wax banks

second-best since Cantor

Category: boston

The tower.

The tower touches the ground a couple of blocks away but we live beneath it all the same. The entire neighbourhood does. It’s like some Silicon Valley sociopath’s ‘disruption’ of the Eiffel Tower: of course they’d paint it alternating strips of red and white, of course they’d stick blinking lights every few feet. Of course it would double as communications infrastructure and tool of surveillance, transmitting the Unique Numeric ID and occasional bursts of thought or word from every area phone ‘user’ to wherever the monsters are.

‘Text messages’ are transmitted in place of dummy data that your phone would send to the tower anyway — they require no additional bandwidth, only a miniscule amount of additional processing power in the monster room. They used to charge $0.05 apiece for text messages, because they can’t live without your blood, and they want to live. Now we’re permitted to send ‘unlimited’ text messages. We’re grateful for no limits. We’re grateful for permission. We’re grateful. We’re grateful.

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Fly slightly less casual: My second X-WING tournament.

Alright, enough effusion. I went to the weekly Pandemonium tournament, had a wonderful time, but screwed up: grabbed the currently popular Dengar/Nym Scum list and copied the cards manually into an online squad builder, but left Guidance Chips off both ships — yeah, I know. Always check your work!

Anyhow, that probably gave away 12-15hp over the course of the night. Can you goddamn believe?

I crushed a new player, drew even with a superior player (flying his own ordnance-laden Firespray/Nym list) in a match that ended with a genuinely dramatic nose-to-nose Nym joust, and got tabled by a Chewie/Leebo tank list. Here’s how bad that last match was: Leebo had a Range 1 donut, and I didn’t get inside it even once. Afterward Ian (the pilot) gave me good advice (I forgot I had Glitterstim, failed to set up an alpha strike, and sacrificed my most potent weapon by not keeping Dengar’s arc trained on the bad guys at all times) and nicely complimented my maneuvering, which made my evening despite how pissed off I was at my poor final-match performance.

In short: a fantastic night out, which was only possible because my wife handled childcare and housecare duties for the evening. Thanks love! May the Force beNEVERMIND

Fly casual: My first X-WING tournament.

I played in tonight’s X-Wing Miniatures Game tourney at my FLGS, Pandemonium Books and Games in Central Square. It was my first grownup X-Wing experience; until tonight I’d only played with my son and his friends, and he’s six. C’mon now.

I played two matches, then kibitzed awhile and headed home early. How can I put this? It was fantastic.

For the first hour it was as if I had loaded dice; for the second the godly favour went to my opponent, which seems fair. I went 1-1. And I loved every minute of it, except maybe the bit where my TIE Striker boiled away into space after taking a single desultory potshot.

Among the nerds

I felt incredible social anxiety about going, but as my wife could surely have told you well in advance, I needn’t have worried. The X-Wing community’s official motto is perfectly chosen, and they mean it: ‘Fly Casual.’ This manifests in big and small ways — casually lending out tokens, helping each other out with rules questions, trusting your opponent to handle maneuvers and check ranges on the far side of the table, not freaking out when ships and obstacles get bumped… This was a seriously nerdy crowd, man, with a full quota of fat pimply nerd dudes in ill-fitting Star Wars shirts, and everyone was incredibly kind and relaxed to the extent that he or she was physically able. (The one player with the offputting inability to modulate his facial expressions or tone of voice turned out to be an easygoing helpful guy able to laugh at himself.)

It was a young crew, mostly guys in their 20s (the organizer is a redheaded trans valkyrie named Cat), and the vibe was unfailingly supportive and relaxed — again, to teh extent that everyone was able. My second opponent was (1) socially awkward, no question about it, but (2) endearingly trying his best, meaning any lingering awkwardness was my problem not his, plus he was (3) super easygoing about rules and norms and chitchat once we got past my thoroughly unheimlich lack of preparation or sang-froid.

It was glorious. Am I making that clear? As I said to Cat on the way out, if I’d had a store like Pandemonium as a kid, a community of nerds like that one (this one), I’d have been a completely different human being. At a minimum, maybe I’d have been less of a teenage grump.

I can’t wait to bring my son back to fly as partners.

And — this should go without saying, but times being what they are, nothing wonderful goes without saying — I’m so grateful to my wife for clearing space for me to go out for the evening.

This bit’s for X-Wing types

Here’s my 96-point dogfighting squad:

Carnor Jax — PTL + Royal Guard TIE + Targeting Computer + Stealth Device (34pts)

The Inquisitor — Lightning Reflexes + Tracers + TIE/v1 + Shield Upgrade (32pts)

“Duchess” : PTL + Adaptive Ailerons + Engine Upgrade (30pts)

It’s a casual homebrew list, can you tell? I wanted to be dodging arcs all sneakylike and using Carnor to shut down my opponents’ action-economy tricks, but I kept failing to avoid jousts, which worked against an ARC/Y-Wing list but failed utterly against a tricked-out Ryad/Inquisitor/OmegaAce list. The Defender hits goddamned hard! That tractor beam is murder; I’m not sure how to neutralize it, and don’t want to read too much about strategy online.

I was flying three fragile ships, and even with Stealth and Shield++ on Carnor, I needed to be more detail-oriented, um, than is my wont. Hot dice bore me through a Y+TLT assault in the first game, but Carnor was up against three target-locked killers in the second.

If I go back next week, I’ll proxy some Autothrusters for Carnor, or else try out a Fenn/Manaroo list, which looks super fun (Fenn will give me the daredevil experience I like best about X-Wing, and Manaroo will force me to manage resources and fly like an adult). On the other hand, do we really need to see more toilet seats in competitive X-Wing?

C’mon now.

(with pleasure)

It’s 60+ degrees in Denver all week, I’m sitting on the porch this morning in a t-shirt. We head to Denver Internat’l Airport. Security takes forever, we miss our flight. Book on another airline, $1,500 for the three of us. Horrible meal at O’Hare. Arrive Boston three hours later than planned. We’re in the long-term overflow parking lot — the RED LOT yes — but we get on the bus for the regular long-term lot, so that eats 30 extra minutes.

Boloco on the way home, I inhale my teriyaki chicken burrito.

Step in the house, my son washes his hands.

A pipe bursts.

Protocols.

Wellllllll, but perhaps we are about to discuss a paraphilia or two.

(This I wrote in mid-January, for reasons I can no longer recall, and wouldn’t admit to even if I could. Onanism? Yes, I suppose it is. But here you are, Reader(s), subjecting yourself to the one-man show. –wa.)

Notebooks

Light. As a man of wealth and^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H taste, I naturally keep a variety of notebooks — not quite ‘one for every occasion’ but I do cover the bases. I’m not a fetishist, really, but there’s a lite ritual quality to my notebook buying. I keep Leuchtturm 1917 books, which look like Moleskines but with (1) nicer apparatus in a bunch of small ways, e.g. the contents listing, page numbers, dots, rear folders, and (2) different proportions, which I much prefer. I’ve got a stack of used/filled Moleskines upstairs; they’re fine too.

The day-to-day is an A5 (5.71×8.27). Compared to trade paperback size (6×9), it’s a touch roomier on the line and the slight but perceptible squatness feels great in the hand. Big enough to feel like a proper notebook/journal, small enough to stack with works of plodding workmanlike lunacy like, say, Montauk Revisited, about which more later.

Last year I picked up an A4 notebook for (hahaha) big picture stuff and schematic notes — this is where, say, book outlines go. This is where my son and I are mapping our expedition to Thunderdelve Mountain. Dotted pages, twice the size of the A5. Taking it out feels decadent and faintly ludicrous — it monopolizes the table — but filled A4 pages feel just ace. There’s a curious psychic pressure to write only ‘impressive’ things in this book. I knew that’d happen, frankly, and that’s half the reason I bought the book, for that novel mildly unpleasant sensory/emotional weirdness. It does feel nice to write in a carefree way on a large canvas — ask any kid. There’s a biohazard warning sticker on the front. A notebook without a sticker feels like ostentation.

worldbuilding. I’ve also got a handful of pocket Moleskines around. What’s the term, ‘ubiquitous capture’ or somesuch? There was a genuinely humiliating cultural moment when people with expensive degrees used the term ‘hipster PDA’ to mean ‘a stack of 3×5 cards clipped together in your pocket.’ I wrote a book lampooning these people, called Fixing You. Excerpts appeared in a self-published essay/&c. collection of mine, Falsehoods, Concerns. Maybe someday I’ll rewrite the abysmal last chapter (with its decent last line) and publish the whole thing.

On 2 January, feeling resolute, I rode to Bob Slate to buy a planner. Instead I picked up this odd little ‘Some Lines a Day’ journal. The schtick is that each of 365(!) dated pages is divided into five sections, each with a little ’20__’ space for the year; you work through it over the year then start over, one section down, for five years. Neat little structure, and it’s a solid notebook — too thick to comfortably carry anywhere, though, and not made for full-on journal writing. But I don’t do that anyway.

Pens

Carry a highlighter. Trust me.

Two pens. First, Dr Grip, which uses G2 gel refills so it’s cheap and which has a big rubber grip so it feels nice in the hand. My wife and I have gone through a bunch of these over the years — for some reason they split in half easily. Totally worth it though. Actual pen fetishists have problems with G2s for reasons I can’t begin to fathom. To hell with those guys; normal human beings will do quite well with one of these.

Second, one of the silliest things I own, a Baltz pen (from the Kickstarter). It was a Christmas gift from a dear friend with more refined taste in pens than I can afford to have. With the original ink cartridge in, it was the most sensually pleasurable writing experience I’ve ever had: this perfectly weighted and proportioned bullet of a pen which moved like silk over skin. The refill cartridges I’ve used have been underwhelming.

Venue

I write most weekdays at Render Coffee, down in Boston on Columbus off Mass Ave. (Or I did, until the brake line snapped on my bike.) It’s about a five-mile ride from my house, straight shot, so when the weather’s decent the ‘commute’ is a perfect mental reset before and after work. One hesitates to call Boston biking meditative — everyone who drives here is a murderous asshole — but I enjoy the ride. Render serves good coffee, plays fine writing music (until mid-afternoon, when things get more intrusive), and serves excellent rosemary-potato breakfast sandwiches. I like the baristas, who with one or maybe two exceptions are extremely relaxed human beings.

herrod-on-the-reik, the steel city Failing that: the Cambridge Public Library (main branch) has loads of uncomfortable seats and the most natural light in town, Le’s in Harvard Square will sell you a day’s worth of calories in the form of the fried rice combination plate for $9, Life Alive in Central Square has killer vegan meals and is handily close to Rodney’s Bookstore and our local nerd store Pandemonium Books & Games, the BPL is a superb work environment when the jackhammers aren’t running (in summer the courtyard is Boston’s loveliest writing spot, though a bit antiseptic some days), and Cafe Luna puts out one of the heartiest salads in Cambridge.

Venue is important, though less so for me than for, say, a sculptor or painter or playwright.

Ears

Carry earplugs. ALWAYS CARRY EARPLUGS. They’re cheap, they work, and they instantly turn most urban environments into quiet writing environments.

Instrumental music, obviously; writing to other people’s words, sung or spoken, is hard. Stars of the Lid, Jon Hassell, certain Phish/Dead improv, Ornette’s Prime Time, Jonny Greenwood’s soundtrack stuff, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, the Solaris score, Frippertronics, Soft Machine, and recently a lot of Software.

Learn to make a proper seal with your ear buds — it’ll allow you to hear clearly at low volume and will restore proper bass response, so you won’t have to blow out your eardrums. Remember that hearing loss is generally irreversible, and take it from me that tinnitus is potentially dangerous to your mental health.

Books

I don’t know how people can carry only one book around and live with themselves.

atonement with the father. Lately I’m reading a bit of Joseph Campbell, Timothy Zahn’s original ‘Thrawn trilogy,’ some Barbara Tuchman, some Philip K Dick, some David Simon (I’m not convinced that I need to finish Homicide). I just read Kripal’s Mutants & Mystics, which I’m hesitant to review at present for complicated reasons, and the first two books of Viriconium by M John Harrison, which make me embarrassed for for nearly every SF writer who isn’t M John Harrison.

(The hero’s-journey pic is actually from Andrew Rilstone’s book on Star Wars, which I heartily recommend.)

With the Kripal book I started using David Seah’s book outliner, which I’d printed ages ago but couldn’t be bothered to actually try out. It works. Give it a go.

Blog

Cranium-shattering levels of genius wasted, WASTED, on absolutely vapid content.

Sunday Funday 1+1+1day

Woke to pale blue sky and the smell of my wife’s hair, got to cleaning the bathroom and living room floors, enjoyed a Skinny Zesty Egg White sandwich from Bruegger’s. My son ate the same. He’s such a little guy and I worry about his weight but he did well and was issued one of the chocolate chip cookies our adorable new neighbours brought over the other day. Added the next weekly line to my son’s Allowance ledger — he’s learning the hard way, but with good humour, that money doesn’t grow on trees — and with an unexpected $10 Frequent Buyer bonus burning a hole in our wallet we’re off to Henry Bear’s this morning to buy Legos or a book or, indeed, whatever the hell he wants.

Even brushing our teeth together is perfect. Even sorting the recyclable junk mail from the months-old medical bills. Even just lazing through the day.

For the first time in a long long time, I look at the bookshelf and see things I’m excited to learn rather than obligations I’ve dodged.

I hear him upstairs say, ‘Instead of armadillo can we do, like, “harmadillo?“‘

Once we were going to live forever, and now we know we won’t; nothing has been lost.

Alcohol.

Bourbon over ice, dark beer, ruby port, or we’ll need to talk first. A bottle of coconut rum got me into a situation with a redhead once. I had a period of drinking alone in my room, stupidly, bringing no relief from a situation with two brunettes. Threw a half-full bottle of Knob Creek into the sea at an all-night beach party. Summer 2000 I filled most of a thick notebook on two bourbons three (four?) nights a week at a terrible bar on Boylston Street. Now a single whiskey ruins my sleep. But I miss its sweet sting.

Thanks given.

Our friends’ two kids have between them an extraordinary array of allergies — the usual nuts/gluten/soy/dairy, but also beef of all things — plus some digestive fun to deal with on dad’s side. They can’t really eat at any restaurants in town and need to bring their own food when our crew gets together. My wife and I headed over to their place for Thanksgiving. It was wonderful: pumpkin pie with a slightly odd texture and outlandish snickerdoodle crust, delicious mashed squash/yams, cornbread stuffing, some sort of butteresque chemical experiment…

We drank wine while our kids wrestled and hollered. We dropped by the nearby school playground to talk and swing. Outside, it was 57F or so, and spirits were sky high.

My dad called, wanting to video chat with his grandson. He’s appearing in a production of The Crucible. He’s 81 years old.

Today a bunch of us families gathered at some friends’ house in Somerville. Seven kids, none yet six years old, raising hell on a 60 degree day with the windows open. We ate leftovers. One couple brought a sister and a future in-law, and they made (excellent) sushi. I brought one of my copies of Diplomacy and was the first player to stab another in the back — I played England, Germany was the victim. I thought of my dad and didn’t bother to hide my satisfaction as my armies landed in Holland and drove on to Kiel.

Our kids are beautiful and kind. Our crew of friends is full of good hearted people, curious and engaged, devoted to one another and to our children. We love and trust one another — most of our crew met back in the 20th century. We’re the family we’ve made.

I wish to hell someone would write a thinkpiece that’d help me deal with this nightmare.

Lasers in the jungle somewhere.

A housewarming party for beloved friends in Newton (but not the inexcusably chi-chi part), no lawn and not really enough room for all the guests but there’s a koi pond and we lay out blankets in the driveway at dusk. Nerd nights on Wednesdays playing German board games and talking about our spouses. Blueberry picking and a dip in the swimming pool at a commune full of medieval reenactors. July 4th on the lawn on a hill above Union Square, music playing, raucous laughter, the now-unfamiliar clink of wineglasses. Friday dinners with an unexpected group of new friends from preschool.

And everywhere we turn, our children — asking impossible questions, telling weird stories, hiding in the woods, hoarding only the blue Legos, forming tenuous ad hoc alliances against one another, feasting on freshly picked fruit, rolling their eyes at the sight of coffee cups, crashing one another’s balance bikes, dashing down the corkscrew ramp around the massive central tank of the New England Aquarium, pestering Central Massachusetts’s local fauna, repeating verbatim snatches of overheard profanity-laden argument, singing the occasional Queen lyric, scrambling up and down rock formations and the low-hanging branches of deciduous trees, absolutely breathtakingly beautiful and impossibly wise and good. Better than us, though we’re alright for the most part.

I wouldn’t’ve known to want this until five years ago, when I first heard my son’s cries and I transformed (as he did) into some unfamiliar new person.

Now it’s all I want, just about, and though I can’t quite believe it, it’s right here. We have what we need.

The Boston Public Library is a howling cavernous hell.

The carpets are quite nice, as is the new coat of paint on the walls. And there’s loads of sunlight.

But the constant teeth-rattling bellow of construction equipment rather undermines the otherwise cheery vibe.

This has been one of those ‘too long for Twitter, not quite substantive enough for any other venue’ kind of posts, thanks.