely a child of the wife’s side of the family—no patience, and will argue with a fencepost. First, he expected me to read the entire book to him, when he’s quite capable of reading it himself. (THIRTY-EIGHT PAGES? *rage quits*)

Once he settled down, he went through the book, and learned how to storyboard a movie. He sketched out an idea for a simple “cops and robbers” story, and did a pretty good job of it. But (lack of patience again), he tore one of the backdrops included in the book… the one he wanted to use, of course. I taped it up and it works okay. We’re experimenting with a hybrid of stop-action and motion video, and hope to make some good progress over the weekend. Maybe I’ll have a new Weekend Cinema post for y’all soon.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017 2 comments

RIP, Big V

It happened on eclipse day, but it took me a while to process. Then I keep putting off the post. Still in denial, I guess.

Big V in better times
Up until evening, Eclipse Day was one of the best days I’d had, recently. It had been a pretty good day, by all accounts, for Big V and her family as well—no quarrels, lots of smiles, all was going pretty good for a change. The only problem: she had recently had gone back to home dialysis, after not being able to do it for a while, and the drain cycle wasn’t working well.

So her hubs got out of the shower, and heard her call him. By the time he got to her, she was already on the floor and not breathing. He called 911, started CPR, and kept it up for a heroic 15 minutes until the ambulance got there. They kept working on her until they got her to the hospital… to no avail.

One of the doctors said, “in her condition, 98% of the time, it’s a heart attack.” So we all went with that. Between the diabetes (not controlled well), leukemia, and kidney failure, this was going to happen sooner or later. I expected much later, after a prolonged decline, but maybe it was better for her to go out on a good note.

Since her widower works nights (truck driver), Skylar spends most school nights here and spends afternoons and weekends with his “papa.” Mason’s glad to have him around, even if they argue a lot. Charlie’s always up for another older kid who will play with him.

But I’ll hand it to Big V. She gave it all she could to stay with Skylar. In the end… maybe it was enough.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017 5 comments

Totally Eclipsed!

Since I was Mason’s age, I’ve always wanted to see a total eclipse in person. So when I learned that it was going to pass only an hour’s drive from FAR Manor, I was stoked. Then August came in with rain, and more rain… I’ve always considered August an unlucky month.

But then the usual August dryness started moving in. Some things are stronger than bad luck, after all. I checked the maps, and found that US23, the GA/NC border, and the center of the eclipse path all intersected. There's a rest stop a few miles into NC, so I thought maybe I had my plans set.

“They said on the radio that traffic is going to be horrendous,” said the wife. I don’t listen to commercial radio much these days, but the wife does and passes on stuff that really matters. It made sense: a lot of metro Atlanta could make the same daytrip I was thinking about.

But Wednesday, I woke up with the solution. The resort we have a membership at was in the path of totality, it’s an hour from the manor, and there are lots of sunny areas. Woohoo, we’re on! I put in for Monday off, warned Mason’s teacher that I’d be getting him out early, and started making a list of stuff we’d need.

Crude but effective
First thing, I decided to make a pinhole viewer. I did something similar for the annular eclipse in the previous millennium, but got a little fancier since I had time and materials.

I taped a piece of paper in the bottom, cut a square hole in the top, then sacrificed a broken plastic plant pot for the cause. A 1/16" hole in the plastic piece, taped over the hole, projects an image of the sun onto the paper (if you have it aligned properly).

With all that taken care of, all you need is a way to look inside. I cut a slot, hoping maybe I could get decent cellphone shots of the projection. That didn’t turn out so well, but it did the job otherwise.

After going through all that, I learned that the school was going to give all the kids direct-sun viewing glasses. Still, I figured, my efforts were not all in vain. Mason could use his glasses, and I could use my viewer.

With the partial eclipse phase sorted, I Googled for optimal exposure settings for a total eclipse. Google obligingly turned up a chart. The National Weather Service provided times for the eclipse, and I was set. All I needed was a little luck to get there.

Everyone turned out for this one
Luck, in the form of Siri plotting a route over some backroads, was with me that morning. I loaded up the camera, tripod, pinhole viewer, sunscreen, and swim gear (I figured we’d want to cool off in the pool afterwards), picked up Mason from school, and away we went. The backroad route worked better than I expected, and we arrived at the resort almost ten minutes sooner than I’d hoped.

The resort had decided to throw an eclipse party, with hot dogs, drinks, and even a DJ! He never did play “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” but I did LOL when he played “Bad Moon Rising.” I found a place to park in the corner, but there was plenty of space on the grass. One guy thought the pinhole viewer was a pretty neat idea, once he saw how it worked. (I learned to tilt it up until the shadow on the backside just goes away, and that gives you the angle.)

Mason looking cool in the heat
It was a hot day—August on Planet Georgia, duh—and the heat had Mason dashing into the clubhouse a few times to cool off. I got him a hotdog, and water for us both… and then the sun got a chip taken out of it. Over the next hour or so, we alternated looking through the pinhole viewer, taking brief direct peeks through the sun viewers, and I tried in vain to get a decent shot with the phone camera through both the pinhole viewer and using the sun viewers. It cooled off as the coverage increased. I looked for the weird shadows, like I saw during the annular eclipse, but never did catch them. The wife, who stayed closed to home (in the 98% coverage zone), did though.

Of course, I envied the several people who had brought telescopes to the party. None of them, though, matched the rig I saw during the annular eclipse: a sun-scope with motor drive and camera attachment, taking shots at set intervals.

As the crescent sun grew ever thinner, I turned up my own camera and pointed it sunward—then put the lens cap on, loose, until the main event began. I looked at my chart one last time, making sure turning the clickwheel left was what increased exposure times.

Total!
At last, things got really dim. I looked up, saw the corona ring, and got going with the camera. Click click click click I went, working down through the chart from Baily's Beads to the widest corona. Finally, I grabbed up my phone and got a shot of Mason with the eclipse in the background. Being a cellphone camera, it gave me a bright disc instead of a ring, but it was still an interesting shot. The sky looked really weird.

The last two shots, 1sec and 4sec, suffered from camera shake. Had I used the self-timer, I probably could have avoided that, but I might not have had time to get the shots anyway. Had I been closer to the centerline, I would have risked it.

Then things brightened up really fast, and we retreated to the pool. I was already thinking about the 2024 eclipse—Charlie will be 8 by then, and maybe he’d like to see one. It might be too early to book hotels and the like, but not too early to save up for the trip…

Thursday, August 03, 2017 1 comment

Hitting My Stride, and Other Stuff

Sunday morning, I went to get something from the kitchen, when I realized I was walking my like old, pre-knee-issues self—long, brisk strides that covered ground with only the tiniest twinge of discomfort from the Whiny Quadriceps. Hey! I thought, I’m back! That, more than anything, convinced me I’m close to fully recovered. After a week of my feet giving me grief, one or both at a time (while Charlie is cutting molars and wants to be held more than usual, which is a lot), it felt really good to walk instead of limp or shuffle.

I guess cutting those molars is really rough on a baby. Charlie is trying to be his normal happy self, but he’ll start crying at anything or nothing at all. But here’s a pic from a couple weeks ago, when Mason also felt like cutting up:

Just me and the boys… Charlie's trying to grab the phone, of course.

With school starting today(!!), we swapped our Labor Day timeshare week for one in July, and so we escaped FAR Manor last week. We spent a lot of time at the pool, and Charlie loves the water. We have a float he can sit in, with his legs in the water, and he can reach out and splash with his hands. Definitely his happy place. But mid-week was when he started cutting molars, and started getting rundown and moody later in the last few days.

Meanwhile, Mason wanted to try this zipline place near the resort, and Skylar stayed with us for the first half of the week, so we took them over there. The big ziplines were beyond their ability, but they had smaller "adventure" runs over a rope bridge, a rolling platform… and finally, a short zipline:



So that’s pretty much the end of summer at FAR Manor, even if we have all of August to get through.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017 No comments

Fireworks, a Day Late

It was bound to happen sooner or later. June and July (so far) have featured thunderstorms pretty much every day. It finally happened Wednesday evening, between 4 and 6 pm, while nobody was home but the dogs. While we were out shopping, Daughter Dearest texted me a picture of the light switches in the foyer, next to the front door:

Blew the ends right off the plate!

She followed up with The DSL box got fried. Or it's not on at all. I had her check the computers and all was well there. Mine’s on a UPS, so is the TV and the DSL box. The phone line, though, doesn't have a surge protector. So… after thanking God the manor didn’t burn down1 and the computers were OK, the wife and I discussed what else we needed to check before calling the insurance company.

Insurance was pretty copacetic about the situation… probably because we have a $1000 deductible. They said my idea of having the wiring inspected was a good one, and said to just keep a list of our expenses. Besides the exploding switches, we checked things out and discovered:

  • Everything connected to a phone line, including the lines themselves, got clobbered (more on that shortly)
  • The TV signal amp was fried
  • We thought the Wii had lost video, but it turned out to be the VCR it was connected through
  • One of the garage door electric eyes is blinded, so we can’t close the garage

The funny thing was, the clock-radio in our bedroom was still keeping time—that means the power didn’t go down for even a fraction of a second. Considering the damage could have been a lot more extensive, I’d say we got off pretty light. Mason (and me, to a lesser extent) was jonesing for Internet access, so I turned on my phone’s personal hotspot and started making a dent in our rollover data.

Thursday morning, I grabbed tools (and an old landline phone I keep for testing) and went out to the network interface box (aka the NID). We had no dialtone inside, as I rather expected, and didn’t have dialtone at the test jack, either. BUT, we had dialtone at the second test jack. I promptly moved all the connections down, but that didn’t help. Armed with some data, I called Windstream (aka Windbeans) and gave them my findings. They promised to have someone out here before a week from Friday. Um… this is a business line, guys? We kind of need this connection to function? “It should be earlier than that.” I’m going to ask them for a 25% reduction on the bill for the month, since they can’t be bothered to get anyone out here for a freekin’ week. If they balk, I’ll see what the PSC has to say. I measured along the walls and came up with an estimate of 14 feet from the NID to my window… meaning a 20-foot phone cord would reach my desk.

We got through the weekend. I continually reminded Mason, no Youtube, no Netflix, and he complained but complied. Still, between us, we chewed through 1GB pretty much daily. I turned off automatic updates to prevent surprises. But I kept thinking about that second line that was giving dialtone…

Monday finally arrived. I took Charlie to daycare, then learned that Mal*Wart no longer carries anything having to do with landlines (you would think, with so much of their clientele coming from the edges of civilization, they would try to help out). Fortunately, Home Depot seems to understand, and I happily bought a 25-foot phone cord from them. This I ran from the NID’s test jack, into the window in front of my computer, and onto my desk. I plugged in the phone and got dialtone, yay! Then, just out of curiosity, I called my cellphone. I don’t recognize this number. I called it back, just to see if anyone out there would answer. My test phone rang, but nobody else answered. Something obviously melted in a pedestal upstream.

Still, desperate times call for desperate measures. I scrounged up the old DSL modem we used before Windbeans gave us one with built-in Wi-Fi, plugged it in, and it connected. Then I found the Linksys router Mom gave me a while ago, and hooked it up. With my computer next to the router, I used Ethernet cables. Let the tablet users share the Wi-Fi, right?

With a temporary DSL lashup in place by Monday afternoon, the electrician showed up Monday evening. Two of the switches had exploded. The third, amazingly, still worked, but he replaced them all. The insulation on one wire was melted, but barely enough to expose the wire, so he wrapped it up. Three new switches and a plate, I wiped up the soot, and he pronounced the wiring otherwise OK.

We still have a few things to fix to get back to completely normal here, but we’re good to go otherwise. I just want to be here to see the look on the phone tech’s face when (s)he realizes we have access to a phone line we shouldn’t. On the other hand, they really need to get people out here sooner, and take care of their plant a little better.


1I don’t want FAR Manor to burn down… just the mortgage.

Saturday, June 03, 2017 4 comments

Saturday Rugrat Roundup, plus a Knee Update

Charlie can’t quite reach him… for now.
School’s out, and that means Mason’s around a lot more. Charlie definitely approves of that, and wants to be in on the action as much as possible. But in the mornings, Mason just wants to have some quiet time watching YouTubes or playing Minecraft… and he goes through some rather odd contortions to keep Charlie from interfering.

I’m still mostly at home, although in the last week I’m now able to get in and out of the van without much discomfort. Wife has decided since I can get around with a cane instead of the walker, she can take off to her dad’s and leave me with the boys… pretty much as if I were 100%. Most of the time when I’m supposed to be working, I have the house to myself, but early mornings and late afternoons are problematic.


I was framed! Framed, I tell ya!
As for Charlie, he’s become a very good crawler. He will go from one end of the manor to the other, and find bits of debris and slobbered-on dog toys that mere mortals just can’t see. We bought a pair of 16-foot enclosures/baby fences to cordon off parts of the living room where he shouldn’t go, although they work very good as a baby pen. Naturally, Charlie doesn’t want to be on a clean rug and surrounded by his own toys—he wants to get into everything else! Still, after a couple minutes of complaining, he’ll often settle down and start playing. There’s more room than the old Pack&Play, and we could always add another panel or two from the second one if we decide he needs more room. Charlie’s therapist took to the new setup right away, and enticed him to walk the entire perimeter of his new cage, following her phone playing an episode of Sesame Street.

As for me, I continue to heal. The in-home therapist is satisfied with my range of motion, and this afternoon he discharged me to start outpatient therapy. I’m supposed to get a call on Monday with the schedule (and presumably anything I need to bring along).


I just happened to have one of my twice-yearly checkups on Tuesday, so I went on in. Wednesday, I get a call from the office—when it begins, “you don’t have to go to the ER, but,” it’s not a call to give you the warm fuzzies. Turns out my platelet counts were through the roof, past a million, and they were worried about me developing blood clots. Seeing as someone I know died of a blood clot in her 20s, my stress levels puffed up like a startled blowfish. Anyway, they prescribed me a powerful blood thinner, and scheduled me with a hematologist on Friday. I calmed myself by figuring if I didn’t have to see the specialist for two days, it couldn’t be that serious… although I did keep a mental list of symptoms.

Fortunately, none of the blood-clot-getting-loose symptoms manifested, and I got to the hematologist in good order. They ran another blood test, which showed my platelets were down to 630,000—still way high, but something like half what they were three days ago. My iron was low, though, perhaps for the first time in my life. She thus suggested I cut back my blood thinner dosage (“as fast as that count came down, I don’t want you getting too low”) and start taking an iron supplement, and come back next Friday to see what to do from there.

The low iron would explain why I’ve wanted to have a nap every early afternoon day this week, although my crappy sleep cycles (I haven’t had a normal night’s sleep since before the surgery) could have explained that as well. But I slept all the way to 6 this morning, so I’m hoping to be mostly normal (health-wise, forget the other kind of normal) in the next few days.

Time for my afternoon exercise routine. May you never have to have a knee replacement!

Friday, June 02, 2017 No comments

Hotwire (a new Skyscraper City story!) #FlashFicFriday

Pulse watched in the rear view mirror as the bus pulled up behind his blue truck. He had removed the Harr Electric signage, easy to do when it was all magnetic, and the traffic surveillance system was used to his coming and going downtown at all hours. Good electricians could stay as busy as they liked, and Pulse’s alter-ego Helmut Harr was one of the best.

Several passengers stepped off the bus, brushing by several others impatient to get on. One of the debarking passengers looked around, saw the blue pickup truck, and ambled that way.

Tap. “Got a cycle?”

“I have sixty,” Pulse replied. “Get in. Say nothing until we arrive.”

“Fine.” DeVine was not what one would call a sparkling conversationalist, anyway. He held a leather bag in his lap and watched out the window.

Pulse drove away in front of the bus, then took an indirect route to one of the many parking decks that studded Skyscraper City’s downtown business district. The lots were never empty, even on weeknights, but the upper levels allowed for some privacy.

“Sonic interference is active,” Pulse said at last. “What is it?”

DeVine said nothing, but opened his bag and took out a small netbook. “Here,” he said, tapping the password on the screen. “I left it up for you.”

Pulse looked at the open terminal window, displaying DeVine’s cracking attempt. “City Loan usually doesn’t... vas ist?” He scrolled to the bottom and paused.

Injection begun...
Injection aborted.
Hot Wire says: Don't do that again.
> inject
Injection begun...
TERMINATED

“Yeah. Looks like someone tapped my connection and inserted that,” said DeVine. “Then they cut me off on the second attempt.”

“Someone, or something,” Pulse replied. “Perhaps this ‘Hot Wire’ is a custom network surveillance program they have installed recently. I'll have to look into it.” He started the truck. “Do you want to go back to the bus stop, or shall I drop you a little closer to home?”

• • •

Pulse always kept his tools close at hand. After dropping off DeVine, he turned—not toward home, but back downtown. Something about that warning made him curious. Warmonger was fond of saying, curiosity killed the cat, but Pulse thought curiosity itself was not dangerous, at least if tempered with caution. Furthermore, sometimes one had to put aside caution to trick the enemy.

Thus, Pulse paused in an unlit parking lot, where a bodega had gone out of business some time back. He slapped a chromatic film over the hood and side panels of the truck—depending on the light, it might look yellow, green, or silver—and changed the license plate for a bogus Pennsylvania one. There were ways to trip up the traffic surveillance system, and Pulse had learned most of them. Passing on such things that Warmonger called “intel” indebted the other villains to him, and he would collect when the time came.

In disguise, he turned into the Chamberlain Two parking deck—adjacent to the City Loan offices. This was a calculated risk, but his calculation gave the potential benefits more weight. The corporate Wi-Fi carried out to the deck, and a ferret sent Pulse the passphrase on a regular schedule. He opened his laptop and connected to the network.

Roughly a fourth of the PCs in the office were compromised, and Pulse connected to one at random. DeVine had used the safer method of a cascade of anonymizing relays instead of a direct connection, but no matter. Pulse uploaded the SQL injector to the victim PC and started it.

Injection begun...
Injection terminated.
Hot Wire says, You need to quit while you're ahead.
>

Pulse swore at the prompt, then typed.

> you are not a bot, are you?
you: command not found
Hot Wire says: Go bot yourself.
TERMINATED

Pulse switched his connection to promiscuous mode, which displayed all traffic on the Wi-Fi. He did not have to wait long for the expected probe to hit his laptop. He turned off the radio, then drove away. Whoever this Hot Wire was, it was not a program. He was sure of that.

• • •

Natalie Strand tossed the last candy wrapper in the wastebasket as the IT morning shift arrived.

“Hey, Nat,” one of the guys said, dropping his bag on the desk. “Anything interesting?”

“Just a couple intrusions.” Her voice was flat, annoyed at the nerdy nickname the rest of the department gave her. “Nothing I couldn’t handle.” She was already taking up her purse and heading for the door.

“Yeah. Later.” Natalie did not hear the last. The morons who had let their computers get infested would be whining to the day shift soon enough. The boys could take care of delousing the PCs in between rounds of Minesweeper. This job was not paying her enough to deal with other people—and even with the supposed boost for working night shift, her pay was lower than any of the men on day shift. Having a look at the payroll systems took no effort and offered no risk, but told her nothing she had not expected.

She walked the four blocks to Republic Tower, where Sonny’s Sky-High Deli stayed busy on the ground floor. “Large coffee, real cream and double sugar,” she told the young woman behind the counter. “And a Mortal Sin.”

The counter woman gave Natalie a look she had seen many times: If I ate that, I'd put on twenty pounds. Sometimes, Natalie wished she could put on twenty pounds, just to see what the big deal was.

Taking her coffee and gigantic cinnamon roll, she consumed both with gusto. Work made her hungry. She knew to expect a carb rush for the next two hours, followed by the inevitable crash. But she could look for another job until then. There had to be something out there better than City Loanshark. The boys in the department called it that, and it was one of the few things they all agreed on.

Maybe she would find it, if she kept looking.



If you enjoyed this story (and more is coming), there’s lots more Skyscraper City action in my new novel, Blink! Stevie Winkler thought being able to teleport was cool… at first. As Blink, he’s not sure whether he wants to be a hero or a villain, but he finds that’s a blurry line. And Skyscraper City is home to other powers with other agendas. Blink has three goals: survive, keep Mom from finding out… and maybe get a girlfriend.

Get it at the major eBook stores now!

Amazon: US UK FR DE IT ES JP CA BR IN MX AU NL
Smashwords iBooks Nook Kobo

Saturday, May 27, 2017 No comments

Family Feud

While Daughter Dearest is now married, she still lives in the free-range insane asylum, in the same trailer she had rented with a roomie back before meeting Sizzle. This has been helpful; with me recovering from knee surgery (going well), wife has been taking Charlie with her… at least until today. I’m mostly being neglected in favor of the father in law, who sits on his butt and demands everyone take care of him, or the endless demands of a farm. At least I haven’t (again, until today) been expected to take care of a baby when I’m just barely out of the walker myself, and that’s supposed to be part-time.

But I digress. One evening this week, Daughter Dearest went down to visit the father in law (mine, aka her grandfather). Mr. Sunshine, who has been living there as well, came in.

“Get outta my chair,” he ordered DD. “I need to sit down.” Now Mr. Sunshine was actually pleasant to be around for about a month after recovering from his stroke, but after that he went back to his old center-of-the-universe self. Maybe even worse.

“You bought this chair?” she sneered, not budging an inch. “Do you have your name embroidered on it somewhere that I can’t see?”

Sunshine, who thinks he’s superior to everyone and especially women, decided to take more direct action—he tried pushing the chair over to tip her out. DD, who is neither tiny nor weak, dug her feet into the carpet and pushed back. At that point, he looked ready to try upping the ante.

“You touch me,” DD warned, “and you’ll have a fight on your hands.”

“You think you’d win? Or you gonna sic your husband on me?”

“Yeah, I’d win, but I’ll save him a little piece after I get through with you.”

DD inherited the axe-murderer glare from her mom, and I think he saw it. So, like any thwarted bully, Sunshine turned to Daddy. “Make her get up!” he barked.

“She was sitting there first,” he replied.

“Well I guess you’re a bitch like your momma,” Sunshine snarled and stormed out.

Now Sizzle has his dander up, of course, but DD can obviously take care of herself. I’m proud of her… and a little bit proud of myself for raising her right. As for Sunshine, he’s slowly getting it hammered into his head that he’s neither king, boss, nor particularly respected around here (or anywhere else). There has been some talk about getting an injunction to get him tossed out of the house he’s not paying any rent for, and as far as I’m concerned it can’t happen soon enough.

Stay tuned… more cRaZy FAR Manor action as it happens!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017 3 comments

Blink has launched!

Skyscraper City’s newest superhero(?) is ready to teleport into your eReaders!

You can get it from all the major eBook outlets right now.

Amazon: US UK FR DE IT ES JP CA BR IN MX AU NL
Smashwords iBooks Nook Kobo

Synopsis:

In Skyscraper City, kids often dream of getting a superpower when they grow up. Stevie Winkler never expected to "manifest" at age 13! Being able to teleport is cool, but keeping it a secret sucks. Professor Zero and some of Skyscraper City's most famous superheroes are training him, but Blink finds the line between hero and villain is often blurred… and Skyscraper City is home to other forces with their own agendas.

Blink has three goals as a teenage superhero: survive, keep Mom from finding out—and maybe get a girlfriend.

But the fun doesn’t stop there! Blink includes a collection of backstories and capers from other Skyscraper City heroes and villains. I have some longer stories in the works, both for Blink and other supers.

Here’s a quick excerpt:

As he penetrated deeper into the alley, he felt something behind him. He stole a backward glance, and saw two shadows detach themselves from the walls. This is just a drill, this is just a drill, he told himself, but his heartbeat quickened. If this was for real, there would be light at at the other end of the alley; he could pop down there, grab the entire fracking garbage can, and pop back to Professor Zero. But this is just a drill, so it would not be quite that easy.

Ahead of him, two more shadows rappelled down the walls while a third appeared to block his way. This one whirled a staff around himself. Blink almost laughed—this was a clich├ęd scene from a bad kung fu movie—but stayed in character. Professor Zero wanted to see how Blink faced off against five ninjas? Fine. He could probably “achieve his objective” (as Captain Heroic put it) without a fight. Pop past the three ahead of him, find the message, and pop back.

“Yah!” Blink and his opponents turned toward the shout. A sixth figure ran his way, from the same direction he had come. With a couple fancy handsprings, he(?) cleared the two guys behind him and came to a stop before Blink.

“A student is in need of help.” It was Ma Ling, the Masked Warrior who had trained him since last summer.

Blink gave her a quick, stiff bow, keeping an eye on the others. “I am always ready to hear, Master Ma.”

“You take those two,” she ordered, pointing to the two ninjas behind them. “I will see to the others.”

“Okay.” Blink faced off with his two opponents, wondering if this was a message from Professor Zero. You will not fight your battles alone. The black-clad figures took “ready” stances.

Blink knew he was still a beginner when it came to martial arts. If he were facing real ninjas (or Masked Warriors playing villain, in this case), he would get his butt kicked. Except for his superpower… glancing around the alley, he spotted a garbage can without a lid. Captain Heroic’s improv lessons took over, and he had a plan.

Pop. He grabbed the garbage can and turned it over, while his opponents whirled to find him. A few bags and chunks of styrofoam tumbled out, representing actual garbage.

Pop. Behind the nearest ninja. He brought the metal garbage can down over the head of his opponent with a clonk, and jumped to avoid the expected sweep kick. The extra weight of the garbage can unbalanced the ninja, and Blink pushed him into the wall, making him bounce back and fall. Blink banged on the garbage can until he heard a heavily-accented “I surrender.” Up the alley, he saw Ms. Ma had somehow taken the staff, and was holding the other two at bay. The former staff-wielder was down, but watching the battle.

But his second ninja was coming for him, fast.

So how did Stevie get a superpower at age 13, when 19 or 20 is the typical age? How did he get one at all? It’s all revealed in Blink, so get your copy now!

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