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Chuckro's birthday party was on Monday, and it was raining, so I took ARR on an adventure to get him out of the house so Chuckro could do party prep. We headed for the Brooklyn Children's Museum, which I'd interviewed for a job at a long time ago, but never actually been to the exhibits at. Before we left, I checked the website, which said very clearly and explicitly in big letters that while they're not usually open on Mondays, they would be open on Memorial Day, Monday, May 29.

So we took the train out. And it rained heavily on us as we trekked through Bed-Stuy. ARR was not particularly happy about the rain, or the walk. He threatened to turn around and go home a few times, but at that point, we were just a few blocks from the museum. I cajoled him along. Two more blocks. One more block. Look, you can see the signs, we're almost there.

You see where this is going, don't you?

Yeah, they were closed. Or rather, they were apparently open for a specific school group but no one else. There were harried employees standing at the door, handing out free passes for a visit another time. There was also a burgeoning mob of disappointed toddlers and irate parents. The parents were more upset--most of the children were just stunned.

Did I mention it was raining?

So I had to come up with an alternate plan. Fortunately, someone in the crowd mentioned that the Jewish Children's Museum was a few blocks away. Convincing ARR was more of a problem. He was extremely put out by the change in plans. He didn't want to go to that museum, he wanted to go to this one. (Never mind he's never been to either and didn't know what was in either one.) He was going to go home. He several times turned around and tried to march off into random directions in Brooklyn. He very dramatically dropped his umbrella, and then stood there in the rain, pouting, slowly drooling on the ground. (In protest? In despair? I have no idea what was with the drooling, other than he knew I didn't want him to do it.)

We got there and he had a perfectly fine time. (It's an...odd museum. But they had sparkly crafts, so he was happy enough.)
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With the move over to Dreamwidth, my feed is even more dead than it used to be. Le sigh. And yet, every time I go on Facebook, I end up regretting it. I miss my social media fix.

Last night, well after I thought ARR was asleep, I took a bath. I got a visitor. Who criticized my bathwater for being dirty and told me I had to change it. When told that I'd used one of the bath bombs he'd given me for Christmas (and also, go to bed!), he told me all my bubbles had popped and I needed more bubble bath. I told him the bath bombs didn't make bubbles (and also, go to bed!). He was skeptical. He finally did go to reemerge half an hour later because his pajama cape came off. (He's playing with his Legos up there. I can hear the clicking. But at least he's quiet and in his room and his lights are off...)
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This is why I'm down to just a line or two each for these things.

#25 The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. 3. Pluses: plus sized heroine gets underestimated and turns out to be awesome. Also, unexpected resolution to love triangle. Minuses: Apparently being awesome requires losing all the weight and not being plus size. There was no reason she couldn't have been awesome without changing. Also, magic system of god-given belly button rocks doesn't actually make a great deal of sense from an economic perspective.

#26 The Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne Valente. 4. Gorgeous and haunting short story collection.

#27 Sunshine by Robin McKinley. 5. Deeply weird and creative take on wizards vs vampires, circling around a cinnamon-bun baking mage who wants none of this but gets dragged in. Lyrical and poignant and action-packed, with nary a sparkle in sight.

#28 Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler. 5. This is one of those books that's hard to read in this climate, but worth reading anyway. After an economic collapse, a young woman becomes a prophet. It...does not not go well for the majority of the book. (You know from the first page that she succeeds somehow, but not how much it will cost her.)

#29 Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand. 4.5. A maybe-it's-a-ghost-story, maybe-it's-not. A folk band in the 60s retreats to an abandoned British manor house. The aftermath is told completely in "Behind the Music" style interviews.

#30 Path of Fate by Diana Pharaoh Francis. 3. Honestly, this reads like Valdemar fan fiction with the serial numbers filed off. The monarchs of the enemy country are total badasses, though. I'd like to read a book about just them.

#31 The Secret Love of Geek Girls Ed. by Hope Nicholson. 3.5. A collection of short memoirs, essays, stories, and comics loosely organized around the theme of geek girls in love. They're all female authors, so refreshingly, I had no impulse to throw the book across the room. Quality varies, but generally entertaining.

#32 What Would Cthulhu Do? by Patrick Thomas. 2.5. Bathroom reading, mildly amusing.

#33 The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World From Scratch by Lewis Dartnell. 3. This book would be very useful for a writer looking to navigate characters through an apocalypse. It gives all kinds of names of useful things to figure out, and what order to do them in. It would be useless to someone actually trying to navigate through an apocalypse, as it taunts you with lists of things you should be able to do but without any of the details you'd need to be able to do them. (Build a smithy! Great! How?) Fortunately, in the event of an apocalypse, I plan to go in the first wave.

#34 Unexpected Stories by Octavia Butler. 3.5. Early Butler works, generally charming (in the relentlessly pessimistic way she has).

#35 Black Light by Elizabeth Hand. 2. Trippy sixties occult novel. Unfortunately, main character spends huge amounts of it drunk or stoned and so it comes across rather like when your coworker wants to tell you a long and rambling story that makes no sense about a dream he had or that time she was soooooo drunk.

#36 Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter. 4. I'm not sure quite how to rate this. On one hand, it's unquestionably brilliant and I learned/remembered a lot and put together a lot of interesting information in novel ways. On the other hand, while he's brilliant, he's not as clever as he thinks he is, and so many of his little jokes and dialogues are so unbearably twee it drove me bonkers.

#37 Firstborn/Defending Elysium by Brandon Sanderson. 4. Clever science fiction concepts with strong characters. One features the younger brother of a Napoleonic starship admiral. The other is around a psychic phone company secret agent.

#38 Legion by Brandon Sanderson. 4. The paranormal schizophrenic thing isn't new, but this is a particularly cute take. He's a detective, and all his personalities are experts in different fields.

#39 Legion: Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson. 4. Schizophrenic detective tries to recover a literal thumb drive.

#40 2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron. 3. Some very good advice. Unfortunately, I was already doing most of it. :(

#41 Icon by Genevieve Valentine. 4. See, now this is what I'd wanted the previous book in this series to be! Global politics via fashion. In the Hunger Games, did you like the part where the stylists descended on them and they had to deal with Capitol politics best? The whole book is that.

#42 The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi. 4. Starting up a new science fiction universe with a bang, Scalzi mostly uses this to set up the pieces for a long game. But the characters are so delightful. They all sound like Scalzi, but different aspects of Scalzi at least, and that means you're in for some hilarious snarking.
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I just finished the first draft of the book I've been working on for a bit over a year. 132000 words. Oof.

It needs editing. And probably to lose a bunch of those words. But for now, I'm going to just bask in being done. Except for the last line, which I'm still not sure about.

New story!

May. 8th, 2017 12:08 pm
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I have a new story in this month's Allegory magazine:



Apr. 9th, 2017 10:23 pm
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I took ARR up to the Palisades to go on his first real hike today. (This was a trial run for our vacation in Acadia in June.)

Damn, kiddo. You're a hiking champ. The trail turned out to be quite a bit more challenging than anticipated--I'd been under the impression we were going to a waterfall at the top of the Palisades. No, we climbed down and back up the full height of the Palisades in two and a half miles, mostly over the course of two enormous and extremely steep stone staircases and a bunch of very muddy stream crossings. ARR loved it. He had to scramble up steps that were nearly chest high on him, and he did it like a pro. People on the trail were flabbergasted by him, cheerfully climbing up and down while chattering all the while about the woods safety rules I'd drilled him on earlier in the day. ("He's how old?" I kept hearing.) He did so, so well. Got a little upset when he fell and got all muddy, but was fine as soon as I washed his hands off. (I had clean pants in the backpack, because I'm not an idiot. We changed when we got back up to the snack bar.)

So we got to see a really impressive waterfall, and a cool snake, and poked the Hudson with a stick because the stick needed to be "good and wet" for some reason. And he had a marvelous time, and I'm so damn proud of him.
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When your sandwich is cut into triangles, not squares
When you want your red cup, but nobody cares
Because kiwis come covered in tiny brown hairs
That's why you never will eat

Trying to "fly" with a fork
And I'll sigh--too much work
I will try
To feed you

Tears stream
Down your face
You dropped a cracker I cannot replace
Tears stream
Down your face
But I
Will feed you
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Don't Feed the Trolls by Erica Kudisch
I originally heard this book pitched as "love in a time of GamerGate." It's a fairly accurate description, but it leaves out much of the humor and sweetness that permeates this book.

An unemployed actress struggling with gender identity wins a contest in the MMORPG she's playing, and immediately becomes the latest hashtag victim. Doxxing, death threats, and drunkenness ensue, but so do flirting, friendship, and fabulous drag queens in cosplay. (Not people cosplaying as drag queens, but actual drag queens who are also cosplaying.)

It's full of rapid-fire references ranging from Shakespeare to semi-obscure JRPGs to...I was going to say Sondheim but my alliteration seems to be inadvertently getting out of hand. Broadway musicals, then.

Is the ending blatant wish-fulfillment? Of course it is. Isn't every good romance?

Disclaimer: The author is a good friend in real life. So I'm definitely biased. But I really do think this is a wonderful book.


Apr. 2nd, 2017 08:15 pm
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You know where a great place to go with small children at 7:30 in the morning? Home Depot. I'm serious. They open at 7, they don't care if you're loud, you've basically got the place to yourself, and there are a million things to look at.

We went to their craft program yesterday (made an Easter bunny basket, ARR is getting to be a pro with balsa and a hammer). I didn't actually have the time or transportation options to get the stuff I wanted while we were there, though - we weren't going straight home, so I had limited carrying capacity. Today was my turn on the early shift. We went back and hit the garden center. ARR helped me pick out flowers. We got a giant bag of potting soil, pansies, ranunculus, tubers for bleeding hearts and ferns, and some L-braces for the shelving that needs reinforcements. ARR got to ride the escalators and elevators, and hide behind the towering piles of potting soil bags. Good time was had by all.
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#16: Miniatures by John Scalzi. 3.5. Collection of very, very short works, nearly all in that very distinctive Scalzi style. Amusing (although not necessarily particularly memorable).

#17: Hidden Youth: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History Ed by Mikki Kendall and Chesya Burke. 3. A very mixed bag. Nothing terrible, but many of the stories are fairly forgettable or underwhelming. A few gems really shine, though.

#18: Jacaranda by Cherie Priest. 4. Creepy and compelling, this is The Shining transplanted to the Weird West.

#19: Final Girls by Mira Grant. 4. A virtual reality therapy session goes terribly, terribly wrong in this deconstruction of horror tropes. It's smart, fast-paced, and shiver-inducing.

#20: Working for Bigfoot by Jim Butcher. 3.5. Collection of Harry Dresden short stories, all about looking after River Shoulders' son. The poor kid just draws bullies like a magnet draws iron filings. Your opinion of these will be determined by your opinion of the rest of the Dresden Files. They're fairly representative of the earlier monster-of-the-week books.

#21: The Scar by China Mieville. 4. Press-ganged by pirates, unlikely companions find themselves trapped in a floating city on a mission that may reshape the world. Lush, cynical, intricately constructed, and incredibly vivid.

#22: Against All Silence by E.C. Myers. 4. Teenage hacker takes on global telecom, while wondering if his girlfriend can actually be trusted. I liked very much how when people take physical damage, they actually suffer the repercussions that come with it. On the other hand, you may find this uncomfortably close to what may actually be happening--Myers is one of the authors who have gotten lapped by reality in the last six months.

#23: The End of All Things by John Scalzi. 4. A stirring wrap-up to the Old Man's War universe. Similar to The Human Division, this is composed of a series of interlocked short stories from some very different viewpoints. One thing I really appreciated--when it comes time for the fate of the universe to be decided, all the people in the room happen to be female identifying, save one, who's only there as an observer. It's not at all artificial or forced--they're just the ones who are left standing over the course of the last four books, with the authority to make the necessary decisions. It's in no way pointed out or remarked upon. I only realized it in retrospect. And it's delightful.

#24: Beauty by Robin McKinley. 3. A straightforward telling of Beauty and the Beast. It's not even a retelling. There's no twist here. What punches other versions have are pulled. (No one tries to seriously convince Beauty not to go back, there's no rival love interest, the Beast's curse is only vaguely described and has no irony. There's not a whole lot of tension, given that you know exactly what's going to happen.) It's pretty, but kind of tame. I'd heard good things about this for years, and I'm frankly a little underwhelmed.

Weekend off

Mar. 5th, 2017 07:58 pm
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ARR went out to visit Grandma and Papa this weekend. Which meant sleep for us!

And other stuff. Was probably most excited about the sleep.

We saw In Transit, which is an a cappella musical by the people who did "Frozen" and "Pitch Perfect". It's not going to set the world on fire and it's got several giant cliches (another actress trying to make it? Really?), but it very cute and has some clever bits. And a song about giving up your dreams that's hilarious.

We did karaoke. We got Korean barbecue. We got brunch. I wrote 4225 words and still had time to finally watch Mad Max: Fury Road. And now I think Chuckro is going to go watch Ghostbusters and I'm thinking about a bath. (ARR came home a few minutes ago, but was totally exhausted and rolled straight into bed.)
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#10: Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers. 3. The movie turns out to have been peculiarly faithful to the book, except for the part where the movie has a vague plot whereas the book has completely none. Honestly, Julie Andrews lends a warmth and a sparkle that the book version rather lacks. Book Mary is a rather vain thing, among other things. But it's still entertaining.

#11: Whitechapel Gods by S.M. Stiring. 2. Inventive (if very dark) steampunk rather ruined by raging misogyny. Took the lessons of The Difference Engine rather too close to heart. There are three female characters. One's an irrational whore with no impulse control, full of fluttery, dangerous womanly weakness. Another's an evil madame. The third is a goddess...who's easily overpowered and secretly glories in being raped by a totally normal guy who takes some drugs that apparently elevates him to her level because really, uppity women just need to be smacked around a little and properly subjugated. Umm, no.

#12: Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson. 5. Utterly delightful urban fantasy based out of a fictional city in the Middle East. An immersive Muslim take on the tropes of a hacker discovering a hidden magical world. It's smart, it's fresh, it's thought-provoking, and it's just plain fun.

#13: Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold. I've read this before, but had mostly forgotten the key plot points. It's refreshing to have the hero of a fantasy novel be a late middle aged woman, whose child is grown and who's looking for something to do with the rest of her life. She's not particularly fond of the plan the gods have for her, though, and intends to fight her destiny all the way.

#14: Romancing the Inventor by Gail Carriger. 3.5. Sweet, short romance between a parlor maid and a steampunk butch inventor. Makes a lot more sense if you've read the Parasol Protectorate series, though; doesn't stand well on its own.

#15: Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger. 3.5. I rather adored the romance plot of this one. Love a good lady assassin. But the assassin plot...pretty much fizzles out. I don't know if she's planning to carry a metaplot through the others of this romance novella series, but the whole "protect the duke" thing basically got dropped.
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Our friend Wavilyem gave us a copy of the Oregon Trail boardgame for the holidays. ARR, who adores boardgames, has insisted on playing it over and over and over again. I've already died of dysentery three times. It's led to some particularly amusing conversations, especially because he's having trouble keeping the words "oxen" and "oxygen" straight.


Jan. 1st, 2017 09:14 pm
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So last year had some pretty basic resolutions. Did ok at them. Got some more ambitious ones this year.

1. Start paying for news. Because newsrooms are going to need support this year.

2. Finish the novel I'm working on.

3. Decide what to do with the novel that's been rejected by a number of agents.

4. Do the obstacle course race I've been talking about for a couple of years now. Which means actually training for the obstacle course race. Things I'm most intimidated by: monkey bars and rope climb.

5. Do some volunteer work. I'm still not sure for what exactly, but there's a lot of bad in the world that needs to be offset somehow. Me and mine actually had it good this year. Really good--2016 was kind to my household, when it sucked for just about everyone else. I've got a karma debt that needs paying off--if I'm not under siege, I feel like I need to try to muster some energy to help some of the folks who are.
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#96: Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen by Lois McMaster Bujold. 3.5. Let's be clear here - there is no plot in this book. It's basically "Remember Cordelia? Let's hang out with her!" Let's continue to be clear - I didn't particularly mind. This was really more like a little vacation where you got to visit friends and don't do particularly much of anything, just hang out and catch up on their lives. I quite enjoyed the interlude. But if you're hoping for Miles-style madcap adventure, you'll be disappointed.

#97: Obstreperous by D.L. Carter. 2.5. I adored Ridiculous, the first book in this series. Unfortunately, in this one, the author bites off somewhat more than she can chew. Too many different plot lines and too many different character arcs make for a rather unsatisfying conclusion. It also requires some dramatic revision of Beth's character to make her do what the plot requires, and which completely removes any vestige of common sense she may have had.

#98: Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield. 3.5. I'm still not totally sure what exactly happened here, but it certainly was lovely in form. This story of obsession and memory is meandering and lyrical, taking its time to build tiny character moments. The immersion in Victorian mourning customs is enthralling, and Bellman's shadowy partner is deliciously ominous. Poe would have loved it.

#99: Please Don't Tell My Parents I've Got Henchmen by Richard Roberts. 3.5. A return to middle school woes definitely helps this superhero tale. Still zippy and delightful. Raises more questions than it answers, though, and the ending is a bit underwhelming after the last two. Glad there's another one in the works.

#100: Prudence by Gail Carriger. 4. Alexia's daughter shares quite a number of her mother's propensities, including a nose for trouble and a love of pastries. A number of the offspring of various characters from previous series end up on one truly preposterous airship for shenanigans and havoc.

#101: Imprudence by Gail Carriger. 4.5. Prudence takes on Egypt. Werecats and old friends make an appearance, but it's her dalliance with Quesnel that really shines.

#102: Good Advice for Bad People by Patrick Thomas. 3. More Dear Cthulhu. Basically what it says on the tin.
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ARR's peanut allergy has receded! He had his allergy test today, and we're officially cleared to start introducing small amounts of peanut. The milk one's still not budging, but we're hopeful.

Makes life so much easier...
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#84: Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel. 3. The central thesis is that passion and domesticity intersect so badly because you want to feel safe in a long term relationship and that the erotic thrives precisely on not feeling exactly safe. It's not a bad argument, but I didn't find it overall to be all that enlightening.

#85: Glasshouse by Charles Stross. 4. Dear god, was this a bad thing to be reading right after the 2016 election. I'd signed on for a bit of a sci fi mindfuck--I had not realized (just as the characters did not realize) I was in for enforced terrifying extremes of 1950s gender norms. It's actually a brilliant you-can't-trust-anyone game of paranoia, but the timing made it somewhat less enjoyable than it might have been some other time.

#86: The Fantasticks by Harvey Schmidt. 1.5. So I'd always hated this play unseen based on my extreme dislike of the song "Soon It's Gonna Rain." Then I decided that was irrational and unfair and that I should give it a chance. Nope! Still hate it! I dunno. Maybe if I'd read it when it came out it would have seemed innovative, but this just struck me as sophomoric bullshit.

#87: Winterfair Gifts by Lois McMaster Bujold. 4. Sweet novella filling in the gap of Miles' wedding in the Vorkosigan saga. Does not stand on its own in the slightest, doesn't need to.

#88: The Starry Rift by James Tiptree, Jr. 3. Interesting but extremely dated "novel" of several interconnected stories. It doesn't have the gut-punch impact of some of Tiptree's best short fiction, but they're lovely little stories. A plot point hinging on the recorder on a spaceship running out of physical tape does emphasize the period quite a bit.

#89: Ridiculous by D.L. Carter. 4.5. Utterly delightful Regency romp. She's masquerading as a man to protect her family's fortune, he's an exasperated duke, they don't so much fight crime as storm ballrooms and dance with wallflowers and pine hilariously.

#90: Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm a Supervillain by Richard Roberts. 5. Teenage girl with superhero parents kind of accidentally stumbles into being a supervillain. Surprisingly charming and compulsively readable. I particularly appreciated the series of terrible decisions made for entirely believable teenage reasons, especially since the main character is pretty aware of the terribleness even as she makes them.

#91: Please Don't Tell My Parents I Blew Up the Moon by Richard Roberts. 4. Not quite as strong as the first in the series. Although the "let's go to a steampunk Jupiter" is a fun premise, I rather missed the need to make decisions about how to juggle being a "good" kid with being a supervillain. Also, I found some of the action sequences a little confusing. But still overall charming, and sets up some potential answers I look forward to seeing play out in the third book.

#92: Dear Cthulhu: Have a Dark Day by Patrick Thomas. 3. Advice column by Cthulhu. Kinda what it says on the tin. Not for reading straight, but amusing in short doses.

#93: Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik. 4. Temeraire goes to Africa. Africa...not so fond of Englishmen, or dragons. Fair enough. I do really like how Novik explores how different societies might treat dragons, and how that reflects on Laurence's growing disillusionment with his own country.

#94: Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik. 4. Oh Laurence, you woobie. Can you suffer nobly? Oh yes, you can. I have to say, Temeraire's decision to form his own militia of dragons is absolutely a delight.

#95: Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik. 4. Temeraire's attempts at dragon rebellion don't quite go the way he wants them to, as we continue our world tour in Australia. 


Dec. 14th, 2016 10:50 am
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I just got a major haircut (most of the purple is gone now). Something like 9 inches - I didn't measure exactly. I kind of wish I knew exactly how much it weighed, but the idea of bagging up my hair and carrying it home to weigh on a kitchen scale was a little creepy. It was at the point where I wore Heidi braids to work, with them crossed up over the top of my head. Time for it to go.

It was actually supposed to go last week, but I caught something dreadful, probably from ARR's class, and completely lost my voice for three days. Doctor flat out forbid me from going out in public. Cancelling the hair appointment was comical--I could only produce a weird whisper-squeak, so the poor receptionist could barely make out what I was saying.

There's a particular joy to the first shower after a major haircut. This is so much easier! Everything is so much easier! I feel so light and free!
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ARR and I went up to the Bronx yesterday to see the Botanic Garden's model trains. He loved it, but was more impressed with the pile of rocks in the children's garden he was allowed to climb on. I am so taking him hiking when he's a little taller.

I'm not sure whether it was actually a good idea or not, to be honest--we both started the day with colds, but I got significantly worse over the day. It didn't help that the tablet I was counting on keeping him busy on the long train ride home ran out of power at 161th St and so I read to him most of the way home. I woke up this morning with basically no voice. I'm totally out of it.

Someone in his class has croup. I think he got a mild case and is fighting it off without much trouble, but managed to pass the infection on to me. And it's taking me down here.


Nov. 15th, 2016 12:08 pm
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So last night's nightmare started with driving like crazy to escape from a Philadelphia that was completely engulfed in flames. Then I went to a band picnic for reasons, but when I left, it was continued disaster zone. Multiple car accidents, with ambulances all over the place. I kept passing people screaming on stretchers. The traffic locked up to the point that I finally abandoned the car and was trying to cross all the shattered glass in bare feet. I'd almost made it to Long Beach Island, though, where my parents and several other members of that side of the extended family were, and my dad came to find me. We'd gotten back to the house when the radio announced that Russia had launched a ballistic missile that was going to land in the Atlantic near us. We only had two or three minutes before it exploded. I was frantically trying to call Chuckro and ARR (who mercifully were apparently somewhere safeish) to say goodbye and we were arguing over whether to try to hide in the back of the house (there was no basement) or whether it was pointless to try and I was upset that Long Island was also going to get hit and so my in-laws were going to die too. And my last thought before I woke up was that I was glad Obama was still president for a few more weeks, because he might be able to keep the situation from escalating even more and making things worse for the survivors.
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