Secrets Revealed, Our Big News of 2014: We’re Moving to the San Francisco Bay area!

*SIGH* The past year and a half has been absolutely insane.

I moved across town in Nashville in order to be closer to the BF.  Then, my mom needed a lung transplant and moved in with me.  She got her new lungs and then my apartment flooded. So, we moved to a new apartment.  Six months later, the BF and I moved to Miami together.

I’ve mentioned in comments and implied in some posts on social media that something big was going on with me. At the BF’s request because he had not yet told people at his work, I have not publicly disclosed the details of this big thing until now.  So, here goes!

In January, my company went through some restructuring and my team was shuffled around a lot. Some people were moved to other teams and some people were laid off. I was fortunate in that I wasn’t laid off; however, I was given an ultimatum: move to California or find a new job.

That sounds extreme and, in fairness, my boss did not phrase it that way. He really went the extra mile to make the proposal appealing and easy for me and the BF. So, apart from being pressed to make a big decision in a rather short period of time, it’s been a good experience.

That’s not to say it’s been an easy thing for the BF and I to weigh out.  There are pretty big pros and cons to this decision no matter how you look at it. Jobs, cost of living, traffic… I’ll spare you all the ruminations.

But we’ve decided to take the plunge! We’re going to move to the San Francisco Bay Area!

To those wondering, yes, I am well-aware that this is my fourth time moving in an 18 month period.  We’re hoping to find a place where we will be happy to stay for at LEAST two years.  But there you have it!

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions:

  • We have not yet found a place to live. We’re heading out this weekend to find a place, actually.
  • Yes, we do know it’s expensive to live out there.
  • Yes, we have heard the traffic can be bad at times.
  • No, seriously, we know it’s expensive to live out there and that there’s traffic.  We also know the average high and low temps, average precipitation, and other aspects of living there. Both the BF and I are big on research and there’s a spreadsheet we maintain comparing cost of living and benefits of living in various cities across the country. Why? Because we’re looking for a place to put down roots and we plan ahead.
  • We’re actually going to be looking for some place between San Mateo/Foster City and Mountain View/Sunnyvale.
  • The actual moving process will kick off April 17th and will conclude in phases over the following two weeks.
  • Yes, the BF has a job out there; his start date (and mine) is May 1.
  • We have movers helping us, so we’re just doing a road trip across the country with Lilly B.
  • We’re planning on making the drive in 7-ish days although the actual driving time is about 45 hours. The exact timing of everything is still in a state of flux due to a lot of things that can’t be determined until the move is actually underway.
  • We’re shipping one car and driving the other.
  • Yes, I repeat, yes, we do know it’s expensive to live there! This has got to be the biggest piece of “advice” we’re offered. We’ve examined our budgets and adjusted them in ways that we believe are appropriate for this decision.  Trust us. We are financially healthy grown-ups with very, very good credit scores. We didn’t make the decision casually. We can handle it.
  • Lilly B is going to ride with us in the car. She’s good at road trips.
  • We’re planning to do a little bit of sightseeing on our drive, but it depends on what the timeline with the movers can actually support.

I think that’s it.

We’re very excited about the move. After months of planning and research, we’re also very anxious to have the move done and complete.

Game Review – Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

The very first game I played on my new PS4 was Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, the Nth installment in the Assassin’s Creed series. I don’t know which installment it is because there are a bunch and they aren’t all really numbered in a sequential way.

The Story
AC4 follows the same basic premise as the previous games: in modern times there’s a person tapping into their “genetic memory” to trace the life of one of their ancestors who is involved in the millennia-long battle between the Templars and the Assassins. The origin of this conflict involves aliens or something. I haven’t paid close enough attention to all the cut scenes in these games to really understand what’s going on with that.

In the modern times, though, Desmond is dead and you’re a brand new guy who has been hired by Abstergo Studios, an entertainment company who is using the footage of your memories to create movies. Obvs, they’re a front for the Templars just as the Abstergo labs was in the previous games.

The ancestor story is that of the pirate Edward Kenway who impersonates a traitor assassin in an opportunistic ploy to win some unknown treasure called “The Observatory” and ends up getting sucked into the Templar-Assassin conflict while sailing the seas of the Caribbean.

The Good
I like the story. I do wish they spent a little more time developing the bad guys but the richness of the various “good guy” characters is really enjoyable. I also like the various betrayals and shifting alliances that happen throughout.

They also seem to have worked out the issues with the ships. I could be wrong here, but in previous games I just could not really get the hang of the ship controls and I won the short battles by accident.  At first, I dreaded this game when I realize that a lot of time would be spent on ship, but I got used to it and really enjoyed the ship controls and battles.

I do also like that they kept the hunting side-tasks although the crafting elements were overly simplified from AC3′s very complicated crafting recipes.

Instead of assassin contracts, they have fleet tasks.  As you capture other ships on the seas you can add them to your fleet and then you send them off to do things along trading routes.  There is this weird little mini-game thing where you can change the risk-level of a given map by staging ship battles which makes the contracts very easy.  I like the ship capturing to build a fleet. I did not care for the ship battle thing.

I LOVE the ability to hide in bushes in this game.  Previous games have felt limited in terms of finding hiding spots and so many hiding spots limit what you can do. This game clears that up nicely by allowing you to hide in bushes.  Unfortunately, this makes some of the challenges exceptionally easy because you can hide so very readily.

The art and graphics are really amazing. That’s part PS4 and part, I think, because the team making these games has a lot of practice.

Speaking of which, I really like how they switch things up with each installment in the series. They don’t merely eliminate the bad and improve the good things, they try something new each time.  The result is that they steadily push the bar forward while also delivering a really enjoyable game.

One of the new things they threw in were swimming missions.  You have a diving bell that takes you to the bottom of the ocean and you swim around collecting treasures and avoiding sharks and jelly fish.  I found these to be pretty fun. I’ll note my complaints below.

The Ultimate Ships are OSSUM. When you first start sailing around fighting other ships it’s somewhat challenging because your ship is the base model. But as soon as you start upgrading things it becomes ridiculously easy and so it gets boring.  To mix things up, they have these huge ships out in the ocean that you can attack for big money, but they’re really hard to kill even when your ship is completely upgraded.  It’s nice to have those challenges out there.

And speaking of the sailing, I loved the way the weather and time of day would change in AC3 and AC4 continues to improve on that theme with lots of very rich environmental elements that are just beautiful. They’re so convincing and immersive, in fact, that on some missions if the sun started to come up or the rain stopped I got anxious that the guards would be able to see me more easily. They couldn’t, but still.

The Bad
My biggest complaint about this game: glitches.  This could be because I am an early adopter, but still. There were several scenarios where I had to restart the game because it messed up.  Sometimes things would start happening with a particular memory or critical part of the action without my having clearly seen what was going on.  MANY MANY MANY times the game did not respond to my controller and so my little pirate guy got into trouble. For instance, he would put his swords away in the middle of a battle and get stabbed in the face. Or he’d prefer to jump around on things rather than stopping and fighting. Of course, there were times when the game didn’t respond and it was a good thing for my little pirate guy, too. The map messed up at several points, too.  Blah blah blah. Glitches. Glitches everywhere. And they got worse later in the game.

I mentioned that stupid ship battle mini-game in the fleet mission area, right? Well, the reason this sucks is because it’s kind one of those retro handheld game things we had back in the 80s. These battles were very easy and mostly just a waste of time.

The story. Yes, I know the story was something I liked about this game, but there were pacing problems I had with the story.  The shifts in Kenway’s character were really stilted and lurching.  One minute he was a hedonistic, carefree, opportunistic pirate guy and the next he was pining for his wife back in Wales.  And then he goes to prison and suddenly he’s all philosophical about life and wants to be an Assassin or something.  Putting aside the development issues the rising action is so long and then the climax is rushed with a too short denouement. In fact, when the game ended I was like, “Wait. What?”  So, while I loved the story in this one for some of the complexities that they introduced, I felt like they almost needed another six memory sequences to really make it flow more naturally. (There are 12 memory sequences.)

Also, the modern-day storyline is complete loose end.  Actually, this is not a complaint. I think that part is fine, though I wonder why there are any tasks or missions associated with the modern world at all when you’ll never really get an opportunity in that storyline to finish them. But whatevs. I love that the AC series carries a story between games. That brings me back for more! So, ignore this as a complaint.

There are WAY too many treasure chests and stuff in this game. In past games there were a lot and you could spend a fair amount of time running around a city collecting them all.  Well, on this game there are hundreds and hundreds of them strewn around the ocean.  Yes, you can go collect them all, but to do so you have to stop your boat, swim to the location, run to the island, collect the treasure, run back on the land, swim back to your boat, and climb back up to your wheel so you can move to the next location. It quickly becomes so tedious to attempt to collect these things that I ended up ignoring them unless they were DIRECTLY in my path to my next destination… which by the end of the game was never because I didn’t want to spend 10 minutes sailing to the next place and so I just used Fast Travel to get around.

The swimming missions were fun, but they were kind of flat. You’re basically unarmed, so you have no way to fight the sharks, eels, and what not.  Also, the swimming controls are kind of annoying. It’s easy to get turned around and confused about where you’re going.

It’s hard to see on the map what you missed.  For instance, I missed two treasure chest maps because I didn’t know from the beginning of the game that you have to talk to the barkeepers. Moreover, when the barkeepers tell you a secret, it seems you have to pursue that secret before you’re allowed to ask for another. So, if they tell you about a stupid convoy you have to go attack that convoy before you can go to another barkeeper for another secret. I have no idea which barkeeper knows where the other treasure maps are. I gave up on that even though I kind of like the treasure map thing. Another example: There are these “Templar Hunt” missions that you need to do in order to get some keys to a closet in a house you stole and I didn’t know where those where.  I was actually over 75% done with the game when I realized I was missing one of them and then I had to hunt all over the map to find it.

I’ll stop complaining there. Anything else in the game that bothered me was minor and I would just be indulging in whining to bring them up.

One whine: I hate how you don’t get all your weapons until the game is almost over! That doesn’t give me any time to perfect my technique or appreciate what it means to use them. Specifically, I never once hanged anyone with a rope dart. Why? The first, best opportunity I had was glitch-afflicted and then there was only really one (and a half?) memory sequences left after that.

The Summary
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Assassin’s Creed games since the very first one and I think the studio has done a great job of improving over previous games and constantly pushing the bar and finding new things to do. They also write good stories for these games; I’m a person who plays games for the stories a lot.

I will say that when I was tired of the game I was TIRED OF THE GAME. And I ended up rushing through the final memory sequences just to be done playing it already.  But I blame that less on the game than on the limitations of my playing schedule and the way I approach playing games like this which — I admit — tends to magnify tedious aspects of the game.  So, yeah.

Bottom line: I really enjoyed AC4! Scale of 10, I give this an 8.

I actually think I liked this game more than previous AC games because I found myself avoiding the main mission just to do side missions and exploring other areas of the world. I loved being a pirate and doing the ship battles. I think my favorite part is the little cannon I have on the sides of my boat and the rope swing that allows me to swoop over to other boats.

And the weather! THE WEATHER! I just couldn’t get over the rain and the bushes and the light and the fog… the whole texture of the environment was so lush and wonderful and beautiful.

So, yes, I totally recommend this game.

My PS4: One Month Review

After months of watching and waiting for Amazon to get more PS4′s in stock, I finally got mine on January 10th.  You’d think in a month I’d have had plenty of time to explore all the features and really kick the tires, but I don’t like tinkering, so I don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface.  That won’t stop me from writing this review, though!

As usual, this will be a scattershot of my various thoughts on it.

I like the controller. I saw the reviews about how great it is, but I didn’t see anyone describe exactly what makes it so great.  A few things, I think make it good. First, the little prongs are thicker and sit really well in my hands.  The L2/R2 buttons are shaped like triggers so it’s lots easier to press those.  The analog sticks feel better to me, too, but I can’t really say why. There’s also a speaker in the controller, which I think is pretty cool.

I love the slimmer profile of the box itself, too. My PS3 looks like a hippo sitting on the shelf next to the dark 2001-Space-Odyssey-monolith-esque PS4.  This will sound crazy, but I am especially thankful for the top being flat!!! The rounded top on the PS3 made it a challenge to work into tight spaces when I lived in NYC and, frankly, I found the rounded top to be aesthetically obnoxious.

The interface is nice.  They’ve changed things up, but not so much that you can’t find your way around. In fact, it’s very intuitive. A couple of things I really like: they have a stand by mode which, if I understand it correctly, allows the system to update itself when I’m not using it.  This is great because I use my consoles at very irregular intervals and I have having to do updates just to play a quick game.

The app installations are easy. They already had Netflix, Hulu, Redbox, Amazon Prime, and everything ready for me to just install and log in. WOO!

Since I’m a social media nerd, I was excited to discover that they have it where it’s supposed to let me share things like trophies to Facebook easily/automatically. I have yet to see the social sharing feature work in the way I expected, though. And since I hate tinkering I have yet to really look into why my friends aren’t getting bombarded with those updates.

I’ve only played two games since I got the system: Resogun and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

Resogun is a great arcade-style title. It’s fun for when you only have 10 minutes to kill on a game.  It’s a little bit of sensory overload with all the noises and flashing and explosions, but, hey, that’s what makes that kind of game fun. Highly recommended.

I’ll write a review of AC4 in a separate post. Back to the PS4 review.

My biggest complaint about PS4 is that it doesn’t support PS3 games. I understand that they completely re-engineered the platform and all that, so there’s a big technical barrier to this. I also understand they’re trying to run a little side business off of letting people play PS3 games via their network, which is a minor business barrier.  But as a customer, I think they should have worked it out.  There are PS3 games I wanted to buy and play yet, but now I probably never will because it’s unlikely I’ll ever go back to my PS3.  Also, I hate having two gadgets that do basically the same thing.

Beyond that, I love my PS4 and have no other real complaints. I love it! And considering the fact that I got five good years of use out of my PS3, I hope to get several years out of this new gadget.

Dear Lady in Front of Us at Publix

First of all, you knew this was the Express lane when you walked up. And while we can all see that you have more than the 11 items you claimed to have, the sign clearly says the limit is 10.  For the purposes of this letter, I’m just going to say that THAT moment is the beginning of your wrongness this evening. However, please trust me when I say I’m practicing significant restraint not to cite the moment you composed that outfit as the apparent beginning of your wrongness today.

SIGNIFICANT. RESTRAINT.

So, you had “one” too many items for the express lane.

Does it matter than no one was allegedly in line when you walked up with your “one” too many items? No, it actually doesn’t. Because you had too many items.

Most people would be willing to forgive you for having “one” too many items if your transaction had been quick and efficient, but you had coupons.

Don’t get me wrong: part of me admires the diligence of you extreme couponers.  And although your $40 of groceries wasn’t free, I was still kind of impressed that you got it all for less than $5. Not enough to excuse your behavior, though.

Let me spell it out for you: the EXPRESS LANE is not the place to expose the rest of us to the turgidity of your thriftiness.  Not to put too fine a point on it, this situation just makes you a dick. You’re probably thinking, “There’s no rule against using coupons in the express lane.” There’s also no rule against sneezing on other people in line, picking your boogers and eating them while in line, or picking at your underwear in line.  You see, there is an infinite number of things about which there is no “rule” posted on a sign at the beginning of the line, but common sense and basic courtesy do dictate that you avoid these things.

I want to impress upon you again that I don’t buy your coy excuses about not being aware of how wrong you are. You’re an adult. This is not your first rodeo. So, don’t piss on my leg and tell me it raining. (PS. There’s no sign against that in the express lane, either, but I just dare you.)

Your third wrongness that I observed this evening was when you asked the cashier to deal with your coupons before she finished scanning all of your items.  I know this isn’t your first time purchasing four jars of ranch dressing with twice as many coupons, lady. You know how this is supposed to work. HOLD YOUR COUPONS UNTIL THE END.

So, no, I did not believe you when you laughingly tossed a “Sorry, guys” our way.  You knew you were wrong. Pretty much all day long. Wrong. Again, I wish to emphasize the restraint I practiced this evening. See, I can be extremely outspoken in stressful situations. But instead of taking that faux apology as an invitation to explain how rude you are and how I don’t believe your apology I chose to simply give you a blank stare that I hope at least hinted at my disapproval. I don’t think a simple stare can really communicate the depths of my disapproval, but perhaps its mere existence became known in that moment.

I could tell you didn’t like it when the manager asked you not to get into the express lane. And I could tell you had no intention of heeding her request in the future. I believe you actually think you were the one wronged in this situation.  I believe that you left the store thinking you were completely innocent and even though other people made it through nearby lines after leaving the express lane before your transaction was complete there was nothing you could do about that. I believe that you actually see yourself as a blameless martyr suffering at the hands of store managers and other customers who just don’t understand how wise you are for using coupons like you do.

Bless your heart.

But did you stop there?  Nope. I watched you push your shopping cart — and, yes, I do also have an opinion on you and your man friend using a cart for “eleven” items — into the parking spot next to your vehicle instead of taking it to the cart return.  As far as I am concerned that was the end of your wrongness for the day.  It was the icing on the the poop cake you baked this evening at Publix. Chef Asshole at La Cuisine du Fart. That’s you.

Anyway, I gotta go watch the Grammy’s with my BF right now. I just thought I would spell out the number of ways you’re wrong just so that perhaps other assholes like you might realize that you aren’t fooling anyone.  Everyone knows you’re an asshole and unless you stop being an asshole there’s no way we won’t think that about you.

SMOOCHES
Trey

PS. I hope all that “diet” ranch dressing pays off for you.

An Idea for Sony to Fix My PS4 Complaint

My PS4 arrived from Amazon yesterday! YAAYY!!

It’s so pretty. I love how much smaller and FLAT it is compared to the PS3. (That rounded case on the PS3 drove me bananas.)  In some ways, the PS4 looks more like just another media device sitting on my entertainment center. In others, it looks more like a gaming console.  The first part is a compliment. The latter is not.

The new interface is a little different and it’s NOISY. I’m going to have to tinker with the sound settings or something.

I do like the Facebook integration and the way they have apps set up.

I also like that you can set it to “stand by” mode instead of turning it all the way off. But I wonder if it will automatically update itself while in standby. That would be really cool. I was telling a friend this morning that I am only a casual gamer and sometimes weeks and months go by between times when I actually use my Playstation.  Those updates that take 20 or 30 minutes to complete before I cam play a game get REALLY annoying.

I’m still exploring the PS4, so this isn’t a complete review by any stretch, but there is one thing about the PS4 that REALLY irks me: you can’t play your PS3 games on it.

Now, I do understand why this is the case. Sony went through a lot of trouble to invent a new platform and all kinds of technology stuff blah blah blah. And so the games just won’t work on PS4.

They have “generously” engineered this new online forum where you can play PS3 games that way, but you have to pay again even if you already own the game.

That potential revenue stream is the biggest reason why I think my idea will fall on deaf ears, but here’s what I imagine could be done to allow the PS4 to play PS3 games for folks like me who still have and enjoy them — and kind of want to buy some more and play those, too.

I imagine I could put a PS3 disc into my PS4.  When the PS4 detects that the disc is not PS4 compatible and it’s not a DVD or anything, it could check against the online system to make sure it’s a PS3 disc and that it’s a PS3 disc for a game that they support online.  If both of those things are true, then the PS4 could then play the online version so long as that disc is present. TAADAA!!

I imagine this would allow the PS4 to get around having to actually “understand” what it “reads” on a disc it finds inside it. It just listens to what the PSN tells it to do.

Yeah, so anyway. Sony should jump right on this so that I can get rid of my PS3 and clear up some space in my entertainment center.

“Mississippi” by Bob Dylan

For reasons I can’t get into publicly, this song is running through my head today.

“Mississippi”
by Bob Dylan

Every step of the way, we walk the line
Your days are numbered, so are mine
Time is piling up, we struggle and we stray
We’re all boxed in, nowhere to escape

City’s just a jungle, more games to play
Trapped in the heart of it, tryin’ to get away
I was raised in the country, I been working in the town
I been in trouble ever since I set my suitcase down

Got nothing for you, I had nothing before
Don’t even have anything for myself anymore
Sky full of fire, came pouring down
Nothing you can sell me, I’ll see you around

All my powers of expression and thoughts so sublime
Could never do you justice in reason or rhyme
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long

Well, the devil’s in the alley, mule’s in the stall
Say anything you wanna, I have heard it all
I was thinking about the things that Rosie said
I was dreaming I was sleeping in Rosie’s bed

Walking through the leaves, falling from the trees
Feeling like a stranger nobody sees
So many things that we never will undo
I know you’re sorry, I’m sorry too

Some people will offer you their hand and some won’t
Last night I knew you, tonight I don’t
I need something strong to distract my mind
I’m gonna look at you ’til my eyes go blind

Well I got here following the southern star
I crossed that river just to be where you are
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long

Well my ship’s been split to splinters and it’s sinking fast
I’m drowning in the poison, got no future, got no past
But my heart is not weary, it’s light and it’s free
I’ve got nothing but affection for all those who sailed with me

Everybody’s moving, if they ain’t already there
Everybody’s got to move somewhere
Stick with me baby, stick with me anyhow
Things should start to get interesting right about now

My clothes are wet, tight on my skin
Not as tight as the corner that I painted myself in
I know that fortune is waiting to be kind
So give me your hand and say you’ll be mine

Well, the emptiness is endless, cold as the clay
You can always come back, but you can’t come back all the way
Only one thing I did wrong
Stayed in Mississippi a day too long.

Paraphrased from a Discussion about Baby Names

BF: Do you have any strong feelings about baby names?

Me: Well, as you know, since high school —

BF: Something like “Adelaide” right?

Me: – I have wanted to name my daughter Adelaide. I just love the vowels and soft consonants together it trips so lightly off the tongue.

BF: How about “Addison?”

Me: It’s fine. I prefer “Adelaide,” though.

BF: How do you feel about “Grayson?”

Me: Like Robin?

BF: What?

Me: Robin. Batman and Robin. Robin’s name is “Dick Grayson.”

BF: Oh. I just –

Me: I’m not objecting. I’m just pointing out that it’s Robin’s last name.

BF: I just like last names for first names.

Me: Oh. Like “Givens.”

BF: Well. 

Me: Or “White.” *

BF: I don’t think “White” is a good idea. It’s kind of racial.

Me: Unlike “Brown?” What about “Green?”

BF: People aren’t green!

Me: I wouldn’t know. I don’t see color. I’m not a racist.

 

 * For those who don’t know, my middle name is “White” and it comes from my great-great(-great?) grandmother’s maiden name.

 

2013 in my Books

My friend, Kelly, posted to FB recently that she read 69 books in 2013.  That’s a LOT of books to my mind, but the question sort of piqued my curiosity about how much reading I did this year.  On one hand, I read a fair amount, but on the other I feel like I have not been reading nearly as much as I did in previous years.

Lo and behold, after counting the books I actually read in 2013, I only completed 21 books. That’s not as low as I thought it would be, but it’s still not as high as it probably has been in past years.

The reason this number surprises me is because I read most of those books within a week’s time or less. (My concentrated reading rate averages about 50 pages an hour of standard text.)  So, 21 books indicates that I really didn’t spend all THAT much time reading.

Anyway since the list is so short, here it is with some notes on each.

Lord of the White Hell Book One (The Cadeleonian Series)
Lord of the White Hell Book Two (The Cadeleonian Series)
by Ginn Hale

I love Ginn Hale’s writing and I’m actually surprised that I still haven’t gotten around to getting her Rifter series.  Lord of the White Hell is a pair of books that I found to be superduper fun.  Both books are very easy reads and, honestly, they should just be put together into a single volume, but I understand how these things happen and so I’m counting them as separate books.

The Alchemist – 10th Anniversary Edition
by Paul Coelho

I can’t remember if I read this in 2013 or at the end of 2012. I posted about it on Facebook, but FB doesn’t have a good way for me to search my posts, so I can’t verify it. I’m counting it in 2013 because I just want to make sure everyone knows I hate this book. It’s so stupid I struggle to find a place to begin criticizing it. But that’s not what this post is about.  I just want to say that for a book that gets so much attention it is amazingly vapid.

Wool Omnibus Edition (Wool 1 – 5) (Silo Saga)
First Shift – Legacy (Part 6 of the Silo Series) (Wool)
by Hugh Howey

I guess to be consistent I should count this as six separate books. *sigh*  I really enjoyed Wool 1 – 5. The first installment is really more of a short story but the novel gets more developed as you go.  I found the premises and environment of the books to be really thought provoking.  I love the heroine of the last books.

But First Shift was a let down to me. It’s a prequel to the first five books and changes the style and approach.  I could have gone without it.

Cold Days: A Novel of the Dresden Files
by Jim Butcher

The Dresden Files is a really fun series of books that I started reading several years ago and this is the latest installment.  It was not a let down except that — as usual — I read it in a couple of days and was left waiting until the next book comes out.  For those unfamiliar, it’s a fantasy series that follows the adventures of a wizard/ private investigator written in a style reminiscent of noir and Daschel Hammet. It’s full of humor and exciting things.

Consider Phlebas (Culture)
by Iain M Banks

This is one of those artsy sci-fi books.  It’s expansive, complex, mysterious, weird, and a lot of other things that make for a sci-fi book that critics would love to talk about.  It was also pretty slow and boring to me. Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s worth reading if you’re like me and interested in getting a better understanding of the sci-fi/fantasy genre of books.  This is one of those books at the “top” in terms of literary value in the genre, I think.

The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts
by Gary Chapman

I picked up this book after it was recommended at ATLOScon and was not disappointed.  I found it to be incredibly helpful both in terms of understanding what I can do to help build, advance, and strengthen my relationship with the BF, but also the things I didn’t know I was looking for from him as well.

Cassandra Clare: The Mortal Instrument Series (3 books): City of Bones; City of Ashes; City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments)
by Cassandra Clare

Yeah. I like to read young adult fiction from time to time.  Cassandra Clare turned up in my Amazon recommendations and then there was a movie made from the first book in this series.  This is not as painfully silly as the Twilight saga, but it’s still pretty lame.

I will say that I found the universe of the book to be pretty interesting.  There are vampires and elves and stuff, but they’re threaded into a pseudo-Christian mythos in a way that I haven’t seen elsewhere.  Unfortunately, the focus of the books is less the magic and universe than it is the emotional confusion, romantic interests, and action sequences involving the narrator of the book. (I haven’t mentioned it in a while, so I will say again: I do not prefer first-person perspectives in novels.)

I find myself getting increasingly frustrated and offended with female main characters who are less competent, smart, emotionally stable, etc. than male characters. Is this really how we think our young females are or should be?  I feel insulted by the suggestion.

The Richest Man in Babylon
by George S Clason

Pro: Great book for young adults in order to begin teaching them responsible financial habits.  It’s short, clear, and interesting to read.  Con: It’s WILDLY repetitious.

Blue Moon (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter)
Obsidian Butterfly (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter)
Narcissus in Chains (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter)
by Laurell K Hamilton

I started reading the Anita Blake series because I read somewhere that Jim Butcher said he was inspired to write the Dresden series by Hamilton’s work on Anita Blake.

I can’t say I’m a big fan even though I’ve now read something like 12 or 13 of these books.  They’re like potato chips, though. They’re light, easy and quick to read. It’s hard to read just one at a time.  But they’re also without a lot of “nutritional” value.

I’m giving up on the series after these three books because it’s just getting to be too porny.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine with the level of eroticism in the books. They aren’t overly graphic, but there’s a weird obsession with S&M and other forms of kink.  Weird because kink is portrayed in such a simple-minded way — as if Hamilton isn’t actually interested in those sorts of sexual expressions but imagines this is how it is.  I don’t know, but I am not impressed or interested in all that.  On the up side at least she isn’t like Anne Rice with all the graphic depictions of bodily fluids and whatnot.

SLEEPY HOLLOW: Rise Headless and Ride (Jason Crane)
by Richard Gleaves

Full disclosure: I know Richard Gleaves from real life.  But this book was SO MUCH FUN.  It’s young adult fiction in the fantasy vein. And I just could not get enough of it.  I loved it so much that I bought a signed copy for one of my friends’ daughters.

Animal Farm: A Fairy Story
by George Orwell

The only reason I read this was because I wanted to read 1984 but the copy I bought started with Animal Farm, so I decided to read Animal Farm first.  It’s a famous book. I don’t really have anything to add to the volumes of discourse that already exist on this.

The Fall of Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos)
by Dan Simmons

I read Hyperion a few years ago and really enjoyed it and this is the sequel. Unfortunately, where I found Hyperion to be fascinating due to Simmons’ ability to control and modulate his writing style — owing to the Canterbury Tales-style format he adopted — while still staying within the universe of his story, The Fall of Hyperion is more of a straight-forward sci-fi opera.  Nevertheless, this book is still one of those “high art” sci fi novels and is a solid read if you like the genre.

We the Animals: A novel
by Justin Torres

Ugh. This book is just… ugh.  As you can probably tell from the list above, I tend to read sci-fi and fantasy. I do also enjoy history and some non-fiction.  I rarely EVER get into modern art-lit and this is that.

The book is very short and it’s mostly composed of short vignettes about the lives of three young boys. As far as I can tell, the stories aren’t directly connected to one another and then, suddenly, in the final chapter of the book the narrator is a teenager and has sex with a random man in a bus stop.  This book doesn’t actually have a story to it in sense that the events are causally connected to one another, so the plot of the book is, at best, ambiguous.

I am sure that if I put my mind to it I could pull out some sort of literary commentary on the book, but I hate this kind of book.

I realized that another one of the reasons this list isn’t longer is because I have a lot of books that I started and just haven’t finished for one reason or another. I have a really hard time giving up on a book, so if I start reading a book that doesn’t grab me I will usually just read a little on it here and there until it’s done.  I also have a bad habit of reading multiple books at once and so I have a handful going all at once.

Here’s a list of the books I have in progress at the moment:

  • Anathem by Neal Stephenson
  • Crimson by Cosmo Fischer
  • “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character by Richard Feynman
  • Tasteful Nudes: …and Other Misguided Attempts at Personal Growth and Validation by Dave Hill
  • Pomodoro Technique Illustrated (Pragmatic Life) by Staffan Noteberg
  • Agile Excellence for Product Managers: A Guide to Creating Winning Products with Agile Development Team by Greg Cohen
  • Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century’s Biggest Bestsellers by James Hall
  • The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry Is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth by Joseph Turow
  • Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet by John Bradshaw
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler

Looking at that “in progress” list, I think I need to spend a little time finishing some of these and cleaning out my library.

My 2014 Theme: Good Habits

2014 is going to be one of those “building” years where the BF and I spend a lot of time working on laying the groundwork for things to come.

We’re going to be moving again.  We’re not leaving Florida just yet, but his office was relocated a little while ago and so we’re planning on moving to cut down on his >1 hour commute and get into a neighborhood we like a bit better.

We’re going to achieve a few of our larger financial goals of paying off some debts, building up some savings, etc.

And we’re planning on doing a little bit of travel this year although we already know we’re going to have to skip a few trips we were hoping to make in order to do some of the other things we want to do.

BUT!  The point of this post is to announce my theme for 2014.

For those unfamiliar, I’m not a big fan of resolutions the way they’re usually done because they’re usually just a list of goals or aspirational statements that don’t amount to much. I also don’t care for the notion of suddenly trying to become resolved to do something. I mean, if you’re resolved to do it, why not just go ahead and do it at the time you make up your mind? Why wait until the end of the year.

So, what I like to do is to pick a theme or an area of focus for the year. That way I can just do whatever I want and write it off as being part of my theme. GUARANTEED SUCCESS! Just kidding. (Not really.)

So, here is my theme for 2014: GOOD HABITS!

WOOOO!!! YAAAYYYY!!!

The inspiration for this theme is this article here: Forget Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead. (If you talk to the BF, though, he will say I stole the idea from him, but that is vicious propaganda.)

To wit, I am going to try to establish a regular schedule for some of the habits I want to build such as:

  • Going to the gym: This isn’t too hard since my Crossfit classes happen at set times. I just have to actually go to them. 
  • Industry research: I keep tabs on my industry in a pretty haphazard way, which often leads me to miss important things. So, I’ve decided to set aside some time each day to review industry news and whatnot. OK. Maybe you don’t care about that, but it’s a big change for me.  As a subset of this, I do want to get back into work-related blogging.
  • Adopt a writing schedule: I keep fiddling around writing a book, but I keep making the mistake of trying to keep all my ideas in my head. I want to try to get into the habit of actually, you know, writing.
  • Walk the dog: This is not a euphemism, but it is totally the BF’s idea.  Our little lady is kind of a chunky lady and we need to get her working on her fitness as well.

There might be some other habits I try to work into my life, but for now I want to start with these because I think they’re relatively easy to start, maintain, and expand as needed.

So, there you go! 2014: the year of building good habits!

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