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Changes and Goodbye

I just threw my wedding ring into the duck pond. I want you to know, Ms. Eley, that I will always love the woman I married. I had faith in her, and trust in her, and she justified that faith and trust many times over. She was there for the best times and the worst times of my life. She made me a better man.

You are not that woman. I don't know what happened to you, or why. I'm sure I played a role in the changes that made you so afraid, so unable to give or receive trust and love. For my part in the hurt and fear you're feeling inside, I'm sorry. But I don't think your hurt is about me. Your fear isn't my fault. And it only makes things harder for both of us if I keep believing I can help you, or that you'll ever again treat me with the kindness and respect you gave me for seventeen years. I'll miss my Anna for the rest of my life. But she isn't coming back.

I would like to be friends. I am going to stop assuming it's inevitable, but I am here if you ever want me. Treat me like a decent human being, and I will do the same. And of course I will be the best father I can possibly be for our children. You're a great mother too. I don't think we've ever doubted our mutual love for Alex and Harper, and I do trust that our relationship about the children will remain positive and constructive.

I think I'm ready to give up on you now. I will try to be more businesslike and less emotional toward you from now on. My faith and trust are no longer extended. I suspect that will come as something of a relief.

Whoever you are, I'm sorry for the inconvenience I've caused you. If you ever run across my Anna inside you... Please tell her I said goodbye. I wish I could tell her myself.

Thank you for your time.

- Stephen Eley

Shop Vac

So I went to the Jonathan Coulton concert last week. With my dearest (afeley ), my sweetie (kitanzi ), her husband (autographedcat ), and a dozen or so of our closest friends.

(Concert summary follows, but most of this is analysis of a single song and the reactions to it.)Collapse )


 "Mr. Penn, before I met Jessica I was engaged to a young woman whose parents insisted that prior to our marriage we speak with a Jesuit. They wanted to convert me, and had in mind putting me under the fire of a large gun. The engagement was broken off later, for other reasons, but we did manage to see the Jesuit. We had lengthy discussions and disputations. He became a rabbi."
 — Mark Helprin, Winter's Tale


This cartoon by A. Payne (who is awesome) pretty much sums up my time so far:

Photo 19

(That isn't a particular girl, by the way. Or if it is, Payne didn't know her and I'm not tellin'.)

Having a great deal of fun. Making a lot of friends with the staff folk, and while they all deny it, this may be the best-organized smallish con I've yet seen. Great guests, diverse schedule, best con suite ever (free meals and beer for all con attendees!), a clear badge-ribbon signal system for those of us who like to flirt... It's a win. I'm definitely going to get Anna to come with me next year.

And you should come, too. Yes, you. I'll be looking for you!

Steve Eley, by Cheyenne Wright

Holy crap. I just got my first piece of fan art:

Steve Eley

It’s a birthday present by Cheyenne Wright, colorist for Girl Genius and frequent narrator for Pseudopod and all sorts of other coolishness.

He gives me more hair than I have in real life. And I’ve started to put on more weight again. (Last night’s birthday dinner at the Highland Tap didn’t help.) But still. I’m stoked.

Now I’ve got to find some suspenders.


"How do I know," asked Isaac Penn, "that you are not moved merely by vanity or curiosity. How do I know that you aren't here for the sake of the money in this family?"

Peter Lake was in full possession of himself. "I was an orphan," he said. "Orphans don't have vanity. I'm not sure why, but one needs parents to be vain. No matter what my faults, I tend to approach things with a certain gratitude, and those who are vain have little ability to feel grateful. As for curiosity, well, I've seen a lot, too much in fact. Curiosity has no bearing on the matter. I don't know why you brought it up."

"And money? Do you know why I brought that up?"

"Yes, I thought of the money. It excited me." He smiled. "It really did. I had escalating dreams--of being your right-hand man; of doing all the things that men of power and wealth have occasion to do; of wearing a different suit every day, and clean linen. I became a senator, President. Beverly lived. Our children were great in their turn. The articles on us in the encyclopedia were so long that they took up most of the volume 'L.' All around the country there were monuments to me, of marble as white as snow. In the end, I confess, I was flying about the universe. Beverly and I touched the moon, and flew off to the stars. But, mind you, after a few hours of this, there was no place else to go. After just a few hours of walking with kings, I was very glad to be Peter Lake, of whom no one has ever heard, completely anonymous, free.

"Mr. Penn, the only people who want that kind of stuff are those who are too stupid to imagine it and then be done with it. Now, this may sound strange to you, sir, and it's new to me (within the last few days, as I see it), but I want responsibility. That, to me, is the highest glory. And I love Beverly."

--Winter's Tale, by Mark Helprin

The Girl

I’ve known kitanzi   for years. We’ve run into each other off and on, maybe a couple times a year, at various friends’ houses. She remembers that I asked her out the first time we met. It was at a party at Mark and Rachel’s, one where Dance Dance Revolution was the focal point, and given that I was younger then, I must have been either wired from silly dancing or moved by her to unusual boldness. I told her she was cute and asked if she’d like to have lunch. She declined; not out of any displeasure at the invitation, it was just that she didn’t know me.

She remembers this. Her husband remembers it, and my wife remembers it, and Mark and Rachel remember it. They’ve all told me about it with some amusement. I did not remember it at all until I was reminded. My memory sucks.

Thanksgiving Day, a couple of months ago: I’d finally gotten tired of feeling sorry for myself in the wake of the second heartbreak from the Professor, and I felt like coming out of my shell and being social. Our friends Brian and Suzan were having a friends’ Thanksgiving feast, and we went with Anna’s brown sugar brownies. Kit and her husband (autographedcat  ) were there too. She’d brought this pumpkin trifle with an insane amount of rum in it. As usual, I thought she was really cute. I felt there was a bit of spark there. (Yes, before I tried the trifle.) I stayed close to her through most of the evening, and before she left I asked her to lunch again. This time she said yes.

Since then we’ve bumped around in the dark, we’ve seen dead people, and she’s introduced me to her world (Emma Bull and Tanya Huff are very cool people to hang out with, by the way). I’ve been reading to her: some of my stories, and then Gormenghast. She’s smart, she’s mature, she’s enthusiastic, she’s a clear communicator, she loves bad puns, and she kisses well. I didn’t think I’d ever meet a woman who appreciated my puns.

Anna likes her, and Rob likes me. I can’t go to their place without being lent more books and movies. Last time they sent me home with Animaniacs to entertain Alex. Ah, nostalgia. And I’ve paused from reading their copy of Winter’s Tale to write this. It’s a breathtaking book.

Things have gone very easily and very well. For a while I kept thinking it was too easy. She the same thing: she felt like she was waiting for the other shoe to drop. It took me a while to figure out why I felt this way. It’s simply the first polyamorous relationship I’ve had that didn’t start out with a handicap. She’s local, and we’re both poly-experienced, and there are no spousal trust issues on any front. Everything’s out in the open, including our past baggage. It’s refreshing and wonderful, albeit not what I’m used to. (She kissed me on our first lunch date because she felt like it? It’s supposed to be harder than that! There’s supposed to be drama!)

I don’t doubt that at least some of it is rose-colored NRE glasses. It won’t continue drama-free forever. That’s probably fine. We seem to be comfortable with each other’s personalities and intentions, so hopefully we’ll make it through that. And if not… Well, I’m having fun right now. I’m feeling more balanced this time, I’m not going overboard and losing sight of work or family. So I think it’s all good.

I just wanted to talk about her a bit, since I hadn’t yet. She’s probably blushing like hell as she reads this. I hope she’s doing it at work, on her iPhone; it amuses me to think of her trying to hide her buoyancy from her coworkers, and failing. If I’m right, she’ll have her revenge on me later.

And that’ll be fun too.

You’re cool, Kit.

Minor prescience

Years and years ago, when we first saw Timecop, my friend Rich and I started making fun of what we perceived to be the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie pattern. Thin plot, excuse to start fighting, Van Damme gets more and more hurt and keeps fighting until things go ludicrous. We decided the ultimate distillation of the JCVD experience would be to dispense with the plot and just get on with the fighting. The whole thing would happen in one warehouse-sized room, and for 90 minutes bad guys would just come at him. He'd get injured, he'd lose arms and legs, until finally he's limbless and hanging by his teeth from a chandelier and still kicking ass anyway. Together we joyously shouted:

"Jean-Claude Van Damme is Jean-Claude Van Damme in Jean-Claude Van Damme: The Movie!"

We thought this was hilarious, and for a couple of years it was a recurring joke.

Then today I stumble across a movie blurb for this:

Yeah. It actually happened.  Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Jean-Claude Van Damme in a movie that's effectively named "Jean-Claude Van Damme." From trailers on YouTube it looks like the plot isn't quite what we'd predicted, it looks to be a self-referential comedy of some sort, but still. Seeing it made my head swim.

Now if only my predictions for a made-for-iTunes pay-per-episode continuation of Firefly would come true...


Beauty is more important in computing than anywhere else in technology because software is so complicated. Beauty is the ultimate defense against complexity.

- David Gelernter, Machine Beauty: Elegance and the Heart of Technology
(via the 37 Signals blog)

End-of-year thoughts

(Yes, so it's five days after New Year's.  Your point?)

2008, for the most part, sucked.  It sucked rigorously.  It sucked Dalmatians through a garden hose.  Were it not for certain events and people, it would trap light within its event horizon.

I can say with full sincerity that it was the worst year I've ever had.  I began the year deeply in love with three women who loved me too.  I lost one of those relationships on January 1, and another a month later, on my birthday.  (That second loss reverberated throughout the year, with echoes and harmonics that kept some of the joy, and then a lot more of the pain, fresh and sharp and kept me from letting go for far too long.)  I did keep my marriage and my family intact and strong.  Anna and I have had our problems this year, but it hasn't threatened the idea of us.

I lost two jobs.  One was absolutely my fault.  I deserved to get fired; I bought my boss lunch that day and thanked him.  The other one wasn't, it was just a breakdown in the client/contractor relationship.  But it led to my current gig, which is the best job I've ever had.  A year ago it would have been ludicrous to suggest that Anna would have to warn me off of overworking.  Now I find myself motivated to give much more than I need to, and I'm loving it.

It was a bad year for my mental health.  It was the first year that mental health was even something I needed to think about.  I had some pretty bad moments.  I went through three psychiatrists, two therapists, and a neuropsychologist who called me "fascinating."  (I was not flattered.)  But I did manage to scrape through without seriously hurting anyone else, and only moderately hurting myself.  My ADD is being treated, and I suppose I am lucky in that my depression and anxiety are the kind that make me go "Wow, depression and anxiety suck, I'd better solve this" rather than wallow in them.  Or maybe it's just me being stubborn.  Whichever, I'm generally doing better.  Lexapro and Buddhist meditation work well together.

The year sucked.  It sucked enough that when Anna asked me quite innocently on New Year's Eve what I thought of 2008, it gave me an odd sort of panic attack and nearly fucked up my evening.  I didn't want to think about it.  I wanted it behind me.  I wanted to carry the good stuff with me and not look back at where it came from.

But of course that isn't really helpful.  And it isn't honest.

There is good stuff.  I'm feeling like I'm starting 2009...  Well, I don't want to say "In a good place," I thought that at the end of 2007 too.  But I think I'm stronger.  I know myself better.  A lot better in some ways.  I'm more aware of healthy balance.  I'm employed at a stable place where I'm empowered to be creative and succeed.  I have a new relationship with a cute, smart woman whom I've known for years (hi kitanzi  ) and proving so far that I can have fun and be emotionally open without going overboard.  I am passionately in love with my wife and fiercely in love with my kid.  I haven't kicked all my bad habits (staying up too late, for instance) but I'm taking some steps.

I usually have to make mistakes and get slapped for them at least a few times before I really learn.  Last year was a whole lot of mistaking and slapping. 

This year I'm in the game.