We Have a New Bed

My wife and I, that is. My mother and I went down to a local store and picked one out. They delivered it around 1:30pm this afternoon, and I set it up. This makes my wife very happy, as the last bed was, shall we say, on its last legs.

(Actually, the legs had broken, and the only thing keeping the old bed off the ground was all the stuff my wife had stuffed beneath it.)

After installing the bed, I took a nap on it. It meets my rigorous standards, and gains my stamp of approval. Truth be told, I'm almost giddy about the thought of going to sleep tonight!

(Maybe not "giddy," but it'll be nice to crawl into a bed that doesn't sound like a piano that is sorely in need of tuning.)

Speaking of beds, Stephen spent last night in his own bed. Up until now, he's been sleeping in a Pack 'N Play that was given to me by the folks in my department at work. It's sort of like a bassinet, play pen, changing table, and nylon prison cell all rolled into one. So it's not like he's been sleeping in our bed, but he hasn't been sleeping in his crib.

He did well. He woke up at 4am for a feeding, and then went right back to sleep. He fussed a bit around 6:30am, so I got him up and put him in bed with his mother and I for a little longer. He was brave enough for one night, so I didn't think another hour with us would hurt.

He's down for a nap right now. Not napping yet, more like whining, but he's tired and needs a little bit of down-time.

Tonight...I guess I'll work on one of my writing projects, and the prep to sack out in the new bed. Whee!

Instant Happiness (only $34.99 plus shipping)

I was relaxing after a marathon writing session, and decided to page through my latest issue of Fangoria magazine. I came across an add for several DVD boxed sets: Cleopatra 2525, the third season of Sliders, and--

This is where my eyes literally popped out of my skull, and I uttered a series of expletives that are not appropriate to be posted here.

Earth 2 is out on DVD.

I'm a snob, I admit it. I provide no end of ridicule (in jest, of course) to my fanboy friends and relatives (specifically: my wife and my brother-in-law) for their raving, drooling, foaming-at-the-mouth love of Firefly. Heck, I enjoyed Firefly myself, just not to the point that I'm going to sit and sing "The Hero of Canton" during the opening credits of Serenity.

So I'm humbled by the revelation that Earth 2 has finally been put onto DVD, because my own inner fan boy is clawing his way, zombie-like, out of my chest. It's a series that I watched religiously when it originally debuted, and I was fit to grab my pellet gun and climb a clock tower when I found out that it had been dropped from NBC's line-up (especially considering that they continued airing new episodes of DSV, probably one of the silliest science fiction shows ever, and I'm being nice about it).

In any case, Amazon.com has another $40 of my hard-earned money tonight. Not that I can really afford it, but there are some sacrifices that I am obliged to make.

Buying Earth 2 on DVD is one of them.


I'm Still Breathing

Saturday is here, and I haven't posted since Wednesday. Funny how this blogging thing starts out quick, and then slows down. Not that I have a lack of interest, but dang! I've been too busy to post anything.

Thursday's Megadeth concert was surprisingly good. I knew more of the songs they played than I expected to. The opening bands, Dream Theater and Fear Factory, weren't horrible. Dream Theater isn't really my cup of tea; being a co-headliner on the "Gigantour," they had a long set which seemed to stretch on and on. As for Fear Factory, we only caught the last two or three songs of their set. They weren't bad, and appealed to me much more than Dream Theater did.

We didn't end up getting home from the show until around 1am. I managed to drag my sorry butt out of bed at 5:30am so that I could go to work. I was less exausted than I expected to be, which is no mean feat. If I don't get at least six hours of sleep, I'm usually a total mess.

Work was...work. Human Resources sent out an email reminding employees about the company's dress code. Things like this don't usually happen unless a complaint has been made. I can only assume that someone came to work dressed in inappropriate attire. I wonder who it was, and what they were wearing.

I was only home for a little while before I had to leave for my Friday D&D game. I spent the time with Stephen and my wife, and it was tough to leave. Stephen had his four month check-up yesterday, along with three vaccinations. Despite his experience with the needles, he was very cheerful. I guess he's in the 50th percentile for just about every measurement except for height, which he scores a 75th perecentile. If he could stand up, he'd be tall.

I make it a habit to leave the D&D games by midnight (as the game typically runs from 6pm to whenever they decide to stop). Six hours sitting at a gaming table is about as much as I can take in a night. I've been playing with this group since late 2004, and they're a good bunch of guys. My play habits and availability have been impacted by the birth of my son, as well as by my bourgeoning writing career.

I don't know if it's a result of my absences over the past four or five months, but I feel less a part of the group than I used to. The group has also grown in size, from six players (when I started) to eight players (myself included, and not counting the DM). I'm not real keyed in to groups with player populations above five or six people.

So, plans for the weekend, now that I've summarized the past two days.

I need to finish writing a few pieces of the Future Players Companion, and I aim to do that today. Tomorrow, I'm going to replace my brake pads and buy a new bed. Despite the tightness of funds, especially considering October's inevitable rent increase, the bed we've had for the past eight years or so is totally shot.


Hump Day Doldrums

The high point of my day was seeing my wife and son when they got home from Stephen's grandmother's house today. The rest of the day suffered from something of a lull. It didn't help that I kept thinking it was Thursday, with the weekend only a day away. Wishful thinking, perhaps.

I suppose I should rewind. Yesterday, I got a letter in the mail from our apartment complex. It looks like our rent is going up by $90 starting in October. I guess it's been coming for a while, now. They've only raised our rent three times since we moved in, almost six years ago. Still, $90 buys a lot of diapers, and the money will be sorely missed.

This gets me to thinking about housing; I'd always intended to wait until we had a home, with equity, before we had a child. That's not quite the way things panned out, as we're still renting. The housing market in Southern California isn't friendly to folks at my income level, especially when you consider that the average home price in my area is somewhere around $500k (maybe even higher than that).

So that's one reason that I feel blue.

It's not all bad news, though. The Thieves' World Player's Manual, probably the most high-profile product I've ever contributed to, should see release relatively soon. It's currently at print, which means it will start showing up on game store shelves in no time. Not only is this a great thing, in terms of exposure, but the fact that the book is being released means that I'll also get paid for the work I contributed to it.

While I'm currently working on a new project related to the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying game, I'm also tying off some loose ends that are related to the Future Player's Companion (which is being published electronically by the Game Mechanics, prior to being put into print by Green Ronin). I never did get the last of my final chapter finished, so I've spent the past couple days trying to get it done. I'm fairly satisfied with the way it's looking, so far, but it's definitely going to be over word count.

Tomorrow night, my wife, our friend Robert, and I, are going to a Megadeth concert. Though I enjoyed Megadeth in my formative teen years, I haven't really been a huge fan for a long time. There are a couple of Megadeth CDs that I know by heart (namely, So Far, So Good, So What?, and Countdown to Extinction), but I'm not sure that makes me a huge fan. I know I'll have a wonderful time, given the company I'll be keeping...and so long as the recreational drug users that plague these concerts keep their foul smoke to themselves.

What else..?

I learned today that I'll be taking a business trip to Indiana in September. It will last a couple of days. I guess it's a buyer's conference, of sorts, and I've been chosen to represent the company that I work for. With luck, it will lead to some good opportunities, but I'm currently a little nervous about the whole thing. I'm hoping I don't need to give any sort of presentation. ::shudder::

Combined with Gen Con (in Indianapolis) in August, this will mean I'll be going to Indiana twice in the same calendar year. I never would've thought that would be happening to me.

Stephen watched me cook dinner tonight. As his mother held him, I explained to him what I was doing. "This is a pork chop," I told him. "I'm going to trim the fat -- this white stuff -- off the pork chop, and then cut it into strips before I cook it in that pan." He watched, interested, as I performed my culinary duties. I gave him a rubber spatula to hold, scepter-like, and I let him taste a bit of orange-pineapple juice (he thought it was good, too).

Stephen's asleep now. I should probably go to sleep, too. After today, I think I need it.


Trip to the Birch Aquarium

As I mentioned in this morning's post, the P.O.D. (Plan Of the Day) was to pack Stephen up and venture down the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla. We'd originally intended to leave early, around 9:30am, but we hit the road closer to 11am. Such is the lot of a family of sleepy (not to mention, hot) people.

Stephen took it all in good stride. In the past, he has been reluctant to allow us to strap him into his carseat. Not so today, as if he suspected that there was fun to be had. After a good nap, he (and his mother) were both quite chipper and ready for our expedition.

En route, we stopped by a local grocery store and picked up a case of bottled water (on sale), a pack of my favorite chewing gum (which my wife despises), and enough cash to admit us into the aquarium ($10 each, excluding the boy, who is still young enough to be free at most of these attractions).

We then hit the road, and Stephen promptly passed out after sucking loudly upon one of his firefly's wings for about fifteen minutes. I don't know what it is about old Freddie that the boy likes so much. The bright colors, perhaps, or the multitude of things he can do with it (it squeaks, crackles, rattles, you name it). Either way, it was money well-spent, in my opinion. Anything that keeps him occupied on long car rides until he konks out is good by me.

The drive was uneventful. We took the I-5 to La Jolla Village Drive. Traffic wasn't bad, with a small bit of slowing near Del Mar. That's to be expected, as I hear the horse races are on (something I don't bother to keep up with, since I am not rich enough to throw my money away on the ponies). I expected the parking to be tight and the aquarium to be correspondingly crowded, but it wasn't too bad at all.

Out of the car, we had to wake up the boy and fit him into his Snugglie. Mom wore him, kangaroo-like, in the pouch on her belly. He didn't seem to mind. With the weather as it was (a cool breeze blowing in off the water), we fitted his dangling feet with a pair of socks, and walked the short distance from the parked car to the aquarium itself.

Now, aquariums are not exactly places of intense excitement. There are very beautiful things swimming beneath the surfaces of our oceans, lakes, and rivers; there are also very scary things, and more than a few very silly-looking things in those waters, too. Marine life is fascinating to me, but I'm not the kind of guy to sit around and watch every chum-soaked hour of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.

Still, I do enjoy going to the aquarium, partly for the exhibits, partly for the fish (like this yellow one), and partly because I like the fact that I can see these creatures close up without having to wear a wetsuit and an oxygen tank. I did a little snorkeling when I was younger, on a Hawaiian vacation with my folks, and I really enjoyed it. I may want to try my hand at SCUBA someday, but it will have to wait until I've got a few more dollars stashed away (which is hardly the case at the moment).

But I digress.

Once we'd toured the tanks (which, being the aquarium's main attraction, were swamped with other tourists who wanted to stand like stolid statues in front of the glass, as if no one else but them existed), looked at fish, crustacians, coral, an octopus, and the backs of several people's heads, we went outside to the tidal pool exhibit. There's an impressive view from this location, looking out to the Pacific, with the Scripps Pier jutting out into the water. Despite the haze, it was still quite beautiful.

We spent about an hour there, all-told, and Stephen was very good. He didn't fuss (much), only doing so when an exhibit began to bore him. He likes to look at things, and said things need to be at least somewhat exciting to capture his four-month old attention. Fish that move? Cool! Crabs that sit there and do nothing? Boring!

The camera's battery died on the way back to the car. It had served its purpose nobly, so I bore it no ill will. We hit the road, taking the I-5 south to the 52, and the 52 inland to the 805. We exited at Clairemont Mesa, and took a short detour to Game Empire (land of a thousand games!) so that I could indulge my curiosity, as well as to remind myself what "gamer funk" smells like (though I expect I'll once again become intimately familiar with it at Gen Con in August).

Since we were famished, we left Game Empire, headed north, and visited an out of the way sushi joint called "Japan House." They've got a great lunch deal: two types of rolls, soup, and salad, all for $8. Considering most rolls run about $5 apiece, this is a good deal even without the soup and salad. Sated, we hit the road once more, made our way to my mother's house (via Starbucks), and then came home after a brief family visit.

Stephen held up very well, with no real instances of fussiness, crankiness, or whining. He really enjoys going out, seeing new things, and meeting new people. He smiles a lot, and I can't help but notice a tightening in my chest whenever he smiles at me.

Fatherhood kicks ass.

Saturday? What Saturday?

I have to think really hard when I ask myself that question. "Where did Saturday go?"

I have vague recollections; getting up in the morning with the boy; feeding him; changing his (poopie) diaper; playing with him until his mother woke up. After that, it was all a blur.

It's been hot here. I don't care if Weather.com says that it was only in the high 70's yesterday. I will dispute that assertion until the day I die. The heat and accompanying humidity have been stifling and sapping. Living in an upstairs apartment that has very little ventilation and no central A/C only adds to the illusion that our abode is a two bedroom oven.

So, in retrospect, I suppose it must've been the heat that led me to napping a good portion of the day. Perhaps my sleep deficit added to my body's desire for rest, because I would wake up on the sofa, glance at the clock, and wonder, "How did I get here?" This happened at least twice; maybe more.

Maybe I'm just getting old.

The previous night, we had lots of thunder. One exceptionally large peal woke me up, it was louder than any thunder I've heard in a long, long time. It was so loud that someone's car alarm went off up in the parking lot. Hastur (my wife's fat, grey cat), ever fearful of loud noises, made a nest under the bed and didn't creep out until six the next morning.

Thunder-interrupted sleep aside, Saturday was spent ... sleeping. I did a little reading/research, too, and took a (very) quick jaunt to the local Target to pick up a can of formula so that my youngling will have bottles for the next week.

I feel a bit more awake today, but it's early. I know that I could easily lay down and konk out right now, if I would only give into the temptation.

We're supposed to go to the Birch Aquarium today so that the boy can look at fish. The mind is willing, but the body is weak. My wife is still in bed, the boy next to her (though I think I can hear him commenting on something or another). We'd targeted 9:30am as our departure time.

I'd better go check on him. He's whining about something. I suppose it might translate into something along the lines of, "Mommy...wake up. I'm bored!"


One Long Week

As the title says: it was a long week. I don't know why, but it seemed to drag on and on

Work was busy, but I feel like I'm spinning my wheels on my current project. I'm about to throw in the towel, but I need to give it a little more time to sink in before I try to explain why to my supervisor.

I also order a lot of office supplies. Invariably, these supplies go missing en route, or they arrive mangled, or they're not what the requestor wanted. So I've got to get on the phone with Staples (or Office Depot, or Officemax) and get the thing turned around, get a new one sent to us, whatever.

One of the ladies in A/R wants a new calendar. Simple enough, right? Wrong. She submits a procurement form for the calendar last week, along with some other supplies (including a desk pad).

The stuff arrives early this week, except that the calendar and the desk pad (both shipped UPS) look like they've been wadded up then flattened back out again. Both items are wrapped in shrinkwrap (!), with the UPS labels stuck to the sullied plastic, which is torn in spots. Not good to look at, and totally useless.

No need to worry: no packing material was harmed in the shipment of this product. As if that wasn't obvious.

I call Staples, and they apologize. "We'll credit your account, and ship two new ones."

So a couple days pass. Wednesday, the A/R girl comes by again. "The desk pad came, but not the calendar," she says. I tell her I'll look into it.

The Staples order status widget tells me that the calendar is in some kind of limbo. So I call Staples up, and another CS person tells me, "Oh, it's been lost. We'll credit your account and send another one."

Today, the A/R girl returns with the new calendar. Again, it was shipped UPS. Again, it has been mangled beyond belief. Again, it is not packaged to be protected, but is wrapped in a single layer of shrinkwrap which is torn and filthy.

She asks, "I'm not being petty, am I?"

"No," I answer. "You just want the calendar you ordered in reasonable condition."

Which is not much to ask. These things cost us about $10 apiece. They probably cost Staples 1/10th that much, and they've already destroyed two and lost a third by shipping them UPS. Not to mention what they pay in shipping costs, which are likely just as negligable.

So I call Staples. This is the third time. I explain it to a third CS person, who also apologizes, and says...guess what? "I'll credit your account and send another one."

"Can you guys roll it up and put it in a tube or something?" I ask. "The way it's being packaged now isn't cutting it."

"I can put a note on the order," he says, "but that won't guarantee anything. Why can't the UPS driver just keep it up on the seat next to him?"

I've worked in warehouses; I've done receiving, shipping, etc. This comment, made by a CS rep who is just trying to make me feel better (which isn't necessary; I don't take this stuff personally. After all, it's only work), is likely one of the most ignorant things I've ever heard. He is, essentially, blaming UPS for damaging a package that has not been protected in the slightest from even marginal shipping damage.

Throwing a paper calendar, wrapped only in shrinkwrap, into a UPS truck, is like throwing a fish into a tank full of sharks.

So now I wait until Monday, to see what the fate of the fourth calendar will be.


On a different note, here's a new picture of Stephen, the apple of my eye, preparing to chow down on some rice cereal and pears in his brand new high chair. Not exciting, by War on Terror standards, but I think it's awesome. He's turning into a little human being right before my eyes. I can't wait until he starts talking.


I Company, 2nd U.S. Cavalry (reenactors), Part I

Did I mention that I'm an American Civil War reenactor?

I've been reenacting since September of 2001 as a member of the Frontier Army of the West. The group consists of a number of excellent people, and we have a good time together when we do these events. Schedules normally put us "on the line" once a month, but things seem to be slowing down.

It's been difficult for my wife and I to make many of this year's events. Between the boy, and my writing career (if "career" is the correct term), time away from work is precious. It's not always easy to get motivated; all said and done, it's a lot of work to get the gear together.

Plus, I'm out of shape. There's nothing more pathetic than a chubby guy huffing, puffing, and red in the face, dressed in a layer of blue wool in ninety-degree California heat. One of these days, I'm going to keel over dead, and they won't realize it until they play recall and my carcass remains on the ground, slowly drawing flies.

I'm posting this because my in-laws (namely, my wife's grandparents), upon reading this blog, asked me to post more things about writing, work, and reenacting. Writing content is more appropriate to my professional site; posting about my day job, on the other hand, might not be a good idea. Although I enjoy my job, I don't know if I want to post about it in my blog. That doesn't mean I won't, eventually, but it's not happening today.

So, this installment is about the people in my unit. A zany cast of characters if ever there was one. Most of them are very much to the right (politically), so us "closet liberals" (namely, my wife and I) keep our mouths shut and avoid politically-charged conversation as if it were bubonic plague.

So, let us begin with...

The Captain
Captain Schurmann is our fearless leader. He's a good-natured sort, so long as you're not Michael Moore or Jane Fonda. The Captain is a fountain of all sorts of information; some of this information is entirely useful, a few tidbits are completely trivial, and the rest are probably offensively funny in one respect or another.

Hot Tip: Never let the Captain use your only bar of soap.

Trooper George
Trooper George (on the left in this rare photo) is also the unit's quartermaster sergeant. She...er, I mean, he...is one mean S.O.B., especially if you're thick enough to wash his cast iron skillets with soap, or leave the cold cuts out of the cooler for all the vermin to enjoy. When he's not on duty, George likes to whoop it up with the rest of the troopers and tell tales around the camp fire. He's got a soft spot for children, so long as they behave themselves.

Interesting Fact: George nearly lost his thumb in a wood-chopping accident, and drove himself to several hospitals before he found someone willing to sew it back on.

Trooper Frank
Don't let that goofy smile fool you: Trooper Frank is as blood-thirsty as they come. He's got a bad habit of packing his rounds with so much powder that his bullets will transform unlucky rebs into a fine, crimson mist. His craving for violence even extends to his companions, as he nearly blew my foot off at the Battle of Huntington Beach in 2004.

About the only thing that redeems this scoundrel, besides his delectable baked bean recipe, is his lovely wife, Lisa Belle. If it weren't for her outstanding charm and character, I think we would've staked Frank out for the ants on some God-forsaken prairie a long time ago.

Quote: "If you're gonna be a bear, be a grizzly!"

Corporal Slag
What can I say about my fellow corporal, except that his attitude lends itself well to the rest of the unit's misfits. He's got a mouth like a sailor, and will lean over conspiratorially when he tells a very bad joke. He also brings a ready supply of barking spiders to every event. I think he must hold several US patents on the creatures, because each and every one of them is different than the last.

Though he seems relatively calm in the above photo, Corporal Slag is not asleep. He's merely laying in wait for some unfortunate to come within arm's reach.

Hot Tip: Stay away from Corporal Slag's stern, if you catch my drift.

Trooper Hal:
Trooper Hal is Corporal Slag's bestest friend. The two of them go everywhere together. Despite this, Hal is actually a pretty decent guy...as far as troopers go, that is. He's pretty laid back, and enjoys the simple things in life...like shooting at rebs.

"Hal" isn't Trooper Hal's real name. He's only called "Hal" because he stripped a good deal of his equipment off the body of the real Trooper Hal after the poor fellow was court-martialled and executed for desertion.

Quote: "You sure got pretty lips."

Trooper Pat
Rumor has it that Trooper Pat was a constable, sheriff, or policeman in his civilian life. He says that the only reason he became a cop was because he was too unstable to be a postal worker. In this picture, you can almost see the madness that brews deep within his untamed soul.

Without a doubt, Pat is the master of most things that go "boom!" If your weapon is broken, fouled, or otherwise in need of repair, Pat's your man. If you catch him stroking your carbine while he whispers sweet nothings to it, don't worry. This sort of sweet talk seems to work wonders, along with a healthy dose of Windex.

Hot Tip: Never, under any circumstances, refer to Trooper Pat as "Patricia."

Trumpeter Sergeant Powell
Sergeant Powell is only in the cavalry because his music is too brilliant for the unwashed masses. He's undoubtedly the most photogenic of the unit, and his steely blue eyes have broken the heart of many a southern belle.

Despite being in dozens of battles, Sergeant Powell has never died, nor has he suffered a wound of any severity. It is his sad fate to survive his companions so that he can play taps as their swollen bodies draw flies in the afternoon heat. Along with his musical inclinations, Sergeant Powell is also very good at frying bacon.

Interesting Fact: Sergeant Powell is mad about polkas. When he's not blowing a charge on his bugle, he's playing "oompa loompa" at an Octoberfest.

What About the Rest of the Lads?
Of course, there are other folks in I Company, but my responsibilities only permit me so much time to describe them to you. Never fear! The worst of the lot are yet to come. Eventually, you will come face to face with the horror that is Sergeant Roberts, the sadism of 1st Sergeant Crisp, and the raving lunacy of the Lam Brothers.

Ahhh...what a mean-looking bunch, wouldn't you say?

In Memoriam: James Doohan

Let me start by saying that I'm not what you'd call a huge Star Trek fan. I enjoy the original series, and I remember enjoying Next Generation when it was in syndication. I liked some of the movies (especially Wrath of Khan and Search for Spock, and one of my high school counselors had a small speaking role in The Voyage Home), but never really went for any of the other spin-offs.

When I read today that James Doohan (aka, "Scotty") had died, I felt a pang of regret. It's not like I knew him, nor did I know much about him (until I read this report on CNN).

I especially enjoyed this Doohan quote from the story:
"I like Captain Kirk, but I sure don't like Bill. He's so insecure that all he can think about is himself."
Somehow, that doesn't surprise me. Not knowing Mr. Shatner personally, I can't say whether or not it's true, but he (Shatner) does have a reputation for arrogance.

So a science fiction icon has passed away, leaving me with fond memories of the shows and films that would never have been the same without him. I doubt that I'll be the first or last to say it, but Scotty has, himself, been beamed up.


Milestones That I Look Forward To (Volume the First)

Today, in addition to the rice cereal, the boy enjoyed peaches. They must've been awfully sour, in his opinion, because he made a horrible face and drooled a lot as he ate them. In my jaded opinion, they were somewhat tart in flavor, but he seemed a bit less drawn to them than he was to the applesauce.

Of course, that has nothing to do with the title of this entry, which is Milestones That I Look Forward To (Volume the First). I plan to add more of these entries as time goes on, and they will detail milestones in my son's life that I, as a father look forward to.

These potential events aren't listed in order of preference. Rather, they are listed as I think of them. Just because I add a milestone today doesn't make it any less important than one I decide to add tomorrow.


1. Taking off his training wheels.

I know that, some day, we're going to bust out and buy him a bicycle, complete with training wheels. When he's ready, I'll get out one of my seldom-used wrenches (likely last used when I put the bike together on Christmas Eve) and take those bad boys off.

I remember when I had my training wheels taken off. I was six years old, and I was exceptionally proud of the fact that I could ride my bike without those silly things slowing me down. As a side-note, it wasn't my father who took my training wheels off, but a tomboyish girl who lived down the way. I don't remember her name, but I do remember that she told me, "You don't need those anymore."

She was right.

2. Taking him to Disneyland.

I look forward to this event, in large part because we will probably not go back to Disneyland until Stephen is old enough to enjoy it. Selfish? Maybe so, but I'm sure that my happiness in seeing my son's face as he sees the lights and sights of Disneyland for the first time will surely eclipse my own happiness at seeing those things once more.

I estimate that this will occur on or around his fourth birthday.

3. Teaching him a game, any game.

Uno, Candyland, Chutes & Ladders, Monopoly, Checkers, Chess, Poker, Dungeons & Dragons. Games are such an important part of my life that sharing them with Stephen will be an incredibly high point for me. Heck, the last time my wife and I went shopping for games, we considered the fact that we'd want games that could play well with three players (so that we can accomodate him when he's old enough to join in).

4. Watching a movie with him, and knowing he appreciates it.

He can watch movies now, but at this point in his life, a movie on the television is just a bunch of sounds and lights. He has no grasp of characters, plots, or chronology. He's just drawn to the movement and color on the screen.

Titles that I recall fondly from my youth: Star Wars, for one. I can't forget Clash of the Titans and Raiders of the Lost Ark, which I saw for a double-feature on my eighth birthday in a Leavenworth (the city, not the prison) movie theater.

5. Taking him shopping for his mother, either for her birthday, for Mother's Day, or for Christmas.

6. Speaking of Christmas...I can't wait for Stephen's first Christmas where is actually aware of the meaning of the holiday.

I'm not necessarily talking religion here; I'm speaking more of the spirit of giving, of family, and of happiness brought on by more than gifts. I guess it's a lofty goal, since a lot of people don't seem to move past the gifts, goodies, and rampant consumerism of the holiday season.

On the left, you can see a picture of Stephen's mother, very pregnant, at Disneyland at Christmastime...which was the last time any of us went to Disneyland. I mean, the three of us were there. Technically.

Six milestones for now. Not a bad start. I'll add more as I think of them.


Comic Convention Sunday

The wife, brother-in-law, and I went to the San Diego ComiCon today. We had originally planned to take Stephen along with us, happily dangling his feet from his Snugli, but my mom intervened at the last minute and offered to babysit. Considering the adventure we had, I earnestly thank all the gods that she did so.

It's not as if it was a bad trip, it was just filled with petty annoyances, most of them related in one way or another to the San Diego trolley system.

You see, last year I had the bright idea for us to park at one of the local malls and take the San Diego trolley to the con. One of the most painful things about driving to the con is finding a place to park near the convention center. In the early days of the convention center, this wasn't as big an issue. As the ComiCon has grown, so has the need for off-site parking.

Suddenly, a plethora of small parking lots sprang into existence in the blocks surrounding the center, with vastly inflated rates. Finding a space in one of these lots first thing in the morning could be problematic; finding one in the afternoon was nearly impossible. Not to mention the fact that leaving your car unsupervised in one of these lots is asking for trouble.

Thus, my bright idea to save time, money, and stress by taking the trolley.

Last year, aside from a minor hiccup, the plan was executed flawlessly. We jumped aboard the trolley, rolled to the con, and then returned to our car with little more than a single (brief) delay on the way back.

This year was different. Not only has the con grown ever larger (it will encompass most of downtown within the next ten years, at this rate), but there was a Padres baseball game at the nearby ball park. Sweaty comic book fans (us among them) and equally-sweaty baseball fans were packed like sardines into dozens of red trolley cars.

As if the cramped (and hot) conditions weren't bad enough, there were problems with the cars ahead of us which led to as many as five (or more; I stopped counting after the third) inter-station delays which lasted anywhere from sixty seconds to ten or fifteen minutes at a stretch. Every so often, our trolley driver would breathily communicate to us over the PA system that we were "experiencing a brief delay" (as if it wasn't painfully obvious). Even more aggravating was the fact that the A/C would shut off every time our driver made an announcement.

In the end, we did manage to make it back to our car without becoming party to any riots, and we had a speedy trip back to my mom's house so that we could pick up Stephen.

So...the Comic Convention. What did we do? First, we paid to get in ($15 apiece, which is the Sunday extortion for adults). Then we hit the two places that we normally hit: Penny Arcade and Dumbrella. T-shirts (right) and stickers (above left) were our goals, and we succeeded in picking a few up.

With our swag safely stowed in the complimentary plastic baggie that came with our $15 badges (the bag is probably the most useful thing you get for free these days at the ComiCon; gone are the times of freebies galore that were actually worth keeping), we took a quick stroll around the massive dealer's room. My one mandatory stop was the Wizards of the Coast pavillion (as "pavillion" is the only word I can really think of to describe it) to see if anyone I knew was there (no).

In my opinion, there wasn't really that much to see (unless you like to people watch, in which case you'll have a field day). My wife is the reason that I go; she likes to look at quirky little monster toys, keep up on her web comics, and bask in the glory of her inner geek. Her brother was along for the ride, and from all indications he wasn't feeling too well (after a late night out gaming).

I guess it would be anticlimactic of me to say, "Yep, that's it," even though it about sums up the day. The horrible eternity of the trolley is the memory that continues to haunt me, packed in amongst my fellow man. It conjured several very unpleasant thoughts, all of which I will spare you from. Suffice it to say, it's over and we're home and I have to get up and go in to work tomorrow.


Mission: High Chair

Stephen started eating solid foods a little over a week and a half ago. Rice cereal mixed with a good amount of formula was the beginning, and since then we've been giving him a sampling of Gerber's finest fruits and vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, and apple sauce). The apple sauce was, by far, the most enjoyable provision of the three, but it also led to one or two very interesting diapers on the following afternoon.

The boy is quite a gastronome. We decided to try him on solids simply because he was so interested in all the things that my wife and I were eating in front of him. We'd give him a taste of this or that, but never more than a drop, a dribble, or a crumb. In the case of sweet or tart foods or drinks, he would invariably make a face, smack his lips, and then grin like a lunatic.

When we finally propped him up in his bouncy chair for his first solid meal, he took to it like he'd been eating solids since birth. That's not to say he was neat about it, but he had no trouble figuring out what he was supposed to do with the mush we were shoveling into his toothless maw. He also learned quickly to open his mouth so that we could get the next spoonful in.

Last weekend, I decided to myself that we needed to buy him a high chair. I'm sure my wife had come to the same conclusion. Sitting in that bouncy chair wasn't going to cut it for very long. Being prior to pay day, though, it wasn't really in the budget to run out and pick one up. Since yesterday was pay day, today was high chair day.

I'm a firm believer in old world wooden craftsmanship, but I also recognize that there is a certain value to modern chairs that are constructed from light-weight materials, and which come complete with reclining seats, nesting food trays, and five-point restraint systems. Besides, they all cost about the same, anyway.

We dropped in at Target first, but the selection of models left something to be desired. We went to Babies R Us, instead, which is where we finally settled on a Baby Trend high chair with a Palm Tree print on the seat pad. It seemed to have all the options that my wife wanted. The hardest part would be squeezing the box into the Hyundai.

Now we're home, and the chair is assembled and pushed against the wall in anticipation of Stephen's next solid meal. He's winding down at present, preparing to nap (whether or not he really wants to) after our big shopping trip. Tomorrow, we plan to attend the San Diego Comic Convention, if only for an hour or two. Today, I need to do a little bit of writing.


A Blog Is Born

And here I am.

I had this funny idea the other day. "How about I make my own blog?"

I'm a cynic by nature, and I've always been a cynic when it concerned blogs. "They're places where self-absorbed folks go to make themselves feel superior," is more or less in line with my thoughts on blogs (in general). Maybe it's just that, by the time I'd discovered what blogs were (and that they existed), they were "too popular."

So what changed my mind? Fatherhood did.

You see, in August of 2004, my wife and I discovered that we had a baby on the way. We were scared, exhilerated, uncertain. Could we do this? Were we ready (financially, emotionally, spiritually, insert-your-own-ually) for a child?

Flash forward seven months, to March 2005. My wife is laying on a gurney in an operating room, I'm sitting next to her head with the anesthesiologist two feet to my right side. I can hear the chatter of the doctors as they're performing a caesarian section, which is mercifully hidden from us by a large, blue sheet.

"Your son is about to be born," the anesthesiologist says to me. "Stand up and take a look." The guy was younger than me, or seemed to be. I'd met him earlier in the day when he'd given my wife her epidural.

"Oh, I don't know about that," I answered. I'd heard stories about this; the last thing I wanted to see was my wife's internal organs spread out over her chest.

"Trust me, it's a beautiful thing," he replied. "Stand up and watch the birth of your son."

So I did.

They pulled the little guy out, and it was pretty much like you'd expect; the baby was covered in blood, mucus, alien slime, whatever. The first thing he did (before belting out his first cries) was to pee on the attending pediatrician. I firmly believe that my wife's Ob/Gyn aimed the boy at his peer as a joke. It worked; everyone, including the pediatrician, had a good laugh at his expense.

And this is how Stephen Paul came into the world, a perfect human being in miniature.

Those first few weeks were pretty rough. I'm sure you've heard it all before; bringing your first child home, and all the literal and figurative crap that goes with it, is what keeps a lot of people from having kids in the first place. Your sleep cycle is destroyed by this needy, loud, occasionally smelly newborn. He doesn't care if you've got to get up for work at 5:00am, nor does he feel sorry for you when you're already two weeks late on a deadline because you're too exausted to concentrate on being creative.

To be honest, I didn't like Stephen very much. I tried, honest I did. It was hard to love someone who was so demanding. My wife was very much in love with the boy, from the moment she held him for the first time the night that he was born. My feelings were somewhat guarded on the topic of my son; I wasn't sure what to expect. I was a nervous wreck trying to maintain some illusion of surety and courage in the face of an unknown quantity.

I'm not entirely sure what changed my mind, or when it happened. I think my wife is right when she tells me that, once he became "interactive," I got sucked in to his world. I never thought for a moment that I would love someone as much as I love my wife; but I do. I love that little boy more than I imagined possible.

Stephen is three months old now. He's growing, as his great-grandfather would say, "like a bad weed." He smiles at us, plays with us, and bitches at us as only a hungry (or wet or tired) baby can do. Our lives will never be the same, but they've been enriched nonetheless by his arrival.

Anyway...back to the point. Why am I, he who has always been averse to having his own blog, creating one now? What has fatherhood done to change my views on this medium of expression to the point where I am actively participating in it?

I'm a freelance writer and game designer. The work I create is largely related to pen and paper role-playing games. The most popular of these is Dungeons & Dragons, which most people have no doubt heard about. There are other, less well-known, titles, too, but D&D is the one that most "normal" people recognize when I attempt to explain what I exert my creative energy to create.

I've got a web site, Gary Astleford Dot Com, which is my "professional" page. It's where I post news items (in a blog, of sorts, instituted by my web-savvy wife so that she wouldn't need to post the news items for me, her HTML-challenged husband) relating to my writing career (as it is).

Lately, while posting said news items, I have often been tempted to mention tidbits relating to my son. Why not? After all, I'm proud to be his father. I love the little guy. I want to go on talk shows and, Tom Cruise-like, run around shouting about my new-found love for another human being.

Outside of oblique remarks and references about my child, I have thus far refrained from doing so. It is, after all, a site dedicated to my writing career. It's a place where game companies will (hopefully) find my information, read my writing samples, review my portfolio, and then contact me with offers for work. Paying work, one would hope. I could be wrong, but I figure the last thing that an editor wants to read about is my home life.

This is the place for these family-related ramblings of mine. This is my place to voice these feelings, to let them be known. I honestly doubt that few folks will actually read this stuff, but I may be surprised. It makes me feel a little better, knowing that I've got an outlet now.

There's the story, in a nutshell, of how Freelance Father came to be. I intend to post other things here, too. Musings, news, opinions, and the like. I mean, why the heck shouldn't I?

So that's it. I'll post again later, if this thing even works.