My Dell XPS laptop had to go to Dell’s Advanced Repair center in Houston to have the keyboard and fingerprint reader replaced. (Good thing I bought the 4-year all-hazard protection plan.) Naturally, when the tech proposed this, I assumed it would be gone for at least two weeks, which I didn’t think I could stand. But I needed to get it fixed. So I was surprised when the tech said, “No, you’ll have it back in five business days or less, and we pay for FedEx overnight shipping.”
I still put it off, but finally—after moving sensitive financial files off the drive—I boxed it up in the box they sent and took it to Walgreens for FedEx pickup. That was Monday, at 4:30 p.m.
On Tuesday morning, I got an email saying it was at the center and a tech was working on it. On Tuesday evening, I got an email saying the repair was done and it was on its way back to me. That couldn’t be right. Could it?
On Wednesday afternoon, I was taking it out of the box and plugging it in. That’s right, they fixed it—and cleaned it inside and out—and got it back to me… in less than 48 hours! Holy cow.
Not only do I have a new keyboard, but the cooling fan is barely perceptible, because they cleaned it and the heat sink inside, which was probably full of animal fur. Folks, my hat is off to Dell. I know they had problems in the past, but from where I sit in 2022, their service rocks! (Tip o’ the hat to FedEx, as well.)
The Mothership transported Allysen and me to Acadia National Park in Maine this last week. It’s where we went on our honeymoon thirty-five years ago, and this was our first return visit. It was beautiful, frustrating, exhilarating, uncomfortable, breathtaking… and ultimately cut short. Also, we got to see some good friends in Maine we hadn’t seen in far too long.
This was our first time out together in the Mothership. I’d found it comfortable for one, and with brand-new stereo speakers installed by yours truly, I was looking forward to really vacationing, if only for a few days. Of course, I was concerned that it might be cramped with two people. And it was, when we were trying to get past each other in the aisle. But that happens to us in our pantry at home, too. On the whole, we settled right in.
First evening there, we set out on our mopeds (towed on a trailer) for a reconnoitering tour. That was fun! Or was, until we got back to the camp and I discovered the broken rear strut on my steed. That was it, for moped-riding. Blast. On the other hand, as we learned the next day when we started driving the scenic park roads in the main ship, the scenic loop roads really weren’t right for mopeds, anyway. Too hilly, too narrow. We were spared the ignominy of having to give up and turn back.
Sleeping, well… that’s another matter. We sleep on a cushioned bench seat that flattens out and, with additional cushions, becomes a bed. Ish. By myself, it had been okay. With two of us, I just couldn’t get comfortable, no way no how. This is clearly a problem we need to solve, if we’re going to do any serious traveling. We need some kind of good, but easily packable, mattress topper. (The stereo sounded great, though.)
On a tip from our friends Joellen and Geir, we set out to find Thuya Garden. We did, but first we found the Asticou Azalea Garden, which is a cross between an English and a Japanese garden. It was exquisite. Here’s one view.
The Thuya Garden was nearby, but to get to that, you had to climb 250 steps of various types and angles. Parkour for seniors. Thuya garden was different, but equally stunning: vast beds of various kinds of native flowers. And hummingbirds!
We also saw the seaside, of course.
And we met up with some local friends, who by coincidence were there at the same time. And we saw the Wild Gardens of Acadia.
But in the end, we didn’t stay as long as planned. Word came from home that our dog, Captain Jack, had needed an emergency visit to the vet. What appears to be a tumor had erupted on his lower gum, and it is likely quite serious. We are awaiting the biopsy report to see if it’s cancer. We cut our trip short and came home early, to be with our buddy Jack and also Jayce, who was left to dog-sit, but then was faced with having to take him in for this. Right now, it’s a waiting game. Updates to follow. Here’s a candid shot of Jack.
Not. My basement wall is happier now, but I’m tired. It all started years ago with parts of our basement being a little on the damp side, which we’d been ignoring because there was so much stuff in our basement, we couldn’t even see the dampish parts.
That changed when Allysen’s mom had to move to a place with a higher level of care than us, and we faced emptying the first floor apartment of our two-family house, so our daughter Lexi and her husband Connor could move in for a while. Where was all that furniture, art, books, etc., going to go? Down to the basement, where else? In a way, it’s Allysen’s mom’s fault, for having high standards in art and furniture pieces acquired in a lifetime spent living around the world. Pieces valuable not for their dollar value, but for the cultural meaning and the artistry of craftsmen from Latin America, Southeast Asia, and elsewhere. Stuff you want to keep or at least find a good home for.
Cue the demolition squad, to get rid of our accumulated crap, and even some good things we just didn’t need anymore. We had an amazing giveaway assortment in front of our house for the last week, and a lot of items found new homes. Those that didn’t left the hard way—ceerrrunch!—in the trash truck. Some good electrical appliances left that way, sadly, thanks to the vandal who came along and cut off the cords on everything we put out that had a cord. Why?
Time for more shelves! Ever more shelves! But wait—what about those water-stained cracks where the floor meets the foundation? And the crumbling mortar? And—oh look, we’re having unusual torrents of rain this evening—and is that water running into the corner? Yikes!
Cue the chisel, Quikrete, and trowel. Follow up with sore knees, aching back, and giant blister on big toe from crouching for hours in bad shoes. Finish with an adjustment to the downspout outside, in hopes of redirecting the next big downpour.
I’m starting to feel as if I’m putting myself in the running to be Heinlein’s “competent man.” Not on purpose!
My Asus laptop has died, this time the true death, I think. Two years ago (seems like yesterday), it died in a similar fashion, just going poof, bye when my back was turned. That time it was the motherboard, and I suspect the same is true this time. That time it expired on the last day of the warranty, and Asus (after considerable prodding) did the right thing and fixed it. This time it’s three years old. And I just two weeks ago got the latest Windows update to work on it. This is so depressing. A computer should last longer than this! They’re just like the replicants from Bladerunner, with a built-in expiration date.
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain…”
We rang in the new year an hour earlier than usual, from a JetBlue cabin in the Atlantic time zone somewhere over Puerto Rico, inbound to Ponce. Yes, we’re starting another work session on the house. (See The Ponce Chronicles for the beginning of this multi-year adventure.)
So, good-bye to 2019, and good frickin’ riddance. It was a tough year, no getting around it. In more-or-less-chronological order, it was the year my (former) publisher said, “So long and thanks for all the fish,” and cut me loose. (That event was not without its benefits, but it still was a shocker and with some difficult ramifications.) 2019 was the year my brother died: Charles S. Carver, big brother, author, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, and husband to the delightful Youngmee. It was also the year our beloved cat Moonlight died, at almost 21. Last year, my step-mother Carol passed away, and my mother-in-law Fay had to move into an assisted-living, memory-care facility, with rapidly declining ability to communicate. At the same time, we watched helplessly as a good friend developed serious memory problems, while her friends wondered what to do.
Nationally, the country I love became ever more deeply divided, as environmental and social-justice gains hard won over decades were systematically destroyed by a dangerous demagogue and by legislators afraid to stand up to him. You know who I mean.
Still, good things happened in 2019. I was able, after eleven years of work, to shepherd The Reefs of Time and Crucible of Time into print, to a favorable reception from those who have commented on them. I was seriously boggled at the amount of work it took to prepare the books for publication, especially the print editions. And that’s with much fine assistance from others—including proofreading, cover art, and cover design. (Thanks, Chaz… Chris… Maya.)
But publishing is one thing, and selling is another. I have the imprint and support of Book View Café behind me, but there’s no doubt the loss of my former publisher’s distribution network hurt the discoverability of the books. Published reviews were nearly impossible to come by, even from sources that have previously given me favorable press—though several colleagues lent generous quotes. I made a deliberate decision to invest a lot of time, money, and effort in the promotion of this work; and by and large, I’m still waiting for the return. I’m keeping the faith, but the candle is flickering a bit. I remind myself regularly that it’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon.
And so, work continues. Strange Attractors and The Infinite Sea are both out with new audiobook and print editions, and Sunbornis close behind. I am working on the next book, but what with all the life chaos, I haven’t made much headway yet.
But 2020 is a new year! And what better way to start than by tackling problems on the house here in Puerto Rico? (What do you mean, the hot water’s out AGAIN? Another cold shower??) I feel a trip to Home Depot coming on.
This is where I use my special timestream skills to go back and wish you all a Merry Christmas! We had a wonderful day with family, and I hope you did, too. (Even if you don’t celebrate the holiday as such, I hope the day was good to you.)
Here’s what our outdoor tree looks like this year. You can’t really see the laser display on the side of the house, which was initially intended to substitute for the time-consuming installation of lights in the tree. Didn’t quite work, though it looked pretty cool on its own, and I ended up adding to the project, rather than simplifying it. Story of my life. But I still like the magical, almost ethereal quality of the blue lights, with a bit of green.
On the other hand, our tree inside, which started all fresh and pliable and thirsty, has turned into Charlie Brown’s tree. Piles of needles everywhere. I used tree preserver, too. Where’d I go wrong?
Okay, I’m coming in a little late with this (but that makes me smart; see here)…
I will be at Readercon on Friday evening of this week, and Saturday. Doing a signing on Friday at 7 p.m., and leading a panel (“Life, Love, and Robots”) on Saturday at noon! Quincy Marriottt, Quincy Mass.
I have just finished our taxes, and in celebration I am toasting the tardigrade! This hardy little critter can survive the vacuum of space, the cold of near absolute zero, and temperatures up to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. These little extremophiles are tough! All it asks is some moss to suck on. How can you not admire the tardigrade, who is sort of cute, in the same way certain breeds of dogs are cute.
I had the worst nightmare last night. I dreamed that my country elected a narcissistic, racist, willfully ignorant, misogynistic liar to the presidency. And that at least one commentator said that millions of Americans considered this a “spiritual victory,” because it was a rebuke to a corrupt government. In the dream, it was a spiritual victory—but for the side of darkness, not the side of light. I woke up shaking with fear and disbelief—and then realized that it was all okay, because it was only a dream.
And then I discovered that it wasn’t.
Not quite half our population is in mourning today. The other half is celebrating. But this isn’t baseball or football; this is our future. After we mourn and dust ourselves off, it will be time to figure out how to move forward, protecting our democracy.
My first draft of this ended on a note of discouragement. But I just heard Hillary’s remarkable concession speech, and I liked the verse she quoted from the Bible: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Those seem like pretty good words to live by, especially today.