RIP Big Brother

Posted: November 10, 2010 in Uncategorized
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Today, I was reminded that this is the 10th anniversary of the death of my older brother, David.  I knew it was this month, but I actively try not to remember the specific day, frankly.  After all these years, his death still hurts.  However, since I was reminded (passively, via my sister’s Facebook status, so I don’t blame her for disturbing my dissociation attempt), I felt it was appropriate to say a little something on this occasion.

My brother wasn’t a saint.  Some people found him too rough around the edges for their tastes.  Some found him likeable.  Some confused him with another David Hoyt in the same graduating class of the same high school (Stow, OH, 1977 — for the record, my brother was the trombonist, who was fond of black leather and motorcycles, not the football player).  Few found him cuddly and teddy-bear-y, although my sister and I saw that side of him more than a few times. 

Growing up, we battled constantly.  And I don’t mean just arguing, but knock-down-drag-out fighting, usually resulting in me getting injured, since David outweighed me by a good hundred pounds.  People wondered why I rarely got into trouble at school, why I did everything I could to avoid fights, when I seemed to enjoy a good argument (okay, so I was a bit of a jerk in high school) — it was because I had enough fighting at home.  When I left my parents’ house, there were a lot of bad feelings both ways, and I resolved to leave for good.  (I kept that promise to myself; I’ve never returned, even when it would have helped, financially.)  For a long time, I didn’t speak to anyone in my family.

Somewhere along the line, I figured out that family meant something, no matter how fractured the relationship.  (This is why so many people from broken homes end up in therapy — because those relationships did mean something to them, at an instinctive level if nothing else.)  Sometime after that epiphany, about the time of my father’s heart bypass, I started reaching out to David, started doing what I could to repair what was obviously a broken relationship.  I flew to Ohio to look after my dad the weekend after his surgery, and David picked me up at the airport.  He took me to a biker bar for a steak dinner and we talked about Dad and why I wasn’t on speaking terms with anyone any more.  I realized that my father’s health was more important than our petty disagreements, and that day I made the first steps toward building a working sibling relationship with David.

David didn’t take a step toward me that day, but we did get closer later.  His progress was slow, but it was progress.  I resolved to be patient, letting him take the time he needed to come to the same realization I had about the importance, the influence, of family.  The mark he’d made on me, and I’d made on him, that helped make us the people we were.  It was a slow process, but I knew it was worth it.  That he was worth it.

David had already starting turning his own life around, steering away from drugs, alcohol and violence, and, with the help of a woman he loved, turning toward a responsible, grounded life, centered around family.  (She had two teen/preteen children, and he talked to me about how terrifying it was to gain an "instant family," even though the kids would never really think of him as a father.)  I know David loved her, because he died protecting her, his passenger, when the motorcycle he was piloting had a blowout and they went down on the expressway.  She survived the accident, but David lapsed into a coma that ultimately proved fatal.

We were still in the middle of our journey when the accident occurred.  David never recovered from the coma; I never got the chance to tell him that I was proud of him for trying to rehabilitate his life.  Never got the chance to tell him how much our newly-repairing relationship meant to me.  Never got the chance to apologize for pushing him away so many years before.

I was surprised how much his death affected me.  We were still only cordial, not really friends, per se.  I didn’t have a lot of happy memories to reflect on.  Look, he’d always said he didn’t expect to live to 40, so I’d been expecting it for years at that point.  Why should his death matter to me any more than that of a distant cousin?  But it still shook me, hard.  On a purely self-centered level, it felt like a part of my life had been ripped away — the parts we shared, specifically.  I felt as though without his affirmation, my memories were just lies, and they’d fade away over time, eventually robbing David of his own legacy — the memory of his very existence.  I came to understand that this was just a natural reaction to the death of a close relative, and I moved on.

Over the last 10 years, I’ve never forgotten my brother.  I think of him frequently, of what his life meant to me, and I try to apply those lessons to my own relationships (especially with my wife and kids).  I remember and honor his memory every week.  I hope that there’s some form of afterlife, and that he’s found his version of peace in it.

David Hoyt, big brother, on this the 10th anniversary of your death, Rest in Peace.  You deserve it.

Astronomy SF Anthology Now Online!

Posted: February 18, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Mike Brotherton‘s eagerly-awaited anthology of astronomy-related SF is now available!  I’m very happy to have a story in this antho, which you can read for free, along with all the others.

Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, this is an excellent example of the kinds of things I’d like to see our government spending money on in the sciences, so be sure to let everyone know about the antho.

P.S. Read what John Scalzi had to say about the antho in HIS blog.

Luk Ina … What Now?

Posted: February 6, 2009 in Uncategorized
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(Warning!  This post is NOT for those that are easily offended!  You have been warned.)

When we were much younger, sarahahoyt and I used to knock around Porto when we were visiting her parents.  On one of those sojourns, I nearly dropped my camera trying to get a picture of a truck going by that had rather alarming letters painted on the side.  Now, to fully understand this, you have to realize that at that time there were a lot of panel vans (and sometimes panel hatchbacks — I am not making this up, as Dave Barry says), and they didn’t have the gauche American habit of painting the sides with company logos, phone numbers, etc.  So, when I saw this particular panel van driving by, I was alarmed by the possible meanings.  It was white, with three large red letters: F A G.

Let me take a moment here to point out that I have several gay friends.  I’m not homophobic, and I don’t make fun of gays.  I am, however, not above making fun of companies with suggestive names who don’t seem to recognize this fact, and I’m pretty sure my gay friends will get a kick out of this post.  This one’s for y’all.

Let me also point out that this particular company is German, and this particular combination of letters doesn’t have the same meaning as in English.  I’m aware of this; save your hate mail responses for something that needs it.

Anyway, back to the story.  I was alarmed.  Was it a specialized police enforcement version of a paddy wagon?  Or maybe some kind of demented delivery company?  I didn’t know.  As I was telling this story to my son robertahoyt this evening, sarahahoyt pointed out that it was a German tire manufacturer and I remarked that I never saw one of those vans again.  For the last twenty-some years, I’ve wondered if I just imagined the incident.  Then I thought, "Hey, it’s the age of the internet.  Maybe I should just look it up."

It turns out the company does exist.  They’re at … wait for it … fag.com.  Okay, that’s fine, but they seem to be oblivious of the English connotations of their company name, and the more I dug into the company, the more clueless they … well, judge for yourself. 

It turns out that FAG is owned by the Schaeffler Group.  Fair enough.  If you watch the beginning of their video, you’ll notice that their spokesman refers to their two other subsidiaries, "Luk" and "Ina," as words rather than the initials he uses for "FAG," so presumably they’re sensitive to what could be an embarrassing brand name.  However, they didn’t seem to notice that the order of their subsidiaries, their logos emblazoned right there at the top right of the screen, sound out a rather obscene sentence, complete with subject, verb and object.

Looking into their history (the astute reader will note from the URL that they’ve also smartly snagged fagauto.com), you’ll also find that in 1991, they established, without a trace of clue, the "FAG Aerospace Division" (it’s the 4th entry down).

At this point, I noticed that Schaeffler Group had a link to "Related Companies" under the logos, with the entry "FAG Industrial Services."  I couldn’t resist.  I swear I couldn’t.  I should have.  I just about fell out of my chair when I saw their main page, which, like the Schaeffler Group, seems to be oblivious.  That page prominently promotes — again, I am not making this up! — the new "FAG Detector III Plug and Play."  Apparently, it "provides easy access to the world of vibration monitoring."  Um … I really don’t know what to say to that.

Also, this particular product has its own website as well, fag-detectoriii.de.  And the product has a slogan, "Easy handling – low costs."

Oh, I really can’t dig into this particular company any more.  My irony alarm is just too loud.

Microsoft Soda

Posted: December 10, 2008 in Uncategorized
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Hey, FedEx!

Please fire the idiot that decided to drop the Kinko’s brand name!  (And, yes, I know they announced this in June — I just figured they’d have come to their senses by now.  After visiting my local FedEx shipping office today, I discovered they haven’t.)

This is one of the most boneheaded moves I’ve heard in years.  This is akin to Hershey’s buying Coca-Cola and changing the name to "Hershey’s Cola".  Sure, Hershey’s has name recognition — but NOT FOR SODA!  Hershey’s isn’t that stupid; they’d keep the world-renowned Coke brand name. 

(Microsoft, on the other hand, would probably change the brand to Microsoft Soda, but that’s another post.  Although I have to confess I’m intrigued by the whole idea of fine print on the soda can stating that the contents cannot be guaranteed to be non-poisonous, or even the contents as specified on the label or, for that matter, that there are contents at all!)

Wait a minute!  It was all for the stock pricing, right?  Let’s see how that went.  After the announcement on June 2, FedEx stock closed a shade over 90.  Today the stock closed just over 60.  How’s that?  Isn’t that a 33% loss in value?  Isn’t that the wrong direction? 

At what point do you say, "Hey, we screwed up; do over?" 

Kinko’s is one of the few examples of a second-generation genericized trademark, one that replaced the original genericized trademark (Xerox in this case — boomers tend to refer to a photocopy as a "xerox" copy; younger people refer to "Kinko’ing it."  Eli Stone‘s episode this week even referred to "Kinko’s" copies — 5 months after FedEx dropped it!).

I, for one, plan to avoid FedEx Office locations for copies, and I’m seriously thinking of dropping FedEx for shipping, because I can’t count on their judgment any more.

Yeah, I’m pissy like that.  But I’ll be all right in a minute, after I finish my Microsoft Soda cola-flavored beverage.

Scrooge 1 and Scrooge 2

Posted: December 8, 2008 in Uncategorized
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I’ve decided that my sons have no Christmas spirit.

Scrooge 1 and Scrooge 2 — as they shall henceforth be called (at least until Christmas) — have been giving me flack for playing Christmas music on the car radio.  Tonight I declared the official start of Christmas movie season, and they paled visibly.

It’s not like I’m pushing Christmas on Halloween — or even Thanksgiving; in fact, I absolutely refuse to acknowledge Christmas before December.  We don’t really decorate the house — maybe a string of white lights on the balcony a week or two before Christmas.  Heck, we probably won’t even trot out the tree until at least the 20th (those of you with multiple cats will understand). 

I can’t see how a little music and a movie or two qualifies as excessive in the Scrooges’ books.

Is there something wrong with the Scrooges?  Or is it me?

WheeePC!

Posted: December 4, 2008 in Uncategorized
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sarahahoyt ‘s new eeePC 1000 came in today, and it is very cool.  I’m now officially jealous.

I spent a couple hours setting it up, including internet (our wireless is encrypted and uses MAC filtering, so I have to find the MAC addresses first, then add them to the router, and then I can set up the internet!), proper household LAN setup, Star Office tweaks (the screen res is 1024×600 — already a bit short — and the default word processor has THREE lines of icons taking up real estate), etc.

I’ve read quite a few reviews claiming that the Xandros pre-installed wasn’t robust enough, but nearly all of them seemed to decide this after they decided to make the eeePC their primary PC.  For a writer’s travel laptop, I think Xandros is perfectly fine.  We’ll see what sarahahoyt  thinks as she uses it.

My only problem now is that I want one!

Lazy Shoppers

Posted: December 3, 2008 in Uncategorized
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I’m really getting tired of the lazy shoppers at the grocery that leave their empty carts within 20 feet of a cart return.

Look at me, lazybones.  Do I look young and athletic to you?  Unless you’re parked in the handicap spot, chances are you’re healthy enough to wheel the empty cart 20 feet more to the return, considering you probably just wheeled it fully loaded about 100 feet to get to your car.  I know I am healthy enough, and if a fat old geezer like me can do, so can you.  So do it already, and don’t give me any excuses!