Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve 2015

May the upcoming year bring you good health, more laughter than you have known, true friendship, grand adventure, full satisfaction, warm hugs, continual romance, perfect peace, and lasting joy. Blessings to all of my online friends.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Resolutions 2015

At the end of each blog year (like a regular year only bloggier) I have traditionally written a post reviewing my New Year's resolutions for the past year. The point is to own up to areas in my life that I have looked to change and honestly assess how I have done. Looking back over the past posts in this series, I have not done particularly well. In fact, the truth of the matter is that I often fail completely on realizing my goals. However, the pattern that has consistently emerged is that the goals that I set that depend entirely on me and my efforts and attitude, have turned out quite well. It is when I have resolutions that depend on other people when I am awarded with a plastic goose egg.

In my past "Resolutions" posts I have itemized my resolutions for the year and provided some commentary on my successes and failures. However, this year I just don't have it in me to do things the same way. This year has been more than tough for me and most days have found me struggling to stay afloat or numb to the happenings of the world around me. Hurt after hurt caused me to just let go of realizing my dreams. Holding onto hope when nothing ever seemed to go as I would have liked was killing me and I had to let it go.

While that sounds horrible and depressing, something positive at least came out of all of this. My approach changed from struggling to try to get what I wanted to one of just planting seeds. Doing little things here and there to help others as I was able or as I was inspired. Each seed planted might have died unnoticed or might have made a small positive difference in someone's day. I planted randomly without making it about me in any way. Maybe that is the best resolution that I could have made to begin with.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Blog Recap 2015

At the end of each year, I like to take a moment to look back and survey what I have included on my blog. As I peruse the list, I come upon posts that still resonate with me. They can still make me smile or bring a fresh tear. I think that I am pleased with what I have included here.

One of the ways that I look back over my site, is to make a list of my top 10 blogs for the year. This list is not compiled based on the number of comments or the number of views. It is based simply on what I liked the best. So, without further ado, here is my top 10 list of my own blogs (in no particular order) for 2015.
  • Jack O' the Wisps (Dec. 17) - The story of my life, which explains everything and nothing at all.
  • Italian Recollections (Oct. 19) - Staying positive when I was not where I wanted to be.
  • Make Ur Move (Aug. 31) - Being a man when I just don't have it in me.
  • Lessons in Geometry (Jul. 27) - Owning up to lessons that should have already been learned.
  • Waves (Jul. 13) - A melancholy look back.
  • Pulchritude (Jun. 29) - You have got to sound out your words.
  • Bucket Equity (Jun. 8) - Explaining why I often struggle with others.
  • Reflections (May 4) - Watching me slip away.
  • Who I Am (Apr. 14,16,21) - For art lovers who ever wanted to know the different sides of me.
  • Duke of Yosemite (Mar. 11) - Realizing that the train has left you behind at the station.
I hope that you found something here that made you think, that made you smile, or that somehow created a spark for your day. Thanks for stopping by my humble site.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Best Books of 2015

This year I have read 74 books and definitely found some good ones along the way. This was a year dominated by Brandon Sanderson (20 books), Bradley Beaulieu (7 books), and Robert Jordan (8 books). It was also the year that I read a few ebooks (9 books). Following my well-established year-end tradition, I share my list of the top 10 "books" for this year in no particular order. Note that I use "books" because I typically count a series by an author as one entry.
  • The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson
  • Saint Odd, Dean Koontz
  • Tuf Voyaging, George R.R. Martin
  • Cross Roads, William Paul Young
  • The Lays of Anuskaya trilogy (The Winds of Khalakovo, The Straits of Galahesh, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh), Bradley Beaulieu
  • The Wheel of Time series (New Spring, The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, The Dragon Reborn, The Shadow Rising, The Fires of Heaven, Lord of Chaos, A Crown of Swords), Robert Jordan
  • Lest our Passage be Forgotten, Bradley Beaulieu
  • Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Cemetery of Forgotten Books Series (The Angel's Game, The Prison of Heaven), Carlos Luis Zafon
  • Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson
I have already started to pick out some books for the first part of 2016. If you have any suggestions, send them along and I will check them out. I keep my list of reads current on my Shelfari page.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas to my online friends. May you find blessings and peace on this day.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve 2015

Today of all days during the year, the children are most like angels. Excited, innocent, and loved. For parents the anticipation of what tomorrow will bring is often the best part of the experience. Ribbons and bows adorn the packages, months spent in the preparations and the execution. May your tomorrow be better than all you could have asked for or imagined. Beyond everything, may you feel loved and appreciated. Merry Christmas to all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Observations 119

My occasional blog series "Observations" was created to be an outlet to share a variety of topics that pop into my field of view as a result of a condition that many bloggers are afflicted with known as "blogger's eyes". In this state we view the world on the constant look-out for topics on which to write about. Today's blog came about from random odds 'n ends of things that I have noticed over the past few weeks.
  • I still find it amazing how these "miracle tonic" ads on T.V. keeping pulling in the suckers, especially when every single one ends with the statement, "This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."
  • Watching once great athletes who were dominant in their primes fall so far that they are among the worst statistical performers in their leagues breaks my heart. It leaves an image that begins to replace the iconic one that had been formed over many years.
  • Over the past several weeks I have stumbled upon some words that I would have bet were typos or gibberish that turned out to be real, actual words. It seems that I don't know everything after all.
  • One can know the end is coming and take steps to plan for it. However, when it inevitably comes, it can still be wholly unexpected.
  • At the dentist's office the other day the dentist was searching for the right tool to pull something out of my mouth that had gotten wedged between my teeth. I reached down to my belt pouch and handed him the pliers that I always carry with me.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Quick Hits 52

Sometimes I hear an utterance or catch a quick visual of something that sticks in my mind. As this sensory input rolls about in my head, several different outcomes are possible. It might be the case that after a moment of consideration, the input is deleted as uninteresting, trivial, or too much for me to deal with. However, another possible outcome is that the input keeps demanding my attention. It somehow wants me to wrestle with it and give it more than just a passing notice. In such cases, they can end up here, in my blog series called Quick Hits.

In the time it takes to watch a single T.V. program, you can be sure to view at least one commercial of some law firm trying to round up a list of folks to form a class-action lawsuit they are heading up. These lawsuits bring in millions for the law firms in terms of fees and pay mere pennies to the folks on the list. What does the prevalence of such rackets say about us?

What do you think?

Monday, December 21, 2015

In the News 20

While I have not touched an actual newspaper in some time, I do skim through the online news headlines each day. There is always something that catches my attention, whether it involves human conflict, a human interest piece, the sports wrap, or just the usual absurdities. In this series, I carve out a space for my opinions, reminiscences, or comments.

Jim Perry - Jim was a popular game show host in the 1980s, most notably on Sale of the Century and Card Sharks. I used to watch these shows pretty regularly when I was in college. I would come back to my room between classes in the morning and veg out for a bit with the T.V.. Jim had a smooth style, a twinkle in his eye, and filled the emcee role to perfection. He will always have a strong association to that time in my life. Jim died on November 20, 2015 at the age of 82 after a long battle with cancer.

Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik - Two young American citizens showed up at a San Bernadino social services center and opened fire with assault rifles, killing 14 individuals and wounding another 21. In the aftermath, a shootout with law enforcement ensued and the couple was killed at the scene. Federal investigators have claimed that it appears the killing was a terrorist act and a "bomb lab" was found at the couple's apartment, hinting at more destructure future plans. As Farook and Malik left on their mission of sadistic murder, they left their 6-month old daughter with a relative, saying they were going to a doctor's appointment. What is it that turns souls to such evil? The incident occurred on December 2, 2015.

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Crown of Swords

The seventh book in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series is entitled A Crown of Swords and follows immediately after Lord of Chaos. Another tale that sees the reach of the Dark One continue to expand beyond his prison at Shayol Ghul, while his hand-chosen Forsaken plot and scheme against each other to consolidate their own power. They are at once pure evil and utterly vindictive and petty. Alliances formed today are betrayed tomorrow.

There are two main story arcs in this tale. The first sees Rand al'Thor, the Dragon Reborn, the savior of the people from prophesy, developing an elaborate scheme to defeat one of the most powerful Forsaken. Sammael has taken control of the kingdom of Illian and sows discord in the land. While Rand feints and patiently sets up his trap, Sammael never seems to fall for the bait. Certainly he controls numbers of Darkfriends as spies in Rand's camp. Ultimately it comes down to strength against strength and Rand's moment has come to strike down Sammael. With each step Rand must carefully weigh who truly is on his side and who seeks to either slip a knife in his back or bring him to heel.

The second main arc of the narrative follows Nynaeve and Elayne as they search for the powerful ter'angreal from the Age of Legends called the Bowl of Winds. With enough Aes Sedai linking their strength and channeling through this creation, it is believed that they can remove the crippling drought that the Dark One has unleashed across the land. With the help of the special gifts of Mat Cauthon, the ter'angreal is located, but no sooner do they close in on the prize than they are met by numbers of the Black Ajah, Aes Sedai that have pledged their souls to the Dark One. Not only that, but they are attacked by a Shadowspawn called a gholam, a creature that is unkillable and nearly unstoppable. Yet Mat finds a way to drive him off and the Bowl of Winds is finally in hand. I now move onto the next book in this most enjoyable and fully engrossing series, The Path of Daggers.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Jack O' the Wisps

Ten years is a long time to chase the wind, yet fool that I am I continued to give all. No matter that it was little more than trying to scream in the depths of space, where there is no medium and nobody to hear you anyway.

Stratus, cumulus, cirrus ... I know all the clouds, for they have ever filled my skies. Dark, overbearing, present. Yet I found a way to still, to compartmentalize your eyes, your perfume, your touch. Yet one day, for reasons that no man can know, one small corner of the sky unexpectedly seemed to lighten by a shade. How I regret allowing myself to take a second look, for allowing myself to attempt to stoke that long cold furnace.

sometimes I hear the echoes of laughter in the twilight of affairs and other tragedies ...

For all of the lambskin on my walls I still can't get through my head a simple concept. I can't let you go when I won't let you go. Likely I will never comprehend. Everything I know tells me that I will never get past this.

the walls are too high to jump

Now that I have been shown back to my place, I sense, as before, that I am broken beyond repair. I did not realize until it was far too late that you were nothing more than a jack o' the wisps. Why did I fall for that shadow? Damn. How can I go on knowing that I can't go on? That it's too late for my dreams held in those salad days?

they say time's supposed to heal ya, but I ain't done much healing

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Observations 118

My occasional blog series "Observations" was created to be an outlet to share a variety of topics that pop into my field of view as a result of a condition that many bloggers are afflicted with known as "blogger's eyes". In this state we view the world on the constant look-out for topics on which to write about. Today's blog came about from random odds 'n ends of things that I have noticed over the past few weeks.
  • A Harvard business professor recently completed an in-depth study that shows, contrary to the old adage, that money really can buy happiness. So, can we please retire that hackneyed old saw?
  • While the first observation was meant to capture your attention and be a bit humorous, his study showed that we achieve a much higher level of happiness when we spend our money on experiences rather than on stuff. That is actually a profound bit of insight that should give rise to a paradigm shift in our approach.
  • It is so sad to see people whose personal addictions keep doing them in. After each incident of self-destruction they answer with the expected apologies and promises, yet they continue to fall given opportunity after opportunity.
  • Football analyst John Madden once made the observation that football is such an interesting game in large part due to the shape of the ball. He stated that "whoever thought to put the points on the ball was a genius." In a parallel statement, I would say that whoever came up with the idea to put credit card scanners on vending machines was a genius.
  • I have just coined a new word I have. A mutinee is a mutiny that takes place during the day.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cool Cat

When I was a kid, only poor people wore clothes that didn't fit properly. If you saw someone at school with their pant legs rolled up at the ends, it was clear they were forced to wear hand-me-downs from their older siblings. People who were sent into public dressed in such a manner were ridiculed and singled out for harassment. I know because I was one of those kids and I absolutely hated the punishment that the other children doled out on me.

We frequently get lots of student visitors to the lab that I work at. Several times per week the big yellow school buses from different middle schools and high schools in the surrounding area pull up out front and herds of children move past my office window on their way to our auditorium. Over the last several years I have seen plenty of examples of kids wearing their pants with the pant legs rolled up at the ends. From the way they were all dressed, it is clear that these were not old clothes that they were forced to wear. This was most certainly a style that somebody "cool" adopted and others took note and began copying it regardless of the existing stigma.

It would be interesting to go back in time, decade by decade, and have the school-age children prepare a drawing of what they considered cool. Looking at these paradigmic Rico Suaves as a function of time would reveal chosen styles that the next generation of kids would find downright embarrassing to be seen in. What is cool today will get you severely bullied tomorrow.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time Christmas was a season of magic for me. Shopping for goodies for my daughter brought me such joy. We were so connected and in tune that without her even asking or dropping hints, I knew exactly what would excite her and make her dreams come true. Stuffed animals, cartoon videos, dolls, games, treats. As I made my trips around town to purchase the items on my list, my anticipation ran wild just looking forward to how much she would enjoy what I picked out for her. I could almost hear her giggles of happiness and picture those radiant smiles that filled the house to overflowing. However, back in those days, the gifts were not actually from me, but from Santa, the elves, the reindeer, and the snowmen. Christmas was an enchanting time that brought as much delight to me as it did to my daughter. The memories that I hold onto from those days are treasures to me even as they slowly fade away with the passing years.

Yet somewhere along the way, when apparently I wasn't paying attention, my daughter grew up. The bouncy, excitable, glee-filled child was replaced by a young woman. Age and maturity have a way of creeping in and displacing all traces of magic and hope that fanciful, larger-than-life characters will bring you your heart's desire just because you are special. When that occurs, Santa and his team somehow know to pass on by to where the magic and wonder still exist.

For the past few years Christmas has become much more of a burden for me. Something to just get over with and hide away from. Looking around to see how others seem to be having the times of their lives, makes me long for those days before the magic was lost, once upon a time.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Lord of Chaos

The sixth book in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series is entitled Lord of Chaos and follows on immediately after The Fires of Heaven. This part of the tale represents a major turning point in the battle for control and supremacy in the land. The White Tower of Tar Valon, the center of power of the Aes Sedai witches, has been cleaved in twain. One half of the Aes Sedai remain with the White Tower and the other half have settled in an outpost called Salidar. Both groups are scheming and maneuvering to bring the Dragon Reborn to their heel. While the Aes Sedai fully recognize Rand al'Thor as the true Dragon of the prophesies, both factions seek to take control of him body, mind, and soul. Their lust for power and control, and their hatred and fear of any man who can draw on the One Power, have blinded them to who their savior is.

With rumors spreading far and wide of the Dragon Reborn, uneasy truces and tacit agreements of peace suddenly fall apart across the land. While Rand tries desperately to prevent the people from destroying themselves, and while he tries to prepare for his inevitable looming battle with the Dark One, a moment of careless distraction sees him taken prisoner by the Aes Sedai from the White Tower. Their plan is to break him through torture and humiliation, and Rand must let them do their worst in order to give them an opportunity to grow complacent for him to find an opening.

Against this event, those close to Rand are dealing with their own burdens. Egwene, Elayne, and Nynaeve are struggling with their roles as Aes Sedai students when their lives are suddenly turned upside down with their being named as full sisters. While dealing with the jealousies and schemes of the other Aes Sedai, they seek to find a powerful ter'angreal that can help to ease the great drought caused by the ever-expanding reach of the Dark One as he inexorably breaks free from his confines. As well, Mat and Perrin, who are part of what controls the unfolding of the wheel of time, are helping Rand in any way that they possibly can. Meanwhile, while people scheme their schemes, diverting Rand's attention, the Dark One grows ever more powerful. Now, onto the seventh book in the series, A Crown of Swords.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Siren's Song

In Greek mythology legends tell of the sirens, those enticingly beautiful creatures whose mesmerizing song lured many a helpless sailing man to their death upon the jagged rocks. Though the legends were shared from port to port, and crews were warned afore, they were helpless to resist when those notes drifted across the winds to tickle their ears. Logic and restraint were forgotten in the pull of that inescapable call.

I too have fallen victim to the siren's song. Unable to resist that beautiful face, those twinkling eyes, that focused attention on me, I am reduced to little more than a puppet on a string, blowing whichever way her winds drive me. Offering up every part of myself and more in a stumbling, careening effort to please her. Yet, inevitably, in the morning I find myself dashed upon the rocks of that craggy atoll, torn asunder.

Frustrating beyond measure is that when I scrabble back to my uneasy equilibrium after many long seasons, weaker in mind and spirit than before, how easily I can succumb to that call once more. Somehow I am struck dumb, unable to recall a sliver of the hell that struck me before. Unfathomably, even though it will be the death of me, one echo of that voice and I throw all of myself into pursuit, willing anew to give her my very soul.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Observations 117

My occasional blog series "Observations" was created to be an outlet to share a variety of topics that pop into my field of view as a result of a condition that many bloggers are afflicted with known as "blogger's eyes". In this state we view the world on the constant look-out for topics on which to write about. Today's blog came about from random odds 'n ends of things that I have noticed over the past few weeks.
  • There is a fine line between being eccentric/interesting and odd/creepy. I am pretty sure that those on the odd/creepy side of the line don't truly understand this distinction.
  • Sitting in a colloquium in the auditorium at work the other day, I found that suddenly I was unable to hear the speaker any longer as the snoring of the guy across the aisle from me drowned him out. What is the etiquette in such a situation?
  • One of India's biggest non-profit groups to help disabled people for many years was called the "Spastics Society of India". Due to increasing pressure they ultimately decided to change their name to ADAPT, which is an acronym that stands for "Able Disable All People Together". I don't think we should let this group come up with any more names for anything ever.
  • "We are always more afraid than we wish to be, but we can always be braver than we expect." Robert Jordan in Lord of Chaos.
  • People magazine just released their annual list of the sexiest man alive. They have been releasing this list since 1985 and not once have I won the award. What gives?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Quick Hits 51

Sometimes I hear an utterance or catch a quick visual of something that sticks in my mind. As this sensory input rolls about in my head, several different outcomes are possible. It might be the case that after a moment of consideration, the input is deleted as uninteresting, trivial, or too much for me to deal with. However, another possible outcome is that the input keeps demanding my attention. It somehow wants me to wrestle with it and give it more than just a passing notice. In such cases, they can end up here, in my blog series called Quick Hits.

I can't understand how a coach can take his team deep into the playoffs, get a lucrative and lengthy contract extension, and then be fired early the following season. Did they forget how to coach? How to communicate? How to do what made them successful in the past?

What do you think?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Guns Ablazin'

I think that no matter how innocent your actions are towards another, there will be times when you inexplicitly set them off. There have been several times that I can recall where I have been laid into by someone who felt that I had insulted them to the core, whereupon they came at me with guns ablazin'. As far as I could tell my actions were wholly benign, but something they perceived in my behavior or words triggered them into an attack.

I was talking with a colleague in his office when a friend of his popped in to say hello. Out of the blue he offered to go and get him some coffee. I asked if he was my colleague's "pool boy" (a reference to a sketch on a show called Mad TV). He then laced into me with vehemence about my insensitivity that his people had been forced into servitude for generations. This guy was of Asian descent but he was American white bread through and through.


A colleague at work waved to me and said hello across a parking lot as I was going in one direction and he in another. I gave the usual dude head nod, which is normally universally accepted. However, this guy hunted me down and launched into me because I did not say hello back.


I pulled into the parking lot at work at lunch time the other day looking for an open spot. Half blocking the path was a car that I presumed was idling, the driver waiting for someone to join them. To be sure, I paused for more than a few casual Mississippis but the driver just sat in their car. I saw no taillights and no sign that the driver even cared whether I was there or not. I then pulled into the first spot that I came across among several available. A large woman then rolled out of the car and tore into me because I took the spot that she claimed she was planning to back into.

I wonder what goes through people's minds when they verbally attack someone that they don't know or don't know all that well. What reaction do they expect in return?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten

I stumbled across the talents of author Bradley Beaulieu quite by chance. My first taste of his acumen as a fantasy writer was through his enchanting trilogy The Lays of Anuskaya. I then read his interesting novella Strata. For my next course I decided to dive into his short story collection Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten. This offering contained seventeen short stories most of which I had not read before as they appeared in different short story anthologies. I was blown away by he worlds and the eras that he conquered and the variety that he tapped into. No two stories were alike and each was rich, textured, and intriguing. Even through the medium of the short story, Beaulieu was able to develop worlds and character of such dimension that I never felt cheated. He has definitely cemented himself on the top shelf of my favorite authors. If you are a fan of fantasy fiction, I highly recommend this book.

Reading the acknowledgements I was interested to find that this book, self published by Beaulieu himself, saw the light of day only though a so-called "kickstarter" campaign. Enough folks had become familiar with his writing through his recent Lays of Anuskaya trilogy that he was able to raise the necessary cash to bring this book to reality. I love that he had the confidence in his talents and such a passion for his works that he searched for a path to see them published. Beaulieu is current working on a new series called The Song of the Shattered Sands. The first book in this planned trilogy, Twelve Kings of Sharakhai, is now in print. I look forward to getting into this one.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

iTunes Latest - 31

I have been a user of iTunes since 2011. This service has allowed me to bring music back into my world and to reconnect with so many great songs from my past and to find some great new recent stuff as well. One of the things that I really like about music is how it becomes part of the soundtrack of the different seasons of our lives. So, I thought that I would share my latest five downloads and a bit about my thoughts on each song.
  • Ex's and Oh's - Elle King (2015) - Have you ever stumbled across a song and wondered why you had never heard it before? This was one of those. It has a sound that will just not allow it to remain in the background at low volume. Those past lovers just won't leave you alone.
  • Lady of the Valley - White Lion (1987) - I will admit to being on a bit of a White Lion kick recently. This song was a bit of a throw back when it was released. Relegate to the B-side of a singles release, it is an extended rock ballad about the desperation of loss and the helplessness of brothers taken before their time. Musically I love this piece as the electric guitar is wrapped around a purposeful artistry as opposed to raucous noise.
  • Hello - Adele (2015) - I don't know much about the Adele train with its legion of devoted fans. Apparently she has been away from recording for a few years and the world was panting and mewling in her absence. When this song was released one of her countrymen was quoted as saying, "Wow. That's how you do a comeback track!" O.K., so this one is haunting and powerful, and delivered with a husky voiced melancholy that made me notice.
  • Ride Easy - Asia (1986) - This is an early Asia song never released on a regular studio album. Even with a limited release, the lead singer of Asia has stated that this is his favorite song. It is all about letting go of the regrets that have you tied in knots expressed in that classic 80s Asia sound.
  • Cerebral Man - Pat Benatar (1988) - From Benatar's last popular album (Wide Awake in Dreamland), I have no idea what this song is about as the lyrics are so thin and veiled. However, the sum is greater than the parts on this one and it sure is easy on the ears.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Observations 116

My occasional blog series "Observations" was created to be an outlet to share a variety of topics that pop into my field of view as a result of a condition that many bloggers are afflicted with known as "blogger's eyes". In this state we view the world on the constant look-out for topics on which to write about. Today's blog came about from random odds 'n ends of things that I have noticed over the past few weeks.
  • When someone describes themselves as a "person of color", what does that mean exactly? Does it include those whose skin is plaid?
  • After the recent horrible terrorist attack in Paris, Donald Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination stated, "The Paris massacre would have been much different if people had guns." I did note that Mr.Trump is presently the leading candidate for his party's presidential nomination?
  • On T.V. the other night I stumbled across an ad by a local bail bondsman office. Their catchy sloan? We'll have you out the door before the soap hits the floor. That screams class outfit to me.
  • I was listening to an interview on NPR the other day. The host kept responding to the answers given by her guest saying, "That's hilarious". Yet she never once laughed, chuckled, or gave a single tee-hee. I find that hilarious.
  • Suddenly all of the blonde-haired women in my group have brown hair. I come to find out that they had all been dyeing their hair. This makes me wonder if blonde is really a natural hair color at all.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Miss You

My daughter is very nearly 18 years old but her bedroom has remained nearly unchanged since the day we set things up when we moved into our house nearly six years ago. When I go into her room to vacuum or to put away her laundry, I can get distracted by nostalgia. Her bookshelf is filled with all of the books that we used to read together again and again. Her headboard is lined with all of her stuffed animals, each alive in my mind with the personalities that she crafted for them. Her closet is filled with games and distractions that once thrilled her. Oftentimes she is not in the house and the echoes of her past are so loud that they drown out my peace. In those moments I miss her so much and wish that we had more time to be like we were.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Absurdities 4

I have a lingering collection of things that I have stumbled across in my travels and daily life that have made me laugh or shake my head whilst uttering expressions such as, "What has this world come to?". In this series I share the absurdities with you. Enjoy.

  • At the main entrance to my building at work one needs to use the center doors to enter. However, one is not allowed to use the center doors.
  • Should I spring for the next day shipping or not? I guess if saving one freakin' day is worth my daughter's college fund.
  • The scoreboard from the Patriots/Bears game a few weeks ago shows you the definition of domination.
  • When setting up a pit-type trap, one must use the right bait to have a hope of capturing one's desired quarry. See if you can match the bait at the right with the following quarries: 1). Scientist, 2). Bengal tiger, 3). Politician, 4). Nerd.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Infinity Blade Redemption

The second story in Brandon Sanderson's Infinity Blade world is the novella Infinity Blade Redemption, which follows the story shortly after it ended in the novella Infinity Blade Awakening. There we met Siris, a young warrior who had been trained by his people with the single purpose to battle the oppressive God King and to die in that battle against the immortal being. However, the battle ensued and, confoundingly, Siris did not die. In fact, he seemed to have slayed the God King. Ultimately, Siris understood that the God King was truly immortal. When he body shell was destroyed, he simply regenerated into a spare shell. Siris, who had been bred to despise the God King and all of the deathless souls of the land, soon comes to understand through his companion Ida, who had tried to kill him several times in the past and actually succeeded once, that he too is one of the deathless. However, he seems to be of a different ilk. A deathless with a conscience and a cause.

Alternated with this story arc, we come to understand a bit about the origins of the world of the Infinity Blade. How it was created by a megalomanical madman, a technological genius who wiped away most of humanity for no other reason but to get his kicks. To play God and savor the sweet taste of absolute control. Creation and destruction completely at his whim. Ultimately we see a strange and unlikely alliance between Siris and the God King as they are forced to join forces to stop the truly all-powerful being called The Worker. Along the way, he who was once the hero and defender now becomes the scourge and he who was the scourge becomes the hero and defender. Ultimately we see a lost soul who finds redemption. A great narrative that was left ripe for future development. Sanderson states in the acknowledgements that he looks forward to further development of this world.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

I hope that everyone can find some time to appreciate the blessings that they have in their lives. Happy Thanksgiving to all of my online friends.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ghost Town

The day before Thanksgiving and the parking lot where I work is a ghost town, replete with honest-to-goodness tumbleweeds blowing hither and yon. What is normally a bustling, packed house, is down to barest bones. For me, like many others, Thursday and Friday of this week are holidays, and thus the next four days amount to one of the longer breaks from work that most folks will get to enjoy. Many have bugged out for travel or just decided to get a head start on the time away. Up and down my hallway, the doors are closed and all of my usual Wednesday meetings are cancelled. If you have ever seen the chilling 1971 film The Andromeda Strain, that provides a good basis for the feel around this place. What just a short time ago was bustling with people, with activity, is suddenly wholly and oddly quiet. Yet what contributes to the eeriness more than anything for me is the following Peanuts cartoon that I stumbled across recently. Does this mean that Woodstock is an avian cannibal? Is it possible, and I do hope so with all of my being, that the bird depicted is actually a tofurkey?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Quick Hits 50

Sometimes I hear an utterance or catch a quick visual of something that sticks in my mind. As this sensory input rolls about in my head, several different outcomes are possible. It might be the case that after a moment of consideration, the input is deleted as uninteresting, trivial, or too much for me to deal with. However, another possible outcome is that the input keeps demanding my attention. It somehow wants me to wrestle with it and give it more than just a passing notice. In such cases, they can end up here, in my blog series called Quick Hits.

With religion strongly at the heart of conflict among people, I wonder if it wouldn't just be better if all religions just disappeared altogether. I wonder too how long it would take for us to come up with something else to kill each other over.

What do you think?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Scandal

A colleague of mine was recently fired from his job amongst a cloud of scandal. Shortly after this occurred, rumors were being bandied about in clipped and hushed tones in hallway conversations and water cooler gatherings. While I saw some concerned faces, more often than not, the folks who I came across who were talking about this occurrence were yuking it up in salacious tones. In my younger days, I would definitely have been found amongst the gossips throwing dry grass upon the existing flame. However, as I have gotten older, I have come to much better appreciate that I have more than a few skeletons in my own closet. If any of these ever came to light, I shudder to think how I would be treated. Failures, poor choices, and sinful acts that would definitely set tongues to wagging and fingers to pointing. It sure would be good to think that if I was found out, folks would respond to my own shortcomings with grace. I would wager that I am not the only one with darker secrets that I would not come to be found out. In fact, I can say with some certainty, that all of us could say the same thing.

Why then is our first instinct to dog pile on someone who is already down? What it is about human nature that loves to gossip and talk up the failures of others knowing that we have suffered through our own failures? Why do we find such mirth in the fall of others, even those who we would consider our friends? Even when folks don't know the full set of facts, they are more than happy to fill in the gaps with their own dark theories. It is so easy to think the worst of others and to make their failures and their fall into a fountain of jokes and crass remarks. Don't they appreciate that as folks lives are broken apart, even if it is because of their own poor choices, that they are not the only ones affected? There are families involved who have lost the income of their breadwinner. There are spouses whose mate has betrayed them. There are children who relationships with their parents could be forever affected. There are no winners in such messes and this is most certainly not a game or a show for our entertainment.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Infinity Blade Awakening

My latest read from author Brandon Sanderson was his novella Infinity Blade Awakening. This story was borne out of a video game and its narrative definitely carries that sort of feel to it. Kind of like an adventure in the vein of The Legend of Zelda. The story follows Siris, a young man whose entire life has been set out for him by his people. He was raised to be "the sacrifice", a warrior who was destined when he came of age to go and fight the God King, just as all of the men of his lineage had done for centuries. Although the God King was immortal and presumable all-powerful, the men in Siris' line still went off to fight in an attempt to win the freedom of their people. The God King had a long history of oppressing the people and requiring them to pay exhorbitant taxes. This rite of raising a sacrifice to go off and battle the God King was the one act of rebellion of the people that was within their power.

Siris trains his entire life and goes off to fulfill his destiny. To battle the God King valiantly and to die. However, when the fated battle comes, he does not fall, and instead slays the God King. When he claims the Infinity Blade and returns to his people, he is stunned not to be welcomed as a hero. Instead he is shunned and forced to leave the village. The people are terrified that the other Deathless of the land will seek out Siris and exact their revenge.

As Siris wanders the land trying to figure out what to do next, he meets up with a beautiful lady named Ida. Ultimately Ida turns out to be an assassin after the prized Infinity Blade. She knows something about its power and something about who Siris truly is. Siris thwarts Ida's plan and they become oddly paired allies. Siris comes to develop a plan to find the legendary forger of the Infinity Blade, a weapon designed to kill the Deathless and free the people. However, before he gets too far in his quest he finds out that the God King isn't as dead as he had thought. Ida's plan to save Siris from the clutches of the God King is to put a crossbow bolt through his forehead. Strangely enough, her plot works and sets Siris free to continue his quest.

A fun story to dive into. Now onto part two, Infinity Blade Redemption.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Teflon Don

I have been kicking around an idea for a post on how we react to criticism. This is a topic that I have written about several times in the past, usually correlated to when I see the different ways folks respond when they are on the receiving end of some negative feedback. Whenever I am the target of harsh words, I tend to shrink back because they are usually delivered in a combative manner and I very much dislike conflict. However, I have several friends whose skin seems to be made of Teflon. No matter what gets thrown at them, no matter how petty, how vindictive, or even how true, they seem to give better than they get and walk away from the encounter with their mind clear and their pulse at absolutely normal levels.

In a recent Sunday sermon, my pastor spoke about why we react to criticism the way that we do and why some of us take it so badly. He believes that we tend to take criticism so personally and let it affect us as deeply as we do because we believe, in whole or in part, the truth of what was said. That is what it means to take things personally. However, oftentimes many of us react to all criticism in the same manner regardless of what is said or who says it, namely, we let it eat at us until it impacts our whole demeanor.

There was an episode of Seinfeld that illustrates my point. Elaine was trying to get a reaction from a man who had a reputation for personal attacks that went right to the bone. He told her simply, "You've got a big head." Upon hearing this she was far from impressed. She laughed in his face, "That's all you've got?" Yet slowly but surely his words sunk and slithered their way into her mind until all she could see when looking in the mirror was a walking candy apple.

Of course, sometimes criticism is necessary for our own safety and for reproval. However, I am more interested in how we respond to nasty, negative, personal hate missiles that are so often lobbed our way. Whether we believe the truth in what is said or not, we need to work to develop a more effective filter when hearing the words of others. A filter tuned to allow us to pull out any truth even in the most vicious verbal blows of others, to act on it in a positive manner, and to let the rest go.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Observations 115

My occasional blog series "Observations" was created to be an outlet to share a variety of topics that pop into my field of view as a result of a condition that many bloggers are afflicted with known as "blogger's eyes". In this state we view the world on the constant look-out for topics on which to write about. Today's blog came about from random odds 'n ends of things that I have noticed over the past few weeks.
  • All of my utility companies send their monthly statements to me with lots of bold-faced type about "going green". Yet the statements are full of ad inserts that have nothing to do with my bill and which are printed on glossy paper that is not recycleable. Hmmm, maybe they don't truly appreciate what "going green" really means.
  • At my lab they organize weekly lunch time "pizza seminars" for the local graduate students and postdocs. My guess is that given people's intense love of pizza, they could have speakers talking about a pictorial review of explosive diarrhea syndrome or bovine spongiform encephalopathy and the room would still be full.
  • "If there's something from your past that you are holding onto, there's a great chance you haven't attached yourself to something new in your present or towards your future." ... "As long as you are exposing yourself to whatever that past is, it's going to be really hard to let it go." Rob Shepherd on getting over past relationships.
  • Since I have lived in my current house, the property across the street has changed hands three times. However, each owner has held to the same habit of washing their cars each and every weekend. I wonder what the chamois specifics are of their mortgages.
  • In a crowd entering into a public building, I overheard a snippet from a woman harshly talking down to a parking attendant, "Do I look like I enjoy walking?". The man next to me and I both looked back and saw a substantially overweight woman. He turned to me and said, "Well, I suppose not."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Quick Hits 49

Sometimes I hear an utterance or catch a quick visual of something that sticks in my mind. As this sensory input rolls about in my head, several different outcomes are possible. It might be the case that after a moment of consideration, the input is deleted as uninteresting, trivial, or too much for me to deal with. However, another possible outcome is that the input keeps demanding my attention. It somehow wants me to wrestle with it and give it more than just a passing notice. In such cases, they can end up here, in my blog series called Quick Hits.

Have you ever read a book that caused a lasting change in how you live your life? Folks might be tempted to answer "the Bible", but that is not what I am after. If the book was fiction, what was it that brought about the change?

What do you think?

Monday, November 16, 2015

Broken World

A week doesn't go by without some new story of men slaughtering other men for reasons political, religious, racial, cultural, and untold. Terrorist cells are holed up in every corner of our world scheming their schemes and toasting each and every innocent their murder. What have we become? Depravity, wickedness, and bloodlust seem to mark us as a species.

I struggled to make sense of the tragic events in France last week and a simple set of lyrics spoke to me as the truth we all need to hear. Lyrics written in 1965 by Hal David. Truer now than every before.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No, not just for some but for everyone

Lord, we don't need another mountain
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross
Enough to last 'till the end of time

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No, not just for some but for everyone

Lord, we don't need another meadow
There are cornfields and wheat fields enough to grow
There are sunbeams and moonbeams enough to shine
Oh, listen, lord, if you want to know

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of


Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Two-fer

With the possession of an e-reader I am now able to access works that are only available in electronic format. A number of authors tend to publish novellas as ebooks when they are not planned for paper release. On a recent trip I left my physical books behind and instead packed only my Nook. For that trip, I loaded up a number of novellas and today I wanted to share two that I really enjoyed from one of my favorite authors, Brandon Sanderson.

In Sixth of the Dusk Sanderson has created a fully developed world whose sights and sounds and smells filled my imagination. He was able in short order to pull me in completely. The setting is an isolated archipelago. On the seemingly unapproachable Patji, a trapper has laid claim to serve the god that inhabits the island. Dusk is a young man whose life is steeped in tradition, one that leads him to show great respect to nature and her power. Over many years and many adventures, he has come to understand a great secret of his secluded home. The birds of Patji are born with special gifts that bestow powers to the humans that bond with them. To Dusk's horror, a company has come onto his pristine island with their destruction, their steel, their noise, all with the purpose of claiming every last magical bird. Dusk has no clue how to protect Patji from the encroachment, when he finds the young lady Vahti of the outsiders has stumbled into his camp. Headstrong and sure of herself, he must convince her of what is at stake.

In Perfect State, we find a story that in some ways is quite derivative. It has some central elements in common with The Matrix. Humanity is controlled by some external force that keeps them in stasis, existing only within dream worlds in which they fulfill a role that has been prepared for them by their keepers. In the statis there are only very few humans. In fact, nearly all of the people are programmed beings. The actual humans turn out to be the leaders of their different worlds. When they have solved all of the problems or trials laid out for them, new conflicts are allowed. In time, these "liveborns" are brought into direct conflict with each other. In this story, Kai, the leader of a medieval kingdom of sorts spends most of his time trying to manage his kingdom and deal with the attacks of his nemesis, a liveborn named Melhi. One day Kai receives word from the keepers that he must chose another liveborn with which to mate. These instructions cannot be ignored as this process is necessary to create other new liveborns to insert into the system. Kai despises the role he is forced into and those who control him. In frustration he chooses the woman on the list who he is least compatible with. Sophie ultimately breaks his heart and twists his mind.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Observations 114

My occasional blog series "Observations" was created to be an outlet to share a variety of topics that pop into my field of view as a result of a condition that many bloggers are afflicted with known as "blogger's eyes". In this state we view the world on the constant look-out for topics on which to write about. Today's blog came about from random odds 'n ends of things that I have noticed over the past few weeks.
  • After a band goes on a farewell tour, I don't think they should be allowed to release another new album just a short while later and then go out on another tour to support that release. I think this is a bigger political issue than whether betting on fantasy sports leagues constitutes gambling or not.
  • Here is the epitome of a 21st century news headline, "Couple seeks right to marry. The hitch? They're legally father and son." (This was featured on CNN the other day.)
  • If I state my opinion and am lambasted as a fool, how come if a person with a British accent says the exact same thing after me, they are lauded?
  • I love it when unseasonably warm weather returns in the fall after the cooler temperatures have seemingly moved in to stay.
  • Want to hear a great nickname? English soccer player Fitz Hall is called "One Size".

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day 2015

Today is likely to be just another day for many of us. We got up at the same time as usual, headed off to work to labor for our 8 hours, and will go home and prepare to do it all again tomorrow. However, today is a day set aside to honor those who have served in one of our Armed Services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard). This is a day to recognize those that have served time protecting this country and advancing its world-wide agenda. Today I offer my humble thanks for the valuable contributions of our veterans.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

If

The latest devotional by pastor Mark Batterson is entitled If, Trading Your If Only Regrets for God's What If Possibilities. This book was written to get us to recognize that dwelling on our past failures and misses while clinging tightly to "If only I had ..." is keeping us from living our life in full. Only by setting aside our "If only ..." miseries can we hope to fully embrace the life that God would have for us. Weighing in at nearly 300 pages, this is notably the longest of Batterson's books, but from start to finish, it is typical Batterson. It is chock full of his usual energetic and clever word play and his illustrative anecdotes. Full of "rah rah" encouragement, but essentially devoid of any practical, concrete suggestions for actually moving from "If Only" to "What If".

The book is divided up into 30 chapters, each designed to be part of a daily devotional. I kind of thought of each chapter as a daily pep talk more than anything. A way to get my mind right and to dispel any cloud of negativity lingering about me. As I considered how I would approach this review, I thought to list some of the topics included in the different chapters, but this book was not really written with each chapter covering a different topic. In fact, if the subsections that made up each chapter were randomly shuffled and then reassembled into new chapters, the book would not read all that differently. Essentially this was just a collection of easily digestible chapters all based on the same theme of letting go of the past and focusing on what God would have us do.

Certainly nothing here was new or profound, and nothing "stuck" with me after I finished the last page and closed the book cover. However, it was still an enjoyable read and it fulfilled its purpose of keeping me more focused on God during my time with it.

Monday, November 9, 2015

In the News 19

While I have not touched an actual newspaper in some time, I do skim through the online news headlines each day. There is always something that catches my attention, whether it involves human conflict, a human interest piece, the sports wrap, or just the usual absurdities. In this series, I carve out a space for my opinions, reminiscences, or comments.

Bengazi Hearings - Hillary Clinton was put through nearly 12 hours of questions on October 22, 2015 regarding her role in an attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Bengazi, Libya that occurred back in 2012. The grilling involved questions of "What did she know?", "When did she know it?", and "Was she responsible for the security lapses that allowed the attack to occur?". As the U.S. Secretary of State at the time of the attack, some felt Clinton should be responsible for the failure of the State Department to act on threat warnings and requests for increased security by the U.S. Libyan ambassador who died in the attack. Regardless of Clinton's role in this affair, the hearings were clearly a witch hunt by Republicans who were trying to hurt her candidacy for president when it came out that they were purposefully saving some of their most salacious questioning until prime time hours when viewership on the news networks would reach its peak. U.S. politics as usual.

Metrojet 9268 - On October 31, 2015 a jet carrying 224 people crashed in northern Egypt killing all aboard. Most of the passengers were Russian tourists who had just spent a week vacationing on the Sinai peninsula. It is believed at the current time that a terrorist group infiltrated the airport where the flight originated and planted a bomb aboard the plane. In the aftermath of the disaster, politicians played their political games and governments huffed and puffed as usual. At the end of it all, however, 224 innocent lives were taken, caught in the usual grip of humanity killing humanity for reasons I am sure none of the passengers had ever given a moment of thought to. All the while the terrorists sit toasting their victory.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Shadows for Silence

My regular readers will understand my appreciation for the talents of author Brandon Sanderson based solely on the number of his books that I have reviewed in the past couple of years. My most recent Sanderson read was actually a novella that started with a request for a contribution to an anthology being put together by George R.R. Martin focused on "Dangerous Women". Sanderson wanted to contribute a piece that he had already roughed out. However, he finally decided to go back to the drawing board and create something entirely new. He decided that writing about a powerful and cunning female warrior was a bit expected, a bit too formulaic, a bit too easy. Instead he labored to craft a story about a dangerous woman of a different sort. The result was Shadows for Silence.

Silence Fontane is the owner of a waypoint, a safe haven located within a zone known as the Forests of Hell. Silence, an elderly woman of two small children, makes end meet from her rewards as a bounty hunter. Within the Forests exists a gallery of rogues and ne'er-do-wells who believe that they are above the reach of law. Silence is a killer of killers who survives amongst this lot by carefully hiding what she does. A kindly tavern maid by day and a clever and ruthless killer of killers at night. A woman who is at once motherly and cold. Her role as a bounty hunter is something of a family tradition, a role that she was groomed to take on in some ways.

The Forests are an inhospitable frontier where the humans coexist among supernatural evil beings known as shades. Creatures benign in some ways and entirely destructive in other ways. Silence holds onto a tenuous equilibrium doing what she must to survive and maybe even exact a bit of justice.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Quick Hits 48

Sometimes I hear an utterance or catch a quick visual of something that sticks in my mind. As this sensory input rolls about in my head, several different outcomes are possible. It might be the case that after a moment of consideration, the input is deleted as uninteresting, trivial, or too much for me to deal with. However, another possible outcome is that the input keeps demanding my attention. It somehow wants me to wrestle with it and give it more than just a passing notice. In such cases, they can end up here, in my blog series called Quick Hits.

If you saw someone shoplifting in a store, would you call them out, report them to a store employee, or just ignore this as none of your business?

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Observations 113

My occasional blog series "Observations" was created to be an outlet to share a variety of topics that pop into my field of view as a result of a condition that many bloggers are afflicted with known as "blogger's eyes". In this state we view the world on the constant look-out for topics on which to write about. Today's blog came about from random odds 'n ends of things that I have noticed over the past few weeks.
  • From my experience, squirting nasal saline mist up one's nose must be a lot like waterboarding.
  • There has been a lot of furor in social media over Adele's use of a "flip phone" in her recent music video for the song "Hello". I guess because the flip phone is an antique, like the phones that our forefathers once used in the days of yore ... or like I still use today. Hello?
  • I always chuckle when professional athletes get a huge tattoo of their team's name or their jersey number only to be traded away to another team and have to wear another number.
  • Also, another thing about tattoos, did you ever notice that after even a short while, they no longer look like anything distinct. They just look like a blotchy ink stain? Go figure.
  • I know that I am going to sound like an oldster with this observation, but how do people stand driving those cars with the loud "vroom vroom" mufflers? The sound hurts my ears three car lengths away. How does the car's driver enjoy listening to his classical music station in the midst of that racket?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Ears That Don't Hear

I was at a conference recently as part of my work. The standard format for these types of gatherings is to organize each day into a number of sessions, each with several related presentations. After each speaker gives a talk, there is a time for the audience to ask questions before the next speaker gives their talk. During this conference a very telling statement was uttered by a speaker in response to a question after his talk:

"I don't understand what you said, but I disagree with your point."


While this elicited a round of chuckles from the room, I found the statement noteworthy enough to jot down in my journal. I think that this statement resonated with me because it is a statement that marks our times in so many different ways. Social media and online forums are riddled through from warp to weft with vicious and malignant responses to news stories, opinion pieces, and status updates from folks who seem to go out of their way to look for conflict and to stir hate. In many cases it seems that folks turn their flaming guns on others without taking even a moment to consider their words in more than the most cursory of ways. They skim an article and then they lace into the author with such vitroil and vehemence that I can only imagine that they are typing with their hair on fire. Innocent and innocous Twitter posts result in Level 10 responses to a Level 1 offering. The common denominator is that folks are quick to disagree and even quicker to go on the attack when they really do not understand in any way what was said.

The late author Stephen Covey said:

"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."


Are our replies so short-sighted because we are not patient to hear another out, because we are too dull to follow an argument, or because we like to call attention to ourselves in grand displays? I actually think that many of us respond in such a manner because we are conditioned to be contrary. In this regard the Chinese philospher Confucius urged that,

"When we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves."

I find that advice to be wise and game changing if we could just somehow embrace it.

Monday, November 2, 2015

... Sigh

The average moth has a life span on the order of a week. 7 days. 168 hours. It really amounts to little more than the blink of an eye. Here one moment, dust the next. Yet recently I came home to notice a moth on the window pane next to my front door. Over the course of the next several days I came home to find it in exactly the same spot. Finally, I noted it was gone and I thought that it finally fluttered off and away. However, a closer inspection of the area and I found the same moth dead on the ground beneath the window. It had its life to live and for some reason it chose to alight in one spot and stay there until it expired. I couldn't help but think that it had wasted its existence.

It didn't take me long to bridge my thoughts from that poor moth to my own life. I too fall into ruts and patterns that find me in the same place at the same time each day. Anyone who might observe me might think my existence is little different from that poor moth. They might just walk away shaking their head thinking that I am wasting my existence. ... Sigh.

I thought a bit about the book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. The basis of this work was that several years earlier Miller had released a best seller and he lived with the high of increased attention, increased publicity, and increased money. Shortly afterwards, however, he found himself in a dark valley in his life. Sad, lonely, and depressed he spent some time thinking of life as a novel and what it takes to live a life worth reading. As he wrapped his mind about a plan, the weight and frequency of his sighs diminished rapidly.

Miller's essential nugget though was not to try to emulate someone else's story, but to find a path that excites you. When finding even a glimmer of motivation to flutter away from that window pane, who knows to where the wind will take you.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Strata

I accidentally discovered Bradley Beaulieu based on reading an online recommendation of his series, The Lays of Anuskaya. After reading that trilogy, I was more than impressed in his ability to weave an epic tale, to paint landscapes, and to develop three-dimensional characters that you knew and could care about. After my time in those works, I downloaded his novella Strata, co-authored with Stephen Gaskell. Strata takes place several hundred years in the future, a time when most of the natural resouces of Earth have been used up. To satisfy the incessant demand, huge solar mining cartels have set up massive-scale colony operations about the sun's chromosphere to harvest energy from the core of the sun and direct it back to Earth. For many years the cartels have promised adventure and coin for its workers, but once they arrive at the stations, they find there is little chance to get back home. The work is grueling and the lifestyle is bleak. Tens of thousands of workers amounting to nothing more than a force of slaves with no opportunity for their voices to be heard.

The only bone that the corporates toss to the workers is to allow them to stage skimmer races in the convection zone of the sun. A little distraction that helps to placate and distract the worker ants. Kawe is a good racer and has a chance to win the championship. The golden egg of the race competition is that the winner gets a ticket home to Earth. However, Kawe has joined the racing circuit not just for the thrill. As part of the worker's resistance movement, he has volunteered to drop triggers into the sun that cause solar flares that could shut down mining operations long enough for the workers to riot and take control. Kawe's handler, Smith Poulson, was once the best skimmer operator in the colonies. Once upon a time he too was a mover in the resistance, until he was taken down as an example to others who would sow dissent. Now Kawe is trying to influence Smith to look beyond himself, to use his hero's reputation to rally the workers and stand up for themselves.

A gripping tale that really paints the bleakness of the situation, captures the mood simply and powerfully, and makes you appreciate the opportunity for redemption in one who had long since given up. I can definitely see why this novella has won its share of awards for excellence in science fiction.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

In the News 18

While I have not touched an actual newspaper in some time, I do skim through the online news headlines each day. There is always something that catches my attention, whether it involves human conflict, a human interest piece, the sports wrap, or just the usual absurdities. In this series, I carve out a space for my opinions, reminiscences, or comments.

Brooks Robinson - Robinson played 23 years in the Major League Baseball from 1955 to 1977, all for the Baltimore Orioles. Even though he played while I was old enough to be a baseball fan, he actually was just a bit before my time and I have no recollection of watching him play. However, he was part of two World Series champions, won 16 Gold Golves for his fielding excellence, and was voted as the 1964 American League MVP. He was enshrined in the baseball Hall of Fame in 1983. His reputation is one of being a class act and a good man. On October 6, 2015 Robinson announced that he was selling all of his personal baseball memorabilia to raise money, not for his own personal needs, but to give 100% of the money to charity. That is a great story and Robinson modeled for us how we are to give unselfishlessly.

Jerry Parr - On March 30, 1981 an assassin's bullet nearly killed President Ronald Reagan. Outside the Washington, DC Hilton, John Hinckley took 6 shots at Reagan from only about 10 feet away, with one of the bullets richocheting off the President's limo and striking him in the chest. One of the Secret Service agents on detail that day was Jerry Parr, who risked his life to safe the President. In an amazing bit of coincidence, Parr was motivated to become a Secret Service agent after watching the 1939 movie "Code of the Secret Service", starring actor Ronald Reagan. Jerry died of heart disease on October 9, 2015.