Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year in review - Allan

Alana suggested that we blog a "year in review". I have a sneaking suspicion that she this is just a way for her to coerce me into "writing content", but so be it. I labeled this post with my name in the hope that Alana ends up posting, too.

It's been an interesting year. I wouldn't say it was a great year, but it certainly was an interesting one.

The highlight was the publication of my book, This Favored Land. It was such a treat seeing something I'd written all laid out, and with cool art.

The lowlight was Alana's health at the beginning of the year. It took her a while to recover from last year's surgery. Fortunately, things turned a corner by the end of June. I haven't mentioned it much on here, but I was pretty worried about her. I get a special charge when she turns to me and smiles, now that she's feeling better (but is still not 100%). I'll leave it to Alana to add more on this subject if she wishes.

My own health has been okay, not wonderful but not awful. I hate New Year's resolutions so I'm not making one, but I really need to lose some weight. I'm hoping my new allergy meds will help with, well, my allergies (ah, d'uh), as my allergies have been almost debilitating recently. In truth, the allergies aren't the debilitating part, the Zyrtec that knocks me on my ass is the debilitating part. I lost three weekends of writing to illness back in November, one from allergies and two from some sort of virus. Oh, and on Monday I broke a tooth; waiting for dental insurance to kick in before I get that seen to. (And, I might need sedatives, too, but that's another story...)

I can't believe how much Logan has grown in the last year. There was one day he came back from his father's after a week long visit and I swear he was noticeably taller! He did great in school last year. We had an... incident, scholastically, earlier this school year, but we think we've nipped it.

Logan continues to be obsessed with football. Unfortunately, he's not really cut out to be a guard, the position he played on his team this year. He has it in his mind that he'd make a great quarterback. Let's just say that Alana and I are... skeptical. On the plus side, he's now reading for enjoyment. We've been encouraging this. It's great to see him with his face stuck in a book rather than playing yet another variation on American football on his Wii or Xbox.

Work has been busy, occasionally frustrating, but generally good. I pull long hours, which tends to affect my writing, as there are only so many after work hours in a day. Odd that my most rewarding job in my career has the longest hours, lowest pay and crappiest benefits.

On the gaming front, I ran games at three different conventions. The best one, overall, was GenCon because Alana and Logan attended. I think, though, that if I can only do one convention next year (and I'm hoping for two, but we'll see) I'd go to DragonCon. It's closer, and either that much bigger than GenCon or so much more cramped that there's a frenetic energy about it.

We have a local gaming group now! That's pretty cool. We've been playtesting The Black Devils Brigade and playing board games. We haven't played Delta Green since October, but we play to get back into it in January. I need to contact everyone and set up a time to play.

So, as I said at the top of the post, not a great year but not a terrible one either. Kind of a mixed bag, really. To paraphrase (i.e. butcher) Dickens, "It was the okay-ist of times, it was the meh-ist of times."

See y'all in "Twenty Ten".

History Magazine's "Life During the Civil War"

On the news stands right now is History Magazine's "Life During the Civil War" by David A. Norris. This is a perfect bound book the size of a softcover RPG supplement. I recommend it for This Favored Land players. It's also useful for games set in the Wild West period and mid-19th century Kerberos Club campaigns.

This book — it really does look more like an RPG supplement than a magazine — covers a lot of ground that I wanted to cover in This Favored Land, but which I couldn't for space reasons.

It begins with a two page dictionary of Civil War terms, most of which did not appear in TFL. Other topics are of particular interest to roleplayers: 19th century hotels; music (a blatant omission in TFL); humor and social commentary; army laundresses; army pets; fund raising; war artists; newspapers; telegraph; mail.

About half the book is information that wasn't touched on in TFL. The rest is in TFL but with more detail. The discussion on currency, for instance, breaks down army pay by rank. Railroad travel has a short explanation of "women's cars" and the food (or lack thereof) provided on rail cars. There's a wonderful single page full of common medicines and what they were used for.

The book has been on the stands for a couple of weeks. At 95 pages (with only 2 pages of ads) for $9.95, it's a bargain.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Canadian SF author beaten at U.S. border

I'm asked every now and again if I intend to become an American citizen.

Alana is cool with her "Canada boy". Logan asks occasionally, but it's more out of curiosity than anything. He knows I already say things "funny" anyway.

There are downsides to becoming an American. Yes, I'd get to vote, but I live in a monoculture where my vote simply would not make a difference, and it would make me eligible for serving on a jury (I wouldn't mind, but this is more an annoyance than a benefit). I could apply for federal jobs, though there really aren't that many around here. One big downside is that if we ever left the U.S., the IRS wants a chunk of my income in another country! (Yes, your taxes in that other country are deductible, but who really wants the hassle?)

What I'm missing is a sense of belonging. I'm a foreigner in this country, and will continue to be as long as I'm not a citizen. (I probably would be even after I became a citizen, but at least I could bitch with more "authoritah").

As a legal resident, I'm protected under the law. I've been here more than 5 years, so I could now apply for social assistance if I needed it (not that I plan to). Of course, I've been contributing with my taxes. As I like to point out to people — particularly those of a "Tea Party" persuasion — I have taxation without representation.

The main advantage I'd get being a U.S. citizen is in not having to renew my green card every 10 years. Not only does this require an out of city trip and a fair bit of money (over $250 last time), I discovered in a post on the other day that if I tried to cross the border after my green card expired, I could get kicked out of the country with no recourse for getting back in!

That revelation came in a topic about a particularly nasty incident at the U.S. border this week. Canadian science fiction author Dr. Peter Watts — who is a friend of friends I left back in Canada — was beaten, arrested, and charged with assaulting a border guard last week. Peter was going back home to Canada, after helping a friend move to Nebraska, when he was stopped by border guards. He got out of his car and asked why he was being stopped. The guards allege that he resisted arrest, while Peter denies this.

Here is the incident via Cory Doctrow at BoingBoing:

(Full disclosure, Cory's article quotes David Nickle, a friend of mine.)

Peter's original description of the incident is here:

An update is here:

And, of course, here's his web site, for ongoing news on this:

If you would like to donate to Peter's legal defence fund, you can do so by sending a contribution via Paypal to

It's incidents like these, and some wingnut things that have been happening post-millennial America, that have me seriously wondering, "do I want to be associated with this by citizenship"? On the flip side, citizenship would offer some (little) protection against this kind of insanity. I suspect they wouldn't be quite as likely to do this to a U.S. citizen, one who could maybe even wield some political power.

For now, my thoughts go out to Peter. Now if you'll excuse me, I want to make a note of the exact date my green card expires.

Friday, December 04, 2009


It's been snowing here most of the afternoon. I called Allan at work, as Logan and I and half our neighbors stood out in it like giant frozen idiots; he was not impressed.

It won't stick; it won't last...but it was really pretty for a while. And it snowed! Here! In December....

Maybe it will again on Christmas day.