That Time Boba Fett’s Legs Burnt Off

December 22, 2020

“The thing this mead hall is missing is walls,” I said.

Of course, it was a picnic shelter at Montgomery Hall Park, but otherwise the mead hall illusion held. My mother-in-law heated mulled cider in a crockpot, and my father-in-law heated us all with a fire in the shelter’s fireplace. My wife said a piece of forked firewood reminded her of wooden pants, so when her dad threw it into the fire, my thoughts led naturally to Boba Fett.

As you know, Boba has just effected a memorable resurrection in the Star Wars universe. Turns out he escaped the Sarlacc pit. He’s now on his way to a glorious future in a time long, long ago.

When Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, I had to have the Boba Fett action figure. What with that cool helmet and the rocket on his back, and the fact he could fly, who wouldn’t want him?

That winter, my job was to stack wood in the fireplace and stuff wadded-up newspaper below the andirons, and then, when it was time, to strike a foot-long match to light those newspapers. Except, on this particular night when I was 10, I accidentally rolled Boba Fett into a newspaper blanket and shoved him into the fireplace as well.

I realized my mistake when I spotted him aflame, his legs incinerating like Anakin Skywalker’s at Mustafar. We rescued him from the fire — but too late.

I mourned my deformed, favorite Star Wars figure. There was nothing Dad could do for him but use a pocket knife to amputate him below the waist.

Legless Boba Fett just wasn’t the same anymore. There was nothing more to do for him but grant him a dignified burial at kitchen trash.

Luckily, a family friend owned an extra Boba Fett and gave him to me. My favorite action figure was restored.

So as we celebrate this holiday season, whatever holiday you may celebrate — for us, it was a winter solstice in a wall-less mead hall beneath a planetary conjunction — I wish you a merry resurrection of your action figures and a hope for a restoration of all important things in the coming year.

Up to My Elbows

November 10, 2020

Just a quick update. I am up to my elbows in the programming of a new online game. This one is an adaptation of the card game Deena and my boys created, Juhyo. The printed card game, which is in very limited circulation right now with a select group of players, is a trick-taking game about snowmen in the guises of various monsters. A website will launch soon with more details.

One of the Juhyo website’s features will be the online demo. It’s entirely in JavaScript (and if I do it right, responsive to your mobile phone), so it won’t require any special software or app players to access, just a standard web browser. Making something of this scope is a slow, exacting process that will take me into 2021.

While you’re waiting, I hope you’ll give “Tombs & Mummies” a spin over at the IFComp2020 archives. If you rate fives games there before November 29, your votes will help determine the contest winners.


This Man Could Have Saved Your Loved One

September 12, 2020

By now, every person on the planet, if they haven’t experienced the virus firsthand, is a degree or two of separation from somebody’s who’s been sickened by COVID-19. The United States leads the world in confirmed cases and deaths.

Source: News Leader / Gannett

How could we have minimized this?

On January, 28, 2020, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told President Donald Trump that COVID-19 would be the greatest national security threat of his presidency. By February 7, the president understood the virus’s transmission method and severity, because at that time he told reporter Bob Woodward, “But the air, you just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed. … It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”

He said just the opposite to the public. He did absolutely nothing to prepare for the coming pandemic except to play golf and accuse the media and Democrats of being alarmist.

The above information is not opinion. They are historical facts, so I will not “agree to disagree” with you.

Here are my opinions: what President Trump should have done, starting on January 28, was to invoke the Defense Production Act for the manufacture of PPE and ventilators. What he should have done was share what he knew with state governors. They might have locked down their communities right then and there, rather than mid March, when the horse had already left the barn.

If not for Trump’s dereliction of duty, the world might have suffered significantly fewer than 916,000 deaths by now.

If your loved one died of COVID-19, you should be enraged at President Donald Trump and every Republican who enabled him. They sacrificed that person on his altar.

Unmasking Mask Myths

July 3, 2020

In resisting the need to wear masks to combat the spread of COVID-19, a couple myths keep circulating faster than the virus.

Myth #1: “Masks make it too hard to breathe. They lower your O2 and increase your CO2.”

I could appeal to your common sense with mask charts of questionable origin, but this nurse with a pulse oximeter and end-tidal carbon dioxide monitor does it better. Even while wearing three masks at once, his blood oxygenation doesn’t decrease, and his retained carbon dioxide doesn’t increase.

Myth #2: “Masks are ineffective in stopping the spread of the virus.”

Nobody has pretended that a cloth face covering with the consistency of your underpants is as effective a shield as an N95 respirator. Instead, the purpose of masks is to stop aersolized virus particles at the source. I may not have symptoms and realize I’m infected, so I want to stop my breath from hitting you, just in case.

To illustrate this concept, I propose a simple experiment you can do at home:

  1. Hold your palm up to your face. Blow on it.
  2. Put on a mask and repeat step #1.

I predict that in step #1, you will feel a stream of air hitting your hand. That is the exhalation that is potentially laden with respiratory droplets. Those droplets are the virus vectors we don’t want to blow onto other people.

In step #2, I predict you won’t feel that stream of air. The droplets containing your virus do not reach your hand.

Myth #3: “I’ll just wait for a vaccine or for us to achieve natural herd immunity.”

We can’t wait for the deus ex machina of a vaccine, because although there are many promising candidates out there, nothing is guaranteed, and all the idiot anti-vaxers aren’t going to take the vaccine anyway. Even if a good vaccine is coming, we probably won’t get it until the next presidential term in 2021.

Nor can we wait for 80% of the population to become infected and to recover so we can achieve natural herd immunity. There are currently 328,200,000 people in just the United States. If our daily infections doubled to Dr. Fauci’s nightmare prediction of 100,000 cases per day, it would take over seven years to infect 80% of us.*

*((328,200,000 people x .80) ÷ 100,000 people) ÷ 365 days = 7.19 years

Sure, I haven’t subtracted the percentage of the world who may already be immune. This is just a rough calculation to show herd immunity will still take a long time. And while we’re waiting, up to 10% of those 262,560,000 infected people could die. That’s over 26 million people.

The Bottom Line

Governments that pass ordinances requiring masks are acting responsibly. People who wear those masks are acting responsibly as well.

Grow up, and wear your mask. If a vaccine ever becomes available, take it.


Behavior Bingo

June 24, 2020

You know the game. You play it when you watch presidential debates and take a drink every time someone says “taxes,” but in this version, you have a bingo grid filled with your predictions.  (Suggested squares for a debate also include: Goes To Commercial Break, Candidates Refuse to Shake Hands, and Interrupts Other Person.)

When I explained this type of bingo to my kids, I described it as a coping mechanism, a way to vent off petty annoyances without causing a relationship problem. Maybe you’ve secretly played it during a party or a relative’s visit to better deal with behaviors that get on your nerves. There he goes again with the belly scratching. That’s one of my squares.

We recently discovered, however, that Behavior Bingo can also be a relationship-building exercise. The key is to play it openly. Owen (age 10) and I recently did this, with me making a grid of his idiosyncrasies, and he making one of mine. After 24 hours of baiting each other into unknowingly performing the various tics and suddenly running off in the middle of conversations to mark our grids, we compared our results.

Here’s Owen’s grid of me. He got most of them as well as a three-way bingo, but the red dots are ones I either fessed up to (“Drinks Whiskey”) or performed on the spot as a joke (“Says ‘I’m getting big'”):


Played this way — and without malice, of course — Behavior Bingo could help you get along with the people you’re quarantining with. It demonstrates your familiarity and love of the other person, and it’s a lot of fun.

State of the Corona

April 29, 2020

I hope everyone reading this is on the course to some financial, medical, and mental stability, and I wish them well. Of course, hopes and wishes are nearly as worthless as thoughts and prayers, so I’m sorry for that. Isn’t it sad that this simple sentiment — a hope and a wish for your well being — as worthless as it is, is already more empathy than what our president can summon?

I’m so sick of that rotting orange in the White House, and I’m sick of reading about how he has and continues to screw over this country during the pandemic. As early as January, when intelligence agencies warned him this was coming, he played round after round of golf at our expense when he should have been asking us to shore up supplies of PPE and ventilators. In fact, he could have started on that a couple years earlier, when he was warned such supplies were dangerously low, rather than spend his time firing the pandemic task force.

It’s obvious that his sole concern right now is not our health and safety but his re-election, and the key to that is the economy. He wants governors to reopen schools this spring because schools are a vital part of the economic engine — the health and safety of our children be damned. He’s so desperate for us to get back to work that he wants us to inject household cleaners and UV lights into our bodies, and failing that to take an anti-malarial drug, an unproven and dangerous treatment for COVID-19, which he happens to have a financial interest in.

I am not yet sick from the corona, but I am sick of him.

Back from the Road

February 20, 2020

It’s been a busy week!

Boskone 57
Deena and I were guests at Boskone 57 in Boston, MA, where we talked about website design (such as our redesign of and Deena played the wildest game of “Pictionary with the Pros” I’ve ever seen. I also talking-headed on a number of panel discussions about the business and craft of writing. For any con-goers reading this, here’s a link to a subject I talked about: Why to Register Copyright for Unpublished Works.

Among visits with our good friends Douglas Clegg and Andi Rawson, we visited Bill Carl at the An Unlikely Story Bookstore & Cafe. Here are a few pictures of author Jeff Kinney’s home away from home:

Rotary Club
Yesterday, the Rotary Club of Mechanicsville, VA, asked me to speak at their weekly breakfast. While I had books there for sale, my topic was more oriented to business writing: the art of email communication. It turns out that no matter the profession, we all have the same pet peeves, such as unclear subject lines, unwanted “reply all”s, and failure to specify clear calls to action. As a project manager and web designer for First Arriving, in addition to my work with Deena, written communication is something I do every day. As a bonus, my mother’s cousin Sharon came to see me! Here are a couple photos:

Whew! That might be it for a while as I catch up on some writing.

A Way to Reconnect with Political Polar Opposites

December 19, 2019


74 Year old earns his BJJ black belt

All hope is not lost, friends. We can still find common ground.

The owner of my martial arts school and I are political polar opposites. He’s a MAGA Trump supporter. I’m a liberal Democrat. We have only two things in common, but it’s enough to sustain one of my best friendships.

1. We’re both family men.
2. We both love Brazilian jiu-jitusu.

Joining a school community like this is absolutely a reason to give it a try, and in today’s divisive (and warming) climate, we need things that bond us together. Give it a try.


Pete at the Roaming Rolls blog just came out with a terrific post titled “6 Things To Consider Before Starting Jiujitsu.” Here is a summary of his subtitles and my favorite excerpts, but I urge you to click through and read the whole thing for yourself.

Jiujitsu Involves Touching
I’m talking about a form of touching that is completely void of emotion and creepiness, but stems from calm intent. There are many different forms of touch, and though jiujitsu is one of the less caring forms, it still harbors familiarity with touching, this inevitably makes you more invested and engaged with people.

Jiujitsu Takes Time To Get Good At
The very nature of jiujitsu breeds honesty.

Most people won’t even have their purple belts in the time it takes for the average Karate practitioner to receive their black belts. […] Like with anything you should be in it for the sheer enjoyment of the game. This also makes the jiujitsu black belt as legit as they come.

Jiujitsu Eats up your Week
With so many techniques to learn, and so many subtleties within those techniques, along with an inability to bullshit your way up the ranks, having to dedicate all this time comes as no surprise.

It’s Generally a Solo Venture
From the outside, jiujitsu doesn’t only look strange, confusing and somewhat homoerotic, but it’s also a martial art. That factor brings an element of fear to people on the outside.

You Will Get Injuries
Bear in mind that you’re just as likely to sustain injuries at a similar frequency in sports like tennis, football and even more so in skateboarding.

The Journey Never Ends
There are simply too many techniques, and differences in subtitles to each of them.
This is part of what makes jiujitsu so appealing and addictive. It’s the prospect of (like in science) exploring infinity forever. Constantly learning and growing, and enjoying it for that process alone.

Sen. Mitch McConnell Must Recuse Himself

December 13, 2019

Following is the letter I just sent to my U.S. Senator. Here is the article about Rep. Demings’s statement.

Dear Sen. Kaine:

When you visited the Staunton Public Library, I stood at the back of that packed meeting room and listened to you. I shook your hand afterward. I believe in you. This is why you, as my representative in the U.S. Senate, are my only hope.

Sen. Mitch McConnell stated on FOX News that he is in coordination with the White House concerning the coming Senate trial. Congresswoman Val Demings makes a compelling argument that Sen. McConnell must therefore recuse himself under Chapter IV, Paragraph 5 and Chapter XXV of the Senate Rules, plus the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 3. I would go further to suggest that any senator who communicates with the executive in this way must therefore recuse him/herself. The Republicans love to argue how these proceedings are a sham and hoax. And yet, by trashing their own impartiality even before a formal impeachment vote, they dive head-first into a cesspool of hypocrisy. Imagine if this were a regular court proceeding and a prospective jury foreman said he was already in contact with the defendant’s attorney; that would be intolerable.

Therefore, as my Senator, I request you do something about this. Please make a motion that Sen. McConnell and those like him recuse themselves. Of course they won’t do it — but this hypocrisy must nevertheless be put on the record. In judicial proceedings, motions that are wrongly denied by a judge may be the basis of an appeal to a higher authority. While there is no impeachment-related appellate authority after the Senate trial, you’re on notice that there are still the higher authorities of the voters you serve and the history you make. I want my 8 and 10-year-old boys to look back on these days and know that somebody had a spine during these dark days. Will it be Senator Tim Kaine?

Matthew Warner

The Corruption in the United States

October 7, 2019

It’s beyond rich that President Donald Trump claims his appeals to Ukraine and China are actually about his concern over corruption — and not about politics at all.

Really? Come on. How stupid do you think we are? Pretty stupid, I suppose, since you continue to lie, day in and day out, about your motives, oh thou of your great and unmatched wisdom and stable genius.

What I find sad, though, is not just that the electorate, in a fit of pique over Hillary Clinton, allowed this wannabe dictator into the White House. It’s that the Republican Party, a party I used to identify with and vote for, aids and abets him. I’m so disgusted with Mitch McConnell, who raises money on the promise of protecting the president.

There’s a cancer on the presidency, as John Dean said to Nixon five days before I was born. But it’s worse than that now. There’s a cancer on the legislative branch, and its name is the Republican Senate. There’s a cancer on the judicial branch, and its face is Brett Kavanaugh.

Meanwhile, this country that’s my home continues to run up a trillion dollars of additional debt every year. And a young and brave and eloquent climate activist is unfairly excoriated by someone I once admired.

My children will inherit a morally and financially bankrupt nation in a world unfit for human habitation. All so that people like Donald Trump can hold onto their power and money.

So, here’s my call to action. Here’s my prayer:

Remove the corruption from our government. Pass sensible legislation to safeguard our future.

Let’s live up to our reputation.