So I've been reading a fair bit lately, and just thought I'd jot down some opinions.
Currently I'm reading White Night, the new Harry Dresden book by Jim Butcher, and it's definitely as good as the previous ones. I'm reading it when I should be working, as a matter of fact. =)
I just finished two series of books by Michal Scott Rohan, one of which was the Gates of Noon series, a modern day fantasy series where a man stumbles into the 'fringes' and ends up in a magical time-frozen swashbuckling era, complete with magic, good and evil, adventure, romance, rescues, ship battles, the whole nine. The characterization was better than I'm used to in similar books, and I loved the whole trilogy. Afterward, I tried his Anvil of Ice series, which was good, but nothing really memorable.
On another note, if you haven't read Lies of Locke Lamora or The Time-Traveller's Wife, read them. Lies of Locke Lamora, by Steve Lynch, is best described as Ocean's Eleven meats George R. R. Martin or something. It's a medieval con game, with great characters, fast pacing, witty dialog, and just a great twisting plot. Overall, it's just a FUN read. My mother even loved it. =) The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is, to use an analogy similar to the last one, best described as Slaughter-house Five retold as a love story. It's a modern-day story about a man who periodically takes short jaunts into the past and future, centered around certain memorable events. It's extremely well-told, with a powerful, emotional ending. STRONGLY recommended.
Other than that, I've been reading too much of the new wave of urban vampire mystery/drama. I haven't really liked any of the new Laurell K. Hamilton books, but I think Kim Harrison's new book, For A Few Demons More (the first of hers in hardback, by the way) was her best book since the first in the series, and a solid step or two up over her last book. It was longer than her previous books, and well worth the hardcover price tag. Beyond that, I read two books by Vicki Pettersson (Las Vegas showgirl turned author), coincidentally while I was in Las Vegas. The first was a solid story about a young woman tainted by her past discovering her destiny and powers as a supernaturally powerful protector (yeah, seen this storyline once or twice), but does a good job of fleshing out the character, past, and world. By tying it to the Zodiac, it's at least a little bit of a change of pace. But the second book falls into too much predictable behavior and cliches, and I can't really say whether I'll bother with the third when it comes out. There were one or two more, but without the titles in front of me, I can't place them... which says exactly how memorable they were.
More memorable was Ysabel, by Guy Gavriel Kay, one of my favorite writers. It's a departure from his historic fantasy settings - it takes place in modern-day, with echoes of the past. It feels more like something that Neil Gaiman might write, with a touch of Charles de Lint. It was, of course, fantastic... the story of a young high school student caught in a contest between two ancient rivals reborn fighting for the love of a woman. Read it... then go pick up the Lions of Al-Rassan or the Sarantine Mosaic or Song of Arabonne, and read more of his work. It's all terrific!
I also read two books by Nicholas Christopher, A Trip to the Stars and Veronica. Both books are very... abrupt, fast paced, a little random and esoteric, but fantastic. They're definitely strong, well-written, heavily character-driven stories that race by and leave you with impressions and emotions, but not a perfectly clear idea of what, exactly, occurred. Definitely books that can be re-read and appreciated more as time passes... there's a lot to 'em.
And I also read the Tracy and Laura Hickman's Mystic Quest trilogy... great world-building, first book was excellent, story falls off over time. Fun, but nothing worth going out of your way for.
And that's all I can bring to mind from the last two months, although I'm sure there was more I can't remember at the moment. =) Now, to pretend to work more... while reading more White Night!
We've got summer incoming, and it's time to get prepared.
Just think of it like being in the Boy Scouts. My troop master is going to be mighty disappointed in me if I don't have six bottles of rum, a jug of tequila, and a small orchard of limes ready for a barbecue this weekend. I can already see his scowl. 'Son, if Margarita weather rolls around and you're caught with a limeless corona and no blender to be had, what are you going to do? Can you survive the heat without that lime? Can you shoulder the disgrace? We've taught you better than that. Always. Be. Prepared.'
You know, kinda makes me wonder what Girl Scout mottoes are like. Something involving cookies, probably. Dirty, dirty girls.
Anyways, so this weekend shall be the Inauguration of Summer, the Birth of Margarita Madness, Ushering In The Daiquiri. Time to blend up drinks, sit by the pool, barbecue anything edible, and generally lie around outside getting into trouble. Of course, there's the other benefit that has remained unsaid. The hotter it gets, the less people wear. Yes, it's not only time for blended drinks, it's... Bikini Season.
God bless summer.
(... Bikini-WATCHING season, people. I do not intend, now or ever, to don one myself. You perverted bastards.)
I'm here to solve the problems of the working world.
Everyone's bosses tell them the same thing. Work harder. Make more efficient use of your time. Waste less time. Stay on task. I mean, let's be honest... websurfing isn't something you do on your coffee break. It's a background constant at work. Our bosses would like us to focus more and browse less at work.
I completely agree. So, what's the solution? Well, the less time you have to do a project, the harder you work. The more rested you are, the better you perform. The less time at the office, the less time spent wasting time.
The obvious solution is a five-hour work day.
Additionally, lots of people have company cars, and gas to and from work costs money. Electricity costs money. Air conditioning costs money. Bandwidth can cost money. Phone bills cost money. Based on the above reasoning, plus the expense of running an office five days a week, it only makes sense, if you cut one work day out, the company saves money.
Therefore, a four day work week, with five hours a day, should result in higher efficiency, lower costs, and improved concentration in the workplace. This is a win-win situation, people.
And finally, bosses always want higher profit margins. Well, what's the easiest way to increase your profit? Raise your prices. What creates high prices? Demand. What creates demand? Less supply. What creates less supply? Lower production.
Mandatory congress-enforced 20-hour work weeks are the obvious solution to higher profit margins, lower cost, and improved workplace efficiency. The solution is obvious.
The holidays are over. And I finally might have a little free time again.
Ok, so I'm probably lying. But it's the time of year when everyone's making New Years resolutions, so delusion seems to be in the air today. =)
Anyways, my parents took me to Napa wine-tasting for the first time for my birthday this year. Now, I'm pretty much a beer-and-pina coladas kinda guy. However, I had an amazing time. Wake up. Drink mimosas. Go wine-tasting. Have lunch. Drink wine with lunch. After lunch, go wine tasting. Take a nap. Go to dinner. Drink wine.
Really, not a bad way to spend a few days.
Other than that, I conveniently got sick for the holidays so I could lay around in bed, read books, and play FF IV on the gammeboy. It certainly beat spending time with my rather obnoxious cousin. =)
And finally, I hope ya all had wonderful holidays. =)
I haven't updated in months. Normally I update my LJ in the mornings at work before my boss gets in, but I've been out of town often enough lately that when I'm in town I actually have to work at the office. It's a crime. Inexcusable, really. They actuall expect me to work occasionally around here!
Anyways, not a long update, I've got work to do before we have our little office Halloween party. But I did want to just drop a note and say what I've been up to. First off, I've been playing a TON of World of Warcraft. I just got back from a weekend at BlizzCon, and I'm having way too much fun with it lately. The game's amazing, I have a great group of people to play it with, and everything is going great. I had a barbecue a few months back, and 30 people showed up. I live in Fresno. Coming from San Francisco or L.A. to Fresno for a barbecue shows some pretty solid dedication. NOBODY comes to Fresno voluntarily.
A few weeks ago I was in Europe! My friend/occasional roommate Matt and I went on a tour from London to Athens, stopping in Paris, Switzerland, Munich (for Oktoberfest, of course), Austria, Italy, and Greece. It was a Contiki tour (18-35 only), and we had a blast. We also drank our livers into submission, and I lost more things than I can count along the way, but it was well worth it. =) When I get caught up, I'll try and post a few of the stories, embarassing as they may be. I'd promise pictures, but you all know how lazy I am. I'll at least try to put a few up, but no guarantees. ;)
Those are the major highpoints in my life lately... I'll try to post more in the near future. Hello to everyone I haven't talked to in awhile, and hope everything is going well. =)
So, I survived DragonCon. I'm busy as hell at work at the moment (city council meeting tonight, have to be on the road to head to Bakersfield 10 minutes ago) but I wanted to throw up a quick update.
DragonCon was awesome. The shindig Friday night and the afterparty at the Bordello were awesome. I got to meet Kaylee and the doctor for Stargate: Atlantis, which was a major surprise. Plus, I drank my bodyweight in rum.
Saturday I met Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, and a few fellow Liaden fans. It was an exceptional experience, two of my favorite authors just chilling in my hotel room talking for hours. More on that later!
And then, on Sunday at DragonCon, I stayed in my room and played WoW on my laptop and ordered room service so we could clear Molten Core, being priest-short and all.
Lately, I've been going to the gym. I'm not sure if it's the first sign of mental breakdown or insanity, or if I generally just want to be more healthy. Or it could be because I can weasel out of a little work at the end of the day by convincing my boss that the gyms get packed at 5:00, and letting me leave 20 minutes early is good for overall energy, productivity, and sanity.
I think he just humors me.
Anyways, I had a disturbing revelation. Much of the equipment in a gym bears a startling resemblance to medieval torture implements. From being drawn and quartered to stretched on a rack, going to the gym shows striking similarities to being questioned by the Inquisition. Treadmills? Reminds me of people running behind horses tied to them, so that when they fall they get dragged to death. I'm waiting for someone to slip and fall, and have the treadmill start moving and drag them around the gym.
And most people LOOK like they're being tortured. Faces red, contorted, sweating, struggling. These are not people enjoying themselves. They look ready to break at any minute, spill the hidden secrets, confess to nefarious crimes of chocolate cake splurging, or calling the pizza delivery guy for a late-night rendevous. Just hint that the stairmaster is next, and they'll spill their stories of illicit affairs with carbs.
On a side note, the gym can be a very aesthetically pleasing place to visit. Lots of cute girls doing Pilates in leotards and stretch outfits, that kind of thing. On the other hand, it can also cause you to want to burn out your eyeballs with hot pokers. What the twenty-three year old aerobics instructor wears should NOT be the same thing as anyone older than my grandma, or by people outweighing me by at least a factor of three.
Remember the important lesson the movie Hackers gave us all: Spandex. It's a privledge, not a right.
Anyways, I've been to the gym on a pretty regular basis lately. Sooner or later I might actually get on one of the machines, and try my hand at working out. But I don't think such a rash decision is in my near future. For now, I'll just lend the Pilates class my moral support.
A friend of a friend of a friend (don't ask me how something so improbable actually happened) ended up being generous-to-the-point-of-insanity, and gave my brother and myself two tickets to the screening.
So, after work, we drove from Fresno to Sacramento for the screening. We did not have the longest drive - there was a group from San Diego who had made a slightly longer trek.
Of course, award for the farthest from home went to a poor bastard from Canada. We were rather speechless when Nathan Fillion, also known as Captain Malcolm Reynolds, showed up.
Well, ok, we cheered. But mentally, speechless.
Overall, the movie was everything I'd hoped it to be. The screening was more than I could have hoped for. Nathan was fun, witty, did a lengthy Q&A, and generally just made the whole event more spectacular. And afterwards, he autographed a little promotional mini-poster, shook every single audience member's hand, and said a few words to everyone individually.
I don't know about the rest of you, but I can't think of any other movie where the actors treat their fans like that.
Plus he introduced the movie, there was a little filmed introduction by Joss Whedon, and Nathan did a 30-45 minute Q&A afterwards. He was witty, fun, and just made the whole thing seem more amazing.
It was an amazing experience. The movie was great (no spoilers! Argh! So much to talk about!) and the screening was better than I could have ever hoped.
Now just HOW long do I have to wait before I can see it again? PAIN!
Just got back from the Serenity advance screening. Movie was amazing. Sat directly behind Nathan Fillion. Got an autograph and shook his hand afterwards. Had a 3 hour drive back after the movie. It's 3:42 a.m. and I work in the morning.
On another note entirely, I've discovered a terrific new fantasy author. In the last few months, I've read seven books by Guy Gavriel Kay, and loved them all. He probably has the best use of foreshadowing to enhance suspense that I've ever seen. His narrative technique is remarkable... his stories are filled with short flashbacks, hints, foreshadowing, and simultaneous discriptions of events from multiple points of view, yet manages to avoid the trap of being disjointed, and ends up keeping the reader in an almost continuous state of curiosity and mild suspense.
Plus, the characters are some of the most interesting and diverse I've found in a long time, and the stories are non-traditional... quirky, if I had to describe some of them.
So far, I think I've liked the Sarantine Mosaic (two-book series) best, but I've also really enjoyed the Lions of Al-Rassan and Tigana. I've read the first book in his other trilogy (the Fionavar Tapestry), and have the next two on order.
So I haven't been updating my journal lately. I'm sure severe beatings by angry men with lead pipes in alleyways will be forthcoming. However, seeing as how I haven't had my fingers crushed into tiny pieces for my transgressions quite yet, I'm going to do a quick update!
First off, our office moved. This meant no internet for several weeks. Three things logically follow from such a catastrophy - I haven't been updating anything (journal, guild web page, evil overlord checklist), I'm WAY behind on my online comic strips, and I've actually been getting work done.
Now, the third one worries me a bit, lest my boss take it to heart, and expect such things in the future. However, I've worked once or twice in the past, and he's never been foolish enough to expect it on any regular basis, so I feel relatively safe.
Anyways, I just got back from a seminar in San Francisco. There was some really good information, and a truly tremendous dinner at Gary Danko's on the company tab. The second, of course, far exceeds the first in terms of company priorities. It was nice, however, that the Fisher School of Business and Economics gave us an excuse to go have such a lovely meal.
However, in the long run, something entirely detrimental to my continued real estate advancement did come out of the trip. I've decided on a new life goal.
Those who know me well know that I'm not well-suited to the business I'm in. While I don't object morally to the raping of the land and the building of mass houses for unnamed peons, it's not something I truly enjoy doing. Fighting with corrupt city officials and lazy engineers who don't want to do the job they've been paid to do drives me insane. While I understand the desire to procrastinate, being something of a grand master of the art, *I* should be the one procrastinating, not them. It screws up my world.
So, long story short, between petty lawsuits, irritating customers, irresponsible enginners, and slimy politicians, this isn't something I want to spend the rest of my life doing. I had intended to do it long enough to make a certain sum of money, and receive an education in economics and finance. Both of those goals are rapidly approaching.
Therefore, I am ready to move on. I've been wondering for a long time what to do - open a bar on the beach, go to work for Blizzard, get a Master's in English and teach. However, none of that really struck me with real fire or passion. Yesterday, I finally came up with a goal that would really be something I'd love to do.
I'm going to open my own bookstore. Sci-fi/Fantasy only. Designed like an old explorer's library/parlor, like something out of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Out of print sci-fi books, reading lounge, coffee and cappuchino and whatnot to go with it, specials on Hugo's and whatnot, book clubs and discussion groups, author visits and book signings, and my favorite 100 sci-fi/fantasy books, in a reading area, where anyone can read the first few chapters on the premises, and if they like them, buy a copy of the book.
Of course, I have a thousand ideas running through my head. I definitely want to open it in a major city/urban area, and probably near a college campus. Ideally, near a pre-existing popular successful gaming store. Ideas so far are New York City, Irvine/Los Angeles, San Francisco/Palo Alto, and Seattle.
There's a lot to do before I really try a venture like this. Like get out of my current job, finish up my degree with a minor in business, and work for an independent bookstore for a year or so to get an idea how it's done. But I feel pretty strongly that this would finally be something I'd truly love to spend my life doing. And I even have a name.
In my usual random compulsive way, I just booked a trip to Europe for myself and my friend Matt. Three weeks, travelling from London to Athens, with a stop at a cabaret in Paris, Oktoberfest in Munich, hang-gliding and white water rafting in Austria, wine-tasting in Venice, a disco in Florence, and jet-ski's on the beach in Greece.
We decided it might be fun to do a Contiki tour (18-35 year olds only) yesterday afternoon, and before dinner I'd already put the deposit down and arranged things with my boss. Taking time to think these things over really isn't my strong point.
And it looks like I'll be working 9-hour days for a few months to earn up a bit of extra time... but it'll be worth it!
Oh yeah, we'll be stopping through Lucerne! I thought that was the most beautiful place I went last year, and really wanted to go back.
As luck will have it, I still have the picture I took last year when we were there!
I do believe, through the coordinated efforts of Matt and myself, we will be getting ourselves into heaps and heaps of trouble. I can't wait!
So we were barbecuing today for lunch at work. It's finally turning to nice weather, it's been beautiful at week, and business is going well, so the boss agreed to let us barbecue for lunch one day, have a few margaritas, and just relax for an hour or two. We invited a few people we work with, so there were about 12 of us today for lunch.
The boss agreed that I could make a few pitchers of margaritas (a little less strong than usual, but still good!). So it rained. Like clockwork, a half hour before we started barbecuing, it started raining, and it lasted until about an hour after lunch. So far, I haven't managed to make margaritas and not have it rain. The curse continues.
We also had two guests for lunch - the two assistants for the loan officer over at the bank, who we work with occasionally, both were invited and showed up. One I had met before, and the other I hadn't met.
Well, at least not through work. Turns out she's from UCR, used to come to barbecues back at my old apartment at Summer Ridge, and is intimately familiar with all things Tim Lamb and Getaway Cafe-related.
Of course, the one lunch the boss agrees to let us have margaritas, someone from my old college drinking days shows up. Life is just strange that way.
The Firefly: Serenity trailer is out. To say it kicks ass is like to say WoW occasionally takes up a little of my spare time. It shall be the best movie of the year, and may underwear-gnomes infest anybody who disagrees.
The movie comes out Sept. 30th. They're having a sneak preview at 10 theaters across the US on May 5th. One is in San Francisco. They're all sold out.
A friend of mine called me yesterday. He has extra tickets.
I'm going to be in Las Vegas.
I've never hated the city of sin as much as I do right now.
Today my brother and I went to lunch down at BJ's Brewery... we go there about once a week, because it's close to work, always quick, and they do some really good salads (one of the few places eating a salad actually feels like a meal to me - barbecue sauce and chicken and corn and other good stuff. Most salads make me feel like I'm voluntarily lowering my position on the food chain. Not a satisfying meal, by any means). Our dining frequency has nothing whatsoever to do with the name of the restaurant. Really. I swear. Stop looking at me like that.
Fine. I love the name. But the food really is good too, I promise. And they brew their own beer. If you've never had a BJ Blonde, I highly advise you make a little time for it. Very refreshing.
Anyways, back to lunch. As usual when we're not having a business lunch, my brother and I each brought along books to read over lunch - yes, we're nerds. Dustin was reading "We Few", which I lent him, having finished it last week. I was reading the new Merideth Gentry book by Laurell K. Hamilton. While we were waiting for our food, a waitress who we've had wait on us a few times came up to say hello... she recognized us, just wanted to be friendly, etc. As she was speaking, without thinking I just closed the book to be polite. Reflex, show you're listening, etc. She glanced down to see what I was reading, and almost completely lost her train of thought.
For those of you who haven't seen it, the cover to the new Merideth Gentry book is a woman, with her back arched, giant cleavage, almost caressing her breast, wearing a barbed wire necklace. Pretty much the cover of a torrid romance with a little S&M bent. And the name of the book? The Stroke of Midnight.
So, basically, the waitress glanced down to look at what I was reading, and to all appearances, it was just some torrid smut book about kinky women with people getting stroked at midnight. There was really no comfortable way to explain to her that it was a book about a supernatural private investigator in a world where the sidhe were a politically recognized independent nation.
Then I remembered that the supernatural investigator bit was really just a thin skeletal structure for a bunch of torrid smut about a kinky woman getting stroked at midnight. So I guess all her unspoken assumptions were pretty much spot-on and there wasn't much to be done about it.
The salad was excellent, by the way. I'm just not so sure about the service we'll be getting in the future.
Margaritas are an anytime-drink. They taste great, of course, lounging in the summer/spring by the pool when its hot outside. They also go great in the winter and fall, to remind you of when it was spring. They are cold frosty drinks, which do wonders to soothe a sore tooth, and they also can be fruity wonders for people who don't like beer. I believe they also cure cancer and could balance the budget and reduce the deficit if we'd elect one to office, but I've yet to see a margarita on the ballot so I haven't been able to test those particular theories.
Anyways, it's spring. Jimmy Buffet concerts, sunshine, and short-sleeved shirts weather. Right now it's about 80 degrees outside, sunny, and beautiful. In short, it's prime Margarita season. When I first noticed this, I decided to have a Cheeseburgers in Paradise party, which was mentioned in a post a little while back. It was the first margarita of Margarita Season. The perfect weather for drinking margaritas had been present all week, and the barbecue was scheduled and planned.
Saturday comes, it's overcast. Windy. A little cold, and a bit of rain. We stayed inside for the most part and played cards.
Next week rolls around, and we go to a Jimmy Buffet concert. The concert was indoors, and the little time we were outdoors it was cold enough that we'd have put on jackets if we'd have been sober enough to feel anything, or to have had jackets in the first place.
So this weekend I'm helping my parents with their party. I'm barbecuing and bartending for 40 people. 80% chance of rain.
And some friends wanted to barbecue next weekend... and it looks like rain.
So long as I'm at work, it's gorgeous outside. However, my blender is cursed.
Of course, it still makes a damn fine margarita, so I really don't have any complaints after all. =)
First off, books. I read the Black Magician trilogy by Trudi Canavan recently, and it wasn't bad. A pretty simple plot - peasant girl with super magical powers torn between different factions, not quite accepted by all the noble kids, saves the kingdom etc. A few good twists, overall a fun fantasy read. I also read We Few by John Ringo and David Weber, a continuation of the March Upcountry series. It moved from Military Sci-fi to Military/Cullinary Sci-Fi (don't ask) but was a worthy successor to the first three books. However, I'm really worried about any handsome prince that takes four books to get laid. The boy needed to get his priorities straight by about chapter two, book one. The libido of a two-year-old, I swear.
I also read the Lions of Al Rassan (by Guy Gavriel Kay), recommended by a friend. I'd previously read the Tigana series. Definitely better-than-average fantasy. Although a little dark, in general.
On an entirely unrelated note, I'm barbecuing and bartending for my father's party this weekend. It is, of course, going to rain. Such timing! I'll have to drink plenty of my father's beer to make up for it.
Anyways, what else have I been up to? Working. Way too much. It's getting to the point at work that I'm actually being given huge sweeping tasks with no real reason. "Redesign the customer service system, from scratch." "Redo our options selection process and all associated paperwork, however you think best." "Plan a closing party for a few hundred people this summer, we haven't done one in years but need to start doing them again. No, nobody remembers how we used to do them, but I'm sure you'll come up with something."
Either my company has completely lost its damn mind, or I'm starting to act responsibly. Either one terrifies the living piss out of me. It's clear to anyone that knows me that if I ever get a work ethic, the apocalypse won't be imminent... it will have begun last Tuesday. Anyone else think that spring has a hint of sulfur in it this year?
Finally, a World of Warcraft update, behind a cut, since most of my friends could care less!