Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lethargy, Gloom, and Pooting

I feel like I need to update my blog. But I don't feel like I have anything to say. Soooo... having admitted that up front, I certainly wouldn't blame you for browsing away! Since I am just going to wing it here, and get all "stream of consciousness" on you. Well, it's not like I haven't done it before. Let's see how it works out this time...

Oh, I bet you're just dying to know what I've been reading, right? I mean, I bet you just can't rest unless you know which authors I'm imbibing... well, I read the 'free sample' intro of Blake Charlton's book called Spellwright, which, as far as I know, has perhaps the best opening hook I've ever read before. Lemme grab it for you, and see if you agree... here we go...

"The grammarian was choking to death on her own words."

How cool is that? That's the very first line of the prologue. Here's the next bit...

And they were long sharp words, written in a magical language and crushed into a small, spiny ball. Her legs faltered. She fell onto her knees. Cold autumn wind surged across the tower bridge. 
The creature standing beside her covered his face with a voluminous white hood. "Censored already?" he rasped. "Disappointing."

Yeah, I'd say Mr. Charlton knows how to craft an effective hook. Unfortunately, the book gets really weird, and for me, hard to follow. The three-chapter sample I read was very creative, but the magic system was quite far out there, which I was uncertain I wanted to pursue. The digital edition of the book is $12. Not sure I want to pop for it at this point. Especially since the paperback is only $8. Who knows... I may grab it at some point in the future, and slot it onto my shelf, for future consideration.

I'm also reading Val Gunn's book, In the Shadow of Swords, which is a very solid effort. It is a fantasy story, with a heavy Middle Eastern, Arabic vibe, with mosques and robes and assassins and things. I've not read anything quite like it before. I'll be reviewing it when I finish it.

I hate to beat a dead horse here, but the situation in Japan is still really heavy on my heart. I watch the vids and see news reports, watching stunned folks wandering around, trying to find the places where their houses once stood. Usually, all that remains is a concrete slab. I read about the seemingly impossible situation at the nuke plant. I try to imagine what it must be like to go through that first hand. I have the gaudy, almost offensive luxury of turning my mind from it and hiding in my safe, intact world, reading books, eating lunch, working, playing games, updating my blog, etc. I can't imagine not having that to fall back on, like those still trying to make sense of their new world. I still can't get my brain around it. I feel like I should know the right way to approach it all. Like I should be more mature now, after 40 years on earth. I better go back and re-read Beth's and Logan's comments from a few posts back. That's the only thing that makes sense to me in all this...

Gee, I better push it from my mind again and post a funny picture!

Yeah, that'll work. Run, Dave, run! Hey, I have another Batman-related Funny Picture... better post that as well...

Come on, that's a pretty good Photoshop job, I'd say.

Other than that, life goes on. I could rehash all the things that are upcoming, or things on my plate, or on my mind, or that I want to do this weekend, etc., but you've read it all before... nothing new under the sun, eh? I hesitate to hope for something exciting to happen to me (just so I can blog about it!) since every time I do that, I get more than I bargained for. Yeah, God has a sense of humor like that. Then again, that's kind of spineless of me, ain't it...? So yeah, I'll make it official... I hope something wild and off-center happens to me, so I can blog about it and entertain you all, at my expense!

Wish me luck! *shudder*

OK, I'll post the new Pooter video and call it a day. (I hate that YouTube seems to put ads in front of every video now! Grr!)

There... this is the part where you wish you'd taken my advice and browsed away without reading this post! Am I right? Come on, I'm right, admit it...

And now, Skeet Shooting Like A BOSS...

Skeet Shooting Like a Boss Gif - Skeet Shooting Like a Boss

Until next time...

Dave the Lethargic

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mellow Going, Old Man's War and Strawberry Fields Forever.

Dang! It's been almost a full week since my last update! What, may I ask, is WRONG with me?

Well, I'm here, no biggie. It's not like I've been too busy or some such. The week just slipped away from me, that's all. I won't let it happen again, fear not! Yeah, I bet you were all fearful about it, weren't you... uh, yeah. Sure.

Let's see, what happened this week that's exciting? Not much. And therein might lay the problem. I should do something wacky, like go streaking at the mall, and then blog about it. I bet you'd all appreciate that...

Well, I have a surprise book review for you -- so get ready to skim past the next few paragraphs of uninteresting, rambling text! Who knows! Maybe I'll post a Funny Picture after it! Nope, it isn't a review of one of the three books I mentioned earlier - but a different one! Surprise!

Old Man's War, by John Scalzi: A Review
So, I was lurking over on Logan's blog, reading his recap of his trip out to visit Pat Rothfuss, at the signing of Wise Man's Fear, and in the recap, Logan mentioned a list over at of the Top Ten SFF Novels of the Decade (from 2000 to 2010). With some level of interest, I checked the list out, since such lists usually include books I'd never heard of, and occasionally will lead me to a good read. Such is the case here.

The people who voted on the list voted Old Man's War, by John Scalzi, as the best SFF book of the past decade. I'm not much into Science Fiction (as you all know), but I'm not one to buck the suggestions of those that know more than I, so I popped for the digital (Kindle) version and filed it away on my iPad, thinking I'd get to it sooner or later. Well, turns out it was sooner! I read it over the past couple days.

It was a fast, fun read. The premise was a good one, but nothing really struck me as outstanding or challenging or mind-bending at all. Best SFF of the decade? Well, personal preferences being what they are, I would have to beg to differ.

In the Earth that Scalzi crafted, human beings (male and female) can join up for space military service at the age of 75, if they wish to. This may seem like a ridiculous thing to do, but it has its advantages as well as disadvantages. Rumor has is that joining up for the Colonial Defense Forces at age 75 is not a problem, since they have a way to make people young again. Of course, this has never been confirmed, since those that join up for service in the CDF never get to return to earth. But the chance that it's true is enough for many to say goodbye to everyone and everything they hold near and dear, and head out into the wild black yonder.

John Perry and his wife Kathy planned to join together, but she died before she reached the required age of 75. Bittersweet, to say the least, but ultimately it made it that much easier for John to sign up when his day came. What will he (and the rest of the old folks) do out in space, after they sign up? Well, according to the recruitment papers that they sign, the term is a ten year term of service, during which the recruit will agree to be trained by the CDF for use in its program of interstellar colonization. Basically, if it comes to it, they get to meet and kill all sorts of fascinating alien creatures. After ten years, if they're still alive, they can join up with a group of settlers in a colony on an appropriated (conquered!) planet, and live the rest of their life in peace.

Old Man's War is the story of what happens to John Perry (and others) after they leave earth, to begin service in the CDF. Seeing as how I will end this review by recommending this book, I hesitate to explore even a bit of what happens, at the risk of ruining your sense of discovery. Not spoilers, per se, but even the very act of reading what happens has a fun freshness to it that I wouldn't want to sully in any way.

The book is well written, solid, if not particularly rich or intriguing. It is told in first-person. The story tells itself, and no real attempt is made at using clever turns of speech or word play or polish that might have really made the experience sing. Much like Brandon Sanderson, the author (Scalzi) is content to stand back and let the story tell itself. Again, a fast, fun read. It may not seem like high praise coming from me, but keep in mind, I'm not a SciFi fan. You may wonder, then, why I chose to buy/read it in the first place! Well, #1 books on lists often have strange appeal to me...

Being that the story is told in a military setting, keep in mind there will be some salty language, especially from Drill Instructor types and soldier-under-fire types. And there is some adult activity, if you catch my drift. But overall, it was fun (though occasionally depressing) to follow John Perry across the universe.

Summary: 3.5 out of 5 A good space yarn that tries (mostly successfully) to avoid "going Hollywood" too much. That having been said, I did read that the book has been optioned by Hollywood to turn into a movie, but that can be said for just about anything.

Now, here's that Funny Picture I promised...

It was three Funny Pics in one! See how generous I am!?

So, Vye came over on Saturday afternoon and fixed a bunch of little computer-related problems I was having with my systems. As much as I like to think I know what I'm doing around a computer, I don't, really. Vye is The Man, and his efforts were greatly appreciated. Plus, he laughs at my jokes, so he gets extra love for that... He and Rebekah are getting married soon! June 10th (I believe)! What are they, crazy!?!?! Kidding. I wish them all the luck and a blessed life and living happily ever after and all that. Heck, it has to happen for someone, it might as well be Vye and Rebekah!

Here's a pretty cool video. It's mellow, so don't fall asleep! A whirlwind moves its way through a strawberry field, whipping the plastic covering strips around and waaaay up into the air, all graceful-like...

Anyway, I thought it was cool...

Taxes are almost done. Still making progress on the novel I'm writing. Car still has a cracked windshield. Eldest Daughter's 21st birthday is soon. 2 more credit cards almost paid off. Lots of books, movies and games calling out for me. Why do Jahovah's Witnesses always come to the door when I'm half-asleep? I love my iPad.

And that, my friends, is all for now.


EDIT: I wasn't going to post any more tsunami videos, but I just saw this new one, and it blew me away. I cannot imagine experiencing this in person.

Un... be... lievable..

EDIT #2: Pat Rothfuss just posted a link to this interview he did with Brandon Sanderson, which is a great read. They talk about the craft, and their recent tomes, Wise Man's Fear and The Way of Kings. Great stuff, click THIS LINK and go give it a read, eh!

If I stumble upon an Edit #3, I'll just make a new post!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Horseshoe Clichés, Embarrassing Anecdotes and Still More Book Nonsense.

Ah, I'm a sucker for a good shot of Horseshoe Bend. Yes, I know how clichéd it is... go Google Horseshoe Bend with Google Images and see the jillions of pictures that come up! Still, I like this one. What can I say? I'm lame like that...

So, yeah, it's Monday, and I'm fartin' around after work, as is my custom. Lately it's been more workin' and less fartin' around, but still, I think I maintain a good balance. I have to, for my sanity's sake. I'm sure you can relate.

Better drop a cool video in here. Hang on a sec., lemme track it down...

Very creative. Must be tedious to make, but the results are pretty cool. They have other videos, too, if you want to check out their website. It's a very cool site...

So, I've been working on my fantasy novel lately, and I'm super stoked about it. In fact, I'm going to work on it more before I go to bed tonight as well. I've been working with that Celtx project manager software I mentioned in a previous post, and it is very cool. It's very helpful in plotting out where to take the storylines I have going, so I'm getting a better idea of the Big Picture. The part I'm looking forward to the most is the rewriting process. I used to kid myself into thinking my first draft stuff was pretty good. I can't wait to have a finished first draft (at least of part One) and then start to experiment, and make it shine. Fun fun fun.

Here's a funny FB convo where a girl admits she got stuck on an escalator...

That might take the cake. I wonder if it's legit? That's like the person trying to get into her convertible automobile, but can't because the electronic key fob isn't working. And she's panicking because it's starting to rain and the top is down...

I heard another story where the fire department was called to a grocery store to help a woman who was trapped in her station wagon. Oh, this is good, hang on, lemme tell it. So,a woman goes grocery shopping on a hot day, and while she was shopping, it got very hot inside her car. So she puts her groceries in the back of her station wagon, gets behind the wheel, locks the car, and goes to start her car to drive away. The heat inside the car affects a canister of frozen biscuit dough she bought, and the end cap pops off with a loud(ish) bang!, hitting her in the back of the head, leaving a little glob of frozen dough in her hair. She yells out in surprise, and grabs the back of her head, feeling the glob of dough there, and thinks that she's been shot! And that she's touching a part of her brain (rather than dough)! She holds both hands to the back of her head, holding her brains in, and goes hysterical. People rush to check on her, and her doors are locked... and she won't take her hands away to unlock the door, since she needs her hands to hold her brain in her head. She passes out. The paramedics are called, they arrive, break into her car, check her out, and of course, she's ok.

And likely very embarrassed.

That really happened! I kid you not!

I did. I Lol'd. I really did.

OK, here's another story that you might find amusing - it happened to me today. When I'm done telling it, I will likely be very embarrassed, but I'm going to tell it anyway...

So I got to work this morning, and was hoping to grab a quick bite to eat at the nearby deli before heading out on the truck for the day. But Yanni needed help scanning his homework and making it into a PDF to email to his teacher, so I helped him instead, and tried not to grumble about it. But I was frustrated. So I'm standing at my desk (because I was too frustrated to sit!), assembling the scanned pages, and I felt a nice, large fart slide into the chamber (so to speak). I decided I was just angry enough to fire it off. So Yanni was there, and my mom was nearby, in her office -- I would let them share my wrath! Ready to fire! I glance over my right shoulder, to make sure Leslie wasn't nearby (she's another person who works at the shop), didn't see her, and decided to fire off an epic blast. As I fired it off (it was MUCH louder than I'd expected) I glanced over my left shoulder to catch my mother's response... and there was Leslie. She had entered the area when I had my back turned, and was standing behind me, in my blind spot, when I had glanced over earlier. So I blasted off MUCH louder than I had anticipated, and there she was. Standing there right in the firing zone.

Needless to say, she was shocked, as was my mom. Yanni was amazed. And I stood there, thinking, "OK, how can I spin this?" I couldn't spin it. It was what it was. I just nodded, and said, "That's what I'm talking about." Everyone laughed. Hard. Leslie said, "Gee, Dave, don't hold back on my account." OMG it was soooo funny, I haven't laughed that hard in forever. I'm laughing again as I type this. It was quite embarrassing, as well. You know, there are certain people it's ok to let wind fly around, and most other people, you pretend it never happens. Well, I just happen to enjoy my gas -- still, I try to be aware of who I share it with (lol). This was just one of those times when it backfired (pun intended).

Yeah, I know. I'm 30 years out of grade school, and I still find passing wind amusing. Forgive me. I take laughs where I can find them...

I'm in a bit of a lull between books at the moment. I'm making slow progress on three different books, as I hesitate to dive into another behemoth again. I'm tinkering with The Hammer (KJ Parker), which, frankly, is a bit dull. And In the Shadow of Swords (Val Gunn), which I finally was able to get onto my iPad (Thanks Vye!), and I'm teasing myself with little bits of A Game of Thrones (GMMR), hesitant to let it it get its hooks into me -- I know once it snares me again, it will be about 5,000 pages until it lets me go (including the forthcoming Book 5). And I have The Way of Kings (B Sanderson) taunting me from my shelf nearby as well...

I'm kind of amazed at how prolific Brandon Sanderson is. How he cranks out as many titles as he does is beyond me. I think I might have rested on my accomplishments after the Mistborn Trilogy, but he was just getting warmed up at that point. He's released Warbreaker, two Wheel of Time behemoths, and the first volume in his Stormlight Archive. And he just announced another Mistborn book to be coming out in the Fall of this year. That is a metric Ton of quality writing, released in a remarkably short period of time, with no signs of stopping. It's inspiring and frightening, at the same time!

Well, I think I'm going to call this post done. I'll gather more nonsense and hit you again in a few days.


Dave the Gassy

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shades of Grey, and The Wise Man's Fear

Ah, a nice black-n-white supercell photo to go along with my nice new(ish) black-n-white header. If only everything were in black and white, eh! These shades of grey can be so confusing!

That would be a good way to segue into my review of The Wise Man's Fear, but I'm going to hold off for a bit, and post nonsense first. That way, those that don't want to get any indirect spoilers don't have to skip the whole post today, but can enjoy (word used loosely) my normal nonsense before browsing away. At this point, I have no clue if I will say anything spoilerific, since I haven't written the review yet, and won't until I segue into it. Then I'll just dive in and see where it goes. As I write this sentence, it is about 24 hours since I finished the book, so I've had time to stew on it.

But first, more tsunami stuff! Yeah, I know you're likely burnt out on it, but I think you'll appreciate this. It sort of brings some perspective to the coverage we've been receiving over here, from someone familiar with the way things work both in Japan and over here. I wouldn't post it if I didn't think it was worth your time. HERE is the link. It's an article -- you'll have to read it! Let me know your thoughts in a comment, if you would...

And also, I want to post this now-iconic video footage, which I keep watching over and over, since it blows me away. You've likely seen snippets of this on the news, but here is the whole video, in its full power and glory. For full effect, high-definition, full screen and crank your speakers up.

It's 6 minutes or so. Watch it all. It will be good for you. Then those of us in San Diego, picture yourself on the south side of Mt. Soledad in La Jolla, looking out over Pacific Beach towards Sea World, and shudder as you imagine this type of surge hitting there. I don't think it would even need to be this high in order to roll all the way to interstate 5.

My heart breaks.

I better divert my heart with a funny cat picture. Let's see if it works.

Hmm... I better add a funny dog picture as well...

Meh, yeah, I guess that will work for now.

Had (what I thought was) a very though-provoking exchange of ideas in the comments section of the previous post, with Logan. It has led my musings in other directions - perhaps I will hit that topic again soon, from another angle. Y'all can chip in, if you please. I value everyone's input...

I guess I better get to that book review now. Proceed at your own risk...

The Wise Man's Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss: A Review (of sorts)
I'm sure you all know of Patrick Rothfuss by now, if not from my rampant fanboyish outbursts then from Logan's similar gushing -- although, to be frank, as much as I like PR, my fannishness is nothing compared to Logan's...

Be that as it may, I shall recap again, in brief, for those that either don't know, or don't recall...

In 2009 I read The Name of the Wind, by P. Rothfuss, which was, by all accounts, the best book I read that year. It had a rather profound impact on me, in ways that I shall avoid elaborating upon here, in the interest of brevity, and in the interest of minimizing the impact such corny reflections will have upon my already-whisper-thin credibility. I loved the book. Let's leave it there.

However, an interesting thing happened when I started recommending it strongly to many in my circle. There was not the flood of similar universal praise I expected, but rather the opinions were decidedly mixed. Some loved it, some did not love it... in fact, some didn't even like it! (I won't name names) It made me wonder if I was crazy. I re-read the book in 2010. I'm not crazy. It's a terrific book. If you didn't like it, you are wrong. :D <---

So I waited patiently for the second book in the Kingkiller Chronicles, The Wise Man's Fear, as PR endlessly revised and edited and polished it -- a wait made tolerable because Pat did a wonderful job of keeping his fans abreast of developments and progress. The result, I had hoped, would be a massive, wonderful book, sure to take it's well-deserved place on my Bookshelf Of Wonder, next to the other (sadly few) epic, 5-star books in my collection.

The story is primarily told from the perspective of the main character, named Kvothe, who is a living legend. He is recounting the tale of his life to a man named Chronicler, who makes it his goal in life to track down stories worthy of remembrance and set them down for all to read. Through a course of events, Kvothe decides the time has come for his story to be told. He is to tell the whole tale over the course of three days. The Name of the Wind was day one, The Wise Man's Fear is day two, and of course, the third volume will be day three, and will bring the tale to the present.

In telling his life story, Kvothe details, in brutal honesty, the real events that transpired that made his life and deeds so legendary. And more often than not, the truth, while fascinating and often worthy of legend, was nowhere near the embellished tales told by the masses. It's almost an exercise in deconstructing a legend, and showing him to be the fellow human that his is. It really is a well-thought-through, terrifically written tale.


We now come back to the "shades of grey" reference I made at the outset of this blog post. I've been trying to think up the best way to convey what I felt as I read the final page of The Wise Man's Fear last night, and it has been difficult. On the one hand, it was everything I'd hoped it would be. On the other hand, it disappointed me, in many ways. Yet I tore through it, with nary a hiccup, and enjoyed the ride thoroughly. Yet the lingering disquiet was pronounced. There were stretches of story that both impressed me to no end, and bored me. Some of the events left me scratching my head, trying to figure out why on earth Rothfuss made the story choices he did, while I simultaneously enjoyed the heck out of them. A lot of it made no sense, while making perfect sense.

Black and white? Nope. Grays everywhere, cover to cover.

I will use specific examples in this paragraph only, so those that have read the book (Logan, Laythe, etc) can know better to what I refer. When Kvothe first meets Felurian, I thought it was amazing -- in fact, the first pages of that section rivaled anything written in the first book, as far as the style and polish and the epic writing I enjoyed so deeply. But then it dragged on waaaaay too long. Only to segue into Kvothe accompanying Tempi back into the mountains, to learn from the Ademre, and that section likewise went on waaaaaay too long. Both of those sections could (and should?) have been condensed dramatically, I felt. And yet, I enjoyed reading through both sections. But while I enjoyed it, I couldn't help thinking it would have been better if both of the sections were substantially tighter. And I'm sorry, as much as I thought the heart of the first book was the relationship (odd as it was) between Kvothe and Denna, I felt the way their relationship evolves in this book was disappointing as well. We can chat more about this one-on-one later. Let me wrap up this review before I trip wildly down too many side paths here...

The characters are great, across the board. The writing is well-done, though ultimately serviceable, with only flashes of the amazing style I loved so much in the previous book. The overall story progresses well. But dangit, it rambles and plods along, tearing me in two... again, for while I enjoyed reading it, I found myself longing for the story to pick up pace and start galloping again. I admire the depth to which Rothfuss went to develop the Ademre culture, but I think it was to the detriment of the story and pacing. The same might be said for the fae, to some extent, as well as the lengthy search for the bandits in the old forest (though the payoff of that trek was well worth it).

So, how do I summarize a book which I loved, but cannot urge people to drop everything and read? I can safely say that if The Name of the Wind did little for you, then The Wise Man's Fear will do as little or less. The book is gigantic in size, with great characters, and wonderful storyline, fun/funny dialog, yet suffers from often glacial pacing and eyebrow-arching storyline choices. It was simultaneously very satisfying to read, and disappointing. I want to rate it 5 stars and 3 stars at the same time.

Summary: 4/5 Loved it, in spite of rather pronounced flaws. It may be that I need to read it again in order to come to a more black and white resolution. Until that time, 4 out of 5 for a great time. I guess that's what it boils down to... did I enjoy the experience? Ultimately, very very much so.


OK, I'm done with the review, and I think done with this post. As usual, I had more to cover, but believe it or not, writing that review wrung me out. It's hard to try and put into words something that doesn't seem to want to be put into words!

Keep praying for Japan.

Dave the Goof

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Old Theological Fires, Quakes, and Books

What a week it's been. Can't keep Japan out of my mind. Each day brings new photos, new videos, new news about the problems with the nuke plant. How hard can one country take it on the chin? I mean, I know people are resilient creatures, but after a while, I start to wonder about breaking points and things...

There seems to be quite a number of epic-level events these past half-dozen years or so. The Boxing Day quake/tsunami, the quake in Haiti, that quake in China a couple years back, the New Zealand quakes... I can't help but be reminded of particular verses like Hebrews 12:26-29, etc., that talk about God shaking the earth and the heavens.

It also brings back to mind certain conversations I have within myself that I've rarely felt I've come to any sort of satisfying resolutions over. Such as, when things like this happen, it takes a prominent space in my mind, and I wrestle with the issue of balance. If I dwell on it for long lengths of time, it feels like it will crush me. If I squirrel it away into a corner of my mind and softly close the door, trying to "go on with life", does that minimize the severity of the event? I find myself praying about the situation over there quite constantly, at least in some part of my heart. Does everyone find their own level, as far as internally handling huge things like this, or is there a standard approach God expects of us?

Of course, the bigger discussion is one my brain goes to often, in reference to many things - but it fits this event perfectly. How involved is God in every aspect of this event, if all? Did He decide when, where and how powerful the quake would be? Did He initiate it, knowing full well what would happen? Did He specifically decide who would live and who would die? Is He deciding, as I write this, how bad things will get with the nuclear reactor over there, and every person that will be affected? Or did He merely set up a self-sustaining system (the earth) with its shifting tectonic plates, and then He oversees it as it goes about its necessary business of shifting and moving and colliding and subverting? Is a quake of this magnitude (and all that it brought with it) basically just a byproduct of a system God set in motion, and He merely presides over it, letting events unfold as they may, while intervening here and there, based on who calls out for Him, etc.?

I've expressed similar thoughts previously here about wars, and whether God directs the trajectory of every bullet fired, and decides who will get hit, who will live, who will die... or if the bullets take their own path based on physics and environmental conditions and other factors, and God presides over it all, perhaps intervening here and there, but for the most part letting it play out according to the system He set up?

How involved is He in every detail? Does He micromanage everything? Or is the bulk of it determined by the (relatively) self-sustaining set of systems He has put in place here?

I know I've waxed boring on such topics here before, I apologize for the well-worn trail I'm wandering down here. I just can't help but ask these questions again, at times like this. My brain keeps spinning it around - I wish I could settle on an acceptable answer or set of answers.

Check this video out - it will freak you out. It's only 3 minutes long, please let it run through. You don't get a really good feel for it until about a minute in.


I want to change the subject to lighter stuff - I don't want to add to the weight on hearts like mine. But I don't want to come across as needlessly goofy or absurd, like I normally roll. I think I'll keep this post mellow and save the nonsense for another time.

I decided to taste A Wise Man's Fear to see what it's like, and surprise, surprise! I'm hooked and devouring it as we speak. About 75% through at the moment. I'll have a review up soon, for those that find such things curious. KJ Parker is on hold, as is an eBook sent to me by an author named Val Gunn. It's called In the Shadow of Swords, and I'm only a scant 20 pages into it. Seems fairly standard Fantasy fare at the moment, but I'll dive in and see, and post a review of that as well.

I'm sure many of you have seen this, but I wanted to post it because it's cool, and to test and see if clicking it will pull up the ultra-high-res version for you to get a good look at the detail, or if it will re-size it to a certain size. Click it and let me know what you think. My man, Boromir! He owns.

I still have to read the Song of Ice and Fire series again before July. Hope I don't get burnt out on the series by the time Volume 5 is released.

OK, I'm done. Sorry for the serious, mellow nature of this post. I'll post again soon.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Speaking English, Bacon, and The Warded Man


Dang, that quake/tsunami one-two-punch was incredible, wasn't it? Hardcore. I heard of it right after it happened, actually, on Thursday night before going to bed. Woke up to some incredible video. Heartbreaking. I wanted to hit that first before launching into my usual hot air-filled blog post, so you know I'm not off-balance.

Well, I mean, I am off balance, but I mean at least you'll know I have my head on relatively straight...

I better start with a cool video. Lemme see what I've "favorited" lately...

Ah, here we go. Snagged this off Bits and Pieces the other day. I'd seen it before, but it's a classic...

So, it's Friday night, and of course, I'm home in front of my computer, as usual. I have no social life. No places to go, people to hang out with, fun things to do, movies to see, nice dinners out to eat... It's odd. I've never really been much for going out and about... but lately, I've felt a strong urge to be social, and do stuff and meet people, etc. I wonder what that's all about?

Maybe I'm just sick of being cooped up all the time -- even though I'm the one cooping myself!

I've got my writer's meeting to go to on Saturday morning, so that's a start, I guess. Although, really, all I do is show up, set up my web book on a table by myself, and write for 90 minutes or so. I nod a hello to the group leader and maybe another writer or two, but I don't really socialize. I'm all business, baybay! Woohoo! By the way, I'm looking for a good "word count" widget for my blog.

Gonna work on my fantasy novel tomorrow. I've been inspired by all the great fantasy I've been reading of late. Oh, that reminds me...

The Warded Man, by Peter Brett: A Review
So I've read good things about this book by Peter Brett, called The Warded Man, and thought I'd give it a go. I pulled the trigger on an eBook version for my Kindle App, and started in. It hooked me from the go, and I pretty much gobbled it up.

The main character is named Arlen, and you see him first as a pre-teen, living in a village that has just been attacked. Barbarian hordes? Bandits? Aliens? Nope, attacked by demons. In the world that Brett has created, mankind struggles against demons, which rise at night to kill and destroy anything they can get their claws on. Fire demons, rock demons, air demons, wood demons, water demons... there's a different type of demon for all of the elements of nature. They are kept at bay by certain symbols (called wards) arranged in a certain way as to form a protective circle around a structure or a person. The wards must be perfect, expertly aligned, and kept unmarred, for if one symbol is obscured or damaged, it breaks the circle of magic, and the demons can get in and slay and eat.

Thus, people rule the day and walk freely, but demons rule the night, from dusk to dawn (sunlight kills them). People hunker down and tremble the night away in their protected homes, hoping that their ward nets will hold up to the relentless pounding and testing that the demons unleash upon the shields. The wards are all defensive in nature -- the knowledge of offensive wards, which could enable people to fashion weapons that would actually kill demons, has long since been lost, as a result of complacency on the part of mankind, who thought they'd defeated the demons three millennia early, when the beaten demon armies fled, not to be seen again. People thought they'd won the decisive victory, and as the centuries passed, the knowledge of how to beat the demons dissolved. When the demons returned, no one knew how to fight them, but clung to the knowledge of a few remaining defensive wards to keep them from death in the night.

Wow, that's a long set-up, sorry.

So Arlen is the somewhat typical fantasy trope: the farmboy who takes it upon himself to attempt the impossible quest to save the world. In this case, it is trying to learn the long-lost secrets of offensive wards, so demons can be defeated. It is, of course, motivated by revenge, as you can imagine. Demons had killed someone very important to him, and he wanted to make them pay.

The story is very well written, and the world-building is effective. The action continues practically non-stop, and the characters are memorable. The tale is fairly predictable, but in this particular case, it doesn't matter, since the path it takes is where you'd like to see it go (at least it was for me), so it worked.

My main problems with the book were both trivial and more substantial. Of course, I strongly disliked what Brett did with the names. He took names we use in our world, and merely tweaked them phonetically, so they sounded the same, but read differently. So Jason became Jasin, Mary became Mery, Sarah became Saira, Doug became Dug, like that. I don't know... maybe that's fine for most readers, and I know you can't please everyone, but it just annoyed me.

The larger concern for me was the final quarter of the book (for those that have read the book, I mean from the point where Arlen saves Leesha and Rojer in the forest, onward). It just felt like a step down in storytelling to me. It seemed almost Hollywood-like. I don't know... from that point onward, the three main characters just didn't seem like they were themselves. They said and did things that didn't click with the way they'd been written to that point.

But in spite of the awkward finale, the book was a great read, and I finished it easily. There is a sequel out, called The Desert Spear, and I've read reviews of it that were not all flattering -- but honestly, I am intrigued enough to want to read it anyway. So once I tear through a couple more fantasy books that are clamouring for my attention, I'll revisit the war between mankind and demonkind. Demons are good "bad guys" to have (sort of like Nazis).

Summary: 4/5 Fast paced, memorable scenes and characters, good world-building. But the tale falters toward the end (imho), the characters slipped out of character, and the names thing bugged me. But I do recommend it. At least, if you have access to a digital reader of some sort, get a sample of the book from Kindle (for free) and read the intro. Maybe you'll like it. Minimal profanity, but very violent.


It's tax season. I better get my receipts and forms together....

How random a transition was that? From demon-slaying to taxes, in one easy step! Well, that's how my mind work, sorry.

Better toss another video in here...

This video freaked me out...

Those kids have to be 5 or 6 years old. I shudder to think of the hours that they've had to spend learning guitar and then learning that routine. I don't know whether to be impressed and amazed, or dismayed and depressed...

I better bring a Funny Picture in here, to break things up a bit...

I think that's from XKCD. Funny, smart (but occasionally offensive) web comic.

Well, I'm going to hit the sack. As usual, I thought I had more to share, but it has fled me. Until next time, then!


Dave the Goof

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The "S" Key, Sniper Check and What If They Lived?

Hey, remember that time I wrote a new blog post? Yeah, that was so long ago... hey, wait... it's right now! Cool! I must be, like, a writer of blogs or something cool like that! Hey, remember that time I was a cool writer of blogs? Yeah, that was forever ago... hey, wait....  it's right now!

So, the S key on my gaming keyboard is upside-down. I'm not sure what it means, but I'm convinced it means something. And it must be deep. The S isn't symmetrical - the top curve is bigger than the bottom one, and it looks odd, like at any moment, it will tip over because it is top heavy. I think that's why I tip over a lot, too... anyway, it makes me wonder about other keys... I, O, X, Z... these could be upside-down, and I'd never know! I guess I could just look reeeaaaal close-like...

So I've been reading a lot of late. Yep, I'm a real escape artist. Flee from your problems, Dave! Run from reality! Dive headlong into other worlds that, like, don't exist and stuff! You spineless pansy-type individual! No sense staring your problems down, unblinking and trembling with rage, like some demon-hunter or something. Run, run like the wind!

Where was I?

Oh, yeah, I've been reading a lot. I bought a copy of a book called What If They Lived? co-authored by Phil Hall and Rory Leighton Aronsky. Rory's blog is Scraps of Literacy, by the way... it's a book by film buffs for film buffs, and it is both informative and speculative entertainment. It covers a wide range of film stars from the entire history of film through today, who died "before their time," and asks the question in the title: What if they lived? Each actor/actress is given a brief background run-down, as well as their film experience, and the circumstances surrounding their deaths. It then moves into speculating on the courses their careers may have taken, based on their popularity at the time of their deaths (on the upswing or tailing off), and the projects they had lined up at the time of their departure, and some good ol' fashioned educated guessing.

I had some problems with the Kindle version of the book that I bought. This is the type of book that seems to encourage flipping around, rather than powering through cover to cover, like a novel. However, the digital version didn't have a working Table of Contents, so I couldn't see at a glance a complete list of the actors featured, and jump to them accordingly. I had to either scroll through the pages manually, or move the slider bar around. I did ultimately flip through the whole book, reading most of the entries, but it would have been easier to navigate the book with a working TOC.

Also, my anal nature was repeatedLY grated by the numerous formatting errors, and typos. I kept wanting to go in and fix things! The content was very interesting, and perhaps most people wouldn't worry about it, but for me, it was a roadblock (albeit, certainly not a deal-breaker).

The final problem I had was the intro, which got under my skin - you know how I am with sometimes being derailed at the very beginning of a book! It was written by a chap named Mike Watt, and he goes on at length about how devastated he was at the passing of Jim Henson, whom he'd never met, but was a big fan of. He apparently went through all the stages of grief, like when you lose a loved one, even though he was in junior high at the time. Now, far be it from me to come across as making light of someone's pain, but that is so far out of my reality that I just couldn't connect at all. I certainly know what it's like to lose a close loved one - my brother's death ripped my heart out. But I cannot even begin to imagine any celebrity anywhere, at any time of my life, who's death did anything other than briefly pique my curiosity when I heard of it. Devastated? Yeah, not even close. I must be a stone-hearted individual.

Barring the sappy intro and the formatting issues, the book was very interesting. A lot of the featured actors from early in Hollywood history I'd never even heard of, so it was nice to get a little history lesson. And some of the more recent entries were thorough and well-written (Bruce Lee, John Belushi, Heath Ledger, etc.).

Summary: 3.5/5 Anyone with even a passing interest in film history or movies in general would enjoy perusing this book -- though I'd recommend the hard-copy over the digital version, until the kinks are worked out.

Just to show you I can be as sappy as the next guy at times, here's a Ford commercial that made me cry...

Hey... I want a new Mustang too!

I have the highest respect for those in the military. Nads of steel, every one. Where else in life could your daily job entail doing a sniper check?


I'm almost finished reading The Warded Man, by Peter Brett. I'll finish tonight, no doubt. It is a terrific book, but not without its flaws. Expect a review soon, eh!

Hey, remember that time I finished that blog post? Yeah, that was a long time ago, but it was very cool... hey, wait a second... it's right now!


Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Bunch of Book Talk and Writing Nonsense. Prepare Thyself.

Ah, the weekend again.

I seem to be settling into a "twice a week" update schedule here in my little corner of the world. I guess that's ok. It gives me a few days to accumulate things to talk about. The problem with that is, I don't take notes. I know there have been some things I've seen and/or thought since last Tuesday that I wanted to mention here, but doubt I'll be able to remember. I kind of make this stuff up as I go...

Guess I'll start with the book news. Don't worry, I'll keep it brief! In fact, I'll write it while only wearing briefs, just to make sure...

Of course, the big announcement was the long-awaited publication date for GRRM's next beastly book, A Dance With Dragons. By mid July, I'll have it in my grubby hands, ready to dive in and see what's been going on in the North, and across the sea with Dany, and Tyrion, etc. In preparation for that time, I went ahead and purchased digital versions of the four previous books, since they were cheap ($5 to $8 each). I shall try to read them through again between now and July - a daunting task, if you are aware of the sheer size of these books.

Likewise daunting when I factor in the other great books I have yet to read, including the recently-arrived Wise Man's Fear (by Pat Rothfuss, who is in San Diego holding a signing at Mysterious Galaxy as I write these very words!), and The Hammer (KJ Parker) and The Way of Kings (Sanderson) as well as other titles that have been beckoning for me from my shelf. I had such a great time tearing through The Heroes (Abercrombie) that it has reignited my reading bug...

I'm trying to discipline myself enough to get my work done first before starting a new book.

Ah, having too much to read is a good problem to have!

Our good friend Josh Wood posted an awesome tale of daring-do over at his Post Calvinism blog. Go read it and marvel at his manliness! HERE is the link! And if you're in the mood to get your blog read on, I found another quality blog (through a commenter on Logan's blog) called Human[cubed] that I've bookmarked. Of course, the content is right up my alley (games, movies, music, books, etc), so if that sort of thing piques your interest as well, check it out. HERE is that link!

ASIDE: Whenever I see someone say "peek" instead of "pique", it annoys me! Whenever I see someone say "mute point" instead of "moot point", it annoys me! I am easily annoyed, it seems...

I went to my weekly Writer's Meeting in Vista this morning. I've done the final proofing of the "book" I'm writing for Eldest Daughter. Now I need to try to decide if I should let another trusted soul read it before I send it to Eldest Daughter, just so I can get an objective, third-party opinion on whether what I wrote crossed any lines or pushed any envelopes, and should be tweaked before sending it off. It really is just between my daughter and I... and yet I know how, even with the best of intentions, I tend to inadvertently step in stuff sometimes. I'd hate to set off to do something positive, only to have some unforeseen negative consequence bite me in the patoot.

Meh, I have a few weeks left to decide.

Next on my project list is to work on the adaptation of a friend's Easter script, which was written for the stage, and turn it into a version that can be filmed as a movie instead. That will be fun.

The same folks that organize the NaNoWriMo thing every November also do a similar event in April of every year, called Script Frenzy. NaNoWriMo focuses on novel writing, and Script Frenzy focuses on... poetry! Nope, I kid... it focuses on scripts (TV, Film, Stage, etc.). Since April is "write" around the corner, I think I'll make the Easter script adaptation my April project. The cool thing about Script Frenzy is that they allow two writers to collaborate on projects (as opposed to "every man for himself" in NaNoWriMo), so I've been contemplating asking a person or two if he/she would be willing to participate with me! We shall see...

I was also referred to another site called Book In A Week, which has a monthly program that writers can participate, where they work on short pieces of fiction (up to 200 pages) written in a week. Every month, they have prep-time where you gather notes, prepare, and then bear down and crank out a "book" in one week's time. I was thinking about getting both my "books in progress" to a point where I can prepare chunks to be written, thinking about each section of my book as a little book in and of itself. Just something new to try.

I'm tired of feeling like I'm just spinning my wheels. I want to finish some of these big projects. The funny thing is, I finish small projects all the time. Yet because I have a couple big projects laying around unfinished, it makes me feel like I never finish anything.

I also recently stumbled upon a cool piece of writing & project management software called Celtx, which shows great promise. I've tried yWriter and FreeMind before this, in an attempt to find aids in writing my projects, but they didn't really click with me. I'll let you all know how this one goes, since I know you're dying to find out! (eye roll!)

Time Marches On!

Wow... this just might be the most boring post of the year thus far... good grief, when I get my ramble going, there's no stopping me.

Well, I better post a funny picture and bring this bad boy to a close... Here's a two-part pic of a cat and his first love...

Come on, admit it... you have a stuffed animal from your youth that you still sleep with... admit it...

Adios for now. If I think of anything interesting to tack on here, I'll edit it in...


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Generic Blog Post Title

"What do you think? Will they like that picture?"

"Dunno. Probably. I mean, look at those peaks. Rugged; austere; foreboding. Dare I say, crisp."

"'Crisp'? Look at the foreground, all shadowy like that. Don't you think people are sick of snow by this time?"

"It's March second today. Spring isn't that far off. Let's check the archive for something with some sun in it."

"Something less crisp?"


"How about this?"

"Gads, not another 'sunset at waterside' shot..."

"Why not? The beach is nice! No snow."

"The beach during winter is still cold. I'm shivering just looking at it. And look how little the waves are. Must be on the east coast somewhere."

"If it's east coast, that would be a sunrise, not a sunset. But it's pretty. Nice clouds. Cool little bird there, walking. And one flying, adding some motion to the picture."

"Nope. Still too wintry. What else you got?"

"Hmm. How about this?"

"Hmm. Better. Kind of a far east vibe. Where is that, Singapore? Viet Nam?"

"Not sure."

"Must have taken the picture on St. Patrick's Day. They dyed the water green, just like the river in Chicago, eh?"

"Again, not sure. Maybe it's naturally that color. Like algae, or something."

"Or they just photoshopped it."

"Why would they do that? What's wrong with normal blue water?"

"Yeah, you're right. Besides, if they'd photoshopped it, they'd have likely added a blue sky instead of that overcast one."

"Anyway, so is it good enough, or what?"

"Yeah, that's fine. OK, what's next?"

"The intro, I guess..."

"OK, go for it."

"Lemme see. Where did I put Dave's text? Ah, here we go. Lemme cut-n-paste here for a second..."


Howdy, y'all! It's Dave again, with another blast of hot air. Random nonsense from a random goofball.

And since there's nothing more random than 7 Japanese Businessmen doing a synchronized dance all over New York City, I supposed I should start there tonight. Give the video a chance! It gets very cool.

I think my favorite part of that video was how the New Yorkers just walked by, as though that sort of thing was normal...


"What did you think of that?"

"Meh, I don't know. Cool, I guess. Not my cup of tea."

"Well, he usually has pretty good video clips. I liked it."

"Yeah, well, you like the Bee Gees and head cheese too."

"Ooh, maybe Dave will post a Bee Gee's music video..."

"Lord, help us all."

"Looks like the book report is up next."

"It's called a 'book review', you nitwit."

"O, hush!"

So, I finished reading The Heroes, by Joe Abercrombie last night. I haven't had such a case of "I Just Can't Put This Book Down!" since, I'd say, the time I read Abercrombie's "First Law" trilogy back in Spring of '09. If I recall, I read book 2 and book 3 of that trilogy over the course of 4 days, practically without sleep.

It will be odd to try and summarize the book, for those of you who have never read any Abercrombie before. The tale takes place over the span of three days, during a pitched battle between two great forces in Abercrombie's world that he's built from scratch. It's the same world/realm that was featured in his First Law Trilogy, as well as 2009's Best Served Cold (which I reviewed HERE), with several of the same characters from those tales. Most of the major players in The Heroes were minor characters in the other books, so it was very nice to see them, and have them developed further.

The book gets its title from multiple sources, the most obvious being a geographical source. The great valley that the huge battle takes place in has a large hill in it that is crowned with a large circle of towering, Stonehenge-like stones, called The Heroes. Holding this hill is very important, since it commands a 360-degree view for miles around. Very important in war, as you can imagine.

The title also comes from the fact that there are great heroes on both sides of the battle. The North has a great number of Named Men, which are fierce warriors with unique nick-names that they have earned on the battlefield in times past. The Union has many soldiers of valor, but really only one that could qualify as a Hero - and his name is Bremer dan Gorst, whom some might remember from the Trilogy and a cameo in Best Served Cold. He is a fiercely loyal King's Man who was disgraced and stripped of his honor because of something that happened when he was supposed to be protecting the King. He seeks redemption. He seeks it on the battlefield. He is an INCREDIBLE character, and by far, my favorite in the book (which is something, considering the cast).

When I first heard Bremer was going to be featured in The Heroes, I shrugged a bit. I wasn't too impressed with him in the other books, and didn't think much of the news. But I was very pleasantly surprised. I couldn't get enough of the contrast of his story arc. In battle, he was incomparable, having trained exhaustively, and wanting to die redeeming his name on the battlefield. Out of battle, he was the object of scorn and insult and snickering, a problem made worse by his soft, falsetto voice.

The book also gets it's title (I believe) from the philosophical angle that Abercrombie makes, whereby he calls into question what a hero really is, and whether it is really worth it to seek such status. In fact, at one point, a character says to a warrior something to this effect: "I used to think you were a decent man. But I don't think that anymore. You aren't a decent man. You're a hero." This was the payoff to a big argument, and it was meant as an insult.

There's no sense in going over the whole cast of characters, and any of the storyline any further. It would constitute spoilers for those that might read this book, and more endless chatter for those who will not. Let me summarize my unorthodox review with my thoughts on the author himself.

Joe Abercrombie's style agrees with me like no other that I can think of. He is so easy to read, so effective at description, and so genius at writing dialog and structuring scenes, I literally felt like I couldn't read it fast or thorough enough. At any moment, during any type of scene, regardless of context, he could slip a zinger in that will make you laugh out loud. The characters are rich and memorable, the dialog funny and very smart, the landscape vivid, the emotions blunt and powerful.

HOWEVER, I will not recommend this book to anyone without letting them know the hard truth: the book is very bloody, and there is no shortage of foul, profane language. These characters are hard men, and they use hard language. The insults and banter are often as hard-edged as the weapons they wield against one-another. If that sort of thing unnerves you, then I suggest you pass on this (and the rest) of Abercrombie's work. You will by necessity also miss out on some OUTSTANDING storytelling, but that will be the other side of that coin.

It may seem odd for me to at once highly (re)commend an author and strongly discourage most of you from reading him, but I feel I have to be honest. I loved it. But I know it's a divisive book that many of you, were you to read it, would likely hate. You wouldn't be alone. The author recently posted a fascinating "article" in his blog, responding to the idea that authors like him are ruining the Fantasy genre. Also a great read, should you choose to skim it.

SUMMARY: I have to give it 5/5. Grabbed me from the first sentence, chewed me up, spit me out, and I enjoyed every page of it. I will surely read it again. Memorable characters, memorable scenes, hilarious and smart dialog, top notch story-telling.


"Wow, that's quite an endorsement."

"True. But this is the same guy that thinks farts are funny, so how heavily should we weigh his take on it?"

"Maybe the book had a lot of potty humor in it."

"Wouldn't surprise me. What's up next?"

"Looks like he wants a quick Funny Picture, and then he's done."

"For now."

"Of course, for now. Unless he gets hit by a bus or something."

"I hope not. Then we'll be out of a job."

"Best not think about it then. How about this picture? Funny enough?"

"Gah, no. Get that off there. Political humor is passe. Besides, no one will know it's a young Fidel Castro."

"I don't know... I think they'll get it."

"No. What else is there?"

"How about this?"

"Hmm. Nah, it's more cute than funny. What else?"

"Uh... let's see. How about this?"

"I don't get it."

"It's a 'snow man'. See? The word "man" made of snow. Snowman."

"That's ridiculous."

"Well, it better work. There's nothing better left in the archive. Dave hasn't fished for new ones yet."

"What about re-using one. From the archive. Pull a funny one from last year, no one will remember."

"OK, fine. How about this?"

"You had to go straight for the fart humor, didn't you..."

"Well, it's Dave's blog."

"OK, fine, use that one. Load up the 'goodbye' text and let's get out of here. And don't forget to add the title. Otherwise it will just say 'Generic Blog Post Title' again, and Dave will get mad at us again. You know how he gets when he's angry."

"I won't forget."

"You'll forget."

"I won't forget!"

"Fine, post the goodbye text already."


Well, that's it for now. I'll be back again soon with more hot air, fret not! If you miss me, just spend a few hours rooting through the back posts. You'll find goodies buried in there, I promise!