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The Black Laser

Psyche! Four* more weeks!

Do you remember six weeks ago when I was all, “I’ve got to wear this silly little finger brace for six weeks”? Well, as it turns out, that was a lie! I have the pleasure of wearing this stinky little thing until the doctor sees me again. He asked me to make a follow-up appointment in four weeks.

But guess again! The next available appointment was in six weeks, not four! Cool! That will bring the total time wearing this gross splint to 13 damn weeks. Woof.

I have a physical therapy appointment for Monday. I was able to bend the finger at the recent follow up, but not all the way. The doctor says if I try to make a fist right now, I’ll just tear through the scar tissue that has developed, which is not the ideal result apparently. Instead, we want to slowly stretch out the healed tendon. Sounds pretty tedious and boring, but better than a permanently messed up pinky.

The doctor wants me to go twice a week. Pretty cool. I was really hoping for a chance to have more chores integrated into my life.

Fortunately I still have an extra splint from my ER visit. I purchased a Dremel rotary tool after my appointment, even though I have one in my friend’s garage in California. Nothing fancy, but sufficient to cut the long, non-stinky splint down. I thought about buying snips which would have been cheaper and done the job just fine, but the rotary tool will be more useful in the long run for a wider variety of tasks.

Yesterday, I stressed the joint trying to hold Beatrice down so I could get her dressed. I heard a lovely cracking sound and the finger’s been all sorts of sensitive today. That bodes well. Afterward, I redressed it so the tape was much tighter than the doctor had applied it. There was too much wiggle room before which allowed for enough flexibility that my finger could try to bend. No good. Now it’s tight and straight and unbending.

Finally, and most importantly, the fingernail on my pinky is getting super long and gross. I suppose I could take the tape off and clip the thing, but where’s the fun in that? If it’s funny gross and not just gross gross when this is all done, I’ll share a photo of what 13 weeks of fingernail growth looks like.

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Cute Outfits and a Warm, Sunny Day

Some cute new clothes and the first day of 2022 with weather nice enough to sit outside were perfectly good reasons for a fresh set of photos.

Penny had a great time putting all sorts of stuff into her mouth that she shouldn’t have. Unfortunately for Beanut, she got some sunblock in her eye and was pretty unhappy. Worry not. As soon as the irritation wore off, Beatrice was just fine.

Enjoy the photos of one happy, leaf-eating child and one grumpy, eye-irritated child.

And because why not, here’s two minutes from the day before of the girls enjoy the grass and wind.

Book “Review”: The Book of Accidents

The Book of Accidents was my first Chuck Wendig novel. I’m not even really sure how I happened upon it. Perhaps some reddit thread or one of the various book websites that pop into my view while wasting time on the internet. Regardless, I found it. I purchased it. I read it.

And I liked it! And my wife liked it. I generally know while reading something if Sarah is going to click with it. Some stuff—particularly the deep genre science fiction and fantasy books—just isn’t for her. We have different tastes on some things. That’s ok! But when I encounter a novel that has strong horror vibes, a good hook, and a fun mystery to work through without wallowing in bleakness, I can be pretty sure she’s going to enjoy it.

The Book of Accidents is one of those books. What starts off as a story of a man reconciling the death of his estranged father evolves into an inter-dimensional, cosmic mystery. And, boy, what a ride. I don’t usually care about spoilers. It seems to me that the fun of something is the journey, not the destination. But this book has a whole lot of fun twists that I didn’t anticipate and won’t ruin for you. Sarah wanted to talk about the plot while she was reading it, but I refused so as not to ruin the revelations that lay in wait. It took some significant willpower on my part.

The novel absolutely rips along with a tempo that never gives you a moment to stop coupled with short chapters that often kept me up way too late to finish just one more. Wendig here rivals Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 or any Brandon Sanderson novel in keeping me awake reading. It’s rare that a novel can keep me up for longer than 5 or 10 pages at night, leading to me often dragging out novels for much longer than strictly necessary. But I flew through this book in only a few weeks. Fast for me.

If I had one complaint about the book, it’s that Wendig likes to reference real world media, much like Stephen King, to whom this book’s style owes quite a bit. The characters can’t help but mention this month’s popular meme or Dungeons and Dragons or whatever. It’s a quibble, and it is probably just a personal thing, but I’ve never liked this sort of reference. It takes me out of the story’s world just a little, breaks the spell just enough. I like my fourth wall, damn it. If you’re going to break it, do it for something worth more than making a comment about your favorite table top roleplaying game.

Would I recommend this one? Definitely. If you’re looking for a fun, fast-paced horror novel, get it. If you’re not looking for those things, but still enjoy a well-written mystery story with some supernatural elements, get it. If all this sounds like the most uninteresting thing in the world to you, I don’t know, go listen to a TED Talk or something.

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Six Dang Weeks

Six weeks!

I have to keep my finger in this tiny, stupid splint for six weeks!

Look how cute and little the splint is.

I suppose, though, it could be worse. It could be my whole hand. Or a finger on my dominant right hand. Or my arm! OR MY NECK!

It all happened last Thursday. I was home, getting the girls ready for their evening bath. I had Penny undressed in my right arm and Beanut in her diaper in my left. The bath was run and the water was warm. Everything was going swimmingly.

Then Beatrice saw something so fun on the floor and dove for it. I don’t know if you are aware of this, but 1 year olds do not possess the world’s greatest self-preservation instinct. Luckily, I was there to get my hand under her to prevent toddler suicide. The bad news was that I got my left pinky under her sternum at just the wrong angle. It snapped.

The child was, and still is, totally fine. I caught her and she had no idea about the fate she narrowly avoided. I placed them both down on the sofa, set my broken finger back into place, and moved them to the tub. I sent Sarah the following text message:

Nothing like being direct, I guess.

She promptly called me back and I told her what happened as Penny and Bea splashed in the background. She promised to be home as soon as she could. I gave the girls a cursory bath, got them dressed, and set them up with some milk. I’d be lying if I told you I combed their hair, though. That really requires two hands: one to stabilize the squirming child and the other to operate the comb. Getting them dressed usually requires two hands as well, but I managed to pin them down with my forearm. No left hand fingers needed for that task.

By 6:45pm Sarah was home, and by 7 I was on the road to the local ER. They did a round of x-rays, determined that the photos were inconclusive, wrapped my finger in a splint, and sent me home. I was home by 9. It might have been the fastest ER visit I’ve ever had. Of course, they barely did anything and arrived at no answers, but, still, it was quick.

I was doing my very best to hold it straight here.

For a week, I’ve lived with the busted pinky. I’ve shoveled snow more than once. I’ve cared for tiny children. I’ve deboned chicken. All successfully, if a little slower than normal. Each day, I took off the splint for my shower and carefully redressed it afterward. I definitely splinted it more securely than the ER did.

On Thursday I had my follow-up appointment. The ER discharge paperwork told me I should have gone in on the 29th, but that wasn’t going to happen because A) a blizzard rolled through on the 28th and B) it was a Saturday. So Thursday it was.

I got another set of x-rays done and this time we were able to see the tiny bone fragment floating in my finger where the tendon snapped the bone. Pretty cool! I regret not asking for a copy of the images, though. Then the doctor told me that every time I take my finger out of the splint I tear through any new scar tissue formed and that if I want it to heal correctly—that is, heal in a way that allows me to fully straighten my finger—I need to keep it in the split for six weeks.

One of these is not doing what it’s supposed to. Chili for scale.

What a pain in the butt. At least the doctor cut the finger-length splint down to a knuckle-length splint to allow me to partially bend my finger.

So for the next six weeks I’m living with this adorable pinky splint that I need to keep clean and dry. I’ve ordered some extra-large nitrile gloves from the site that shares a name with a rainforest which will hopefully get me through six weeks of dishes, diapers, and cat litter. I already want to take the thing off and bend my finger. But I am going to be good.

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Happy birthday, ladies!

Today is the first birthday of my wonderful, screaming monsters. Sarah made them a confetti cake and they got a visit from Grandma Bev and Grandpa Redge. Snow fell. Diapers were changed. They made a huge mess. Photos were taken. Bath time was torture. Getting dressed and having their hair brushed was an unbearable misery. Overall, a perfect first birthday.

Today is also a day tinged with sadness as we remember our lost Olive. Milestones come fast during a child’s first few years. First teeth. First steps. First words. First Christmas. First lawsuit. You get the idea. And, as we see Penny and Beanut make all these steps growing up, we can’t help but be reminded that Livvy didn’t get a chance for any of them. I miss that little baby and I miss the person she could have been.

When the sadness of the situation is overwhelming, I feel comforted in the two girls we do get to see grow, learn about the world, and chase the ever-patient Noodle, and knowing that Livvy’s essence has gone back to the universe that made her. In the end, we are all just stardust and she has gone back to the stars earlier than we would have liked.

Happy birthday, girls. I love you all very much.

Enjoy some photos of babies with a bunch of cake on their sweet, little faces.

A Peek at my Reading Queue

Goodreads gives you a little tool to track the number of books you read over the course of a year. In 2021, I wanted to read 52 books—a book a week—but that proved a little ambitious. Who knew that infants were so much work? I got half way. A far cry from my 2020 peak of 62 books.

This year I’ve set my goal at a more reasonable 26 books, or one every other week. That is the same number I managed last year, so I feel pretty good that I should be able to make it happen. And if I don’t? Well, that’s how the cookie crumbles, I guess.

I try to read a variety of things, but the reality is that I end up actually reading a bunch of SFF, horror, and technical stuff. A scan through my previous years’ lists confirms this. The examples I’ve considered for this post are all in line.

What *do I have in the list for this coming year? Let’s look.

Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson – I’ve already started this one. I anticipate that I am going to finish it some time in September. Sanderson is not known for his brevity. Coming to this after finishing John Langan’s The Fisherman was a bit of a shock. Their two styles of prose could not be more different. Langan is dense and literary while Sanderson is like watching a comic book movie. Both are good. Both have their places. But, dang, are they different.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – I started this book like two years ago during my writing class at Cabrillo. Fortunately, it’s a collection of essays. Picking it back up will not be difficult. Lamott is charming, hilarious, and just enough of a pain in the ass for her writing to resonate strongly with me.

Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo – I’ve read the entirety of Akira before when it was first collected into five volumes in 2000. A long time ago at this point. I purchased the 35th anniversary collection last year and it’s been sitting on my floor waiting to be read. This is the year. Akira is massive and, along with the film version, a formative work for me.

The Terror by Dan Simmons – I’m about 45 hours into the 50 hours of the audiobook of Simmons’ Carrion Comfort and I’ve enjoyed the hell out of it. I’ve read the Hyperion series, but didn’t know until Carrion Comfort that Simmons also wrote novels that weren’t just love letters to John Keats. Further, the audiobook version of The Terror I spent an Audible credit on is produced with background music. This is going to either be a big hit or a big miss. Either way it is going to shine some light on an idea I’ve had for The Black Laser Reads about doing audiobooks with more production elements than just voice. Also, it’s another horror novel that is well regarded. I am sure it will be a fun one.

Piranesi by Susannah Clarke – Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell was one of the best books of the year in whichever year I read it. Goodreads tells me I finished the Kindle version in 2016. It is so rich and such a fun adventure that I felt pretty bummed that it was her only novel. One hell of a one-and-done, you know? Shortly after moving to Delaware, Sarah and I went into the bookshop in Bethany and I saw she had a new book, Piranesi, available only in hardback. Instant purchase. My copy is signed by the author, too, which is fun. Piranesi has gotten a lot of good chatter around it, which makes me look forward to it even more.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski – This was one of the suggestions by my friend Mike when I solicited Facebook for horror novel recommendations a while ago. The format of this book doesn’t lend itself well to e-reading, which is my preferred way of consuming novels. I hesitated a long time until I finally just bit the bullet and picked up a paper copy. I know almost nothing about what happens in House of Leaves, only that people whose opinions I respect think it is fantastic. That is enough.

The Rhetoric of Fiction by Wayne C. Booth – My understanding is that this work gave us the name for the “unreliable narrator”. It’s dense. It’s academic. He writes about a lot of works I’ve never read. Seems like the perfect thing to shift my brain into a different gear.

Books of Blood, Vols 3-6 by Clive Barker – I find that toggling between horror shorts and other books is a good way to break things up without getting distracted from the main text much in the same way as how I like to have one nonfiction and one fiction book going at any one time. So, really, I guess it’s actually one fiction, one nonfiction, one collection of short stories, and one audiobook in progress at all times. Clive Barker’s Books of Blood fit in perfectly with any combination of things I’m reading. It’s nice to have that short, sweet, horror fix. Palate cleansers.

Off the top of my head and a quick glance around my desk that’s it for now. Certainly I will think of some other things I intend to read this year. I’ll revisit this in a few months and we can check in on my progress. Completing these books will get me 15 books further toward my goal of 26. Not all the way, but not too bad either.

Did I miss anything you think I should definitely read this year? Is something on my list so stupid I should give it a pass? What are you reading (besides this post)? Suggest a book that is outside my normal consumption and tell me why I should read it.


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Photo by Alfons Morales on Unsplash

Go to bed, Penny

Penny. It’s almost midnight. Why have you been laying in bed with your eyes open for nearly 30 minutes? PenPen, it’s night-night time. Go to sleep, Penny. Stop staring at the ghosts. They know you can see them. But you’re a growing girl and there will be time for spirits.

Get some sleep.