Moments when I wish I had my camera

Due to strong winds (up to 50mph) that provided a wind chill factor of 15 degrees, I went running indoors at my gym this morning instead of outside. Afterwards, while driving home, my windshield started fogging up. I rolled down the window to let it cool off, but it wasn’t until I stopped at a red light that I noticed it. Thanks to myself being particular warm and everything around me being particularly cold, I had a huge amount of steam pouring off of my head and shoulders. (Needless to say, I was rather bummed I didn’t have my camera with me.)

I like to think that people driving down Route 50 did a double-take at the steam roiling off of a driver. I know I did and the driver was me! After all, I looked rather similar to a Dr. Strange villain.


High-Tech Christmas

One of my Christmas traditions is that every year, I read James Joyce’s “The Dead” from Dubliners on Christmas Eve. This year, for the first time in about a decade, I ended up spending the evening at my parents’ house instead of going home to my own bed. So it was then that I realized I had left my copy of the book at home.

But! Since I now have a Kindle (thanks to a deal I could not refuse!), all was not lost. I went onto the Kindle Store, found a free copy of Dubliners, and before I knew it I was spending Christmas Eve curled up in bed with Gabriel and Gretta Conroy. Christmas was saved, and the future is now. Sometimes, technology is awfully handy.

Ho Ho Argh

Apparently if there are Christmas disasters to be had, for me it’s shifted off of Christmas Day (what with the infamous “Greg comes home and finds water pouring in through his ceiling and his possessions floating in an inch of the stuff” moment) and moved to December 23rd. I say “disasters” because I’m hoping that was the worst of it.

The big thing for me was discovering that the Christmas tree had not just toppled over, but actually broken in the night. Completely unusable. Thankfully only one ornament broke, probably because most of the tree hit the couch instead of the floor (or the coffee table). It’s a little frustrating because I’d bought it last year since right now I don’t really have room for a full size live tree. I ended up taking all the ornaments off of the tree and packing them back up. I could have bought another tree but at this point it just seemed easier to call it a day. I’m hoping next year that I can just go back to having a real Christmas tree once more.

Meanwhile, Charlie ended up having all sorts of trouble at the airport due to the backlog of passengers from snowpocalypse earlier in the week. Ugh. One of the big problems of all of the airlines teetering on the edge of bankruptcy is that everyone’s killed half of their schedule. So now when a day’s worth of flights are cancelled, there aren’t tons and tons of other flights to shift all the passengers onto. What a royal mess.

(Speaking of a royal mess, half of my work parking lot is still unplowed. What are they hoping for, 80 degree weather to just melt it all? Good luck on that.)

Oh well. If that’s the worst of it I suppose I should consider myself lucky, right? Minor stuff in the grand scheme of things. Here’s to a quiet and sedate holiday from here on out…

Another Great Gift Idea

Ok! Better late than never, right? Here’s another great gift idea, and it’s one that you can just as easily give to yourself as to someone else. Even better, it’s a gift that helps others and is on sale. What might that be you ask?

My favorite small press publisher of prose, Small Beer Press, is having a sale. And, for every book you buy from them, they’ll donate $1 to the Franciscan Children’s Hospital. SBP co-owners Gavin Grant and Kelly Link have had a family member in their hospital for a while now, and in general I think the idea of a hospital specifically for long-term care of children is such an incredibly necessary thing. (You can read the full story of their time with the hospital at this link.)

Anyway, they have a lot of great books for sale. Some of my favorites include:

The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories by John Kessel. Kessel’s “Lunar Quartet” is alone worth the price of admission, but “Pride and Prometheus” and its merging of Pride and Prejudice with Frankenstein has to be read to truly be believed.

Perfect Circle by Sean Stewart. Stories about people who can see ghosts are a dime a dozen, but Stewart’s book is about family and dead relatives and promises and the things that bind us. Breathtakingly beautiful prose. (His book Mockingbird is also available and I love it to death too.)

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link. In the future, everyone will know about Kelly Link’s genre-defying short stories. They’re hard to describe and all peculiar but in a twisted, wonderful sort of way. Seriously, if there’s one book you’re going to buy, make it this one.

Second Line by Poppy Z. Brite. I haven’t actually read this one, but I have read Liquor, her novel which also stars the same characters (two chefs in New Orleans who eventually open a restaurant where all the food is cooked using alcohol in some way, shape, or form). Brite made her start as a horror author but it’s her novels about cooking and living in New Orleans that have made her into a must-read author for me. Seeing someone shift genres so effortlessly was a real revelation, and a reminder not to automatically push someone into a narrow box.

Or, buy something entirely different! Those prices are ludicrously cheap. I rarely buy prose books these days because of space; instead I keep visiting the library. I make an exception for books from Small Beer Press.

Baum Plan Perfect Circle
Magic for Beginners Second Line

Ghosts of Christmas Past Gifts

I’d told myself that December would be the month that I really started updating online a lot more, but then everything hit at once. To top it off, my own site got hacked and it took the better part of a day to scrub it clean of all the nastiness. (Moral of the story? Some people suck.)

Anyway, I kept telling myself, “You need to update,” and not doing so. But then I read Kate Beaton’s latest online strip, and it’s one where she talks to her younger self, and it kicked up all sorts of flashbacks of my own.

(Go on, read it. I’ll be here when you get back.)

It’s strangely comforting to know I’m not the only one who can still carry around guilt related to past gifts. I remember getting a microscope one year and within about 12 hours having spilled some dark blue dye all over the kitchen table and the tablecloth. Stained for life. I remember years later still feeling horrible about that. And despite one of my favorite childhood books being one titled Greg’s Microscope (I have multiple copies, so please don’t think tracking one down for me is a good idea), I too had no idea what to actually do with a microscope once I had one. You know how that goes. I look back now and I just wince. Such a thoughtful present that never got used to its full potential.

Anyone else  haunted by the ghost of a past gift?

Christmas Gift Idea

I have some amazingly talented friends. This is, really, not so much news. But I was thinking to myself this morning, “Greg, some of your friends don’t have big publishers pushing their books, or prints, or (insert awesome creation) here. And they would make good Christmas gifts if only people knew about them. I wonder if you could do something about that?”

So! As I have free time (a rare commodity these days, to be fair) I thought I’d point people in the direction of some talented friends’s websites and products.

First up! My good friend Britt, whom I’ve known for over a decade now, recently started her new website The Photo Garden Bee, where she visits gardens all over the country and takes some amazing photographs of them as well as writing up a travelogue. I’m not a huge garden-visitor but even I find this pretty enthralling.

She’s now selling black and white matted prints of some of her flower pictures, and they look fantastic. I mean, c’mon, just look!

Very reasonably priced, and just gorgeous. Hello, easy Christmas shopping idea! Go buy some!