Mission Accomplished

Julie and I have just completed a project that’s probably a complete waste of time, but which led to the discovery that one of my hard drives is totally dead, and also that Windows Vista is no longer supported. Here’s the story:1982

In 1982, on a whim, I decided we should make our own Christmas cards, rather than using store-bought ones. I drew up an all-occasion card, took it to a local printer and had 100 copies made (I think it was a hundred), and we used those for our holiday mailings.

That was well received, so in 1983 we did a card meant to look like an official notice that the recipient was required to have a happy holiday.

Pretty sure we skipped 1984. In 1985 we hired an artist for the first time and had William Levy draw us an elf with a raygun. (At the time I was writing a column called “Rayguns, Elves, and Skin-Tight Suits” for the Comics Buyer’s Guide.) In 1986 we had just moved, so we had note-cards made up with a picture of our new house, and as our Christmas card that year we hand-drew wreaths on the front door on some of the note-cards and used those.

1985Don’t know what we did in ’87 and ’88, but in ’89 we figured that as a writer I should write us a card, and we did the Dreaded Pun Card, and ever since then custom-made cards have been a regular part of our holiday rituals. Sometimes we hired real artists, sometimes we cobbled together something ourselves, and many years, once she was old enough, Kyrith provided the art. We did skip a few years. In 1994 we started doing family newsletters, as well. And three times we sent out chapbooks, rather than cards, with short stories I had written for the occasion.

And somewhere in there, Julie decided we should keep a complete collection of all this stuff. We hadn’t kept them in any sort of order, so it took awhile to compile an album, and it wasn’t necessarily complete, but we tried.

2000And then, when we moved in 2009, the movers “lost” one box of stuff — “lost” in quotes because we were pretty sure it was somewhere in the house, but we couldn’t find it. Most of it wasn’t anything to be concerned about — school supplies and the like — but the holiday card album was in there.

So we’ve been looking for the album ever since, and trying to keep copies of the cards and newsletters for when it turned up (or we made a replacement), but not being very organized about it.

And a couple of weeks ago Julian was visiting, and cleaned out his closet, and there was the lost box, including the album.

So now that we had it back, we set about completing it, bringing it up to date with everything from 2009 on and filling in any gaps from further back. In some cases we couldn’t find the physical cards or newsletters, but I still had the computer files and card stock, so I printed new ones for the collection. But we couldn’t find the 2010 newsletter anywhere, and there were some other problems and omissions.

2013I still had the hard drive from Chloe IIIB, my primary desktop computer from 2003 to 2011, remounted as an external hard drive, and I thought maybe the 2010 newsletter would be on there somewhere (though in theory everything had been copied off it already), so I tried to boot it up and found it was completely dead. Sigh. (Elsewhere I referred to that machine as Chloe 3.5.2; that was my memory playing tricks on me. Chloe IIIB replaced Chloe III, which replaced Chloe 2.6.2, and I’d forgotten the sequence. Long story; short version, Chloe III was defective and CompUSA replaced it six days after we bought it with Chloe IIIB. Chloe II had been custom-built and went through a lot of upgrades during the period I owned her — roughly 1994 to 2003 — and was Chloe II Version 6.2 by the time I replaced her, Chloe 2.6.2 for short.)

I found some of the old files we needed were in formats that can’t be accessed by any modern software. Fortunately, I still have Iris, a laptop running Windows Vista, which can run old versions of Microsoft Publisher and buttonFile and the like. So I booted up Iris for the first time in months and she went nuts trying to update her version of Windows, which is how I found out Vista is no longer supported. It took several tries to calm Iris down enough to run Microsoft Publisher and access our 2001 card.

But we eventually did track down pretty much everything except the newsletter file for 2010, and the album is now complete and up to date, unless there are cards from 1987 and ’88 that I’ve forgotten.

(And by the way, that 2013 card? I set up a real Kickstarter account and campaign to get that screenshot. Never took it live, of course.)

Strange Days

From a newsgroup post dated March 21, 2016:

So we got a couple of those DNA test kits from Ancestry.com, and used them. I just got my results.

There are mysteries surrounding my great-great grandmother — who was not my great-great grandfather’s wife; he never married. She appears to have been his housekeeper.

We know very little about her. Her first name was Mary, but on everything else, sources conflict. On everything, including her surname, ethnicity, age, etc.

One story said she was Irish. Another said that her father was definitely not Irish, but claimed to be Chippewa. Or maybe only half Chippewa.

Claiming to be Indian was a fairly common ploy escaped mixed-race slaves used to avoid being kidnapped back into slavery, so for a long time I’ve said I might be descended from an escaped slave.

Well, apparently I was right. Genetically, I’m between 1% and 2% Senegalese.

And there’s zero Native American in my DNA, which is mildly surprising in a family that came to America in 1628.

There’s also zero Native American in Julie’s DNA, which is more than mildly surprising, since her family tree shows her being 1/16th Algonquin. (And she looks native American, to some extent. So do most of her siblings.) Either the Sylvestre family tree is completely unreliable, the DNA test is completely unreliable, or her grandmother’s father wasn’t who her grandmother’s mother said it was. (All the other parts of that lineage are female; that’s the only place a cuckoo could be nesting.) Or I suppose maybe she just didn’t inherit any of the genetic markers in that branch, but that’s statistically very unlikely.


And that, dear friends, is the last old post for this blog, though there are still several more progress reports to be copied to the Serial Box.

Strange Days

From a newsgroup post dated February 23, 2016, about my decision not to use a planned April Fool’s joke:

What is the idea?

Finally someone asks!

I was going to announce that I’ve decided to change the direction of the Adventures of Tom Derringer series, and change it to the Amorous Adventures of Tom Derringer, starting with Tom Derringer in the Sultan’s Seraglio.

Julie and I later came up with some more — Tom Derringer and the Beauties of Berlin, Tom Derringer and the Libertines of Lisbon, etc.


While there are still dozens of progress reports to post to the Serial Box, it looks like I only have two more old newsgroup posts that will be reposted here.

Strange Days

From a newsgroup post dated February 22, 2016:

Over New Year’s I recorded most of the Syfy channel’s “Twilight Zone” marathon to my DVR, and I’ve been working through that collection little by little, mostly while exercising.

Last night I watched “What You Need,” based on the “Lewis Padgett” (Henry Kuttner) short story of the same name*, and one of the minor characters was a pretty girl in a bar who had this light-up-the-room smile. I didn’t recognize her, but she was eye-catching and could act, so I was curious what had happened to her, so I watched the credit and saw her name was Arline Sax.

Later I looked her up. Turns out she changed her name to Arlene Martell, and had a modest career — a lot of work over the years, but never a real break-out role. And I’d seen her in her best-remembered role, but would never have realized it was the same person. She played T’Pring on “Amok Time” on the original Star Trek.

It strikes me as somehow perverse to take an actress with this astonishing lovely smile, and cast her as a Vulcan who never smiles.


* I have this odd relationship with Kuttner’s original story. I kept coming up with this idea for a fantasy story, and starting to get enthused about it — I even started writing it once or twice — before remembering that Kuttner had already written it. It got to the point that I wrote myself a note, which I keep in my “ideas” folder (both hardcopy and virtual), telling myself in no uncertain terms that IT HAS BEEN DONE, and better than I could.

At least I never actually finished it, which is more than you can say about “Alterations,” my inadvertent rewrite of William Tenn’s “Brooklyn Project,” which I actually sent out to market once before realizing what I’d done. (It was rejected, of course.)


There are fifty-four newsgroup posts still in the queue, but (a) I won’t repost all of them, and (b) a lot of them, probably most of them, are progress reports that will go in the Serial Box instead of here.

Geographical Checklist

Continents visited:
North America

Not visited:
South America

United States:
New Hampshire
Rhode Island
New York
New Jersey
North Carolina
South Carolina
West Virginia
District of Columbia
New Mexico
North Dakota

Not visited:
South Dakota
Idaho (slept through it on a train)

Prince Edward Island
Nova Scotia
New Brunswick
British Columbia

Not visited:
Northwest Territories

Quintana Roo

Not visited:
all the others

Other countries visited:
Wales (but just barely)
new> Vietnam
new> Greece

Japan (never left airport)
Iceland (spent a couple of hours in Reykjavik’s airport (which
is in Keflavik))
South Korea (spent several hours in Incheon airport.

Questionable as to whether they count as countries:
West Germany
East Germany

The End of the Exotic

It used to be that there were places in the world no one you knew had ever seen, foods that you’d never heard of, things you’d never done, and the strangeness of these things was part of their appeal.

Then my daughter lived in Shanghai. I still can’t get over how weird that is. My daughter, my little girl, was living and working in Shanghai, on the far side of the frickin’ planet.

She’s back, but now her brother is working in Hangzhou. In fact, I may have been to conventions in dozens of states, but Julian’s been to conferences in lots of countries. He’s visited Costa Rica, Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, China, South Korea, Argentina, Paraguay, Australia…

There is no more “exotic.”

And this summer, on just a few weeks notice, I accepted speaking engagements in Hanoi and Athens. International trips used to take months, even years, of preparation and planning, but I was in Vietnam four weeks after I got the invitation.

A Note on Necroposting

As anyone who reads here will have noticed, I have been copying (and sometimes editing) old posts from my newsgroup on SFF Net, which was my primary online hangout from 1996 until early in 2017, to my blogs. When I started I had 591 saved posts, dating back to about 2009.

Not all deserved preservation, though. I’ve just gone through a bunch of them, and deleted a slew I didn’t think would be of any interest.

There are 104 left. I’ll be eliminating more as I go. These reprints won’t go on forever. And I expect to post new stuff more often once I’m done with them.

Things You Maybe Didn’t Know About Me

Based on a newsgroup post dated May 15, 2012, but heavily edited:

In the 1980s I looked so much like Bob Seger that not only did his fans sometimes mistake me for him, but my then-brother-in-law once mistook him for me.

The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man — or at least the guy in the suit in the original “Ghostbusters” — was one of my high school classmates. He’s not credited because he was in the wrong union; he was a special-effects guy, not an actor.

The very first personal newsgroup on SFF Net, started on February 7, 1996, was mine. It was not the last, though; I shut it down a couple of weeks before SFF Net closed up shop in March, 2017.