Thursday, May 10, 2018

On Knowing Your Childhood Home Has Burned Down

During the December 2017 Skirball Fire in Los Angeles on a news website I saw the below photo. It brought what I can best call a distant and mild sense of dread and nostalgia:

The highway is the 405/San Diego Freeway going down the Sepulveda pass between the San Fernando Valley and West L.A. The buildings belong to Leo Baeck Temple.

Here's a picture of the same scene from Google Earth from 2016 (somewhat skewed and distorted due to how aerial images are converted to an oblique view). Note the homes right above where the flames covered the hillside last December:

When I saw the photo of the fire, I had no doubt the homes above were burnt down.

One of those homes my parents built in 1966, and my family lived there until 1973 when I was ten years old (and Bel Air must have been a lot more affordable then, as my parents managed to build a 4 bedroom house on my father’s salary as a junior high school vice principal). The house is on Casiano Road, on the east side of the Sepulveda Pass. A familiar landmark (which wasn't there when I lived there) is the Getty Center, across the pass, on its west side (Google Maps view from above).

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Snowboard Time Machine to the year 1999!

With the 2018 Winter Olympics ongoing, it reminded me of this Craigslist ad I put up in 2011 after finding an old snowboard left in the attic by the previous owners of a house we had just moved out of:

The previous owners of the house had left way too much stuff in the attic after they moved out in 2000. It wasn't until we were cleaning out attic for putting the house for sale in 2011 that we found the snowboard. I originally thought it was a monoski as I had not seen a snowboard shaped like that before. I googled snowboarding lingo to put in the ad, and sold it that week to a vintage snowboard collector who lived at Snoqualamie Pass (little did I know when I found it that 12 years old made it a vintage snowboard). After I sold it, I also got an enquiry from France about it. These days, I'm seeing these listed for over $500 on eBay.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Beware the Future Making Your Unpublished Stories Anachronistic

On Monday, the very day my story "Love, Anger, and Pity; or Fuck Everyone in the Entire History of Humanity" was published, the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling that made a plot point in the story an anachronism ("Supreme Court rules: Offensive trademarks must be allowed").

(Well, not perfectly. The ruling [pdf] invalidated the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure §1203.03(b)(i), and my story refers to §1203.01. But close enough.)

This is not the first time that U.S. Supreme Court affected that story, although the first time didn't cause an anachronism. My first version of this story was written in 2012. Originally Eddie called Tom his partner, and in 2015 after the Supreme Court ruled gay marriage to be legal, I changed the story to have Eddie call Tom his husband.

(And gay marriage has changed what used to be non-ambiguous phrases into ambiguous phrases. Ten years ago, "Before Tom and Peter got married..." would be interpreted as two separate weddings where Tom and Peter married their wives. Now you need to make it non-ambiguous by writing something like, "Before Tom and Peter married each other..." or "Before Tom and Peter married their wives...")

There are a number of unpublished or unfinished stories sitting on my computer's drive. I can think of two of them that now have anachronisms since I first started them:

1) Some characters get to the International Space Station on the Space Shuttle. And since the last Shuttle flight was in 2011, when I get around to finishing that story, I'll have to choose another means of getting them to the ISS. With luck, I'll be able to get it published before 2024 when the ISS is scheduled to be retired.

2) A woman is checking her calendar to determine the best date to break up with her boyfriend. Original story: the calendar is a Day-Timer, a small notebook. Updated story: She uses the calendar app on her phone.

Of course, the you can avoid the future causing anachronisms in your stories if they take place at a certain time in the past. But then, you have to worry about inadvertently putting anachronisms in stories from the start. (I imagine in a hundred years there will be stories written where 1970s punk rockers use email).

You can take this post as a plea to writers (and myself!) to finish their stories and get them published. Don't let your unfinished stories remain unfinished, and your finished stories unpublished.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

This year's sacrifice to Cthulhu is sponsored by…

In my story “Who Weeps for Cthulhu?”, the old gods have returned, but perhaps there is a greater horror. Featuring Trader Joe’s tequila and turkey kielbasa, plus mariachi music. Published on Literally Stories. (#SFWApro)

Friday, March 31, 2017

Spinach Tomato Chorizo Soup - Quick, Easy and Hearty

Winter is over, but there have been plenty of cold days that can bring on a craving for thick and hearty soups. This soup (or is it chili?) is delicious and can be made in about 30 minutes. You can make it with only the four main ingredients (spinach, tomatoes, onion and chorizo) or embellish it with corn, beans and/or peppers.

Friday, February 26, 2016

NTSB report of In-Flight Breakup During Test Flight in Magnuson Park, Seattle, WA

NTSB Identification: WH34ATEV3R

14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation

Accident occurred Sunday, September 27, 2015 in Magnuson Park, Seattle, WA

Aircraft: Unknown make constructed of expanded polystyrene

 Injuries: None.

Executive Summary

On September 27, 2015 at 1501 PDT, an experimentally modified aircraft suffered catastrophic structural failure, losing its left wing and the underside of its tail, impacting terrain at Magnuson Park, Seattle. The aircraft, composed of expanded polystyrene ("Styrofoam") was purchased at the Dollar Tree, located at 7816 Aurora Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103 on August 20, 2015 for $1.10 including tax. The aircraft manufacturer and model are unknown as the original packaging was immediately disposed of and the Dollar Tree no longer had any similar aircraft in stock. It is considered highly probable that the country of origin of the aircraft was China, due the large number of other novelty items sold at the Dollar Tree that have a Chinese origin.
1. The aircraft after breakup on September 27, 2015. Note the cricket game in progress in the background. The author of this report first witnessed a game of cricket in 1995 while on vacation in England with his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend Amy. While watching the cricket game, the author was somewhat confused as he could not quite figure out its rules.