New Jack’s Blacks and Other News

Hey, all. Excited to say Amazon published another Jack’s Blacks installment this morning, The Family Business, in which the protagonist is from a family of stallions long-rumored to be immune to the village curse, which periodically makes males feel the desperate urge to bottom for other stallions. You can find it here.

I also created a new page called “Scraps” for, you know, scraps. I’d started a story that was going to be a Jack’s Blacks entry, but after finishing it and realizing it had lots of stuff wrong with it (inconsistencies, insufficient details where they were needed to foreshadow things later, long passages of stuff that readers probably wouldn’t care about), I decided I didn’t feel like fixing it. But, there is an interesting story there that is (mostly) coherent, so I decided to put it there in case people are interested in free stories at the expense of having to do a few mental gymnastics. I might pull it back later, revise it, and publish it, but I’m not really feeling it at the moment.

What else? Poison ivy sucks. It can go straight to hell, do not pass go, do not collect $200. I killed some plants out behind the barn last spring and then was doing some cleanup back there a couple of weeks ago. There were literally no actual plants there—they’d all died and decomposed by then—but that damn urushiol apparently hung around. I’m not sure what exactly had it on it, but I had it everywhere. Arms and the backs (?!) of my legs, face, neck, and a little bit on my waist. After a week of dealing with it, I couldn’t stand it anymore, so I went to the doctor and got a shot and some cream. The stuff on my arms and face is mostly gone now, but it seems I got it in even more places than I thought because a few days after using the cream, the rash started showing up on my sides, back, chest, and the tops of my arms. Seriously, it’s been over two weeks now—over a week with active steroid treatment—and the stupid stuff is still waking me up itching. Die in hell, you worthless, spiteful plant!

Speaking of my waist, I’m excited to say that since I started drinking protein shakes for lunches on weekdays, I’ve dropped 23 pounds in about 4 months. I can’t actually remember the last time I weighed less than 230, so this is very exciting for me. Since I started my new job in September, I’ve gone down 7 belt hole sizes, so that’s also exciting, and I’m back into 38″ jeans (which I haven’t worn in years). A number of people have told me I look like I’ve lost weight, so that’s very encouraging. My BMI “ideal weight” is 165, which is not gonna happen again (I did that once and looked emaciated…amazing love handles, though). I’d be very satisfied with a muscular 200, so we’ll see if we can get there. If things keep going at the same rate, maybe by May or June. I’m expecting things will slow down, though, so we’ll see.

I’m trying my hand at tomatoes again this spring. I got some peat pellet things and tried planting seeds last fall, but nothing sprouted. I figured the seeds were probably too old to sprout (I’d had them since 2017 or so), so I threw the seeds away, but then I got some proper seed starter trays a week ago and some brand new seeds. Put the seeds in the starter tray and also a couple of the peat pellets just to see if they’d work, and the results are in: I’ve got 2″-tall sprouts in all of the starter trays but neither of the pellets did anything. I’m wondering whether I should have kept those old seeds. I’m thinking they were not the problem. But, the fun thing is, now I’ve got 144+ plants started. I’ll weed out the weaklings, but my gosh, that’s a lot of plants! I’ve been prepping the space in front of the barn, adding sand and lots of horse manure to turn it into a tomato garden. I’ll be very excited to see how things turn out. I got 9 different varieties of seeds, including my favorite, Black Krim, so I’m very much looking forward to having tomatoes running out my ears. Ten plants the last time I tried this wasn’t enough to keep up with my absolute love of tomatoes, so we’ll see if 70–150 of them is.

I ordered a PC from Dell and so far have not been impressed. They were supposed to deliver it mid-January, but now they’re saying next week. Granted, with all the supply chain issues, it’s possible they just couldn’t get the components to assemble. Anyway, I also ordered a Bluetooth development module from Silicon Laboratories. I tried to get their IDE to work on my computer, but something, something, python sucks, something, something, can’t create the project, so that’s been frustrating. I’m looking forward to getting my PC, though, so I can install their IDE on there and hopefully get it working. I’ve got big plans for the Bluetooth module if I can get it to work, so we’ll see.

Work has been interesting. Lots of R&D stuff as well as sustaining, and we’re working on a common platform from which to base our future products, so there’s been a fair bit of systems and electrical engineering involved there. While I’m not crazy about writing requirements again, the diversity in the things I do is great: a few requirements, a little scripting, some electrical design or testing… It’s nice to mix things up frequently.

Engineering is supposed to be moving buildings (they’ve been threatening it ever since I started, but the official move date was a couple of weeks ago). My fellow EE and I got the lab packed up and ready to go, but then we had a Covid outbreak that sent all of the firmware guys home, so that delayed the move. The firmware guys didn’t get back until last week, and we were going to move Friday, but my boss’s boss (who’s kind of running the move) had to be in bigwig meetings all week. More of that this coming week, so now they’re thinking we might move this coming Friday. Other than the anticipation of just getting it done and over with, I’m in no hurry; it’s a much longer drive (over 2x the distance, from 25 miles to almost 60) with much worse traffic, so I have zero desire to move. But, management is talking about maybe letting us work from home occasionally or work out of our current location from time to time (Manufacturing and everybody else are staying at the old building) to make the commute a little less onerous. We’ll see. My boss’s boss is right—long commutes can be soul-sucking—but at least I’m going to a place I want to go to do work I want to do as opposed to the old job where it was a long commute to go to a place I didn’t want to go and to do things I didn’t want to do. So, hopefully between a more enjoyable job and concessions on working from home or from the old building, it won’t be too terrible.

I haven’t officially started doing commissions again, but I did do one “under the table”, so to speak. One of my clients is a veritable fountain of interesting story ideas, and while I’m not all that interested in the particular kink represented, the rest of the story is generally really fun to write. I’ve done enough commissions for this person that I kinda know the parts to include to make it satisfying kink-wise, so the majority of the focus gets to be on creating neat, interesting stories that happen to include the kink rather than creating a kink-focused story with little other content. I reached out to that person and did a commission without opening up officially. I figured if I was gonna dip a toe back into the commissioner pool, I ought to at least pick a topic and commissioner with a good chance of success. So, that was encouraging. I am toying with the idea of opening up for commissions again, but only on a very limited basis: if the story is interesting and I have time, energy, motivation, and inspiration to work on it, then I’ll take it on. Otherwise, nah. The thing is, I don’t like telling people no, which is how I keep burning myself out, and I really don’t want to be in that position again. So, I need to figure out what disclaimers to use and all that to set people’s expectations accordingly: don’t expect to get put on a list that I’ll come back to later; if I say “no”, chances are, the answer is going to stay “no”, and it’s not me being a jerk so much as wanting to work on projects that are interesting and that keep me wanting to work on more projects rather than burning me out. Too, with the work move still up in the air, I’m not sure exactly how much time or energy I’m gonna have once the longer commute takes effect. So, I’m gonna have to play that one by ear. Still, the fact that I’m even considering doing commissions again after what I thought was going to be permanent closure last year is a big improvement. So, we’ll see.

So, all in all, things are going very well. Work is engaging the herd is well, writing is getting fun again, I’m working on a variety of pet projects and property improvements, and aside from the !@#$ poison ivy, things are going well. Knocking on wood now because it seems like every time I start expressing gratitude over my life situation, bad things start happening.

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