A funny thing happened on the way to the blog

I miss blogging… no… wait… I already covered that. Scrolling through the archives of this site it appears a good portion of the (infrequent) posts from the past decade lament my effort in the ever dwindling blogosphere. So let’s not dwell on that.

I started this post a little over a week ago. Felt it was time to kick myself into gear and just write an entry, because if I waited to get this site fully back “up to code” it would never happen. Better to just say hi and get moving. And then a not-so-funny thing happened. I got laid off… Yesterday… Bummer…

Having spent most of my career as an IT guy but just outside of the tech sector, this has been an infrequent occurrence for me – but there’s still posts about my previous experience and the subsequent fallout. Financially we should be OK and I’ll be able to take my time looking for the another position without the pure panic of possibly losing our house. But it still stings and certainly doesn’t make me any less “it was capitalism all along” in attitude. The fact that so many people reached out to offer support and condolences (and networking) is a real blessing and speaks to just how many relationships I built in such a short time. The lost opportunity hurts, but not nearly as much as losing the people.

There’s plenty more to say on this (and other topics), but it’s best to just hit publish to help me move on with my day (and life).

Quote #1

I have requested of the shrink: Find me the thing that I can make the greatest impact in and I will do that thing.

You and everybody else, she replied.

– Weike Wang, Chemistry (p. 74)

Of sports and men

Back in 1989 I was in… a school. No need to date myself more than that. Anyway, one of my teachers was really into NCAA basketball so he asked us each to pick a team that would win it all. Still in my full on nerd shell I had no idea what teams were even involved with such a sport, so naturally I asked my dad. He suggested Michigan. Actually he suggested a few schools, but Michigan was the first. And they were the ones with the Wolverine mascot. That’s right, a team named for the coolest comic book character (listen, I can retcon that history if I want). So naturally I picked them.

And they won.

Continue reading “Of sports and men”

Project #1

So far so good. One day into the new year, and not only have I spent a lovely day with my family, but I’ve also completed my first project. Done. Finito.

Well, sort of…

In an attempt to resurrect this ol’ blog from the trash heap I realized that I not only needed to start writing in it, but I needed to reacquaint myself with the inner workings and get inspired to actually work on it again. Thus sometime yesterday afternoon it came time to begin the transition from the awkward Site5 to the modern DigitalOcean. And so I built my first cloud server, learned how to setup nginx, re-learned how to setup mysql, and reinstalled WordPress from scratch. All while building the configuration in a way to lead room for some other sites/projects that may come this way.

But nobody will know this is going on. Because I still need to work out several kinks. Like connecting this site to social media so that I can tell people what is going on wasqea7.

But this is day #1 and project #1. So I’ll take the little successes where I can get them. Because 2016 was a pretty crummy year. And 2017 is going to have some rough edges. But I am going to make it through this year if it kills me.

Book Review: The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson

Disclaimer: I was given an advance copy of this book with a request for a review.

The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson

Last year I came across a recommendation for a book called The Room and just had to read it. No, not the best-selling Room that was turned into an Academy-award winning movie (although I also read that, and watched it, and you should too, because it’s great). No, I’m referring to the lesser known short work by Swedish actor/author Jonas Karlsson. In it, the antisocial Bjorn seems to find a secret room in his office that none of his coworkers will admit is there. Here is my brief 4 star review from Goodreads:

To some extent, this is the book that I wanted to write: an absurdist look at modern life and conformity. I love its humor, darkness, intensity, and brevity. Jonas Karlsson does not waste the reader’s time with unnecessary details simply to drag out his clever conceit. The character Bjorn comes across as the 21st century ambitious stepson of Bartleby.

Such a compelling review, I’m sure you just want to rush out and pick up a copy yourself, right?

Regardless, I really loved the book and when I saw that he had a new one coming out this year called The Invoice I was totally stoked and didn’t even bother reading the summary. Certainly there was some mysterious invoice that the protagonist would need to find the origins of. Maybe he would keep shredding the paper and yet it was always on his desk. The possibilities are endless!

At this point you may think my trademark sarcasm is overflowing but trust me, this is sincere.

Yes, this book is, indeed, about a mysterious invoice that shows up in our hero’s mailbox one day. An invoice for an extraordinary sum that he quickly assumes is a mistake, but soon finds that not only is it very serious, it is a matter that affects everybody. It turns out that the time  has come for people to pay, for lack of better words, for their quality of life. Unfortunately in the case of our unnamed protagonist, his bill has reached a level one might expect of a celebrity or a movie star or… a CEO, not that of a video store clerk living in a crummy apartment eating pizza mostly by himself.

Unlike his last work, Jonas Karlsson does not focus on the absurd setup for too long. Instead he uses the conceit as an exploration of the nature of happiness. Crap, I think I may have written the same line in my last review. As incredibly different as these two books were, there are some similar themes. But The Invoice is a much more lighthearted look at what matters most in life and how that is measured. Is there really an objective way to look at our experiences? Does our attitude toward life shape the highs and lows as much as the actual highs and lows themselves? Can a part-time film buff with few personal relationship and no plans for the future really be one of the most satisfied individuals in the country?

Karlsson is an enjoyable writer with a brevity that serves this kind of narrowly-focused speculative fiction well. I would give The Invoice 4 out of 5 stars if I knew how to add ratings.

Book Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Disclaimer: I was given an advance copy of this book with a request for a review.

Dark Matter by Black Crouch

Here’s the thing, I have a tendency to figure out sci-fi plots rather quickly. I’m sure most sci-fi fans can say the same thing. There’s a somewhat limited number of ideas to go around (time travel, clones, working class vs. elites, etc.). So when I started reading Dark Matter and figured out the basics of what was going on with our semi-mild-mannered protagonist I got worried. Was I just going to go through some logical progression of how Jason Dessen, the local college’s physics professor who gave up on a brilliant career to start an unexpected family, figures out into what type of alternate reality his kidnapper has dragged him? Would the story provide any real suspense beyond some made up sciencey BS to justify a convoluted plot?

Crap, I think I already said too much. Forget those questions…

But seriously, that was not this book. Sure, I probably had the first 70 or 80 pages pegged as Blake Crouch paints a picture of a man with a happy, albeit uneventful, family life that resulted from his abandoning a path that would have won him all sorts of awards that rival the Nobel. And from my vantage point, it seemed obvious who was kidnapping him and where he was being taken. However that didn’t stop the novel from being enjoyable, because he paints the picture well.

Our hero, Jason Dessen, is a believable and relatable kind of guy. He is not driven by ego but rather by the question of whether he’s given up too much of his ego for what might be considered a mundane life. He loves his wife (who also walked away from her aspirations to be a serious artist) and their son, who is most responsible for the divergence of their lives from the original paths they had wanted, but is that enough? Did he make the right decisions? Would he be happier as a celebrated theoretical physicist? What would have become of his relationship and child?

And what if he could actually find out the answers to those questions?

I really don’t want to say too much about the plot, because Blake Crouch does such a great job of letting all of this unfold in front of the reader and it’s easy to spoil. The science may be just a flimsy take on some real theories, but the execution is great. The concept of the box (uh… you’ll have to read the book) is very clever and makes the whole journey to find Jason’s real self almost make sense. Honestly, as crazy as the story gets towards the end, it really does continue to make sense in the semi-logical construct Crouch has erected.

There really isn’t much I can say bad about this novel. It’s suspenseful and thrilling and the metaphysical discussion is thought-provoking yet fun. Without sounding too pretentious, Crouch successfully touches upon some deep ideas. What makes us… well… us? Do we dictate the choices we make or do those choices dictate who we become? Is every possibility truly possible? Can those possibilities change us to the point that we are unrecognizable? Whether or not alternate or parallel universes exist, they provide a fascinating basis for a thought experiment on human nature and this story goes beyond just a surface skim of the concept.

Overall I found Dark Matter to be an enjoyable sci-fi thriller that’s even a little intellectually stimulating and highly recommend it. If I could figure out how to post stars on this page it would be 4 out of 5.

Conversations with a 6 year old #1

Kay: What would you do if you met a person made out of bacon?
Me: I’d eat them. I’d feel bad about it, but I would eat them.
Kay: I’d probably just rip their hand off.

I guess that’s… better?

This blog goes to 11

A friend of mine pointed out that his blog turned 7 today. I was surprised because it was so close to my own “blogiversary.” (Does anyone still use that term?) So I checked and realized it wasn’t just close, it actually was my… anniversary of starting a blog. The old tradition was for me to forget about it until the 27th and then just copy and paste my entry from the previous year explaining what an idiot I was. Because, you know, keeping track of the day your blog started was very important at the time.

Anyway, since this is my first entry in a while and I probably haven’t talked to most of you outside of some random Facebooking, you should be able to guess that my “communicate more” thing hasn’t been panning out so well. But I will say that the health kick is definitely on the upswing. The gym around the corner finally opened and I’m already back up to 2.5 miles of running most days. Another week or so and maybe I’ll be back in my 5k form so that I can actually run a 5k.

Reading has definitely become a big focus and not only am I reading pretty much everyday, but I’ve already finished 4 books and am on pace for my challenge to read 24 this year. The photography and building hobbies are sort of on hold, but thanks to a trip to Disney World, spending time with The Kay has been more heavily prioritized. A lot of time spent with Legos has meant that sometimes she even wants to be with me instead of Mommy. Score one for Dad!

As for vinyl… well at least I’m listening to a lot of music in one form or another. And that reminds me, with new albums being dropped by the likes of St. Vincent, Wild Beasts, Beck, Neneh Cherry, Phantogram, Com Truise, etc. it’s about time I put a wrap on 2013. Maybe I’ll finally write something about the great albums from last year…


Just to keep ourselves at least enough to carry on

One of these days I should really write something long and unnecessarily expository about Neutral Milk Hotel. For those music nerds out there, you should already know what I’m talking about. But for the rest, those 3 words probably just cause confusion or indifference. So to make it simple I’ll just say that they are an indie rock back from the 90s led by Jeff Mangum who, after putting out 1 excellent and 1 epic album, disappeared for a decade.

After obsessing over those albums for years, I finally got a chance to see Jeff perform solo when he officially rejoined the human race back in 2011. He did not disappoint and, in spite of his reclusive nature, hinted that a full band reunion might just happen. As wonderful as hearing songs so near and dear in an such an intimate setting was, the prospect of the full-on, cacophonous, fuzz noise experience of Neutral Milk Hotel live kept me wanting for more.

Well, last night I got more.

I don’t think I could possibly convey how absolutely awesome the show was. There were accordions, uilleann pipes, a toy saxophone, magnificent beards, a pornstache, several types of horns, a questionable sweater, at least 3 hand saws, and one guy bowing a banjo. Combined it formed a joyous noise that kept us all on our feet for its entirety. It’s a shame it had to end – thankfully I’ve got a ticket for their Philly show in 2 weeks…

If you love Neutral Milk Hotel, get to one of their shows. And if you have no idea who they are, step outside of the usual and give them a listen.