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Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

Another Medical "Vacation"

April 27th, 2013 (04:32 pm)
current mood: still somewhat sore, but better
current song: "Still Alive", Jonathan Coulton & Sarah Gavin

Last Friday, I started noticing occasional pain in my left ribcage and shortness of breath. For reasons I've explained at length before, these are worrying symptoms, but they were so intermittent that I didn't reach the obvious conclusion. I was also occasionally coughing.

Well. By Wednesday evening, the pain and the shortness of breath were much more undeniable and were accompanied by thoughts of impending doom--the embolism trifecta. So when I got home--after a very uncomfortable train ride from Grand Central--I informed supergee & nellorat that I needed to go to the emergency room. I had intended to drive myself, but Nellorat said, "Call an ambulance--I'm not going to have you stopping breathing on the way."

The ambulance was there pretty quickly. I walked in, laid down on the stretcher, and they gave me oxygen and asked me questions. The key question, that hadn't occurred to me, was "Does it hurt when I touch you here?"--with "here" being a muscle group immediately to the left of my left nipple. Holy shit, did it ever! And it was clearly muscle pain, not pain within the lung. Which, frankly, solved the entire question, as far as I was concerned.

On Monday last (April 15), my ear/nose/throat doctor gave me a steroid shot in the hope that it would reduce my allergic response. I'm strongly allergic to aspergillum mold and mildly allergic to rat urine. The injection was quick and painless, but I've been sore at the injection site, my left triceps, ever since.

What I hadn't realized was that the pain was spreading to other muscles on my left side, especially in the shoulder and the chest. When the EMT touched the muscle (pretty sure it's the pectoralis major), he made me realize exactly how much pain I was carrying through the surface. I was in pain, yes, and breathing shallowly as a result.

But by that point, I had started down the ER path, and it wasn't really possible to step off. N. met me at the hospital, for which I'm eternally grateful. I was checked in, put on a bed in a hallway, and then basically ignored until midnight, at which point I told N. to go home, since it was clear that no one, including me, thought I was in any real danger. The night dragged on; there were several screaming children over the course of my stay, and I can barely even recreate how horrible it must be to be in screaming pain and too young to communicate about it. But at least the screaming covered up any snoring I engaged in as I dozed on my hallway bed.

I eventually got an ultrasound reading on my legs and (far later) a CAT scan with iodine contrast, pretty much the same diagnostics I got during my last embolism scare. There was absolutely no sign of unwanted clotting, so I was finally released around 5:30 AM on Thursday with a prescription of "take a lot of Naproxen right now and then a lot of ibuprofen over the next few days while the pain persists."

Lessons learned:

A) Steroid shots: don't just blindly accept them.
B) If possible, don't go to an ER in the evening.
C) If I think I have an embolism, tell them to do a full-body CAT rather than letting them waste time with an ultrasound. If there's a clot in my legs, the CAT will find it.
D) Bring a mass-market paperback rather than a heavy trade paperback. My left arm was very sore from the muscle problems, my right arm was sore from the IV, and my phone battery ran low long before I was sent home, so I had nothing to read for long periods.
E) Everyone should have a pussycat to keep them company. Oh, wait, I knew that one already.
F) I am so glad I have health insurance. I hate living in a country where that's an issue.

Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

Food at work: An IM exchange

April 7th, 2013 (02:45 pm)
current mood: not hungry, but mmm, onions
current song: "Je Cherche un Homme", Eartha Kitt

Because of attrition at my office, I work some distance from anyone else on my floor. However, my cubicle is immediately adjacent to the door from the equities trading floor. So, every now and then, one or another trader will stop and look over the wall to find out what I'm eating that smells so damn delicious.

Last week, after one particular trader had expressed delight in the smell of my fajita, I had this conversation with her over instant message:

kjmaroney: I realized today that the meals that I eat that are most likely to make you stop and say, "Wow, that smells good!"...
kjmaroney: are basically fried onions with hot sauce on them
kjmaroney: burrito/fajita bowl, greek truck gyro....
jaci: oh shoot thats true
jaci: i was going to say something w/hispanic flair
kjmaroney: sounds like the perfect meal, actually
jaci: w/some rice! mmmmm 100% agree
kjmaroney: Who should I talk to about doing an IPO for my new francise HOT MEATY ONION SHOPPE?
jaci: we should start a food truck just called 'MEAT WITH HEAT'
jaci: ticker MEAT
kjmaroney: I think that we've just written the only prospectus it needs
jaci: we're on to something here

Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

Price points and comics Kickstarters

April 2nd, 2013 (10:39 pm)
current mood: tired and apparently a bit cranky
current song: "To The End of the Day", The Kinks

Here's a comics Kickstarter project that showed up on The Comics Beat today. It looks like an interesting project--pretty colored pencil work with a decent visual storytelling sense.

I doubt I'll be backing it.

Most of the Kickstarter projects I back are games, comics, or books. The books and games I back are almost always competitively priced with professional publications--because a lot of them are professional publications, from established companies using KS as a risk mitigator, or from new companies that have really thought through the business implications. Books likewise.

Comics, though--it really seems like the prices are chosen by "I'd like to make $X on this comic, let's just set the price wherever we want and hope for the best."

I groused a few days ago about how overpriced many comics Kickstarters are. This one--Elysia--looks like a poster-child for that. #25 ($38) plus #8 ($12) shipping for a 100-page, magazine-format, paperback color GN? That's INSANE, even before you take into account the fact that the creators are receiving approximately 90% of the cover price as opposed to the 50-60% they'd be receiving if they went through a distributor--in other words, they're making as much per copy as if it were an $55 book.

I don't expect a small press to be able to compete with the economies of scale available to Image or Dark Horse, let alone Marvel or DC. But an original 100-page color GN from Dark Horse would cost in the $25-30 range, and they aren't getting paid up front!

How do these prices make any sense at all?

Well, as I write this, Elysia is about 75% of the way to funding. Only 112 people have backed packages that concentrate on the comics themselves; about half of the funds come from another 14 buyers who have backed packages that include custom art, original art, Tuckerization, or a full customized story. (This is the big Magilla--at #5000, this one customer constitutes one-third of the funding so far.) The low-end rewards are for digital editions, which come closer to reasonable pricing, at #10 ($15) for the 100-page first chapter.

Maybe that's the problem? They're pricing the PDF high enough to not completely undercut the possibility of paper sales, but then they have to price the paper versions even higher because of the substantial printing costs, which leads to them leapfrogging themselves out of price competitiveness. But still, it's just too much money.

Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

My Time with Cookie

March 28th, 2013 (03:26 pm)

This is a story I've told orally many times, but it appears I've never written it down.

From 1992 until 2001, I worked for Crossover Technologies, a small and never particularly successful games company--well, we did some other projects as well, but our core business was online games. From 1995 to 1997, I was the producer for our first web-based game, REINVENTING AMERICA. ReUS was a massively multiplayer public policy game built around groups of people trying to influence the Congressional budget process. (Remember when America had a Congressional budget process? Truly, the mid-1990s were a lost golden age.)

Reinventing America was funded by a public policy nonprofit called The John and Mary Markle Foundation. They were interested in all sorts of ways to harness emerging information technologies for good government/public good projects--one of their big initiatives in the previous year was a study of universal e-mail access. The president of the Markle Foundation at the time was a man named Lloyd Morrisett, a marvelously smart and charming gentleman in his mid-60s, tall, aristocratic--I've joked for years that he looked more like Julius Caesar than any person I've ever met.

The Markle Foundation wasn't really Lloyd's claim to fame, though. 30 years earlier, he had the insight that his 3-year-old daughter might like to watch a funny, genuinely educational tv show, and he cofounded Children's Television Workshop.

On the set of CTW's first show, one of the things he was legendary for was his unerring instinct for when the dessert cart was going to show up, and making a beeline for the cookies.

During the period I knew him, he had a sizable office in the Time-Warner Building; behind his desk was a mantel with a few of his many awards and honors. And in the absolute center, a 3" tall figurine of the Cookie Monster.

When I moved to New York, it never occurred to me that I would end up working for a muppet. But I did, and it was an honor.

Here's a recent photo of Lloyd and his greatest claim to immortality:

ETA: Lots o' links.

Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

Dear World

March 17th, 2013 (12:10 am)
current mood: so, so sorry
current song: "Paris 1919", John Cale

Ten years have passed.

For some reason, the rest of you have not united to kill America in our sleep for your own safety.

I can't understand why not. Thank you for your mercy; we don't deserve it.

Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

Science Fiction/fantasy/horror tribute volumes

February 17th, 2013 (12:49 pm)
current mood: tributary
current song: "I Do the Rock", Tim Curry

I'm keeping a list of science fiction, fantasy, and/or horror "tribute" volumes--anthologies of stories in the style of, using the subject matter of, or just in honor of major figures in the field. I'll update this list whenever I come across new information.

  • Anderson, Poul. Multiverse. Greg Bear & Gardner Dozois, eds. 2013 (forthcoming).

  • Asimov, Isaac. Foundation's Friends. Martin Harry Greenberg, ed. 1989.

  • Barker, Clive. Hellbound Hearts. Paul Kane and Marie O'Regan, eds. 2009.

  • Bradbury, Ray. The Bradbury Chronicles. Martin Harry Greenberg & William Nolan, eds. 1991.

  • Bradbury, Ray. Shadow Show. Sam Weller & Mort Castle, eds. 2012.

  • Burroughs, Edgar Rice. Under the Moons of Mars. John Joseph Adams, ed. 2012.

  • de Camp, L. Sprague and Fletcher Pratt. The Enchanter Reborn. L. Sprague DeCamp and Christopher Stasheff, eds. 1992.

  • de Camp, L. Sprague and Fletcher Pratt. The Exotic Enchanter L. Sprague DeCamp and Christopher Stasheff, eds. 1995.

  • Dick, Philip K. Welcome to Reality: The Nightmares of Philip K. Dick. Uwe Anton, ed. 1991.

  • Gaiman, Neil. Sandman: Book of Dreams. Neil Gaiman and Ed Kramer, eds. 1996.

  • Howard, Robert E. Cross-Plains Universe*. Scott A. Cupp & Joe R. Lansdale, ed. 2006.

  • Lovecraft, Howard P. Lovecraft's Legacy**. Robert Weinberg & Martin Harry Greenberg, ed. 1990.

  • Lovecraft, Howard P. New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos. Ramsey Campbell, ed. 1980.

  • Lovecraft, Howard P. Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos. August Derleth, ed. 1969; expanded edition, ed. James Turner, 1990.

  • Matheson, Richard. He Is Legend. Christopher Conlon, ed. 2009.

  • Moorcock, Michael. Elric: Tales of the White Wolf. Edward F. Kramer, ed. 1996.

  • Pohl, Frederik. Gateways. Elizabeth Ann Hull, ed. 2010.

  • Poe, Edgar Allan. Poe***. Ellen Datlow, ed. 2009.

  • Smith, Clark Ashton. The Last Continent: New Tales of Zothique. John Pelan, ed. 1999.

  • Tolkien, J. R. R. After the King. Martin Harry Greenberg & Jane Yolen, eds. 1991.

  • Vance, Jack. Songs of the Dying Earth. George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, ed. 2009.

  • Zelazny, Roger. Lord of the Fantastic. Martin Harry Greenberg, ed. 1998.

* There have been dozens of volumes of Conan stories, but this is the only collection I'm aware of that explicitly covers Howard's whole range of fiction.
**There have been dozens of volumes of Lovecraftian material; I'm not going to try to list them all.
*** Peter Straub's Poe's Children, published the same year (Poe's bicentennial), is deliberately not a collection of stories in the style of/subject matter of Poe, but instead reflects the ways in which horror has evolved from Poe's roots.

I have not listed the Heinlein tribute Requiem or The Worlds of Jack Williamson: A Centennial Tribute, because they are not fiction collections. (The Heinlein does contain one unfortunate, previously published Larry Niven story.) I am also not listing most collections of stories featuring corporately owned characters (e.g., various superheroes, Star Trek, or Star Wars) or all the Sherlock Holmes collections. I'm also not including sharecroppings such as the 2 volumes of "Incomplete Enchanter" short stories edited by L. Sprague de Camp and Christopher Stasheff in the early 1990s the multi-volume Man-Kzin Wars series; those seem different in spirit from what I'm looking at.

ETA: The line between "tribute to a living writer" and "sharecropped" is really blurry. I'm not sure there's any solid heuristic that would sort Hellbound Hearts or Sandman: Book of Dreams into the "tribute" bucket while labeling the de Camps as "sharecropped". So I've put the de Camps into the main list.

I've said before that I seek out tribute albums, because a great tribute album combines several great virtues: enthusiasm, coherence, polysemy, and awareness of the traditions of genius. Most tribute albums fall short of the mark, but the best of them (notably Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye, in honor of Roky Erikson, and I'm Your Fan, in honor of Leonard Cohen) are among my favorite albums of all time. I love the idea.

Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

Hugo Suggestions for Best Graphic Story, 2012

January 27th, 2013 (08:22 pm)
current mood: comical
current song: "Chiquinha (Jovino Dos Santos)", Cape Verde

After reviewing the 1000+ comics I read last year, I came up with a score of works that struck me as exceptional and that meet the qualifications of being science fiction or fantasy stories which were completed in 2012.

  • Avengers Academy: Final Exam, by Christos Gaga, Andrea DeVito, et al
  • Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection, by Gail Simone & Ardian Syaf
  • The Boys: Over the Hill with the Swords of a Thousand Men, by Garth Ennis and Darrick Robertson
  • Bulletproof Coffin: Disinterred, by David Hine and Shaky Kane
  • Castle Waiting, by Linda Medly
  • Chew: Space Cakes, by John Layman and Rob Guillory
  • Crossed: Wish You Were Here, by Si Spurrier and Javier Barreno
  • Demon Knights: Seven Against the Dark, by Paul Cornell and Diogenes Neves
  • Everything Burns, by Matt Fraction, Keirion Gillen, Alan David, et al
  • Infernal Man-Thing: Screenplay of the Living Dead Man, by Steve Gerber and Kevin Nowlan
  • iZombie: Repossessed, by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred
  • Locke and Key: Clockworks, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodrigues
  • Mind MGMT, by Matt Kindt
  • New Deadwardians, by Dan Abnett and I. N. J. Culbard
  • Prophet: Remission, by Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, et al
  • RASL, by Jeff Smith
  • Saucer Country: Run, by Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly
  • Snarked, by Roger Landridge
  • Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross
  • Valen the Outcast, by Mark Alan Nelson and Matteo Scalera

It was very difficult to select 5 finalists from this list, and if I did it again tomorrow, I would probably choose at least slightly differently. I will say I was biased towards works that will not get another shot at nomination next year.

Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

I know it doesn't work if you invoke it on purpose

January 21st, 2013 (03:48 pm)
current mood: behind on everything
current song: some JoCo wafting in from nellorat's study

I would do a much better job of keeping up with my LJ friends if I could get friends-locked posts exposed to me, and only me, in Google Reader. However, there is apparently no way to get Livejournal RSS feeds to show friends-locked posts that doesn't involve creating a publicly accessible feed name with my LJ name and password embedded into it.

(This is a deliberate invocation of Aahz's Law.)

Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

Memory and Time

December 2nd, 2012 (02:11 pm)

current mood: silly trickster, time is for kids
current song: "We Will Rock You", Queen

One of the pleasures of working on NYRSF is our weekly meetings, which are held at the offices of Tor Books in The Historic Flatiron Building^tm. A few months ago, I was walking down the hall and spotted Jim Frenkel, in for one of his quarterly visits from the wilds of Wisconsin, and we fell to talking. At one point, he mentioned that he had known one of his authors since before she was his assistant at Bluejay Books. We both laughed, because that was a long time ago--Bluejay lasted for about 3 years in the early 1980s, oh god, we're all so so old.

Later he mentioned his wife, who is the legendary Joan Vinge. And I had a weird realization that in some part of my brain I still think of Joan as a "new" writer... because she was a hot new writer just as I was starting to read science fiction seriously, just under 40 years ago. The 3 Vs of the 1970s--Joan Vinge, John Varley, and Vonda McIntyre--will forever be in my brain as "those hot youngsters" purely by the accident of me discovering them just as their careers took hold. Writers who came into prominence later--the early '80s hotshot whipper-snappers like Connie Willis, Karen Joy Fowler, and the Ace Specials Musketeers of William Gibson, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Lucius Shepard--still have a faint glimmer of "aren't these guys pretty recent?" but by the time they came along, my brain had adapted to the idea that new writers were a part of the life of the field.

Not sure if this has any significance beyond "Wow, memory plays many silly tricks with time." But, uh, memory plays many silly tricks with time.

Kevin J. Maroney [userpic]

Engineering in Liquid Form

November 26th, 2012 (08:07 pm)
current mood: wondering
current song: "The Valley of Malls", Fountains of Wayne

A few years ago, I was driving home after my weekly trip to the recycling center. A large Dunkin Donuts iced coffee sat in the cup holder by my right hip, still mostly full. I cleared a small rise leading to an exit ramp and had to brake sharply on the downhill side because there was a surprising line of cars backed up waiting to exit. The coffee cup popped straight up, turned 180 degrees in mid air, and fell, lid-down in the front passenger footwell.

The lid stayed on. A little coffee leaked out through the straw hole, but otherwise my car remained dry and not-coffee-scented.

It took me many months to realize why this was so flabbergasting, beyond the general sense of relief that somehow the worst failed to happen. The tight seal between the lid and the cup is a triumph of engineering. Dunkin has engineered the cup so that its servers (they don't use the word "barrista") can add ice, sweetner, milk, flavor syrups, and whatever else to the coffee within the cup, put on the lid, and shake the mixture until well-blended. To find such good work in a 3-cent plastic cup that is literally designed to be thrown away is a testament to the fact that the cost of good design is generally negligible. But it was still a wonder to see it in action.