An actual serious post

I’ve finally been getting back into working on my latest book. There are plenty of great excuses (mostly involving a lot of time spent away from home due to work) and I’m glad to be able to get back to my story and characters. It’s my preferred way to relax, to vent, to be creative and feel like I’m building something rather than just sitting around watching TV shows about spoiled housewives or beauty-pageant moms.
I’m at a point in the story where a character is going to need to deal with an issue that’s been a long time in coming. She’s just lucky when it comes to her little corner of the war; she gets the job done, takes risks and always seems to make it out alive (if not a bit roughed up in the process).
People always line up to go out with her on the next op, but she comes back and usually some of their number don’t. So she finally has the revelation that she’s surviving and they aren’t.
I want to explore her dealing with survivor’s guilt. Now, I know a lot of people from transplant recipients to firefighters to natural disaster survivors can run across this affliction, but the story is about a fighter pilot and so that’s where it centers.
I’ve been reading websites, various foundations that study and help treat this condition. I should probably surf some message boards as well.
The quandary is this: I want to acknowledge this real issue and the fact that it happens. This is a story, an action novel, but the real world is not just Michael Bay and John Woo movies. Real people deal with the consequences later. The problem is, this is not a series of books that is meant to focus solely on heavy issues. I want the story to move, to be fun and yet serious in a Joss Whedon sort of way.
So, I want her to have to come to grips with this, but I don’t want the story to become JUST about this. I want it to be authentic, to honor the very real condition and acknowledge that it can and will happen to anyone, but I don’t want it to feel fake or forced, like I was somehow obligated to shove something in there to show I’m aware of a particular cause.
That’s all, really. No witty comparisons of original vs JJ Abrams Trek or anything like that, just venting the thoughts hammering around my head right now.
I will keep reading and try to have my character deal with this situation as realistically as possible. It’s not the sort of thing that gets ‘fixed’ by the end of a chapter, so I hope I can do it justice.

Do we still have philosophers?

Greetings all.

Sorry I haven’t kept up on posting the blog like I should; I’ve seen formulas for how often a blogger should send something to the people who have subscribed.  No matter whose computations you’re using, I have failed miserably.  I can throw out all kinds of great and well-thought-out excuses (big changes at work, household projects, being involved with our kids’ various activities and sports, even a brief encounter with a three headed demon that we accidentally unleashed from an enchanted cell while digging in our backyard.  That took a whole weekend to straighten out, by the way.)

That being said, I had a thought the other day.  Well, two thoughts.  First, I needed to buy more yogurt.  Second, I wanted to pick up a new philosopher/interesting person to read.  I’ve made my way through Nietzsche and I’ll be damned if he wasn’t an interesting fellow.  Love him, hate him, or think he was bat-turds crazy, you couldn’t read his works without examining your own life and decisions.  And really, isn’t that what a philosopher’s job is?  You don’t have to agree with them, but if you sit back and think about your own path I figure they did their job.

I had settled on Yeats.  I know a few lines and I decided to look around the library when I was struck by the thought that the typical philosopher we picture in our heads is probably dead.  Philosophy and philology used to be high powered, tenured, revered posts at universities across the globe.  Once a guy made his name, he got on staff and spent the rest of his life flinging insightful barbs out at the rest of us and maybe doing the occasional speaking tour.  Maybe he’d challenge another thinker to philosophize or something in a smoky back room bar or something really interesting.

It didn’t seem to me like we have those types of people any more.  I was about to be sad (because I get sentimental about the weirdest things.  I still feel sorry for the poor dusty fax machine under my desk), but then I thought that maybe things have changed.  Maybe we’re all philosophers now.

Think about it: anyone with an internet connection and a free blog page can have a forum to the world.  Whether anybody cares is a different story, I suppose, though it strikes me that many great writers and artists weren’t fully appreciated in their day.

Still, the idea is out there; if you have a deep thought, one that might change the very way we approach life, you can spread it to the masses and the whole world can be enlightened.  You don’t have to be an old tenured professor wearing a plaid vest and using a cane in order to have your words heard and appreciated.

Anyone with a blog can be a philosopher.  Plain and simple.  So, share your wisdom with the masses!

 

 

ps- My suggestion to share your wisdom is in fact the only wisdom I have to offer at this time.

 

I’m Ryan and I eat these things

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I was going through the ‘getting to know you’ phase with a couple new co-workers yesterday. I walked in on the conversation as they were talking about their various dietary choices, and it sounded something like this:
“I’m paleo.”
“I’m gluten free.”
“I’m vegan.”

I had to chuckle. Now, let me be very clear about this: I don’t care what you eat, where you do it, or who you do it with. It’s your life, not mine, and as long as you’re not actually hurting me in the process, I encourage you to do whatever makes you happy.
It just made me think of a scene that could have been in a Steve Martin movie, maybe L.A. Story.
So, now I will introduce myself as “almost-middle-aged-guy-who-is-doing-his-best-to-eat-healthy-and-exercise-but-also-likes-meat-and-beer.”

And no, I cannot have the duck.

I was preparing a post of epic insight and thoughtfulness…

But I became distracted by the announcement of a cartoon.
You see, I love cars, and I have kids. I’ve made a habit of occasionally showing the kids bits of Top Gear episodes and occasional burnout videos on Youtube; you need to show the next generation the right things, after all.
Well, I was going to post some sample renders of my latest Sketchup 3D project, a battleship that I’ll be using for my next book cover. However, I ran across a post on Twitter from the Top Gear feed…

Top Gear guys to be on Phineas and Ferb!

Yup.  Clarkson, May, and Hammond will be lending their voices and likenesses to the animated show airing in the US in March.  Yes, I’m still working on that 3D model, but I’ll be taking time out to watch some tv with the kids as well!

 

Thanks a lot, WordPress app

So this is what I get for posting a blog entry from my phone. Somehow WordPress decided I wanted to password protect my blog so nobody could read it. Makes perfect sense…
Should be fixed now, so I hope toy give it another chance!

It’s a long way to the top (if you want to rock and roll)

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Alright, I stole that from AC/DC. Now that I have your attention, I’d like you to ponder something with me.
With the Olympics coming up, I’ve been thinking about all those athletes who spend their days training. And training. And then taking a nap and training some more. At some point in there, they probably work a job, but it seems like the people who want to compete at the Olympic level often sacrifice work careers in order to stay at the top of their game.
It dawned on me that these people are battling for a unique distinction: the Best in the World. That’s right; if you win Olympic gold, nobody will ever be able to talk smack about how you’re not good enough and they’ll beat you the next time you both race your bobsleds in the park. No, you are the best in the world, a feat displayed on a world stage in front of millions.
What would it be like to be the best? To feel that, for at least the next couple years, nobody else gets to say they’re as awesome as you? I personally think it would be pretty mind-blowing.
I mean, I figure I am pretty good at my job, know my way around a toolbox, can belch my name in one breath, and can still beat my kids at their video games, so I figure I’m doing ok. But the title of Best Minecraft Player is not in my future. Nor is Best Shower Drain Cleaner-Outer.
Now, don’t take this as melancholy longing for something I gave up along the way. I was never going to be a Level 100 Dungeon Master or championship hamburger chef, though Championship Minivan Drifter is something I’ve considered training for. Ken Block, I’m talking to you! Click here to see what I’m talking about. I have an all-wheel-drive minivan; I’ll give it a try anytime!
Is anyone out there the best at something?

Spotted: The Stig!

 

I received this from Top Gear’s Twitter feed.  Not sure how they did it, but of course if it involves cars you can’t count out the Stig when it comes to the possibility of analyzing and following the Google Truck and racing ahead in order to get a nice snapshot of himself.

Now, if only he’d been doing a big smoky burnout in something rare and expensive!

 

You have to start somewhere

ralph-mcquarrie-star-wars-matteI recently saw a Youtube video from Ashton Kutcher, of all people, where he tried to give the kids the low down on how to be successful.  Not some shiny, idealized Hollywood version, but a talk about hard work, perseverance, and being honest with yourself.  There was one part I love to tell people about – and I paraphrase- where he said he was never too good for any job he had.  Working his way up, he claimed that he never spent his days whining about how he was better than what he was doing and how he should be the CEO already, but that it was a stepping stone, an experience builder for his next job.  That’s the way the world works, oddly enough.  You put in your time, learn your trade, and if you’re really lucky you marry Demi Moore and make millions of dollars.

Think of all those great actors and directors; they got their start somewhere.  Harrison Ford built sets when George Lucas brought him on stage.  Joss Whedon was a script doctor on a Toy Story movie, Brad Pitt drove a limo and carted strippers around.  So stick with it, Fry Cook; one day you might well be on posters around the world!

Making a segue into another realm of the entertainment industry where hard work matters, there is also one shout-out that should be given to Ralph McQuarrie.  If you’re not a sci-fi or design geek, you may not know the name, which is a travesty.  But this one man was largely responsible for the Star Wars we all know, and like those script doctors and set guys who never seem to become household names, he was yet an integral part of the movies we all know and love.  Major character designs like Darth Vader, R2-D2, Chewbacca, many of the sets and major vehicles were all drawn by this man.  He also worked on the original Battlestar Galactica and others.  Here’s a perfect example of a guy who created things that were enjoyed by millions over decades, and yet many probably don’t know his name.

So think of all these things next time you are at your job and it’s not going your way.  Boss is riding you, co-workers are lazy and gross, and the taco truck in the parking lot is late for lunch.  Just take pride in plying your trade, because even if you never become Ashton Kutcher, you could still be a Ralph McQuarrie; incredibly important but in the shadows, known only to those that really matter.

Operating systems and Us

wI read another blog this morning where the poor soul was lamenting the latest crash of his operating system.  It struck me that it’s absolutely absurd that we really only have two apparent choices in how to run our computers.

First, Windows.  That should really be all that I need to say, right?  Windows versions are like old school Star Trek films; one good one, one bad one.  (The old phrase was the even numbered Trek films didn’t suck.  I even liked Nemesis, but I digress…)  Seems like Microsoft produces a decent OS, rides the wave for a few years, then realizes that they need to con all those old customers who aren’t paying for Windows any more into thinking that they need to upgrade.  They scrabble, put in a bunch of gimmicky crap and BLAMMO- Windows Vista.  This cycle has been repeated for years: Win 95 to Millennium and 2000, XP to Vista, Win 7 to Win 8.  I have Vista and while I have great hardware in the box, the damn thing is getting glitchier and glitchier.  I’ve been pricing out Win 7, and Win 8 is actually cheaper.  Pay more for a worse, less stable and clutter-filled OS?  It’s an absolutely ludicrous industry in which we buy a crappy operating system from a vendor, and then a couple years later pay THE SAME vendor again to get a better product which really should have been the solution all along.  And then, they’ll introduce another clunker and the horrible cycle of despair will start all over again…

Second, there’s Mac OS/X, Lion, whatever it’s called.  I hate it because it’s cartoonish, gimmicky, and I feel like I have absolutely zero control over what’s going on with my computer.  Really, where the hell did that file I just downloaded go?  I want to move it to another folder, but how does that work?  Argh!

Linux is of course the hidden gem here. It’s stable, businesses run their servers on it because it doesn’t crash, and it’s open source so it’s always getting better.  It’s just not quite user friendly enough to appeal to the masses, and part of me thinks that’s intentional.  It’s like a badge of tech nerd honor to be able to describe the latest Linux distro on your box at home.

Whatever happened to the Chromebook?  Here’s about 1/3 of an operating system.  It boots, manages files, but isn’t the whole package.  Frankly, I’d love it of Google made their own full-blown operating system.  I’d even pay for it!

Retailers hate Thanksgiving

turkey-gunRetailers hate Thanksgiving.  There, I said it.  I mean, this Black Friday thing has finally gone too far.

I know some people who do the shop-all-night thing and they seem to really enjoy it.  They’ve never been part of a stampeding mob or knocked over an old lady to get the last DS game/Barbie/toy-of-the-month.  They seem to like the experience of being out with each other just as much as snagging a good bargain.  Can’t find fault with that.  Now, it’s not for me (I stay home and  watch gratuitously explosion-filled movies until early in the morning, but I digress), but I can see why some people do it.

The idea was that everyone had their Thanksgiving meals, during which we all presumably gave thanks for family, making it through another year, buying Google stock just after the IPO; whatever we figured we should be grateful for.  It was a time to gather the family and relax a bit, then after all the festivities were over, the shopaholics could bid us farewell and go spend until dawn.

Well, the madness gets earlier every year, though it seemed like stores found ways to reward people who braved the cold to show up at 2:00 am by rolling out new doorbusters or otherwise coming up with something to keep people out late.  But this year, Toys R Us is open at 5 pm, with many other stores opening at 8.  What the hell?  When do families eat?  Are we supposed to just have a Thanksgiving Brunch and call it a day?

It just seems a bit ridiculous; retailers hoping to get people out to their stores when most folks, employees probably included, would rather be stuffing one more slice of pumpkin pie down and hoping to avoid the dreaded ‘reversal’.

Maybe next year we can cancel Thanksgiving altogether.  Just have a Turkey McMuffin, shop at noon, and then finish putting up the Christmas decorations, because the stores have had that crap out since September anyway.  Thanksgiving seems like the forgotten holiday, sandwiched in between the toys, candy, and decorations stores can sell for Halloween and the toys, food, and decorations stores sell for Christmas.  Wait- did I just figure it out?  Retailers hate Thanksgiving because there’s not a lot of associated merchandise they can sell people!

As for me, I’m already putting up New Year’s Eve streamers…

 

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