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Showing posts from 2019

"Good News, Everyone": My Thoughts On Part One of The Mueller Report

After about six months of the media screaming about Trump and Russia Russia and Trump and breathless insisting that this time they had found the smoking bullet, by God, this time they had him, I eventually settled firmly into the somewhat exhausted position that once Mueller completed his report, I would read it and formulate an opinion of my own, especially since no one in the media appeared to be all that interested in being well, sane about this.

So when it finally came out, unlike many members of Congress, I actually sat down and slowly and painfully picked my way through the entire report, redactions and all. And at the end of the day, my biggest takeaway from this mess is that the whole damn thing is just so fucking bizzare it's kind of a head scratcher that the people involved actually behaved the way they did.

The overall report is two parts: one, looked into the main portion of the Special Counsel's brief- the question of the extent and success of the Russian interfer…

Star Trek Voyager, Ranked

I was on the hunt for another podcast to listen to and saw some recommendations for the Voyager-centric podcast, Seven of Wine, so I decided to give it a go and listen to their first episode about the pilot of Star Trek: Voyager, 'Caretaker' and then, I sat down and watched the episode again. And then, it was just too late- Voyager sucked me in for another re-watch and as I was going through all seven seasons, sometimes paying more attention, sometimes just using it as background noise, I started keeping track of the episodes that stood out to me with the grand intention of ranking all 172 episodes- but then sort of decided that was too much to handle.

So how did I do this? Kept track of all of my favorite episodes and at the end of it all, was surprised to find out that I had 100 episodes to rank. Then I set down to work and damn, this shit was hard, kids.

If there's a frustrating thing about Voyager, it's probably the fact that it's blatantly obvious they could h…

Netflix & Chill #63: The Wandering Earth

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Watched On: Netflix
Released: 2019
Directed By: Frant Gwo
Starring: Qu Chuxiao, Li Guangjie, Ng Man-tat, Zhao jinmai, Wu Jing, Qu Jingjing
Rotten Tomatoes: 71%
Pick: Mine

I read the novella, so naturally, when Netflix grabbed the movie, I sat down to watch that as well- albeit with a certain amount of trepidation- the novella is epic storytelling in every sense of the word and even with a huge budget and all the movie making magic you could hope for, this would be a difficult story to do well- but as it turns out, not only did they do it well, they absolutely nailed it.

In the year 2061, the sun has aged and is about tot urn into a red giant, which poses something of a problem for Earth, as they don't want to be destroyed in the process. The nations of the world consolidate into a United Earth Government and start constructing giant Earth engines to move the planet out of the current solar system. Humanity's population is severely reduced as catastrophic tides sweep the planet as t…

This Week In Vexillology #291: Some Thoughts On The Betsy Ross Flag

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So, this flag is officially problematic in some quarters now and since we're back and we missed the usual July 4th and Flag Day Specials, we might as well jump back into things with both feet and unpack some stuff about the Betsy Ross Flag.

The origin story of our flag is one of our Great National Myths and to be honest, it's still kind of controversial in parts. Generally speaking, most scholars and vexillologists don't agree with the usual story of a lady in a bonnet filled with the fire American Revolutionary Zeal staying up by candle light to hand stitch the very first version of the Stars and Stripes. The truth is a lot more complex and complicated than that- even though it's a great story and it's easy to see how it became some intertwined into our foundational mythology as a country.

The story in question was started in 1870 by the grandson of Ross, Willian J. Canby who presented a paper to the Pennsylvania Historical Society claiming that his grandmother h…

Free Write Friday #12: Let Us Begin

[SP] The Amish create a military.

"I still say it's sinful, Ezekial. We've always kept to ourselves and minded our own business."

"The world doesn't always care about us and our business, Jebediah," the other man replied. "Our beliefs are under attack. We have to defend the community."

The two men were walking across a field toward a large hill. At the top of the hill, there was the skeleton of a barn that had been erected that morning. Reaching the bottom of the hill, they began to hike up it, even as the man named Jebediah shifted uncomfortably. "Defending the community is one thing," he said. "This. This is something else entirely."

For so long, life had been simple. They kept to themselves. Practiced their faith. The young would have their rumspringa and some would leave, others would come back to be accepted into the faith and get married and raise families of their own. There had been an order and a rhythm to it all. …

Bookshot #120: Gravity's Rainbow

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Well, I did it. After several fits and starts, I finally settled down in January of 2018 and determined that I was going to crack this book wide open and I finally, after over a year of inching my way through it, finished Gravity's Rainbow.

I have no idea where to start with this book. It was frustrating, maddening, beautiful, genius, incomprehensible and rage inducing- sometimes, all in the space of a single page. Am I entirely sure I understood the plot? Well- to answer that question, I think you'd have to be entirely sure there was a plot- at least a conventionally structured one and I'm not sure of that. All that I'm left with if the nagging feeling that I read over seven hundred pages of either a work of staggering genius or complete gibberish and I have no idea which it was.

So:

The first part of the novel is the part that problem made the most sense to me and was the easiest to follow-- basically, it opens with Pirate Prentice awakening after a dream (and man, t…

And We're Back...

The Summer Hiatus is over and if you're reading this, I'm sure you've noticed we've changed up our look a little bit-- I figured it was probably time to shake things up somewhat.

What did I do on my summer hiatus?

I started a podcast, just for kicks. (New episode will hopefully drop this week, so stay tuned!)

Got one short story done and I'm real close on a second.

Got three chapters of revisions on the third book in the bag and I'm pushing forward on Chapter Four.

In short, it wasn't as productive as it could have been, but I also did enough to feel good about taking the wee break from all of this. It also gave me time to push forward on a few other things that will be appearing as blog posts over the coming months- so you have those to look forward to.

It's good to be back.

Summer Hiatus

Kids,

I'm going to take a month or so off to focus on really kick starting revisions on the third book and getting that closer to Final Draft form. I may pop back on with the odd post here or there if the mood strikes me, but for now we're turning out the lights and locking the doors and heading out to do other things for awhile.

I'll be back to regular posting after July 4th.

Have a great summer!

This Week In Vexillology #290

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Well, we've done it. We've finally reached the end-- there might be some armorial banners or purely metropolitan/city banners out there that I've missed, but according to the map I've been coloring in with sharpie and the one of the computer screen I've been squinting at, this is it: Greater Manchester and Tyne and Wear.

Let's start with Greater Manchester. As it turns out, Manchester is relatively easy to find. Essentially if you find Leeds and Liverpool, Manchester is more or less in between them. Make your way across the map from one of them to the other and you'll be bound to hit it. It's one of the great cities of the north of England and, naturally soccer is kind of a thing there, with Manchester United and Manchester City being the major clubs in the area. Wigan Athletic plays in the Championship. Bolton Wanderers, Oldham Athletic, Bury F.C. and Rochdale A.F.C. all play in League One and Salford City F.C. plays in the National League and Stockpor…

Squawk Box: Spring Grab Bag

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Shrill: I think Aidy Bryant is pretty funny, so when I saw this show pop up on Hulu and saw that it was only six episodes, I popped it on and gave it a go and it was... pretty funny. Bryant stars as Annie Easton, an overweight young woman who is struggling to find her voice in journalism while juggling bad boyfriends, a sick parent, a perfectionist boss and a world that sees her as not being good enough, just because of her weight. A touching and humorous exploration of body image issues and all the horrible baggage women get weighed down with because of it, the show could easily have been just a meandering meditation on body image and not much else. However, Annie decides that she is good enough and takes on the world to find her voice at her job and gain some confidence along the way.

I'd say: it's six episodes, so it's not a big time commitment. If you're looking for a show to try, this is worth a peek.

The End of 'Catastrophe': Not just the end of Catastrophe

Let's Talk About Apraxia

Medium Spawn said a complete sentence a couple of nights ago at dinner. "I want ice cream." Normally, I doubt anyone would bat an eye if their three-year-old announced that he wanted ice cream, but for Medium Spawn it was an achievement that made both the Missus and I cry some happy tears- because every word represents a step toward him finding his voice and speaking out loud the way we know he wants to. That's apraxia.

I don't really know how to describe his personality-- he's always been a little...  laid back isn't exactly the right word. He didn't really crawl and he didn't really start walking until we gave him a little push and started encouraging him. Once he saw the point of walking and how fast he could go places, it was fine- and that seemed to be his personality. He didn't want to do if he didn't see the point of it. His speaking seemed to be heading the same way, but last fall we brought the Early Access people out for an evaluatio…

Netflix & Chill #62: Ant-Man and The Wasp

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Watched On: Netflix
Released: 2018
Directed By: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena, Walton Goggins, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Tip 'T.I' Harris, David Dastmalchian, Hannah John-Kamen, Abby Ryder Fortson, Randall Park, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Douglas
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Pick: Mine

Two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War and Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is on house arrest for helping them violate the terms of the Sokovia Accords. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) are on the run- but briefly open a tunnel to the quantum realm, where they believe that Pym's wife, Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) is trapped after shrinking to sub-atomic levels back in 1987. When Lang visited the quantum realm (during the events of the first Ant-Man) he become quantumly entangled with Janet and receives a message from her.

Lang's relations with Hank and Hope are somewhat strained: they …

This Week In Vexillology #289

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Well, we're almost at the very end of our tour of the counties of England...  there might be the odd metropolitan county that I've missed, but between this week and next week, we should have covered  just about every corner of England from Cornwall to Cumbria and everything in between. I'm honestly not sure where we're going to go next after this-- maybe some more subnational flags are lurking across the border in Wales or Scotland, or maybe I'll mix it up a bit. But in our second to last stop on our tour of the county of England, we're settling in the middle of the country with the flags of Leicestershire and the West Midlands!

Let's start with Leicestershire! The obvious question we need to start with: where the heck is it? well, if you head north from London on the M1 between (roughly) Northampton and Nottingham-- between them you're going to find the city of Leicester, which is the center of the county. Coventry, Birmingham and Burton Upon Trent and …

Free Write Friday #11: The Importance of Curses

A man gets cursed by an incompetent wizard. While still technically cursed, the man finds the side effects to be helpful in certain situations. 

The afternoon was perfect. Spring was finally here, chasing away the last tendrils of winter. The temperatures were getting warmer and warmer each day. There wasn't a cloud in the sky as Preston headed down the long pedestrian walkway that cut through the middle of campus heading toward the Chemistry Building. It was lab day. Preston hated lab, but Curses and Incantation was a required course for all first year students and it had a nasty reputation as a 'weed out' course that was well deserved. It consisted of a lecture section (one and a half hours), a discussion section (a forty-five minute 'attendance required' eight o'clock on Monday morning hellscape) and a lab section (three hours- three!) on Thursday afternoons. It was probably the biggest and most important class of his fall semester and he was already dreadin…

Bookshot #119: Defend The Realm

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I tend to take a somewhat skeptical view of histories of the various intelligence agencies around the world. How much can one author really have access to? How much of it is really true? There's good reason to approach a lot of these books with a certain amount of trepidation- but Defend The Realm is different. MI-5 was founded in 1909 and for the occasion of their centenary in 2009, they actually commissioned a history of their first one hundred years- which means that this book is probably one of the few authorized histories of an espionage agency that I can recall coming across.

Christopher Andrew was probably the most obvious choice to tackle the work. The jacket cover describes him as being 'Britain's leading historian of Intelligence' and he's been on the history faculty of Cambridge University- but he's also actually the author of another book I own, The Mitrokhin Archive (which goes over the files smuggled out of KGB Headquarters and turned over to the …

1,556 Miles Update #3

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Okay, it's been a busy couple of months and I'm sort of failing at this whole thing right now- but we're finally (I hope) through the busier period and I can get more consistent about this whole business, because honestly, I haven't been consistent at all and it kind of sucks. But-- the good news is that I managed to do something since last I posted a check in-- granted, it's not much of a something, but anything is better than nothing, right?

Here's where we were at the end of the last update:
I posted a rather desultory 41.1 miles on the Big Pink Bike- with a few days of walking to work thrown in just for fun. Though, I have to admit, I'm glad that I'm not walking to work this week as I am pretty sure it's going to do absolutely nothing but rain. But, combined with the 182.1 miles that I've already logged, that puts us at a grand total of 223.2 miles. Which means our map looks a little something like this:
That's actually a lot better than…

This Week In Vexillology #288

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Our tour of the counties of England continues this week and we're heading back north again to take a look at the flags of Lancashire-and we're going to do a double shot to handle Cumbria!

Let's start with Lancashire! First of all, we have to answer our now familiar question: where the heck is it? Well, I think the easiest way to describe it is that it's north of Liverpool and Manchester, west of Leeds and more or less directly southwest of Yorkshire Dales National Park. The county dates back to the 12th Century and appeared in the Domesday Book of 1086 but there were records of settlement that date back to Roman times. In terms of 'interesting things about Lancashire' I supposed I should lead with the fact that my maternal grandmother hailed from Lancashire and ended up living in Yorkshire and serving on the Leeds City Council where she took great delight in being known as 'The Bloody-Minded Lancastrian'-- which, I have to say, is honestly more interest…