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Showing posts from January, 2016

January on Medium

I've been doing some blogging over on Medium for the past couple of months, so periodically, I'll be posting updates about what's up over there and what I've been doing and all that jazz. So far, I'm heading into Month #4 of a self-exploration about what I want and what I can do with myself when the less than family-friendly nature of my current job's schedule and demands gets to be too much:

Part One- The Necessity of Reinvention

Part Two: The Reinvention: Professional Options

Part Three: The Reinvention: Let's Get Practical

I also made a New Year's Resolution to try and get back to writing short stories and other short fiction, just to keep a content stream going while I finish up the sequel to The Prisoner and The Assassin and before I start churning out the book after that.  I'm kicking things off in January with an original story (all 7,500 words of it), please, take a read of:

That's Venus, Baby

Stay tuned for more updates and happenings on…

This Week In Vexillology #151

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Quick, name a European country that was ruled as a theocracy for three centuries before being absorbed into a larger federation of countries under a monarchy and then under communism before voting to be let out of what was left of said federation in 2006!

If you guessed Montenegro, you're right! Which bring us to This Week In Vexillology- which, as you might have already guessed features the flag of none other than Montenegro itself!

Adopted on July 13th, 2004- which, yes, technically, it before they declared independence- but I think they were heading that way anyway and changing the flag was just one more nail in the coffin of what was left of Yugoslavia. But interestingly enough, the proportion of the flag (1:2) did not actually shift with the change. Even under communism and post-communist Yugoslavia, the Montenegrin flag was longer than it's counterparts. (Serbia's flag, for instance, has a more 'square' proportion of 2:3) While Montenegro used the usual pan-S…

Boozehound Unfiltered: Crested Ten

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This month's edition of Boozehound Unfiltered comes courtesy of The Quiet Man, who's had a bottle of this stuff kicking around his basement for awhile now, courtesy of his neighbors, who brought it back from a trip to Ireland. He's not a whiskey drinker and neither are The Quiet Parents, so guess who got a bottle of whiskey? That's right...  this guy!

Crested Ten is my first foray into Irish Whiskey in awhile- and at first, I thought I was holding an Irish Single Malt, which would be rare enough to qualify as an amazing score of free whiskey, but further examination of the bottle revealed it to be a blend that's a part of the Jameson range. I took to the interwebs and educated myself a little more: it's not widely available outside of Ireland and enjoys and seems to be something of a highly regarded whiskey
It was launched in 1963 and the majority of the blend is 7-8 years old with the ratios breaking down as 60% pot still and 40% being grain. Wikipedia drop…

Bookshot #85: The Trip To Echo Spring

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It's not often that opening lines of a book grab my attention so quickly, but this one did: "Here's a thing. Iowa City, 1973." The Trip To Echo Spring opens with an anecdote about John Cheever and Raymond Carver, both veterans of the Iowa's Writer's Workshop taking a trip in their Ford Falcon down to the state liquor store to buy some booze. Both were drinkers at the time, though and both wrestled with the demon of their alcoholism until they managed to break free, The other subjects of Olivia Laing's fascinating and complex book were not so lucky.

Seeking to explore the link between creativity and alcohol, Laing touches the lives of some of the titans of 20th Century American Literature: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, John Cheever and Raymond Carver- all infamous drinkers- and tries to dig into the link between alcohol, their writing and the price they paid underneath their creativity.

This could have been a pre…

This Week In Vexillology #150

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This Week In Vexillology, we're moving just south from the Czech Republic to take a look at a flag that (surprisingly) has proven to be beyond the reach of my handy-dandy reference guide (which was published in 1997) and the Republic of Serbia adopted a new flag in 2010:

The flag of Serbia was adopted in it's present configuration on November 11th of 2010, which makes this flag pretty damn new, While the flag of the post-90s rump Yugoslavia that was made up of Serbia and Montenegro also featured a horizontal tricolor, the order of the colors was different- the last flag of the 'union' between the two countries was blue, white and red, while the Serbian Tricolor is red, blue and white. Either way, the explanation for the colors remains the same: they are 'pan-Slavic' colors. (I finally did some digging on that, by the way, because 'oh, they're pan-Slavic colors' gets to be an irritating explanation after awhile. What the hell does it even mean? Where…

What The Hell Is This About #1: Oregon Chuckleheads

Hey, A New Feature: Look, I'm not an investigative journalist...  I got a job, I got bills to pay- and in general, ain't nobody got time for such business. But now and again, stories will float past me on social media or on the internet that seem like they're worth a second look, because the 'mainstream media' is either studiously ignoring them or left and right wing outlets tell vastly different versions of events or in a lot of these cases or sometimes both. Either way, every now and again I want to do some digging, draw my own conclusions- and yes, form my own opinions, which y'all totally do not have to agree with one little bit, and find out- What The Hell Is This About?

We've all seen the hashtags (#YallQaeda, #VanillaISIS) and we've all chuckled in amusement at the way the internet expresses it's gleeful schaudenfreude at the bad logistical decisions made by these occupiers, but what the hell is this actually about?

I actually had a whole di…

My Vote Project: Two Weeks Out

There was a knock on my door a couple of nights ago at a strange hour. Turns out it was two AFSCME volunteers attempted to get me* to commit to caucusing for someone (they have endorsed Hillary) and potentially voting in the general election (which is 11, long, tortuous months away) and to my surprise, for the first time in my adult life, I honestly found myself faced with the prospect that there was absolutely no reason to vote.

After the Republican debate last Wednesday, the prospect of Trump is all to real. Bernie Sanders is coming up fast on Hillary in Iowa and while he says a lot of things I like, I'm dubious on a lot of stuff he says as well. I used to think that the prospect of a Bush vs Clinton rematch would be depressing enough, but no, now there's a chance of a real live Socialist versus a Lunatic, which seems to be even more depressing.

I want to feel the Bern. I really do but he's got a couple of things working against him (at least where I'm sitting.) Firs…

A Farewell To Anchor Christmas Ale

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Christmas of 2015 breaks a streak for me that dates all the way back to 2009 or so- but after some reflection, I think it's time to retire it. Yes, I'm saying farewell to Anchor Christmas Ale- at least the part where I age and hoard bottles over the course of several years so I can compare and contrast tastes every Christmas. But it might be time to bid a fond farewell to Anchor Christmas Ale altogether too... I just don't know.

You see, what started me on this little journey was finding out (from The Quiet Man, probably.) That Anchor switches up the recipe for its Christmas Ale every year and that people age bottles of if so they can go back and compare and contrast them every year. Now at the time (and yeah, I still am) I like Anchor's stuff. It's good, solid, hearty- probably a little higher in ABV than the average beer, so I dug it and figured why not. So, over the course of the next several Christmas's I grabbed sixers, I chilled them, drank them and save…

This Week In Vexillology #149

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This Week In Vexillology, we're going to take a look at the flag of a country that came into being on January 1st, 1993, following one of the biggest and most amicable divorces in history- yes, it's one half of the country formerly known as Czechoslovakia- the Czech Republic!


While the Czech Republic has only been around since 1993 or so, they kept their existing flag in the 'divorce'* so this flag was actually adopted for national and civil usage on March 30, 1920. Originally a bi-color of white and red, recalling the colors of Bohemia, the blue triangle was added to distinguish the flag from that of Poland. (It also represents the state of Moravia.)
This whole divorce thing gets interesting when you do a little more digging on it- pace Wikipedia (The Font of All Knowledge), the notion of a Federal Czechoslovakia was a popular one on both sides- though many Slovak parties wanted a looser confederal arrangement and when Czech parties were elected that wanted a tighter …

'The Phantom Edit' --A Review

So, with all the Star Wars mania sweeping the land right now, I've been trying my best to avoid spoilers at all costs- so when I came across this interesting article on Slate about what various famous people/celebrities thought was the best order to watch the Star Wars movie in, I stumbled across something that I was sort of kind of tangentially aware of but had never bothered to track down.

Topher Grace (yes, of That 70s Show fame) apparently took the prequels and edited them together into one, coherent movie that is reportedly awesome. (Bobby Moynihan references this when asked about his preferred order- and recommends Star Wars Rebels... which I haven't seen, but I might pick Clone Wars back up here in the New Year, since I'm sort of in-between shows right now.) Now, I did some digging on the interwebs and YouTube and found this...  it's called The Phantom Edit and I have no idea if this is the Topher Grace Special Edition they were referring too- since apparently th…

David Bowie, 1947-2016

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The Missus had to be up anyway, but it was just light when I woke up yesterday morning. Still dark. Still fighting for covers with Little Man, who had crawled into our bed at some point. The warmth was tempting, but Little Dude was fussy and wanted some breakfast before the Missus headed out to her morning class, so I passed him over and laid back down, trying to get warm again. Out of habit, I grabbed my phone and the Missus grabbed hers and we scanned Facebook, her trying to wake up, me trying to chase down sleep again, the only light in the bedroom from our phones, illuminating our faces and that, that is when I saw the news that David Bowie had died.

Immediately, Starman started playing in my head. Then, Oh, You Pretty Things and I know the old Spotify Playlist would be getting a workout. The last time I think I can remember being that bummed out and genuinely sad that a musician had died was when I was a freshmen in college and George Harrison passed. I had that '1' albu…

Hospital Morning

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"Is that the cafeteria?"

I was sitting down in a waiting area that, I had just realized, seemed far bigger than it actually was thanks to one wall being a giant facade of mirrors. I had just stopped at the Java House to grab a coffee and something to eat, as my CT Scan had taken about three minutes and my next appointment wasn't for another hour. I shook my head. "No, that's further down that way-" I pointed over my shoulder and back toward the Java House.

"Thanks, man." And then he was gone and I pulled my headphones on and hit play on the last ten minutes or so of the first episode of Serial. (I was starting with Season 1, just to see what I had missed.) I chewed thoughtfully on my almond croissant, sipped at my latte (which was, I think, sugar cookie flavored) and reflected on the general weirdness of the hospital.

It was a strange place. A city within a city within a city, like the center of one of those Russian nesting dolls, if you really g…

This Week In Vexillology #148

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Continuing with our run of countries that emerged as nations in January, This Week In Vexillology, we head over to the Pacific Ocean to take a look at the flag of Nauru:


In terms of area, Nauru is one of the smallest states in the South Pacific and the third smallest by area in the world- it's had a strange existence, from a political point of view- it became a League of Nations mandate jointly administered by the UK, Australia and New Zealand with a brief period of occupation by the Japanese in World War II. Afterward, the mandate fell to the United Nations, again, keep the three government structure, though I guess that was more of a formality than anything else and in practice, Australia ran the place.
Phosphate was the island's primary export that made it a lot of money in the 70s, but once the supplies were exhausted, life got a little complicated. (Environmental damage was extreme and the reinvention of an entire economy is always complicated.)
But the flag! The flag was…

Squawk Box: Man In The High Castle/Jessica Jones

I spent the back half of November and early December consuming the two shows I was most looking forward to- Marvel's Jessica Jones and Amazon's The Man In The High Castle- both of which more than lived up to their respective hype and both of which did what you want great television shows to do: they stuck with you, long after you finished watching them.

Set in an alternate universe where the Allies lost World War II, The Man In The High Castle begins in an America divided between the Japanese (the west coast) and the Germans (the east coast/Midwest) with a neutral zone (the Rocky Mountains, more or less in the middle.) When Juliana Crain (Alexa Davalos) is given a mysterious film by her sister who is then shot by the Japanese authorities, she soon discovers that the films are produced by the mysterious Man In The High Castle and show different versions of reality than the one they're in. Wanting to find the truth behind the films, Juliana heads to the neutral zone, taking …

On The Move

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So: this is happening...


The Missus and I have been prepping for today for about a month now. We've looked at houses, come close to pulling the trigger on building a new house (and still might) and we might have found our next house- assuming it's still there when we get an offer on this one and possibilities seem to be blossoming like rain everywhere we look.

And it's scary as hell and a little sad as well. Both of us have had wavering moments where we're not sure we actually want to sell this house at all. This was our first house. We put a lot of love into this house. Little Man (Kid #1) and Little Dude (Kid #2) came home to this house. We've had holidays in this house, nieces came to visit this house, parties with friends, nights spent talking around the fire or sitting on our excellent porch (I'm going to miss that porch) out front enjoying the view across the street and the empty field where the glorious vista of Proctor and Gamble loomed on the horizon. …

WE SHALL RETURN

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Written On December 6th, 2015



The length of the average human arm is 25 inches. That's how close we were last night- that second effort, that last gasp, that last heave over the end zone to break the plane and score the touchdown... I had been worried since halftime about the offense's lack of ability to move the ball- but they got lucky once with a deep ball to break the deadlock and ever since then, Michigan State had been controlling the ball, moving it effectively- gashing us with runs and forcing their way down the field.

We were close, we were agonizingly close. That 4th and 1 that just made it. Then, inches away- first down, second down, third down... and finally that last gasp effort broke us. Agony. Excruciating, beautiful agony as it slipped away. 27 seconds left and 25 inches, the length of the average human arm. That's how close Iowa came- to a Big Ten Championship and a shot at a national title.

If you're going to lose, there are few ways more painful to l…

This Week In Vexillology #147

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I had been trying my best to be methodical last year with This Week In Vexillology- we knocked of Africa, Central America and South America and I was all ready to make my way through the rest of Europe when I decided to shake things up a bit by throwing down a curveball. This month, three out of our four flags belong to countries that declared or won their independence in January. First on deck, a country that established it's sovereignty on January 1st, 1804: The Republic of Haiti


As with most former French colonies, it's somewhat dispiriting to admit that the blue and the red in the flag were taken from the Tricolore-- however, there's a cool twist with the Haitian flag, because apparently during the rebellion against France in 1803, Jean-Jacques Dessalines* somewhat (I'd imagine) irritated with the French, tore up a Tricolore and then the blue and the red were just stitched back together to form the basis for the flag of Haiti. (Question: does this mean the Haitians…

10 for 2016

Ah, a New Year with a fresh, new year scent all over it and that means another list of pointless resolutions, half of which I probably won't accomplish anyway. Thankfully, my list from last year has vanished into the ether of the internet in the transition to this, my latest and hopefully permanent resting place for my blogging, so I don't have to reflect on the failures of 2015- but... it's foolish, misplaced optimism on my part, since I probably think every new year feels like something good could happen, but I sort of want to jump up and down and insist that by golly, this time it's going to be different, this time, this year is going to be kick-ass!

But I know better. In reality, I'll probably greeting 2017 by looking back at this list and giving a hearty belly laugh at my foolish optimism- but you never know, right? This could actually be the year I fulfill some of my New Year's Resolutions. Here's the 2016 Edition:

1. Returning from last year- get tha…