Garden Spider

I need to get these pictures up, but the most interesting thing that's happened to me in the last week is the giant garden spider in our back yard. Just do a Google image search for argiope spider. For those who don't like spiders, don't do it. I didn't post a picture here because I know there are some Marys out there who run for the hills when they see a little white-spotted jumping spider, so this thing'll scare the piss out of you folks. Me? I ran screaming like a little girl when I saw it, and I like spiders. I was mowing the back forty, head down, focusing on the task at hand. I dodged a pair of crab orb spiders and proceeded along the back fence when I tweaked a web that tied the fence to the ground. What scrambled and gyrated around in the web looked like a fucking helicopter in my peripheral vision. It was so black and so large I feared I ripped open a lesser gate to hell and loosed the Kraken upon the world.

Needless to say after leaving the mower running and sprinting 50 feet, I was able to calm down and assess the situation. I approached the curiosity to find the above mentioned Argiope, or Garden or Writing, or Zipper spider. The more I looked, the more my reptile brain was able to go back to managing the mundanity of everyday tasks and allowing my higher functions to appreciate the grace and beauty of the creature. I still got a small chill each time I got near it, but it was a manageable thing.

You have to understand, this is the biggest spider I'd seen outside a zoo and easily the biggest that didn't have a good inch of Plexiglass between us. It, at any moment, could have dropped into the grass and disappeared, waiting for me to walk barefoot and carefree through the lawn where it could sink fangs the size of my pinky-nail into a fleshy, unwary toe. So yeah, even I was a little spooked.

The days went by, LMA saw it, Mrs. A saw it, friends saw it. It became less and less a monster, and more a guardian of all things leafing. Garden spiders are great things to have in your garden. They eat a lot and are generally pretty docile. They don't see well and just sort of hang upside down all the time. I even contributed to her feeding. While continuing to mow, I disturbed a rather large grasshopper. The bug's bumbling flight took it directly into the spider's web and I was able to witness firsthand the ensnaring and paralyzation of the heedless insect. It was the first time I'd seen a spider wrap up and inject venom into another bug, again, outside of a zoo or the National Geographic channel.

I thought about catching it and calling Texas A&M to see if they wanted a good specimen, but then changed my mind. It's a common spider and does more good for itself and for our yard doing what she's doing that being a preserved curiosity.

Today was Yogi's first haircut. Even though both the parents agreed that his hair was cute when long and saddened when it was made short, we got him a trim and were allowed to keep the locks with a certificate stating that Mrs. Austin is allowed to cry when her little boy gets his first haircut. As if the Hawaiian shirt, jean shorts, playing in mud and constantly falling down aren't good enough boy indications, at least now his hair matches his gender type.

I just watched Kirosawa's Yojimbo with Toshiro Mifune. I'm now a big Mifune fan, even though I've seen him before in 1941 and Midway, I didn't realize who he was or that he was such a big name in Japanese film. Of course I've got a ton of Kirosawa movies on Netflix that I have to get through, most of them with Mifune.

House is coming along. All the rooms are done. Now we branch into side projects; planting trees and flowers in the back, finishing the attic space and set up all the Lego sets I have, painting kids and other rooms, etc. We really like and it, luckily, this month we can afford to live here. I'll keep you posted about next month.

I officially quit smoking about 6 days ago. Normally I would tell people I haven't smoked in X amount of days, but it was rationalization lies. Rationalization lies are ones you make that even you believe. I believe I'm a non-smoker because I don't have but 1 or 2 a day, maybe none on the weekends, thus, when people ask, I say I haven't had a cigarette in...blah blah blah . Short of it is, I haven't had a cigarette since Sunday of last week and haven't really wanted one. The hardest part is at work and every couple hours you need a break. Well there's ping pong and foosball and some video games and the net to surf or scripts to write, so I haven't needed distraction. What is needed is to get up and stretch your legs and get some fresh air, as it were. That I haven't found a replacement for.

I can feel the momentum of the Chicago convention slowly but steadily ebb and I'm starting to fear the eventual death of my desire to do another book until it's too close to a convention or show or other arbitrary deadline to use the time effectively. There's a local show in Austin in March for which I'm aiming and I hope to have two books done. However, I'm stuck and stalling and spinning around a frantic and yet stagnant combination of self imposed distractions, actual lack of hours in the day and a general feeling of "Who the fuck cares." That's not to say I need tons of affirmation or I quit, but I was talking to a Canadian friend (I don't think we should hold that against him) and he said that on the comic book message board I go to, more people should have bought it. I'm the second highest poster on the board and I moderate a pretty active forum as well as contribute to two or three other major projects on the board. I'm always available for a critique or advice or help, and when I announced my book was done and how to buy it, 7 people bought it online. That includes my father-in-law.

Now, again, I don't need accolades or tons of cash or the false words of millions, but 7? Actually, come to think of it, it was less. Another board I go to (all the Harvey Turnbolt guys) came through great. There's only about 10 of those guys and I think 5 bought something. Leaving just 2 or 3 on Penciljack.

Reason I think that's crap is because there are people on that board who were there in the dark times, before the Empire. They got their start there and owe a lot of their success to the fan base they generated on that site. And now, they talk of independent artists and writers like they're the life blood of the industry, but when push comes to shove, they don't support those who supported them.

That's what makes me upset. That and somehow, after "selling" maybe 15 books officially, I only have some thirty odd books left and very little feedback.

So, if you're reading this (and you aren't, cuz you don't waste your time with folks like us), for shame. For shame at not giving a small guy a chance by just reading his book. It doesn't make me want to rush out and by yours, I don't care how large the divide in production value.

Battlestar Galactica kicks ass.

Carry on.


It's alive! IT'S ALI-IVE!

Our web sites are back up. We ended up not needing the Call-a-Nerd service and they didn't call us back after the first visit anyway. Between myself, Mrs. A and Mr. IG, we got it up and running. We even got the new laptop into the mix. Both sites are up, all machines are up and current. The office itself is shaping up nicely.

I'm going to try and learn myself some database functionality and maybe some ASP or PHP so I can set up a message board for my little book. It'll be dead for the next year, I'm sure, but it'll give me a place to post updates, art and what not. Yeah, I have a Live Journal account and this place and the site to post artwork, but I'm thinking I'd like something where people can talk to me about the story specifically and not just wait to see a new post about it. Plus it'll help me learn some technical skills I can use on my job.

Yeah, that's it.

I saw a thing on TV today about The Passout Game. Apparently a boy was found dead, hanging from a tree after doing this. For those not in the know, this "game" is a childhood activity in where you basically strangle yourself or otherwise cut off oxygen to your brain until you passout. When you come to, you get a small rush and tingle.

So I was watching this and I told my coworker that I had done this as a kid and I thought everyone did it. Turns out, according to law enforcement, it's something today's parents may not be aware of. I'm going to call bullshit on that. I think as soon as you find out that you can do this as a kid, you try it. And since there have been kids around for, um, ever, it's been pretty common. I also think you grow out of it pretty quickly, but that may just be my experience with it.

I haven't done crack or meth or coke, but I have held my breath until I passed out and then come back with a bit of euphoria. I remember several instances where I did it standing up holding onto the bathroom sink only to have crumpled up and hit my head as I fell.

Now, I don't think I'm a deviant because of this, but honestly, it may be why I'm not an Ivy League graduate, or why I didn't relate the gymnastic move the cartwheel with an actual cart wheel, or any number of similar intellectual faux pas.

I just think it's funny that the media has glommed onto this. Yes it's sad and dangerous, but this coming from the same people that gave us "Paris to dump her dog." Aren't there any real stories out anymore? I was waiting for the Shark Attack Summer, but I guess I'll settle for "Shit parents did as kids and are now shocked their kids are doing it."

Yeah, don't hold yer breath.


The Mundanity

Welcome back to regular updates, selectively tailored for friends and family, guaranteed to bore random readers into such a stupor that they may be unable to find the Back or Home buttons and end up becoming our next great fans.

First off, the oil change guys have a new sign and new cardboard cut-out. Darth Vader is most displease with your apparent lack of oil changes. I'll try to get a crappy cell phone picture.

So Mrs. A's birthday was Saturday. She turned an undisclosed age. Let's just say it starts with TH and ends in IRTY. That's right. Three decades ago, Mrs. Austin was brought into this world and the doctors didn't have the sense to warn the rest of us. Her birthday was spent jumping out of a plane. If you've already checked Flickr, you've seen the pictures. A very calm, very mellow Mrs. A went up some 2 miles before leaning out of a plane and calmy decending back to Earth at 120 mph. Chute opened, landed on her butt (to save her bum knee) and everything was right with the world. She would later describe it as "...the most peaceful five minutes of my life." She also said it was the best sex she ever had, which made me flinch a little, but that's a different entry that starts with D and ends with IRTY.

That evening we went with Mr. and Mrs. Invincible Girl, aka Mrs. A's brother and sister in law, to the Melting Pot and proceeded to get hammered while eating fondue. It's always a blast to go there because you have to sit and eat slowly. It makes for good conversation. No wonder the 70's Swedish swingers loved it so much. It's deliciously decadent and everyone should experience it at least once. Not the swinging part, the fondue, you sickos.

The remains of the weekend was spent swearing at our home network setup. After constant rebuilds of machines and (I'm sure) annoying calls to Mr. IG, we ended up calling a service. I won't say who because they haven't finished yet. It was a little disconcerting when after a couple hours the guy said it was a difficult issue to resolve and he'd have to call a bigger geek. As if I wasn't a big enough geek, now I have to hire geeks to help me in my geekness.

I have a mixed view of my role as tech support for Mrs. A. To me it's been a year long struggle to setup and keep up multiple machines on different operating systems, different network interactions and different purposes. When you have to restart all machines because the laptop can't get online, it's a problem with your setup.

Mrs. A seems to think that the glass is more than half full. I was able to keep the site up and the network stable enough for her to earn some money and be able to pay for the upkeep and the eventual overhaul. Very optimistic, but I still feel impotent that we had to bring someone in. It's all that Alpha Geek Male hormones I guess.

But, good news is the house is coming together. Got all the home theater stuff worked out, sort of. I still can't record TV, but I got it back to the way we had it at the old house, plus it's in a smaller room so the sound is a little better. Lord of the Rings is pretty awesome to watch now. We still have to set up the office, a task to which I'm not anticipating with anything but trepidation. (That was a terribly passive sentence, sorry writers.)

The kids are unchanged since we last spoke. Gregory is still having breathing issues. They've changed his medicine a couple times and he's had a few visits to the Pediatrician. He'll have to see a Pediatric Pulmonary and Pediatric Cardiologist for his little murmur and his breathing and in the meantime he's on steroids and some medicine in a nebulizer. For those who remember the first go round with the nebulizer, as you can see it's been a good year long fight with this and we just want him to be better. He wakes up every morning coughing, he starts wheezing if you play with him too much. It's just sad that he's not even a year old and he has breathing problems. It just doesn't seem that fair.

Well, I won't get mopey about it. I'm sure he'll grow out of it given time and proper treatment.

Oh, by the way, I hate computers.


Chicago, Chicago, not a toddler town.

We're back. That had to have been one of the worst trips I've ever taken. It's no one's fault, just a crappy string of things that happened. It was like every stand-up comedian's routine was played out for us in the 4 days we were there. I don't even want to recap, there was so much.

I'll talk about the convention a little, but only just. It wasn't much better than the travel.

I printed 100 books thinking that in previous years I'd done a minibook, black and white, kinko's special and sold maybe 15 books. This year, I'll have a fully realized script, color cover, professional printing...nothing. Zip. I sold one book at the convention. Mrs. A says I sold three, but I must have been away for the other two.

But shit, I'm arguing over two books. Out of 100. I sold a few online to some of my buddies at Penciljack, and traded books with PJers at the con, but strangers buying my book? One. I sold one piece of art, did two requests and sold one sketch. All this is the paying stuff. I think I drew about 40 pictures the whole time, other people's sketch books, just stuff to keep busy, but sales were freakin sad.

I'm off major conventions. I'm off them until I'm at the signing end of a huge line or have a fan base that would facilitate paying for my trip with the sales of the books. Other than that, there's no reason for me to go.

And here's why:

The numbers haven't come in yet, but I know when I was there two years ago, there were 65,000 people in attendance. That may break down differently for visitors or merchants, but leave it at "fuck-load of people."

The problem is, everyone is there to get noticed. It's like a young writers convetion with no publishers and only writers all hoping to make some kind of break or get some notariety or make some money, but only having other writers around doing the same thing. So, you end up buying some book because you support the small guy, but you as another writer are not the small guy's target.

I met some of my online people and that was nice, but the whole event was tainted by the fact that I'd spent a ton of money to go sit in a loud, crowded, weirdly lit cavern surrounded by questionable people for three days, doing nothing but draw for my own amusement.

So I'm off big cons. I'm not there to get signatures, or go to panels by people I don't know with 3,000 of my closest friends, or by books and toys and shirts. I want people to read my book and aside from maybe 10 people, 9 of which I gave the thing to in exchange for their book, no one has or will.

Maybe I'll write something when I'm not having to rebuild a webserver that's been down for who knows how long.


Project: Gemini #1

Well, it's official. Mrs. A went to the printer yesterday and picked up a box of 100 copies of my comic. If you've never had a bunch of literature you've worked on come back from a printer, imagine that scene from Back to the Future when the later, cooler, George McFly opened a box with his first science fiction novel. It's just like that. A brown box, with some packing material inside and a small stack of copies of your baby.

So, for all you folks who'd like to buy a copy, you can go here and plunk down your hard earned couch change for a copy of a small press comic book.

And now the fun begins. I plan on doing this as much as I can. The work was arduous but the result is a triumphant reward. I accomplished something I've wanted to do for almost 15 years, and it's taken me that long to do it. By myself, I've written and drawn a comic book. I still can't believe it.

But I can't sit on my laurels. I have at least 5 more to do with just this story before I can move on. Next time, I'll have better art, less printing costs, and maybe even distribution. Instead of 100 copies, maybe I'll get 200, or 500. Maybe I'll distribute online and have a few hundred people buying it. By next year's Chicago convention, I'll have 2 more books to sell, maybe 3.

It's stuff like this that makes me happy. That's a really weak and poorly constructed statement, but it's exactly how I feel. Mrs. A's photography makes me feel the same way, each time she gets a new booking I get a little smile.

Plus, I have to keep up with the Joneses. Mr. Darn Tootin himself just got an agent for his book. Good news again from Central Texas. He's a talented writer with a pretty pointed wit and I'm pretty happy for him. (I'll be happier when it's written, Rob.) ;)

So tomorrow we head to Chicago and spend three days immersed in total geekdom. I know Mrs. A has seen pictures and heard stories, but I still don't think I've been able to paint an accurate picture of the level of dork and nerd and freak that will be seen on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I write and draw my own books and I'm impressed with the abandon with which people fling their inhibitions. It's almost a cathartic release from the 362 other days of suppressing their inner geek and they are given ample time and space to don small skirts and alien antennae and proton accelerators and mandalorian armor and capes and bone bustiers and walk around like it was Tuesday afternoon at the local grocer. The conversations will all be about comics. The lectures, the movies, the guests, the merchandise. It will all be about the dorkiest of the dork.

I hope she still respects me in the morning. Who am I kidding, I don't think she respects me now.

See you on Tuesday with pictures.


This old house.

Well, it's been over a week since the move and things are progressing better than the cable installation fiasco belied. We're finding that things in the new place just seem to fit. Weird objects, previously under appreciated photos, junk, tools, knick-knacks, rugs, they all seem to have a home.

I mentioned I was going to count outlets and light switches, and I will do so. It's hard to be taken seriously by Mrs. A while walking around with a notepad making tally marks every 10 feet. She knows what I'm doing and it's frankly embarrassing for both of us, so I try to do it when no one's around.

37 power outlets on the first floor, not counting the garage or outside.

The photo staircase project is at an end. We had some 60+ black and white 5x7's that needed to be hung and hang them we did. Mrs. A did most of it, I was brought in for the top row. It's a stunning display.

I also got some chairs for the "media room" or "tv room" or whatever we're going to call it. They're red. Yeah I know, red furniture. Well poo poo convention, I say. Live large, live bold, buy red chairs. Mrs. A gave me free reign to furnish that room and I wanted something different. It'd mod, baby. It'll go great with my pinstripe suit and mascara. (Ok, too much Velvet Goldmine.)

We also got a dog house for Chimaera, after two horrendous rain storms. We're such good owners.

We also wadded through the morass that is the Home Owners Association documentation; a three ring binder divided into roughly 12 categories totaling over 500 pages. Most of it talked about who does what and where the money goes and office hours and locations and stuff. We were worried about the restrictions. Man, this reads like a manifesto of Eastern European origin. I realize it's just to cover basis and if you don't like it, you can leave, but man, they're talking about lawns in inches and hedges to exceed certain heights and you have to get approval to plant a tree and playscapes or trampolines must not be seen from the street and you can't leave a car on the road for more than 24 hours and on and on. Don't get me wrong, it's a lovely street and I'm sure the neighbors are nice (we met one already, he seemed...excited) but when I was cutting the grass yesterday I felt like people were looking out their windows wondering why on Earth I hadn't hired a service.

But, no Tejano music at 1am, so that's good.

Oh, if anyone is good with Audio Video stuff, like specific hookups given a fixed number of components in order to make certain functions available, give me a shout. The red chair room is alive with cables.

This week is also Chicago, so we'll have pictures and such from the convention as well as surrounding attractions if time permits.