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Showing posts from 2019

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…

Boozehound Unfiltered: Balcones Baby Blue

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A trip to Texas all but demands that you get ahold of some Texas whiskey of some kind and this trip was no exception. I had heard about Balcones Baby Blue- and indeed, Balcones in general a few years back and I've been keeping an eye out up here to see if any of their stuff shows up- but going to Texas I knew that I could find some. When we added a stop in Waco to our itinerary (to see the Magnolia Silos and make a quick stop at Harp Design) it seemed like the fates couldn't have aligned any better. We found a local liquor store and I got ahold of my bottle of Balcones Baby Blue as well as a bottle of Mezcal that turned out to be tastier than expected- but that's another blog post. (Actual visits to distilleries, I think are going to have to wait for the kiddos to be a wee bit older.)

Founded in 2008, Balcones started in downtown Waco in an old welding shop under a bridge and grew from there, starting their own distilling in 2009. I seem to be on a good streak with whiski…

Columbine at 20

I never knew who actually said, "The past is another country" until I looked it up. Turns out it's a quote by the author L.P. Hartley from his novel, The Go-Between and the full quote is, "The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there."

I was in third grade when the 1991 shooting on campus happened. I was in my sophomore year of high school when Columbine happened. I remember the pictures of the kids dropping from the second floor window. Running away from the school with their hands on their heads. The band and the choir were both on trips that week, so the next day, the school felt emptier than usual. There were rumors that someone had threatened to bring a gun to school that day and for the first time in my life, I could tell that the adults were nervous. They were doing their best to hide it, but it was tense.

No one did bring a gun to school that day. We had a fund raiser to send...  teddy bears, I think to that other CHS, two states over…

Netflix & Chill #61: Dune

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Watched On: Amazon Prime
Released: 1984
Directed By: David Lynch
Starring: Francesca Annis, Leonardo Cimino, Brad Dourif, Jose Ferrer, Linda Hunt, Freddie Jones, Richard Jordan, Kyle MacLachlan, Virginia Madsen, Silvana Mangano, Everett McGill, Kenneth McMillan, Jack Nance, Sian Phillips, Jurgen Prochnow, Paul Smith, Patrick Stewart, Sting, Dean Stockwell, Max von Sydow, alicia Roanne Witt, Sean Young
Rotten Tomatoes: 54%
Pick: Mine

Dune is one of those movies that always seems to be on the SyFy Channel, TNT or [Insert Cable Channel Here] late at night that I don't think I've ever sat through and watched from beginning to end all the way through. I've seen large chunks of it- enough that I might as well have seen it from beginning to end- but never all at the same time. So when it popped up on Amazon Prime and, being stuck at work on a gloriously sunny 4/20, I figured what better way to celebrate the unofficial holiday than by watching Dune? The spice, after all, must flow.

In t…

This Week In Vexillology #287

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Our tour of the counties of England keeps on moving this week with England's smallest county: Rutland and the home county of Liverpool, Merseyside! Let's get to it!

Rutland is actually a pretty fascinating county- at it's greatest length, it's only 18 miles north to south and 17 miles east to west- and it's Latin motto leans into it's size: Multum in Parvo, 'much in little.' As an entity it dates back to Domesday Book-- the northwestern part, specifically, while the southeastern part is described as 'the wapentake of Wicelsea.' and it was first mentioned as a separate county in 1159 and called the 'Soke of Rutland' as late as the 14th Century. Rutland was it's own county all the way up to 1974, when it was integrated into Leicestershire. After another structural review of local government in England which was conducted in 1994, it made a triumphant return as a unitary authority in 1997.

Where is it? Well, if you head more or less direc…

Free Write Friday #10: Dragon's Eggs

"I don't need to tell you that the war isn't going well. The Elves have their golems in the north and the southern dwarves have those damned walking engines. In ten years, our empire will be going. So you get me those dragon eggs, captain. Or don't come back at all."

"Don't come back at all." Captain Vasili Borogov said in a mocking tone of voice. "Easy for him to say, he's not here."

Here, was balancing on the edge of an active volcano- well, not exactly active. There wasn't lava spewing out of the crater below. Poisonous gases and boiling hot rocks being flung into the air weren't pressing concerns- at least not yet. But it was hot. Really, uncomfortably hot. Borogov was dressed in thick leather from head to toe and metal plated armor to protect him from the heat- but in reality it was making him sweat profusely. It was, in short, awful. But it was, Borogov had to admit, somewhat necessary.

The General had been right. Granted…

Nine Years

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I've always been a little reluctant to talk about 'The Day Job' because I never wanted this blog and my writing to be about that. I like using the blog and what I write as an outlet and as something to feed my soul and my passion for writing a little bit. I've let 'The Day Job' really eat large chunks of my life at various points over the past nine years and it's taken me a long time to figure out how to fully leave work at work and focus on the rest of my amazing life when I'm not at work.
But it has been weighing on me a little bit: this is year nine. I think after nine years, it's probably time to lean into 'The Day Job' a little bit and own it more than I have. Over the years, I think I've put a lot of pressure on myself to 'do more' and 'figure out the next thing' and 'the next big career move' but the more I think about it lately, the less I feel that impetus to figure out what's next and move along. I …

On Faith and Politics

Look, it's ridiculously early yet. I'm not really expecting the race to really get down to brass tacks until fall at the earliest. There are more Democrats jumping into this race every day- so who knows how the race is going to go. Who knows who's actually going to win the Democratic nomination or much less with the election in November of next year.

It's ridiculously early yet.

That said, we gotta pause and talk about something that I never honestly expected to be talking about in this race- the odd, but important intersection of faith and politics that seems to have emerged in the race- mainly centered around the intriguing candidacy of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. To be clear: I have no idea whether or not Buttigieg is going to win this thing. He's raising money at a pretty brisk clip. He's got a lot of people interested. What that translates out to over the marathon length of the primary campaign and then the Presidential campaign I haven't the fain…

This Week In Vexillology #286

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Our tour of the counties of England is moving right along, because This Week In Vexillology, we've got the flags of Cheshire and Bedfordshire!

First up, Cheshire! We start with our usual question: where the heck is it? Well, find Liverpool, head south across the River Mersey and eventually you'll hit the city of Chester and find yourself smack dab in the middle of Cheshire. (For some reason, Google Maps doesn't want to give me a nice set of boundaries when I search for Cheshire, so unfortunately, no helpful link to the Googles.)

What's the deal with Cheshire? Well, it's a very agricultural county- hence, Cheshire cheese. But Harry Styles, Ian Curtis, John Mayall, Paula Radcliffe and George Mallory all hail from the county. So, let's take a peek at their flag:

Registered with the Flag Institute in 2013, it's based off a banner of arms of the former Cheshire County Council which was granted in May of 1938. (There was a big governmental reorganization of all th…

Psephology Rocks: All Right, It's The Greatest Show On Earth

I haven't really been all that inspired to nerd out over an election for a few months now. I was toying with the idea of doing a deep dive on Israeli elections and how they work, but I figured the results would be too depressing to really get excited about (turns out, that assessment was right) but then a flurry of news hit: Algeria got rid of it's old President (a bigger deal than people think) and is getting a new President. Sudan is getting new military leaders and perhaps a new President. Israel had it's elections and The Greatest Show on Earth is getting underway as we speak as India starts it's amazing exercise in month long electioneering.

So, there's a lot of things to talk about all of a sudden, so I figured, why not hop back on the Psephology Train and here we are. Let's start with Israel and the nuts and bolts of how it all works.

Israel has always been kind of a fascinating country from a political science viewpoint: it's got a unicameral legisl…