Friday, December 28, 2001

I want the fat guy in the cheap suit back.

I used to do our taxes by hand, working from handwritten ledgers and boxes of receipts. Then eventually I started using a spreadsheet — PC-Calc, to be exact — to keep track of stuff. Finally, early in 1997 I broke down and got tax software, specifically Parsons Personal Tax Edge, for the 1996 tax year.

I liked it a lot, to my surprise, and one of its charms, as far as I was concerned, was that it included video of a “tax accountant” who went through the whole “interview,” collecting the information you typed in and inserting it into the forms. The tax accountant was a fat guy in a cheap suit who darn well LOOKED like a tax accountant.

I liked him. I found him reassuring. And his script was well-written, being clear, informal, and informative. I advance-ordered PTE for ’97.

And then Parsons sold out to Intuit, and I got TurboTax instead of PTE. I’ve been using TurboTax ever since, and it’s a pretty good program…

But I miss the fat guy in the cheap suit. The tax experts in the TurboTax video don’t have anything like his low-budget charm.

Friday, November 09, 2001

Okay, so it’s been months since I posted anything here. They’ve been eventful months, as we all know, and I considered posting something about September 11th, like everyone else on the Web, but eventually concluded I just didn’t have anything that needed saying that other people weren’t saying just as well as I could.

Besides, I was busy. I finished a novel.

For a lot of people writing a novel would be a major event, I suppose. For me it’s not really a big deal anymore. I was surprised to realize awhile back that I’ve lost count of how many novels I’ve written; I went down to the basement and counted, so I’d have an accurate number, but now I’ve forgotten it again.

It’s just my job, you know? It’s what I do.

So I can’t tell you whether this latest was my thirty-second or my thirty-fifth or what, but it was due in June and I finally finished it in October.

There were several reasons for not getting it done on time — my editor died suddenly in March, throwing everything into chaos, and there was the distraction of getting my daughter through high school and off to college, and of course there was September 11, and so on. Mostly, though, I was ill.

Which is what I actually wanted to post about tonight.

I’m still ill. It’s entirely possible I’ll be ill for the rest of my life, which is a peculiar realization to live with.

And I don’t know when it started, which is also a peculiar realization. It sort of snuck up on me over a period of many months, maybe a couple of years. It got worse and worse, and the symptoms got weirder and weirder, until I finally got serious medical attention starting in July. Up until June I honestly wasn’t sure whether I was sick, or was just getting older, or had had a string of separate ailments.

Finally getting an explanation (which took awhile) was amazingly liberating — it wasn’t my imagination, it wasn’t normal, it wasn’t terminal, it wasn’t a zillion separate problems. And there’s some satisfaction in having a rare and obscure disease.

Which I do. I have a pituitary disorder called idiopathic hyperprolactinemia. It’s a relief to have a name for it, to be able to look at the symptoms and say, “Oh, that’s why that’s happening!”

And it’s a relief to be getting treated. At present it’s just palliative measures while my endocrinologist decides whether anything more drastic is called for, but even that has me feeling better than I have in over a year. I’m getting more work done, being less irritable, and generally behaving more like a human being.

And one reason I haven’t posted here since August is that that’s about when the shots kicked in, and I started doing useful stuff instead.

So there’s an explanation of why I haven’t posted — and why I may not post much in the future, either. Ah, well.

posted by Lawrence 9:14 PM

August 28, 2001

Last week I drove more than 2,000 miles across the middle of America, taking my daughter and her belongings to college in Iowa. I have a few observations I’d like to make:

The United States is a heck of a big place.

You may have heard that Indiana is boring. Well, I’ve now driven across it east to west on one route and west to east on another, and many years ago I drove across it corner-to-corner (Louisville to Chicago), and I can say without fear of contradiction that yes, it’s really, really boring.

On the other hand, Peoria, Illinois, subject of much mockery over the last several decades, is a lovely little city; if I had to live in any of the places I drove through between Washington and Des Moines, I think I’d choose Peoria.

Someone told me once that Iowa is all flat and boring. It’s not flat. And it’s nowhere near as boring as Indiana. It is full of corn and soybeans — I think there was a stretch of over 100 miles on I-80 between Davenport and Des Moines when we were never out of sight of corn.

And driving the interstate system for three and a half days almost non-stop is a strange, almost hypnotic experience. Try it sometime.

August 9, 2001

Useless Things I Wonder About, #13,287: On Bill Kirchen’s album “Hot Rod Lincoln Live!,” in his extended version of “Hot Rod Lincoln,” when he’s demonstrating that he can play twenty zillion distinctive guitar riffs, why are almost all the other artists he’s imitating referred to by name, but Cream is “a bunch of English guys!”?

July 30, 2001

I have an unusual occupation — I write fantasy for a living.  This means I’m succeeding in a field where lots of people try and fail, a field lots of people dream about working in.  I often talk to people who are impressed, who say they’d never have the nerve or persistence or creativity or whatever to be a full-time writer.

Every so often I run into someone from my past who chose an even stranger field, one that strikes me as something I would never have dared to attempt, and that I never would have expected of the person in question.  There was a friend from high school who became a fine artist — he mostly shows at a gallery in Georgetown.  Another friend from high school now does special effects in Hollywood.  There was a guy named Norman who dropped out of Princeton to become a Formula One racer (and was pretty successful, last I heard).

And I’ve just discovered that a woman who roomed across the hall from me at Princeton is now a professional psychic.  She loves it — she gets paid to talk on the phone.

This is someone with a degree from Princeton — I think in either math or engineering, though I’m not certain.  And she’s a psychic.

These are very strange days indeed.

July 25, 2001

Today is arguably my birthday.

I was born shortly after midnight, Eastern Daylight Time, officially on July 26, 1954 — so by standard time, I was born on the 25th.

It’s been very convenient some years having a choice which day to celebrate. This year it doesn’t much matter, so I guess I’ll go with the 26th — which is also Mick Jagger’s birthday. And Castro’s army kicked out Battista on my fifth birthday.

It’s not a bad day for a birthday, the 26th, and I don’t know of anything noteworthy on the 25th.

July 21, 2001

And naturally, having created this, I find myself with nothing to say.

I still haven’t linked to it myself, but it can be found through Blogger, and I’ve sent out a notice to the site-update mailing list, so people might be reading it. If so — I apologize for the lack of content. I hope to do better in the future.

If there’s anything in particular you’d like to see here, you can e-mail me and request it.

July 14, 2001

Purely as an experiment, I’ve decided to take advantage of Blogger and add a weblog to the Misenchanted Page. The “Strange Days” name comes from the permanent personal-news thread in my newsgroup on SFF Net, and I expect that much of the same material will appear here.

Thanks to Mitch Wagner for inspiring this.

— Lawrence