Saturday, April 12, 2014

Weather - Walking - Wonderful Dessert

It was a beautiful day today so I went to the movies to celebrate by seeing Captain America: Winter Soldier. As I was watching a movie about a government turning against it's citizens in real life our own government was setting up for a real life stand off with some ranchers in a land grab of some sort. Real life & art.. After I left the theater I grabbed some strawberries, chopped them up, sprinkled some Splenda on them and took them to Cory's house with some sour cream saying, "Hey, wanna go for a walk then we'll eat this?" Turns out that was just the key to turn the Cory going for a walk lock. We grabbed a neighbor and her four kids and went for a walk. It was beautiful and we were racing a thunderstorm out and back. It was a race well run, and we won.

What this map doesn't show you is that at the end of the walk is a hill, a real life honest to goodness hill. I say hill. It's not that big a hill. According to my GPS it's about 40ft (4 stories) in 0.15 miles (or 792ft) Somehow I don't think this is right. It's a lot steeper than I'm coming up with at only 5%. The problem is my map doesn't show where the hill starts so I'm using where I started running to find it, but I started running before the start of the hill. My peak speed was over 11mph. It wasn't for long, but it WAS up to the base and then half way up the hill. I slowed significantly as the hill got steeper.

The point is though, I ran all the way to the top of the hill and beat both 12 year olds who were on bikes to the top. They were both surprised. I was also surprised. My 31 & 40 year old friends were also impressed. She said, "I've never seen a white-boy run that fast." He said, "I don't think you should run that fast while chasing boys on bikes out in public any more." I don't think they were as appreciative of my athletic form as they should have been.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Reading Differently

I read a LOT on my phone. Sometimes I get where I'm going early or have a couple minutes so I whip out my phone, call up the kindle app or Google's Books app and read for a few minutes. It's great.

I think it's reducing my enjoyment of some books though. I've made an effort recently to change the way I read a book. I've got several books going all the time anyway so I'm reading one of them, Snuff, by Terry Pratchett, in big chunks. If I've got more than half an hour to read I go for Snuff. Anything less than that and I grab one of the other books. I really enjoy immersing myself in a world, into a book, and my theory was reading in the short fits and starts of the drive through line and during breaks at work was reducing my enjoyment of reading, or at least of the books I was reading.

So far I'm half way through Snuff and I'm enjoying that time reading more. I'm enjoying the book more. It feels more cohesive to me. I may have to get some short stories or online magazines to read during those short bursts in the future so an otherwise good book isn't hurt by the tiny chunks of time I manage to scrape together through a day to enjoy the book.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Book Review: Eye of God by R.J. Blain

The Eye of God by R.J. Blain is a fantasy story, part one of the Fall of Erelith, involving two protagonists set in a richly realized world with a very strong religious based magic system.

I'm acquainted with R.J. Blain through Google+ and find her interesting and someone I'd enjoy a cup of coffee with if the opportunity ever presented itself.

I really enjoyed her book but that doesn't make it perfect. On amazon I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. If three stars is average it was above average. It wasn't 5 star perfect though.

The blurb on amazon talks almost entirely about one of the protagonists, Blaise, who appears to be some sort of exiled, or fallen angel and the other protagonist, Terrin -- a slave who wears a magical collar that punishes him with pain if he acts or even thinks, against his master's wishes, is mentioned in only the last sentence of the blurb.

That being said the book started with Terrin in a tense situation and opened a lot of questions that made me really want to keep reading the book. That part was perfect. The part that was off-putting for me was that since the book started with him I sort of, as a reader, assumed he'd be the primary focus of the book. Sure, books can have two protagonists, but one is usually the main guy and the other sort of a B-story line and eventually the two merge or intersect. So I was a little confused why Blaise got 90-95% of the blurb but we started with Terrin. I felt off balance because of that.

Terrin, as a slave whose actions are controlled by the collar make him really a passive character. As protagonists go it was a little frustrating to me. I like my protagonists to be people of action. Terrin was a puppet on strings, jerked about by whomever stood in front of him that wasn't wearing a collar. He'd worn the collar for as long as he could remember so freedom wasn't something he was familiar with. He couldn't even realistically rebel against the collar because it a) punished thought and b) had been there so long he was effectively like a broken docile horse. Yes, he did things that were exciting and cool, but it was always at the behest of someone else. Puppets make really boring protagonists.

Blaise, a fallen angel, maybe exiled for something? Maybe he can earn his way back into the good graces of the pantheon's god? Blaise was ridiculously interesting. If you've seen Arrow on The CW you'll get my next comparison if you haven't I'll try and explain it. Blaise's most interesting bits weren't what he was doing at the time of the book. That was interesting (if convoluted -- more later) sure, but his back story that we were given in little doses here and there was fascinating. I loved it. It was like watching Arrow where the scenes from the island, the flashbacks, were awesome and kept my interest. Blaise's past was incredibly interesting to me and not revealed in long swaths of exposition, but parsimoniously doled out over the whole book. It really worked. It built tension. It built suspense. It kept me interested in the Blaise character. I can see why he featured so prominently in the blurb. He was and is a lot more interesting than the puppet on strings that Terrin was in this first book.

Blaise in the here & now of the book was sometimes convoluted, honestly, the whole book was sometimes convoluted in that R.J. Blain tended to not want to over-share and bury us as readers in details or back story. I get that. But sometimes things were a little too sparse and I felt like whole paragraphs had been hacked out in the editing process that would have cleared things up for me. At the end of the book I wasn't lost or confused so the information was there, it was just not put there in a way that made things easy for me as a reader. That's okay I think. Some books are an easy read. The stuff is spoon fed to me in chronological order and there isn't a heck of a lot of work I need to do.

The Belgariad is one of my favorite series ever. It's not, by any stretch, a complicated or challenging book/series. Eye of God is going to require the reader to think and remember things they've read and put them together themselves. It was such a change from what I normally read at first I was put off by it. By the end of the book it wasn't something that I disliked so much as something that was different. I'll definitely read book two but I'll do so knowing that it's going to require thought on my part, work on my part. It won't be a super relaxing beach read. That's not what R.J. is writing and she's doing it on purpose. Does she limit her audience when she does that? Yeah, probably. I'm guessing she wants smart readers. If she revealed a little more, a little earlier, a little... more spoon-feeding would go a long way to broadening her audience. I think.

Having said that I was thinking about things she did in her book that I liked that I'd want to do in mine. Things I'd "fix" in my book that I messed up on. (To be clear I'm not saying she messed up. I believe her choices were deliberate.) But after publishing Jump/Drive I've started noticing things in my book that I'd change if I had it to do over again. I'm going to save that for another post or this one will get too long. Look for it toward the end of the week.

*Links to amazon are affiliate links and if you buy something following those links I'll earn some small amount of money. I thought it'd be underhanded to not mention it. Click & buy. Help a starving artist. :)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Review: Stouffer's fettuccini alfredo

Stouffer's fettuccini alfredo
It never does look as pictured does it?

This is the fettuccini alfredo I was initially asked to try first and I avoided it because it didn't have chicken or broccoli in it and I like both.

If alfredo is going to be bad it should at least be filling.

This wasn't filling enough. My guess is the plate pictured here, the one on the box, on the left, was a saucer. It would take two of these to fill me up and I don’t eat a lot normally. It wasn't terribly filling. What it was was... boring. The sauce didn't have enough pepper or garlic but it was creamy, and there was a lot of it. The noodles weren't swimming in sauce. The sauce was too thick for that. It was really thick and creamy and there was enough of it to get a healthy amount in each bite. I liked that. After I chewed the bite though, it didn't need a LOT of chewing, the noodles were a little over cooked and I’m not sure if that was my cooking or the noodles themselves.

I’ve definitely had less mushy noodles, after I chewed the bite the creamy sauce and that was the flavor and the texture. It was thick and creamy. It clung to the noodles well. There wasn't any sort of strong cheese flavor or any of the spices I associate with good alfredo sauce. It was just creamy. Good texture, but not a strong flavor. There was an after flavor though that I can only describe as watery. It happened after every bite. I felt like I’d just eaten bread dipped in water. That feeling your mouth gets that it’s just eaten something too saturated with water. I wonder if it was a result of the noodles being over-cooked? I don’t know. It wasn't a bad flavor. It was just odd.

Would I eat it again? Sure. If someone else bought it. I wouldn’t buy it on purpose though. It wasn't filling enough to buy on purpose and I’ve had better sauces and the lack of the chicken left me wanting more too. This wouldn’t be a bad starter alfredo if you had pepper, maybe some garlic powder, you know, garlic oil would be better, just a little bit stirred in would have helped. A chicken breast would have helped lots too. Have I mentioned it left me hungry?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Different managers/Different types

In the many years I've worked for other people:

  • I've had managers I respected so I did what they asked because I knew it was the right thing to do. I trusted them and knew if I did what they asked something positive would come out of it that would help us all. 
  • I've had managers I liked and I did what they asked because I hoped they'd like me back. That whole weird striving for approval through hard work thing. Yeah, I grew out of that. I mean I still work hard. I just mean I don't do it hoping they'll like me for it. I could give two figs if they like me, just appreciate that I work hard and am a good worker. Like me? Don't care.
and finally
  • I've had managers I did what they asked to get them to STOP TALKING TO ME. I'll do it. Please, just shut up. I can't stand hearing your voice. Every word you say is like a nail through my ears. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SHUT UP! I'm doing it. See, working. Now, go away, bother someone else! Oh God, my ears are bleeding. Make them stop talking to me!!! 
Some management styles are more effective than others, and some I think are more sought after than others. But I still think the respect one is the best one. Sure, they all get the job done, but the respect one gets it done more consistently.

So, now people I've worked with and for are all going to try and figure out where they are on the list. Obviously I didn't include every type of manager on here, and not everybody is purely one of the three here, and some of them aren't at my longest job so don't think they're all you. They probably aren't. Well, unless you're the one that prompted me to kick the bathroom door. You,  I just wanted to STOP TALKING!!!