Monthly Archives: December 2013

2013: Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

Well, you know those grandiose plans you make toward the end of the year, swearing that this time, you’ll get everything done and you’ll be able to celebrate the new year in peace? Yeah. Where to begin?

Firstly, you may note that for all of the promises to keep going with the Post-Nuclear Family Gift Suggestions, the world intruded. Specifically, the latest stomach virus came through. The nicest thing that could be said about this is that at least when Stephen King wrote the novel The Stand, he had the decency to make his killer virus a respiratory flu. If it had been the stomach bug that went around last week, his editor would have read about twenty pages in, attempted to beat him to death with a pool cue, and then gone after his agent with a bowling trophy. The moans of misery, the hallucinations, the house looking as if Hunter S. Thompson had camped out in the living room for a month…when friends asked afterward what happened and I simply said “We call it…’The Aristocrats‘!”, they understood.

(A very disturbing point that came up when discussing this was how many people mistake the documentary The Aristocrats for the Disney animated film The Aristocats when getting a copy for their kids via NetFlix. Truthfully, I’m not surprised: nearly 30 years ago, when Don Johnson’s star was on the rise with Miami Vice, I was told over and over by Johnson groupies about how badly they wanted to see his first starring role in the adaptation of Harlan Ellison’s “A Boy and His Dog.” To an individual, they were certain that this was a Disney film, too, based on the title.)

Anyway, the flu is banished, the house is relatively clean (the bathroom is literally clean enough to eat in, and that’s after a week of it looking like a location set for Apocalypse Now, and then disaster struck again. Thumb drive insanity with the new Web site update, with no possibility of getting it fixed on a holiday week. At this point, it’s time to call it quits, because it ain’t getting any better between now and midnight.

And so I wish all of you a good year in 2014, because we deserve at least one good one in a string of duds. If you’re in Dallas over this week, use the weekend as an opportunity to view the Chinese Lantern Festival in Fair Park before it goes; if not, have fun wherever you are. Me, I’m planning on hunting down Old Man 2013 and giving him quite the sendoff. If I time it just right, I might need a new left boot to replace the one I left with him, too.


Have a Great New Year’s Eve


Cat Monday


Have a Great Weekend

For those surviving a holiday week with friends and family, just remember that things could be worse. You could be surviving a holiday week at the Triffid Ranch:

Holiday Interlude

Uncle Duke

For all those at home, and especially those who work today, a toast is in order. While the real celebration won’t start until next Tuesday night, on behalf of everyone here at the Triffid Ranch, have a great holiday, no matter the holiday you wish to celebrate*. And for those who work today (and I was 18 before my mother didn’t have to work Christmas Day as a labor & delivery nurse, so I’m especially sympathetic), here’s hoping that today’s workday is low-stress, high-reward, and very, very short.

*With the exception of Cadigan, but that’s because she’s still figuring out how to get at the now-traditional Christmas brisket. If you could smell it, you’d understand her determination. Otherwise, her definition of “peace on Earth, good will toward men” translates to “CONQUER ALL HUMANS,” but that’s not overly surprising.

Post-Nuclear Family Gift Suggestions 2013 – 9

You’re now in the final stretch. Either all of the family obligations are done, or you’re still taking care of the final bits and drabs. You’re stocking up on sugarplums, or you’re stocking up on Jack Daniel’s. Congratulations: now all you have to do is get past the rest of the winter.

Through the dreary expanses of January, it’s not enough to idly consume. Yes, a good Internet connection and a Netflix account gives you a strategic advantage over those of previous generations. Anyone old enough to remember when Christmas Eve alone meant maybe three television stations, all loaded with inspirational programming, and maybe five all-Christmas music radio stations, was the extent of entertainment options can appreciate this more than most. Now take away those, and just look out onto the cold, and it’s no surprise as to the high levels of alcohol abuse and mental illness in far northern climes. When going outside is a physical threat, staying next to the fire and singing to oneself makes a bit of sense.

Not that we get this in Texas, where the danger is being outdoors in the summer. It’s correspondingly easier to initiate some kind of social interaction, but we’re still all hit with the same basic human response of finding social interaction worth the effort. Contrary to popular opinion, Dallas is a bit more than shopping malls, and if you’re not in the mood for orchid and organic garden societies, there’s plenty to do this time of the year, depending upon your interests.

With such a range, any decent list might go on for pages, so the resultant list is a shoutout for fellow vendors and survivors of many of the preceding year’s Triffid Ranch shows and events. After all, the highest compliment I can pay them all is that they didn’t kill me when they had the chance.

Tiffany at ConDFW

To begin, one of the first fellow vendors I ever met when starting Triffid Ranch shows was Tiffany Franzoni of Roll2Play, back when the company alternated between online sales and booths at science fiction and gaming conventions. Roll2Play now has a full-time permanent locale, featuring both game sales and rentals. Even better, since there’s no point in buying a boardgame if you don’t have someone else with whom to play it, Roll2Play offers free gaming space for live demos, regular tournaments, and playtesting for new games. It also has a well-stocked snack and drink cabinet and a determination to become a local community hub: during Icepocalypse 2013, Tiffany opened the store to neighbors without power so they had power to charge cell phones and heat to thaw out during the extended blackout. Games, activities, carnivorous plant displays, good conversation…it’s worth the trip, even across the whole of Dallas proper from where we are.

Another option is to keep an eye on the Keith’s Comics Web site for new events. I’m proud to have known owner Keith Colvin for twenty years now, and there’s a lot to be said about his chain of comic shops running through the Metroplex. However, Keith also understands the meaning of community, so he regularly sponsors movie screenings and other events throughout the year. Among others, Keith also arranges mass screenings of television show season premieres at the Angelika Film Center Dallas, so if you’re not in the mood to watch something by yourself, it’s worth the time to come out to a free showing with about 300 or so other fans.

Manager at Rockwall Half Price Books

Finally, I’ve been lucky enough to be a vendor at several shows alongside crews from Half Price Books, and it’s been interesting watching as Half Price evolves along with the publishing industry. Dallas is now bereft of independent bookstores selling new books, Borders has been gone for two years, and Barnes & Noble isn’t long for this world, so Half Price is moving into new book signings and events. While the Triffid Ranch is taking a hiatus from sales, I’ve been given a standing invitation for a presentation and lecture at the Half Price flagship store, and that’s on top of HPB’s regular events in that space. Details will follow as i get them.

More to follow…

Post-Nuclear Family Gift Suggestions 2013 – 8

(Can you believe it? I thought Cephalopodmas was today, not yesterday. Hence, let’s make up for lost time.)

So…has the threat of January blues hit you yet? Has the threat of bad movies, worse television, and unlistenable radio, even in the days of unlimited options via the Interwebs, convinced you to crawl into a burrow and hibernate until February? Are you prepared to sleep through the year until February 2, the 35 anniversary of the day Sid Vicious rose from his grave, looked down at his shadow, and realized that he had to wait six more weeks until spring?

Not that I blame you, and if the plants cooperate, then get to work. If they aren’t, then there’s always the infrastructure that can be dealt with before the weather warms up. A good way to do this is by building community, and carnivorous plant enthusiasts have a lot more options for this than we did, say, 20 years ago. Another reason for the Triffid Ranch hiatus? With the hiatus, I’ll finally have the money to make charitable contributions to folks who really deserve assistance for their work.

Sarracenia under UV with blue spots

The first and most obvious option is to give a shoutout to the International Carnivorous Plant Society, the largest carnivorous plant organization in the world today. We’re miniscule compared to, say, the American Orchid Society, but the increasing variability and variety of new carnivores means that nobody’s getting bored. At the very least, access to the ICPS seed bank makes the annual membership worth the cost, even if it didn’t come with the quarterly newsletter and access to its archives.

If you’re looking for a bit more activism, then take a look at joining the North American Sarracenia Conservancy, a group dedicated to both informing the general public of the threat to Sarracenia pitcher plant habitats and preserving the genetic diversity of the genus in propagation. As someone who just finished cleaning out Sarracenia pools in preparation for the rest of the winter, I can appreciate the hard work the NASC does, and plan to contribute as much as I can next year to assisting its efforts. Besides, several carnivorous plant enthusiast friends are proud members, and any excuse to hang out with them is a good one.

Triggerplants by Douglas Darnowski

Triggerplants by Douglas Darnowski

Speaking of those friends, I still owe an incredible debt of gratitude to Ryan Kitko for introducing me to triggerplants nearly a decade ago, which is why I keep plugging the joys of the International Triggerplant Society. (Go figure: the heat loss and power outage caused by Icepocalypse 2013 killed off other plants, but they managed to set off germination in both triggerplant and Roridula seeds that I was about ready to write off. Now it’s just a matter of making sure that fungus doesn’t take them out, as Roridula in particular suffers from serious issues with damping off.) One of the biggest reasons for the current hiatus is to focus on cultivation of new species of triggerplant, and if things work out well, this should mean some big, impressive specimens by May of 2015, thanks to the Society.

Finally, as a shoutout for other friends, I’m going to compile a list of reptile shelters next year to assist with finding homes for reptiles and amphibians where the owners simply can’t care for their charges. One I highly recommend is Tucson Reptile Rescue, not just for their work but for the sense of humor they show when bringing up adoptable animals to the public. Give early and often to offset the costs of feeding and heating, and if you’re so inclined to visit, consider adopting a lizard, turtle, or snake that needs a good home. They’re good folks, so please help if you can.

More to follow…