Friday, May 30, 2014
In time the CIA learns nothing from Sam and he is brought back to the states, where he is monitored very closely, not only by the CIA, but also by several other mysterious groups. One of which is related to a criminal syndicate group known as Novem Soles and the other is a group known as the Round Table whose main purpose seems to be to help people. Over a period of a few months Sam lulls his CIA watchers into inattention and he engineers a plan to slip from their watch back to Europe. On his journey he meets a lady named Mila, who is part of the mysterious Round Table group. She offers him money, support, and protection to help find his family if he will lend his expertise to find the kidnapped daughter of a major international business tycoon. Ultimately we learn that this tycoon isn't the loving father that he appears to be and that he is playing with fire in his involvement with both Novem Soles and the Round Table. As Sam works to rescue the tycoon's daughter, he soon learns that the group that kidnapped her was also responsible for taking his wife. It also appears from all evidence that Lucy is not who Sam thought she was.
This book is a fast-paced thriller from start to finish. The villians are dark, shady, and brutal individuals. Kill or be killed. The low-level thugs are, however, well developed characters that are not just literature cut-outs. Their high-level masters have much more than a quick buck on their minds, and their plans are rooted in power and control of the world. A very enjoyable story that follows on in The Last Minute, where Sam continues on his mission to rescue his son.
Thursday, May 29, 2014
I think this is a problem for many of us in our everyday lives. We have schedules filled from sun up to sun down with plans and activities, so we equate that with making a difference. Yet much of what we devote our time and energy to is simply filler. If we could somehow gain some perspective by observing the difference that we are making or the impact that we are having within our families, we would find that our efforts might not add up to anything of lasting value.
All of our comings and goings take away time from more important things like being present for our spouse or spending some quality time with our kids. How often do we feel the urge to take care of chores on our to-do lists that could just as easily be consolidated or shifted to a time that has less of an impact on our family life? Sure some chores and activities are required to keep a home churning along. However, my old pastor used to often say, sometimes you have to cut away the good to make room for the great. Maybe letting those dishes sit in the sink until morning might allow you to sit with your wife and talk about your day. Maybe putting off the yard work until tomorrow might give you the chance to sit with your son or daughter and get to see their world with just a little more understanding. We are busy, but what are we so busy at? Does it really matter?
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
All the way from the start
I would try to change
The things that killed our love
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
- Have you ever let something that should have amounted to no more than a passing curiosity consume you to the point of distraction? It happened to me the other day when a car passed me and I wondered what kind it was. Then the adventure began ...
- The other day I went into a colleague's office for a meeting and I set my coffee cup down on his desk. I then proceeded to knock the cup over, spilling the brown liquid all over his desk. In his panic to contain the flood tide, he used the report that I had carefully written as a make-shift paper towel. Who knew my words were so absorbing?
- A label on a bottle at the store read, "clinically proven mildness". Geez, I hope that I never obtain such a label.
- Have you ever done that move where you are erasing something and go beyond the edge of the page, such that on the return stroke you crumple the paper beyond recognition? Grrrr.
- One of the great things about having seniority at work is that you can publicly show disgust with one of your colleagues and get away with it. It makes all of the long hours worthwhile somehow.
Monday, May 26, 2014
Each marker represents some fresh-faced kid, scared out of their mind, but standing up to make a difference for those who couldn't or for those who wouldn't. The markers stretch out in all directions seemingly without limits. Take a moment today to give thanks and remember. Even if you don't agree with everything your government does or support every elected official, those who served or gave their lives in service, undeniably paid a dear price.
Friday, May 23, 2014
I had always thought of the term "wag the dog" as a cousin to the expression "put the cart before the horse". However, this idiom means to purposely divert attention from what would otherwise be of greater importance to something of lesser importance. Our government does this all the time and any reasonably connected person can likely cite multiple examples from the news. In Wag the Dog, Beinhart writes a story from the point of view of a detective caught up in a game of the U.S. president to start a war on foreign soil that is planned out by a Hollywood director, with all angles of coverage controlled and manipulated with the sole intent to boost the president's "numbers". The book uses the war against Iraq that followed their invasion of Kuwait (during the elder Bush administration) as this manufactured event. It includes a mix of accounts from the public record and fiction interpolated from real events to not only tell a story, but also to raise our level of suspicion of our country's leadership. Too often we see their motives are controlled by their huge egos, their desire to have a positive legacy, and their view of the world as some sort of game where they control the movement of the pieces. This book was both interesting from a story-telling point of view and worrisome given what the political games that I have witnessed over the years, especially considering that the bits and pieces that I am aware of are most surely just the tip of the unsightly, immoral, and sketchy truth of what goes on behind the scenes every day.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
The other night I sat outside on my porch after dinner. I still had a couple of hours of daylight and there was a nice cool breeze wafting about that made it just a perfect time to relax with my book. It was then that my peace was interrupted by squeals of delight coming from just over the fence in the neighbor's yard. I placed my bookmark between the pages, closed my eyes, and just listened to that wonderful make believe. No harsh words, no conflict, no reminder of all of the troubles of the world. Just kids living in that wonderful sweet spot of unaffected innocence. After too short a time for me, their mom called them inside to start to get ready for bed time. The spell was broken and I had to come back to my own reality. That's O.K., my own memories of that time for me were rekindled with fondness.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
If you could wish for anything in the world and have it come true, would you wish for something for yourself, something for your family, or something for the world?
What do you think?
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
- Blood Drive - Three young rednecks set out on a roadtrip to help out a friend who was in accident. Their goal is to give blood to help save his life. However, their addictions and desires sidetrack them. Plus, it turns out, they really don't know much about their so-called friend.
- Fetching Raymond - An aged mother and her two grown sons go to visit her third son, who is serving a life sentence for killing a local deputy. It is only upon their arrival at the prison do they come to understand that he is hours away from his execution by gas chamber.
- Fish Files - A small time lawyer gets an unexpected payout from a company on a nearly forgotten lawsuit. He pockets a large sum of money and chooses to leave his old, boring life behind.
- Casino - An accountant's wife leaves him because he has gotten far too set in his boring ways. Sitting in a casino to distract his thoughts, he learns that he has an uncanny talent for blackjack. Suddenly a player is born.
- Michael's Room - A lawyer who years ago successfully defended a doctor from a lawsuit brought by the family of a boy born with severe birth defects comes face to face with how each of his court room arguments to discredit the family were wrong.
- Quiet Haven - A con artist has honed a scam to bilk money out of retirement homes. When he gets his payout, he moves on. Along the way he also plays the elderly, befriending those without heirs so that he can take their money.
- Funny Boy - A local boy with AIDs comes home to die. His appearance and their fears of the unknown has the whole town talking and railing against him.
Monday, May 19, 2014
So, given all of this back-story, I still tend to cut across the grain. Both in my office at work and my library at home, I keep a thick book chock full of them-there words called a dictionary. When in the course of my reading I come across big, bloated, greedy-for-letters words, I immediately look them up online to find out what the heck is going on. If I kept all this learned-goodness to myself, I would feel selfish, which could lead to pride. So, over the past few weeks, I have kept track of several words that popped up so that I could pass on what I have learned.
|Needlessly Big Word||Synonym|
You will notice that in the above table, I list the "big word", but also an equally acceptable synonym (also known as a homophone). Why the authors didn't just use a simple, approachable, man-about-town word, makes clear that they got paid by how much ink they gobbled up.
Friday, May 16, 2014
Water Walker. The first part of the story (Outlaw) introduces us to a man named Stephen (Outlaw) who is the son of a missionary. Stephen grew into manhood under the guidance of a prophet and wiseman. He then went out into the world to spread the gospel. But the story of Water Walker is not about him. It is about a young girl living with a foster family. Alice is intelligent and sweet, but she has no recollections of her past, her memory extends back for only about 6 months. We learn that she was part of something called "Project Showdown" (which Dekker wrote about in his Paradise Trilogy - Showdown, Saint, Sinner). When the project was dissolved, the children had their minds erased and were distributed to different foster families. However, again, this is just part of the backstory to connect this work into Dekker's oeuvre and is not particularly relevant to this story.
It turns out that Alice was a child born of an affair between an rising-star senator and one of his staffers. The senator was gearing up for a White House run and needed to hide his tracks, so he used his connections to have Alice's mother Kathryn committed and then sent Alice off to Project Showdown. The senator later died, but set up a sizable trust fund for Alice to inherit once she turned 18. Kathryn, once she secured her freedom, was desperate to find her daughter but the trail was cold. When we meet her we find a woman definitely not of sound mind. She is being controlled by a man named Zeke, who has somehow found out where Alice is living and arranges to kidnap her from her foster family. Alice is then brought to an isolated compound where her mother subjects her to ritual cleansings and baptisms and rules upon rules, all under the watchful eye of Zeke. Zeke's dominance over Kathryn and Alice is all part of his elaborate plan to lay claim to the trust fund money. Alice, a pure soul, manages to maintain her sanity and learns to survive and adapt. Ultimately, Alice shows such love to her mother that her eyes are opened to what Zeke is doing and they escape his tyranny.
If you are a reader of Dekker, you will once again recognize his overused themes of "looking beyond the skin of this world" and "you are not your costume". Regardless of the hackneyed themes, I did enjoy the characters Wyatt (Alice's stepfather) and Bobby (Alice's stepbrother) who were genuine, sweet, and nicely fleshed out. Zeke and Kathryn where more like stock characters embroiled in a mostly contrived plot. This book was a reasonably quick read, and though it was nothing particularly deep or compelling or well developed, I still enjoyed my time with it. The final book in this series is entitled Hacker and is set for release later this year.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
- I went into the bathroom the other day at work and a man was sitting in the stall. What was odd what that he was loudly humming a happy little tune and tapping his foot with noted glee. He did not stop when I came in.
- John Milton once wrote "Turnip greens awaken slumbering desire in even the most quiescent spouse." If that is true, image how freaky they get with a course of spiny nettles.
- I arrived a few minutes early to a meeting at work and sat down. On the table next to me I placed my small notepad. My boss came in and set his stuff near the table and ran off to the men's room. When he got back he reached to my notepad and tried to take it. I told him it was mine, but he clearly didn't believe me. Perplexed, he looked around until he saw his stuff. When he pulled out his own notebook, it was a full-size 200-sheet, 5-subject notebook. Geez, I can see now why he didn't believe me.
- Is it possible for any country to be considered truly civilized if its vehicles are not outfitted with intermittent wipers?
- You know, a baby carrot is not supposed to be just a regular big honkin' carrot cut into 2-inch-long pieces. Perhaps someone needs to relay this critical fact to the folks who sell these bags of alleged "baby carrots".
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Today I have a teenage daughter whose time with me is nearly over. In short order she will be going off to college and to start her own life. When she was much younger and we were laughing and playing those daddy/daughter games of childhood, I thought that they would last forever. When she would plead her usual bedtime question, "Can we read just one more story?", I would tell her that she needed her sleep because we had adventures to live tomorrow. I never gave a single moment of thought that those moments would run out.
At the end of the most days now, I feel a fatigue in my bones. My muscles are sore, my knees ache, my back is stiff. I know that I am just following the path that we all must follow. The miles behind me outnumber the miles I have left. Sometimes when I am still and look out there, I can almost see the terminus. Hazy, some distance off, but definitely approaching. I often wish that I could go back now and read just one more story to that young version of my daughter. To feel her small arms wrapped tightly around my neck and the joy in her kisses, sweet as honeysuckle.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
The world power organizations from government to industry to law enforcement to the clergy are being infiltrated by members of a fervently anti-Christian organization called the Society for Human Enlightment. Their goal is to neuter the Christian movement and ultimately to wipe Christians off the face of the Earth, much like the Nazi party attempted to do with the Jews in Germany. This group is well funded, well connected, and ruthless. These are the bad guys. Opposing them is the less well connected side of good, the Fellowship of the Essentials. The Society and the Fellowship are engaged in a cloak and dagger game of cat and mouse, tit-for-tat, back and forth, move and countermove. Tim comes to quickly understand that his life is in danger and with the help of Society operatives, comes to realize why his recording is so damaging to the Fellowship. In the end the efforts of the good guys thwart the efforts of the bad guys (for now), and Tim gets his girl back and finds God.
The book wasn't a bad read, but it was awkwardly constructed. I had the very palpable sense on every page that I was reading a book. Stock characters, stilted dialog, and a very cheesy feeling permeate this one. Apparently everyone in the U.S. in every backwoods corner, is connected to the Society. They are so committed that on a moment's notice they will set aside their normal lives and any notions of community and law to kill without hesitation, all to lend support to a secret society bent on pushing the U.S. down a path toward a Christian holocaust. The convoluted plot was so over the top that there was no way to suspend belief and become part of the narrative.
Monday, May 12, 2014
Friday, May 9, 2014
Over the next few months Julian comes to understand the heart of the people that have captured her. While some might call them uncivilized, they are simply following the long-held traditions of their tribe. Julian initially struggles with anxieties and fears that her life is over and that she is fated to die in this remote land. However, many local women are barren, and a tribal leader who can produce a son is highly esteemed. Julian gets caught in the ever-spiraling power games of two of the most powerful tribal leaders. One is a man of honor and peace. The other is a man of brutally and fear. At first Julian is despondent and angry that she answered God's call only to have her gift rejected at the hands of these barbarians. Ultimately, she comes to see that the visions that led her to this land were a presage of her destiny, to help bring God's light into this dark land.
The first part of this book was used to establish the setting, the conflict, and the different characters. I felt that while some of Julian's motivations were not entirely clear or justified by the character that Dekker had been developing, he was still holding his own reasonably well. Suddenly, at the book's two-thirds mark, Dekker made an abrupt change in his narrative approach as he introduced a fairly unbelievable and awkward spiritual element in the story that was forced, overplayed, and irksome. At the climax of the story, when the bloodlust of ten thousand pagan natives had reached its zenith, they all turned into sobbing Christians because the protagonists willed them to see the light of forgiveness. While I still enjoyed the story, this is definitely not his best work.
Thursday, May 8, 2014
Would you have still married your current spouse if you had found out that they were going to be in an accident within your first five years together that would leave them severely disabled for the rest of their lives?
What do you think?
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Gone are the days of princesses and fairies,
never again will we plan exciting adventures together in the park,
where every smooth stone and bottle cap was a treasure to be collected
Gone are the times when your eyes would light up when we would go out for ice cream,
no more evenings of reading story after story cuddled up together,
when your giddy laughter would fill the room when I brought you a brightly colored balloon
Gone are the afternoons of fishing at the pond with make-shift poles and shredded bread for bait,
no more strolls along the walking path sharing stories and dreaming our dreams,
when your best day ever was watching Winnie the Pooh videos laying across my lap
So many special memories are now closed chapters of volumes,
each relegated to gathering dust on the shelf
Yet I know in my heart that every moment from our past is still present and has a purpose -
each helps to form the strong foundation of our relationship today
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
My research results are fully detached from any sort of market research that is known to be contaminated by "special interest groups" and the tainted dollars of "big business". My data is not subject to the latest fad or polluted by inane nostalgia. It is the product of hundreds of hours of data sifting on the fastest supercomputers in the world. These are machines that can perform at nearly 50 petaFLOPS without stopping to refill their coffee cups or wasting time hanging around the water fountain gossiping over the oh-so-charming antics of some little Timmy Whatshisface. We are talking high performance scientific computing with results that are air-tight and unimpeachable. Results only a bed-wetting cretin would dare to even think of raising an objection against. The results obtained for the best cartoons of all time are, in no particular order, as follows:
- Scooby Doo, Where are You?
- Phineas and Ferb
- Back at the Barnyard
- Spongebob Squarepants
- Looney Toons
- Pinky and the Brain
- Family Guy
- American Dad
Monday, May 5, 2014
- A sure-fire way for rain to pour unchecked from the heavens, even when the forecast does not call for it, is for me to put down some grass seed in my yard. Grrr.
- I just read a news story about a megachurch pastor who cheated on his wife. The message board that followed was filled with a few hundred comments. Nearly all of them showed that they think Christianity is a scam because of all of the stories just like this. Christians are pretty good at providing fodder for non-believers to remain non-believers.
- One of my superpowers is that I can nearly always tell if a man wearing a suit doesn't regularly wear one.
- I came across the following quotation by Honoré de Balzac, "Love may be or it may not, but where it is, it ought to reveal itself in its immensity." I can only say that I agree.
- Have you ever been to a meeting with someone who could explain something in a few words but would much rather hold everyone hostage by rambling on and on and on?
Friday, May 2, 2014
Danny has slowly grown into his strength over the several years since he first discovered who he was. He has already survived an encounter with Loki after he made his first Great Gate to Westil. Loki is a powerful gatemage who closed up all gates between Earth and Westil more than a millenium ago. Furthermore, he had the ability to steal all of the gates created by any gatemage. After Danny encountered Loki in Westil, he rendered Loki nearly impotent, somehow using the fragments of what he knew, along with his great power, to take nearly all of Loki's gates. However, instead of becoming drunk in his power and raising himself to be a god on Earth, he struggled to understand why Loki had closed all of the gates in the first place. Loki was no prankster as had been assumed. Instead, he had taken on the burden and the responsibility to protect both Earth and Westil from Set and his minions, powerful creatures who sole purpose was to enslave all of humanity.
The Lost Gate was a decent story, although I felt that the character development was a bit lacking. More specifically, I felt no particular reason to embrace Danny North. However, the settings that Card had developed, as well as the ideas in the narrative, intrigued me and made me want to push on to The Gate Thief. It turns out that I was well rewarded with the second part of the story. It was tightly written, compelling, and had some good lessons to teach. In the afterward, Card mentioned that he is presently planning for his Mither Mages series to be completed with a third volume, although a release date is not yet set.
Thursday, May 1, 2014
The mage clans are ever vigilant for the appearance of another gatemage with enough power to open up a gate back to Westil. Should such a wizard appear he could give one family powers and control far beyond the others. The fragile truce between the mage clans is predicated on a number of understandings, one of which is that anyone with the ability to control gate magic is killed. Danny North is a 12 year old boy who seems particularly ordinary, lagging behind the training of his even younger cousins. However, he suddenly comes to learn that he is, in fact, a gatemage with some potential. Being young and excited about his newfound abilities, he does not take sufficient care to hide his skills. In order to survive he makes the decision to go into hiding and to find allies who will not only protect him, but help to train him.
Over the period of several years we follow Danny as he begins to grow into his powers and survives an encounter with the Westil gatemage Loki who had originally closed all the gates to Earth. The family histories are not clear why Loki closed the gates. It had come to be accepted that he was a mere prankster, but we begin to understand that he may have done this to protect both worlds. As Danny continues to learn who he is and what he can do, he must try to understand why the gates were originally closed and to stay out of the clutches of the mage families who want to use him so that they can claim control of the world. Now, onto the second part of the story in, The Gate Thief.