A Twist Of Fate
March, 2007 Entries

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(03/31/07 - 10:04 PM)
We went to Woodman's today. I bought some hamburger. Now, for any of you who have previously purchased hamburger on your own, you know that it comes in different states of lean-ness, based on which part of ol' Bessie was ground up to make it; 3%, 7%, etc. You also know that unless you're purchasing a national brand, it's wrapped in-store on cute little foam trays with plastic wrap. And those that are wrapped like this, are sold by the pound. And a little sticker on the package tells you how much it costs, based on the weight, less the tare. With me so far?

Okay, so for anyone who's bought hamburger more than three times, this is pretty much standard knowledge (even you cheese purchasers out there could probably get this.)

So imagine my surprise when the fifty-something checker lady gets to my bag containing five packages of 10% lean and asks, "Are these all the same?"

"Yep." I replied.

She looks at the bag, rifles through it, and then looks at me with scorn in her eyes. Her tone changes, "These are NOT the same. You said these were the same, but they're all different prices."

Really? REALLY?

I don't know what to think now, so I said, "Yes, they are all the same product - but they're sold by the pound."

"Well, yeah," she says, "But they're not all the same weight. I thought you meant that you had five all the same weight."

Who in the hell even ASKS a question like that, then?

My God, will someone please open a clinic for the clinically stupid? And HURRY.

(03/30/07 - 10:43 PM)
I've got a wicked cold, and it's kicking my butt. If I had a sick day, I might actually consider taking one - it's that annoying.

(03/29/07 - 11:12 PM)
A toilet went haywire at work today. My shipping/receiving manager came rushing up to me, a look on her face that said, "I'm being chased by a rabid, horny bear" or "Other issue about to spill out of my mouth."

For those of you concerned, it was the latter.

She said to me, "Heath, the toilet is overflowing and it won't stop!" Panic was evident on her face, and in her voice. It was hard not to laugh, as it was a face that I hadn't seen before from her.

But, she was more than right. Not only was the toilet plugged, but the flapper was stuck open. So I had a lovely 360° perpetual waterfall cascading all over my floor.


I turned off the water at the shutoff. And because I couldn't resist, I turned to her and asked her pointedly, "Good Lord girl, what did you DO in here!?"

I knew full good and well that it wasn't her, but God that was fun.

(03/28/07 - 11:22 PM)
OH MY GOSH. I did it. I DID IT! I took a week off work!

Will I actually take it? WILL I?

Stay tuned!

(03/27/07 - 10:43 PM)
My Fadal™ operator told my a funny story today. His oldest son (he's maybe twelve) told him that he didn't have any more jeans to wear, and of course my operator didn't believe him (he's a kid - who believes kids?)

Consequently, he went to have a look for himself. First drawer? Socks, so on... nope, no jeans. Second drawer? shirts, shorts... nope. Third drawer? shirts, sticks, leaves... huh?

He asked his son, "What are the sticks and leaves all about?"

"Oh, those?", he replied. "Those are for the caterpillars."

"Caterpillars!", my operator said. And sure enough, upon inspection he did see a caterpillar. "I only see the one."

"Huh", came the reply. "I wonder what happened to the other five?"

(03/26/07 - 11:22 PM)
Yeeps! Okay, I don't mind people reading my book. BUT, it would help if I didn't accidentally upload a five-year old second draft, in place of a one year old fifth. This is exactly what I did.

So, I need a huge favor. Anyone who downloaded it, DELETE it, and DO NOT READ it. It's bad. It's rough, and it's not a reflection of what it ought to be (I just hope that no one has yet found this out firsthand.)

I'm working on a heavy revision, so as soon as it's done, I'll post that. And then I encourage you to read that one. It'll be much better

Also, I found a new editor - so, yay!

(03/25/07 - 9:01 PM)
Finished Lincoln Child's first solo novel "Utopia" tonight. Again, I can't stress enough what a talent this man is at spinning a great story. To be honest, I had avoided this one, because the topic seemed bland - people take over an amusement park. Wa-hoo!

As I have said so often before, I was mistaken. The theme was at best understated, and the story proved to be excellent (think "Die Hard" or "Ocean's Eleven" and you get the picture.)

I highly recommend this book, especially if you are a fan thrillers. It is well written, well paced and above all interesting. The characters are solid, and the situations seem well researched and wholly plausible.

Like this book? The only one that I can equate it to even remotely is Cory Doctorow's "Down And Out In The Magic Kingdom" which is loosely connected as amusement park fiction (though I personally don't recommend this title, it has received wide acclaim as a seminal work - something I don't get...)

(03/25/07 - 10:59 AM)
Jim, our expediter at work, told me this week that he liked my writing style, and that I should write a book. I let him know that, in fact, I had done just that. He then asked, "Why don't you publish it?" Where to begin answering that one?

Publishing a book is tough. You have to know what you're doing, and then convince other people to give you four seconds of their time. Worse, even if you do manage to get four seconds, you have to seriously wow them in four seconds.

Now, I don't know if any of you out there have noticed, but books are a progressive animal. They ramp up like a rollercoaster, and then drop off in a thrilling manner. It's next to impossible to do this in a 1-2 chapter submission to an agent. But, someone must be doing it, because books - even crappy ones - get published every day.

Now, I don't begrudge agents their cynicism. They're paid to weed out the crap, and I humbly respect that. But I know that my book is good. Damn good. I'm not a prideful or immodest person - I've just read hundreds of books, and I know good when I read it. I also know that it's not a great book. It will never be a "DaVinci Code" or a "Jurassic Park", but on a scale from 1-10, it's about a 6.

So, Jim, to answer your question honestly - I haven't tried. I demoralized myself so much that I figured it was pointless. But now I'm not so sure...

So I've decided that, in the words of Jim Croce (God rest his soul), "If it gets me nowhere, I'll go there proud."

I'm going to seriously try and get it published. At least then, I'll know that I've tried.

Thank you, to Wanda, Julie, Dena, Marilyn, Jessica & Jim for believing in me. It's a great feeling knowing that good people are on your side.

(03/24/07 - 11:12 PM)
I finished Alan Moore's "The Watchmen" tonight. WOW. I had mixed expectations, based on the fact that over the years I had read reviews that both glorified and villified this work. Even worse, it was often touted as "the best comic book of all-time."

With that statement, I do still disagree. For my money, Neil Gaiman's "The Sandman" series is still hands-down the best thing going in comics to this day. But this work does come in a solid second.

Moore, who also wrote such luminous comic book series as "'V' For Vendetta", "The League Of Extrordinary Gentlemen", "Miracleman", etc. really seems to take a logical step here in the world of comic books that no one to my knowledge has thus far done on this scale.

The story is centered around a group of marginally "super" superheroes who try to get it together and get it right, but are also glaringly human. Having human frailties, emotions and fears is something often relegated to the back burner in comics, and this brings it all right to the fore, with all the "bang", "zap", & "pow" left smouldering on the back burner at best (there are a few action sequences, but they feel almost tacked on in this work.) And this is a good thing, in this case - it's what makes the story so compelling. Very quickly, you begin to take notice of the humanity behind these characters. And empathy is only a step behind. And it's compelling. I found myself emotionally craving closure for these characters, where often none was ultimately found.

And the questions raised about personal, as well as societal humanity are extremely poignant ones - and are difficult to swallow at times. Is it possible to forgive egregious evil in the name of a far greater good? Is violence an acceptable means to a justifiable and positive end, or is pacifism the only route, albeit a more elegant and time-consuming one?

Was it a good story? No. It was a GREAT story, and I highly recommend it. Best comic of all time? Close, but no cigar. Neil is still the king. Er, Dream King, that is.

Recommended Reading:
"The Sandman" Series - Neil Gaiman
"Death: The High Cost Of Living" - Neil Gaiman
"Death: The Time Of Your Life" - Neil Gaiman

(03/23/07 - 10:18 PM)
We went to the bank today. Oh, yeah, and the teller shorted us $100.00 on our deposit. Now, this isn't as bad as the time the teller gave me $12,000.00 extra dollars on my deposit (third best three minutes of my life, after being married and cashing the flip check, respectively.)

But, I had to fight to get it back (I guess this is how alimony must feel). I explained to her that I believed there was an error. I watched her do a bunch of flitting things with her fingers, pick up what I assume to be portions of the transaction, talk animatedly to herself and gesture ALOT with her hands while doing so, etc. Two minutes later, she says that she feels the deposit was correct, as all the items all added up to her number, and would I like to confirm this for myself? Oh, did I mention that she did this into the intercom of the next car over, and not mine? I'm pretty sure I did...

Yep, I would like to check it, I said. So, she sends the stuff out. My deposit, its components, and a tape she ran to show that her work was right. There was just one little problem. When you put her tape next to my list o' deposited items, the top item read "$100.00" on hers, and "$200.00" on mine. And there was $200.00. So, I decided that maybe she just hadn't seen this when she re-enetered everything a second time from my deposit slip and subsequently checked it and decided she was right...

What the hell is wrong with people? I'm all about forgiving mistakes. But, c'mon... when you re-add numbers you make up, and then put them side by side and don't see a simple $100.00 error? How the hell can you work in a bank like this?

"Hi! I'm a colorblind artist. I'm also regular-blind too, but that doesn't stop me from creating great art! Er, at least they tell me it's great..."

Lamont *(see below), do you have a white, female, aquiline-nosed cousin working at the bank?


(03/22/07 - 10:41 PM)
I've finally gotten over my week-long headache. Let me explain... When I first started my diet (about two years ago I reckon) I also quit drinking caffeine (the only word I know, where the "I" before "E", except after "C" rule gets broken). As time went on, I let a little sneak in here or there, but I cut out soft drinks and most of my coffee.

Over this winter, however, I let my diet slip a bit. Subsequently, I got back on the caffeine - slowly at first - until I was drinking 6+ cans of diet soda a day again (Yah-Hoo! Mountain Dew!.) I rationalized this by thinking that the more burned out I got at my job (and the burnout keeps mounting of late) the more false-energy I would need to make it throught the day. It got so bad, that I was just drinking them one after another without even realizing it - or enjoying them.

So I decided, enough was enough, and that I was going to go back to the old methods that had worked. And I quit drinking it cold turkey. Oh, bad idea. The base of my skull felt like there was a progressively inflating baloon in there, and the pain was excruciating - 24-7. If my heart rate picked up for any reason, it got exopnentially worse, to the point where I felt like I would pass out or throw up - or both.

Determined, I rode it out. And today, it finally ebbed to being something that was a mere nuisance on the verge of my constant notice.

So, my advice? Don't guzzle caffeine to begin with. Especially in the form of sugar soft drinks. The empty calories alone will kill your weight. And even the diet soft drinks increase appetite - there's a reason, but don't ask me to recall it (something about your body thinking it's getting caloric intake, and preparing for said calories - but then getting nothing calorie-wise even though it's ready for it... I think.)

Drink WATER. Not juice (empty calories again.) If you need vitamins, etc. take vitamins. Do vitamins have calories? I wonder...

(03/21/07 - 11:44 PM)
I got Wanda hooked on "Ratchet & Clank" - one of the best video games of all time. The sights! The sounds! The gameplay! The camera angles! The weapons! The variety! The sheer joy and fun!

Oh, my gosh, this game has everything! As I watched her playing, I even got a little jealous - I wanted to experience the game from a fresh perspective like she was. I had forgotten just how good this title was, and how much I had loved it. Sadly though, you only get to experience it for the first time once. >Sigh<.

Never played this title? Go get it! Now! Are you still reading! Go, man, go! Stop reading this! Seriously - go get it right this second!

(03/20/07 - 11:37 PM)
My boss decided it would be funny to send our old driver (who went out for lunch, and never came back) a card. On the outside, it had nine little panels showing a dog winning a first place ribbon, saying things like "Great Job!" and "You're No. 1!". Inside, he added, "Thanks for quitting - and doing us all a favor! We really appreciate it!". Which, my staff subsequently signed with glee. We were all pretty happy to see him go.

Remind me to never get on the staffs' bad side. These guys are brutal.

(03/19/07 - 8:12 PM)
We hired a new driver at work today. The old one apparently had finished his mission of discovery here on Earth, and was ready to go back to his home planet after discovering the mysteries of the beret and whiskey, and subsequently unlocking their secrets for his alien bretheren to gaze upon in awe. Or, he quit - I dunno. Alot of stuff happens to me during the day and I can't pay attention to it all.

Which brings me to time. I watched a matched set of programs on The Discovery Channel regarding time. Big time, and small time, to be more precise.

From billions of years to nano-, pico-, femto- and attoseconds and on into Placnk time. Whew! Damn, my brain hurt. And it takes alot to make my brain hurt. And this got me to thinking again about one of those things that I try not to think about because it makes my mind go "Plink!". And yet, I did it again anyway.

The issue is, as always - universal expansion. Okay, the universe is infinite. And it is expanding, or so the red shift would have us believe. So the question is elegantly simple - where is it expanding to? If the universe is infinite, how can it expand beyond infinity?

My only theory on this, is that the distance of the universe is infinite, but the matter within it is not, and the matter itself is what is in fact expanding (berets and all) - not the universe itself. You with me so far? Can I get you some popcorn for the next couple of paragraphs? No? You're sure now? Okay, suit yourself...

So how can the universe be infinite, if we cannot comprehend infinity? And is it possible that all that matter will one day hit a fold in the universe, and meet up with its long- long- long-lost cousins? Or does it just keep going until like the Energizer bunny?

And for that matter... heh... Get it? Matter? Heh... ahem... sorry. For that matter, where did matter come from in the first place? Was it created by God? If God created matter and therefore, the universe, what was here before? And how can we comprehend nothingness, if we can't comprehend infinity by virtue of the fact that we exist - or perceive ourselves to exist...


Whoo! There it is. Took longer than I thought for my brain to misfire. Coconut walruses, anyone? They're full of... of... Hey, who's drooling on me? Oh! Oh, that's me. Why am I drooling? Why is there a typewriter attached to my TV here? Where's my burrito...

(03/18/07 - 10:22 PM)
I finished my first Philip K. Dick book tonight. It's hard to believe, but for as prolific an author as he was (I'm pretty sure he's dead, but research takes time, soooo... We'll just call him dead for the sake of argument) I have never read any of his work until now. I picked up "Ubik" because, well - frankly, it was short. And I needed short. It's too bad that he never won the Philip K. Dick award for science fiction though - not even once. You'd think he'd be a shoo-in.

It wasn't a bad book, per se (although it did smack a bit of Stephen King's "The Langoliers"). However, there were a great many sentences that went on waaaaay too long and lost themselves within themselves. What I initially thought to be bad writing was in actuality a plot device that was all neatly tied up in the end. The toughest part was in the realization that 1992 wasn't what 'ol Phil thought it would be. Hovercars? Smarmy doors that wouldn't open without giving them a nickel? Toasters with an attitude "You want a bagel WHEN, fat girl?" Not even close...

Can I recommend this book? Sure, why not. Would I go out of my way to do so? No, probably not.

What I have glimpsed now, however, is Dick's ability to spin a story. And he's very adept at it.

(03/17/07 - 8:47 PM)
Did a whole 'lotta nothing.

(03/16/07 - 9:17 PM)
We have a new WalMart up here in our neck of the woods (late night, bass-laden traffic, here you come!). So, we decided to check it out last night. Clean, spacious, different color pallette. Yep, everything was in order until... the checkouts.

Lamont... Lamont was his name. This automaton who could not operate his cash-register machine properly. For you see, Lamont forgot to scan in my DVD. And I had to gently remind him that while it was in the bag, it wasn't paid for. And while that was super nice of him, I simply could not accept his unreciprocated gift.

So, Lamont scanned my DVD. And my wife said, "I have that Visa gift card from Christmas, why don't we use that?" Ah, sound reasoning indeed.

So she slid it through the terminal. Lamont responded by hitting the appropriate key on his terminal, and all was bliss. Until...

The screen came up on the customer terminal for a signature, indicating that the card had been initially accepted by the terminal and that the transaction was nearly complete. Halfway through her signing her name, I saw Lamont in the corner of my eye reach forward and press a button. The signature screen disappeared and resumed asking for payment of some sort. Huh?

Then, Lamont speaks up inasmuch as he can. For you see, I can only assume that Lamont was in some horrible accident that robbed him of the use of his tongue and lower jaw - that, or he's a student of the venerable art of ventriliquism. At any rate, he looks at us and says, "It's declined."

What? How can it be declined when you ended the transaction during the signing phase? Okay, keep cool Heath, no problem. He's probably new, walk him through this. "Try it again dear." And then to Lamont, "This time, don't clear it during the signature. It should work fine."

I thought I saw comprehension in his dull eyes. A latent nod of assent, perhaps. So we tried it again. As Wanda was signing, I once again watched his hand creep toward the keyboard. And, once again, the screen dissipated while my wife was signing. Okay, now I was becoming cranky.

"Did you clear it again?", I asked pointedly.

Without blinking, ol' Lamont, he looks at me and says, "Yeah, it was declined."

"No," I said, "It wasn't declined. You pressed the button while she was signing. Why did you do that?"

Without moving his lips, tongue hanging in limbo and in a barely audible manner with a face blanker than a virgin canvas, he responds in what can only be classified as a slow drawl, "Cuz it tol' me to."

All I could think was, if it tol' you to rip off your foot and put it in your mouth, you'd probably do that too (okay, actually I was thinking about a distinctly male appendage and his ear, but it's the same premise.)

What the hell is wrong with people? He can see she's signing - that the transaction is incomplete - so of course no money has changed hands - the transaction isn't done, moron. It's not declined, it's just not done. It WILL work. It ALWAYS does.

I like cake.

(03/15/07 - 11:48 PM)
Finally! I finished "River Of Gods" by Ian McDonald. Geez, this book made me feel dumb. And it was big, so it made me feel dumb for an inordinate amount of time.

It had something like seven inter-twining storylines that all came together. Now, I'm all for this style of writing, but here's the rub. It was set in India. And the author seemed to have no qualms showing his reading audience how adept he was with the slang and language of the region. The problem with this is that we have no idea what every fourth word means, and the names are more convoluted than the rules for Three-Cornered Pitnety (thank you, Mad Magazine!)

Was it worth the read? Yes, and no. It was wordy. Excessively so. I'm all for poetic writing - if I'm reading poetry. But when EVERY sentence feels like a carefully honed Haiku, it's hard to grasp the story while you're attempting to simultaneously parse meaning.

I don't recommend it, unless you're heavily into the science fiction genre, and need something new to read. It's good, but I don't know that it was worth the massive commitment of time it took to finish. And the ending was something of a letdown as well. I felt all dressed up, with no place to go.

Recommended Reading:
"Idoru" - William Gibson

(03/14/07 - 11:13 PM)
My driver did something dumb today. We have a procedure at work, and I won't bore you with the details, but short of a human being not following said procedure, it's bulletproof. Guess what my driver did anyway?

So, I called him on it. He first tried to shift blame. I cut him off on that one by letting him know that I would be calling the party in question and ripping him a new one, because he was in the wrong, and my driver was in the right. No, no, he says. Maybe it was me, I had such a hectic day, it's hard to tell.

Hectic day? Are you serious? Here's what the guy does for a living - He goes from one place to another - sometimes picking something up, sometimes dropping things off. All of this is dicatated by a keen little sheet we give him with specific instructions, a list of stops, and an order and instructions for said stops. How is this hectic?

Once, he even took me aside after a particularly egregious error on his part (that never should have happened) and gently said to me as though he were speaking to his twelve-year old son, "Heath, with all due respect, you just don't understand how hard my job is. In fact, I have the hardest, most stressful job here." And he was serious!

Anyway, after calling him on his error, and finally getting him to admit in the absolutely most roundabout way possible that perhaps he was ultimately responsible for his own destiny, I explained for the umpteenth time how important it is to follow procedure. He looks me in the eye and says, "I know. In fact, the owner and I have had this conversation several times, so I'll let you know what I always let him know. I just have to try harder, and it won't happen again."

Okay, now I was pissed. THE OWNER, never took him aside. THE OWNER, isn't the one that's been gently reminding him to do his job for months. THE OWNER, wasn't the one he had promised. That was ME, you jackson. Which proves my point quite elegantly - this guy can't remember a damn thing.

What the hell is wrong with people?

(03/12/07 - 11:21 PM)
I was flipping through a book I have called "1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die" and I noticed a disturbing trend. Suicide, to be specific. Sylvia Plath, Yukio Mashima, Hunter S. Thompson, John Kennedy Toole, Romain Gary. On and on and on. Poison, Hari Kari, gunshots, OD's. And this was only within a hundred pages of this massive book. Is it possible that suicides run this deep within other professions, but are not as well noted? Or are people whose brains are wired for what is considered to be striking writing just prone to offing themselves?

I just don't get it. How can someone who has achieved something that gains national attention (with the exception of Toole, who was posthumously published) simply end their life of their own volition? Perhaps madness is commensurate to genius after all.

(03/11/07 - 11:37 AM)
My new car smells like a charcoal grill. What gives? Plastic, sure. Metal and oil, okay. But charcoal? What smells like charcoal?

(03/10/07 - 10:25 PM)
We finally broke down and bought a car today. It only took us two years to make the decision, and that's gotta be some kind of record when it comes to me and parting with money (which I am alternately good and bad at.) I managed to sell the Pontiac™ in about four seconds, which I figured meant it was time to get a new car for sure.

We, being the exciting folks that we are, opted for another Subaru™. Another Forester™, in fact. Mostly, because I'm a total nut job if I know my wife is out there amongst the elements and the crazies (and the crazies in the elements) trying to survive. I figure that this gives her the best possible chance short of a tank to car joust and win, so that made it an easy re-decision.

>>>>BUY A SUBARU<<<<<
This liminal ad brought to you by Heath N' Wanda - your first choice in liminal blog ads!

Buying a car is a scary thing, though. Mostly because of money being involved. How long will it last? Is it worth it? When will I be able to roll around in Washingtons on my bed again, if I buy this? These are all questions that go through my mind (except for the Washingtons one - I've actually been forbidden, in writing, by the U.S. Government from rolling around in anything other than thousands for two reasons: they know that I'll never be able to afford this affectation and I think they also hate Grover Cleveland, for some reason. Maybe it was the moustache...)

(03/09/07 - 7:48 PM)
I ordered "Fletch And The Widow Bradley" by Gregory McDonald from across the pond (refer to my earlier post about how and why many of his books are impossible to find in the States.) This is the shortest of his books that I have read, at a whopping 156 pages. It was read in a couple of hours, but amazingly constituted a good and complete story, through and through. HOWEVER... the ending I actually figured out before it happened. This particular book was written in 1981 - when the ending would have been much, MUCH more shocking and inexplicable, so I can't really fault him for my having read it 26 years after the fact.

Was it a good afternoon read? Yep. Would I go out of my way to recommend this particular title? Nope, not unless you're working your way through the series - then it's kind of a foregone conclusion, isn't it?

(03/08/07 - 11:33 PM)
Wanda and I both fell asleep last night around nine o' clock for some inexplicable reason. We both woke up this morning feeling like entirely different people, and we figure that we just needed a load of sleep to get all of that extra stress that had built up in our system over the house and our jobs our of our systems.

Turns out, it worked.

(03/07/07 - 6:12 PM)
We finally sold the other house today. It was such a relief for that entire project to just be over. Work alone is stressful enough, in and of itself, but putting your entire liquid savings on the line to do a project that may or may not pan out is a bit unnerving even during its most placid moments.

On the whole, the project was a rousing success. I flipped a house at 32, so I'm calling that a win (my boss still beat me on this one by two years - he did it at 30, as I recall. I'll never eclipse this guy's accomplishments, as his risk-taking threshold is waaaay above mine, but it gives me something to shoot for.)

For the record, we made a profit, but we're not rolling around in money (see above post.) We worked hard, gave up all of our free time and were essentially paid straight time for it. (But at least we didn't lose money.)

Everyone keeps asking me, "Would you do this again?" Yes, and no. I would if I could find another project where the numbers said it was a sure thing. The inherent problem is beating the experts in this field, and the good ol' boy network that exists among realtors who also do this. And that's a tough proposition. So, yes, if I can find a project like that, then I would do it again.

The only down side came when I realized two things:
I would never again set foot in my grandparents' house again, and that made me inexplicably sad in some ways. And that my father never came to see what I had done, which made me inexplicably sad as well.

But, all is well that ends well, and this definately ended well.

So long, Lee & Bud, wherever you may be.

(03/06/07 - 10:03 PM)
One of my employees came up to me today. It's true! Hey, it happens - I try and drive them off, but inevitably one or two are bound to get through my defenses.

So, he arrives within my gravitational field, and asks, "Hey Heath, can you check your calendar in the office and see what time my dentist appointment is on Thursday? I can't remember if it's the one o' clock or the three o' clock appointment. Then can you check the time for the next one next week too?"

Wow. I'm a walking BlackBerry™ now. >Chirp Chirp<

On a lighter note, I finished "Old Twentieth" by Joe Haldeman (of "The Forever War" and "Forever Peace" acclaim.) This book was touted as a top pick in recent fiction in a special section of Firsts Magazine. I disagree.

It was good inasmuch as it was competently written, but not passionately written. It had no life of its own. In many ways, it vaguely reminded me of John Brunner's "The Tides Of Time" (a very bad book) and Greg Egan's "Permutation City" (something I could probably recommend.) It vacillated soundly between being somewhat interesting and relatively boring. The premise was alright, but it's been done to death - and in better ways.

That being said, I did like the end of the book. Not the plotline itself (which was marginal based on its' freshness date having expired umpteen years ago) but the writing suddenly became much more powerful and somehow that made it more compelling. The book seemed to hit its stride, just as it was ending.

I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone who wasn't a hardcore science fiction fan. If you're just discovering the genre, or you don't venture there often, there are a number of better choices to deplete your time. But, if you're a hardcore SF fan, and you've read alot of the recent, cutting-edge, seminal works (Gibson, Stephenson, Sterling, Kress, et al) then this is a satisfactory aside.

I'm not sure if that's a recommendation or a denunciation. Take your pick, I guess.

(03/05/07 - 11:43 PM)
My driver recently broke his toe. Now, I've never broken my toe before (a finger once, but that's the extent of my skeletal dissociation.) But the way this guy makes it look, he's giving ectopic birth 24-7. Anyway, there's a story in here somewhere...

>SEARCH<... Hmm... Nope, this is a turnip.

>SEARCH SEARCH SEARCH<... Uh... Umm... I don't know what this is. Is it the cap from some kinda pen? I dunno...

Lessee... >SEARCH<... Whoa! I didn't know that was in there!

Ah, here it is. A story! Prior to departing last Friday, I imparted some of my nefarious... er... infinite wisdom. I said, "Dude, take it easy this weekend, and keep off that foot!" Sagacity to go round on that one!

So, Monday inevitably rolls around. And the mindless banter for the week begins with me saying, "So, how was your weekend? Did you stay off that foot?"

Now, there are any number of acceptable answers to this question. Heck, there's even a few maringally appropriate answers. But nothing - nothing - prepared me for...

"Nope. My mom decided that she wanted me to do her laundry. And then she wanted to go to the flea market."

"Really?," I replied, "The flea market?"

Here it is folks, honest to God, without blinking he looks at me and says, "Yeah, she wanted to look for a beret."

Really? God, I wish I could make this stuff up - I'd be rich. Or at least way more entertaining at parties. "Son! Don't rest a minute! I simply must find a jaunty little used beret today! There's no time to lose! Quickly - the flea market waits for no one!"

Again, I say, "Really?"

(03/04/07 - 7:43 PM)
Oh, Mr. Child, you've done it again! "Death Match", Lincoln Child's second novel, was almost as good as "Deep Storm" *(see below). It's about a matchmaking firm that matches people with nearly perfect accuracy - every time - based on over a million variables. And once in a while (six times, to be exact) the massive computational infrastructure (named LIZA) gets it 100% right.

But something goes wrong, when the "perfect" couples begin committing double suicide... OoOoOoOo...

After reading this teaser, I was in. And it didn't disappoint. I recommend this book as a great aside, for the reader who needs a break from the norm. I'm also a huge techno-geek, so nods to Mauchly, PDP's and ALGOL are wildly appreciated whenever they're offered. If you simply adore Crichton, you'll probably like this. And if you liked this book...

Recommended Reading:
"Neuromancer" - William Gibson
"Snow Crash" - Neal Stephenson
"Prey" - Michael Crichton
"Digital Fortress" - Dan Brown

(03/03/07 - 10:26 PM)
I finished Gregory McDonald's "Fletch And The Man Who" tonight. It was a competent book, and what would be expected from a book in this series. I applaud Mr. McDonald for finding an excuse to get Fletch onto the campaign trail, as it gave him a new and plausible venue for his own brand of mischief. That being said, there was a glaring lack of his trademark mischief (so much potential lost!) Further, this book's ending left (in my eyes) a lot to be desired. On the whole, it was a good read though.

Now, I do have one open-ended question: why are the books in the center of the Fletch series impossible to find in American hardcover first editions? I've had to go across the pond to get copies in hardcover (British Hardcovers, to be precise.) What gives on this one? Anyone?

(03/02/07 - 10:48 PM)
The weather was bad today, up in my neck of the woods. Picture a hurricane with snow, and you've pretty much got the visuals nailed down. Snow was everywhere, wind was prevailing, dumb people were driving, somewhere your tax dollars were hard at work in the form of big orange trucks. That kind of day.

I got a phone call. I said, "Hello", and so forth. It was the wife of my Fadal™ operator calling. She was stuck in a ditch, in her four-wheel-drive Jeep™. Did I mention that the weather was kind of bad? I'm fairly sure that I did...

Anyway, she tells me to get her husband on the line. I complied, without a second thought. It's common for a spouse to call another spouse in times of trouble and need to sort it all out, right?

Normally, yes. And, God help me, I should have seen this coming. But, I didn't. C'est la vie. I went out to said employee, and explained the situation to him. I figured he'd be worried, wanting to leave early (which would be catastrophic for me, because we're so busy I need the guy chained to the machine in Ben-Hur slave garb, practically.) But instead, and to what shouldn't have been to my surprise (but was) his response was immediate:

"What the hell is she calling me for? She a dispatcher for Maggio's towing company!"

(03/01/07 - 8:37 PM)
On a whim, I picked up a book that I had started several months ago, said, "Pfffft" to, and summarily re-indexed in amongst its 1800-some-odd bretheren.

As I began reading it again, I asked myself, "Dude, what the hell were you thinking? This is great!". I guess it's all a matter of mood. But, if you're in the mood for a dark, brooding, cyberpunk novel, then "Woken Furies" by Richard K. Morgan delivers where his last two books have failed to do so. It's tight, it's complex (almost too complex for my brain to take in - too many characters, too many intertwined plotlines) but if you're smarter than me, its complexity can probably be better appreciated.

The novel returns to us Takeshi Kovacs - the anything-but-lovable, thrice-over centegenarian protagonist from previous novels ("Altered Carbon" & "Broken Angels") for another go at Harlan's World. And this novel, unlike "Broken Angels", is pretty engrossing. So much so, that I seriously recommend reading this one in as few segments as possible - the story will flow alot better and make alot more sense. Otherwise, I found that things were getting lost as I read it (I ended up working alot this last week *(see below), and either kept putting it down to do things like eat, or because I fell asleep with my nose in it after trying to read for more than five minutes at a stretch.)

Finally, you really can't read this book (in my opinion) without having read the precursing two books in the series mentioned above. It won't make nearly as much sense (if at all, in fact.) So I encourage you to read them first.

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