Friday, December 31, 2010

To Say Goodbye to 2010

And en route to 2011... I need to say just one thing:

The TRON: Legacy soundtrack is THE AWESOME.




If Daft Punk doesn't get an Oscar nomination for Best Original Score, it will go down as one of the bigger snubs in Oscars history (well, not up there with Edward G. Robinson never getting an acting nomination, but somewhere in the Top Ten).



Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Witty's Year End Book Review 2010

Another year of unemployment, more time to stress out and read books to calm down...

To re-state the rules: These are not books published this year that I think are AWESOME AND COOL.  Some of these books may have been published ages ago.  It's just these are the books I've read this year that I feel are deserving of the AWESOME AND COOL labels of labeling.  And for the Chinese Spammers who try to leave ....... comments in my comments field, there's a chance they might notice a title and read a book and BE CORRUPTED FOREVER BY MY WESTERN CULTURE IDEALS BWHAHAHAHA.  Okay, maybe not, but here goes.

BEST FICTION BOOK

Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson
This is a cyberpunk novel that's been out for less than two decades (published 1992!), but I'd heard good things about it and never got a chance to find a copy to read.  Well, with the time on my hands now...
Snow Crash involves Hiro Protagonist (yes, that's his name) living in a 21st Century Los Angeles future world where corporations (some having merged with crime families) control everything... even to where people's names are trademarked.  After losing his job delivering pizza for the Mafia (it's there in 20 minutes OR ELSE), Hiro teams up with the girl YT (Yours Truly) - who's partly to blame for that job loss - to hire themselves out as a hacker/intel to the privatized CIA.  They quickly uncover a dangerous new drug - Snow Crash - that's part computer virus and real-life virus that's infecting more and more citizenry.  It all has something to do with Sumerian religion, self-made gods, and a quest for a universal language that can enslave us all...
What makes the novel fun is how it's both standard cyberpunk - the computer universe and its anarchistic hacker culture - and post-modern thriller. Post-modern meaning self-awareness.  Hiro is fully aware of all Internet Traditions (even though this book was written before any serious traditions were forged!), and also fully hip to the tropes and memes of heroic narrative.  His description of Raven also explains the Badass so well it's what the Tvtropes.org website uses to open their Badass entry.

BEST NON-FICTION BOOK

 Battle Cry Of Freedom, James McPherson
If not the definitive work on the American Civil War, most likely it's in the Top 5.
Political blogger Ta-Nehesi Coates hosted a book reading club online for 2010 on this work, and I had chimed in with my comments, observations, and witless retorts.  Index here on all of TNC's Civil War entries, by the by.
McPherson goes into excellent detail about both the causes of the Civil War (Slavery, slavery, Southern financial and political elites eager to maintain the status quo, and oh yeah slavery) and the battlefield conflicts themselves.  Switching from one chapter that investigates and highlights the political, economic, and cultural changes that the war brought upon the nation; to the next chapter that describes the carnage, confusion, and wartime heroism of each major battle (Shiloh, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Petersburg) and the generals who mismanaged it all.
It's a must-read for all Americans.  Even the ones who don't like history.  You need to read this because, by simple comparison of the rhetoric of the Southern Slaveowner politicos to the rhetoric of today's Far Right conservatives, you'll realize we're still fighting that damn war...

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL


JLA/Avengers, Kurt Busiek and George Perez
This had been out for a few years, and in fact had been on the drawing board for decades (back to the mid-1980s when the comic business exploded into mainstream culture), but I had finally gotten around to reading the collected series this year.
Comic book crossovers are nothing new.  In-universe, they happen all the time (especially as a guest appearance by a popular character - Batman - could boost sales for a struggling title).  Crossing universes, however, are obviously trickier: companies are wary of losing any creative control over their characters, and crossovers between universes have a habit of ignoring certain continuity in order to justify its plot.  Sometimes, a writer unfamiliar with the history or traits of a character can derail everything both within the crossover's story and back in the established continuity that could well kill off a character's popularity for good.  This is, by the way, what happened when DC and Marvel did create a crossover event called DC Vs. Marvel in the mid-1990s that created a convoluted and ridiculous Origin Myth for both universes, set up characters to fight each other for no real reason or resolution, and ended up entertaining NOBODY.
JLA/Avengers did it right.
Taking the primary superhero teams of each universe - Justice League of America (DC) and The Avengers (Marvel) - the story involves a DC galactic villain Krona who travels from universe to universe in a quest to understand how universes are created (in order to control such power for himself).  But in order to do that, he has to destroy said universes while studying them.  When he reaches the Marvel Universe, he confronts the first being of any power that can delay him - The Grandmaster, a hedonist lover of high-stakes games - and is forced to accept the Grandmaster's challenge of having universal champions fight each other to claim twelve powerful totems... and they choose the Justice League and Avengers for the game...
Busiek has a lot of fun tweaking the cultures and continuity of each comic book universe as the two teams visit the others' world and clash.  DC heroes are horrified to see how in the Marvel universe that mutants are persecuted and tyrants like Doom left unchallenged.  Marvel heroes are horrified to see that Supers in the DC universe are nearly worshiped as gods in what looks to them like a fascist society.  Marvel's resident speedster Quicksilver is envious of the fact that his competitor The Flash has his own museum.
Impressive also is Perez's artwork: Notorious for drawing elaborate battle scenes and massive gathering of characters (the cover art for one issue was so packed full of superheroes that Perez had to rest his hand for weeks after completing it), this series was quite possibly his best effort since Crisis on Infinite Earths.
The clincher for the series is when the two teams, realizing the Grandmaster's plot had forced their two Earths together to trap Krona - and that the trap is falling apart - find out from the cosmic being the price each hero will pay even if they stop Krona.  As the heroes had reverted to their Silver (Heroic) Age personas of the 1980s, all of them are shocked by the de-railings (and deaths) each character suffered during the Dark (Antihero) Age of the 1990s.  Disgusted by their futures, they nonetheless agree that stopping Krona - who would destroy both universes anyway - has to happen... and they proceed to launch a massive assault on Krona's citadel just as he's carving into the two beings (Infinity and Kismet) that personify each universe...
As a comic book fan, this was a decent read.

BEST BOOK BY SOMEONE I KNOW AND CORRESPONDED WITH VIA EMAIL ON AN OCCASIONAL BASIS 

I'm gonna need to get back to you all on this one, I haven't made up my mind between Sheryl Nantus or TNC or...

Friday, November 26, 2010

NaNoWriMo Update: Day 26

And it was on this day...



I reached 50,000 words.

Specifically 50,358 words as of Nov. 26th, 2010, 10:05 PM EST.

The good news?  I got it to 50,000 plus.

The bad news?  The novel itself is literally half-way there.  If we're going by my original outline, we're still finishing up the first big incident and have yet to reach Incident Point Two, Three or Four.  Nor anywhere near the conclusion.

The good news?  I got four days to keep going.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Before It Gets Too Late: NaNoWriMo Update Day 22

Just getting this in as of 11:55 PM on Nov. 22nd.  43273 words.

I've actually slowed down this weekend after the blind rush of Friday.  I am within 6,800 words of getting the 50,000 word count.  It's the novel itself.  I feel myself bogging down into fractal detail right now, creating a situation where I'm trying to leave clues for the solution I've plotted at the end... so I need to pick this up and get it going into the next set of chapters.  Grrr.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

NaNoWriMo Update: Day 20

This is coming late at night, having been a busy Friday all around.

Currently at 40,014 words.  At this pace 50,000 is no problem.  Finishing the whole novel currently at Chapter Five with Five (maybe up to Seven if the pacing goes as it does) more to go.

Monday, November 15, 2010

NaNoWriMo Update Day 15

The count now at 31,521 words.

I'm 5,000 words above the halfway mark (25,000) and making decent time.  Still slow compared to what I've hoped for.  The good news is I'm well into Chapter Four, but worried now that the remaining chapters are going to be bigger than I expected.

I'm also a little unhappy that my characters are unsympathetic at the moment.  For one character, it's unavoidable, but I think the other character is getting a little too harsh in his behaviors.  I need to tone him down a little.  Got to make it so that his personality Reveal later on isn't an Ass-Pull of sorts.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NaNoWriMo Update: Day 11

Now at 21,357 words and counting.

This has been going slower than expected.  After the rush of getting 30,000 words done in 3 days for the 3-Day Novel attempt, I had hoped on equaling the 10,000 word-per-day count... but other activities (such as job-hunting, hi there!) have been distracting.  The good news is I am keeping pace and well ahead of schedule.  Bad news is I'm pretty much at 1,800 words per day per average... and at this pace the first draft of this novel itself won't be completed, which worries me.

This weekend.  Gotta make the big push this weekend.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

NaNoWriMo Update 2010: Day 7

Am currently at 14,000 words more or less.

Since I'm eschewing the habit of going back and re-editing earlier stuff that's suddenly not jibing with the latest written stuff, the novel is already a bit of a mess.  But the objective remains the same: Finish First. Edit Later.

Typing typing typing...

Monday, November 1, 2010

It is the time of NaNoWriMo 2010. And the cats are wondering why I'm crying.

Well, damn it all to (expletive).  I tried starting off a novel this morning... and this afternoon... and this evening.  And already two pages in I'm hating the story idea I've got.  And it sounded so good on paper.

The problem is, I'm not writing from experience on a story that is going to require some experience.  Operating on assumptions is a terrible way to go.

So I'm starting over.  I'm gonna try something else for the next 2 1/2 hours to get something produced for this first day.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Defining the Virtual Librarian

Just what should a Virtual Librarian be?

Experience:
The Virtual Librarian must have some experience (at least six months) providing either traditional reference research assistance or online reference assistance. This would include reference desk or other public desk service, one-on-one research assistance, or classroom instruction on library services.
The Virtual Librarian also must have some experience with the use of the computer as a reference and research tool. This would include work experience with online research databases; creating or managing online resources such as websites; or contributing to any online project or discussions such as Blogs, Instant messaging, or Web Chats.
The Virtual Librarian's skills and abilities need to cover: Working within a wholly electronic workplace; Providing effective and timely virtual service to students, teachers, and fellow professionals; Conducting effective online research using all available resources, and to evaluate and narrow the results to best likely resources for the client; Teaching such research skills to students and teachers to provide the skills needed for them to self-evaluate their own research; Sharing and coordinating with other Virtual Librarians any research methods and tips to aid their work, as well as working with fellow librarians on any large-scale projects; Working comfortably with computers, and with an online environment that requires independent and self-dedicated performance.

Knowledge:
The Virtual Librarian must foremost have the knowledge of the Traditional Librarian: knowledge of references, of research methods, of tools of the trade. Such knowledge can be applied to the realm of the Virtual world with ease.
It is the knowledge of the Virtual world – the online, the Internet, the Web – that will matter. The Virtual Librarian must know what can be found online and must know how such information can be accessed, and must know a multitude of electronic-based sources and contents.
This requires that the Virtual Librarian stay apace with technological developments in the electronic, computer, library and communication worlds. The Virtual Librarian must maintain professionalism, knowledge, and skills relevant to librarianship at all times. The Virtual Librarian must be comfortable working in an environment of limited personal communication... and unlimited online communication.

Results:
The Virtual Librarian is pretty much a regular Reference Librarian... IN SPACE!  Well, cyberspace, but still, wanted to place a link to TV Tropes here.  ;-)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Questions about the new epublication services like PubIt

One thing I've noticed about the advent of the ebook technology - the spread of ereaders like the Kindle, the Nook, the Sony, and a few others - has been the retailers' offer of direct ebook publication such as PubIt.  (Amazon's is CreateSpace by the looks of things although BookSurge is supposed to be a name for the service...)

What this means is that writers no longer have to go through an agent or a large (or even small independent) publisher like Penguin, Simon and Schuster, Random House and HarperCollins.  All they have to do is sign up for the epublisher program, sign over their firstborn child uh sign over a good-sized percentage of sales and viola you're a writer.  Screw you, Dean Koontz.

Of course, there are disadvantages.  Whereas a major publisher like Penguin et al can market your book across the globe, you the writer are responsible for marketing yourself... which can cost more out-of-pocket money.  Also, from my personal experiences and having met a few other would-be writers over the years... let me just say that for a creative bunch of people who can pound out a 500-page epic about cyborg ninjas battling zombie pandas we writers can be pretty horrible with advertising and public relations.  Selling ourselves is rarely a strong trait.

Another problem: the need for editing.  Trust me, a first draft of a novel is NOT perfect.  An agent and publishing firm usually helps in that they can point out flaws, make suggestions, and meddle (usually in positive ways).  It's their jobs, after all, since they're hoping to make money off the good idea that your novel can be.  You may notice that the established writers - Tom Clancy comes quick to mind - tend to write terrible and oversized novels further into their careers: this is because their names are so big that they can afford to ignore everybody about the poor grammar, overweighted plots, and overt messaging that the writer wants to hammer into everyone's anvils.  Now consider the poor first-time writer, who may not necessarily have the writing skill that the big-name writers had when they broke big, and the desire to rush that massive new epic straight into the ebook market without having their friends and fellow writers, um, check for spelling first.  There's a reason why the major publishers take only a handful of first-time novels: the thousands of submissions they get are absolutely horrible.  With the epublishing, that filter will be long gone.


Still, the advantages seem to outweigh the weaknesses.  The near-ease of direct publishing is too tempting a lure.  But with that I still have questions that need answering:

1) While epublishing books is a given, does PubIt and the other epublish services allow for something like short stories or novellas?  I've had an easier go of writing shorts than novels, and there's a pile of short stories I'd like to print straight to ebook format...

2) If I publish to PubIt, which is Barnes & Noble, can I market the ebook to other eReaders like Kindle or Sony or the others?  I may need to re-read the Terms of Agreement regarding copyright, ownership, and availability to other eReaders I suppose...

3) This may also be in the Terms of Agreement, but does the PubIt service extend to print publishing just in case there are non-eReader owners who'd like the book?  I'm a librarian by heart, I like the idea of multiple formats (and there are people who still like print books... just the simple feel of them).

4) What's the number of eReader downloads I need to aim for to be considered a best-seller writer?  (ego-stroking bhwhahahahaha)

Okay, answer those Questions Three, there to the other side ye see.  Wait, that's four q... AAAAAAAAHHHH (cast into the Gorge of Eternal Peril).

Monday, October 4, 2010

Preparing for NaNoWriMo 2010

It being the first full week of October, they've renewed the sign-ups for National Novel Writing Month, of course.

The deal remains the same: 50,000 words over 30 days of November.  While 50,000 words seem like a lot, it more often doesn't complete the story the novel ought to tell so most writers will need to go way past that.

My first successful trip to 50,000 was last year's NaNo.  Problem was, the novel was barely half-way completed, and without a full novel sitting there in my lap ready for editing and fine-tuning, I quickly lost interest in getting it truly done.

This time is different.  Because this is also the first time I had any genuine success with the earlier 3-Day Novel contest.  Wherein I got 30,000 words done in just three days.  10,000 words a day per average (it was more like 5,000 words each the first two days and then a massive 20,000 rush job on Day Three).  I know now the effort needed to get that much writing done in a single day.  And as long as I ascertain the distractions I'll face, I am pretty sure now I can get the NaNo's 50,000 word count with ease.

That means the REAL objective I have this NaNoWriMo is this: get a full novel completed, and well in time to be able to edit the rough draft.  Something to finally submit to a publisher.

The planning begins...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Aftermath of the 3 Day Novel 2010

...my God, what have I done...?

95 pages worth.

30,000 plus words.

And it's relatively coherent compared to the earlier attempts I've made.

Dear God.  This just might work...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Three-Day Novel: 2010 Attempt

It's 8:04 am.  I am at the Panera Bread on the corner of Little Rd. and State Rd. 54.  I am beginning the 3-Day Novel contest... NOW!

"It was in the spring of my youth that my father sat down and told me about this dream he had of turning into a giant insect."  What, it's been done...?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Mix Of News, Good And Bad And Sad

There's a few things to note:

In the Good News category, Centennial Park Library in the Pasco Libraries system is going to stay open!  After the threat of closure by the county commission, the library got 3,000 plus signatures of support from the local community and was able to convince the commission to keep it open.  The Bad News: the state and the county are still tight against the budget, meaning cuts will have to come from somewhere else - jobs.  The commission will see about eliminating any current vacancies first, but if they have to they may cut existing jobs, which is still a bad thing to happen (as an unemployed person, I will be saddened by anyone else losing their jobs).

In the Sad News category: someone I knew from Tarpons Springs High School Class of 1988 passed away.  Mike McGee was someone I knew since middle school, actually, and he was who I considered a regular guy: smart enough to be in the good classes, popular enough to be in the good cliques, but thankfully not a total jerkass about it.  Played football, linebacker if I recall (EDIT: My brother Phil corrected me, said it was Offensive Guard).  Went to Florida State, got a law degree, went into Patent Law at a firm in Chicago.  Only saw him at the high school reunions, but I had emailed him once or twice about patent ideas I was bouncing about me brain (informal chats, really.  Any formal chat would have cost me!).  He got married, had  kids.
And then he got cancer and died yesterday from it.
I don't like death.  It ends so many chances, so many things to do, so many people to meet, so many regrets you're left with.  I'd like to think McGee didn't regret much: he lived in all respects - a family, children, a good job, God knows what adventures he'd had along the way.  The regrets are all ours now.

Monday, August 23, 2010

My cat Tehya she likes to meow in the guest bathroom

What she's meowing at, I don't know.  The only reason I can think of is that Tehya likes the echo effect.

Friday, July 30, 2010

At the end of July 2010

Just checking in:

1) After the 17th time someone critiquing my resume complained about it, I'm dropping my wittylibrarian email and switching to a more professional-looking email account with Gmail.  No, I won't post it here for all those damn Chinese spammers to snatch up.  Nyah.

2) I know, I KNOW I keep screaming I won't do it again, but the deadline for the 3-Day Novel contest is back and I'm sorely tempted to try yet again.  Maybe if I did it as a serialized work, each chapter akin to a short story, if I think of it in short story terms and all...

3) Job hunting.  Still sucks.  Libraries are getting cut.  My old branch - Centennial Park - is under threat of closing by Pasco Libraries.  :(  Am sending angry letters to commissioners as I type this.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Shall I dare do another 3 Day Novel contest?

I keep swearing off that thing, but then August rolls around and I get tempted with an idea for a novel to write and then... ggaaaaaahh.  The one thing truly stopping me at this moment?  I seriously don't have the $50 needed to register.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I Write Like... Paul Wartenberg! ...Nah...

So there's this new website that the bloggers and twitters are chirping aboot called I Write Like.  As a writer I was tempted to submit my short stories for comparisons...

"Banging the Pipes," The earliest short story that I have the most love for came back as writing like... James Joyce.



I write like
James Joyce
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!



Whew.  Previously I submitted just the first few paragraphs but that came back as Dan Brown (AUUUUGHHH)

For "Fifth Annual Office Golf Showdown," the short story that actually won Second Place for a contest, I wrote that like



I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!


Who is actually a name I recognize but never read (the short story is entirely dialogue, I wonder if that has an effect).

For the last short story in my story collection Last of the Grapefruit Wars, "Snipe Hunt," that came back as



I write like
Vladimir Nabokov
I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Which is weird: when I submitted just the first three pages it came back as Stephen King.

You know what?  All this inconsistency. I write like Paul Wartenberg.  So there.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

And for your troubles, the great moment in history that the history books cleaned up:



Heh.

EDIT: for the life of me, I tried to shrink the video feed to fit the blog column.  I must be missing a step, working on it.

EDIT EDIT: fix'd.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What do I have to do to get more traffic to this site? Write about sex?

...sigh.  Lemme break out the Porn Tropes...

No more Chinese Spam!  If you guys spam here, at least do it in Esperanto!  Show some effort!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I am A+ Certified

Passed the 220-702 certification exam yesterday.  With the 220-701, that certifies me for computer tech support careers.

SO HIRE ME DAMMIT!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Current status June 21, 2010

  • Talking to the Xlibris people to drop the value of the ebook for Last of the Grapefruit Wars to 5.99, to make it more attractive as a purchase...
  • Saw Toy Story 3.  Cried twice, and counted at least 3 other moments where Pixar could have made me cry like a beech.
  • Still studying for A+ Certification, turns out I do need to have the 701 AND 702, not just a 701 and 602.  Grrrr.
  • Libraries are still struggling with budgets.  Some places are thinking of cutting back on volunteer work for God's sake..
  • Sorely looking for work.  Part-time work with Census won't start up again until July 1.  And it's part-time, I need some revenues to pay the bills.  :(
  • And the damn Chinese spammers will probably be the only ones reading this and posting to it.  I just want some love, is that so wrong?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Buy my ebook!

Finally got around to it, and got the publisher Xlibris to make my short story collection Last of the Grapefruit Wars available in ebook formats!

Buy my book on Amazon Kindle!
Buy my book on Barnes & Noble Nook!
Buy my book on Sony eReader!

It's a good book, people.  Half-decent stories with minimal speeling and grammaticalist errors.  Cheap too at 9.99 a pop (with discounts)!  Tell your friends!  Even you spammers in China!  Buy My Book!  :-)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Librarian-Writer-Pirate-Wannabe Looks Back at 40

(cross-posted to my otter blog):
And on this 40th birthday I can say only one thing:

Where the hell can I find a cute single woman - Age 25-35 with brunette hair, doesn't smoke, likes football and comic books, with knowledge of either A) European History B) American Politics or C) Paranormal (UFO and Ghosts) Studies - so I can date her and finally lose my goddamn virginity?!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Before April Goes Out the Door, Lemme Note

1) I passed the A+ Essentials exam!  FINALLY!

2) I STILL need to finish the NaNoWriMo book I worked on in November.  :(

3) In another week I'll be just another pirate looking back at 40.

4) I keep asking you Chinese spammers to buy my book, but NOOOOOOOO you cheapskates are just here for the free donuts!  Shame on you!

Monday, April 5, 2010

I'm getting spammed by the Chinese?

Last two entries had comments on them trying to link to other locations on the 'Net.  No comments at all, just the links.  That never looks good, so I trashed them.

If you Chinese guys adding comments are really reading this, could you at least put in a sentence or two so I know I'm not getting spammed by 'bots?  Better yet, can you guys go on Amazon.com and buy my book?  Awesome sauce!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ten Books That Influenced Me the Most (Updated 2015)

(updated 12/23/2015, see below)

Picked this up on Sullivan, floating about the other blogs:

Tyler Cowen lists the books that have influenced him most and encourages other bloggers to do the same.

Hmm.  Biggest problem for me as both an enthusiastic reader in my teen years and as a librarian for most of my adult life is trying to narrow this down to ten.  I dare say a lot of them are over on my Library Thing page (linkage to the right of the screen, no your other right), but some aren't.

I think I'll list them in chronological order as best I can remember:

Thirteen Tennessee Ghosts and Jeffrey - Around Second or Third Grade I was into the paranormal stuff: UFOs and Ghost stories.  The non-fiction stuff.  There were a few titles on the Dunedin Public Library (this was back when it was in an abandoned Publix storefront) and this book I kept reading over and over.  It introduced me to the Bell Witch legend, for one thing.  It made me wonder what had happened to Merriwether Lewis (whose ghost was supposedly scraping at a water bucket ever since his mysterious death).

Han Solo at Star's End - okay, so it's not the Dune or Foundation series, which I also read at the time (between Second and Fifth Grade).  But I ain't gonna suck up to all seven people reading this blog and list 'classic' works and get all mopey and philosophical about the profound literary intents of Asimov and Herbert.  You get the trashy stuff I like dammit!  I grew up to Star Wars: these pulp paperbacks (such as Splinter of the Mind's Eye) were filling in the years between the films and I liked them.  Star's End was fun and had some pretty mature stuff to it - deaths, betrayal, snarky commentary - compared to the other more juvenile titles available to me at the time.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - The first truly absurdist literary work I came across (Catch-22 was five years later).  The first time I realized that not only does God have a sense of humor but that God was sometimes laughing AT us instead of with us.  What amazed me when I go back to re-read his works were the bits of misanthropy I had not realized back in my youth: the jaded despair Adams had for humanity and our inability to see the problems past our own noses.  The mood shifts explained away via the series' most cynical character Ford Prefect, who knew madness when he saw it and knew the best response was to avoid it at all costs and go to parties instead.  I think that's why most H2G2 fans have a hard time accepting the follow-up book So Long And Thanks For All The Fish: it's perhaps Adams' most optimistic book in the series, or at least ends on a happy note...

Batman: Dark Knight Returns - actually it was Issue 2 of the miniseries, but the collected book itself in the end belongs on the list.  It was in Mr. Henderson's journalism classroom back in oh 1986, during a free period between getting school newspapers together, that I spotted a copy of that Issue 2 sitting on a table.  Not knowing whose it was, I picked it up and read it, fascinated by the artwork and the kinetic detail (I put it back when done, btw).  The more I read it (not just the images: the narration balloons, the dialogue, the words themselves) the more I got hooked.  This was the issue with the fight between Batman and the Mutant Leader, with a girl Robin showing up, the Batmobile literally bursting onto the scene as a tank (!), and the intermixing background noise of the DC Universe's fictional media debating the merits of costumed vigilantism.  I had until then a vague interest in comic books, mostly some beat-up issues me and my brothers bought in paperback dealers, but this was what drew me in.  I sought out a direct comic store from there on right about the time DC went through it's Crisis on Infinite Earth stage.  As they were re-booting at the time it was the perfect moment for me to jump in, and I immersed myself (much to my parents' dismay) with the comics culture for about 10 years.  But by 1996 I started to drift away, the costs of keeping up getting too much and the DC publishers having a very hard time keeping track of their convoluted re-booting.  I've stuck to the occasional graphic novel from then on.

Killer Angels - In hindsight, the novel about the Battle of Gettysburg gets a tad... preachy... but it introduced me to some of my personal heroes, especially Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of the 20th Maine (seriously, that's how I call him).  One of these days I gotta go visit Little Round Top.

Rosa Luxemburg - we're getting into my college years now, and it's between this and any handful of titles I read for a Literary Utopias class.  Problem there is, I can't recall any of those Utopia titles impressing me too much: like Ferris, I came to realize that -isms are bad and those Utopias all have one flaw.  That utopias are impractical in real-world application.  Actually there's a second flaw with Utopias: the utopian idealist is so intent on creating a model society that any human trait (sins such as greed, envy, lust) that would conflict with that utopia would be ignored rather than resolved, dooming said utopia when that human trait rose up.
So I point you all to a biography of someone I had to read about for another college class, one dedicated to reviewing and comparing/contrasting biographies of famous Great Men of History.  I had Churchill, FDR, and Rosa Luxemburg.  Talk about your contrasts.  The first two guys would agree to the Great Man theory of historical thought: Luxemburg being a hard-core communist (international communist, not the Leninist types that dominated the 20th Century) would have argued more for a People's History where the flow of history came from the masses desiring change (in truth, it's a combination of the two: people push for change, but it takes the right leadership to focus that power in the best possible direction).  One of the things I did get from reading the biographies on Luxemburg was that the communist movement wasn't entirely focused on Lenin and his Soviet cronies: there were other commies who disagreed with Lenin's motives and ambitions.  It helped to read up on communist and socialist theory that wasn't tainted by Leninism... and still see the flaws inherent in communist theory.  Leninist party rule led to corruption; Marxism itself oversimplified economics and class systems, and failed to recognize future trends that would lead away from industry and capital superstructure: those factors would lead to its failure at the end of the 20th Century.
There were about three biographies I relied on for the research: I'm pretty sure one was by Frolich, another by Nettl.  The third one might have been Ettinger.  Most of what I got from reading on Luxemburg was sadness of a sincerely-led life gone to waste.

Sandman: Fables and Reflections - part of my comics reading focused on the... macabre literature that DC was publishing that would lead into their Vertigo brand: I had begun reading Swamp Thing just as Alan Moore was leaving it, and from Swamp Thing I picked up the spin-off work Hellblazer (aka the one with the trenchcoat badass Constantine).  A third one began at about the same time: Sandman, which started off as yet another horror-themed series but by the second "volume" began shifting into more high fantasy plot lines.  Where the replacement writers and artists for Swamp Thing and Hellblazer thought it was all about the shock value (and where the artwork for Swampie went into questionably bad pencil/inkwork), Sandman retained high production value especially as one writer - Neil Gaiman - was in charge of the narrative.  No one else wrote a Sandman story.  Over the years Gaiman stuck to various themes, guiding the story lines to what was recognized by fans as a fixed ending - the fall of the Dream Lord - and providing a satisfying conclusion to the series.  Few other comic books - excuse me, graphic narratives - could claim to aspire to high-quality literature (the closest I could suggest would be the Love And Rockets / Palomar series by the Hernandez Brothers.  Dave Sim tried with his Cerebus but it drove him mad).
This particular volume I'm promoting - Fables and Reflections - is a sort of short story collection: in-between the epic story lines Gaiman wrote - Doll's House, Season of Mists, Brief Lives, Kindly Ones - were one-off stories of various characters affected by their dreams and the decisions they made whilst dreaming.  Fables and Reflections collected the ones printed before and after Brief Lives (Gaiman's meditation on mortality, loss, and responsibilities), and included stories of regular people (sort of) and famous historical figures (Augustus the first Roman Emperor, Harum al-Rashid the caliph of Baghdad at its height of legend, Robespierre of the Reign of Terror, Marco Polo the traveler and historian of Kublai Khan).  Among the famous historical figures is Joshua Abraham Norton, a expatriate businessman in mid-19th Century San Francisco who loses his fortune... and through the manipulations of the Dream Lord Morpheus playing against his Endless siblings finds his calling as Norton I, Emperor of the United States.  It was Gaiman's tale that introduced me to the Emperor Norton, and after additional readings on him over the years I've come to respect the man.  You ought to read up on him too.  Then call the city of Oakland and insist the Bay Bridge be named in Norton's honor.  Oakland never did like the Emperor... :(

American Gods -  Gaiman gets two entries here.  Oddly enough I don't think he's the best writer I've ever read (that would be Ray Bradbury: pity his best stuff is short stories and they're spread all over the place): he is however the most enjoyable, and the one who has proven to best mess with the established tropes.
American Gods carried over a theme from Gaiman's Sandman work: that the Gods (the pagan ones) are real, defined not by their own existence but by the belief system and legends created by us humans.  It turns out that the United States is swarming with gods brought over from the Old World, but because of how and who we worship anymore the pagan gods have to 'find work' in other professions: Egyptian gods working at a funeral parlor in Cairo, IL.; a nameless god of fortune presiding over a Vegas casino; the goddess that may have been the Queen of Sheba reduced to a call girl; a Germanic death god reduced to near-retirement at a slaughterhouse; and Odin left to playing con games across the nation.  The biggest problem for these aging gods is that the belief system in effect allows for newer gods to be born: a computer geek god, Media as the goddess of television and its' hypnotic, consuming ways; foot soldiers comprised of every conspiracy theory the wingnuts believe in; and more.  And the New gods are convinced they need to destroy the Old gods to claim America for themselves.
The beauty of American Gods is how Gaiman focuses on how legends are born, on how myths perpetuate and how people even need to Believe In Things (even the fantastic, even the cynical) in order to exist in the Real World.  The plot itself is irrelevant: the fun is in the details and the clues.  And like most Gaiman stories, the climax isn't the big battle or the great moral victory (which actually rarely happens in his works), the climax is... well, that would be telling too much.  Just remember this: only the gods are real...

No Plot?  No Problem! - Shameless plug for the NaNoWriMo.

Price of Loyalty - A book focusing on George W. Bush's first Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill, this is a fascinating insider look from a noted business and political figure whose falling out with the Bush/Cheney/Rove crowd was big news.  While O'Neill's early focus in the administration was on getting passage of Bush's prized tax cut package, the later chapters detailing the descent into war-frenzy after 9/11 are chilling.  O'Neill's recognition that the push for an Iraq War required the government to pull back on the tax cuts led to in my mind the most insulting moment in political history: a disinterested, almost nonchalant VP Cheney telling O'Neill "Deficits don't matter."  Trillions of dollars in debt later, Cheney still needs to see jail time for that kind of blase mismanagement and political short-sightedness.
There have been tens of other books published about the nightmare that was the Bush the Lesser administration - Dean's Worse Than Watergate, anything by Glenn Greenwald - but this one by Suskind is more accessible as it has a likable and believable protagonist in O'Neill, whose forays into the world of business (Alcoa executive) provides a surprising amount of humorous moments.

There you have it.  Took me 3 days to pile this list together.  Now, is anyone willing to add my book to their list of influential titles?!  Anyone?  Bueller?  Bueller?!

UPDATE: I should have included this one, which I wrote about over on my political blog.

The Selling of the President - A book about the 1968 Presidential campaign, one of the first to use aggressive television advertising to market a candidate as though he were a new car. Follow the link back to my politics blog to read the full review of it, 'cause it's too lengthy to list here. Thank ye.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I Survived South Florida

From my previous post, discussing my trip back to the Ft. Lauderdale/Miami metro and what I expected from the job interview:

Except for the traffic.  I'm pretty damn sure South Florida traffic is still a frakking nightmare.
Hmmm, yeah, that was pretty much right.  I-595 heading in Thursday night, definitely nasty.  The drive into Hialeah on I-75 went well, but driving back?  Bumper-to-bumper from Miramar to Weston...

As for the interview itself?  Florida National College was hiring for Library Director.  Supervisory, with two librarians, a library assistant, and a handful of clerks on staff, so it was a better staffing situation than the previous small college I interviewed last year.

The interview itself went... I have to admit I was rusty.  Haven't interviewed in a year.  There were questions from the panel about why I had a year-long gap on the resume: I noted I was taking classes for computer certification and was job hunting, noting the current difficulties of the job market.  They asked about how I lost my last full-time job:  I answered honestly (incompatibility) but it's never easy explaining why you lose a job.  They seemed to be packing in a set of interviews that afternoon, so I do know there's competition for the spot (in this market there has to be.  Officially it's six people per open job: from the rumors I'm getting it's more like twenty per open job!)


Well, we'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Going Back to South Florida

As in the Boca-Broward-Bimini Triangle... Palm Beach/Broward/Dade Metro of Doom.  I'm going back for a job interview down there.  Going back...

I moved there in 1994 to begin my first full-time job as a Librarian I at the North Regional / BCC Library.  It was a brand new structure back then, fresh paint, new carpeting, new shelves, new everything.  Lord, that was 16 years ago, and it was pretty beat up the last time I visited in... what was it, 2004?

What happened was... I had wanted to work in academia, you see.  And the NR branch was part of a County Public Library system.  While as a joint-use library it also served the community college students, in truth there wasn't much in the way of academic-level research offered.  So even though I had a decent job there, I kept sending my resumes to colleges here and there, just looking, interviewing sometimes (why I didn't get that North Florida job, I'll never know, I thought I nailed that interview).  So in some respects I never really wanted to stay there...

Part of it also was the fact I took a promotion up after about six years from Librarian I to II, which moved me to a supervisory role and into the Public Computer Labs... at other Regional branches.  Worked at South Regional for about seven months in one of the most cramped staff offices I'd ever seen (it had been built before the widespread need for computers at every staff cubicle... it was also built with some of the shoddiest materials I'd ever seen, the roof LEAKED, this was a Library for God's sake), then transferring up to another brand new Regional library for about a year... then transferred from there to the Main branch as a regular Reference librarian again until 2003 when an opportunity opened up at my alma mater UF.  Job history from there gets a little more complicated to where I'm sitting here unemployed in Pasco County wondering just what the hell I've done wrong job-hunting the last 14 months...

I last visited Broward County for a friend's retirement party.  That was 2004, maybe 2005.  Only stayed for that and not much more.  It's been six (maybe five) years since I'd even been down there.  I know South Regional built a new building roughly 4 years ago.  I figure most of the people I knew working there probably moved on... It's been so long, and I never made an honest effort to keep in touch.

The job I'm interviewing for is a small private college in Dade.  If I have some time, I might visit a few old haunts, see how the place has changed... sure it's been five (six) years since I'd been down there... but I know things change within a heartbeat.

Except for the traffic.  I'm pretty damn sure South Florida traffic is still a frakking nightmare.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Geekin' Out On Trek

If I have any blog readers, you might know I'm a huge geek.  Well, both in girth and in attitude, but still.

Grew up a huge fan of Star Trek, for one.  Also was hard into video gaming, as I was a middle-schooler the years that console and arcade gaming exploded on the market.  Atari Boy, y'all.  Evolved from there into other scifi obsessions (X-Files, the Matrix) and other gaming habits (computer and Massive Multiplayer Online).

All of this is leading up, of course, to this previous week.  When Star Trek Online finally came out (nice Websnark review here).

This had been a game in development for AGES.  Other franchises of fantasy and scifi had come out with MMOs of their own - notably Star Wars Galaxies and Lord of the Rings Online - but Trek seemed to have serious issues.

A lot of it had to do with roleplay within the established universe, as it were.  Most other games, you create a character and play it however you want, no problem.  The powers and actions of that character based on Archetype, sure, but otherwise you can do whatever you want wherever you were (depending on zone hazards, of course).  But Star Trek is, well, a little different.  Star Trek is an ensemble effort: a character in Trek is part of a crew.  A Trek character serves a function on a starship, be it a bridge officer, a security guard, an engineer, an Away Team scientist, a medic, what have you.  In a true roleplay environment, your character would be performing ship duties alongside hundreds of other online players... bumping into each other, arguing over who gets to work the Botany lab (or worse, arguing over who gets to sit in the Big Chair), filling out paperwork... in other words, getting bored out of your mind as you would in the Real World.  It also meant that when the ship you were on finally went into battle or a conflict of some kind, the success of the ship depended on hundreds of fellow online players, which meant shiploads of lag or problems with key players not being online when the action goes down.  Meaning harsher gameplay that wouldn't really be any fun at all.  Word is/was the original game designers were trying to create that kind of MMO experience... and were failing miserably.

Other companies passed this project around like a hot potato before it landed with Atari and Cryptic Studios.  The people involved here (including a particular person I'm not a huge fan of from the CoH days) made a judgment call for playability over pure roleplay.

They created a situation in-game where everyone gets their own ship and becomes Captain of their own crew.

The Trek purists, for what I know, did howl at that.  The gaming purists I'm willing to bet cheered their asses off.

It does simplify the game.  No arguments over who gets to be a Captain as EVERYONE gets to be one.  The argument now is more about A) what ship you really get and B) how quickly you can upgrade to the bigger (Enterprise) better (Enterprise-E) ships (ENTERPRISE!!!).

No arguments either on who plays what role as bridge bunnies, uh officers.  Each Captain hires on or 'buys' other officers at key positions (Tactical, Science, Engineering) depending on the number of Assignment slates available (higher ranks achieved adds up to 5 spots).  The bridge crew also works as your default Away Teams with you (basic Red Shirt security guys to fill the spots not yet unlocked in Assignment).

Multiplayer works like this in Trek: you fly your ship into star systems, to either patrol them, locate problems, fight off bad guys (Klingons!  Who have allied themselves with the Gorn, the Cardassians, and a few other minor villain classes), and otherwise cause havoc before the Prime Directive comes in.  You have fleet battles and beam-down away missions.  And you automatically team with anyone else who enters your system working the same mission objective (if people come in half-way through a mission, the objectives scale to difficulty accordingly).

Ship and crew upgrades come with Inventory items to boost shields, weapons, engineering, science, and tactical advantages.  You can sell Tribbles, if you dare.  Leveling up in rank involves 'training' your talents in particular matters as well as training up your bridge NPC officers (you can install Inventory items like more powerful phaser rifles to your bridge crew as well).

I've been playing for the past week (between job hunting and all).  One of the advantages of Cryptic being involved is that Trek Online gets the Character Creation system that Cryptic enjoys deploying: it's one of the most complex of all the MMOs out there, but also the best as it lets you choose uniforms, body shape, facial color and structure, EVERYTHING.  Eric at Websnark is particularly thrilled he built a Tree officer (!).

For myself, I am now Captain (Lt. rank, actually, but working to actual Captain status) of the USS Esoteric (yes, Phil, I'm borrowing one of your favorite words, sue me!), flying about the Vulcan/Risa sectors handling a lot of zone hunting missions and doing my best not to attract attention from the GIANT SPACE WASPS OF ALTAIR NINE!  eeeeeeeeeek.  Anywho.  The game is a bit of a blast... except I'd really love to get more weapon slots on my Cruiser.  Only two in front (Phaser, Torpedo) and one in back (Phaser).  I need more torpedo tubes!

Gameplay itself is a lot like the old Starfleet Command game: you fire attacks, you balance your shields, and you turn and circle about in space with your strongest shields facing your opponents at all times.  Meaning a lot of evasive maneuvers and spinning about the game grid.  Ground attack fights with Away Teams are a lot like regular MMO PvE: shoot at bad guys, get your teammates to heal you or buff your shields, and target the bad guys with special attacks for a one-shot kill.  Oh, and the Away Team missions if you team with other players have the 5-character slots filled by your teammates and by whatever NPC the team leader chooses (haven't played that option yet, but should be interesting).

I haven't run into any PvP instances yet, although I'm pretty sure that aspect is in the game - probably the Neutral Zone between Federation and Klingon space...

And now... TO INFINITY... AND BEY... what you mean, wrong show?  Sigh.  Go geeks!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Job Hunting Update Jan. 2010

It's been one full year of joblessness.  I'd been spending most of it studying up for the CompTIA A+ certification exams.

The CompTIA A+ 220-601 Certification for Essentials?  Tried it twice, once in December and once this month.  Missed both times by what looks to be one question (arrrrgggghhhhhh)

The CompTIA A+ 220-602 Certification for IT Technician?  Tried it last week.  Passed by what looks to be 1.5 questions!  (wooooohoooooooooooooooo yeah baby yeah I RULE I RULE)

Problem is I still need the Essentials to be fully certified for computer tech support.  And the problem there is the CompTIA exams are upgrading to cover more Vista (why?!  Vista sucked!) and some Win7 (which should be more appropos).  So I gotta keep studying and re-trying for the 601 701 exam.  Sigh.

Meanwhile, I can send out more resumes and try more job possibilities and... and... there's not much else to do with a state unemployment rate at 13 percent AND GROWING.  I shoulda been a CEO...