Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thoughts and Observations of 2009

RememorandomThe Blog
I revamped my blog back in February, after it sat idling for several years.  I took a brief hiatus with March, April, and May, as I was finishing up college and buying a house, so I was ultra-busy and without reliable internet at times.  But once June arrived I ran headlong into my blogging, posting basically every weekday and occasional weekends.  I also began using Google Reader to manage feeds and find many new blogs.

For the most part I’ve remained true to the statement of what my blog is: “A hodge-podge, with reviews, musings, music, fiction, comics, real-life tomfoolery, and sometimes even poetry.”  I’ve posted several reviews, mainly of books, but every so often of films and music albums.  I’ve mused on morbid curiosity, Memorial Day, peanut butter sandwiches, and a slough of other things.  I took the plunge early in the year and put up some videos of songs I recorded, I’ve written several fictional pieces (especially on Writing Wednesdays), and I’ve thrown in an occasional poem.  Aye, I’ve stuck mostly to my statement.

Another big thing for me was my iPod Journey.  On 7/1/09 I set out on my quest.  In short, I would listen to practically every album on my iPod and rank them, deciding ultimately what the best (and worst) music was on my iPod.  I finished this long, exhausting, fun journey on 9/11, and the results were interesting.  I really enjoyed this quest and will have to do it again some day.

While my blog serves primarily as an online account for me to recall things (like a journal, almost), it’s also been a great tool in finding other blogs and connecting with other bloggers.  I’ve really enjoyed reading many posts, from the cooky, compassionate My Little Corner of the World to the spooky account of Nicole Kidman stars in: ‘The Astronaut Dropped’ (I just found this one this week, but I enjoyed it enough to read 23 straight posts to get caught up), from the budding directorial career of Mattson Tomlin to the multiple-reviews-and-always-helpful Layers of Thought.  And then there’s the list of folks I love but don’t update often enough: Captain Joe’s Revenge of the Written Word, The Life and Times of me, Drinking to the Foam, Life or Something Like It, The Crystal Perspectives, and cucullus non facit monachum.  I’ve also found the holy grails of knowledge and insight for the SF/F genre: The Wertzone, Speculative Horizons, Neth Space, Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, and Graeme’s Fantasy Book Reviews.  If I were half as knowledgeable as these gents then I’d be thrilled.  There are too many blogs for me to mention and link here, but I’ll try to update my “Otherwheres” blogroll on the right of the screen soon.

Overall, it’s been a great year for blogging.  I’ve discovered many things, won a few books, got on the good side of two publishers, and had a few (practically all) Followers declare their everlasting and undying love for me.  A great year indeed.

The Busy Times
It may strike you odd, but I did not spend my entire 8760 hours this year at the computer blogging.  I spent a good chunk of time doing important things with my life, like graduating with my Masters in Engineering from the University of Louisville Speed School of Engineering and buying my first house.  After 14 consecutive semesters I finally said farewell to college life and moved onto post-college life.  I got a job for a private engineering company called the Mexico Lightbulb Corporation (MLC) (not really the name of it, but for privacy reasons that what I call it) just days after graduating.  I bought a house in Owensboro, KY, along with my beautiful wife, Keisha, and our perfect puppy, Stella, and we all moved in.  Everything happened in May.  Graduation.  Job.  House.  ‘Twas a very busy time.

We found a great church—Macedonia Baptist—and joined a wonderful Sunday School class.  We’ve been pretty active and involved, and I’m thankful to finally have a church where we fit in.  Lord knows that Keisha and I searched and tried in Louisville, but that was a joke.

Miscellaneous Observations
I’ve severely slacked in playing tennis.
I’ve discovered the joys of disc golf.
I’ve spent a lot of time playing the piano and teaching myself.
I bought an XBox 360.
I’ve learned to make delicious and pretty cheesecakes.
I’ve joined a gym, and Keisha and I will go.
I’ve worked on the same project at the MLC since May.
I miss college life.
I’m glad I don’t have to go through college life anymore.
Keisha’s got one semester left of classes and she’ll have her undergrad!
I’m losing a best friend I think.
I’m sorry for all the failures and shortcomings in my life.
I’ve put in 60+ hours to Oblivion and still have a wide world to explore.
I became an uncle for the first time.
NPR and I became close, dear friends.
I survived a devastating Ice Storm.  (See next link for more info.)
I blacked out and thought I was paralyzed after a terrible, awful, agonizing sledding accident.  A bad back at 23 is not fun.
There was a crazy-wild-bad flood.
I made it through a head-on collision without much pain.
Stella learned Gaelic.
I’m not as crazy as I once was, but I’m not as sane as I should be.
I’m still a fan of randomness.
I’m disturbed by the atrocities of the Shankill Butchers, but I love the song.
Have a good New Year’s Eve.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Writing Wednesdays: The Absurdly Epic Tragedy of Oscambria 1.8

Yet another installment to the tale of Oscambria.  I’ve got a few more goodies (like last week’s map) related to the story to post up for some other time.  If you’ve missed any of the previous Cantos click here.  Enjoy. 

Oscambria stood outside the leprous lands of Athins,
The place reserved for the sick and disgusting,
The outcast sons of the city.
He could see them all together,
In their own community,
And he felt a stab of pain in his heart,
A yearning to return to society.

Yet he knew in his soul that even he would not be welcomed
In their sickly dwelling places.
It’s one thing to be a leper,
But it’s quite another to be cursed.
To be cursed is to be utterly cast of from humanity,
Or at least those with any reasonable sense and a nose
Would shun the cursed.

As the sun slowly moved across the sky
Oscambria made his time by exercising.
“As a destined Hero,” said he to himself,
“I should make sure that I am fit and shapely.
I shall not wax lazy and sluggard,
But I shall instead form muscle
Enough to stay attractive, even if I’m greyed.”

And so the Hero spent his day lifting rocks and stones,
Carrying them from wheree’er he found them
To a pile someone had started and never finished.
All day, beneath the grueling sun,
Oscambria moved the stones.
He grew hungry,
But he had no food to quench himself.

So on he continued,
Even after the sun rested under the horizon,
Into the night.
The pile of rocks grew steadily,
One stone at a time,
Until they began to topple and roll down on themselves,
Which was when Oscambria decided to spread them out a bit.

The moon rose high,
Its silver and white glow bright between the Twin Planets.
Weary and exhausted,
The Hero rested on a pile of the rocks
And turned his face toward the leper colony.
He could smell a meal roasting.
He watched the wretched men dance in the glows of their fire.

He gazed up at the two planets,
Gastron, Planet of the Gods,
large, magnificent, and full of swirling colors;
and Hubus, Planet of the Dead,
smaller, pale and silvery with a tint of blue,
like the moon but only larger,
and his mind wandered.

He rubbed his aching muscles,
Trying to ignore the pain of hunger.
He began humming a tune—
“Oh Mary, Mary, Why’re You So Hairy?”
—to try and drown out rumbles from within.
Soon he was in a miserable mood, sleepy, sore, hungry,
And worst of all, alone.

The fires of the leper colony were burning low
When the Hero spied a lone wagon leaving the city
And bearing towards him.
“At last,” said he, “they come for me.”
The familiar vehicle arrived soon,
Moving stealthily through the dark,
With Koesan at the reins and Columbus by her side.

A flutter of joy sprang to his heart when he saw them,
Followed immediately by a bout of self-awareness,
Knowing full well that his stink from a day’s work
And his curse would surely affect the traders.
He wouldn’t have been surprised if they sped past him,
Leaving him stranded and open-mouthed,
But they slowed and stopped.

Koesan hopped down from the wagon and nodded to Oscambria.
In the white light of the moon
She looked made of alabaster,
Carved perfectly by a master builder’s skilled hands.
Her dark hair was up in a tight, compact style,
Held together with a band of reflective jewels,
Yet they did not compare to the alluring glint in her eyes.

“I have what you asked for,” she said quietly,
speaking through a folded cloth that covered her nose and mouth,
and moving closer to the Hero.
He winced, knowing the curse had to be awful for her.
He did not blame her for trying to block out the odor.
She tossed a bundle of clothes to him,
Turning her back to him and continuing to speak.

“Go ahead and change.  I’ll not peek.”
Oscambria blushed,
Feeling slightly uncomfortable but awkwardly thrilled at the same time.
As a famed performer of the stage,
Skilled at acting and playing with emotions,
He’d seduced many women,
Bedding them and leaving them,
But never had he been put on the spot with a woman literally of his dreams.

“The shoes and the rat are in the wagon with Arca.
We’re on our way to Bransustopoles to pick up some more stuff
And then we’ll be heading back to Sparka.
If you’d like, you can travel with us.
The roads are usually safe,
But having more in a party looks better.
What say you?”

Oscambria’s heart flickered,
Once again excited to be spending more time with Koesan.
He was also pretty excited to have on clothes
that no longer smelled like a dead and bloodied hog.
“I say I’d love to travel,
but I don’t understand how you all haven’t left me.”
“I don’t either,” she said flatly.  “Are you finished yet?”

“Aye,” said he, pitching the soiled rags onto a pile of rocks.
“Good, cause we’ve got a lot of road to cover.
Bransustopoles should take us several days.
You can ride in the wagon.”
She led him to the cart,
Which was covered for the night,
And he jumped in.

Mossossopia squealed in part delight, part horror,
When she first caught site of her master.
The galleyrat wasn’t an uncommon pet in those days,
Perhaps a bit exotic for Athins, but still familiar throughout the lands,
But Mossossopia was very large for her age.
It looked like a cross between a rat, a coyote, and a possum,
And full grown would be slightly smaller than an adult wolf.

Still relatively young, the creature looked mostly like an overly hairy rat.
“C’mere Mossy,” said the Hero,
unable to keep the excitement from his voice.
Arca shot him a glare but he didn’t mind.
With trepidation and coaxing, the animal eventually scurried over to the Hero,
Leaping up into his outstretched hands
And sniffing weakly at his hideous smell.

Arca pulled out some cloth and tied it about his face,
Not saying a word.
Oscambria understood.
Frankly, he was surprised Mossy was letting him pet her,
But galleyrats have a very weak sense of smell.
The wagon started moving,
And once again Athins disappeared behind the Hero.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Reading List: 2009 Edition

mistborn It’s the time of the year where Top 10 lists and Favorite lists are popping up, and this is certainly true in the blogosphere. In many ways, this will look very similar to any other favorite list you may look at, but this is the only one that reflects my personal opinion.

I thought I read more books than I did during this past year. In total I’ve read 55 books, but there may be some that I have forgotten, as I didn’t start my list until halfway through the year. I did not include a few books in my stats (children’s books). If you’re interested in the complete breakdown of data and to see every book I’ve read this year, follow the link here. Otherwise, the data in this post may suffice for general perusal.


Oldest Story: The Shadow Over Innsmouth, by H.P. Lovecraft, published in 1936
Number of Audio Books Read: 7
Number of Library Books Read: 33
Number of Read Books Published in 2009: 8
Number of Books Forsaken: 1 (Dan Simmons The Terror)
Number of Different Series: 15
Number of Different Series Finished: 6
Total Number of Books Provided by Publishers: 7
Most Popular Author: Brian Vaughan (Y: The Last Man series)
Most Popular Publisher Read: Vertigo


As you can tell, I’ve read quite a few graphic novels. I’m not really sure how to approach this method of storytelling. Graphic novels aren’t technically a genre, but a medium. So If I charted the technical genre breakdown it would look something like this. technical_breakdown While I really enjoy graphic novels, are they on the same level as a traditional novel? Furthermore, how many reads do they count as, especially if they’re a collection of trade collections (I’m looking at you Absolute Sandman)? For me and for my data, I counted one book as having one cover and back, regardless of how many individual comics were inside.

Even this second graph isn’t without flaws. It’s too difficult to keep books restricted to one genre, as many of them cross several genres. Is Star Wars fantasy or sci-fi, or is it simply a genre by itself? Is an alternate history book with magic fantasy, historical fiction, or mystery? There are too many discrepancies with limiting myself to one genre, but I have tried to appropriate my reads the best way I could.


Below are my favorite ten reads from the past year, with links to my reviews. They aren't really in order of my liking, as each one has its own merits and awesomeness. Some reviews are combined for the entire series (Mistborn, Sandman), while others are typical reviews. All are spoiler-free.

1. Mistborn: Hero of Ages, by Brandon Sanderson
2. Absolute Sandman Volume 4, by Neil Gaiman
3. Mistborn: The Final Empire, by Brandon Sanderson
4. The First Law: Last Argument of Kings, by Joe Abercrombie
5. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
6. The Book Thief, by Mark Zusak
7. Mistborn: Well of Ascension, by Brandon Sanderson
8. The First Law: Before They Are Hanged, by Joe Abercrombie
9. The First Law: The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie
10. Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson

jonathan_strange_and_mr_norrell_coverOut of these books listed, only one of them was actually published in 2009. While I’m sure there were a lot of new and exciting books released this past year, I spent much of the year reading older books and finishing college. I did want to read Best Served Cold, by Joe Abercrombie, but I didn’t get around to it. I also intended to read Bill Willingham’s Peter & Max, as well as Fables Volume 12, neither of which made it onto my reading pile this year. And I have Ken Scholes Lamentation (thanks Krista) to read, but no time for it, either. I started Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker just a few days ago, but I won’t have it done before the end of the year. Once again, to see all the books I read this year, follow this link to the Google Document.

Overall I felt that this was a great reading year for me. I discovered both Brandon Sanderson and Joe Abercrombie, two bright and shining voices for the world of fantasy. Mistborn was hands-down the most exciting fantasy book series I read, and I’ve found myself recommending it to many different people. I literally tore through the concluding volume of the series. And Abercormbie’s First Law books were fast-paced and terribly fun. Two books outside the typical genre—Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and The Book Thief—even made it onto my top ten favorite reads, and both of them were superb. I’m still excited about Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and I hope to see more from Susanna Clarke on this story. The Book Thief was definitely the most emotional, heartfelt story I read, and I likely will revisit those pages, too, one day.

LastArgumentOfKings For 2010 I’m looking forward to another good year of reading. I fully intend on reading through the Wheel of Time novels, hopefully getting caught up before Sanderson & Jordan’s next installment comes out. I hope The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss, comes out next year, as well as George R. R. Martin’s antepenultimate ASOIAF novel, A Dance With Dragons. Who knows, maybe Sanderson will release his new work, too, and my brain will explode. I hope to read some more steampunk books, and maybe find another alternate history or two, as well. I also plan on reading The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and hopefully a few other “Classics,” like 100 Years of Solitude, Crime & Punishment, and Alice in Wonderland. And there’s still Jim Butcher to get into… Sigh. Too many books to read.

Writing Wednesdays tomorrow. Another sort of year end conclusion post coming Thursday. Remember to visit your public library and to frequent local used bookstores. Just give ‘em a wink and tell ‘em I sent ya.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Warbreaker, a review (spoiler-free)

warbreaker-sanderson It is no secret that I am a Brandon Sanderson fan. I loved his Mistborn series, and his standalone Elantris was also a thrill-ride. I may be a bit unfair towards Sanderson, but I’ve set the bar high for him and his work, and somehow he still manages to come through.

Warbreaker is an interesting and highly entertaining tale that I can easily recommend for the hardcore fantasy buff, the fledgling bird in the genre, or anyone looking for a story that’ll keep you turning the pages. Vivenna is a beautiful, proper princess that has been engaged to the God King of Hallandren since infancy. This marriage is to end the growing tensions between the small nation of Idris and the pagan lands of Hallandren. Siri, the youngest daughter of the Idris royal family, is an obstinate trouble maker, spending her time doing whatever she pleases. Soon the time comes for Vivenna to be off to T’Telir and wed the vile God King, but not everything goes as planned…

Lightsong the Bold is a Returned god of Hallandren. He spends his days idly drinking and eating, getting into verbal conundrums, and trying to convince his high priest Llarimar that he is not a god. Despite his attempts, the people still worship him, petitioning to him and offering him elaborate gifts in hope of receiving a blessing. Something happens in the Court of Gods and Lightsong becomes fascinated, searching for clues, and stumbling into something greater…

Vasher is a mysterious and powerful figure. A strong Awakener, he never lacks Breath. His black sword, Nightblood, is even more mysterious than he is. Vasher’s intentions are only known to him, but it’s clear that he’s after something grand…

The weaving of characters, ethnicity, and religion throughout this book was gracefully done and masterfully written. The religious system involving colors was unique and completely believable. Like metals were to Mistborn, colors are to Warbreaker, and I found this fascinating.

Though I really enjoyed the book, there were parts that I found tedious and eye-rolling. For the most part, I did not like the character Lightsong. His constant banter and flippant mannerisms had me bored from early on, and I wish this character would have been developed a bit differently. Sure, some of it was funny, and most of it was very clever, but I grew bored of constantly listening to him whine/speak.

In the end, Warbreaker was a great book to read and finish off the year with. By the time I reached the end, I really wanted more pages to read, and that is a good thing. While not up to par with Mistborn (few things are), it was better in some ways than Elantris and worse in others. (That is not to say that Elantris is bad by any means.) If you’re looking for a thought-provoking, entertaining fantasy novel, Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker is it.

Random Bits and Pieces

6 Christmases, 2 funerals
1 banjo
Star Wars Clone Wars Season One
Lost Season 5
An awesome Beatles book
2 re-mastered Beatles albums (Sgt. Peppers & Abbey Road)
Candy, clothes, and gift-cards
Lots of Star Wars stuff
Lost 1 game of chess to Todd
End of the Year Favorites tomorrow

Friday, December 25, 2009

So this is Christmas

Chiming in with the rest of the blogosphere, Merry Christmas to all!

I did finish Warbreaker last night, and it was awesome. Maybe I'll be able to get up a review tomorrow or Monday.

Merry Christmas again.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

a zombie christmas eve, by logankstewart

sing, burning tree, a sweet and fiery melody
of love and fear.
through colored lights on darkly nights
and hopes of a better year.

cry, spoiled child, a bitter and sorrow filled sob
of not getting your desire.
but look at yon tree, and how bad it can be
to find yourself on fire.

hear, loud room, stuffed with voices grand,
laughing at the table.
for something's not right with the world tonight,
i present a christmas fable.

lock up the door,
seal up the house,
for the world is over tonight.
the zombies are here,
their intention is clear,
for the world is over tonight.

santa is dead,
the reindeer are fed
and christmas is over tonight.
his brains have been eaten
by prancer and comet,
see their dark faces,
see their thick vomit,
and christmas is over tonight.

the elves are to blame
for this turn of events.
humanity ends tonight!
tired of their slavery,
from years working hard,
covertly they worked
and played their trump card.
humanity ends tonight!

spread through the air
with carols and snow,
the world is over tonight.
we'll turn on ourselves
unable to resist
and the world will be over tonight.

when the sun rises tomorrow
and no one wakes up
will the elves realize what they've done?
when all that's left
is a shambling, starving, mob,
will they regret their actions?

and years from now,
when only zombies remain,
will little zombie jimmy
ask for christmas a brain?

mourn, upset reader, for having wasted your time here
on this pathetic work.
if you need a reason to celebrate the season
it's that things could always be worse.

merry happy christmas, folks. brains!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Writing Wednesdays: The Absurdly Epic Tragedy of Oscambria 1.7

You can click here and read the previous Cantos to the story. In short, the ever popular actor Oscambria has been cursed by upsetting a spoiled gods son and has been exiled from society. In his wanderings he learned of his destiny. Since finding his purpose he, by fate or happenstance, found the person he was supposed to find. He rescued them from bandits and watched idly as Arca quickly murdered a fallen and unconscious attacker. This Canto is much shorter than the previous ones, which is good for the busy holiday season. After this Canto I’ve also put up a crude (but I’m proud of it) map, drawn in MS Paint. As always, feedback/criticism is appreciated.


Now seems a time for me to pause in this tale and let you stretch your legs
And let your mind ponder on the events that you’ve read so far.
Surely most of this you’ve heard before,
But I’d wager that you’ve not heard it quite like this.
I want you to understand, dear readers, the tragedy of Oscambria,
Of how significant his exile was to him.
How it must have weighed heavily on his mind each passing moment.

Up until his curse, he had been a respected and beloved citizen of Athins,
Admired by men and women alike.
The men respected his wit and his mind,
Though they admonished him some for his quick tongue.
The women respected his handsomeness,
And all respected his prowess on the stage,
Commanding the theatre as if he were one of the Muses himself.

Yea, Oscambria was the favorite son of Athins,
And I suppose he enjoyed being in that light.
Marvel at how quickly, though, his fellow citizens deserted him
And turned upon him,
Casting him from their midst without a trial or a chance at defense.
Doubtless it was Rone that instilled this hastiness in the mob,
Acting in his ignorance and misguidance by Zzizgarg’s smooth words.

Though Zzizgarg was a liar and an immortal,
It can never be said that he was stupid.
No, in fact he was far from it,
And his scheme of cursing Oscambria put into his greedy heart a new hunger,
One that would soon lead a country to a terrible war,
Where victims would be countless on both sides
And gods themselves would lie in ruins.

Sweet readers, I ask you to understand the Hero’s mind,
And I ask you to remember his frameset when reading the rest of his actions.
Note that he did not slay the unconscious man,
But he did not defend him either.
Read on, now, and see how Oscambria’s newfound family
And traveling friends were more than they initially appeared,
And where the road would lead the Hero next.


The map was modeled after America and Asia, for the most part. I think clicking on it will blow it up.


I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas Eve and Christmas. If you read tomorrow, it'll be 'specially stupid.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Give You Everything I’ve Got for a Little Peace of Mind

While Christmastime is upon us, I usually find my mind scattered and broken, split into scores of pieces and focused on everything and nothing.  At those times I usually like poetry and Radiohead.  Or I like picking up my guitar.

Debt’s steadily mounting now that my student loans are out of their grace period and I’m having to make four separate payments instead of one consolidated one.  Thankfully the consolidation process should be done within the next month or so.  I’m doubleplus thankful that I don’t have student loan debt as high as many other students.  Right now I think I’m making around 15 different bill payments per month, but hopefully by the end of January that’ll drop down to half of that or so.

I was without health insurance for many years.  When I started my job in May I finally got health insurance, which I was super excited about.  However, the benefits I imagined from having insurance quickly changed when I realized how my particular plan worked.  (Actually, I have no idea how it works.  Too much legalese in that document.)  I have a very high deductable ($4000), which keeps the cost down, but means I have to pay a lot of stuff until my deductable is met, which likely won’t be met unless there’s some kind of horrible accident.  Keisha had a CT scan done a few weeks ago and I got my claim in the mail yesterday, telling me that out of the $1700 total cost, I was responsible for $1300 of it.  Suffice it to say that Keisha and I didn’t see that one coming.  It’s stuff like this that makes me wonder what good is my insurance doing me?  Thankfully I’ve got a HSA through my company and they match my contributions, so I’ll only actually be paying myself $650 while the MLC pays the other half.  I’ve not followed the whole health bill thing, but if it can help me, then great.  Blah. 

Me, Keisha, Clint, Alex, and Rachael all went ice skating last night.  The city has an outdoor rink set up and Mondays are free nights.  I did manage to make it around the rink several times without falling, but I stayed within arms reach of the wall for the most part.  I give definition to clumsiness.  But I never fell, thankfully, and we all had a great time.  Tonight me and Clint and Keisha are making a gingerbread house.

Random Bits and Pieces

I picked up the Beatles Anthology videos to watch, Dave.
Brandon Sanderson posted a free short story of his over here.
“A fool's lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating.”—Prv. 18:6
Less than 100 pages remaining in Warbreaker
Writing Wednesdays tomorrow, with a map!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Reviewing the new Star Trek movie

Over the weekend Keisha and I fully intended to go and watch Avatar, but things took a turn and we didn't get to go watch it. Instead we wound up renting the new Star Trek movie, directed by J.J. Abrams.

To be fair, I've never watched a single episode or movie of the Star Trek franchise. What I know about it ("Beam me up, Scotty," phasers, "Live Long and Prosper," and Klingon) all comes from being ingrained into pop-culture. Plus, as a lifetime STAR WARS fan, I just assumed Star Trek was my arch-enemy. That said, I now offer my review of the newest franchise film.

Star Trek begins with an exciting action sequence, filled with beautiful space imagery and fantastic technology. This spectacular display of future technology does not cease throughout the film, and it doesn't get old, either. The Starfleet spacecraft U.S.S. Enterprise, as well as the Romulun ship the Narada, are both visually stunning. The special effects throughout the film were all well done and only slightly cheesy a few times (a green-skinned woman? What?). Watching the fate of Vulcan was mesmerizing. Overall, I found the imagery of the movie Grade A eye candy.

The second aspect of the film I enjoyed was the intense action scenes. The few battle scenes between individuals, especially when the Starfleet crew arrived at Vulcan, were all entertaining to watch (albeit not as exciting as a lightsaber duel, but that's a different matter entirely). Abrams pumped adrenaline throughout the movie, and anyone seeking an action movie would surely enjoy this film.

For the most part the plot of the film was enjoyable, too, but not completely. To remain spoiler free there was a large problem with physics and continuity and reality that I felt would have been better explained using a different mechanism. The red-matter technology had some cool stuff to it, but the implications regarding timelines felt a bit too much. Sometimes this mechanism works (like Lost) and sometimes it doesn't (like Heroes). Besides this, the story of Kirk and Spock were both intriguing, and if you could forget about some things the conquest of the Romulans was cool, too.

In the end, Star Trek was a worthwhile movie to watch. I was entertained and thought the special effects were amazing. The story was good, but not great, due to a few fickle things I didn't like. Keisha, on the other hand, had no problems with it, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. If you're looking for a thrill-ride, sci-fi, eye-pleasing movie to watch during the Christmas season that's available on DVD, I'd recommend Star Trek.

Random Bits and Pieces
  • Nearly finished with Warbreaker. Hopefully will be before the weekend.
  • Blue Mtn. Dew is definitely not the best Dew out there.
  • Those who are dead are just living in my head.
  • I joined a gym over the weekend.
  • I joined Sams Club over the weekend.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Weekend Special: Current thoughts on Warbreaker

This post will definitely contain spoilers.  If you’ve not read Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker I would strongly urge you to skip this post. 


I am currently on Chapter 36.  Wow.  That’s really about all I can say right now, especially considering the events that just happened in the previous chapter.  All along I’ve really liked the mercenaries, but I honestly have to say I suspected something like this.  Definitely not exactly like what happened, but that they were more sinister than they appeared.  I still wonder about Denth’s past.  I’m looking forward to Vivenna learning how to use her Breath.

I’m really curious to learn more about Vasher, too.  There have been only a few short pages devoted to him and it’s driving me crazy.  Is he bad?  Is he good?  Is he apathetic?  What the heck’s up with that sword?  All in due time I’ll find out, I suppose.

I really like the turn of events for Siri and Susebron.  I find their relationship sweet and enjoyable, and I’ve laughed a bit, too, at the God Kings’ naïveté.  I’m not sure what will happen to Susebron and I don’t know how to guess.  Hopefully he doesn’t die.

Lightsong is still getting on my nerves, though not as much as earlier in the book.  I still think his character is really weak and annoying.  His quest to learn more about his past is slightly interesting, but his involvement with Blushweaver is eye-rolling.  So is Blushweaver, for that matter.  I’m sure the Returned will play a crucial part in whatever is going to happen, but so far I could care less for any of them.  If Lightsong would just stop acting like an immature, flippant, uncaring person then I’d be happy.

I like the mystery and secrecy with all the priests and servants, too.  Not sure really what’s going to happen with them or who to trust, but I pretty much don’t trust Scoot.  Surely he can’t care about Lightsong.

Anyway, these are my thoughts.  If you’ve read the book, chime in.  If not, I hope you didn’t read this post and that you aren’t reading this paragraph.

Friday, December 18, 2009

An Apology to MUSE

I feel like I owe the band Muse an apology.  Back when I finished up my iPod journey I didn’t really know the band very well.  I had heard a song or two from them and thought they were pretty cool, but not enough to truly enjoy the rest of their catalog.  But a strange and marvelous thing happened soon after.

I decided to listen to them a bit more.  Their music was powerful, the vocals were strong, and the interesting song titles were alluring.  That said, I soon found myself loving them.  Absolution is a fantastic album with songs that blow me away.  There are days that go by and I can’t get “Thoughts of a Dying Atheist” out of my head.  Black Holes and Revelations is another awesome album, complete with the beautiful “Knights of Cydonia.”

So Muse, let me apologize.  I’m sorry for not ranking you higher on my iPod journey (#99, #112, #268, #273).  I’m sure if and when I plow through my iPod again you’ll rank higher.  I don’t know what was wrong with me then for not liking you.  You’re obviously very talented and make great records.  Keep up the good work, fellas, and thanks for the excellent albums.

Okay, now I feel better that that’s out of my system.  Now I should put up a small album of pictures taken with my new camera.

Last night I had another close call with something that could’ve been worse than what it was.  I decided to grill some porkchops.  I turned on the gas, flipped the switches to Pre-Heat, waited a few seconds, and hit ignite.  The grill didn’t light.  I tried this a few more times, then decided to close the lid and build up a little gas and light it that way.  Again, nothing happened.  Frustrated (and hungry), I pulled out the candle lighter and stuck it in the grill to light.  I thought enough of the built-up gas had vanished.  Well, the fireball that shot out of my grill and engulfed my right arm proved me wrong.  I squealed and dropped the lighter, but the grill was lit!  The exposed skin on my arm (my wrist and hand) had all of the hair singed off.  It smelled awful and felt oddly smooth and strangely ultra-sensitive.  Now, looking down at my hands I can tell one is different.  If only Keisha would’ve recorded it…

That’s it for now.  Got a busy day.  Looking at a new project at work.  Taking Keisha and Stella out tonight to look at Christmas lights.  Possibly going to see Avatar tomorrow.  Possibly helping Banjo & Kazooie defeat Grunty.  Maybe playing some Oblivion, too, who knows.  Definitely some more Warbreaker.  Okay.  I’m leaving now.  Sorry for the weak post, but ‘tis the season.  So long for now.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Totally the BEST Post You’ll Ever Read, An Amazing Happenstance

Okay, not so amazing.  But still cool.  The gas station that I usually buy my morning drink from had 12-packs of Mtn. Dew Game Fuel for $.99.  That’s outrageous!  So instead of purchasing a 44oz drink for $1.05, I instead bought 144oz in twelve aluminum cans for $1.05, a much better deal.  How totally awesome and radical is that?

Probably few of you have seen this commercial, but I happen to like it.  There’s a bit of controversy surrounding it, saying that it detracts from the sanctity and holiness of Christmas.  Personally, I have no problem with it, and I think the jingle is totally awesome and radical.  Beware, it can get stuck in your head.  And it’s only 34 seconds long.

Bah, I guess folks just need a reason to stir up trouble. 

I’m so totally digging Brandon Sanderson’s Warbreaker right now.  Like, I mean, if I could either spend a day body surfing with friendlies of the ocean and ruling them like Poseidon or read this book, I’d totally go with the popcorn, man.  Cause I love to eat popcorn and read, that is.

My enthusiasm for Oblivion has waned.  I’ve put in, like, somewhere around 55hrs now, but I’ve done next to nothing on the Main Quest.  Yet I’m still playing it, whenever I get the time.  And I still die or nearly die quite often, too, even though I’m a freaking totally awesome powerful level 22 Nord.  I did see that Final Fantasy XIII is scheduled for release next spring, and it looks flipping sweet, dudes.

That’s really about it.  Me and my home dawg Alex recorded a song that sounds hip.  It’s our take on the old gospel song “Heaven Came Down.”  If I wanted I could post that up here, but I’ll wait.  I think we’re going to try to video record ourselves at some point, plus A-dog is possibly getting a new acoustic-electric bass.

If you need a few blogs to read or sites to check out, I’ve got some for you.  They’ll mess you up, man.  Like snorting LCD-laced mushrooms mess-you-up.  The first one,, is not posted daily, but still relatively frequently.  If you like that odd, random humor, it’s fantastic.  I nearly died at work reading this post yesterday.  The other one,, is an older site, but still totally gut-rolling laughter+fear inducing.  There are too many good pictures to choose from to link to, so I’ll pick this one as a taste of what you can expect.

So, uh, that’s like, it.  Peace out.  Love in.  Joy to that guy who took away your futon…

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Writing Wednesdays: The Absurdly Epic Tragedy of Oscambria 1.6

If you've missed any of the previous Cantos to this absurd epic, click here to catch up. Once again, sorry about the length, but I hate splitting up the parts. This Canto is exactly 100 words less than last weeks. I've written a huge, completed outline for this story, so it looks like it'll be going on for quite a while. This is the first story in a long time that I've actually focused on and made a full-fledged outline. I hope you enjoy. Feedback/Criticism is appreciated.
Presently cursed, Oscambria made his way from the cave,
Avoiding all manner of men he met on his way.
He was in the hill country near Athins still,
Which is mostly populated with sheep and their caretakers.
He knew he would be banned from returning to the city and avenging himself,
Banned from entering towns in general,
As his curse made it nearly unbearable for living ones to be around him.

“My exile must last until I rid myself of this curse,” he cried aloud,
if only to hear his voice.
“But I shall seek to find the wondrous woman Koesan,
she of my visions. She will help me reach the second pillar.”
And so he walked aimlessly,
Without thought of where he trod
Or where his feet took him.

Days passed without incident,
Through rain and heat and despair,
Across the hill country and through the flats.
Alone and hungry,
The Hero walked without destination,
A speck in the winds of the Sisters blowing breeze
To arrive where it would arrive.

As one particular day neared its end
And the sun was low in the sky,
Oscambria spied a commotion in a nearby valley.
A gang of thieves and thugs appeared to be harassing a traveling merchant,
And the loud and raucous laughter of drunk men echoed through the hills.
“They’re trying to steal from that poor wagoneer,” said the Hero.
“I must go to his aid.”

Like a wraith moving through mist and fog,
The Hero headed towards the ruckus.
He was unarmed, having only to himself the ruined clothes,
But he was unafraid.
“It is not in my destiny to die here at the hands of these vagrants,” thought he,
“and I will be protected by my fate.
What the Sisters have woven is woven.”

He was near enough to the gang that he could hear them speaking.
“What is that horrible smell?” one of them asked.
“It smells like someone ate an entire boar
and relieved themselves without wiping.”
“No,” said another merrily, “I think mayhap our victims here
have upset bellys from the unfortunate turn of events of this eve,
and their loss of profit is driving out gasses from their rumps.”

Oscambria leapt from the shadows,
Crashing loudly into a man with his back turned.
They toppled to the ground and the Hero brought a swift hand to the man’s head.
He rolled up to his feet in a second,
And in the commotion he stole the downed man’s halberd,
Bringing it up in an offensive position,
snarling viciously at the remaining four thieves.

“Look what we have here,” said the crook nearest Oscambria,
“a hero has come to your rescue, peddlers.”
In the darkness of the gloaming, Oscambria’s grey-skin was hidden,
His ruined garb unnoticed by those surrounding him.
But the stench was there, strong and full,
And Oscambria knew it would quickly drive the men to fear and madness,
Or at least he hoped it would.

One of the men stepped forward and Oscambria slashed without thinking;
The blade of the halberd connected with the man’s exposed arm,
hitting the hard bone of his foe and then proceeded to pass through.
The limb fell freely from the body,
Like an autumnal tree sheds its limbs after a cyclone.
Blood as dark red as those leaves spurted from the open wound
And the man screamed out in pain.

And then the full weight of the curse arrived,
Opening the crooks darkened eyes and setting revelation in their minds.
“The man is cursed!” shouted a stocky man.
The gang immediately abandoned their victims,
Running swiftly from the cart and the cursed one,
Leaving their unconscious comrade in the road.
Even the injured man had enough wits to flee, taking the severed arm with him as he did.

Moments later the Hero looked about the bloodied scene,
Noticing for the first time that there were five bodies on the dirty ground.
One belonged to the unconscious criminal,
And the other four presumably belonged with the wagon.
One was definitely dead,
As evidenced by the jagged cut across his throat
And the puncture wounds on his chest.

The other three were tied up to the wagon wheels,
A small child, an old man, and a woman with dark black hair.
They were all gagged and scared,
But did not appear to have any wounds.
Oscambria stared at them for a long moment,
Deciding how to approach the situation,
And finally knelt down before the old man.

“Sir,” said he gently, “I am going to untie you.
Know that I am cursed, and I will try not to touch your skin.”
The man’s eyes were clouded and white, Oscambria noticed,
And he was likely blind, but his nose probably worked.
Soon he had them all freed and on their feet,
And they stood awkwardly in the growing dark,
The pale moon peering between the shimmering Twin Planets.

For a long moment Oscambria waited,
Uncertain what to do or say.
He wondered if the people he rescued would scorn him,
If they would beg him to leave them be,
To take his curse and go.
He tried to think of something to say
But instead found himself staring at the dark haired girl.

She was young and full of womanhood,
With sharp eyes and very brown hair.
She wore a simple traveling tunic,
Brown and white,
Stained with dust from the roads,
But he found it complimented her pale skin.
“She looks familiar,” thought he.

“Who are you?” inquired the old man suddenly.
The Hero tore his vision from the beautiful girl
And faced the man.
“I am Oscambria of Athins,
the cursed and exiled son of Oscar and Reane,
actor of the Round Theatre and Masque of the Courte du Gods,
at your service, sir.”

Oscambria?” blurted the girl. He quickly looked back to her
and could see the blush rising to her cheeks.
“I mean to say, the Oscambria? The acclaimed performer of ‘Gilgon the Great’
and recently starring in ‘Sing to Me, Cadem!’
You are that Oscambria?”
The Hero could not help but smile,
Bittersweet from his recent departure from the stage and the meeting of a fan.

“Yes, my lady, I am the very one.”
Sadness filled her eyes as she spoke again.
“How very unfortunate for your exile and curse.
We were on our way to Athins to deliver our merchandise
And then we were going to watch ‘Sing to Me.’
How very unfortunate, indeed.”
At a loss for words, Oscambria nodded.

“Mind yourself, girl,” said the old man.
“Of course it’s unfortunate, do you think he is unaware of that?
Bah! But tell me, Oscambria, how you came to be cursed,
As I can only assume it was the curse that led to your exile.”
So, standing in the roadside valley, the Hero delivered his tale,
Starting with the challenge to Zzizgarg
And ending with his visions in the cave.

The three stared at him open mouthed,
Like children salivating for a caramelized apple slice,
Astounded at his amazing tale. (An amazing tale, I do say.)
Again the old man spoke, “Well if that ain’t a dandy.
And you’re apparently pretty good with a blade, too, eh?
You chopped off that one man’s arm after all,
And you scared off all of ‘em but that one that’s still out.”

“Yes, I did do that, but I had the element of surprise.
Plus, it was my curse that scared them off, not my skill with a blade.
Which brings up a question. Why have you all not ran from me
And from this affliction I bear?
I know the smell must be difficult for you.”
The small boy’s face was a shade of green-yellow-blue,
And Oscambria assumed he was trying not to breathe very often.

“Indeed, you are a smelly lad, but not completely unbearable.
And you saved our shipment and our lives.
Twould be rude of us to run off like that,” spoke the old man wisely.
“And we know of your great destiny.
If you are to become a Hero, I’ll wager you won’t get there on your own,
And you could likely use some comp’ny,
And we’re willing to ‘comp with ya.”

“I don’t know what to say,” muttered the Hero,
“except thank you. You’re the first people I’ve met since I’ve greyed
that haven’t ran off screaming. What are your names?”
The old man spoke again, answering for the group.
“I’m Columbus, the girl’s Koesan, and the lad there’s Arca.
The dead man over there was Villay,
A dear friend and business partner in our endeavors.”

Koesan…” thought the Hero. “Of course.”
“Are you hurt?” asked Koesan suddenly,
her melodic voice as wonderful as a Siren’s song.
She pointed at the juice-blood stain on his ragged outfit, and Oscambria shook his head.
“No, this is the very garb I was wearing in my final performance.
The curse struck before I had time to change,
And I was forced from Athins without a chance to return to my home.”

“Well, we should deliver our merchandise and then see what we can do.
Will you travel with us, Oscambria?
We could use a hero, another defender that is, as our last one met the Twins a bit early,
Taipeos rest his merry soul.
You can tarry outside of Athins while we barter in the city,
And we’ll pick you up as we leave.
What say you?”

Without hesitation, the Hero nodded.
“Aye, I will, though I’m not sure how much of a fighter I’ll be if we meet trouble.
How far are we from Athins?
What should we do with the sleeping one?”
Columbus answered him, wrinkling up his nose.
“We should kill him, of course.
He tried to steal from us, after all, and the Law is the Law.”

The matter was settled before Oscambria could protest.
The child, Arca, seized the halberd from the Hero
And plunged it deep into the downed ones skull,
Splitting asunder the bone as easily as butter splits ‘neath a blade.
Red blood flowed from the wound,
And when Arca pulled the blade from the dead man
There were bits of pink and bone stuck to it.

Oscambria was stunned at the boy’s animosity, at his hatred,
At his suddenness, yet he said nothing.
The boy handed the blade back to the Hero with no words.
“Very well, let’s go. There’s been enough bloodshed now.”
The Hero agreed with the old man,
Feeling slightly sick from the bloodshed
And the death.

Soon they were off, headed back down the windy roads and toward Athins,
The Hero riding in the back of the wagon, no longer alone.
He had not told the travelers that he’d seen Koesan in his vision,
Afraid that it would scare them away.
As the wagon wheels bumped and jostled him,
He faded asleep,
Dreaming of the beautiful, pale woman.

Next week's segment is much shorter. I may post the map of Oscambria's world up with the Canto next week, too.

On Christmas Music

There’s something special about Christmas music.  Kind of.  Really I should say that there’s something special about Christmas music for a little while and then it quickly gets old.  Some people start playing it the day after Thanksgiving and keep it going on into February.  Others may turn on the radio on Christmas Eve as they’re cooking, but no more.  Others may only hear it at church when they go to see a Christmas play or cantata.  And still more will eschew Christmas music like it’s the bubonic plague.

Myself, I love Christmas music, but conditionally.  I like it with variety.  If it all sounds crisp, clean, and bubbly, I’m ready to tear my ears off and plug the holes with caulk within a few short minutes.  I like the traditional Dean Martin or Nat King Cole song as much as the next guy, but not only them.  Different arrangements of the music makes all the difference in the world.  Or playing quirky, odd Christmas songs.  Something to break the monotony of familiar Christmas tunes.

As a musician, one thing I really appreciate and like about Christmas music is its complexity.  Christmas songs typically make use of odd chords that aren’t played as often, diminished and augmented things.  And many of them rely on a heavy minor sound, which I find absolutely delightful.  There’s just something moodier when I hear a minor chord, something a bit more mysterious and powerful.

Right along with the actual music is the lyrics behind many Christmas songs.  Many of them deal with the birth of Jesus, of course, and that is well and good.  His birth should be remembered and honored, and by singing carols of Him we are worshipping Him in a way.  But then there’s the secular Christmas songs, like “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” “Blue Christmas,” or “The Christmas Song.”  These songs are often fun to sing along with and the wide array of meaning behind them, from sadness of memories gone by to the joys of riding a sleigh through snowy hills.  I enjoy a good mix of meaning with my songs.

A final thing that I really like about Christmas music is that it crosses every genre, but it also is a genre of its own.  You can listen to one artist sing a favorite Christmas song, adding to it their own personal touch.  Or perhaps they leave it alone, stripping it down to its simple form and sing over the easy chords.  Whatever the case may be, each artist will add their own unique flavor to any song, and the variety in this is perfect for curing the normal Christmas music blues.

I’ve written this post chiefly for one reason: Christmas music does not have to be painful to listen to.  No, truly there is hope for the music.  I found it, and now I’ll share it with you.  A plethora of answers to life are available from NPR, and they have the fix for this dilemma, too.  Jingle Jams: A Holiday Mix from NPR Music offers 100 favorite holiday songs, from Bach to the Ramones to Louis Armstrong to Johnny Cash, and they’re all available for free listening here.  The streaming is on a loop, so you don’t get to pick where you start, but you can listen to a great variety of Christmas music.  There are very familiar songs and there are songs I’ve never heard before.  Overall, I’ve enjoyed it, and you can too.  Thank you NPR.  You always come through.

Random Bits and Pieces

  • Writing Wednesdays tomorrow.  Don’t miss it.
  • Amazon’s Deal of the Day is Assassin’s Creed II for $40.  That’s outrageous!
  • Some funny Christmas ads from yesteryear.  I liked the first one best.
  • I still haven’t picked out Keisha’s gift.
  • I’m compiling my data from all the books I’ve read for 2009 and will be posting it the last week of the year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Nativity Project: A Service Project Recap

Let me begin with an exclamation of WOW.  As many of you know, and as I mentioned last Friday, and a few times before then, our Sunday School class did a service project, which we called the Nativity Project, at a local homeless shelter over the weekend.  The project was phenomenal; that second sentence was not.

For many months we have been collecting lightly used clothes, toys, books, movies, purses, shoes, and other things.  We stockpiled our stuff into bags and boxes and then a week ago we went through and categorized it.  There were many, many items to sort through and organize, and it took the ~15 people about three hours to go through it all.  We managed to group like clothes together (mens, womens, teen girls, young boys, young girls, baby) and the toys were just put together as good as possible.  We stuffed everything in a trailer and waited for the project.

Keisha and I got to the shelter around 6:00am so we could help unload the trailer and be ready to start the project by 9:00am.  It was cold and breezy, but it didn’t get any of our spirits down.  In fact, I’d say we were rather warm and willing.  We all cleared out the trailer pretty quickly and then began unpacking all of the bags and toys.  We had to put the stuff around the walls on tables, as we were serving in the cafeteria of the shelter and could not put stuff on the eating tables.  Once everything was unpacked there seemed to be a lot of stuff, but I didn’t know how long it would last.  I didn’t know how many people to expect.

One of the goals for this project was not just to give stuff away to homeless people.  No, we were not exclusive, and in fact I’d say a decent percentage of the turnout was not homeless.  Anyone that was in need of anything could come and take.  We helped parents that were struggling to provide toys for their children by giving them toys.  We offered gift wrapping so the kids would be able to open a gift.  We had some folks ask for gloves, we didn’t have any, but we drove down to the store and bought some and returned and gave them away.  Truly our class was there to serve.

I sat down with a man named Jerry before the project started.  Jerry was an older man with long, bushy sideburns and a quick tongue.  He was wearing a thin jacket.  I found out that Jerry rode the bus to the shelter to get breakfast and lunch and then he would be leaving.  I asked if there was anything I could help him look for, but he said he did not want to face the “madhouse” and that he’d just keep his coat.  He said we probably didn’t have a jacket to fit him anyway.  I told Jerry that I was about as big and tall as he was and that I’d look to find him a warm jacket when the project started.  He said okay, but as time grew closer he decided he didn’t want me to do it.  I told him it was no problem and at 9:00 I went over to the coats, found a very nice and warm American Eagle pea coat, and returned and gave it to him.  I got a simple “thank you” and I knew he was pleased.  I asked if there was anything else I could look for for him, but he said no, that he had plenty of clothes.  We talked a bit more, and a few other folks sat around us and we all talked a bit.  Eventually I found out that Jerry liked NASCAR and word searches and I left the table to go help other people.

We spent most of our time helping people look for certain sizes or items, talking with the searchers and getting to know them a bit.  At one point I spotted an XL NASCAR shirt, walked over to Jerry and told him I thought he’d like it and he took it willingly.  I went back and helped the people I was helping.  We had a steady flow of people from 9:00 until around noon and then we condensed what was left and left it all at the shelter.  Hopefully others will take advantage of what’s left, which wasn’t a lot but still quite a bit, and get some stuff for themselves.

In the end I believe our class was blown away by the project.  I know I was.  Seeing the joy on the kids faces, watching their eyes light up seeing tables and tables of toys, was a blessing.  Helping a mother look for work clothes—and actually finding them—was a source of joy for both of us.  Truly God provided for everyone seeking.  It was like the fish and the loaves of bread Jesus used to feed a multitude of people.  We wound up serving around 200-300 people (maybe more, I can’t remember), but many of these folks got stuff for their family members, too, bringing our output to around 700-800.  And everyone (to my knowledge) left satisfied and happy.

Our pastor asked the congregation a few months ago that if Macedonia Baptist Church ceased to exist would we be missed in the community?  Would people even know we were gone?  He then challenged us to make a difference in our community, to not be complacent with doing little to nothing for God but to get out there and serve Him by serving and helping others.  I think the Nativity Project served our community.  God blessed me by knowing I was helping others.  God blessed others by getting them things they desired.  As always, God blesses and provides, and I pray that He blesses you, too, this Christmas season.

(A quick and unrelated note on Brandon Sanderson.  I found this auction on eBay and thought I’d share it.  It’s a Advance Proof 1st Print copy of Mistborn: The Final Empire.  The going price is pretty low right now, but I can’t bid any more with Christmas fast approaching.  However, you should act quickly, as the auction ends at 09:30:21am PST today.  Good luck if you bid.)

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Day in the Life + Answers to Questions

7:02am—Hit snooze one time.  (I don’t believe in setting my alarm on values divisible by five.)  Roll over.  Get attacked by warm, puppy kisses.

7:11am—Get up out of bed, throw water on face, brush teeth, get dressed.

7:25am—Take Stella out, flip coffee pot on, and sometimes read from my Bible or a devotion, and sometimes make oatmeal or cereal.  (I don’t often eat breakfast.)

7:45am—Leave for work.

8:00am—Arrive at the MLC, start up computer, wait, check email, Google Reader updates, CNN headlines, and any other personal business.

9:45am—Coffee break to the Table of Knowledge, work on USA Today crossword puzzle.

10:00am-10:15am—Return to desk and continue working on project(s).

Noon—Lunch time, drive home, cook Ramen noodles or sandwich or leftovers, take Stella out, talk to Keisha if she’s home or read if she’s not, drive back to work.

1:00pm—Arrive at the MLC, check Fark, continue on project(s).

2:45pm—Coffee break to the Table of Knowledge, finish USA Today crossword; if already finished, work on LA Times crossword, other USA Today puzzles, or read through newspaper.

3:00pm-3:15pm—Return to desk and continue working on project(s).

5:00pm—Leave work, drive home, take Stella out; if Keisha’s home, we talk or watch TV or something; if not home, I play an instrument, play with Stella, play Xbox, read, or watch television.

10:00pm—Take Stella out; head upstairs for bed, floss, brush teeth, mouth wash; drop temperature down to a comfortable cool, flip on fan and flowing-water-noise-making-thing, put on chap stick, lay down, get assaulted by Stella’s fierce love, and read.

11:00pm—Lights out, book down, try to sleep.


That’s it.  Usually repetitive.  Depending on the day, the evening is substituted with a favorite television show, music practice with Alex, or heading out to shop or something with Keisha.  Thankfully, Keisha’s semester’s finally over, so we’ll get to spend more time together now.  Weekend’s are too unpredictable to pattern.  Now for some answers to some of life’s common questions.  And by common, I mean I’ve only been asked these questions once or never.  I’ll keep the askers anonymous.  You know who you are and aren’t.

How did the homeless thing go?  We had a good time last night, seeking out and trying to help people.  Unfortunately, we did not see a single person that was in need.  In fact, we met only one person, who was running with earbuds in, and he barely acknowledged our greeting.  I’m guessing because it was very cold (wind chill around 12 deg. or something I think) everybody was trying to stay warm.  We walked for around two hours, talking about various things, mostly talking about Jesus, and got in some good exercise.  We’ve not given up, though.  We’ve still got backpacks to give out and we fully intend to give them out.  We’re going to try various times and days, and eventually the Lord will provide.  We came away with more ideas of how we can impact our community, our fellowship grew closer together (I’ve only known Alex for five or six months and already consider him one of my truest and best friends), and we decided that if God provided everything on the first try then there would be no faith involved and everyone would have it easy.  We’ll be hitting the streets again.

What is the Star Wars thing?  Can you link to a site about it?  Are you going to dress up as something from the films?  Star Wars Celebration is an official Star Wars convention, kind of like ComiCon or DragonCon, but strictly Star Wars.  The official Star Wars Celebration V website is available here.  You can also read a bit more overall info, including info from past Celebrations, here or here.  Like any conference, loyal fans dress up as something, and Celebration is no different.  The costumes are amazing and well thought out.  Of course, if I were to go then I would likely dress up.  I have no shame.  I love the franchise.

What do you think about the cliché “better the left sock go missing than the right foot fall off”?  Uh, well, I think that there should be a better cliché.  What does that even mean?  Count your blessings? 

What are you doing tomorrow?  Criss-cross apple sauce, man!  I, along with my Sunday School class, am spending the day at a local homeless shelter, giving away tons of clothing, toys, and food.  If we run out, I think we’re going to get a list and write down what people would like to have, then possibly go buy some stuff and return.  I don’t know.  I’m sure I’ll probably eat at some point, too, and I’ll probably do a bit of other stuff.  I’ve done said that the weekends are too unpredictable.

Why do my feet stink?  It’s not just your feet, friend.

Will I ever find true love and happiness?  Yes.  No.  Maybe?  I don’t know.  Can you repeat the question?

Consider the Greco-Roman civilization, the medieval Anglo-Saxon civilization, the imperial Japanese civilization, and the modern day American civilization.  In a detailed list, citing primary and secondary sources, compare the electric motor scooter’s impact on each society.  Wait, what?  That’s not even a question.  That’s a command.  This ain’t a command session.

Did you see that picture of that 35-year-old parrot that doesn’t have any feathers?  Why yes, yes I did.  I saw it right here in fact.  It’s rather freaky, wouldn’t you say?

What was your favorite subject in high school?  Interesting.  I really have always been a math nerd since I was a wee lad, so probably AP Calculus.  Of course, I’ve always tried to dabble in art, and I took art classes all the way up to AP Art, too, which was a very fun class, but probably not my favorite for the whole “learning” thing.

Do you have more trouble with apostrophes or commas?  That is too hard to answer.  I want to throw commas around like they’ll solve all my problems, yet I’m sure I break the laws of grammar quite a bit.  As for apostrophes, they throw me for a loop from time to time, but probably not as much as commas.

That’s it for today folks, friends, fiends, and foes.  Remember, you can submit your very own questions in a comment, via email, in person, via Google Wave (if you want an invite I’ve got plenty to give out), or to my personal assistant, Renaldo Gustav Bolivia Montang.  Until next time, try not to write something as forced as this felt and try to watch a little Arrested Development.

The End.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Looking for the Homeless

My friend, Alex, came up with this really cool and practical idea a few weeks ago.  After one of the Sunday School lessons he got it in his heart to try and locate the homeless of Owensboro and provide for them.  He bought some backpacks, warm blankets, thermal underwear (long Johns, we call them in Kentucky), bottled water, and a Bible.  I bought some foodstuff.  We filled the backpacks and tonight we are going out on our first quest.

We’ve been trying to go out for the past two weeks, but I was sick and didn’t feel up to it last week, and Tuesday it poured down cold.  Tonight it’s going to be frigid (somewhere around 20 degrees) and windy, but we’re aiming to go.  I think the plan is we’re going to bundle up and go park downtown.  Then we’re going to walk the streets, each with a backpack, and keep an eye open for homeless folk.  If we see someone that needs a jacket, they can have ours.

Hopefully we find people in need and hopefully we can meet that need.  I know we’ve both been praying for this.  I’m not sure how many homeless people there are in Owensboro, nor where they would be, but we’ll look.  The city is fairly large, but shelter’s seem to handle most of the homeless here.  Regardless, we’ll keep our eyes and hearts open.

On a different note, tickets for STAR WARS Celebration V went on sale today.  I really really really want to go, but I have no one to go with.  Keisha’s going to have just started a job (hopefully) and Alex can’t go.  I’m thinking I may put a shout out on Facebook and see if anyone would like to go.  Really the trip wouldn’t be bad at all.  All four days of the convention for $120, and air fare is really cheap right now.  Celebration’s not until August 2010, so I’ve got time.

This is a small snapshot of what I’ve been working on for, well, practically since I started my job back in May.  The orange lines are the current thing I’m doing.  Drawing drainage areas for erosion calculations.  It’s a bit tricky and will vary from person to person on how it’s done.  The entire project is quite large.  It’s a slow process, but someone has to do it.  MLC

That’s really about it for today.  Keisha’s finally finished with commuting for the semester, so she’ll actually be home during the week now!  Christmastime’s coming up quickly, and we’ve still got a bit to do.

I’m toying with the idea of not posting every weekday beginning with the new year.  At least once or twice per week, but probably not every weekday.  And if Dave drops off the blogosphere and you read both of our blogs, then it’ll be like a double whammy.  (Big bucks, big bucks, no wammy!)  I’m not completely sure yet, but just maybe.

Wish us luck tonight with our journey.  And pray for us, too, if you’d like.  And just in case you’re interested, the Amazon deal of the day is the complete series of Seinfeld, all 32 DVDs, nine seasons, for $84.99.  That’s a heck of a deal.  Plus it comes with a nice 226 page coffee table book anthology, highlighting every episode.  I’m not linking it, but it’s there folks.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Writing Wednesdays: The Absurdly Epic Tragedy of Oscambria 1.5

This is a rather lengthy post. It will require some substantial scrolling down on your part. Unfortunately, I don't want to split the Canto into two pieces, so this is what you get. This is one of my favorite pieces of the epic that I've written so far. Important things happen. I hope you enjoy. If you've missed any previous parts of the journey, click here to read them.
“Awake, Oscambria, for I have things to show thee,” said Viis somberly.
The Hero opened his eyes to the God of Dream and Vision,
Standing tall and proud over him like gods do.
Readers, I do not have to tell you what Viis looks like,
as you’ve all seen it when you close your eyes at night,
Its translucent, shape-shifting form
And its piercing silver eyes.

The Hero rose, naked as he was when he lay down,
And covered himself with a random pile of animal furs from the dream.
“I know you, but I don’t. Who are you?” he asked, his voice as strong as his heart.
“I am Viis, the God of Dream and Vision,
and I am here to guide you on your destiny-walk,
to clear the fog in your mind
and set your feet upon the right path.

“Walk with me, child, and I will show you the four pillars of your destiny.”
They set out upon a long and treacherous road,
Lined with wonderful and hideous apparitions on the sides.
In the ditches flowed blood and water,
Thick and dark,
And an orb of burning flame hung in the purple sky,
Casting long shadows onto the two.

“These visions are the people and things you will see in your life;
they are what the Sisters have woven for you.”
They stopped beside an immense grey pillar,
Tall and mighty, its spike reaching up into the heavens and out of sight.
It appeared to be made of one smooth stone,
With no cracks or joints along its polished surface,
And Oscambria extended his hand and touched it.

“This pillar is your curse, child,
and touching it will enlighten you of your affliction.”
Immediately a scene opened before the Hero’s eyes,
of the challenge between him and Zzizgarg.
He watched as the immortal rushed out of the Courte du Gods
And through the streets of Athins,
And he could see the anger burning in Zzizgarg’s eyes.

He watched as the child of Fire and Ice drew a blade and cut his open hand,
Letting the blood pour down onto the Fire-altar and pray a Blood-oath.
Deception hung about Zzizgarg as he prayed,
And suddenly a god appeared from the fire.
The Hero heard and witnessed the events unfold,
Helpless to interfere,
And felt his heart falter when Zzizgarg deceived his father.

The vision suddenly faded and the pillar returned.
“Zzizgarg,” hissed Oscambria,
“I should have guessed that he would be behind this.
I’ve always tried to befriend the wretch,
But his pride kindles the flame in my blood
And I can’t help but knock him from his pedestal,
Though I see now the foolishness of my behavior.”

Viis neither admonished nor consoled him, but simply nodded,
Speaking, “I am not here to tell you how you should act,
Only to show you what is in store for you.
This is the first pillar of your life, and the foundation for how you will live.
This pillar, the curse you bear, will shape all of your actions,
And they will stretch into the other worlds
And affect more than you can currently comprehend.”

“But if you can do nothing but show me, why must I see my fate?
Is it not cruel to show me my life’s path and condemn me to obeying it?
Can I not change what I see, or is it etched in one of these pillars?”
“Come with me, Oscambria, and witness your second pillar,”
commanded Viis, its voice the strong mixture of male and female,
reaching out a hand for the Hero to take.
They continued down the path.

The second pillar came into view,
Again reaching up into the heavens and continuing beyond vision,
Though it was still far off in the distance.
Oscambria stopped, his attention caught by a bystander on the roadside,
A young maid garbed in a simple merchant tunic,
Her hair black as ebony
And her skin as bronze as a dinera.

“Who is she?” inquired the Hero, entranced at her beauty.
“These ghosts are the people you will meet along your way.
Her name is Koesan.
More than that, I cannot say.”
“She is beautiful,” replied the Hero.
Viis stared blankly at Oscambria, who was staring openly at Koesan,
who was staring at the sack of flour in her hands.

They came to the next pillar, this one seamless as the first,
Though its color was dark grey and speckled with red.
Again Oscambria reached out and touched the stone.
He beheld two massive armies,
One of men and gods, the other of gods and immortals.
They were on an unmarked field,
Ripe with wheat and tares.

Suddenly the battle erupted, violent and full of force.
Corpses fell, both of gods and men,
And the battle raged on for many days.
The end came with the dimming of the Flame,
The god Rone falling to the sword of an armored warrior,
Masked in a wicked black metal helm,
and the god’s head was cut from his body.

The warrior removed his mask and Oscambria gasped,
Seeing his own face revealed.
The curse was still on him, but it appeared to be fading,
His skin returning to its normal color,
As Rone’s power left with his life.
The warrior Oscambria sheathed his sword
And walked among the countless corpses.

The vision vanished, leaving Oscambria panting slightly.
He had no words, no remarks, only shock.
“Come, child, and see the third pillar.”
They walked in troubled silence,
Oscambria understandably distraught
From the vision he’d seen,
And he attempted to cast off the horrible image of the fallen god.

The next pillar reached up into the heavens,
But its exterior was marred with cracks.
It burned a bright orange-red, as if it was on fire,
And Oscambria stalled before it.
“I do not wish to know, magnificent Viis.”
The God of Dream and Vision nodded, then spoke in its strange voice,
“Yet you must, child. It is willed for you to do so.”

Hesitantly, the Hero touched the cracked stone,
And once again the visions opened before him.
Zzizgarg sat on a throne in Athins,
A scepter in one hand and a chalice in the other.
The throne room burned with torches.
At the immortal’s feet lay a dead king,
His body burnt black.

A dark crown sat atop Zzizgarg’s head,
And an evil grin was on his face,
Beneath his burning, red eyes.
“My name is Cornball the Fierce, the Flickering Flame,” said Zzizgarg,
“and I am your new king. You will all bow to me and worship me,
as you did my father, the fallen Fire, Rone.
I claim his mantle and hereby witness my Ascension.”

The immortal reared back his head and screamed violently,
A roar as loud as the wounded dying,
And flames burst forth from his open mouth.
Lines of fire shot from his eyes and outstretched hands,
And all around him objects burned,
From the glorious, exotic tapestries
To the royal Bunny Rabbit in the Gilded Cage.

When the intensity flared bright, the vision faded,
And Oscambria staggered back from the pillar, expecting to find himself ablaze.
His hand was hot from the stone.
“The last pillar awaits, Hero.”
“Hero? I am no hero.”
“Not now,” replied Viis smoothly, “but you will be,
for you are destined to be the Champion of the Three Worlds.

“All will know of your deeds in the days to come.
Minstrels will sing of your exploits,
Ministers will preach of your deeds,
Women will tremble at a mere drawing of your visage,
And men will seek to emulate you.
Children will play like they are you,
Re-enacting your glorious works.

“Yes, Oscambria, this curse was just the beginning of your journey.
By the end, you will be heralded as the Hero of the Living Worlds.”
Viis stared into Oscambria’s eyes,
Its silver pupils seeing all the way into his soul,
And the Hero knew it was true.
“But how can these things I see make me a hero?”
asked Oscambria sincerely.

“Come with me to the last pillar, child.”
The God of Dream and Vision did not answer him, you notice,
For gods so rarely decide to give straight answers to asking ones.
Instead, he was led to the final pillar,
Far away from the third, down the winding path,
Through a dark forest and below a lake,
Climbing a mountain and finally to the pillar itself.

The last pillar was not like the first three.
It was broken and ruined.
Massive black stones lay at its thick base.
All around the landscape was dead and barren,
As if they were near the Planet of the Dead.
“Touch it, Oscambria, and learn of your destiny.
Learn what your purpose is in this world.”

Inexplicably drawn to the ruined pillar,
The Hero slowly reached forth his hand
And lay his open palm on the shattered stone.
Before him appeared a world unlike anything he could imagine,
Yet similar in many ways.
The sky was blue, but the two familiar planets in the sky were removed,
Completely vanished and replaced by a massive orange star.

The magnificent temples of Athins were laid to waste,
And in their place were quick-food joints,
Filling the air with the sickly sweet smell of burgermeat.
The old altars to the gods were gone
And in their place was one altar.
Carved into the stone was an inscription:

Children walked the rotunda, happy and bright,
Each with a book in their hands.
The men and women worked side by side,
Together for the better of all,
And their only concerns were for society to prosper,
For everyone to have what they wanted,
And for the Cubs to win the pennant.

There was a sense of liberty throughout the lands,
Of a care-free lifestyle where everyone let everything be okay,
Where dogs and cats were friends
And roaches no longer lived.
It was Utopia, Oscambria, realized,
Ushered in somehow by his actions
And by the choices he would make.

Finally he saw a mighty spire, shooting from the ground and high into the sky,
Towering above all surrounding buildings,
And on its top stood a statue of Oscambria,
Flowing hair and chiseled chest,
A handsome goatee on his face,
A Muse mask in one hand
And a murderous blade in the other.

The setting sun cast a beautiful picture in his mind
And suddenly the vision disappeared.
Viis was standing quietly behind him,
A hint of a smile on its face.
“This is the end of your visions, Hero, and your dream.
You have seen the four pillars of your life
And the road the Sisters have made for you.”

“I’m not sure I understand everything I’ve witnessed,”
he exclaimed, “but I thank you for showing me.”
This time Viis did smile,
And rows of sharp, silvery teeth flashed in the pale light.
“It has been a pleasure, child, even if your path
will lead to the destruction of many of my kind.
What the Sisters have woven is woven.”

With this the sleep ended, and Oscambria woke up.
The cave was still dark, but the rain had ended.
He had no idea how long he’d been sleeping,
But his clothes were dry, albeit still stained.
He put on his garb and thought of his visions,
Of what his life had in store for him,
And for the first time since his curse, he smiled.