• Hamilton


    We saw Hamilton at Playhouse Square over the weekend. The tickets were our big “family” Christmas present, and we all had a blast. I was reminded of something that happened a few years ago.

    March 6, 2019

    We’re on the way home one evening last week. He’s singing “My Shot” from Hamilton in the back seat.

    “Only nineteen but my mind is older
    These New York City streets get colder, I shoulder
    Ev’ry burden, ev’ry disadvantage
    I have learned to manage, I don’t have a gun to brandish
    I walk these streets famished
    The plan is to fan this spark into a flame…”

    He pauses.

    “Can I have a Tier 1 swear?” he asks. “It’s part of the song.”

    I laugh. How can you not laugh? “Go ahead.”

    “But damn,” he continues, “it’s getting dark, so let me spell out the name,
    I am the
    We are meant to be
    A colony that runs independently.”

    Another pause. “Can I have one more?”

    “Yeah,” I say, chuckling. “Keep going.”

    “Meanwhile, Britain keeps shittin’ on us endlessly.”

    He continues, and I randomly belt out “Her-cu-les Mulligan!”

    He stops. “That part has an f-bomb in it. I’m not comfortable with that.”

    I laugh again, but only on the outside. Inside, I’m crying. For the innocence that remains in him, but is rapidly being eaten up by the world. I want to stop the car. Stop the world. Stop everything and let him be innocent for awhile longer. The highway is flying by at sixty-five miles per hour, but his life is going so, so much faster. So much childhood already behind him; thirteen years and only yesterday he first filled his lungs with air and announced his arrival to the world; only an hour ago he took his first steps; just five minutes ago he climbed on the bus to go to kindergarten.

    Tomorrow: a cell phone, a car, a job, a place of his own, a soulmate. Give me a minute to catch my breath, kid. Slow down. Let today last another few hours.

    Time has stubbornly marched on, as we all knew it would. He’s a junior in high school today. He’s been playing the alto saxophone in the marching band since the summer of 2020 (just a few short months after having surgery on both his Achilles tendons that required he be in casts for six-plus weeks); he had his first job in the summer of 2021; he plays the baritone saxophone in the jazz ensemble; this past fall he was the lead in a play; next month, he’s playing the tenor saxophone in the orchestra pit for a musical; he’s passed the written exam and gotten his temporary driver’s license (we’ve only practiced driving twice, mostly due to his hectic schedule).

    Next week he’ll be seventeen. In a few short months: a high school senior. But he’ll always be two, jamming a cotton swap up my nose to be helpful; he’ll always be five, frowning at me because the line to get into Hogwarts is too long; he’ll always be eight, creating waffle-based superheroes; he’ll always be nine, going to his first concert with me (“Weird Al” Yankovic at Nautica); he’ll always be thirteen, in the backseat of the car, asking if it’s okay to sing “damn,” because it’s part of the song.

    January 13, 2011. Waiting in line at Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
    December 31, 2022. Waiting for Hamilton to start at the State Theater in Playhouse Square.
  • Thirteen Years


    Wedding Day
    Today is the thirteenth anniversary of the lovely day in October of 1996 when Ms. Laura Sperry became Mrs. Laura Johnson. Some of you were there and may remember the very day, perhaps even better than I do. To me, the day was a whirlwind of activity and I remember only bits and pieces; all of them good.

    So how have the last thirteen years treated us? Well, we’ve had our ups and downs, but I think Laura would agree when I say there have definitely been more of the former than the latter.

    In 1996, Laura was driving a 1994 Pontiac Sunbird. The little blue car left our driveway for the last time just this spring. Laura now drives a 2000 Pontiac Montana and I drive the MiniVan…of DOOM! (A 2002 Pontiac Montana, as it happens.) We also had an Oldsmobile Alero for three years, a car I believe Laura misses to this day.

    In 1996, we lived in Fairport Harbor, Ohio (my second apartment in that little town). Shortly after we got married, we moved to Mayfield Heights, Ohio, where we lived until 2001; then we established the International House of Johnson in Willoughby (yes, Ohio).

    In 1996, Laura was an assistant managing editor and I a computer sales associate. Our roles have changed to stay-at-home mom and systems engineer, respectively.

    In 1996, it was just the two of us in what amounted to a studio apartment. The first addition to our family was Sushi, an angry betta, shortly followed by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two cats whose IQs have been steadily declining since 2003. Sushi lasted about two years before a combination of impotent rage and oppressive ennui caused his little piscean heart to burst.

    In 2006, we were joined by Kyle, who I often refer to as “my young apprentice”. We weren’t exactly expecting Kyle; in fact, we didn’t find out he was on the way until he had been simmering for about four and a half months. He arrived on Friday, January 13th and I daresay nothing has been the same since.

    Since 1996, Laura and I have attended a couple of high school reunions, umpteen weddings, and an unfortunate number of funerals. We’ve celebrated births, birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. We’ve taken two Caribbean cruises. We’ve traveled to Texas, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois together. We’ve driven (or flown) back and forth to Upper Michigan at least once and sometimes two or three times a year.

    The police have been dispatched to our house three times; the fire department once. The only casualty related to any of those visits was our mailbox.

    There are certainly things I would change about the last thirteen years—times when the phrase “wedded bliss” didn’t always apply—but I wouldn’t change the October day that started it all, when we had no idea what the future would hold and knew only that we wanted to spend it together. I’ve seen part of that future; I’m looking forward to the rest.

  • Condolences to C.A. Sizemore


    I don’t make a habit of directly copying what we post over at The Secret Lair, but I think this unfortunate occasion warrants an exception to the rule.

    C.A. Sizemore has been a fan of The Secret Lair since day one. He has provided us with feedback and even contributed a manuscript that we simply haven’t gotten around to publishing yet. C.A. has been with us since long before The Secret Lair became a reality: he followed us here from The House of the Harping Monkey and Volcanicast, where he was a loyal, involved fan. I’m hard-pressed to think of a podcast that C.A. doesn’t listen to and equally hard-pressed to think of a podcaster who doesn’t know him. He is the best kind of fan we could possibly ask for and we are all lucky to have him.

    This morning C.A.’s wife, Kelly, passed away unexpectedly. Our hearts, thoughts, prayers and deepest condolences are with C.A. in this difficult and tragic time.

    I’ve taken down the tip jar because there is something better you can do with your money today: you can give a little to help someone who has always been there for us, a loyal fan like no other. Please visit the donation site established by Mae Breakall and give what you can to help C.A. cover the expenses that tragic events like these always incur.

  • Non Sequitur: The Name Game


    “Kris Alan Johnson!”

    Rarely were those three words strung together unless I had committed some egregious offense. It is common practice, after all, for a parent to employ a child’s full name in the face of an infraction so dire as to warrant prison time (if only the little miscreant could be tried as an adult).

    Less severe offenses occasionally elicited a “Kris Alan!” from my mother, but the full name was reserved for truly despicable deeds.

    Had I been an entirely rotten child, I suppose it is quite possible that my mother would have grown tired of constantly evoking my full name and determined that simply calling me by my middle name would be sufficient to indicate that I was in deep trouble and to distinguish her summons from those (rare) occasions when she wasn’t ready to wring my scrawny little neck.

    But I was most certainly not a rotten child.

    Joseph Martin Johnson, on the other hand, must have been a thoroughly rotten child, for to this very day everyone calls him “Martin”.

    Except me, of course. I call him “Dad”.

  • How Not To Grow A Beard: Day 18


    I rolled out of bed at a few minutes before eleven this morning, despite hitting the sack at just a few minutes after midnight. Kyle and I had a little breakfast, then watched Blue’s Clues and Jack’s Big Music Show. After a bit of reading and rough-housing, Laura came home, Kyle had a late lunch and I headed over to record a Stories of the 3rd Wave segment at Erie Vista Studios.

    Now I’m back at home watching The Backyardigans: Super Secret Super Spy with Kyle while Laura cleans her office in preparation for potential houseguests on Thanksgiving (which really crept up on me this year).

    Tomorrow after work I’ll head over to Planet Retcon Studio 4 to record Volcanicast, which will complete my podcasting obligations for the week.

    Did I mention that the proximity of Thanksgiving caught me off guard this year? I obviously have a lot to be thankful for and I’ll get to that a little later this week. Right now I’m realizing that we’re hosting the big meal and could have up to fifteen people at the International House of Johnson in just a few days. Yikes.

    Ah, but there will be pie. Pumpkin pie. I will fight a legion of ninja turkeys for a piece of pumpkin pie, if need be.

  • Happy Father’s Day


    A few days ago, after changing the left front turn signal and putting new wheel covers on the MVoD, I decided it was time to re-stow the jack that has been rattling around in the back for several months.

    Like folding a map or trying to get an inflatable bad back into its original packaging, stowing the jack turned out to be nearly impossible. The handle comes apart in two separate pieces, which must be inserted into a plastic sleeve that in turn wraps around the jack. The whole bundle is then crammed into a little cubby hole and held in place by a plastic bracket that will not fit around the jack and handle once they are removed unless one is willing to defy at least one of the fundamental laws of physics.

    “Sometimes,” I heard my dad insist from nearly eight hundred miles away, “you just have to talk to it.”

    Mowing the Field
    He grins every time he says it—the same grin I know I’ve inherited—because by “talk to”, he means “swear at”. Colorful invective is one of my father’s specialties; his bilingual tirades (usually directed at uncooperative machines) are practically works of verbal art.

    My mother disapproves, of course. She is appalled that any of her children would heed their father’s horrible advice—which makes it all the more vexing when a stream of profanity proves to be the perfect lubricant for whatever needs unsticking.

    “Come on, you miserable piece of-” I muttered under my breath, trying to wedge the jack and its handle back into the space behind the right rear wheel well, “get in there!”

    Frustration increasing proportionally to the seeming futility of my efforts, my utterances grew ever more inappropriate until, finally, I was able to tighten the wingnut that held the retaining bracket in place.

    “Sometimes you just have to talk to it,” I muttered to myself, wiping the sweat from my brow. “Thanks, dad.”

  • Techstuff: Laura’s New Laptop


    I have to admit to being a little out of touch with current CPU technology. Once upon a time, it was easy to get a rough gauge of CPU performance based on the processor’s speed. My desktop has a 1.7 GHz Intel Pentium IV, while Laura’s desktop is running a 1.1 GHz Pentium III. I watched as available processor speeds passed the 2 GHz, then the 3 GHz mark.

    Last year, Intel and AMD both introduced dual-core processors, gave their products names like “Core Duo T2050” and “Turion 64 X2 TL-50”, and tucked the processor speeds away in small print. I really didn’t pay attention, because I had no need to. Apart not being able to run a growing number of new games (probably a good thing), my computer was just fine; ditto for Laura’s.

    That changed a couple of weeks ago when Laura announced that she would like to purchase a laptop. I’ve been wanting to get her one for a couple of years, but until Kyle came along she wasn’t feeling a need for mobile computing. With a curious, active one-year-old boy not content to sit quietly in his mother’s office while she checked her e-mail, designed a birthday party invitation, or scoured eBay for … stuff, Laura realized that it would be nice to have a laptop she could take into the living room while Kyle busied himself with toys and chasing cats.

    So last Saturday we went laptop shopping at Micro Center in Mayfield Heights. A lifetime ago (or so it seems), I worked at this very store, and several of the good folks I worked with are still there. I tend to shop around a bit when I want stuff like software and recordable media, but when I want hardware I always head to Micro Center. The fact that they sent me an e-mail coupon for $150 off all notebooks in the store Friday night didn’t hurt, either.

    I’d done a little poking around in the store throughout the month (purchasing a new wireless mouse, a Linksys wireless router, and a copy of Norton Internet Security 2007), so I was pretty familiar with the laptops in our price range. I had narrowed it down to three models, and the extra $150 off pretty much cemented the deal. Laura is now the owner of an Acer Aspire 5102WLMi, and I would be remiss if I didn’t provide system specs:

    • AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-50 CPU (1.6 GHz)
    • 2 GB RAM
    • 120 GB, 4200 RPM hard drive.
    • 15.4″ WXGA TFT display
    • ATI Mobility Xpress 1100 graphics adapter
    • DVD+/-R drive.
    • Integrated 802.11b/g wireless network adapter
    • Windows XP Media Center (with a free upgrade to Windows Vista, if memory serves)

    I know the Turion 64 X2 processor running at 1.6 GHz is faster than my 1.7 GHz Pentium IV, but I have no idea how much faster. Apart from initial system setup, installing, Firefox, Thunderbird, iTunes and Quicktime and watching the HD Ghost Rider trailer, I really haven’t played with it much. From what I can tell, it’s a very nice machine and will serve Laura’s needs quite well.

    I can’t help but wonder how Star Wars: Empire at War would run on it, though.

  • Non Sequitur: Catching Up


    Despite the lack of activity on the web site, it’s been a busy December.

    The important stuff:

    • My father-in-law was laid to rest on Wednesday the 13th at the Kirtland South Cemetery. This cemetery is the resting place of a number of his relatives and contains a very nice Sperry family monument. Coincidentally, my father-in-law’s grave site is next to one of his old friends who was killed in Vietnam when he was just twenty years old.
    • At some point in the past two weeks, the sump pumps in my mother-in-law’s crawlspace failed and the crawlspace flooded. Among the items stored in the crawlspace were all of her Christmas decorations. Fortunately, the family came to the rescue. My brother-in-law, JayHe’s my sister-in-law’s husband. Does that make him my brother-in-law? I don’t know, but that’s what I call him., provided a real live Christmas tree and Laura and I brought all of our Christmas decorations (we hadn’t planned to put them up this year). We spent the day yesterday decorating the tree and eating leftover KFC biscuits.

    The other stuff:

    • The Round Table has been put on hiatus through January. I suspect we’ll be recording some stuff for International World Creation Month in January, but we won’t be doing a full-fledged round table discussion until February.
    • Speaking of International World Creation Month, I’ll be collaborating with game designer and fellow podcaster Sam Chupp on the world of Yesterday’s Tomorrow in January. We’re using Google Docs for our collaboration tool and Sam has already outlined some very cool stuff.
    • On December 1st, Chris Miller and I put together an audio trailer for J.C. Hutchins’ 7th Son trilogy. Interested parties can listen to it here. Note: Contains some mild language.
    • Speaking of audio shenanigans, Chris, Julia and I also recently did a promo for Leann Mabry’s excellent podcast, Tag in the Seam. Listen to it here. This one doesn’t contain objectionable language (though I suppose that’s entirely subjective), but I think I was channeling the Brawny Man when we were recording.
    • I’ve received a few early Christmas gifts, including a Sudoku Cube, the first and second seasons of The Family Guy on DVD, Marvel Ultimate Alliance for the Xbox and a book containing 365 recipes for soup and stew.
  • Thank You


    Whether you’ve done so on my website, over on LiveJournal, through e-mail, over the phone or in person, I want to thank everyone who extended their sympathy and support to me, Laura and our family following the passing of Laura’s father, Tom Sperry, Sr. We have been positively overwhelmed with the outpouring of kindness and generosity from our family, our friends and acquaintances, and even from complete strangers.

    The visitation on Friday evening was attended by something like two hundred people, and I believe there were more than a hundred people at the service on Saturday afternoon. I can’t possibly thank everyone individually right now, but I personally want to extend special thanks to the following:

    • To my mother, for being here when we needed you.
    • To Ann and Mario, for your friendship, support and generosity.
    • To Matt and Sheila, for making the drive from Lansing to attend the funeral on Saturday, and for spending the day with us yesterday as well.
    • To Coz and the Marauder-Intruder Group (MIGs), not only for attending the visitation and the service, but for sharing your fond remembrances of Tom as well.
    • To J.C., for your kindness and support.
  • ·

    My father-in-law, Tom Sperry, Sr., passed away early yesterday morning after a kidney transplant. My sister-in-law, who donated her kidney for the transplant, is doing well and will probably be released from the hospital in the next few days.