Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: An Artificial Night - Seanan McGuire

An Artificial Night (October Daye #3)An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was not sure I wanted to read the third book in the October Daye series after the second one fell flat. Seanan McGuire takes a step up with An Artificial Night. It is a strong improvement on book two. In fact i would say skip book to entirely. You don't really learn anything during it that is necessary to understand book three.

In An Artificial Night, October goes on a series of dangerous quests to defeat a very old and powerful fae called Blind Michael. We learned some interesting things about “Toby” in this book. I don’t know whether these things are intentional or I am just reading them into the story. She doesn't come off as very bright. Much of the time she really doesn't understand what is going on. I tend to think this is intentional. The world McGuire has created doesn't operate under the normal rules. Things make an internal sense, but not in the way readers are used to. Secondly, despite all her talk of doing everything herself, she’s beholden to those more powerful than herself to succeed. She’s a proxy through which more powerful agents fight. She’s not the loan hero, but a knight on the chessboard.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Importance of Process

Process is boring. Process is for pointy haired bosses. Process saps the spark and spontaneity needed to be creative. Art works by the explosion of inherent talent that results in the creation of a great work with a minimum of effort. For the longest time I've subconsciously thought this was how artistic production worked. I tried to learn to paint by painting once without any instructions. When it didn't work I quit. I tried to learn to play the guitar by never practicing. If you had asked me I would have told you things take practice and a lot of work, but honestly I just assume talent just spewed out results.  No wonder I have yet to produce my plethora of award winning novels.

A few things made me consider a more formalized approach. I read a blog post  put up by a fairly famous woodworker named Marc Spagnuolo about process. He discusses his process for producing a wood project and even provided a poster of it. Secondly, I listened to a talk by an expert on process.  He really got the point across that process can help make results more predictable and efficient.  My penchant for producing nothing points to some inefficiencies. Finally I realized that my slapdash just hope inspiration takes over approach wasn't working. I decided to develop some processes to go along with different projects.

Below is my current process for writing a blog post.

1. Write down the post inspiration/topic
2. Outline the post. I make sure to get down the basic structure of the post and all the topics I want to mention. The outline is flexible and I allow myself to move, add, or exclude things during the actual writing of the post.
3. First draft of the post. Sometimes this isn't done in the order of the outline but in discrete paragraphs. That I link together in the revision phase.
4. Find and include picture(s).  I want each blog post to include at least one visual element. I'll pick out the images and then try them out in different locations utilizing the preview function in blogger. I'll use pictures I take myself, like with this post, or use free stock photos that are available.
5. Revise.  After finishing the first draft I wait a day or two or three. I can then look at the post with fresh eyes. Is what I wanted to get across clear? Is the post discombobulated? I then rewrite the post.
6. Post.  I have found that posting during the weekdays in the morning local time gives me the most views. *

This process is similar to the one I've come up with for short stories.

* I did some research using Google Analytics trying to figure out when to post and how to advertise those posts.  I found out that mornings between 8 -10 am my time Monday through Firday is the best time to post. For some reason I got in my head that Sunday night would be a good time to post, but the posts then got almost no action at all.  I also get good return on sharing the posts on google+ and twitter.  I gained no increase at all from posting to facebook.  I can explain this easily. I have several hundreds of followers between twitter and google+. On the other hand I rarely use facebook and have only a handful of friends.  Your mileage may vary.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Music Monday: Deadman's Gun - Ashtar Command

Your hands upon
A deadman's gun and you're
Looking down the sights
Your heart is worn, 
And the seams are torn
And they've given you reason to fight

And you're not gonna take what they've got to give
And you not gonna let them take your will to live
Because they've taken enough and you've given them all you can give

And all the storms you've been chasing
About to rain down tonight
And all the pain you've been facin'
About to comin' to the light

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book Review: The First American

The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin FranklinThe First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by H.W. Brands
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Finally," this is what all my goodread friends are saying. I started this book seven months ago. What took me so long. First, I don't actually read that much. Secondly, I often found myself pausing while reading to look up some piece of information. I was led down many a wikipedia trail reading this book. Finally, the printer printed on big pages in a small font.

Ok all my excuses are finished, what about the book. I personally prefer learning about history through the lens of biography. Given that caveat, I consider The First American to be one of the best historical books I've ever read. We get an intimate portrait of the greatest thinker of his time if not one of the greatest thinkers in all of history. The author exposes us to a very human Franklin. We see witness his sadness at the breaking of relations with his son, who chose loyalty to the crown over loyalty to his father.

Beyond Franklin himself we encounter a treasure of information about the milieu that produced the revolution and eventually, the United States. I learned more about what lead to the revolution reading this book than I did in all the schooling I had. I highly recommend it to anybody with an interest in the period

"Go on doing great things and loving pretty women"

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I'm Back. Hide your sanity.

As you can see I am back and with a new theme.  I thought a fresh start deserved a fresh theme.  This means my old theme lasted a grand total of two posts. Maybe that is a record in the blogging hall of fame.  I pretty much built this theme myself using bloggers html editing option.  We will see how long it lasts. Note if you are viewing this blog on mobile you will not see the new theme.  I pushed the blogger button that is supposed to make your new theme work for mobile, and nothing happened. So if you want to see the new theme please use a regular browser.

I plan on writing whatever I want. So be warned :)
Here's a pic of the old theme for posterity:

Sunday, May 25, 2014

On Hiatus

As you've probably noticed dear readers of my blog, all 20-30 of you, I haven't posted in about 3 weeks. So I thought I would officially announce an hiatus from blogging for a bit. I'll be back, probably, and I won't be gone that long.  I actually have like five posts in various stages.  So this blog is taking a nap for a bit.

even while sick he cheers me up

Friday, May 02, 2014

New Theme

After a little over a year, I decided to update the theme here in wonkyland. The old one had started to feel a little to dark, and the background image was getting stale to me. This new theme seems light and modern.

As long term readers of this blog know, I like to read way back on peoples blogs and see what they were doing years ago. You will often come across posts like this one with the person saying they had updated their theme, background, etc.  At this point it is seven years and four themes later so you have no idea what their blog looked like.  So for posterity, I have included a screenshot of what my blog looked like its first year.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cruising the Eastern Caribbean:St. Martin and the everglades

We arrived at St. Martin bright and early. St. Martin is divided between a Dutch and French side.  The boat docks on the Dutch side. I over slept and had to rush to get to my off shore excursion. I even had to skip breakfast. The excursion I signed up for was a jeep adventure tour. There really wasn't much of an adventure.  You all pile into jeeps and drive around to the normal tourist spots.


Our first real stop was at Maho Beach. It's a small beach that is famous on the internet.  Watch the video I shot below to find out why.

Yep. It's that crazy airport beach.

Unfortunately, one of our jeeps had a flat tire and we ended up wasting 45 minutes of our time waiting for it to be fixed. Next stop was a shopping area on the French side of the island. I should have gotten something to eat here but I just wandered around and looked at the water. Our final stop was the large  Orient beach. We were supposed to spend a couple of hours there but with running so late we only had about an hour. By this time I was starving. At the beach was a very tourist trap kind of restaurant. I ordered a cheeseburger and  can of coke.  The bill came to twenty five dollars.  As I started eating the burger I realized it was pink inside.  I didn't have time to bother with complaining so I just ate around the edges. Did I mention that it was a horrible burger and cost twenty five dollars? Once on the beach, I quickly realized we were on the French side of the island. I wandered up and down the beach for the remaining forty five minutes.

BTW, did I mention the horrible overpriced twenty five dollar burger :)




After St. Martin we cruised for two days back to Miami.  Since our flight wasn't until several hours after we disembarked, we decided to do an everglades tour.


Baby alligator.


Bird showing off(actually drying its wings.)


See more pictures on flickr