Thursday, December 11, 2014


Friends, have a heart this year. If you absolutely NEED to get a pet for your family this Christmas, consider going to the AA-SPCA and picking up an alcoholic, minor-league pet. They are talented and entertaining and they need a home. Thank you.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanks for the Day After

(sincere part) Happy belated Thanksgiving, friends and loved ones! 

(martyr part) I'm sorry I missed you yesterday, but the three-hour 50-mile drive home after my 60-hour four-day work week did me in. 

(Oscar-worthy faux tear-jerking part) When I got home, the house was cold and empty because my family is away, but I was got to talk on the phone with many loved ones before hitting the sack. 

(legitimately awesome part) I am thankful that I got fourteen hours of sleep, and can now parade around the house naked, eating a giant piece of pumpkin pie with my hands, and the new AC/DC album killing my eardrums from the stereo. 

No work today. Life is good. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Last night [Wife] and I were in a restaurant with [Daughter] and about thirty other kids.
[Wife] and I were safely established at the Parents Table talking all kinds of smack when we were invaded by a tearful teen with extreme feelings of alienation, which is of course a hallmark of being a teen.
Because I am helpful, I told her quietly that "As an adolescent, I often felt that I was on the outside looking in. And then some kind adult would always come along and tell me to get away from the girl's locker room door."
This inspired her to find a seat with her own kind, and I got that warm glow I always get when I help another human being.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Damn Flies.

[Wife]: What the Hell?!  There’s a fly just walking around on the wall.  I can’t reach it.
Me: I think it’s the one that’s been dive-bombing us all day.  I punched it earlier.  Does it look like the same one?
[Wife]: How should I know?  It’s a FLY.
Me: I hope it gets a leg cramp.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

[Daughter] toasting waffles for breakfast: "Ow! I touched the hot metal thing. Touching the Hot Metal Thing on Amazon: Zero out of five stars. Do not recommend."

Monday, July 7, 2014

It is Cleaning Day at the Reddoch Howse!

The carpet is fresh and fluffy like baby bunnies, the dishes are ready for foreign dignitaries, the furniture gleams like a new father's eye, the toilet is fresh and clean like a brand new day in politics untouched by outside money, and the mirror shows me clear and new, looking just as I looked twenty years ago.

That's how I know [Wife] will need to redo the mirrors. I can never get the mirrors quite right.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

I may be spending too much time on my smartphone.

My wife was asleep when I got home from work, so I pressed in her eye to wake her up.
She was pretty irritated. It didn't get any better when I said, "Wow, you're hot! Have you been running a memory - intensive game?"
Needless to say, I never got the chance to input my PIN.
[Wife]: Sorry, the "Slide to Unlock" feature is unavailable right now. Don't bother trying again.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Dog Autobiography

My dog's autobiography is going to be called Shitting in the Dark: Turning the Tyranny of the DON'T EAT THAT People into Stealth Revenge.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Why I Abandoned Orphan Children and Took Up With a Unicorn

Loyalty and Duty.

In my world, Loyalty and Duty are key to making the human race something other than a seething mass of monkeys.  

Yes, humans are still ego-driven and self-centered and narcissistic and easily distracted by shiny objects and in general humans suck,


every person I love is still a person, so I guess I love people.  With all our flaws, I love people.I don’t so much love people who are disloyal, or people who abandon their duty.  Nobody owns a duty they didn't choose.  I chose a workplace job that allows me to provide for my family in the best way I can. 

It is a duty I chose.  I may not always enjoy the workplace job itself, but it is still the best available option for me, as far as I can tell.  If I abandoned my workplace job, I could no longer do right by my family.  Bad tidings would ensue.  

I go to work because that’s the duty I chose.  I am a loyal friend and mate because I can’t be anything else.  No extra effort is required of me. I am just loyal.

Game of Thrones: Eddard Stark.  Brienne of Tarth.  Davos Seaworth.  Jon Snow.  These characters exemplify Loyalty and Duty.  They all get screwed, but so does every character in Game of Thrones.

And I abandoned them.  I abandoned them and Arya Stark, and Bran, and Sansa, and everybody who is helping them -  I’ve known these characters and loved them all for years, and yet I have abandoned them to a life (however long) of torment and despair at the hands of author George R. R. Martin.

I feel terrible about it.  Every time I pass the end table in my living room, I can see A Dance with Dragons laying where I left it, bookmark still in place.  It taunts.  I know it contains the answers I seek about the Stark children and about all of Daenerys’ terrible choices, but I am just not strong enough to sustain all the horror and brutality that befalls them on the pages.

Please understand my conflict - books and characters are people, and I have abandoned them!

Here’s what’s even worse: I have taken up with other books and characters.

I am emotionally compromised from my workplace job.  Like the Game of Thrones books, my workplace is also a relentlessly brutal place full of surprising twists that make the situation worse each chapter.

With my own real-life-generated stresses, I cannot sustain any more George R. R. Martin inflicted pain.

THAT”S my excuse for cheating.

I turned my back on all the George Martin characters.  In my time of emotional weakness, I sought refuge in my vast library of books I haven’t gotten to just yet but that I keep collecting because I have a sickness (Bibliophilia?  Bibliomania?).In my library at home await detectives and rebels, soldiers and Jedi, wizards, and a seething mass of humanity in prose.  All of them, waiting for me.  All of them invited onto my bookshelf at the beginning of a promise I made to them that they would get my attention and they could tell me their story.
 And then I ignored them. 

 Among the neglected and dust-covered was a unicorn.  Really.  A unicorn.  Not my usual thing.  I have been many things in my life, but a young virginal girl has not been one of them.  
And yet, the unicorn was on my list, demanding to be read next, accompanied by all the people in my life who have told me that I MUST READ The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle.
I’ve never been good about doing what I am told, even when I’m told by people I trust.  Besides, fantasy circa 1968?  I read all that as a kid.  Been there, done that.

AND my copy had kind of lame cover art.

AND I read it anyway.  And . . . I could not stop.

As it turns out, The Last Unicorn is utterly, overwhelmingly delightful.  Every phrase is poetry, a lyrical and spare prose that allows a reader the feeling of what is described and what it means all at once.

The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.”

Every sentence evokes memory and sentiment, without the book itself being very sentimental.  It is a book of love, about love, made of love.  And as adults, we know that love can be harsh. 

This is not a children’s story, it is a live story.  It is FULL of life.  Fantasy life, made real by the brilliantly unusual prose.

At one point, the unicorn is turned against her will into a human girl:

“For a moment she turned in a circle, staring at her hands, which she held high and useless, close to her breast. She bobbed and shambled like an ape doing a trick, and her face was the silly, bewildered face of a joker’s victim. And yet she could make no move that was not beautiful. Her trapped terror was more lovely than any joy that Molly had ever seen, and that was the most terrible thing about it.”

This is a book for any child old enough to want to read it, and for every adult, because they should.  

This story made me pause for air.  Peter Beagle wrote something that caused my eyes to leak.

Like a straying wayward husband, I may at some point come back to A Dance with Dragons because what is happening to the people inside the book?! but first I am adding more Peter Beagle books to my crowded and neglected shelf full of family I haven’t gotten around yet to reading.

All of you waiting for me inside the books: I will come to you soon!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wipe That Old off Your Face!

Took [Daughter] to the Coliseum so we could watch our Oakland Athletics shuffle meekly into the dustpan as they helped the Texas Rangers finish off their sweep.

After I finished slathering on the nasty white SPF 185 sunscreen that keeps me from contracting instant cancer, [Daughter] looked at me funny and said "You've got sunscreen on your beard".

I wiped where she showed me. She said, "Still white."

I wiped again. [Daughter] peered closer. "Oh. Your beard is just white. Nevermind."

Friday, February 21, 2014

Shoe Shopping is Mostly Gender-Specific, Isn't it?

I just got a massive shipment of shoes.  I had to replace both pairs of my work shoes (PLUS one pair for the near future), my worn-out dress shoes, and a pair of tennis shoes.

I am standing in my living room, surrounded by cardboard Shoe Packaging Carnage.

[Wife] (brightly): Does everything fit?
[Me]: Yeah.
[Wife]: So why do you look so depressed?
[Me]: That was a LOT of money.  For SHOES.  Who cares about shoes?! Shoes aren't fun.  You just wear them.  If I'm gonna spend that much money at once, it should be for a team of strippers who bring me a Corvette and feed me desserts.
[Wife]: I never have negative emotions about shoes.
[Me]: You SHOULD!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Best Groundhog's Day Books

Merry Christmas, Folks!  
At least, it still is at my house.  My home continues to look quite festive and Christmas-y, although that Advent calendar has definitely worn out its welcome.  The dog just knocked the needlepoint stuffed Santa off his giant Santa Tin Canister perch for the hundredth time, and my wife has casually mentioned that whenever we get around to putting away Christmas, we will need to get out Valentines decorations.  Or Easter, depending what month it is.
Who the heck decorates for Valentine’s Day?  The Hallmark Family?
Besides, like any good red-blooded American man, I have excuses.
  • My work kicks into Screamin’ High Gear in November each year, and it hasn't yet calmed down. And for Pete's sake we are currently in February if I've done the math right.
  • I tore up another shoulder and can’t actually reach up and down to shelves and put stuff away up there.  It's the good shoulder this time. By which I mean the least recently injured shoulder, that before this injury was the most functional shoulder. Pretty soon I'm going to be driving with my teeth.
  • These backlogged books ain’t gonna read themselves, ya know.
So, yeah.  Exhausted, hurt, stared at accusingly by January Santas in all directions, I escape to my bookshelf and marvel at all the books I have bought with the best of intentions.  There are SO MANY, and that’s not even counting all the wee e-books clamoring for my attention inside my Google Play Books app, my Nook app, and my Kindle app.  
Last Saturday I decided it wouldn't hurt to take a day for myself and just read.  I was the first person awake in the morning, and the dog was my conspirator.  She and I picked out a long-neglected book (with actual dust on the dust jacket) and settled down on the sofa in front of the fire.
Last Saturday’s book:
The back story:  I am a huge fan of Orson Scott Card’s writing.  I will remain a fan of his writing no matter his politics.  I have read just about everything the guy’s written (except the series about Biblical women - everybody’s got their limit).
There have only been two books Card has written that I've NOT enjoyed - one was a well-written political / war book that was such a diatribe against the political Left that it got in the way of enjoying the book (I think he wrote a sequel to it, but I didn't read it), and a book called Invasive Procedures that I thought had some really good ideas, but otherwise was thoroughly disappointing.  
When I put on my rarely-used Critical Thinking Hat, I looked again at Invasive Procedures, which looks like this:
With the giant ORSON SCOTT CARD on top and the wee AND AARON JOHNSTON underneath.  So naturally, I blamed Aaron Johnston for the literary suckage, with my pouty lower lip pointed squarely at Scott Card, who let me read this trash because his name was so prominently displayed.
Fast-forward to now - I am standing here looking at Earth Afire, also written by Card and Johnston.  This book has squatted unread and unloved on my shelf for years, enough time for the sequel to have been released in 2013.  Now is its moment.
Despite my reservations, I started reading in the morning.  I finished in the afternoon.  
MY OFFICIAL REVIEW: It was good.  I liked it.  It wasn't the full-on mind-blowing Card experience.  It was Card Lite, with the Lite being Aaron Johnston trying his best to write like Card, who clearly has too many irons in the fire to write all of his own books.  Still, worth reading - and way better than nothing. Also, it was riveting and horrifying.

And then I read the sequel yesterday.  Earth Afire on Amazon

MY OFFICIAL REVIEW: It was good.  I liked it.  Still Card Lite, and still worth reading.  So much detail about how these things can take over and wreck a planet, with all the nation-states still trying desperately to hold onto their sovereignty instead of get it in gear and fight. Spellbinding and frustrating. But could a fella buy an ending, please?  I know there’s a third book coming, but this book just STOPS, like its mom yelled upstairs that it if she hears any more screwing around up there, she’s coming up with a wooden spoon!  The book just knocks it off.
I would read the third book in this series next week if I could.  
I am not the best book critic.  I am instead a good reader - my imagination fills in holes of which I am not even aware, and then sometimes I have to flip back and forth inside the chapter to fill in the blanks manually.  I had to do that more with these couple of books than with a Full Card Experience Book.  

You likely won’t see any posts from me next weekend.  The groundhog just came out of his den, saw my Christmas decorations, and laughed.  I think that’s my cue to make sure there aren't six more weeks of Santa.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Post-2013 Book Wrap Rap

Every year I make an understated private pledge (NOT A RESOLUTION) to (whenever possible) become a better person in at least one way.  Usually more, but I pare that down during the year.
Here’s how it typically goes inside my head:
  • Get in better shape - don't care how much I weigh, I just want to be in better shape.  Stronger, leaner, with cheeks that don't weigh twenty pounds each and make me sound like Alfred Hitchcock .
  • Become more compassionate and patient. Also: stop being so compassionate and patient with EVERYBODY, but mete out my compassion in moderation.  Be more moderate with my compassion?  F*** it, I'll settle for being moderately more compassionate, and if that's not good enough for you it's because you're a jerk.  NEXT!
  • Get out of my own head and experience somebody else's thought processes and worldview by reading more than I did the year prior.
  • Get my own thoughts out of my head and put them down on paper so someone else can experience my thought processes by reading things I write.  So: I have to actually write instead of just wishing I had more time to write..
This year I did a fair amount of writing about reading books and experiencing the author’s worldview.  I sure as hell hope that made me a better person, because reading and writing don't make my cheeks any lighter.
I read a lot of comic books in 2013, mostly with my dog on my lap.  I even became more compassionate, but mostly toward Spider-Man and Captain America.  And then, with the body of a middle-aged man with multiple malfunctioning body parts and the worldview of a super-hero, I continued to do stupid things with my body that injure it.  The worst part is that I don’t recover by the next month because I do not have a mutant healing factor.  You'd think my Spidey-sense would warn me before I do something stupid.
Comic books aside, I wanted to make a dent in the pile of books (both paper and ebooks - which don't really pile, per se) waiting for my attention.  I attacked and read voraciously, whenever I wasn't either at work or exhausted from work.
Counting the actual books I actually read, it turns out I read a whopping nine books in 2013. When I was a kid I could read nine books in a month.  I blame my all-consuming job.  I need to retire to a life of leisure.
Of these nine books, looks like I wrote about six of them.
Here are the last three:
The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling, The Gate Thief by Orson Scott Card, and Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling:
As hundreds of disappointed reviewers will tell you, The Casual Vacancy is not a Harry Potter Book.  While disappointing in its lack of whimsical uses of magic in its non-magical setting, I found the book interesting for what it was: a chance to see what Jo Rowling chooses to do when writing for adults.  What she chose was to write characters who swear and have sex, and who like or dislike the other characters who swear and have sex.
When I write a plot synopsis of this book ("The death of one man in a small English village touches all residents in some way and set them to debating town policy as they live their lives which ARE NOT LIVED AT HOGWARTS"), my own words make me want to not read it.
Luckily, the actual book is a worthwhile read. Jo Rowling is a good writer, which is why we liked Harry Potter so much in the first place.  Like approximately 100% of books written by humans, this is not a perfect book; but because Rowling is inventive and plays with words so well, reading this imperfect book was a mostly-joyful use of my time.  
I can't decide whether to be irritated at Rowling's way of honing in on the most important facet of a character and telegraphing what kind of a person the character is instead of letting the reader decide for themselves. It strikes me as shortcut/melodrama/Young Adult genre-ish.  It’s the only thing that struck me as unpolished.  
Then again, it's not the reader's job to decide what kind of writer Rowling is going to be - we get to read along with the process of Rowling deciding for herself, and deciding what kind of books she's going to write.
If Casual Vacancy is any indication, the answer is "messy, fun, and mostly enjoyable".  Much like profanity, or married sex.
The Gate Thief by Orson Scott Card:
Scott Card writes about impossibly smart people in impossibly difficult and complex situations, and I find his books impossible to put down.  It makes me grouchy that I occasionally have to stop reading and go to work.  
The Gate Thief is the second in a series that began with The Lost Gate, and seems targeted toward the Young Adult audience, which includes me because I think I'm not ever going to get any older than Young Adult if I can help it.
If you've read an Orson Scott Card book, then you are already familiar with the experience of being much less intelligent than the characters in his stories.  This continues with The Gate Thief, in which our main character is Danny North, - one of a long line of Lokis (as that name is the name of a role rather than one particular person).  The underlying precept of the story is that the Gods humans worshipped (Greek, Norse, Incan, and all others) are real and have been living undercover.  These are massively dysfunctional families, just like in all the myths.  
As all the gods vie ruthlessly for power and influence over Danny, we get to see the (always with Card) hard choices the characters make, and the consequences that result.
As with his other books, Card has his entire world thought out so thoroughly and his characters feel their humanity so keenly that it's an absolute pleasure to be included in the ride.  Card's books are a guilty pleasure without the guilt (unless you feel guilt about wanting to read his stories but not wanting to contribute money to a man whose personal views are publicly ultra conservative).
Little Brother by Cory Doctorow:
I was SO excited by this book!  It's set in the near future, but it was published in April 2008 - the future depicted in the book is essentially RIGHT NOW.
It's scary, it's exciting, and it should be required reading for every American citizen, especially anybody who doesn't already care about our civil liberties.  For real.  It's hard to tell when I'm not being a smartass, so I'll clue you in that I am as serious as I ever get right now.
The Author’s synopsis - because he says it better than I do:
What's Little Brother about?
Marcus, a.k.a “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.
But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.
When the DHS finally releases them, Marcus discovers that his city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: to take down the DHS himself.
This book was mind-blowingly exciting to read.  Doctorow also uses it as a framework to teach the reader about existing tracking technology and encryption and other ways to keep our lives private from anyone we don't invite to see our secrets.  Little Brother is a corollary to the concept of 1984’s Big Brother.  
Yes, this is a book about The Little Guy standing up to The Man.  The most compelling thing about it is that it’s also the story of The Little Guy persuading all the other Little Guys to stand up to The Man.  Every action has a reaction (not necessarily equal or opposite in human behavior), and for every [human organization] overreach, there are well-meaning Regular Person collaborators simply striving to regain the ease of life we all assume we have. The huge events in Little Brother undermine the social and political landscape for the entire community.
READ THIS BOOK.  In fact, the author feels so strongly about people reading this book that if you don't want to purchase it, then you can download it for free from his website.
Please do.  If you don't love it as much as I did, I will personally refund any money you pay for the free download.
And also, I promise
I kind of promise
I intend to let’s see if I write more frequently in 2014.