Friday, January 29, 2010

A Daily Dose of Aimlessness; A Taste of Things to Come

First—the taste!  Oh sweet, sweet taste, like a warm and gooey Pop-Tart® on an oatmeal-less morning.  Like Sarah McLachlan fumbling towards ecstasy, only to find that it’s not really Sarah McLachlan or ecstasy, but the Great Somnambulist eating a warm and gooey Pop-Tart®.  Finally the long wait draws near an end.  Soon, oh so soon, does it begin anew, afresh, again.  I’m talking about Lost’s final season, folks, and I think it’s obvious I’m excited.

Here on Rememorandom I’ll likely be postulating my theories on each episode.  For those of you that read my blog and don’t like Lost, you’ll likely not read these posts, and that’s fine by me.  I’d rather you not than have the greatest show on television ruined for you.  For those of you that watch Lost religiously, like I do—where you demand absolute silence, high-definition, crisp audio, a bag of popcorn, a comfy seat, a beautiful spouse, and a wonderful puppy—then I hope you find it in your heart to postulate with me.

That’s the beauty of Lost.  The fandom is huge.  The enthusiasm of the fans is overwhelming.  The creativity of the fans is inspiring and wonderful.  Check out The Lost Underground Art Show if you want to see some awesome fan art, which was commissioned by Lost’s producers.

Hoist up the John B. Sail!  (Is that an acceptable transitional phrase?)  I went to the gas station yesterday and bought a pop.  The lady in front of me bought a lottery ticket.  She won $500.  The cashier gave her 25 $20 bills.  The winner, an elderly lady, didn’t look very excited.  If I’d’ve been her, I probably would’ve been jumping around the gas station like an excited bunny rabbit, glad to be emancipated from the vile clutches of the Evil Cage.  But she didn’t seem like she cared.  I cared.

Hoist up the John B. Sail!  (Uh?)  I got my guitar fixed.  For free.  I took it to a different shop and the guy looked at it, fiddled with it, turned some knobs, plugged it up, and it worked.  He said dust was likely the culprit.  And to think, the local guy wanted to charge me $50 just for looking at it.  Sheesh.

Hoist up the John B. Sail!  (I still don’t know if that’s an ok transy phrase.)  My love affair with parentheses (totally the coolest of all punctuation marks) will never end.  (Why should it?  Supplemental, useless information is always welcome here.)

Hoist up the John B. Sail!  (I don’t care.  It’s a great transition.)  I did something last weekend that I haven’t done since The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which was 2006.  I reserved a video game.  Final Fantasy XIII.  The game looks beautiful.  And it’s enormous.  And it’s Final Fantasy.  I bought XII but I’ve never had time to sit down and play it.  One day, hopefully.  Anyway, I’m looking forward to playing the game.

Hoist up the John B. Sail!  Jai guru deva om.  Nothing’s gonna change my world.  I finished Firefly last night.  So sad.  I know I’ve already said it, but I can’t see why the show was canned (other than Fox’s horrible choices of airing episodes out of order, among other things).  Each character was memorable and intriguing.  There was humor.  There was camaraderie.  There was a vast universe to explore and a load of story to uncover, but it all vanished.  There’s nothing to do about it now except watch Serenity and hope it wraps up some of the loose ends.

Hoist up the John B. Sail!  I took the test to get on Jeopardy last night.  I made homemade shrimp scampi, which wasn’t the best ever, but definitely not the worst, either.

Hoist up the John B. Sail!  Goodbye JD Salinger.  Thanks for making a great and inspiring novel.  Catcher didn’t have a huge impact on me, like it did so many others, but it did help some world-view thoughts start a-churning in the head.  And reading it as a teenager was perfect.

Hoist up the John B. Sail!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Find Him! Bind Him!

First off, I strongly recommend that you listen to this song right here.  It’s by The Decemberists and titled “The Mariner’s Revenge Song.”  To my knowledge there is no official video, but I thought this production was pretty good.  The song style, words, and music are all akin to a classic pirate’s shanty and the story is most entertaining.  Go on.  Watch it.  You know you want to.  I can almost guarantee that you’ll smile from ear to ear from the wickedly delightful lyrics.  And, if you can listen to it and not feel like you’re on a pirate’s vessel, then you win today’s prize.

Well?  Whaddya think?  If you’re like me, after listening to it a few times I had to track down the lyrics and read the entire tale myself.

Second off, I have three episodes of Firefly left.  I knew I would like the show from the onset, and I knew it was going to end prematurely, but still I can’t help but wonder how something like this could get canceled?  It’s definitely better than plenty o’ other crap that makes it to tv.

Thirdly, I got an email from the library telling me Best Served Cold was in and on hold for me.  Of course, I just started reading Ted Dekker’s Green, so I’ll go pick it up and hopefully finish Green quickly enough.

Fourthly, here’s an interesting blog post by Al Mohler.  It discusses how many abortion workers turn to pro-life after years of work.  Sad, but encouraging, methinks.

We’re in a winter storm warning until tomorrow night or Saturday or something.  Expect 1-4 inches or something like that, so it’s said.  Who knows?  I know brevity is in order now.  There’s much afoot and I must hasten on.

Find Him.  Bind him.  Tie him to a pole and break his fingers to splinters.  Drag him to a hole until he wakes up naked, clawing at the ceiling of his grave…  I hope you gave it a listen.  So it goes.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Writing Wednesdays: The Absurdly Epic Tragedy of Oscambria (Transition)

As I mentioned previously, last week ended Book One of the story of Oscambria.  If you missed any of it and wish to catch up or re-read, click here.  (You can also follow the super special link at the end of the post, too, which is what I would recommend.)  Today I present the next book, in its entirety.


Book One-and-a-Half: A Transition

There is no Canto XIII.
Even I’m not as bold as to make a XIIIth song.
Oscambria’s tale is filled with enough woe and ill luck.
There’s no reason for me to add more under this foul number.
Rest easy, children,
For this story teller does not tempt Taipeos,
Not now, not ever.


I’ve debated off and on whether or not to include this link as a special addition to the story.  Basically, my manservant Cornelius Antonin Scruzz created a wiki-like site that I (and others) can use for referencing.  He’s spent a few hours working on the site and I think it looks pretty good.  The site is full of juicy background information and worldbuilding goodness.  Curious about the many gods of the lands?  Want to read the entire epic on one page?  Just want to see what the site looks like?  It’s all there, and then some.  The site is still a work in progress, but I think Cornelius has done rather well.  Again, the link is available here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

On the Bible and Bigotry

Of all the books ever made, the Bible is by far the most influential, best selling tome out there.  Whether you’re religious (I hate using that word) or not, it’s very likely that you know what a Bible is.  They’re ubiquitous nowadays, and to me that’s a good thing.  Personally, I know I own at least 7 Bibles: 1 Thompson Chain KJV, 1 Dake Annotated Reference KJV, 1 Daily KJV, 1 Compact HCSB, 1 Study HCSB, 1 Slim ESV, 1 NASB.  There’s just something special about the book that I love.

The book offers a wide array of authors, but stems from the inspiration of God.  Broken into 66 individual books, including history, poetry, proverbs, prophecy, the Bible is a book filled with wonder.  Some believe that the events in the Bible are fictitious or hyperbolized, but I do not.  The stories of the Old Testament are fascinating.  You get to see many great men and women of God profess their love and adoration to Him, but you see their weaknesses and failures, too.  Moses’ anger.  King David’s lust.  Jonah’s fear.

Nearly all of the events in the Old Testament deal with the people of Israel and their constant love-hate relationship with the Creator.  God’s hand in building up His people, from the birth of Isaac, through the splitting of the kingdom, and to the captivity of the nations, all lead up to the New Testament.

Where is our Savior?  I’m sure they wondered.  Where is the Messiah?

Everyone knows the Christmas story.  Jesus was humbly born in a manger.  This babe grew to become the Savior of Man.  He performed miracles, causing the lame to walk and the blind to see (among others), all in the name of God.  He offered a way of life that involved love and peace, understanding and compassion.  His greatest commandments were to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37,39)

It’s these words that are life-changing.  If we love our God with our everything and we love our neighbors as ourselves, then how can we not love everyone?  How can we be a people of hate and bigotry and then turn around and quote Jesus?  Christ did not say to the harlot “get away from me you vile and wretched whore.”  No.  Jesus loved her.  He welcomed her.  He gave her living water.  He forgave her.  He died for her.

The same is true for you and I.  Jesus, the Son of God, the only true holy person to have ever lived, lived a perfect and flawless life.  His message of love and peace was scoffed at.  His claims of being the Son of God were ridiculed.  He freely gave up his life to be crucified on a horrible, wooden cross.  His arms and feet were nailed into the wood and he was erected on a hill, above the gathered crowd.  He cried out to forgive the people and he died.

This terrible death did not end him, though.  Three days later he arose from the grave, glorified and holy.  He walked the grounds, once again preaching and healing.

I read the Bible.  How can I not?  It is the sole book on which I have based my life upon.  The words, while confusing (I’m looking at you Ezekiel and Daniel), are powerful and God-spoken.  But beyond the words is the message.  The message to love.  If Jesus commanded us to love, then why don’t we?  Why are there people that think it’s okay to be racist?  Prejudiced?  Homophobic?  This is wrong.  Christ did not tell us to love almost everyone as ourselves.  It’s an all or nothing thing.

This post is not about theology.  It’s about the fact that I love the Bible and I wish I read it more.  I love the stories of David and the Judges and the Prophets and the early church.   I love reading about my Savior and his life.  But I also love reading the truth in the Scripture, the convicting truth that we are to love our God with all our heart, body, mind, and soul, and I know I don’t put in all four often enough.  The truth that we are to love everybody, not just those that think like we do.

It’s a tough life and I’m not sure how I could make it without Jesus.  I find comfort and strength in his words.  I fail and fall short often, but I know he’s there for me when I rise again.  It’s my prayer that we’ll be a people that embraces his teaching—all of his teaching—and that our world will be a better place.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tea With Hezbollah, A Review

TeaWithHezbollah I don’t read a lot of non-fiction.  So when I do read a non-fiction work, it must have something special about it to make me finish.  Tea With Hezbollah, by Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis, had that special something in it.  

I’m a Ted Dekker fan.  He writes great, action-packed thrillers time after time, and when I got an email from a publisher with this book for review, I immediately responded that I’d be interested.  From the onset the authors state that this book is not about religion and it’s not about politics, it’s about humanity.  They ponder if Jesus’ greatest teachings—to love God and to love your neighbor—are still applicable today.

Their plan was simple and built on a whim.  They would travel into the Middle East and meet with prominent leaders of Islam thought: muftis, sheikhs, ayatollahs, and others.  From leaders of non-violent protests to US deemed terrorists, from Arabic taxi drivers to Osama bin Laden’s brothers, Dekker and Medearis were granted intimate access to some of Islam’s most valuable minds.  They traveled across Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Israel to make these meetings.

Their interviews were simple.  They brought out the humanity of the people, showing that they are real people not so unlike you and I.  Muslims believe Christ was a great prophet and that his words are important.  What, then, do they think of Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan?  This was the driving question behind everything. 

I found the book fascinating.  The author’s fear was palpable on each page, questioning whether or not he would survive the trip.  The questions were intriguing and insightful.  “What makes you laugh?”  “What kind of car do you drive?”  “When was the last time you cried?”  The answers could just as easily have came from a neighbor or a friend.  “What’s the biggest misconception American’s have about Muslims?”  Vice versa.  These answers were always similar, that we American’s tend to distrust all Muslims, that we think they all are terrorists.

I felt challenged and sad after reading this book.  The label of Christian is a dirty and bloody one.  So is Jew.  So is Muslim.  All three of the Big Religions have a dark history filled with violence.  There has been just as much bloodshed by Christian hands in the Middle East as by any other group.  All in the name of God.  All in the name of Jesus, who told us to turn the other cheek and to love our neighbors, our enemies, as ourselves.

Tea With Hezbollah is an amazing, short read, topping out at just over 230 pages.  Along with an interesting and complex history lesson, you also get insight into another world of thought.  This is the kind of book I hope others read and take to heart.

That said, I was given an extra copy of Tea With Hezbollah to give away here on my blog.  If you would like to be eligible for this book, just send me an email (subject: TEA) or leave a comment saying so.  Make sure I have your email address so I can contact you if you win.  I’ll let the contest run until next Monday.  And tell your friends, if’n you want to and if’n you think they’d be interested.

You can purchase the book from Random House, here, as an e-book or hardcover.  It also is available at Amazon or your local bookstore.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, a division of Random House.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Well I Dreamed I Saw the Knights in Armor

I feel refreshed.  I went to bed before 9 last night and had the lights off before 10.  Stella slept peacefully through the night, not waking me up, and it was wonderful.  Plus, no messes, and that, too, was wonderful.  I’m still a bit sick at my ole tummy, but that’s neither here nor there.

My acoustic-electric guitar is not working when I plug it into the PA system at church.  It’s not working when I plug it into any amplifier system.  So, since the new music minister is wanting to incorporate more instruments with the piano, I decided to take my guitar to the shop and see what’s wrong with it.  The guy said it’d cost me $45/hr for him to look at it, and he wasn’t certain he could fix it.  Wowzas, thought I.  I don’t ever play it plugged-in so I didn’t want to fork out the dough for a possible fix.  Maybe I’ll tinker with it myself and see what I can find.

On a related note, I don’t really know that much about music.  I know how to play several different instruments, but when people start talking about theory and strange chords, I get all confused.  I can’t read sheet music (well, I can, but very, very, very slowly, and I don’t like it) and I play mostly be ear or chords.  At the church I grew up in I’d play and the choir leader would say “In the Key of G” and then those of us that played instruments would play in the key of G.  I can do that.  But when fancy embellishments and stuff get thrown into the mix (I’m talking to you Diminished and Augmented chords), I struggle.

I also have no clue about the amplification of sound and stuff, either.  Since I never plugged up my guitar I never bothered to learn.  Perhaps one day…

I think it’s time for the final part of the mini related poems I posted.  Let’s see.  Part 3 (“see the man”) is here, Part 1 (“jettson mancer”) is here, and Part 2 (“the planning”) is here.  Here’s the conclusion. 

“ghost”, or "isabella's secret, pt. 4"

she lays in bed
she hears him breathe
softly beside her
beneath the cold sheet
she smiles
she frowns
she dreams

harsh vivid colors
of jetson's green eyes
his tree bark brown hair
and his bright, crimson blood
splattered across his split neck

she ignites awake
as fire and gasoline start
willing the images away
with the fear in her heart
she cries
she moans
she pleads

loud desp'rate prayers
of repentance
her sins haunt her
and he does, too,
sleeping in the bed next to her

the end draws near
from the disease eating at her body
the wicked cancer
the horrible guilt
she smiles
she frowns
she breathes her last

Looking back, those poems were dark.  I liked them, though.  My favorite was definitely “see the man.”  I liked the rhythm of that one.  It seemed like Poe.

I’ve finally started contributing to a retirement fund.  I have a 401(k) option at work.  I’ve read through the stuff.  My eyes glaze over.  My mind numbs.  I struggle.  I have no idea what the heck it means.  I remember Macroeconomics in college, which I took as a Grad student, a 200 level class, and found it one of the most difficult classes in my entire college career.  That said, if anybody knows of any good, simple sites where I can learn about 401(k) and stock and savings and stuff, let me know.  I just randomly picked 5 different things, put 20% of my input to each, and said good luck.

Not much substance today.  Still working with headaches.  Australian Open is on.  I may get to play some tennis tomorrow, even, if it’s dry outside.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Exploration of Sentence Structure (Concerning Stella)

It’s a stagnant, headaching, rainfalling mood.  I’m not really sure where to go with this post, as there are many different eddies flowing around in the stream of my consciousness.  Typically, I would do this with a list (or lists), but I’m just not feeling that for this post.  No.  This post needs to be special for reasons unbeknownst to me.  Let’s see…  Ok.  I’ve got it.  Now, let’s see here…

Simple Sentences
Stella’s been sick.  She’s vomited and messed.  She looks pitiful.  She’s getting better.  The Vet prescribed antibiotics.

Compound Sentences
Stella had not ate much and we were worried.  She did eat a little cereal, but not any dog food.

Complex Sentences
She needed to get back to her dog food, as she is a dog, but she was being stubborn.  Because of this, her messes have been disgusting.  I have a weak stomach and an extra-sensitive smeller, and, combined, I gag easily.

That’s enough of that.  Whew.  That was tough.  Forced me to focus.  Concentrate on subject, predicate, clauses, etc.  (I’m sure there are errors.)  I’ve always enjoyed grammar, to the point where I would read books for pleasure and analyze a sentence.  Part of the beauty of grammar is that, like with math, there are rules that must be followed.  The bigger beauty is that those rules can be bent and broken to your own means, if you so choose, and as long as it is within reason and understandable.  There’s a certain creativity to it all.

Another thing I’ve always been fascinated with is linguistics.  I find languages amazing.  Etymology is interesting, and I often look for root words when I’m trying to come up with a unique word for a story I’m writing.  If I had the time and money, I’d like to go back to college and learn a few foreign languages or study linguistics or philology or something.

Did you know that the act of yawning is called pandiculation?  Yep.  And just thinking about yawning can cause you to yawn.  It’s common knowledge that yawning is contagious, even among some animals.  Fascinating.  (How many of you pandiculated reading this paragraph?  I know I did while writing it.)

For several weeks I’ve been working on defining drainage areas for erosion concerns.  Not too sure exactly what I was supposed to do, but going on the assertion from my boss that it was like drawing watersheds, I began.  After many weeks, I’ve finally got all of the “watersheds” drawn.  The total site covers many acres, so it took a while.  This is a snapshot of what the zoomed-out map looks like now.  Kind of reminds me of spider webs wrapped around something.  Now I’ve only to populate an Excel sheet or two and discover that what I’ve done was pointless and wrong.  Oh the joys of self-teaching.


Published author, e-pal, and fellow blogger Brandon Barr posted a link on his blog yesterday to an audio presentation of a short story he wrote.  Titled “At the End of the Time Jump,” the tale was thought provoking, entertaining, and excellent.  I don’t want to give anything away, but I rather enjoyed the story.  The reader’s voice also was perfect for the science-fiction theme of the tale.  I don’t read a lot of sci-fi outside of the STAR WARS books, but I thought I could lend a few minutes for a short story.  In short (very short), if you’ve got 30-60 minutes to lend an ear, check out the story.  Or, if you’re like me, listen to it at work.

I really haven’t slept much since Sunday night.  I woke up by rolling into a pile of wet, chunky vomit sometime in the early hours of Monday morning and then listened helplessly as Stella hacked and choked the night away.  Monday she acted better, though she ate nothing.  Then, Tuesday morning ~2am, Stella pulled off a small lamp from our bedside table.  I woke up and found a pile of dark, black nastiness nearby.  Stella had to be cleaned and washed off.  Eventually I got out of the bed around 4 and went to the couch, trying to get some much-needed rest.  Didn’t happen.  Tuesday night promised to be better until I found several more piles of oily nastiness, which required an hour-and-a-half cleaning of the upstairs.  Sleep, once again, fell out of the question.  Repeat once again and we’re up to today.  It’s like taking care of a baby, I imagine, with the lack of sleep and mess cleaning.

Looks like Conan’s leaving The Tonight Show.  Dumb ole NBC.  I hope wherever he goes he brings loads of success and followers with him.

I have a love/hate relationship with coffee.  Sometimes it hits the spot, bringing warmth and smoothness and a caffeine perk.  Sometimes, however, it tastes bland, burnt, nasty, and lukewarm, and I have to struggle to get it down.  Of course, I don’t drink coffee everyday, but usually I do.

I’m not feeling well.  Good luck.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Writing Wednesdays: The Absurdly Epic Tragedy of Oscambria 1.11

Canto XII for Oscambria’s adventure, wherein a vow is made, a question is asked, a blade is given, and a Hero presses westward.  The previous Cantos are all available here.
Oscambria felt ridiculous,
Wearing the unfamiliar outfit,
a spectacle for a god and a galleyrat.
Neither of them knew how to tie the silly black thing around his neck correctly,
But they did their best,
Resulting in some knotty, dangly thing,
Which threatened to suffocate the Hero with every breath.

“It looks different than I expected,” chimed in Lahk,
an unreadable expression across his face.
“But it definitely seems to be working,
so that’s a good thing.”
Indeed, readers, it was working.
Immediately after the Hero donned on the clothes
A metamorphosis Kafka would be proud of happened.

The greyed skin of the accursed shimmered suddenly,
Not like Old Cullen’s did when he’d stepped into sunlight,
But kind of like a wet rock does beneath the daylight glow.
The color of his flesh lightened,
From the dull grey to a really pale peachy-white-brown,
And he would appear passable in society,
As if the sun rarely bathed his skin.

Also the foul odor ceased,
Or the emission of it did, anyway.
I suspect he still smelled,
Beneath the tuxedo suit,
But its enchanted properties prohibited the smell from filtering through.
This could be related to the grey skin,
But that is only speculation.

“There we are then,” said Lahk,
patting the Hero on the shoulder like a proud father.
“As long as you wear this garment,
you should be allowed within city walls,
mixing with society and whatnot.
Take care not to lose your attire, child,
And be quick about the task I’ve given you.”

“Quick?” scoffed Oscambria,
pulling at his sleeves.
“Feoga is all the way on the other side of the continent.
It’ll take months to get there and back again,
That is assuming I’m to find you here.”
Lahk shook his head,
The blond hair reflecting off the campfire light.

“Quick for a god is different than for your kind,
even if you are semi-mortal.
And no, I will not be here in the middle of nowhere,
‘twixt two cities and all of the excitement of this world.
Just use your god-cell to summon me.”
He rummaged around in his satchel,
Looking for something.

Oscambria was still getting over his good fortune,
—Even if he was cursed—
At receiving the tuxedo suit.
“Why can’t you retrieve this stolen item?”
he asked, mildly curious.
Lahk didn’t answer immediately,
Still intent on his search through the satchel.

Finally he turned, holding some small gold lined buttons in his hand.
“These will fit perfectly in those open slits on your sleeves, I believe.
I don’t really remember where I got them,
Or what they’re even called,
But I do think they’ll look nice with that outfit.”
He dropped the buttons into the Hero’s hand
And went and sat by the fire.

Oscambria was about to ask his question again
When the god started speaking.
“I guess I could go and get the item,
but we gods have only so much free time to spend.
Besides, you looked like you could use a hand,
Especially after what Rone did to you.”
The god spat in the fire.

“That curse stinks terribly of sulfur and brimstone,
signatures of the God of Fire and Passion.
Rone’s always been a hothead,
Never one to take a joke,
And your disrespect of him spread ‘round the pantheon like wildfire.”
Oscambria was about to interrupt when Lahk silenced him.
“Not that I believe you did as he says you did.

“Anyway, to answer your question,
I could go and get the item,
But I don’t have the time or energy to do so right now.
God duties, a lusty maiden, and what have you.”
Oscambria fit the metallic buttons in his sleeve cuffs,
Finishing off the final look for the magical outfit.
Ladies, he looked handsome, I say, albeit strange.

“Hmm,” huffed the Hero,
“even if I look completely foolish,
the curse seems to be contained by the fabric.
For that I will travel to Feoga and retrieve your stolen object.
I don’t trust you, Lahk,
But I don’t desire to stay an outcast all my days, either.”
The god’s smile lit up the darkening sky.

“Good.  Good.  Very good.”
Lahk was on his feet again, looking eager.
“You best be going if you aim to keep an eye on that wagon.
We’ve wasted enough of the day,
if you consider companying with a god waste.
Regardless, you’ve agreed,
And now our pact is nearly sealed.  A blood-oath, eh?”

The Hero nodded,
anxious at making the sacred vow with the god.
Lahk pulled out an old dagger,
One made of stone instead of tampered metal,
Its handle from bone or petrified wood,
And drew the blade across his left hand.
Bright red blood appeared.

The knife passed to Oscambria,
Who likewise cut his hand.
With a firm grip and grim eyes he embraced the god,
Pulling him close and staring in his eyes.
“I, Oscambria, child of Athins, son of Oscar,
do bond myself to the service we discussed, Lahk,
by blood and by cut.”

“I accept your service,”
responded Lahk,
releasing his grip and wiping his hand on his garments.
“Now I have one more boon for you,
‘ere you leave.  Keep the blade.
It’s not much,
But it may prove useful if you get in a scuffle.

“There are great things in your future, Oscambria,
or so I’ve been led to believe.
You’ll become the Hero of the Three Worlds,
But you’ve a lot o’ growing to do.
I hope my blessings help on your journeys.”
Oscambria felt truth behind the god’s words
And he nodded his gratitude.

He hid the dagger in one of the pockets of the outfit,
(there were plenty),
and whistled for Mossossopia.
They bid each other farewell
And the Hero took off down the path,
Westward toward Sparka, toward the forsaken caravan,
Toward Koesan, toward his fate.

Thus ends Book One of Oscambria’s tale.  Next week’s Writing Wednesdays will be a special one, an intermediate one, a short one, with another bonus.  As always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Few Things

Fellow blogger Dave had an intriguing, comment-filled post the other day.  In it he made a list of popular things that he’s never done.  As much as I like lists, and as intrigued as I was by the possibilities, I thought that I should follow suit.

Things I’ve Never Done

I’ve never been out of the country.  (This will be remedied 5/9/10.)
I’ve never watched an episode of Star Trek or American Idol.
I’ve never been to a high school or college sports event, but I did play on the high school tennis team.
I’ve never taken drugs.
I’ve never cut off one of my hands and replaced it with a hook or chainsaw.
I’ve never had surgery or broken any bones.
I’ve never been on Twitter.
I’ve never met a celebrity.
I’ve never played a MMORPG.
I’ve never played Rock Band.

I could fill this up with so many things that I’ve never done, but that should be enough.  Enough with the negativity.  And the flip side of this list is a more positive one.

Things I Have Done

I’ve watched every episode of LOST and Heroes, but I’m tired of the latter.
I’ve bought a house and now have a mortgage.
I’ve graduated from college with my Masters in Civil & Environmental Engineering.
I’ve been pulled over thrice: two warnings and one speeding ticket.
I’ve laughed in the face of danger in an elephant graveyard and then hyenas came out and scared me and then Mufasa rescued me.
I’ve written countless short stories with hopes and dreams and then grew tired and let them fall to the wayside.
I’ve watched Julie & Julia.
I’ve been in a head-on-collision.
I’ve read through the entire Bible.  (I think.) 
I’ve watched my brother accidentally light his blue jeans on fire and then run around in the yard while me and Tanner laughed at him.
I’ve baked a few made-from-scratch cheesecakes.
I volunteered as an environmental awareness person for the Counting Crows, Maroon 5, and Augustana.  I got free tickets and I got to get into the venue before sound check started, so that was pretty cool.

How about that, Dave?  A list of things I have done.  How… positive?  What other sort of options can follow up? 

Things I Want to Do

I want to play Dragon Age.
I want to go to the UK, Germany, Italy, and Greece.
I want to play tennis and disc golf more.
I want to master guitar, mandolin, piano, banjo, dulcimer, harmonica, violin, bagpipe, saxophone, and voice.
I want my city to secede from the world and be its own independent entity, with me as its ruling Grand Chancellor.
I want to get a new computer.
I want to draw more.
I want to take a nap.

It’s only logical that there be an immediate sequel.

Things I Don’t Want to Do

I don’t want to set the world on fire.
I don’t wanna be anything other than what I’ve been trying to be lately.
I don’t want robots to take over the world.
I don’t want my brother to go to Afghanistan.
I don’t want Jon & Kate to stay broken up.
I don’t want to wait for our lives to be over…
I don’t want to have another headache today.

Is that it?  No, of course not.  These lists are no way exhaustive.  In fact, I’d be willing to say that each list has the propensity to approach infinity as the number of elements contained within the set increases likewise.

More Things

Shellie, from Layers of Thought, is having a giveaway of a signed, 1st edition copy of The Gathering Storm.  The post with this information is available here.
Stella was sick all day yesterday and the night before.  The night before last I woke up from vomit in the bed.  Then she didn’t eat anything all day yesterday and looked pitiful.  Last night was even worse.  I’m running on only a few hours of sleep, but the puppy seems to be doing better.
We’ve officially booked our cruise for the Eastern Caribbean.  It’ll be our first real vacation in a long time.
I’m almost halfway through Firefly, and I’m loving it.
I thought this Very Demotivational Poster was pretty funny.

Anything else I wish to add?  A list of list of Favorite Coffee Moments?  No, I don’t think so.  What I do think is that I’m going to be sleepy today.  Tune in for Writing Wednesdays tomorrow.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Boneshaker, a Review (spoiler-free)

boneshaker Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest, is the first steampunk novel I’ve ever read.  The book received critical acclaim and promised to be a good read by the endorsement on the cover: “A steampunk-zombie-airship adventure of rollicking pace and sweeping proportions, full of wonderfully, gnarly details…”  Plus the cover looked cool.  Plus I’ve wanted to try out steampunk, too.  The novel presents an alternate history, and I thoroughly enjoyed my last adventure into alternate history, so I thought I’d give it a chance.

The book takes place in the late 19th century, twenty years after Seattle fell to ruins.  The Civil War still burns across the eastern half of the States.  Airships are used in battle and transport.  The Klondike gold rush happened years earlier, driving many to the great Northwest.

Leviticus Blue, an inventor from the city before it was wasted, was hired by the Russians to create a machine that could dig through the Alaskan ice and mine for gold.  This machine—the Boneshaker—went awry when Levi took it for a test drive, digging massive holes and tunnels all through the city.  Buildings fell.  Banks caved in.  And a strange gas started leaking through the cracks in the ground.  The gas exposure was lethal, and if it didn’t kill you, it would make you into something far worse.  Seattle was evacuated and the massive walls were built to keep the heavy gas sealed in, as well as the other things.

All of this was presented before Chapter One even started.  The novel has two POV characters: hardworking Briar Wilkes, the mid-thirty year old widow of Leviticus Blue, and Ezekiel Wilkes, the young and curious teen without a father.  Zeke is fascinated with his families history, but his mother refuses to tell him mostly everything he wants to know.  As a young boy, he gets in into his mind that there’s only one way to uncover the truth, and that’s by going to the source…

This book was a wonderful read because of many different elements.  One thing I really enjoyed was Priest’s voice in the story.  The way she worded things was simple and descriptive, not wordy and tedious.  The dialogue was often fantastic and realistic, something completely believable.  The action scenes were intense things, providing enough description to have a clue at what’s happening but not being completely open, either.  Imagination was vital.  I felt my head spinning in the confusion of riding an airship for the first time.  I felt my heart beating upon witnessing my first rotter.  The danger of the dark city never left me, and I was constantly wary of threats.  Yes, Cherie Priest’s style was beautiful and perfectly executed for this book.

A second piece of joy was the story itself.  Mostly the book is about the relationship between a mother and a son.  Briar has understandable guilt at keeping secrets from Zeke and she’ll do anything to get him back home safely.  Zeke wants to learn about his mysterious father and what really happened to him.  Did he cause the fall of Seattle or was it something more sinister?  If he could only prove his father’s innocence then things wouldn’t be so bad.  The character development and relationships were at the forefront of the plot while the ruined city always lurked in the background.

I also loved the imagination that was evident throughout these pages.  Machines and possibilities for the future (from a mind of the 1880s) were amazing and slightly funny (from a mind of the 2010s).  The rotters were like typical zombies, but tweaked slightly.  The thick, omnipresent gas was well described and well thought out.  All of the gadgets were great works of the imagination.

Overall, I really enjoyed Boneshaker.  My first adventure into the steampunk genre was exciting, entertaining, mysterious, and thought-provoking.  The book was fast paced and strong.  I can easily recommend Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker to anyone that’s interested in trying out something new, or to someone wanting to read a great What If… tale, or to someone who’s geographically attached to the Northwest/Seattle region, or to anyone just looking for an excellent story.  You can find the book at your local library (like I did), online, or at a nearby bookstore.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mattson Tomlin's Free Film Friday #3

Hello blog friends and followers and general people of the world,

This is a quick message to inform you that Mattson Tomlin is having another Free Film Friday on his blog.  The first four commenters win free DVDs from this up-and-coming director.  Two spots have already been taken.  I don't know Mattson personally, but I met him in the blogosphere and I've enjoyed following his rising career.  You can find his blog here or by clicking on the link on the right bar of my blog.  If you go and comment (and I strongly urge you to do so), tell him I recommended you if you'd be so kind.  I've already watched one of the features that will be on this DVD, an interpretation of "Solomon Grundy," and I enjoyed it.

Again, if you want to check out an up-and-coming director with an eye and ear for catchy film, you should comment on this blog post (and tell him I sent you).  It's free, after all.  Plus you get to see some cool stuff.

Mattson's been a follower of this blog for a while and I his, so be sure to check it out.  And even if you don't make it before the spots are taken, still check out his site and follow his adventures.  I've reviewed one of Mattson's first films, The Projectionists, here on my blog, if you're interested.

Thanks and enjoy.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me, A Collection of Thoughts

I got the headaches man.  Had me one yesterday and another one today.  Awesome.

Sometimes when I lose my grip I wonder what to make of heaven/All the times I thought to reach up/All the times I had to give

Sometimes, when playing Mario Kart for the Wii, life gets very tense, especially when it’s the last lap and you’re near the finish line and a blue shell’s coming, and a red shell, and a lightning bolt, and a POW block.  It’s tense.

I now have 24 years in this body.  It’s amazing how strong and how weak our flesh is.  We can take so much, but we’re not invincible.  We’re frail.

Babies underneath their beds/Hospitals that cannot treat all the wounds that money causes, all the comforts of cathedrals…

I hope to finish Boneshaker this weekend.  I was going to read Lamentation next, but I have other obligations first, like books from the publishers.  They should be good, though, and quick reads.

It finally crossed above the freezing mark two days ago.  Having been below 32 for several days, it’s nice to be back up to sunshine and warmer temperatures.  It hit 50 yesterday.  Good ole Kentucky.

 All the cries of thirsty children—this is our inheritance…

This whole portion control thing sucks.  I don’t eat until I’m full, but I’m no longer hungry, either.  It’s like turning off a spout, and it’s tough when the food’s good.  Real tough.  And now that a cruise is likely going to happen, I have reason to work it.

My birthstone is garnet.  I think that’s a red/brown color.  The Challenger went to pieces less than two weeks after I was born.  My uncle shot himself in the head (accidentally) in the year I was born.  He was sixteen.  He survived.  He now has really terrible headaches, not like mine.  Martin Luther King, Jr. and I share the same day of birth, just different years.  Rafael Nadal, world class tennis extraordinaire, shares the same year, just different days.

All the rage of watching mothers—this is our greatest offense.

Here’s an open letter that I did not receive for my birthday.  I’ve never received it from anybody.  It just is.  And that’s really the senders name.

Dear Logan,

You are so totally rad, dude.  You inspire me to challenge myself and find things that I never thought I could find with my metal detector.  You helped me with my grief counseling after Lucky died and you know what that was like.  You are my own personal Luke Skywalker, bringing me from the Dark Side to the Light, except when we’re talking about chocolate, and then it’s all dark baby.  And that one time we played Sim City 3000 for fifteen consecutive hours.  That was crazy.  Remember how we destroyed that place, all megalomaniacal and stuff?  Happy birthday dude!



Spending some more Christmas gift cards for supper tonight.  Red Lobster sounds delicious.  I love their salmon.  I lived the life of a vegetarian for one week.  It was tough.  On the seventh day I ate two double cheeseburgers or something like that for lunch and savored the beef.

The Sound and the Fury of Kristopher A. Denby had an interesting post yesterday, related a bit to the ongoing discussion we had about homelessness.  You can find the post here.  I particularly liked the quote by Mo. G. at the beginning.

Holy moly!  I forgot to say how the backpack thing went the other night.  Alex and I decided to ride the busses around instead of walk, thinking that that was where we’d find people in need.  (The bus systems sucks and is very small, but hey, it’s all we have.)  Sure enough, we did.  After getting our seats, I looked around.  There was an elderly woman up front.  A college-aged kid across from me.  Alex to my right.  And a young couple in the rear.  (That, friends, is our loaded bus ride.)  After a while I noticed the young couple had a grocery bag with clothes in it, so I assumed that they would be in need and I started silently praying for them and for us.  A few moments later Alex went and sat across from them and started talking.  We gave them both of our backpacks—one male, one female—and asked what else we could be doing for them.  Shaine said he was a welder and needed a steady job; Rachel said she had two kids and a baby on the way and she was selling plasma twice a week to get by.  Neither could drive as their licenses were suspended.  We figured out a way to get in touch with them and they got off the bus a bit later.  Now we’re looking for ways to help this couple.

Part of the beauty of helping the homeless and those in need is that it touches on the humanity of our life.  These frail things need to be reminded that we’re human, that we can show compassion and care.  By taking a few minutes (or hours) out of your schedule and talking to someone, that forms a connection, reiterating the fact that the world is not a cesspool yet.  It’s worth it to me.

It’s getting closer.  Lost.  The final season.  Oh I can’t wait.

Headaches.  Man.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More Miscellany

coandogWhat a week.  Wow.  I mean, I found out yesterday that the MLC has changed its  insurance plan.  I was excited to finally get health insurance when I got my job, and then I found out that my insurance basically sucks.  A $4000 deductible, which will never be met, was what I had.  Up until that point, everything had to be paid out of pocket.  But then, yesterday, my company changed the plan!  Now I have a $5000 deductible!  How awesome is that?  Right?

My boss did call me into his office this morning and told me that I got approved for my vacation days, so that’s great.  Within the next day or two I’ll hopefully be booking a cruise to the Caribbean scheduled 5/9-5/16.  Should be pretty sweet, since we’ve never been on a cruise before.

I was also told that I got a raise, which was even more awesome and completely unexpected.  I’ve not even been with the company a year and I already got a raise!  What a week…

If you recall, I posted two poems last week, “see the man” and “jetson mancer.”  I know will post a third related bit.

"the planning", or "isabella's secret, pt. 2"

night after night
after night after
night after night
he would play the cheat,
'specially after she got too sick to dance.

dollar after dollar
after dollar after dollar
he'd spend on the women,
all of them but poor isabella poorsight.

a bad lot in life,
poor sight and cancer,
a cheating husband,
but she took it in stride.

day after day
after day after
day after day
she planned her plan,
'specially after she got too sick to dance.

knife after knife
after knife after knife
she'd sharpen in the cellar,
all of them for cheating jetson mancer.

she wasn't blind yet
and wasn't dead yet
and she had nothing to lose.

Keisha’s birthday was yesterday.  She turned 22.  I bought her a present and hid it in the glove box of my car.  Then I made up clues (like a scavenger hunt) and hid those around the house.  Then I gave her her birthday card, which contained clue #1.  Eventually she found her present, Snow White on Blu-Ray.  Now we don’t currently have a Blu-Ray player, but the darned thing came with a DVD copy, too, and it was only $5 more than the DVD.  Plus, I’m hopeful that one day quasi-soon we’ll get a Blu-Ray player.  Or a PS3…

My birthday is tomorrow.  Keisha’s granddad’s B-Day is today.  We’re all pretty close.

Last night we practiced music with the new Minister of Music at the church.  We’re going to try and get a praise band to play with the choir as opposed to music tracks.  I’m kind of excited, since it’ll definitely force me to play better and improve.

I can’t get this song out of my head.  I’ve been a Jars of Clay fan for years, and I’ve liked this song, but recently I really fell in love with it.  It’s a song of three parts and the raw passion/amazing build-up is breathtaking.  If you’ve never heard the song you should give it a listen.  All the way to the end, too.  Cause that’s when it’s really powerful.  I challenge you to listen to it and think about the words and not be affected.

If you’ve not entered Pat Rothfuss’ Worldbuilders charity drive, you really should.  Tomorrow is the last day, and there are over a thousand prizes.  Every $10 gets you a ticket, plus it all goes to Heifer International.  Man, that reminds me, I need to do a post on Pat some time soon.  Perhaps next week.

I’m with Coco.  Are you?  Let’s keep Haiti in our prayers.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Writing Wednesdays: The Absurdly Epic Tragedy of Oscambria 1.10

Today is my wonderful wife’s birthday.  Happy Birthday Keisha.  I love you.

We’re up to Canto XI with Oscambria’s journey, where a new character pokes his head in, a bargain is offered, and a Hero struggles with his curse.  If you’ve missed any of the previous Cantos, click here to catch up.  As always, enjoy.
No one saw him leave.
Arca and Koesan were busy with the horses,
Columbus had already climbed into the wagon to sleep,
and so his departure was a simple and easy matter.
He snatched a few carrots and figs and a jar of olives,
All recently acquired from the Bransustopoles traders,
And quietly walked into the forest.

He watched the wagon roll away,
Clanking and bumping on the uneven pathways,
And forced down a stab of pain in his heart.
“Look at ‘em, Mossy,” said he, pointing a finger.
The galleyrat stared off and the Hero continued.
“They think we’re back there with Columbus.
Surely they’ll notice the lack of smell at some point, eh?”

Galleyrats don’t talk, so Mossossopia did not respond.
She did tilt her head at an angle and blink a few times at him,
As if to say, “Eh, indeed.”
They waited for the wagon to disappear over a hill before moving.
“We’ll follow them from afar,
keeping a distant eye on them,
just to make sure they make it safely to Sparka.”

They walked through the woods,
Staying off the path and sticking near the banks of the Long Leg.
The day was cloudy and cool,
Perfect weather for a brooding heart,
And Oscambria dwelled on his internal aching.
“She’s smitten me, Mossy,
but for the life of me I’m unsure why.

“I can’t help but wonder if Viis had not revealed her to me,
if I had not seen her in my vision,
if I would have the same feelings I do now.
She’s beautiful, certainly,
As beautiful as Biaut herself,
But the disdain in her voice and the contempt in her eyes
Is more than I can bare.”

Mossossopia sniffed the air,
Oblivious to the soul bearing,
And her quick, purple tongue flicked out.
“What is it girl?” asked the Hero,
stooping to scratch the galleyrat behind the ear.
Mossossopia growled and suddenly took off,
Vanishing into the next valley.

Oscambria thought about cursing,
Then he thought about the irony of cursing,
And decided instead to growl his frustration, too.
He chased after the small animal,
Pulling up to a quick stop when he came down into the valley.
Mossossopia was in the hands of a traveler,
Standing near the waters of the Long Leg.

“Greetings, friend,” said the strange man,
smiling broadly and waving with his free hand.
Long, blond hair fell from the man’s head,
Contrasting heavily against his deep blue and purple garments,
Which were obviously very expensive and well crafted.
Suddenly self-conscious of his curse,
Oscambria took several steps backwards.

“It’s okay, friend.  I smelled your curse long ago.
Much like your galleyrat must’ve smelled my sweet aroma, I daresay.
What an exceptional creature.”
Despite the man’s friendliness,
The Hero stayed put.
“What is her name, if I may ask?”
The man’s voice was smooth and perfect.

“Her name is Mossossopia, sir,” answered the Hero.
“After the island from which she came.”
“Ah, yes, Mossossopo.  It’s fitting, I suppose.
She is beautiful.”  He sat the creature down and pulled something from a pocket,
Flicking it on the ground.
The galleyrat sniffed briefly,
And then gobbled up the snack.

“Alas, I am not here to discuss your pet galleyrat, though.”
He motioned for Oscambria to come close to him.
“Don’t worry, child, I won’t cause you any problems.
I’m here because I’m here, and I’m here to offer you something.
What is woven is woven, right?
But come, sit, rest with me and comp with me.
You’ve nothing to fear from me.”

Hesitantly, but dutifully, he approached the strange man.
Looking back, I wonder how things would have played out
If the Hero did not happen upon this man.
Of course, past speculation is always pointless,
So there’s no reason to think on it.
The man plopped down next to the low banks,
Sitting cross-legged and staring out at the flowing river.

“I know who you are, Oscambria,”
began the man, keeping his eyes on the water.
“And you know of me, but you don’t know me.
I am with the new pantheon of other gods and goddesses,
But I choose to spend most of my time away from Gastron
And in the presence of more… interesting creatures.
The gods are a bit too tiresome for my liking.”

The Hero looked up at the familiar Planet of the Gods,
Running through the vast list of deities in his head.
“Who is this man?” he wondered.
The stranger offered another bit of food to Mossossopia
And began picking at his fingers.
“Like gods often do, I am here to make a bargain with you,
if you are interested, that is.”

He flashed a deceptive smile at the Hero.
“I can see it in your eyes,” he continued,
staring at the Hero,
“and you’ve figured it out, I’d say.
Who am I, Oscambria?  Who am I?”
A brief moment of silence filled the air
And a dramatic burst of wind gusted strong.

“You’re Lahk, the god of deception and lies.”
The blond man laughed, full and heartily,
White teeth gleaming in the cloudy afternoon light.
“Indeed, I am the very god,
if you can believe what I tell you.
It is completely up to you to weigh my words,
Only I hope that you do so quickly.”

Had the meeting happened a few weeks before,
Oscambria would scarcely believe it.
It was common lore that Lahk roamed Orthe,
Making deals and stealing souls into his service,
But they were always legends,
Not actual, informal gods
Happened upon by mere chance.

“For an actor, you’re rather quiet.
Aren’t your type typically bursting with words?
Lovers of the Muses,
Enraptured by all of this world’s art and beauty?
Verse spewing from your mouth with no plug to stop it?
You, my friend, are too quiet.
Of course, I may have a certain, affect, on people.”

Lahk held up a hand in front of the Hero’s eyes,
Letting the pupils focus on the god’s hand,
And snapped loudly.
Oscambria blinked in surprise,
Shaking his head.
“There.  Now.  Things should be a bit better.
I tend to forget myself.”

“You,” began the Hero, slowly,
“mentioned a bargain?  Why would I bargain with you?
I’m no fool, Lahk.”
The god nodded absently, ignoring the insolence.
“You are no fool, child, but you’ve much to learn, too.
News spreads fast among my kind,
And I know of your fate.

“I am no fool, either, fleshling,
nor have I called you one,
But I will if you refuse my offer.”
Lahk’s cool words felt icy and forceful,
But there was a hint of possible warmth, too.
“Very well, Lahk, perhaps I spoke too soon,
though you did say I spoke not enough.

“Tell me of your bargain.”
The bright smile flashed again,
And the god spoke.
“I have need of a certain item.
It was taken by one of those new age believers,
Those that say the gods no longer exist,
From my altar in the temple at Tor El.

“I believe this man fled to Feoga with the item,
intent on selling it to a collector’s house for a tremendous sum.
I would like you, Oscambria, to return the item to me.”
The Hero scratched his head
And pulled Mossossopia up into his lap.
“What sort of item was taken?”
“A anachronistic item of uncertain origins.”

“Well that was vague,” mouthed the Hero, as if he understood what that meant.
Lahk chuckled merrily, adding,
“Aye.  We gods have a tendency to be vague.
I cannot begin to describe to you what the item is,
Only that you will recognize it when you see it.
In return for your service I will give you a similar item,
Another piece of anachronos.  Something like this.”

Lahk reached within his satchel and pulled out a wad of cloth.
He stood and let the material unroll,
Revealing a strange and very odd piece of attire.
Black, slack breeches,
An ebony jacket,
A silver (and so very small vest),
And a white, collared shirt.

“It reminds me of a sand penguin,
especially with those two black tails.
What is it?”
“It is what you will be wearing as you travel the lands.
It is called a tuxedo suit, though I’m not sure why.
I won this from Gastron in a game of dice,
And it seems to have certain magical properties about it.

“Wearing it will, I believe, negate your curse, so to speak.
It won’t heal you, but as long as you wear it
Your odor should stay in check,
Allowing you entry to cities and such.
Oh,” he added, pulling out a strip of black material from a pocket,
“this also ties around the neck in some sort of fashion.”
He handed the outfit to Oscambria.

“Something like this is what was stolen from you?”
“Mercy, no.  Well, sort of.  Not a tuxedo suit, but related to it.
It wasn’t a piece of clothing.”
The Hero looked carefully at the material,
Smooth and soft,
Not a type of clothing for traveling,
And shrugged his shoulders.

Coming from a god,
Particularly this one,
There had to be a secret agenda.
“So you’ll give me this outfit if I retrieve your stolen object?”
“Yes,” answered Lahk, nodding.  “It’s that simple.
But try on the thing first.  Make sure it works.
I want to see how it looks on you.  And be quick about it, would you?”

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Being Health Conscious

Wow, with as bad a day as I had on Saturday, wait till I tell you how awesome my Monday was!  (That’s for you, Dave.  But this post won’t actually be about that, nor does it mean that it’s necessarily true.  I mean, why, exactly, am I still watching Heroes?)

I pointed out a few weeks ago that I joined a gym.  The point is, of course, to get healthier.  And by healthier I mean lose weight, gain muscle, and achieve an overall better sense of self health.  I have 24-hr gym access for the next 15 months or so, and I fully intend to take advantage of it.  So far I’ve only gone on Mondays, but I hope to eventually be able to go 3-4 days per week.

One of my goals is to lose weight and lower my BMI.  Currently, as of yesterday morning, I weighed 228.8 lbs.  While I’m not obese, I am overweight for my six foot height, and I think losing some weight will help my body feel better.  In addition to going to the gym I’ve been limiting/watching what/how much I eat.

One problem I have is that I don’t drink enough water.  I like water, but I like Diet Mtn. Dew, too.  And the Dew provides that little boost of caffeine in the morning that I love so very much.  And the cold, cold acid burning my insides, too, which is an additional perk.

I like vegetable and fruits, so that’s no problem.  If fruit wasn’t so expensive, I think I could happily eat it all the time.  Really, my biggest problem is just overeating, or not limiting my portions.  I’m so used to having all that I want (and I don’t want to waste anything) that I eat until I’m more-than-full.  So, once I get down the portion control thing and the gym thing together, hopefully I’ll see some results.

And we all know that I like cheesecakes.  And other deserts, too.  And the quick, convenience of eating fast food.  And Doritos.  And Ramen.  Curse it.  I didn’t wind up going to the gym last night, as I felt a bit under the weather.

Tonight, Alex and I are going out on the town again with our backpacks.  I first mentioned this back on December 10.  This time we’re planning on riding the busses around town, hoping to meet people on the bus.  With the still below freezing temperatures and snow, we’ll hopefully be able to help some folks.

Random Bits and Pieces

  • I have a headache.
  • Spider-Man 4 has been officially canceled, with practically everyone involved canned.
  • My brother will be in Bagram in Afghanistan.
  • Brandon Sanderson posted on his blog yesterday that the likelihood of a Mistborn movie is very high, with production starting late 2010/early 2011.
  • The Avatar depression blues thing is hilarious.  Really?
  • Writing Wednesdays tomorrow.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Horrible Saturday with a Small, Silver Lining

I’ve had one full day to mull over the train wreck that was this past Saturday.  And the only logical way I can see explaining the events is by first listing a few facts.


  • I’ve been trying to stay afloat financially, since I’ve been waiting for several weeks for my four separate student loans to get consolidated, thus lowering the four individual payments (total=$212) into one lump payment of somewhere around $50.
  • I’ve always had a heart for the homeless and those in need, especially after all the things that our Sunday School class has been doing.
  • It snowed and snowed and snowed on Wednesday night, Thursday, and all day Friday, dropping a few inches of snow and ice onto Western Kentucky.
  • A light on my dashboard kept popping up.  I bought my car (used) in July.
  • Mine and Keisha’s cell phones were both eligible for upgrades.
  • We got a grant that let us pay off all our credit card debt, which happened on Thursday.

Now that the facts are out there, I hope this may make more sense.  Though I don’t believe in luck, I have bad luck.  And, as Keisha said Saturday night lying in bed, the world took a big crap on me that day.


Keisha has to take her Praxis Saturday morning.  Since the roads are still snowy/icy, I’ll drive her over to the test site.  While I’m out on the town at 7:30 am, I need to stop by the grocery store and pick up a few things.  Cinnamon, Bread, Doritos, Keisha’s birthday present.  Check, check, check, and check.

Next up I think I’ll head on over to the Toyota dealer and let them check out this light that keeps coming on, since that’s what the manual recommends.  “Sir, it’s going to cost you $55 to run the diagnostic test on your car to see what’s the problem,” says the very nice Nichole.  “That’s okay,” I answered, figuring as much.  “You can wait in the lounge.  There’s coffee and a cappuccino machine.”  So I fix my beverage of choice, plop down at a chair and pull out Boneshaker.  (Always, always have a book with you.  That’s a word of strong advice.)

The minutes and pages pass and Nichole returns.  “I noticed that you needed an oil change around 300 miles ago.  We can do it here with the actual Toyota oil that goes in and we’ll get it winterized, too.”  “How much?”  “$33.”  Knowing that I need this done anyway, I give the go ahead.

More minutes more pages later and back comes Nichole.  “The test is giving an error code for your car that’s somewhat common (not too common, but not too uncommon, either).  Blah blah blah.  Your computer is dying and needs replacing.  Blah blah blah.   $750.”  That’s when a sinking, sick feeling connected.  I explain how I just bought the car a few months ago and it may be under some kind of extended warranty.  I say I’ll call and check and get back with her on whether or not to order the part. 

A phone call later and the gut feeling is worse.  No extended warranty after 90k miles.  I’m at 107k.  Nichole has more good news.  Thankfully she was kind and understanding about my plight.  “While doing the oil inspection we noticed that your tires are getting pretty bald.  Blah blah blah.  $510 or $380.”  Aha, I have a secret weapon here.  “My uncle is a manager at a tire store and I can get my tires there, much cheaper.  And go ahead and order that part.  I’ll apply for 90 days same as cash.”

So I leave the dealer and decide that the local bookstore will make me feel better.  I get there and call my Uncle Brian, who happens to be a bit sick.  I tell him all about the stuff and he says that he can probably order part and put it in at a much cheaper cost, in addition to the tires.  So I drive back to the dealer, pay for the diagnostic test and oil change, and tell Nichole to hold off on the computer purchase.  A little happier, I head to the bookstore.

Within two minutes of entering the store, a man approaches me and begins talking.  He’s wearing a ragged looking jacket with his hood up.  “I’m stranded here.  I broke down last night in Evansville, got a ride from Henderson to here, and now I’m waiting on my momma to come pick me up from Louisville.  If you can give me $14 I can have some place to stay until Tuesday.” 

Here it is.  After discovering that I’m going to be out a wad of cash I get approached by a stranger asking for more money.  How…fitting.  “I don’t have any cash on me, but if you want to ride with me to the ATM I can get some.”  On our way to the ATM I explain how I’d love to be able to give him more, but I just found out about my car problems.  He understands.  At the ATM he tells me that for $54 he can hop a bus that will take him back to Louisville.  I tell him I can’t do that, but I give him $30 and ask if there’s somewhere he’d like me to take him.  His name is Sean.

We drive down the street and we talk for a bit.  Eventually he asks if I think Wal-Mart would have any shoes.  Heartbroken, afflicted, upset, worried, confused, but eager, I say yes.  We go to Wal-Mart and he picks out two pair of shoes.  Unfortunately, the shoes aren’t the price he tells me, and I tell him that I can’t get both of them.  They’re going on credit, after all.  So he picks out one pair and we leave.  I tell him I want to get him lunch and then I have to go pick up Keisha from her test. 

We drive to McDonalds.  He asks for two Big Macs.  I want a Diet Coke.  I ask him if he has a Bible, he says no, and I give him one of mine.  (I always try to keep Bibles in the car to give to someone, just in case.)  Sean asks me to drop him off at Subway and he’ll go in and eat his Big Macs and read his Bible.  I tell him I’ll pray for him.  He asks me to pray for him there in the car, so I do, and then he leaves.

I drive and pick up Keisha.  I tell her how I spent two hours and $80 with a stranger.  I tell her about my car.  I tell her I’m hungry and want to go to Arby’s.  While there, we’re eating and Sean walks in with another man.  I’m not sure if he sees me, but I don’t say or do anything.  My mind is too exhausted.

We leave and go to AT&T to get Keisha a new phone and to look at one for me.  The one I want is $179 new at the store, $99 new online, and $0 refurbished online.  I say I’ll get mine on the internet.  Keisha gets her a $0 phone at the store.  She’s happy, I’m happy, and we head home.  I hop on the computer to order my free refurbished one and discover that it’s no longer available.  Again, the world dumps a load on me.  I resign myself to having a bad day and a case of misfortune.


I guess I should mention that Saturday night was poker night.  I knew there was no way I was going to do any good, but I went any way.  With a day like Saturday I stood no chance.  There were 21 guys from church, each with a $5 buy-in, but I went out early.  Heck, on my last hand I went All In with pocket kings, but I didn’t get anything on the subsequent cards to help me.  Oh well, it was fun.

Saturday’s also taught me a bit about trusting in God.  Financially I tithe, and of my time I tithe, but still I have some small worries about money.  Deep down, I know that God will provide and take care of everything, but it’s still a bit disheartening to know that credit card debt was erased and replaced two days later.  It’s disheartening to have a relatively new car that’s having these kinds of problems.  It’s disheartening that there are people trying to live and survive in this world and most people turn them away.  The world’s a crazy place, filled with both beauty and vile.  I do what I can to make it a bit more shiny, even if I have bad days.

Friday, January 08, 2010

On the Darker Side of Songs

Still snowing here in the bleak and dying lands of Western Kentucky.  Another day of cold, frigid temperatures and harsh winds.  Roads covered with pure white and ugly, dirty brown.  The juxtaposition does not go unnoticed.  In something as clean and pristine as snow, the reality of life’s hard edge still exists.

If you’ve clicked on my profile then you know that I’m a fan of folk, bluegrass, and old-time music.  Some common motifs in many songs from these genres are murder, infidelity, death and dying, alcohol, drugs, theft, and any combination of these or other reprehensible things.  Not all of this kind of music is dark, but some of it is, and it’s these dark songs that often get wedged in my head.

Take Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Methamphetamine.”  The song has a hook that pulls you in and keeps your ears glued.  But I like the song because it’s real.  It’s raw.  It’s true.  It talks about how times are tough and surviving is hard.  But there’s a light for those in the song, and that light comes from selling/using meth.  The song doesn’t advocate using the deadly drug, but it points out the reality of our world.  And coming from a county often called “Methenberg Co.,” I know the devastating affects of this drug.

Or look at The Decemberists song “The Shankill Butchers.”  The dark mood of the song immediately struck a chord in me, forcing me to listen to what the singer was saying.  Then I found out that song was based on actual events, actual horrible murders, that took place in the 1970s in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  I knew about the conflicts between Ireland and Northern Ireland, but not like this.  This was eye opening.  This was how-can-people-be-so-cruel-gut-tearing.  This, again, was real. 

I guess the point I’m trying to make is that a lot of the songs I listen to come across as dark, terrible songs.  Like the white clean snow and the dirty, road-weary snow, this is how I see my life.  I’m not pure and holy, but I don’t necessarily think I’m a vile person, either.  So listening to these kinds of songs strike some as odd.

A large attraction to the dark songs is that their melody’s are often catchy and the music is pleasing.  But an even greater attraction is the Realism in the songs.  They have poignant, obvious life messages.  Don’t cheat on your spouse.  Don’t kill people just for the fun of it.  Don’t rob banks.  Be thankful and satisfied with your lot in this world.  In almost every outcome the guilt is unbearable and the aftermath is never worth it.  The heartache is never worth it.

I think these kinds of songs can be used to teach people/society lessons.  If a song can pack enough weight in its words and music, then maybe, just maybe, someone will be affected by it.  Songs are emotional things, after all, and so are (most) people, whether they show it or not.

In the end, dark songs are not the only songs I listen to, but that’s rather obvious, again, if you’ve looked at my profile and know the kinds of music I like.  But I do like songs that are real and honest, and I take what I get.  Mama pajama rolled out of bed and she ran to the police station

Random Bits and Pieces

  • Firefly disc one, containing the first three episodes, was amazing
  • Poker tourney tomorrow night
  • I’m finally able to buy monthly editions of STAR WARS Legacy comics
  • I’m thankful for Diet Mtn. Dew, Tea, and Coffee
  • I’ve not had much free time to read lately
  • Stella does NOT like the snow

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Little Bit of Everything

Egads, man!  It’s not like I’m trying to go all random on you, but it just happens, y’know?  Like rain.  It just happens.  Just every once in a while my brain kicks in all random-like and stuff.  But what do you expect?  My blog’s not called Rememorandom for nothing.  First off, there’s an artist who’s captured my heart.  Ever wondered what STAR WARS would look like in a steampunk setting?  Yeah, me neither, but this guy did, and it’s awesome.
steampunk star wars
If you click on that picture or the link above you can find out more about the designer, and other works he’s done.  For those nerds out there, you’ll enjoy, as the man did some DC and Marvel characters, too.  I really like the Obi-Wan, the Stormtrooper, and Grand Moff Tarkin.  All are awesome, though.
Ever just have one of those days when a song plays over and over and over and over in your head, always the same line.  No?  Ok.  Never mind then.

Me and Alex have been working on making our own music, writing our own songs and stuff.  We’ve got one demo out right now, based on Isaiah 57:14-21.  Maybe we’ll get a finished product over the next week or two and I’ll post it up here.  I find it easier to write poetry as opposed to songs, usually, but I’m trying.
Speaking of poetry, how about I post up “isabella’s secret pt.1”?  Y’know, so you won’t think I’m all bent on dark stuff.  Cause “see the man” was dark, dude.  Dark as the outer darkness of space.  This one has a different tone.
"jetson mancer" or "isabella's secret pt. 1"

jetson mancer
was a dancer
that's how he spent his nights.
making money
with his honey
isabella poorsight.
he was comely
she was homely
but soon the two were wed.
'ere long he'd cheat
and oft repeat
with women in his bed.
had one fella
that was jetson mancer
she could not see
the treachery
and sadly got the cancer

If you’re interested, between those two poems you should be able to piece together what’s coming in Part 2.
You guys and gals wanna see the homemade muffins I made?  And by homemade I mean homemade.  From scratch.  No boxes and such rubbish.  I found the recipe from a new blogger’s site here, thought it looked good, and decided to make ‘em.  The recipe was pretty simple and it made one dozen like it was supposed to, but I lost two due to crumbling.  I guess I didn’t let them sit long enough in the trusty Pampered Chef stoneware muffin tin.  Anyway, this is how they turned out.  Rather tasty and fancy, if you ask me.  Check out the blog and the recipe if’n you’re hankering for something delicious.
muffins2 muffins3

The cold spell’s sitting strong here in Kentucky.  Heck, in most of the US it’s cold.  I guess that’s why it’s called winter?  It snowed somewhere between two to four inches last night, but thankfully most of the roads were navigable.

I got an email from the library letting me know that the complete series of Firefly is now available to me.  As a Buffy and Dr. Horrible fan, I just had to get it and watch it, especially since it’s got a huge following.
Another new blog I’ve started following is The Sound and the Fury of Kristopher A. DenbyMr. Denby shares his thoughts and ideas on various things one typically shares their thoughts and ideas on, like music, books, movies, politics, etc., but I really like his opinions.  Plus, he must have some Celtic heritage or something, and that’s a doubleplus in my book.  That, and he loved The Name of the Wind, so that sealed the deal.  (There’s a review on that book from 12/20/2009.)

There’s not much left to add.  Brandon Sanderson is doing a Q&A over at Goodreads on the Fantasy Book Club about Warbreaker.  I’m currently using 443 MB (5%) of my 7409 MB Gmail space.  Reading about the atomic bomb’s effects on Japan are heartbreaking.  I didn’t even think The Blind Side looked good, but I guess since it’s a “true” story and stuff it must be?  Why’s it making so much money?  I’m so excited for Lost’s final season to start up in February.

Yeah.  That’s about it.  Maybe something else tomorrow?  Maybe, possibly, even some musing.  People say she’s crazy she got diamonds on the soles of her shoes…

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Writing Wednesdays: The Absurdly Epic Tragedy of Oscambria 1.9

Here’s Canto X for the story.  Once again, if you’ve missed any previous Cantos, click here to catch up.  Enjoy.
From Oscambria’s viewpoint,
Which was well outside of the city,
Tucked away from the world and in the nearby woods,
He could just make out the returning wagon.
Once again he’d had to spend the day castrated from society,
Unable to venture into the metropolis of Bransustoples
Lest he wished certain death.

The tall chimneys of the Great Temple blocked much of the setting sun,
An impressive eclipse with visible smoke rising from their tips,
And the Hero was thankful for the brief respite.
Most of the day he’d spent up in a tree,
Uncomfortably propped on some branches,
Squinting at the city,
And his eyes were weary from the sun’s light.

He made his way carefully down the mighty oak
And leaned casually against it,
Watching and waiting for the wagon to arrive.
He whistled a shrill, strange melody,
Consisting of five off-beat notes,
Which stood for MOSS-O-SOPP-EE-A,
And a few moments later the galleyrat appeared at his feet.

The planets were glowing bright in the darkening sky as the wagon pulled to a stop.
“How was the city?” he asked conversationally,
receiving a grunt, a blank stare, and a smile back for an answer.
“It was perfectly fine,” spat Koesan,
red rising to her exposed upper cheeks.
“I think I would rather jump from a cliff
than go through another day like today.”

Oscambria jumped at her outburst,
As did Mossossopia,
And Koesan blushed,
Sending her already red cheeks into a deeper flush.
She started, stopped,
Began again, stumbled,
And spat out her rage in one long spill.

“It’s those wretched traders of the city,
always looking down on our caravan like we’re cursed or something.
Wait, I don’t mean it like that,
And I mean no offense,
But they treat us differently,
Hiking up their prices and sneering at us,
All the while smug about their own success.

“I swear by watchful Lawes that they judge us,
that they treat us unjustly.
It’s beyond me why Tapeios would bless them.
Why do they deserve the fortune they have,
In their high houses filled with gold and luxury,
In their large markets stuffed with merchandise,
When they act as if they were gods themselves?  It’s blasphemy!”

The Hero was at a loss for words,
Uncertain how to console the furious woman,
So he simply said what came first to his mind:
“I’m sorry, Koesan.”
This, apparently, was the wrong thing to say,
And Koesan burst again,
this time turning her wrath on Oscambria.

“You’re sorry?  It’s not your fault that those crooks,
those filthy dealers,
act the way they do.  Unless you’re apologizing for your curse,
which again isn’t your fault,
but still there’ve been a steady increase of problems since you’ve joined up.
You’ve turned us into a sickly smelling sweet bag for bad luck,
Attracting all the wrong sorts of flies.”

Her words stung him,
They beat against his heart with vigor,
Clawed at his brain,
Whispered that what she said was true,
That he was a foul being,
That he should never have joined them,
That she inwardly hated him.

Was it more than coincidence that unfortunate events happened
While he was around?
In his heart he had already fallen in love with this woman,
A woman he’d only known for a few handful of days,
And he couldn’t help himself.
It was the knowledge that he was the cause of her problems
That finally put a plan into his head.

“Oh, bother!” she hissed,
throwing her arms up in the air
a bit too overdramatically.
“She would make an excellent actor back at the Round,”
thought he, but the thought quickly vanished.
“Koesan, leave the boy alone,”
the weathered words of Columbus spoke.

The blind trader was still seated on the wagon,
And the bright lights of the planets above
Caused his eyes to shine out white.
“Have you forgotten that he saved us from those vagabonds?
That without his help we’d all likely be dead?
Or worse for you, I’d wager,
You being as beautiful as you are.” 

Oscambria saw her eyes twitch,
Saw her face fall slightly,
(which was evident only around the eyes,
as the bottom half of the face was covered with the exotic cloth mask she wore),
and once again his heart plummeted.
“This love is such a strange thing,”
thought he, frowning compassionately at Koesan.

“You are right, Columbus,” she said,
looking back up and into the Hero’s eyes,
“He did rescue us, and for that I owe him my gratitude.
I did not mean to burn against you, Oscambria,
But my anger was kindled by the city
And it ignited when it shouldn’t have.
I hope you accept my apology.”

“Of course,” he said immediately,
offering a very slight smile.
“Good.  Good.  I have a headache and we’ve got a long way until Sparka.
I think I’ll rest in the wagon.” 
She turned and vanished into the covered home,
Leaving Oscambria and Mossossopia staring after her,
Deeply conflicted.

“Don’t let it worry ya, son,” consoled Columbus later.
They had ridden in mostly silence for the past few hours,
Oscambria handling the reins on the bumpy wooded paths.
Columbus stroked through Mossossopia’s thick fur as he talked.
“She’s a woman, and she’s always been headstrong and quick tongued.
As it is, with women you care about,
They always break your heart.”

Oscambria nodded in silence,
Comfortable in letting the old man talk.
“And I know you care about her.
I can see it plain as day.
It’s in your voice, and in the absence of its presence.
You don’t want to hurt her, so you stay quiet.
I can see it in her voice, too.”

Oscambria looked out onto the reflective surface of the Long Leg,
The calm and serene waters, surrounded by the thick forest.
He tried not to let the words of Columbus get in,
Tried not to notice what he’d said about Koesan.
He’d already made up his mind, and the man was making it harder on him.
When daybreak came and they stopped to let the horses rest,
Oscambria took Mossy and some food and disappeared into the surrounding woods.