Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Tribble with Memories

This came in the mail today.

A bit of a backstory here. I remember telling Kate Paulk (and probably the Huns and whoever else got the baby pic mails) while Brandon was still in the hospital that we were trying to come up with a stuffed toy for him. Aff had suggested a tribble, before the little dinosaur nickname had stuck (that’s how early this was!) and I mentioned wanting to order one from Thinkgeek.

Rhys and I lost our baby boy to SUIDs (as far as we know so far) nearly two months ago; and he was only two and a half months old. So I mentioned to Kate (…vaguely. I have a hazy memory) that it would be nice if the tribbles came back in stock so I could ‘send’ one along with Brandon on his cremation. (Don’t worry; he had a teddy bear from his paternal grandparents, and a little stegosaurus cuddly from Mummy and Daddy.) Kate passed this on to the folks who wanted to do something for us / the kids / Brandon; and one of the folks from the Facebook discussions said he’d try to find one in Sydneycon, and swore he’d get one for me if he did.

Well, Aussies are awesome and stubborn folk and while he didn’t find one in Sydneycon, he did find one eventually and sent it. Purrsistence is not futile!

Thank you, Tim, for the Genetically Altered Tribble, hereby named Genni. It will ride on top of Emily the Emu as she perches next to Brandon’s urn. Thank you for caring so much for my boy, and for making me smile today. You are wonderful! People like you are blessings, and I am grateful to have, in this small way, met you.


On something different

I just heard about the latest odd kerfuffle about the latest Avengers movie via Twitter, with complaints about Disney supposedly not having figures of Black Widow. I don’t live in America, and it’s been a while since I went into the toy section of a department store. Christmas, I think, in fact, when we went shopping for the kids.

I’m not going to talk about that though, but the mention of figures reminded me about something I haven’t done but was planning to do:

Write about one of my hobbies, which is collecting figures (and the related hobby, artbooks from Japan, and artbooks in general.) I originally planned this as an exercise in writing, and since it’s a good idea as well as to keep my mind occupied (instead of constantly missing my baby boys who are now angels), I figure (ha!) I’ll make it as something of a review. I’ll do that next time. For now I’ll just talk about these, because I got distracted by a Skype call between my siblings and mum and myself.

Since the chatter about Black Widow is what kicked it off, here’s my figure of Black Widow, based off of Yamashita Shun’ya’s artwork. (Fantastic artist, by the way; go look.) Released by Kotobukiya, you can purchase them via Amazon (I prefer to buy via a Japanese store; because the shipping is cheaper for me.)

In retrospect, she looks a bit like Scarlett Johansson.

Here’s another one done by him; Kitty Pryde! I had to jump on this one because Kitty was one of my teenhood favourite characters.

This one of Deadpool was a surprise; the figure displayed in the place I buy them from had a sword, or a hand gesture (It’s not flipping the bird and I can’t remember what it’s called – forefinger and pinky raised).

Unwrapping the figure when it arrived, there was a little whiteboard and a whiteboard marker. It was funnier, so I put that in his hand instead of the other katana. Because it’s Deadpool XD

I have him on a shelf, looking like he’ll pounce on Briareos.

Unlike most other figures, Deadpool is held in place by magnets; and his base is a metal plate. Out of curiosity, I stuck him on the magnetic whiteboard to the right of me.

Starting to read the packet

I’ve decided to go after the short stuff first. That means short stories, novellettes, and novellas, fan writers, related works.

I could probably do the artist ones easily. I’m familiar with Julie Dillon’s work; she’s a regular contributor to ImagineFX magazine.

What I’ll probably do is print out a copy of the ballot to use as a scratch paper/list and tick them off as I go.

I think it’s super awesome to get two full anthologies (Thanks, Baen, Castalia House for your generosity) and Kevin J. Anderson’s book and The Goblin Emperor. I’ll also get  a chance to read The Three Body Problem since I’ve been hearing a lot about that. I’ve got Skin Game, and Rat Queens, as we’ve bought those books previously.

I did get to read the Samurai short story and thought it a fantastic read!

More when I’ve gotten properly caffeinated.

The Hugo Award Voting Packet is out

YES! The book packet for the Hugo Awards is out!

You can still pay and register to vote, if I am not mistaken. If you are interested, register here!

Downloading my packet now. Thanks to Book for the heads up via Twitter!

Spokane, Washington, 18 May 2015

A digital file of many of the Hugo Award nominees is now available for members of Sasquan to download at This free download is supplied by the creators and publishers of works that are nominated for the awards. It is free to all current Supporting, Attending and Young Adult members of Sasquan, and those who become members before 31 July 2015. Its purpose is to allow those who are voting on the Hugo Awards to be able to make an informed choice among the nominated works.

All of the short fiction and graphic novels are included in their entirety (((assuming Zombie Nation comes through!))). The packet contains the full text of three of the novels: The Dark between the Stars by Kevin J. Anderson, The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison, amd The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu. Skin Game by Jim Butcher and Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie are represented by extensive excerpts. One of the five finalists in the Related Work category is represented by an excerpt: Letters from Gardner, by Lou Antonelli. There is some material in each of the other categories except the Dramatic Presentations, but not everyone wanted us to include their work in this packet.

Voting on the Hugo Awards is open to all Supporting, Attending or Young Adult members of Sasquan. More information about voting and a ballot may be found at In order to vote, you will have to enter your membership number and Hugo PIN at Sasquan membership and registration information is available at

Interesting little surprises

I run into interesting people online – hell, my hubby is a person I met on the Megatokyo Story Discussions forum and Aff is my former clan leader now housemate. This is probably why most of my friends are online too.

Naturally, interesting stories come up and this is one of them. A discussion about Star Wars over at According to Hoyt lead to this delightful anecdote by Xenophon (who kindly allowed me to repost his story here.) Enjoy!

The first Star Wars film (episode IV) was a really interesting phenomenon in H’wood, not least because NOBODY (including the studio, director, producer, etc.) expected it to be a huge hit.

When SW was in production I was in High School living in Santa Monica, CA. Across the street from us lived a budding young producer who’d heard about SW through the grape vine. The buzz at the time was “It’s an old-school SciFi adventure film, with a twist. The big difference is that the milieu is lived in: beat-up, run down, dirty, and USED.”

Our neighbor **really** wanted to visit the special effects team working on the film. He figured out that the sfx team would really want to meet “the father of computer graphics” (a.k.a., my Dad). So he got my Dad’s permission to parlay Dad’s reputation into a visit for himself, my Dad, and me. Dad’s other “payment” for the use of his reputation was that we got our neighbor’s tickets to see SW at the theater belonging to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. No lines to wait in, and the best projection and sound systems in the industry at the time. At the time we made this deal, nobody expected SW to be a huge hit, so we had no idea what a big deal those tickets would be after the movie came out.

According to our neighbor, the reason he was so eager to visit the sfx team was that he’d heard that they were producing amazing results on a budget that he described as “half a shoe-string.” He really wanted to learn about how they were doing it.

We spent most of a school-day visiting the sfx guys. They too described the “big difference” from what had been done before as being the “run-down and dirty” look. Absolutely NO ONE claimed that anything about the *story* was special or different.

There was virtually NO CGI, as that was far too expensive for their budget. Instead, it was almost all old-school model building, etc. They did only one thing that they described as “high tech.” The fly-through of the surface of the Death Star (and the trench) was done by putting a camera on a computer-controlled arm, and moving it (extremely carefully!) past and through a BIG model of the DS surface and trench, doing stop-motion photograpy as they went. In this context, “BIG” means about 15 feet by 40 feet or so. The arm was an industrial robot arm they’d leased for the purpose, controlled by a PDP-11 (also leased). Apparently they were the first in H’wood to use this technique. The precision and flexibility of the computerized arm let them mount a video camera so they could preview the results and tweak the camera motions to the director’s satisfaction — all before shooting even a single frame of actual film. It also meant that late changes to the exact path of the camera required shooting *only* the specific frames that changed. Prior techniques required re-shooting the entire sequence.

They told us that the model-work for the DS surface was put together out of square modules about one foot on a side, fastened side-by-side on a grid. They had remarkably few different modules — four or five, IIRC (certainly a single-digit number) — and disguised this in part by rotating the modules so they’d be in different orientations to the camera. And yes, the sides of the trench were exactly the same modules, placed vertically. If you look closely, you can see that the trench is exactly one module deep and one module wide. This modular structure mattered because they needed nearly 1000 modules for the DS surface; about 75% in use at any time, the rest as replacement parts when they broke something.

We also saw some very amusing saved video camera footage in which mistakes in programming the arm caused the camera to run into gun towers. Or the wall of the trench. Or the floor of the trench. Including a few where they said things like (paraphrasing here) “and the point where we lose the video here is where the robot arm destroyed the video camera by shoving it through the 2×6 framing that holds up the bottom corner of the trench.” Oops! Apparently this represented another significant savings: destroying consumer-grade video cameras was WAAAY cheaper than destroying high-end film cameras and lenses.


Mother’s Day is all about the memories

I dreaded this Mother’s Day. It’d be the second one where I’m mourning the death of a son. I had originally looked forward to enjoying it with a new baby in my arms, but yesterday, I was working on another stage of packing away baby things. We can’t rush it. It hurts too much to pack it all away as quickly as we can. Rhys hasn’t disassembled the bassinet; and I’ve put the clothes and keepsakes in the last little cardboard box that Brandon slept in.

For those wondering what I’m talking about, Brandon did not like sleeping in a wide open cot. In the hopes of mimicking the plastic hospital bassinet he was used to, we put him in a shallow cardboard box padded firmly with folded blankets, and a couple of towels.


He liked this very much and it became something of a convenient co-sleeper as well. After all, you can’t risk rolling onto a baby if you bump into a cardboard box, and I could have my arm around him, and he could see me. It was easy to carry around and move about the house, and did not obstruct his sight of anyone, so he did not feel like he was alone or abandoned while lying in it. I showed it to my midwife and the visiting child healthcare nurse, and they thought it was a wonderful idea, plus the bedding was firm and flat, and we actively compared it to the cot mattress. Since he was getting more sleep and thus growing more, plus it allowed me to keep him close to me and Brandon felt more secure that way, when he outgrew his first box, we moved him up to a second one that came from Japan.

Nap time. Brandon is also outgrowing his box.

Brandon is outgrowing his box.

It just so happened that we were ordering some computer parts to repair a client’s computer, and Aff asked the company to send a tougher, sturdier box, explaining that the tiniest human in the household liked sleeping in them. The company complied, and that was the third and last ‘Brandon Box.’ In time Brandon would not have needed the close comfort of the box as he was growing enough that he would have had to move to the cot, and it would no longer feel so agoraphobia-inducing.


(I had also been told that it was likely that Brandon would need to wear a cranial band. There have been adorable ideas as to decorating them, as well as attaching a tiny, lightweight GoPro camera to the helmet. I’d thought about attaching a GoPro to our boy when he was old enough to crawl, but I hadn’t figured out how to put it on him so it would be from his point of view. GoPro is awesome for parents! Who knew?)

But other than moving around the house, sorting and putting away stuff and cleaning, it wasn’t too bad. I slept in, till afternoon (mucking up my sleep schedule for a while) My older children surprised me with this lovely statue, bought with their allowance.

Dragon sitting on a skull statue

Daddy helped pick it out.

close up of dragon statue

It’s sitting with some other lovely figures I’ve got here in my workstation area.

Display of gothic Anime figurines and Dragons

And I remembered the other Mother’s Day I had here, the first one. Rhys had deployed to Afghanistan, and it was a weekend. I woke up to Vincent proudly presenting me with a very overspiced scrambled egg, which I ate, after thanking and praising my then six year old boy. Aff trailed in his wake, holding a mug of coffee for me and the news that Rune was doing the dishes. After Vincent had run off to play, proud of his mission’s success, Aff told me the story behind the scrambled egg.

The fire alarm had gone off, (which I did NOT wake to. Eek.) and Aff jumped out of bed to see why. When he reached the kitchen, he stopped and took in the scene.

Vincent was standing on a wooden child’s chair to give him the extra height to let him reach the top of the stove. The frying pan sat there, dribbling egg that was cooking on the convection stovetop, probably with more egg on the stovetop than the pan. Eggshells were piled in the bin, and Aff found himself following a trail of egg splattered on the countertops, the wall, and following that trail up to the ceiling fan, which was splattering more egg onto the wall and ceiling.

He then described my firstborn reaching the kitchen and her face falling into this expression of pure and utter disgust at the mess.

Vincent had tried to flip the egg, which explained the partially cooked mess that was burning on the stovetop, and had set the alarm off.

After turning off the alarm, Aff somehow managed to ask my little boy, very calmly, ‘Why?’

It was Mother’s Day, Vincent explained, and he’d learned in school that on Mother’s Day, Mummies get breakfast in bed. Mummy likes scrambled eggs. He had watched me cook scrambled eggs. It was easy enough, and I’d let him flip the egg with the spatula while it cooked.

Aff helped clean up the mess (I found no trace of egg anywhere later!) and helped Vincent cook another egg, but left the seasoning up to my boy so it would be ‘his’ creation.

To comfort me (I think my expression was rather horrified) Aff sat down at the foot of the bed and regaled me with the story of when he and his younger brother made a surprise Mother’s Day breakfast for his mother.

They were younger than Vincent, and well, child logic makes sense if you hear it reasoned out:

Mummy likes eggs. Mummy likes sandwiches. She also likes to use chicken boullion cubes in cooking, so that must be yummy. Therefore, an egg and chicken boullion sandwich would be a perfect dish to serve up to Mummy as a surprise!

They served up the sandwich to their mother, mashing as many chicken boullion cubes as they could into the egg till it was a paste that could spread on the bread.

Aff’s mother took a bite of the sandwich, then turned to her proudly beaming youngest sons, and said “The egg is still raw, isn’t it?”

The youngest of the four boys she had birthed chirped, “We’re not allowed to cook!”

Aff tells me that she popped the concoction into a sandwich maker and managed somehow to choke the whole thing down.

He then regaled me with more stories of his friends and his attempts to make Father’s Day special for their daddies, but I’ll save them for the appropriate day. However, he did this with the intent of making me laugh, and illustrating that compared to their attempts, Vincent was an unqualified success in his Make Mummy Breakfast for Mother’s Day quest.

In a way living with me and Rhys has opened Aff’s world into an intimate, if painful view of how we live as a family – and I think he may have been a little surprised at how easy it was for us to include him. He’s Uncle Aff to our children, and he was definitely very much Uncle Aff to Brandon. Every so often he says he ‘misses the little guy.’

Even though we are reeling from the pain from Brandon’s death, we have moments of being able to smile.

I remember as we pulled out of the parking spot from the crematorium, a huge LPG carrying truck came up to the crematory proper. Rhys saw it first, and huffed out a laugh, saying, ‘Good on ya, little dude!’ It amused us to think of our boy being so tough he’d need a whole truck of gas to turn him to ash.

Morbid, perhaps, but he was a tough little guy who was growing well. It would have been wonderful to see how our bundle of grumpy rage grew, I remember how we were able to sit together, as a family, to watch Big Hero 6. After Brandon was full of milk he did not drift off to sleep as usual, but tried to twist around to watch. I handed him to his Dad, so he could have some Daddy time and I could stretch my legs. Brandon watched the movie, eyes huge, and clearly enjoying it, because he would coo, reacting to the colors and explosions and sounds. He wriggled through the closing theme, Immortals, and did not seem to want to rest until after the stinger showed and we were obviously preparing for bed. We’ll always remember how expressive he was. I’ve never seen a more perfect WTF expression ever displayed, and certainly Rhys and I never expected to see it on the face of our infant son.

For us, Mother’s Day will always be about the memories we have made as parents to the children, even though for two of our children, it was a very short time.

Continue reading

Back home with us

We got Brandon’s ashes back yesterday afternoon.

We cleaned up a spot for him, since his urn is actually kinda big and so he couldn’t sit in the same shelf top as Damien. I’d like to have a proper altar someday.

Rhys took the crib apart today. He moved my rocking chair into that spot. He hasn’t taken apart the bassinet.

It has been exactly a month since our youngest baby died and I can’t stop hurting.

I need to get away from this now before I smash very expensive computer equipment that costs probably in the realm of ten thousand dollars or more to replace.


I’ll see you again

My darling Brandon.
Picture of Brandon wearing shirt that says made with love.
How quickly he had become an irreplaceable presence in our lives.

There will always be a hole in our lives where he used to be, but he won’t be forgotten.

We bid another son goodbye on Thursday, and I’m finally numb enough that I can write a little about it.

I asked for photos of the flower arrangements. We kept the little blue teddy bear. I cried as Rhys and I gave Brandon a last cuddle. After a while – an eternity that felt like it went by too quickly – we tucked him into the last little box he’ll ever sleep in.

Picture of funeral flowers

Continue reading