Brief Review of: Fool Moon

This was the second book in the Dresden Files, by Jim Butcher.  Again, I listened to it via Audible, and like the first book, this was read by James Marsters.

I’m not sure where to begin.  Again, I enjoyed this story very much.  It’s delicious and somewhat light.  I only listened to it when driving by myself, and it helped me get out the door, looking forward to my daily commute.  That should say something about how much I enjoyed it.

This story was similar in feel and tone to Storm Front, but the stakes were amped up just a bit.  Jim Butcher was quite a bit more cruel to his hero in this book.  It’s something I took note of, because I think I need to be a tad more cruel to my own characters.

As I’m typing this, I’m downloading book 3.  As I said with my review of Storm Front, I appreciated the first person approach to this story, and I’m looking forward to employing it with my own project for NaNoWriMo.

I’m not going to give any spoilers away.  The world is rich and believable, and by way of comparison, a bit grittier and harder than what we saw in Storm Front.  I’m looking forward to seeing if the trend of greater stakes and greater peril increases in Grave Peril.


A Speeding Ticket

I drive a mustang, and sometimes, I drive at a high rate of speed.  I admit it.

Saturday morning, as Melissa and I were driving home from Tahoe, I was enjoying the curves in the road along 50, and enjoying the day with my wife.  We had a really great time with my coworkers and their family.  The weather was beautiful.  It was a very comfortable ride home.

I had been thinking that I might try and drive a little slower, just to take it easy going home.  I’d received tickets on that road before, and I knew that there were plenty of police out in force that day.  I thought well in advance that I’d take it slower, and for the most part, I did.

I still wanted to do the speed limit, though, and I wound up behind someone that was going a bit below it.  I wound wound following the slowpoke for a while, and then wound up with an SUV wanting to go even faster behind me.  So in other words, another one of my typical driving experiences.

The first passing lane we got to, the slowpoke sped up.  The SUV behind me got ahead of me, but wasn’t able to get in front of the slowpoke.

The second passing lane we came to, the SUV quickly got in front of the slowpoke.  I had to speed up significantly to get in front of the slowpoke (because he sped up at the passing lane).  And then I saw the highway patrol turn on his lights, do a u-turn, and come after me.  I pulled over.

The officer came up to my window, and was polite.  I was polite as well.  He asked me how fast he thought I was going.  I told him that I’d been going between 60 and 65.  He told me I had been going 73.  I didn’t argue with him.

He asked if I’d been drinking, and I told him that I hadn’t been.  He asked if I had a bad driving record, and I told him that it was fairly clean.  The last time I had a speeding ticket was several years ago, I think.  He asked who my insurance provider was, and I told him.  He didn’t ask for proof, which I thought was a little unusual.  He went back to his car.

I waited with Melissa, and I tried not to feel down about it.  It didn’t really feel fair.  I thought about my options.  Maybe if I went to court over it and explained it to the judge, it’d get excused or dismissed.  I expected the worst, but I wasn’t going to let it get me down.

The officer returned to my car, on Melissa’s side, handed my license and registration back, and asked me to just keep it down to 55.

And that was it.  No speeding ticket.  Just a warning.  When was the last time I was let off with just a warning?

It made me very thankful.  Melissa and I went on home, and I basically drove as I’d been driving.  I tried to keep it under the speed limit, and mostly succeeded.  Mostly.

The experience brought a number of things into focus for me.  I’m writing more.  I’m doing well in work.  I’m donating time to teaching kids programming (even if that doesn’t feel all that successful, all the time).  I’m playing in a community band.  I give blood regularly.  I’m trying to keep a positive attitude.  I even try to stay polite when I’m about to get a speeding ticket.  Getting a warning instead of a fine just felt like a small reward, for doing what I’m supposed to be doing and being true to myself and the people around me.

It’s funny how a little thing like that can be a reminder to be thankful.


The Sheep, The Shepherd, and The Wolf

When I was in High School band, our band teacher tried to get us a motivational speaker to talk to us and help us act like a single unit.  I don’t remember the speaker’s name.  My band teacher told us some of the stories he’d heard from the speaker, and I think he showed us a video which included stories and anecdotes.  The idea was to get us thinking about our band as a single unit, and to get us to respect and value each other.

I don’t remember everything from those lessons, but there’s one anecdote that has stuck with me.  I’m reminded of the truth of it almost daily.  I’ll try to explain it:

In every group of people, 80% are followers.  They want to go with the crowd, and are more comfortable being directed than being alone, isolated, with no answers to their questions.  Of the remaining 20%, half of those people are positive leaders, unsatisfied with leaving things as they are.  They try to lead the group in some direction.  The remaining 10% are negative leaders.  They attempt to lead the group in the opposite direction.

To put it another way, for every given group of people, 80% are sheep, 10% are shepherds, and 10% are wolves.

I don’t know how true it is, but it feels true.

If it makes it more palatable, I don’t think that people are always sheep, or always leaders.  Joe Body might be a magnificent leader on his bowling team, a comfortable, stolid worker where he is employed, and the black sheep of his family when they get together.  There’s probably a little bit of sheep, shepherd, and wolf in each of us.

I’m reminded of this almost every time that I almost Facebook, or follow political postings.

Today’s reminder came in the form of “Obama signed an anti-free speech bill” posts.  I had a family member and an old high school friend both post about it, concerned and ready to get their torches and pitch forks.

A simple google search easily debunks this.  The anti-free speech posts link to Fox news, showing a picture of Obama looking angry and about to speak.  The video actually shows Obama speaking, but we don’t hear his words.  Instead, we get some Fox correspondents telling us how bad it is that Obama is crushing the First Amendment under his booted heel and wiping his ass with the Constitution.

In this instance, my friend and my family member are the sheep.  They’re not actually thinking for themselves, but reacting and parroting.  Fox News is the wolf.  And since I’m posting this, and I responded to their posts, I’m trying to be the shepherd.  Or maybe I’m just the guy crying “Wake up, Sheeple!

Maybe who the shepherd is and who the wolf is can be a matter of perspective.  Maybe.

I just want people to think before they post, and try to limit the effects of their knee-jerk reactions.  The world could do with a lot less angry reacting, and a lot more thoughtful, careful proactive measures.


My Experiences with Alcohol

I don’t drink alcohol that often, or that much.  I’m a featherweight when it comes to the stuff.  When I imbibe, it’s usually at some large social engagement, like the after-parties at the conventions, or like last night, during the Tahoe trip with all of my coworkers.  I used to be deathly afraid that if I drank at all, I’d become an alcoholic like my Dad.  I think there’s still an afterthought of the fear in the back of my head.

I don’t like most alcoholic drinks.  There are a few that I’ve tried to acquire a taste for.  I work with some beer connoisseurs, so I occasionally try to find a beer that I can enjoy.  Over the years, I’ve found that I actually like Guinness, Shiner bock, and Blue Moon or other similar wheat beers.  I can’t really tell you how hops impact the flavor or texture of a beer, and I don’t really know much about how it is brewed or the full history.  I know a little bit, though, and I’ve found some things I like, so if I’m with some friends that are into beer, I can participate and enjoy their enthusiasm.

Melissa and I have tried to acquire a taste for wines, and that’s been more challenging than the beer.  We’ve had some while out with friends that has been amazing, but we can never quite remember the names, and when we try to duplicate those experiences at home, we wind up with beverages that are disgusting.  We’ve dumped a substantial amount of wine down the sink.  Also, I tend to get a headache the next day after drinking wine.  I don’t get that headache with other beverages.

The third thing that I’m slowly trying to acquire some better taste for and knowledge of is Scotch.  I have two friends that are enthusiastic about Scotch.  During WorldCon in San Antonio this year, Michael shared with me some that he said was very good, and had huge sentimental value to him.  I didn’t have much, and I can’t say that I hated it, but I also can’t say that I really liked it, either.  I liked the smell of it, and the sensations on my tongue were very interesting and varied.  There was a lot going on, drinking it.  I just don’t know if I can classify the experience as wholly enjoyable.

When I’ve imbibed too freely, as I did last night in Tahoe, I relax.  I smile more, I laugh easily, and I’m not afraid to make jokes or talk to people.  As Dael put it once, I don’t really change when I’m tipsy, there’s just more of me present to enjoy.  I do like that aspect of the experience.  People have told me that I’m fun when I’m drunk, and I believe them.

A few nights ago, I thought I’d try to harness the power of alcohol to unlock my creativity in writing.  I wasn’t thinking of Hemingway, or the evils of alcohol at the time.  My intention wasn’t to get drunk.  Melissa had brought home a bottle of Gentleman Jack to try it, and I had a few shots of that in the hopes of “loosening my tongue,” as it were.  It didn’t work out.  I didn’t start off in any mood to write, and loosening my inhibitions only served to enable me in procrastinating further.

I think I’ll just stick to water when it comes to writing.  Or, maybe someday, if I relax enough to drink coffee again, I’ll drink that.


Craps is Fun!

Every year, the owner of the company I work for takes the entire company to Tahoe for an evening of fun and games.  We get on a boat, we drink a lot, and we have a really good time.  This is the second year I’ve been able to go, and it’s something that Melissa and I have been looking forward to.

Melissa and I got to Tahoe several hours early.  We found an arcade and played air hockey for a little bit, then we wandered to the casino.  We had plenty of time to kill, so we figured we’d gamble a little bit, and see what happens.

Side-note… I used to go to Reno with my parents and my Dad would play Keno and drink in the bar while my Mom played blackjack.  If it was Circus Circus, I’d be up playing games or watching shows, and I would occasionally go down, find my parents, and extract from them some more money.  We didn’t have a ton of money, but my Mom usually found enough success playing blackjack that she’d basically pay for our trip through her winnings, and maybe have a little extra.

Blackjack was my Mom’s game, and I’ve tried playing in various casinos, only to find frustration.  The first time I drove through Las Vegas, I had a little bit of extra time and wanted to take a break from my driving, so I went into a casino with twenty bucks and dreams of having some fun.  Five minutes later, I was back out in my car, the twenty gone, and I was back on the road.

Every experience at blackjack has been like that for me.  I’ll limit myself to twenty bucks, get to play the game for no more than five or ten minutes, and then I’m done.  That pattern repeated itself today.

I’m fine with losing a little bit of money, as long as I’m entertained during that time.  A little bummed at not feeling like I got my money’s worth, Melissa and I wandered over and watched an active craps table.  It looked like those people were having fun.

Another side-note… I have terrible luck with dice.  No, seriously.  Lots of people say that, but I’ve had multiple gaming groups see the truth of it with me.  When I throw the dice, things go weird.  Michael and I had joked about he and I going gambling and getting me to be the shooter at a craps table, and I always said that it wouldn’t work; my luck plays out that the dice will land however you don’t want them to land.

I was prepared for craps to be a lot like blackjack.  One of the people working the table explained some of the betting to me, to clear up some of the things I was ignorant of.  I put a five down on the pass, and shortly thereafter, had ten dollars.  Then fifteen.  Then ten again, and it was my turn to throw the dice.

I threw the dice, and things went kind of weird.  It wasn’t exactly good or bad, but it was strange.

Before crapping out, I threw the dice for fifteen or twenty minutes.  A guy standing next to me, Eddie, made hundreds of dollars while I was the shooter, and kept thanking me.  He was a nice guy.  Other people on the other side of the table were also smiling and winning money.  A few people cheered.  One of the guys working the table commented that I was a “good shooter” or maybe just “a shooter.” I didn’t quite hear him right.

Melissa and I were able to hang out at the table for quite a while, never really getting a lot of money, but never running out, either.  We wound up walking away with twenty-five bucks.  We’d basically made back what we’d spent on the blackjack.

I think it was quite a bit of beginner’s luck, but it was a lot of fun.  I didn’t get into the more advanced betting, but that looks interesting, too.  Maybe Melissa and I will play some craps later tonight.  It was definitely fun!


Cyberbullying and The First Amendment

I recently read about a case of cyberbullying that led to arrests made of the girls that did the bullying.  In another article (which I can’t find, otherwise I’d link it), I read someone’s opinion that they should replace the word “bullying” with “assault” in cyberbullying.

I think we should take a deep breath, and think very carefully about what our response should be to this, and the ramifications of that response.

I don’t want to be callous about this subject.  A little girl took her life, and that’s tragic.

How we react to that tragedy can have lasting and devastating consequences, however, and I think we should be careful about that.

Let me go off on a tangent for a moment.  For years now, the formula seems to be “something terrible has happened, therefore, we should react horribly.” I hate to bring up September 11th, but our reaction(s) to that tragedy were terrible, and resulted in the loss of lives of people all over the world.  It resulted in atrocities done in the name of security.  I think we need to change the formula to “something terrible has happened, so let’s not do anything until we’ve taken some time to calm down.”

I don’t think these girls should be arrested for saying horrible things.  I think saying stupid or mean stuff should not be the grounds for anyone to get arrested.

Does that mean I think there should be no ramifications for cyberbullying?  Maybe.  I might have to think on this some more, before I have a definitive answer.  I think in this case, all of the parents involved have some questions to answer.  What were the parents of the instigating children doing?  How did the parents of the girl that committed suicide not know that their daughter was hurting so badly?

It’s that last one that gets me.  My children have unsupervised and unrestricted access to the internet.  Maybe I’m being an irresponsible parent in regards to that, but I’ve thought this through, and I’m not just being lazy.  My kids are both teenagers, and I know that if I prohibit them from something, whatever it is that they are denied, they’re going to crave that much more.  Worse, they are going to go around me, and they are going to get it anyway.  If they can’t see what they want at home, they’ll go out somewhere else.  Also, and let me be completely blunt about this: if my kids want to look at porn, that’s their business. (I think I’m going to have to explain this more at some point.  I’m going to table that for another post)

My kids have unrestricted internet access, but they’re not alone.  I check up on them.  Not necessarily what they’re looking at, but I talk to them.  I check to see what’s going on in their lives.  I make sure they’re happy, and getting everything they need.  I make sure they know that they’re loved, and I make sure that they know that I’m there for them.

Whatever a parent’s policies might be surrounding their children’s internet use, I would think that they would, like me, take an interest in their child’s life, and talk to them.  So what were the parents of the victim doing?

This makes it sound like I’m blaming the parents of the child that committed suicide, and I don’t mean to be mean.  They must be feeling a kind of pain I never want to know, and hopefully will never understand.

I guess the bottom line is, I don’t want to see freedom of speech infringed or curtailed because 3 sets of parents were not paying attention to their children.




We’re past halfway through the month.  There’s no way that I’m going to finish the first draft of my novel before November.

After writing tonight at Starbucks, I can tell that it’s no longer just a matter of time management.  It’s a matter of fatigue.  I think I’m trying to do just a little bit too much, and I’m starting to see the effects in everything I do.

The Computer Club, for example, is not doing fantastic.  The kids don’t really seem that interested in learning what I have to offer.  That’s always been the case, but until this week, I’ve been able to get past their apathy and through willpower and energy, entertain and educate them.  This week, I haven’t been able to do it.  The kids are bored, and I just don’t see a way to get them to the other side of that.

In band this week, I was tired going in, and easily irritable.  When I wound up having to stand at the copier for 15 to 20 minutes, it set me off.  The rest of the evening, there was no joy to be found in the music for me.  I managed to keep my foul mood from spilling out on other people.  But it was tough, and I didn’t play as well as I should have been able to.

For Blog-tober, it’s becoming more and more difficult to think of things that are interested to write about.

For my novel, it’s getting harder and harder to craft the scenes and progress the plot.  I’m making slow and steady progress, but I can’t say that I’m having that much fun.

At work, I’m doing okay.  I’m getting stuff done, and everyone still seems really happy with me.  Today, I worked on some threading and event driven code, and I felt really clever.  I did some good work.

I think it’s a combination of things.  I don’t think I’m getting quite enough sleep, so when I pack all of the activities I pack into a day, I just wind up grinding down.

I need rest.  I’ll try to sleep a little bit earlier tonight.  Maybe tomorrow will be better.


No More Solitaire

I have a 20% win rate at Solitaire, with 1000 wins.  This is an unsettling statistic, if you think about how many games of Solitaire I’ve played.  I’m thankful that the statistics screen doesn’t tell me how many hours that equates to.  Of course, now that I’ve said that, I immediately have to open a calculator, figure 2 minutes per game for 5000 games, and come up with around 166 hours.

Writing at a pace of 1000 words per hour, that could have translated into 166,000 words, or 3 short novels.

That’s not a fair way of looking at things, though, and I know it.  I’m sure I have some friends that would say it’s a perfectly fair way of looking at it, but it’s not.  I need to have some downtime.  I need to take breaks, and take days off.  That time off adds up.  Those Solitaire statistics started February of this year, which means I’ve wasted time on average about 6 hours per week.

Alright, that’s still kind of bad.  Does it help if I mention that I play Solitaire while watching Netflix?

No, I don’t think it helps, either.

When I hit 1000 wins, with just under 5000 games played, I decided that I wouldn’t play Solitaire anymore.  Since making that decision (a few days ago), I’ve stayed true.  I’m good at following rules I set for myself.

But I’m still looking for distractions.

I find myself reading the news all the time.  I find myself watching YouTube videos, and reading through Facebook.  Sometimes, I even open up Google+.

I’m not sure if I’m trying to procrastinate, or if I’m just looking for something mindless so that I can unwind.

But I know that I’m not going to open up Solitaire anymore.



I’m Not a Republican, But…

Earlier today, I was reading some articles about how the Republicans appear to be offering some concessions and backing off a bit.  The article described how the Democrats are not really giving the Republicans anything.  Basically, one of the proposals offered up by the Republicans involved expanding the debt limit and continuing resolution into January, but with some tighter restrictions around handing out benefits, and postponing the tax and medical devices for two years.  The Democrats (Obama and the Senate) have stated that they are not interested in negotiations while the government is shutdown, and they really don’t want to give up anything in the Affordable Care Act.

When I started this post, I thought that I’d be blasting the Democrats the way I blasted the Republicans a week or so ago.  As I said back then, I’m not a Democrat.  I’m fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and I think the extremes are crazy.

I can’t quite blast the Democrats as hard on this point, though, because I can appreciate the argument.  I also do not want to see holding up the government and threatening default become the normal way business gets done in Washington.  It’s bullshit.  It’s costing the US billions, and it’s hurting hundreds of thousands of government employees.  I don’t want to see the bickering and squabbling ever get this bad again.

So I can see the argument that if the Democrats back off on anything as a result of the shutdown, it shows how effective this tactic is, and it’ll be used again.

But damn.  Neither side of the isle likes the medical device tax.  Punting that for a while seems like something that they could agree on.  And I really don’t mind if the wording surrounding handing out benefits is tighter.

This is a bad spot we’re in.  If a reasonable person is given the microphone for a little bit, it won’t matter, because the volume of the ideological argument is so high that no rational discourse can survive.

So instead of bashing Democrats, I’m going to bash the current political landscape, in general.  Instead of public service, it’s public spectacle.  Instead of statesmen trying to enact good and fair policy, it’s showman putting on charades, clowning for the public and generating massive, strident noise.

I know that historically, this isn’t a new thing.  I know that rhetoric was probably invented a few breaths after language.  It’s part of human nature.

But damn, I want things to change.  I want to be optimistic and be hopeful that grown men and women can come together with differing ideas on how things can get done, and work together to find compromise.  I want to hear harmony from our leaders, but all I hear is cacophony.

If I ever need material for writing about the hopelessness of the human condition, I need look no further than political news.  And that, too, is probably nothing new.


What I’ve Learned From My Kids

I’m exceedingly proud of my children.  They don’t always get the best grades, but they are really good people.  They are kind and considerate.  They are generous.  I can see aspects of myself in them, but those aspects have been transfigured into something greater than what I find in myself.  I see strength in them that I didn’t see in myself when I was their age.  I’m really proud of my children, and I love them very much.

They are teenagers, though, so I have a few things to say about them that are less… ahem… boastful.

My daughter Bryanna is 17.  Like me, she has a tendency to take things personally too easily.  It’s something I’ve worked on all my life, and I see how it affects her.  When I was 17, I’d take something personally and turn the bad feelings into anger or rage.  This would lead to arguments, or even physical violence.  I’m not proud of how I dealt with it.  I’d just get so wound up, and my outlets weren’t always healthy.

With Bryanna, she gets angry, too, but she internalizes and does something else with it.  I’m not sure exactly what.  Sometimes I can get her to argue with me, but she mostly just goes into herself and ignores people.  She gives us the silent treatment.  I can’t stand being ignored, and that’s exactly what she does to me sometimes, for no good reason.  She’ll just ignore me, and it’s the one thing I haven’t learned to deal with yet.

Something interesting that I’ve learned from Bryanna is that the craziness or meanness of a teenage girl isn’t often directed at someone for personal reasons.  What I mean is, sometimes, Bryanna will be arbitrarily mean or rude to me, and I can only attribute the behavior to hormones, or misdirected bad feelings.  It reminds me of some of the ways teenage girls tortured me when I was a teenager, and it’s given me some relief.  When I was younger, I took it personally.  I know now that it might just have been teenage craziness.

My son, Chris, is 15.  He, too, is suffering from teenage craziness, but it’s a craziness that I can relate to and understand.  Male teenage craziness is all about sex.  Anything you say, if there’s someway to turn it into an innuendo, Chris will start snickering.  There are some words that are just automatic: ball, nut, screw, bone.  There are others that require more imagination.  Chris’s hormone filled brain finds ways to turn anything into a sex joke, and it’s clear that it’s on his mind.  A lot.

I went through it myself.  I’ve talked with Chris about it, and I let him in on a little secret: it never ends, you just get better at dealing with it as you get older.  At least, that’s how it’s been for me.

Beyond the hormones, Chris is another fantastic individual.  He’s a young man, that’s respectful and kind.  He’s energetic.  I like to think that these are qualities I possess as well, as I recall people describing me with these adjectives as well.

Something that Chris and I do not have in common, however, is that Chris is laid back.  He does not let things bother him, the way I always let things bother me.  That quality makes all the difference in the world.  By being so calm and easy-going, as well as those other wonderful qualities I mentioned, he is popular.  People like to be around him, and miss him when he’s gone.

I look at my kids, and I see great people.  I see people that are better than I am.  I’m lucky and proud and grateful.