Introducing a dog to a house of cats

Introducing a dog to a house of cats.

We’re doing it now. Minnie is still too much of a pup to be allowed unrestricted access to the house. We keep her on leash, or in the kitchen with us present, during waking hours indoors. And she sleeps crated.

Sammy and Minnie have become great pals, wrestling with each other. Often too boisterously; we have to keep an eye on them. Sammy can get away anytime; he just has to run out of range of a 6′ leash, or out of the kitchen.

The girls don’t go anywhere near Minnie.

This is going to be something to think about when we’re ready to let Minnie roam the house unrestrained and unsupervised, which I think will be sometime in the next six months to a year or so. Julie says , “How’s never? Is never good for you?”

For my bucket list: Go a month without either Julie or I having to take any of the animals to the vet.


Minnie yipped in pain while rolling around on the ground on Thursday morning’s walk. After that, she was moving slow all day, tilting her head to one side and shaking it frequently. At about four I left my home office to get a snack from the kitchen and she didn’t come with me. That was worrisome. She almost always follows me out of the office. So we threw Minnie in the car and took her to the vet.

There was much Piteous Cowering, and the vet looked into Minnie’s ear with one of those look-into-ear lights that doctors and vets have. Oho, he said, and got forceps and pulled a foxtail out Minnie’s ear. Ta-da! He squirted some antibiotic goop in, and Minnie was almost instantly better, back to her old self.

A foxtail is a thing like a feathery splinter, about as long as a fingernail. If you have them in your part of the world, you’ve probably pulled them off your socks in warm weather. They stick like Velcro and can be very dangerous on the skin or internally.

Total cost: $56 and 45 minutes (we were lucky — they could take us quickly).

We don’t let Minnie rub her head on the ground or roll around in dirt anymore. However, I expect this is not our first foxtail encounter. The vet says foxtails are a solid moneymaker for their offices in the warmer months.

The picture is Minnie recovering after her surgery. You can see her right ear is goopy. She was back to her normal, frenetic self as soon as the foxtail came out of her ear.

Socialism: You’re doing it wrong

Lawrence and Wishart, a radical press founded in 1936 and formerly associated with the Communist Party of Great Britain, has asserted a copyright over “Marx-Engels Collected Works,” a series of $25-50-ish hardcovers, and demanded that they be removed from the Marxist Internet Archive. As Scott McLemee notes, the editions in question were “prepared largely if not entirely with the support of old-fashioned, Soviet-era Moscow gold” and consist, in large part, of arguments about the moral bankruptcy and corrupting influence of claims of private property.

via Radical press demands copyright takedown of Marx-Engels Collected Works – Boing Boing.

Every now and then, someone will bring an urn filled with ashes to Disneyland with the plan to sprinkle the remains somewhere in the park.

Every now and then, someone will bring an urn filled with ashes to Disneyland with the plan to sprinkle the remains somewhere in the park. This is technically illegal in California, and Disney’s security often stops people from doing this, but there are many others who do this discreetly and avoid detection.

One of the less discreet families had a dearly departed grandmother Joyce and decided to sprinkle her remains inside the Haunted Mansion. On one of the security cameras (yes, there are many) they saw people throwing plumes of powder from both sides of their Doom Buggy….

– Disneyland Guru / Dearest Grandma Joyce. (Via Mostly Signs Some Portents.) This turns into a sweet story at the end.


Maybe Google will just unbundle everything in Google+ and kill the brand

Danny Sullivan, MarketingLand:

So if Google jettisons Google+ as a sharing destination, potentially it’s ending that as a source of material for comedians and not getting bogged fighting an old battle. Instead, it might be looking ahead to where the next war of social may be happening — with single-purpose socially-enabled apps.

The successful bits of Google+ would live on as standalone apps: Photos, Hangouts, and so on. The Google+ brand will go away, replaced by just plain Google. You’ll still have a Google+ account — it’ll just be your Google account.

That’s what I expect will happen. It’s why I’m here.

I’m less certain what will happen to the linksharing part of Google+, which was always the part I was most interested in. Sullivan thinks it might come back as Google Reader reborn. I’m skeptical.

Re/code's Liz Gannes has more from anonymous sources and background on Vic Gundotra's replacement.

I’m playing with a new WordPress blog, yo.

Let me tell you about my new job

I have happy news to report. I’ve started a new job. You’re talking to the new West Coast Bureau Chief of Light Reading.

This is an opportunity for me to do pure reporting and writing on the technology industry, after years working in hybrid jobs, part-marketing, part-tech journalism, and part management. This refocuses me on the journalism part of the job, which I have always found very satisfying.

Where other kids had professional athletes and rock stars as their heroes, I had this guy:

Lou Grant

I’m covering Software Defined Networks (SDNs), and the related technology of Network Functions Virtualization (NFVs), with a particular focus on the startup scene.

Another way this is getting back to the beginning is that I don’t know a lot about this technology – yet. I’ll learn on the job, bringing my existing knowledge about technology and enterprise computing to bear in this new industry.

It’s rare that you get an opportunity to start your career over again, while continuing to hold a senior position. And I’m really looking forward to working with the rest of Light Reading, which appears to be a great team. Light Reading is going through some changes too.

We’re looking for stories. Email me if you know about anything interesting happening in SDN or NFVs: We’re particularly looking for unannounced news – if there’s a press release about it, I’ll do my best to avoid that story. The interesting stories are the ones that somebody doesn’t want you to write about.


That man knew journalism. Also, hats.

We’ll explore who will be the winners and losers among the many SDN and FLV startups. The field is dense with startups, and most of them aren’t going to make it. We plan to tell our community which companies are having problems. Those stories are hard to report, but worthwhile. Reporting on success stories are easy. Companies are great at telling those stories for themselves (even when the successes are imaginary).

P.S. Minnie is celebrating too. She found a funny-looking stick . So it’s a good day for both of us.

Minnie the puppy with funny-looking stick

Update 10:17 am: Light Reading put out a press release: Mitch Wagner Joins Light Reading Editorial Team:

“Adding Mitch to the team is a massive coup for us. This is going to have a real impact on our ability to dig out the real stories and identify the next big thing coming out of the Valley,” stated Light Reading Editor-in-Chief Ray Le Maistre. “Mitch not only has all the credentials we look for in an editor — smart, informed, witty, a good writer, and slightly unhinged — but his knowledge of IT trends will be invaluable as the communications networking and services sector becomes ever more reliant on IT skills and know-how to innovate.”

Le Maistre added: “We’ve also never had a ‘Mitch’ on the team. I like that name — it’s zesty.”

“Dudes, I’m here to break news and keep the Light Reading community informed about what’s really going on with the startups and established companies on the West Coast,” said Wagner. “I’m super-excited to join the great team at Light Reading.”

Wagner says things like “dude” and “super-excited” because he is a Californian. Light Reading will break him of that habit directly.

I finished the final draft of my first novel this weekend.

I finished the final draft of my first novel this weekend.

The title: Iron Star.

I also mocked up a cover, and wrote a draft of the jacket copy.

Here’s my first pass at a cover. It may also be my final pass. I’m satisfied with it, at least for the moment.

The original art is by DiversePixel, aka an Australian artist named Yvonne. She also did the art that that was the basis for the cover of my earlier ebook, the short story, “Mr. Shaddo.” She does a nice job with science-fiction and fantasy cityscapes.

And here’s a draft of the jacket copy:

Short description: In a far-future medieval world, Aleksei Feodorov Bychkov fights goblins to restore his honor.

Long description: Aleksei Feodorov Bychkov once had a beautiful family, and a place in the elite Cerulean Corps.

But that was a long time ago. Now, Bychkov wears the Iron Star, a symbol of disgrace.

Bychkov prowls Stalitsgrad, the capital city and jewel of the Nyebastrov Archipelago. His self-imposed mission: Hunt the goblins who stalk the city, preying on its human inhabitants.

Like Bychkov himself, the Nyebastrov Archipelago has seen better times. A terraformed bubble floating high in the atmosphere of Saturn, the Archipelago was once an outpost of an advanced human civilization. But Bychkov and its other inhabitants now fend for themselves in a medieval society. Some of the artifacts left by the Predecessors who built the Archipleago are tools that are still powerful – when they work. Others, like the goblins, are dangerous threats.

Join Bychkov’s adventure as he searches for honor, companionship, and love in the distant future. Read Iron Star now.

The next step is to get the novel copy-edited. Fortunately, I have a copy editor in the house, who’s graciously agreed to go through it.

I plan to have the book up for sale on your favorite online bookstore as soon as the copyedit is complete. I’m also thinking about doing a print version, using CreateSpace or something like it.

And while you wait for Iron Star, try my already published ebook short stories: “Mr. Shaddo” and “The Biggest Man in Lilliput.”

My second e-book is here! It’s called “Mr.Shaddo”

Get “Mr. Shaddo,” my latest science fiction caper.

When the alien Lord Svet hired Shaddo to steal a gladiator known as the Purple Avenger, Shaddo thought he could just get in, get out, and get paid.

But it didn’t work out that way.

He didn’t expect to run afoul of the Emperor Na-Ret – really more of a gangster than a monarch, but don’t tell him that – or find himself fighting the Purple Avenger in a cage match over a tank of hungry bloodworms.

Get “Mr. Shaddo” at the Amazon Kindle store..

Or get “Mr. Shaddo” for the Nook

Or get it at Smashwords for other ebook readers

I started this one a few years ago. I’d been binging on Donald E. Westlake’s wonderful comic crime stories, featuring hapless heroes who get involved in criminal capers and get in over their heads. Things start simple and get hairier and more complicated until, through great effort, everything wraps up neatly at the end. As a rule, Westlake’s heroes outthink their opponents, rather than using greater force against them.

Westlake’s heroes are easy to underestimate. His master thief Dortmunder is a sad-sack who lives in a working-class neighborhood in Queens with a girlfriend who works as a cashier at the Bohack supermarket.

Here’s Donald E. Westlake’s Amazon page.

My love for these kinds of heroes goes back. I always liked Bugs Bunny more than Batman.

Another thing I wanted to throw in “Mr. Shaddo” was a setting where a contemporary American could interact with aliens on a strange world.

And another: One of my favorite novels is a slender volume called Roadmarks, by Roger Zelazny. It takes place on a peculiar sort of highway that travels through time rather than space. You drive along in your pickup truck or Volkswagen bug or horse and buggy and you can get off exits to different historical periods and times, from ancient Greece to 20th Century America to the distant future. It’s really more of a collection of vignettes than a novel; the story is pretty loose. But it’s delightful. Here’s Roadmarks on I love the cover.

Similarly, I loved Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld novels, in which all the people who ever lived, from cavemen to the dawn of the 21st Century, are resurrected on the banks of a planet-spanning river. The heroes of the series include 19th Century English explorer Richard Francis Burton, who translated the Arabian Nights; Mark Twain, Tom Mix the cowboy star, a couple of Neanderthals, a lesbian dirigible pilot from the 1980s (the series was written in the 1950s–70s), a pulp writer based on the author himself, and more. I trace my fascination with Mark Twain and airships to that series. Here’s the first book of the Riverworld series on To Your Scattered Bodies Go. Book 3 of the series, The Dark Design, has a great cover.

Put ’em all in a blender and “Mr. Shaddo” comes out. I hope you enjoy it.

Want to try before you buy? There’s an excerpt on the “Mr. Shaddo” page on my Website.

Here’s the cover for my next ebook, “Mr. Shaddo.”

With work being crazy-busy I took a break from creative writing for a few weeks. But I made a five-day weekend out of Independence Day, and took the time to get back into making “Mr. Shaddo” into an ebook.

The next step was to finish the cover.

I previously asked for help picking a font for the cover. What I learned from that exercise was that none of my font choices were right. The font made the cover say, “This is a noir science fiction story, dark and moody.” And it is noir, and science fiction, and dark, but not moody. It’s a comedy. So I had to rethink the whole thing, and I arrived at the cover you see above, which I like. And even if it’s not the best possible cover it’s time to stop fiddling with it and move on.

Sunday evening, I worked with Legend Maker to convert my Microsoft Word manuscript into a .mobi file for the Kindle and an ePub for Nook. I was unimpressed with Legend Maker my first time through making an ebook. But I was wrong. Legend Maker is priced at $30 (I paid more for it), and it produces ebooks nearly with one click. I’ve read that producing ebooks with Calibre is also very easy, and Calibre is free. On the other hand, I have Calibre, and nothing about it is easy. I’m happy to have Legend Maker so I don’t have to worry about figuring out Calibre.

Next steps:

More proofreading. I noticed some glitches in the ebook.

I need to come up with a blurb and other marketing copy. This will be tricky because the story doesn’t fit in any neat subgenres. It’s not space opera or cyberpunk or a vampire romance or something else that’s explained in a single word or phrase. I need to think about how I explain to people what the story is about, and why they should want to read it. (“Read it because it’s AWESOMETASTIC!!!,” while true, is not helpful.)

When that’s done, I need to post it to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords, and announce it here and all over the Internet.

Until then, if you haven’t yet read my previous ebook, “The Biggest Man in Lilliput,” give it a try, why don’t you? I guarantee it won’t give you any social diseases.

By the way, I mentioned things were crazy-busy at work. I’m not comfortable talking about that here yet; I feel the need to announce it elsewhere on the Internet when the time is right, and then I’ll let you know about it here. But it’s no secret what I’m doing.

I buy a new wallet, and lighten it significantly

Billionaire Larry Ellison bought the Hawaiian island of Lanai yesterday. Here’s what we got:

New reclining chairs. We got the old reclining sofa something like 12 years ago, and over time it has gotten uglier and uglier and more and more uncomfortable. The reclining mechanism broke on my side, and we had it repaired. This involved stripping all the upholstery off my half of it and leaving it occupying the living room for weeks like the Terminator’s skeleton.

Then a few months ago the mechanism on my side broke again, and I’ve been sitting without reclining, which is suffering exactly comparable to what my grandparents went through when they immigrated to America in steerage.

In the past couple of weeks the couch has gone from uncomfortable to downright painful to sit in. And it’s still ugly. We had pillows piled up to attempt to compensate for its comfort shortcomings, and duck tape holding the upholstery together. It’s like a torture device designed by drunk fratboys.

We couldn’t find a sofa we liked, so instead we got separate chairs. We agreed instantly that we did not want the kind with the motor-driven reclining mechanism, because (a) one more thing to break and (b) it’s a step too far down the road to becoming Wall-E people.

And now the chairs are here and they look good, and they’re filling the front of the house with new-leather smell. I can’t wait to get crumbs all over mine.

A new wallet. This isn’t a we-got, it’s an I-got. This is my third wallet from All-Ett They make a very slim wallet.

When I got my previous wallet from them I opened the envelope and said to myself, “Oh, crap, I got the wrong one.” I wanted their original, larger-size wallet, but instead I got the ultra-tiny model. I can’t remember why I kept that wallet – I think I talked myself into thinking it was better than the one I ordered, because that seemed like a better idea than exchanging the wallet for the one I actually wanted.

The other day, I said, “I’ve been carrying around this stupid wallet for 10 years. Time to just get the wallet I wanted in the first place.”

The primary difference between the two wallets is that the new wallet has an extra pocket to hold receipts and such.

Unfortunately, the new wallet arrived empty, which is a problem on account of buying those new chairs.

I bought a Fitbit. And then I sent it back for a refund

A Fitbit is an Internet-connected pedometer. It’s a little gadget that looks like like a clothespin. You clip it to your belt, or to your bra (if you’re a woman, or a guy who’s fun at parties). It keeps track of the distance you’ve walked or run. At night, you attach it to a wristband and it’ll keep track of how long and how soundly you slept. It communicates that information to a number of Internet and iPhone-enabled fitness programs, including two that I use: Lose It and RunKeeper.

At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

In reality, I found the device to be highly inaccurate. It told me I was burning hundreds of calories more every day than I was actually burning. If I’d eaten as much food as the Fitbit said I could, I would have put on weight.

I did several trials counting off 10 steps, and Fitbit counted an average 14 steps instead. I walked a measured quarter-mile several times, and Fitbit said that distance was a third of a mile. I walked the same route on different days, and Fitbit gave me different measurements, varying almost double.

One day when I wasn’t wearing the Fitbit at all, the device still measured 500 calories of activity.

Fitbit support seemed to be trying to be helpful, but they were slow, averaging three days between queries.

I enjoyed fooling around with the thing for a while, trying to see why it wasn’t working right, but it was coming up on the one-month period during which I could get a refund. So I decided to ship it back and get my $100 returned

I’m not going to tell you not to buy a Fitbit, because many people enjoy theirs. It’s possible I just got a bum unit. It’s also possible that people find Fitbit accurate enough for their purposes. And people seem to enjoy the social aspect; Fitbit lets you friend people and then share your exercise and fitness results with them.

But Fitbit isn’t right for me, and if you need accurate exercise information, I see no evidence that it’s right for you either.

Font Porn: Help me choose a cover for my next ebook

This ebook publishing thing is going pretty slow. I published my first, “The Biggest Man in Lilliput,” in December, and now here it is June and I haven’t yet finished my second.

But I’m almost there. It’s called “Mr. Shaddo.” It’s a science fiction comedy adventure short story. And I’m getting to the point of selecting a cover.

This time around, I used these instructions for creating an ebook cover, and bought stock art from DreamsTime.

This is the art I selected for the cover. The artist is DiversePixel, aka Yvonne Less, of Bathurst, Australia. The image doesn’t illustrate any particular scene in the story, but it captures the mood. I chose to use only part of the image; in the part I’m using, the giant alien moon just makes the sky look alien. Which fits the story nicely.

Now here’s a nice stroke of fortune: This image of a space city in orbit around an Earthlike planet would do nicely as the cover of the novel I just completed in rough draft. That novel is set (where else?) on a space city in orbit around an Earthlike planet.

Then I started fooling around with selecting a font for the cover. I’m having trouble deciding between them so I’m asking your opinion. Which do you like best? I’m tempted to go with the handwriting font, but I know if I do I’ll regret it, like I regret wearing a cowboy hat for a brief time in the early 80s (Thank John Wayne I’m not aware of any photos of me surviving from that haberdashery disaster!), or using the Comic Sans font for everything in the late 90s.

Let me know which you like best (click the image to get to the image gallery, then the image there to see it full-size — sorry for the extra clickage):

Arial Black

Helvetica Neue



Handwriting Dakota

I finished another novel draft

It’s just a rough draft. I need to go back and do two more rewrite passes before it’s ready to go out to beta readers. Then two more passes to work in revisions and do final polish. Then one more pass after that for a final copy-edit.

At least, that seems to be my pattern so far.

If you’re keeping track, that’s one short story published, “The Biggest Man in Lilliput.” Follow the link to where you can read a sample and buy it as an ebook. I also have three more stories nearly in final draft, just waiting for a copy-edit and cover from Julie. And three novels in various stages of draft form.

That’s just crazy. Too many drafts, not enough finished work.

Until now, I’ve been trying to both revise past work and create new drafts. I worried if I stopped creating new material, I’d have trouble starting again. But now I see that wasn’t working for me, so I’m going to start focusing on revising and getting stories published before I resume writing new work.

I’m pursuing self-publishing for all of this work. I’m just not interested in running the traditional publishing gauntlet at this stage of my career.

Announcing “The Secret Project” and “The Other Secret Project”

For the past six weeks or so, I’ve been working on two secret projects, which I called “The Secret Project” and “The Other Secret Project.” Because I’m all clever coming up with codenames and stuff.

They’re both Web sites, published by my wonderful employers, the DeusM business unit of United Business Media.

Educational IT is an online community for IT decision-makers in K–12 and higher education. It deals with using information technology in schools, including social media, Internet video, tablets, networks, PC deployment, and more. It deals with a broad range of subjects, some technical, some social and experimental. EdIT launched May 3. It’s sponsored by AMD.

Intelligent WAN is an online community for network engineers who build and maintain networks for organizations with multiple sites. It covers application optimization, application prioritization, perimeter security, MPLS IP networks and MPLS IP VPNs and more. Don’t worry if you don’t know what those things are; they’re very important to our community. iWAN launched Wednesday. It’s sponsored by XO Communications.

Both sites feature DeusM’s usual zesty mix of blogs, message boards, chats, white papers, and videos.

What happened to The CMO Site, you ask? Nothing. It’s right there, still the premier community for using technology for marketing.

So that means I’m editor-in-chief of three sites, which keeps me busy.

EdIT and iWAN are both looking for bloggers and community leaders. If you’re interested in becoming part of the community, drop me an email at work,

8 simple but not necessarily easy rules for losing weight and getting fit.

1) If you smoke, stop.

2) If you drink to excess, stop.

3) If you drink sweetened beverages, stop. That shit is almost as bad as cigarettes.

4) If you don’t exercise, start. No need to do anything fancy requiring training, specialized equipment, or clothes that make you look funny. Walking is lovely, especially this time of year.

4a) If you’re really fat you probably think you look terrible exercising in public and you don’t want to do it. Nobody really cares. Just keep walking and visualize your lean bad-ass future self.

That’s what I did for my first few months. I had to sit and rest after walking for 20 minutes. It was pathetic. I just went with it. Shame is a useless emotion, eliminate it from your life.

5) Keep a food journal and record every bite you eat, along with the calorie count. It’s a pain in the ass at first, but it gets to be a habit — even a comfortable ritual.

6) Weigh yourself every week. Not more often than that — your weight can fluctuate literally a couple of pounds, day to day, and it doesn’t mean anything. If you weigh yourself every day, you’ll make yourself crazy.

7) Go on a sensible food program. Avoid fad diets. Yeah, you’ll lose weight, but then you’ll gain it all back, and all your discipline and work will be for nothing. You want a program you can stick with over the long term. After you’ve hit your goal weight, you’ll continue eating the same things, just a little more of them.

8) Everything in moderation — including moderation. Have an ice cream sundae or a plate of nachos or a few beers every once in a while. Be sure to enjoy it and don’t feel a bit guilty. Then get back on your sensible eating program the next morning.

#8 is extremely important. It’s a lot easier to walk by a plate of cookies or a cheeseburger knowing that you can have it if you really want it, if not now then another day. Life is to be enjoyed, and part of that enjoyment is good food, and some of that good food has a lot of fat and sugar and alcohol and stuff in it. Just make it an occasional thing, not an everyday thing, and you’ll be fine.

9) Accept the fact that you’re going to be eccentric. You’re gong to be That Healthy Eating Kook. You’re going to be That Weirdo Who Keeps a Food Journal. Just go with it. It’s not a big deal.