Friday, July 31, 2015


My next stop on the George R.R. Martin express was a book he co-authored with Lisa Tuttle back in 1981 entitled Windhaven. I have been continually amazed with each book that I have read in Martin's oeuvre with how broad his reach is and how complete his mastery is of his craft no matter where his compass points. Medieval literature, fantasy, science fiction, pop culture character driven plots, he makes it all seem effortless and organic. Nothing comes across as labored or forced. My opinion of Martin was only enhanced after my time with Windhaven.

In this story, we visit a world covered in vast oceans. The inhabitants, long ago descendants of Earth, live among a group of islands. On a level equal to the rulers of the people are the flyers. Individuals who don the silver skinned wings that were once part of the great solar sails of the space ships, carry news and vital communications from island to island. For untold generations, the wings have been kept within families and passed down from parents to children. The great flyers are revered in song and story long after they have taken their last flights.

Like many children, Maris is enthralled by the flyers. Larger than life heroes who fill her dreams at night. One day she wanders away from her mother to watch a flyer as he lands on a beach near her home. The flyer, who has no children of his own, literally takes young Maris under his wings and teaches her how to fly. However, one day several years later, the flyer and his wife are able to have a child of their own and Maris knows that when young Coll comes of age, she will lose her wings to him. However, Coll has no desire to fly despite the generations of tradition. Maris then tries to convince the tradition-bound flyers that the wings should not be kept within families, but awarded to the best flyers in annual competitions.

The story of Windhaven follows Maris for the rest of her life as she rises to great heights to shed her outsider and outcast label and then ultimately falls to the lowest of lows when she loses herself along the way. Ultimately, her friends help her to find herself and regain her strength and her love for adventure and life. A sweet story with a laid-back pacing that served to give rise to a touching poignancy and a few tears along the way.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Quick Hits 41

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 connected with someone from your past that you were once close with but the relationship ended in ugliness and harsh words? Is it healthier to deal with the past and its issues or just work to build a conflict-free path moving forward?

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Observations 100

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 think that it should be mandatory state law that if you exercise at lunch time you MUST take a shower before returning to work.
  • The man on the radio told me in no uncertain terms that it was inappropriate to eat a donut with a fork.
  • Christians often say that they can't wait to get to heaven to ask Jesus the reason for the deep-seated issues that they faced in life. I can almost picture Jesus looking them in the eye and telling them, "Hey, you just got kabobbled."
  • A colleague of mine described the characteristics of a world-famous scientist as "Obnoxious and very talented." I piped up, "Well as least I have one of those qualities." He replied (far too quickly), "No, you are not obnoxious, you're just mildly annoying."
  • One of the best things to hear from your child is "Daddy please come quickly I'm in trouble." One of the worst things to hear is "Daddy please come quickly I'm in trouble."

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

iTunes Latest - 28

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.
  • You Make Me Brave - Bethel Music (2015) - This is a song that speaks to me and inspires me ...You call me out beyond the shore into the waves ... A great praise song whose lyrics paint a wonderful and vibrant portrait.
  • How Much is Enough - The Fixx (1991) - Some might think the album Ink is the nadir of this band. However, this tune is spunky and poignant. How much do we need when our horded treasures are already pulling us under and tearing our ship apart? A prototypical song by this band that will have you singing out the chorus before you know it.
  • Ordinary - Honeymoon Suite (2008) - I have been a fan of this band since they hit big in the 80s. They have only had a few releases since then, stretched few and far between. This ballad from their last album is a piece of longing, of not wanting to settle for the usual, the same-old same-old. Man, it has to be out there somewhere, doesn't it?
  • Magic Man - Heart (2012) - Magic Man is a release from the 1970s and it one of the classic rockers from the Wilson sisters. However,
    on their retrospective release Strange Euphoria from a few years ago, they included a demo version of this tune. Wow can Ann Wilson sing and she makes this song all her own. Absolutely stunning.
  • Until the End of Time - Foreigner (1995) - In the late 1970s, this band was one of the biggest in the world. They absolutely dominated FM radio. The market eventually pushed them to the back burner and they struggled to develop a style and maintain an audience. Their lead singer had health problems and had to step away for a time. This song was from the ill-received 1994 album Mr. Moonlight, but is a haunting and lovely gem that holds it own in message, in tune, and in time.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Lessons in Geometry

I believe that I have been wrong.

Well that would be a first, or at least the first time that you admitted it.

Please I'm serious.

... me too ...

I used to think that, you and I, well, we were diametrically opposed on some important issues.

Yeah, so?

I really came to think that I was right and you were nuts.

You mean that you were right and I was wrong?

Yeah, what did I say?

Never mind. What's your point?

Maybe we were truly on opposite ends of a diameter, but we were focused on the same center looking at it from different perspectives.


And? Well I have come to realize that considering a situation from different points of view can be valuable.


Valuable to learn more about the problem, to complement each other with what we bring to the issue. Valuable to gain further insight into each other.

You're supposed to be so smart. What took you so long to figure this out?

I'm not sure, perhaps I just wandered off on a tangent.

Was that a nerd joke?

Perhaps ...

Friday, July 24, 2015

Never Knew Another

Sometimes I just stumble across a book when I am minding my own business. Never Knew Another by J.M. McDermott was such an example. A bit weird, a bit uneven, a bit crude and unpolished, but somehow all of these qualities and each of these descriptors gave rise to something greater than its technique and its roughness. A story about two approaches to life, one open and take things as they come. The other closed and fearful. A story about two hunted souls with shameful and despised roots who didn't know there were others like them. Somehow they found each other and brought a kindred mind and a brief respite from their troubles.

In a world where demons taint the land and spread their infectious evil, they are hunted by priests tasked with their elimination. History has known such abominations as despicable, wicked beings that must be eradicated. Yet not all demon children fit the stereotype and the lore. Two such souls are Rachel and Jona. Rachel is the child of a demon who has spent her life running from the priests that would burn her at the stake. She is protected by her brother Djoss who has sworn his spirit to hers. They are both broken weary souls who are trying to make a life for themselves in Dogsland, living in a squalid hovel. Rachel working as a maid in a seedy, low-end brothel. Djoss working as a bouncer and a smuggler. Rachel has spent her life jumping at shadows that have always sought her blood. Jona is the son of a lord whose wealth was stripped from him when he was discovered to carry the demon's taint. Jona works for the king's guard and lives a hard and thankless life as an enforcer and a pawn. However, he has always gone about living despite the risk of being found out.

Eventually the paths of Rachel and Jona come together and they take their first tentative steps to opening up their well of secrets to each other. Their shared burdens making their loads lighter for a time. An interesting story with a deft touch at world building and a wholly effective narrative that brings home the squalor and the desperation of people who must do what it takes to survive. I will ultimately get to the second book in the Dogsland trilogy, When We Were Executioners.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Satisfied Mind

According to the averages, we each get about 25,000 days to do our thing. To come and go. To wake and sleep. To give or take. As folks near their ends there can often be a fair amount of regret over opportunities that were lost, that got away, that were passed up, or that were frittered away. For many they must face the fact that they wasted a fair number of their sunrises frowning when they could have smiled, crying when joy was just around the bend, or going through the motions and merely marking time when their imaginations flagged. I can already recognize that pain and that regret building looking at the chances that I have let past, that I smugly eschewed focused on trivialities that just didn't matter. It hurts all the more realizing that I could have lived my life so much better than I have. I could have lived a best seller. Instead I too often settled for living a penny saver.

Every now and then though I live a day where I make the absolute most of every minute. It is not just that I am busy and my mind is occupied, it is that I am doing something that I like with someone I love. Over the past few years the number of days like this that I have lived could be counted on the fingers of one hand. However, if I am still and think back over those days, their spell can still engulf me with feelings of being absolutely alive, of living with a satisfied mind. Those days can't effectively be planned or predicted, but with just a bit more effort, I wonder if I couldn't live a few more than I might otherwise have ...

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Observations 99

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 guy where I work who flagrantly wears those shoes with the individual places for your toes. These contrivances greatly disturb me.
  • What defines an appropriate volume level for a sneeze? If I can clearly hear someone sneeze whose office is more than 25 paces from my own, would you call that unreasonably loud sneeze-age?
  • At the supermarket the bagger was taking my items off the conveyor belt and popping them into plastic bags. When he picked up my bottle of Off! mosquito repellant, he told me that he knew of something much more effective than Off!, myrrh. He actually said myrrh. My reply to him, "Who but a magi has myrrh laying around the house?"
  • Workers really like it when you stand over their shoulder and micro-manage everything they do.
  • A dude on a bicycle comes flying up behind you and screams out "LEFT!!". Does this mean that he wants me to step to the left or that he wants to pass on my left? Instead of having to work through a split-second question and answer period with my health on the line, how about Mr. Two-Wheeler slow the heck down so that we can make sure that nobody is snuffed out?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Improving Your Serve

My most recent read from Charles Swindoll, Improving Your Serve, was actually one of his first published works from back in 1981. Although written more than 30 years ago, this is a devotional that is both timeless and timely. The book is focused on how to be a better servant to those in our world. In truth, although I have heard multiple sermons and read countless books on servanthood, somehow my mind still equates "servant" with low-level, menial helpers. It is a role that my mind wants to marginalize into something subservient, something unimportant, something derogatory. However, this just proves that I don't yet truly appreciate what a servant is and why they are important. The fact is that dynamic people can be servants, important people can be servants, and leaders can be servants.

In this book Swindoll develops a beautiful portrait of the servant. This beauty radiates all the more because Jesus modeled the role of a servant not only in his teachings, but also in the very way he lived his life. There is one account in the gospel of John where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. When he finished his task, he said,

"Now that I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."

A servant possesses qualities such as:
  • Recognizing that others are valuable and part of God's family too
  • Understanding that giving is an essential trait of Jesus that we should strive to model
  • Doing things out of love and a willing spirit and not to receive accolades and recompense
Swindoll not only paints a portrait of a servant, but he also helps us to understand the mind of a servant. In fact, two folks can be working at the same task but with entirely different mind sets. If one works out of a giving heart and a generous spirit and he other grumbles and complains and is seeking reward, even though they may accomplish the same amount of work, only one of these is a true servant. A wonderful book to dive into and embrace.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Slow Trickle

I take a shower every day like most folks. It is usually a pretty dull affair. I wake up, stumble into the bathroom, and climb under the water. A little shampoo, a little lather, a quick rinse and I am done. Day in, down out the process and the pattern are the same. Yet in that rote activity, there was an important lesson for me to learn and to embrace. It only took me a couple of years to figure it out.

Several years ago the hose on my showerhead failed and I had to replace the whole unit. A simple job after a quick trip to the local home improvement store. After about 10 minutes, my shower was back up to peak performance. Yet since that day, I have slowly but surely lost water pressure. The change happened so slowly and so subtly that I never noticed what was going on. What was once a satisfying torrent of cascading water, effectively became a drizzle. At first I could rinse off the suds in just a few moments. In time I found myself having to endlessly run the showerhead wand up and over my body. However, because the changes were so minute from day to day, I never noticed what I had lost. I just accepted the presented situation as normal.

I think that so much of our life is lived just like this. Compromises, distractions, and losses that we face are accepted as normal that we never even fully recognize or witness. One area of our life is good today, and then another day long in the future it is not so good. Yet we miss it. We just accept that things are as they always have been because the erosion has been so slow in coming. We rationalize, we excuse, we become inured to getting less when we should be getting more. We accept the good when we could have the great, or worse yet, we accept the crummy when we could have so much better. If this type of problem were limited to our bathroom fixtures, then it wouldn't amount to that big of a deal. However, when it describes our relationships or our attitudes toward life, then we need to move into action.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Running Blind

The fourth entry in Lee Child's Jack Reacher series is entitled Running Blind. In this story Jack is just minding his business, eating at his favorite restaurant, when he sees a protection syndicate try to shake down the owner. He jumps in and smacks the baddies about and then before you can say "oh my", Jack is hauled in by the FBI. They good cop/bad cop him and try to pin the murder of several women on him. It seems that a team of case profilers has specifically identified him as the only person who could have done the crime. When he tells him that their logic is wrong, they admit that they just want his help solving the crime. If he doesn't help, they will turn over his girlfriend to the restaurant protection syndicate. So Jack goes back and forth across the country countless times dragging his young FBI chaperone about with him until he solves the crime and nails the real criminal mastermind.

At this point, after having read four books, I am absolutely dumbfounded about how this dreck ever saw the light of day. The best descriptors of Child's writing style are far-fetched, implausible, and inane. Sometimes there are stories that require you to suspend believe because the hero is just so compelling and his style and mannerisms pull you in, but that is definitely not the case with Child's Reacher. It would be one thing if Child acknowledged how thin his plots and his characters were with a bit of a wink to the reader, but he just plows on straight ahead with one absurd premise after another. Far too many times in reading these books my emotions have bubbled to the surface and I have shouted out, "Oh come on!", in my frustration.

You may wonder why I have continued to read the books in this series if they are so ridiculous and poorly conceived and executed. My only answer is that with 20+ books published in this series that typically end up on the best-seller list after their release, there has got to be a reason. If you think that I am some kind of academic, haughty, condescending book snob, I can assure you that I am not. But I know a good story and good technique. This ain't it. I will gamely press on to the fifth book in the series, Echo Burning.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cherry Picking

Every now and then I read a book that I would label a complete turkey. When I use the expression "turkey", I am not implying something meaty and delicious covered in gravy. I am talking about a book that just was not very well written. Weak dialog, uninspired prose, contrived, and built around protagonists that are either cardboard cut-outs or give me absolutely no reason to care about them in any way. Now you may look at my educational pedigree and dismiss my opinions as the ravings of some erudite pedantic scholar, who won't know a good story if it bit him in his medulla oblongata. Of course I would be deeply wounded by your internal dialog. However, I would bet that if you looked over my reading list and associated reviews, you might find my tastes are not too dissimilar from your average Joe or Joessa on the street.

That said, I am always on the lookout for something to add to my reading list. Sometimes I get a recommendation from a friend or I stumble upon an online review. I have even dived into a book based on ratings on sites like Amazon. However, after a few recent turkeys that had 5-star reviews, I began to get a bit suspect. A recent turkey that I grumbled and groaned through had a book jacket plastered with reviews that raved:
  • A stunner. (Booklist)
  • The author is ingenious. (Washington Post)
  • His most compelling to date. (Publisher's Weekly)
  • Great style and careful plotting. (New York Times)
  • Makes the reader sit back and gasp. (Denver Post)
It then occurred to me that the publishers must have cherry picked the original review for positive sounding blurbs that most surely read something like:
  • A stunner. How could this tripe sandwich on a hardroll ever get published?
  • The author is ingenious. He has somehow hoodwinked the public with his substandard skills, laughing all the way to the bank.
  • His most compelling to date, which isn't saying much given how low he has set the bar.
  • Great style and careful plotting are completely absent in this crispy fried turd.
  • Makes the reader sit back and gasp, "Why did I waste $14.99 of my hard-earned jackpot wad on this literary hemorrhoid?"

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Observations 98

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 may be a grown man, but there is a silly high-schooler inside of me. Every time I hear the name of the Texas Rangers second basement, Rougned Odor, I giggle. The announcers try to pronounced his name like "Odewer", but we both know that sinks.
  • Oh, and don't get me started on the Atlanta Braves utility player named Joey Terdoslavich.
  • Donald Trump is a badly drawn, annoying stock character with a frustrating comb-over, a small mind, and an acid tongue. How does he get such a national voice and an ocean of rabid supporters?
  • I am fascinated by the rate of my beard growth. After I shave in the morning my face is as smooth as a pickle dipped in glycerin. By noon, you can effectively grate a block of aged cheddar on my face.
  • Not all doctors actually take the time to really listen to their patients and to perform rigorous examinations. When they do, it really does help to make you not feel so alone when you are ill.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Quick Hits 40

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.

The presidential contenders are starting to bang their gongs and get their election machines up and humming. Do you think it is possible for a candidate to be taken seriously over the long haul if they are not homogenized and don't play the politician game according to the rules? It seems that free-thinkers and maverick-types never amount to more than a flash in the pan.

What do you think?

Monday, July 13, 2015


There was a guy that I had struck up a nascent friendship with. Over the course of a few months we met for coffee and started to get to know each other a bit. I would have been happy to allow this relationship to evolve into something deeper but his life was crowded with the usual things that keep a soul occupied. Months would go by and he would send me an email to get together to catch up. Then months would go by and I would get another email to get together to catch up. Yet there was nothing to catch up to as we did not have sufficient time to form any real foundation.

Finally, after yearly a year had passed, I received an email asking for forgiveness for not seeking me out for coffee sooner. It was an honest plea, but I replied to him:

"You ask for forgiveness, but I tell you that I will not give it. Why? Because you have done absolutely nothing wrong by me. In all relationships we tacitly perform a cost/benefit analysis. It is all about the quotient. Where the benefits outweigh the costs, we tend to naturally end up in and around those folks. It is uncanny how easily this just seems to happen. Where the costs outweigh the benefits, we put up barriers. In my years I have found that those barriers are most often erected not out of malice or dislike. In fact, they are not even usually erected consciously or with intention. Yet the fact that they stand tells us all that we need to know if we take a moment to look at the landscape that we have put up and the choices that we have made."

I guess my sense is that if you just skip from the tip of one wave crest to the tip of the next wave crest, you never appreciate nor understand the true depths of the ocean. Maybe my reply might seem cruel to you, but to me it was the only possible one that I could give.

Friday, July 10, 2015


I purchased a boxed set of the first six novels in Lee Child's Jack Reacher series After the first two, Killing Floor and Die Trying, I was left utterly perplexed. How could two such poorly written, wholly contrived, and borderline inane stories have ever gotten published? Furthermore, how could these ham-handed, low-brow efforts ever lead to more than 20 novels in a series that yearly tend to hit the best-seller list? I had to keep reading with the hope that maybe Child found a groove, a decent editor, and some technique. The third novel in the series is entitled Tripwire and I ended up rating this one a notch higher than its two predecessors. Although the story was contrived, filled with stilted characters and dialog, and a plot resolution that was wholly obvious half-way through the narrative, it did keep me turning pages. I would even say that I enjoyed my time with this one and have been given enough hope to continue on with the series.

The story begins with a New York business owner who has gotten his company into quite a pinch. Feeling the pressure as the third generation owner of a once proud firm, and teetering on the edge of financial ruin, he believes his only recourse is to turn to a loan shark to fill the gap with the capital he needs. However, he soon finds out that the loan shark is an evil man, bent on taking everything from him. Jack Reacher happens to be working down in the Florida keys digging pools by day and serving as a club bouncer in the evening. He is satisfied in his obscurity and seems to be enjoying a life now two years removed from being a major in the Army Military Police. However, a small-time detective from New York comes looking for him and winds up dead just a short while later. Before you know it Reacher is pulled into another hair-raising adventure. Dames, intrigue, plotting, and plodding are the usual course of these novels. Once something catches Reacher's attention he will not let it go, especially when it seems to involve a Vietnam helicopter pilot, a heroic young man who apparently died when his chopper was hit and crashed, but now seems embedded in high level corporate scams some 30 years later.

The next novel in the series is entitled Running Blind and I am ready to dive in, still hoping that this series can develop into something worthwhile.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Blinker Morality

It has been chronicled time and again that we now live in a society that is stained by its self-absorption and selfishness. Seemingly each new generation diverges further and further from the basic tenets of community, harmony, and brotherhood than the one that came before. Comparing where we are today to the norm of 20, 30, or 40 years ago shows a trend that is more than a little bit alarming. Unless something changes, this world will be completely befogged by darkness by the end of the century.

I have developed a quantitative measure of our nation's morality based on the fraction of folks who consistently and properly use the turn signals on their vehicles. My theory is that if this fraction was 100%, we would be living in an absolute utopia marked by peace, prosperity, generosity, and love. If this fraction was 0%, we would be living in a time of sinister evil, total corruption, and absolute selfishness. If you take notice when you are out on the roads, most folks do not use their turn signals. They drive their vehicles with reckness abandon, cutting off anyone who stands in their way. The lack of turn signal usage parallels our society's descent into amorality. I would suggest that while usage of a turn signal may seem to be a small action in the grand scheme of things, it is an indicator of our moral status. When folks who don't use their turn signals are asked why they don't use them, they respond with statements like, "I just never think of it.", "Why should I, I know where I want to go.", "It is just too much of a bother." I would put forth that each of these replies and others of this ilk, clearly show how selfish we all are. I would further put forth that selfishness in the little things correlates directly with selfishness in the bigger things.

Along these lines, I had one further thought, really a prediction of the future. The current generations really are noticably worse in using their turn signals. This propensity will not change when they get older and their judgment and skills begin to erode. Can you imagine the sheer number of roadway accidents, injuries, and deaths that lie ahead of us because folks never thought to use their turn signals? Because folks were ruled by their own selfishness?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Observations 97

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.
  • Have you every witnessed the situation where someone's cell phone goes off in a meeting and "that guy" makes a big stink about it, only to have his own cell phone go off just a bit later. Tee-hee, tee-hee.
  • I went into a bathroom the other day at work and as the door shut behind me I heard running water and what I would describe as vigorous splashing noises. When I got through the entryway into the main space, there was a guy there essentially bathing himself. This was the main bathroom for the building with lots of through traffic. What the heck was going on here?
  • I sometimes think that vanilla milkshakes have magical healing powers.
  • Remind me again why we want both our dishes and our toilet bowls to smell of lemons. Don't you think that would set up some troubling associations?
  • Remember when stores that sell alcohol were referred to as "package" stores? The were eventually forced to use a different moniker when too many folks were showing up demanding their QVC and Amazon shipments. True story.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Armageddon Rag

I have been working my way through the oeuvre of author George R.R. Martin. It seems that with each book of his that I dive into, I am transported into an entirely different genre, an entirely different style, and an entirely subject matter. The one constant is complete mastery of his approach. My latest Martin book is another of his pre-"Game of Thrones" works entitled The Armageddon Rag. The story focuses on a major rock and roll band from the early 1970s called "The Nazgul". With their anti-government, anti-establishment message and their eclectic mix of members, they rose to become one of the biggest acts of their time. They were silenced in 1971 during a concert in New Mexico when an assassin blew the head off their lead singer. The surviving members then went their separate ways, devolving into their own distractions and their own vices.

The main character of the story is Sandy Blair, who was one of the respected voices in music journalism of his day. The end of The Nazgul helped to bring about the abrupt end of the protest era and usher in a sobriety and a hopelessness to an entire generation of young voices and minds. Eventually with Sandy's own inability to adjust and to understand how things went so wrong, he was forced down a different career path. He wrote a few novels, but each successive release sold worse than the one before and he was running on fumes. Passionless and disillusioned. A spark was flashed in his spirit when he got a call to write a story about the grizzly murder of the man who used to promote and to control The Nazgul. Seeking some closure to his past, Sandy accepted the assignment and started poking around. Eventually he was introduced to a man who had great plans to revive the voice of the lost protest generation, starting with a reformation of The Nazgul. This new promoter is an eerie man with seemingly strange powers to control and influence people. His plans and his approach do not involve peaceful protest. As Sandy is quickly pulled into the reforming of the band, he begins to work his way through the demons and the failures of his past. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

Definitely an enjoyable story and certainly different from anything else that I have read from Martin. This one definitely captured the mood and the magic of the early 1970s, with every bit of anarchy, struggle, and tension inherent in that period.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Thank You for Your Time

I recently wrote a post (see Quick Hits 37) where I posed the following question:

If your employer gave you the option of working four 10-hour days instead of five 8-eight hour days, would you shift to a four-day work week?

I would imagine, given the choice, that a sizable number of folks would jump at this chance to have a 3-day weekend every single week. However, I bet big time cash money that if such a paradigm suddenly became the norm, our national productivity would take a sudden and appalling hit to its nether-regions and the U.S. GDP would go into the ter-let (as Archie Bunker used to say). Let's face it, most workers are paid to labor 40 hours a week. However, if you were to poke about a bit into how many hours most folks actually labor on job-related activities, I think you would find that the number of productive hours is significantly less than 40 per week. Based on my own recent casual observations of my co-workers, I came up with the following average estimates of non-productive time:
  • Gabbing about the coffee pot and complaining about who used up all the filters: 30 minutes per day
  • Searching out free cake; somebody always brings in free cake: 30 minutes per day
  • Complaining bitterly about your boss and his/her incompetence: 30 minutes per day
  • Cruising the internet for the latest sales and celebrity gossip: 1.5 hours per day
  • Running personal errands to the bank, the post office, or the cake store: 30 minutes per day
  • Stopping work because it is too close to lunch time to start anything: 30 minutes per day
  • Tasty lunch break and period to unwind from the myriad stresses of the day: 1.5 hours per day
  • Answering and sending your usual voluminous host of personal emails and texts: 1 hour per day
  • Arriving late to work because you just can't seem to respond to your shrill alarm: 30 minutes per day
  • Stopping work because it is too close to quitting time to start anything: 30 minutes per day
  • Leaving early from work because you have given your all and are fatigued: 30 minutes per day
If you total all of this up, that already is 8 hours of non-working time for each 8 hour day. If you are a smoker then add another hour for your cigarette breaks (smokers have always been over-achievers). Imagine if the work day was extended by another 2 hours. Most folks already just plain run out of steam shortly after lunch and just try from that point to cruise into the 5:00 p.m. hour so they can head home. Imagine if companies expected their workers to stay until 7:00 p.m.. I would then add three more lines items to my list:
  • Napping at one's desk: 1.5 hours per day
  • Cleaning up the drool from one's nap: 30 minutes per day
  • Complaining how tired you are from working so darned hard: 30 minutes per day
The U.S. GDP is estimated to be just about 17 trillion dollars per year. I would estimate, conservatively, that if we changed over to a 4-day work week, this would drop to about $17.48 per year, give or take a couple of bucks.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Lays of Anuskaya

Bradley Beaulieu's sweeping and epic fantasy series The Lays of Anuskaya built and evolved and developed over the course of the trilogy. From The Winds of Khalakavo to The Straights of Galahesh to The Flames of Shadam Khoreh. A vivid, layered, and enriching story that was unique and pulled me into every battle, every scene, every nuance. When I come to the end of a series, more often than not, I feel a tinge of melancholy as I am forced to say goodbye to a world that I have become a part of. If I can have such feelings in a parting, I can only imagine what the authors go through when they have to move on and say their farewells.

I read an online piece by Beaulieu in which he talked about having to leave behind a world that he had invested so much of his life in. This trilogy was spread out over many, many years as he struggled with ideas and points of view and the message that he wanted to leave.Years of internal struggles and questioning. Writer's workshop after writer's workshop came and went as he tried to find his literary voice to overcome the inertia of not being a writer his whole life to finally taking the plunge.

In the aftermath of his trilogy, two additional novellas sprang forth from his pen, Prima about the return of a spirit lost to the aether and its longing to be part of humanity after so long away. A story that takes place some 20 years after the conflicts in Shadam Khoreh. Also To the Towers of Tulandan about a young sherpa who had, for a time, lost her way and began to embrace a path of violence and conflict. However, ultimately her heart and her mind were purified and reclaimed toward a path that she had never really let go. Great pieces with which to spend a reading session.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Observations 96

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 recently came across a menacing lizard in the lobby of my building that blocked access to my hallway. I may have avoided this feral creature by going back outside and going around my building to an alternate entrance.
  • Even though I am a fully grown adult-type man, I sometimes can still be frightened by the noise and the harsh brightness of a severe thunder and lightning storm.
  • Statistics indicate that on average 150 people world-wide die every year after being struck on the head by a falling coconut. Man, what a way to go.
  • Have you ever been stopped at a traffic light and someone comes up behind you and comes to a stop uncomfortably close to your bumper? Have you ever then pulled up just a tad to ease your concern, only to have that zagnut crowd you again? Man that makes me all road rage-y inside.
  • However, sometimes sitting outside on my porch during a rainstorm can be peaceful and soothing.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Quick Hits 39

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.

This is perhaps a bit of a personal question to ask, but I am curious and brazen enough to do the asking. Have you ever had "marital relations" with your spouse when you are angry with them?

What do you think?