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Monthly Archives: July 2009

The Medebacle

I don’t talk about politics here very much because there’s really no upside. This kind of stuff, peple who agree with you go “Hell, yeah!” and people who don’t just shrug and move along (or start sending you links to stuff you really don’t want) and nobody’s mind ever gets changed.

Plus, most is this stuff is just beyond me. Not beyond my understanding, per se, but beyond my ability to come up with any good answers. I’m not exactly an answers guy. I’m usually all about the questions.

But this time, I have some thoughts. They may actually be relevant (who’da thunk?).

The personal situation. My family has health insurance right now. It’s not perfect, but its ok. Its expensive, and co-pays are going up, but its something, which right now, something is kind of everything. We only have this health insurance because of my wife’s employment. And since she works for a state agency, this could end just about any time, leaving us with nothing.

If we had to go out and get our own private plan, even if we were able to pay any amount out of pocket (which, of course, we couldn’t), we would not be able to have health insurance. Because of pre-existing conditions (congenital heart disease, BP, other stuff), we are radioactive as far as insurance companies go.

I believe in individual responsibility and a “can-do” attitude, and I do not have the attitude that my problems are your problems. I get that. I don’t want everyone else to pay for my health coverage. But I would at least like to be allowed to have some. Right now, unless it’s through an employer group plan, I can’t. even. get. it.

This is the defenition of a broken system, in my book. The people who need it aren’t allowed to have it.

Now, we’re luckier than most because of the fact that since my children were adopted through State Adoptions, and were foster children first, they have MediCal cards that cover them if we lose our primary insurance. Thank God for that.

My wife and I … sorry, you’re screwed, is the answer we get. But at least it’s not the kids.

So … do I want the government taking over this industry? No. I’ve seen the DMV. But leaving this all up to capitalism is sure as FUCK not working. And in conversations I’ve had with people about this online and in person have basically amounted to people either missing the point, or responding with “wow, sucks to be you.”

I get that it’s not your problem, but It would be nice if we take more responsibility for each other than that.

I know a lot of the problem with cost is the number of people scamming the system. We are told through official sources speaking unofficially, that a large part of our cost increase this year is the massive amount of people having gastric bypass surgeries. You can get a doctor to sign off on the medical necessity of elective surgeries. Sometimes this is legit, sometimes this is not. But it does increase costs for everyone. But this is a tangent.

Perfect is the enemy of good. We need to fix this, but no solution is perfect. We can’t let that stop us. Yes, systems in other countries sound awful. We can’t craft a better system? Where is your American pride?

And a note about the politics here. Obama is neither the savior nor the anti-christ (stop sending me your links!!!) But I do think tackling this is fairly politically brave, and also a but suicidal. Best estimates indicate that any reform is only likely to see signifigant cost benefits ten years or so out. This is long after he is out of office even if he serves two terms. He’s basically saying “I’ll take the hit for this, but something must be done.” I have disagreed with a lot of what has happened recently, and I’m not sure I like his solution very much, but I appreciate the stance.

Yeah, something must be done. And we can all complain about it whatever it is, but if we can spend 4.5 trillion dollars to “rebuild” middle eastern countries, we can take care of each other as well.

At least I hope we can.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2009 in culture, life

 

Harry Potter and the Unrealistic Expectations (or: I have how many pages? To fit into 3? hours?)

hphbp

I will preface my comments with the following information so you can know how seriously to take me. It’s like on Netflix, how it shows you the percentage of commentor’s scores that agree with yours.

My least favorite of the Harry Potter Books was the Fifth, Order of the Phoenix.
My favorite movie of the series was the fifth, Order of the Phoenix.

David Yates took a book that had a lot of interesting stuff in it and made it a tight, lean war story. And this was the first of the movies that felt like it was taking place in a world that was real, one that inhabited the corners, shadow regions , just-beyond the edge of your sight spaces in our own. A lot of people thought the production design was lackluster after the epic scope of Goblet of Fire, but it worked for me. This was a world like ours, gearing up for the ultimate war. So, I was really happy that they gave Yates the rest of the movies to direct. These last three books (four movies) are really one story, and it needed a consistent tone.

But for this movie, he was working against the material a little. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, while it was more successful as a novel that Order of the Phoenix, still has the same problem: There’s a lot stuffed in it. There’s the developing War, and there’s the flashbacks through Voldemort’s life, there’s the mystery of the Half-Blood prince, and the political changes at the ministry of magic, and several love stories, and the introduction of the quest for the Horcruxes, and there’s Malfoy’s secret mission and there’s … well, you get the point. There’s a lot going on. And its a good book, as all of them are, but its hard to boil down into one film that adequately hits even a majority of all of this.

So, the question was, would Yates and Kloves focus on the stuff that mattered, boil it down to the strongest bits? The answer : eehh … kind of?

You have to accept the fact that this story is not the book story. I read comic books for years. I can accept a divergent continuity. This is the movieverse, not the bookverse. You need to accept that and move on, and enjoy them each for what they are.

I think focusing on two things: the war (which encompasses Malfoy’s mission and Snape’s conflict), and the stirrings of romance was wise. We kind of get to the Horcruxes, and the half-blood prince mystery is sort of dealt with (I have a feeling that if it had not been in the title, it probably would have been cut, which may have been appropriate), but the movie picks its subjects and sticks with them. It might actually give short shift to some of the romance plotlines (one of which I really missed), but here all all the romances crammed into this book: Harry-Ginny-Dean, Ron-Lavender-Hermione, Remus and Tonks, Bill and Fleur, Neville and Luna (wait–that one was a fanfic I wrotesomeone posted on some strange website I most certainly have never visited (what?).

So, Ron-Lavender-Hermione gets most attention, Harry-Ginny kind of not really happens–Remus and Tonks just rocket through the nonsense and are presented as a couple. Bill and Fleur and the whole werewolf plotline … um … not there at all. Actually we haven’t seen Bill or Charlie at all in these movies, have we?

Anyway, we also lose most of the Voldemort backstory. I wonder why they included any of it at all, frankly, because without most of what they cut, it was kind of pointless.

The battle at Hogwarts was … a couple of death eaters yelling in the hallway. So … not a win there

I really liked the movie, but it did seem to meander somewhat, I don’t know how they could have done what I really wanted, which was to make it both 30 minutes shorter but put back in Bill and Fleur and make the ending battle more signifigant, and bring some clarity back to the Half-Blood Prince thing. Maybe cut some of the Quidditch/Slughorn stuff? I don’t know.

I see why they made the cuts they made, but they kind of removed some of the urgency, and should have given us more of a payoff for the Harry-Ginny stuff.

I don’t know… they did, at least, keep the zombies, so that was a win there. Maybe I’m not that hard to please after all.

 
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Posted by on July 23, 2009 in culture

 

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At least I didn’t get the head injury until AFTER the event …

Brenda Cooper, Jody Sherry, and me

Brenda Cooper, Jody Sherry, and me

This time, I made sure that I had a proper razor.

Had a great time at the Footprints book signing at Powell’s in Beaverton, Oregon. We decided to go up the day before, so I wouldn’t be stressed about making it on time, plus we wanted to have a day in Portland just to visit the city and see what it was like, since I’d never been there before.

note to spouse: when I am successful enough that we can live anywhere, we are moving here. k?

this place is gorgeous, love the mountains, the river, the cool summer (yes I know the winter snow is a bitch, but I was raised in Indiana so this is not new to me).

Made a pilgrimage to the downtown Powell’s, as you do. I had no idea such a place existed and now am wondering how I was able to live in this world without knowing that. Then we went to Beaverton and found out that the Cedar Hills Crossing store is only slightly smaller than the other one. Portland, evidentally, is bookstore mecca. again … moving to Portland someday.

Went to see Up in the afternoon while was trying to relax and not get nervous. This is a movie that does not play fair, and if it is not nominated for an actual academy award instead of being relegated to the “cartoon ghetto” category, it will be a crime.

But the event was wonderful. Peter Honigstock, the sci fi section manager, was a great host, and the store has a very nice area set up for such events. I enjoyed meeting Brenda and Jody, and we had a great time talking before and after the reading. There were a lot of people there as well, a lot of people interested in sci fi and this anthology in particular. We all read, and then there was a discussion time. One of the interesting things about this anthology is that it is about something specific … those footprints still there on the moon, and this gave us something to talk about, sharing our experiences and impressions of the moon landing, our ideas about what happened, and didn’t happen, next and our theories as to why. It felt a little strange, my opinion of these things being asked, because I am by no means an expert, but during the discussion a few things began to clarify themselves in my head.

My generation didn’t have the moon landing as an event to witness. For most of my generation, our first memory of space exploration was the Challenger disaster. So it’s important, as the moon landing is celebrated, that we get a chance to look at that, think about that, and try to get back to a place of hope about humanity’s future in space, even as we try to solve our current host of terrestrial challenges. It is not beyond out our technology to establish a moon base. It is not beyond our technology to travel to Mars. We just haven’t done it yet. And yes, we have problems here that need our attention, but the human soul yearns to explore, to put itself out there, beyond the known. Maybe the fact that we’ve stopped, allowed politics and economics to get in the way of that longing, maybe that’s why humanity seems so heartsick right now. We’ve stopped ourselves from moving out, so we’re twisting in upon ourselves.

just a thought … probably a goofy one.

Anyway, after the reading, we signed a lot of copies of the book. http://www.powells.com will soon have these available for order, it looks like from their website.

And since nothing can happen to me without some kind of personal injury, I was waiting all day to fall down, or cut myself, or have a piano dropped on my head. Nothing happened. The signing went well. I thought I’d broken the curse. Then, getting back to the hotel and getting my things out of the trunk, I leaned forward a little too fast and nearly cracked my head on that part of the trunk just below the license plate frame that is really hard and sharp-edged and thin … still hurts, but no concussion.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2009 in culture, life, writing

 

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Current Events

Leaving tomorrow for Portland for the Footprints reading/signing at Powell’s at Cedar Hill Crossing in Beavertonm alongside Jody Sherry and Brenda Cooper. Looking forward to this, though my wife has a work committment she absolutely can’t get out of (it’s the major thing she has to do every year). But my lovely daughter is coming with me. This will be the first time she’s come with me to an event like this. This would be more impressive if this weren’t my second reading/signing ever, but still. Since I will be occupied, my mother is coming along.

We’re going up a day early because it’s a pretty long drive, plus I’ve never really spent time in Portland before, and have always wanted to, so we’ll spend the day enjoying the city. My daughter is only nine, and is justing starting to get into the world of books and reading (its a struggle sometimes, mostly because of the California educational system’s over emphasis on regimented programs like AR, which serve to make reading all about quizzes and points. I’m looking forward to sharing this with her, so she can get a better idea that these books have people behind them, and I’d like her to meet Jody and Brenda. She sees me plugging along, getting grumpy and yelling about stupid character tricks, but I’m not sure she’s ever met another real live author.

So … it will be a couple of days of feeling like a real writer before I return to the world of cat-gack and laundry folding. Not that these things aren’t important.

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2009 in life, writing

 

An open letter to certain people in my life …

I am using the term “people” loosely here.

To my children: No, you did not pick up the living room. When I asked you to pick up the living room, and you dragged me by the hand to show me how clean it really is and how I really should be happy with it, these are the things that I saw: an open cereal box laying on its face on the floor, a wiimote, a plastic plate with five half-eagle bagel bites from yesterdays lunch, some underwear I really hope is clean (no, son, it is not mine! I gave up the spider-man underoos months ago), shoes, a hannah montano fuzzy poster set with markers, an open board game, coloring books, a couple of empty plastic tumblers, dice (I must assume this is connected to the board game?), kleenex, and a paint brush. When I said I wanted to the floor “vaccum ready,” I guess I wans’t being clear enough …

To my dogs: The deer are not a threat. I repeat, the deer are not a threat. Neither are the joggers and early morning walkers, or the people pushing baby carriages. The mail carrier may be considered a threat when she is carrying bills, but she also brings us our netflix movies, so we’ll give her a pass too, ok? YOU CAN STOP BARKING AT ALL OF THESE THINGS!

also, the midnight bark is not a competition. I understand that you need to relay the information about those lost dalmation puppies, but there are plenty of you out there, you don’t need to get it across the whole county by yourself.

Feel free to bark all you want at the zombies, though. But we won’t know it’s zombies if you are barking all the time …

To the wii fit: No, I will not tell you if I have seen Tiffa in a while. I will not tell you how she’s looking these days. And I will not tell you if she’s dating anyone. It’s over, man … let it go.

that is all.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2009 in life

 

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5 things …

My wife has challenged to be more positive in the comments I make out loud. Apparently, non-stop snark can be grating on the people around you, who knew? I think i may have driven her over the edge during an America’s Next Top Model marathon, when I responded to every emilinated contestant’s tears with “Now go do something useful with your life!”

So, in that spirit, I am going to write about 5 things I am enjoying right now.

1. Last Exile I am a long-time anime fan, but I’m not really into the wslastexile95407uqmecha or the weirdo super-powered kids stuff. I like the trippy sci-fi aspects, the riot of mad ideas, translated through a different culture. This sometimes is not copacetic with sense-making … but this one is my favorite ever. I love the prussian steam-punk vibe, the characters, while adhering to certain anime archetypes (hello, stoic hero with a past, cute kid with bug eyes and a mysterious power, and you, super-pilot teenager) are beautifully developed and animated, and the wolrdbuilding is completely trippy, yet makes perfect sense by the end. Plus, its a story about my favorite thing, a band of plucky rebels on the run. And weird are they/aren’t they alien creatures. I first saw this a few years back out of order of G4’s anime unleashed block, and have been rewatching it on Netflix’s instant system, which, if you haven’t tried it, is wonderful.

 

 

2. Anathem by Neal Stephenson

This book has been much written about and reviewed already, so I will just add this … This is his best book. It may be a contender for my favorite book of all time, actually. I read the last 200 pages in one day. Yes, the beginning is a little bit of a challenge as you must first become familiar with an insular world before you are cast out into the rest of the story, but it is an amazing experience. Plus: super space nija monks vs. well … that would be telling. But that moment the central mystery locked in place … wow.

 

3. Poseidon and the Bitter Bug by the Indigo Girls.

61COMXXSFmLanother amazing album, no suprise. Ghost of the Gang might be the most uplifting song about suicide ever. Plus, they used my favorite painting of all time as the album cover. As I get older, I find I am identifying more with Amy’s angry poetry than I used to. It used to be the Emily songs that grabbed me. That probably says more about me than about them, because I’m fairly certain Amy has not mellowed over the years.

“Tonight I’m gonna take that ride for the years we missed and the frieds that died …
side swipe baby on the road somehow with a pack of dreams, we just weren’t allowed
Maybe you’re walking those halls all quiet and sad …
sitting in the dark all scared and mad
feel my hand reaching out and don’t forget
where you come from, baby, cuz there’s truth in it … ”

4. http://www.unclutterer.com. I suck at it, but am trying to get my house organized and uncluttered. This site offers advice and inspiration, and a lot of pictures of gorgeous workspaces I will never hope to be able to emulate. They did inspre the “landing strip” now in the entryway, which has been helpful. If only they could come up with a simple system for “processing” laundry that does not involve me folding it all.

5. wii fit. Trying to lose the last few pounds, as wel all are, this thing has been an invaluable training tool. It’s also helped get me focused on core strength and balance, which revealed some things I needed to work on, and explained a lot actually. Love the questions … “wow, you’re really unbalanced, do you trip and fall a lot?” which, yes, of course …

It’s a little clingly though. It scolds you if you miss a few days and lately has been asking me if I’ve seen other members of our little user group. It even asked me if one of them looked like she was gaining weight, losing weight, of staying the same. It’s starting to creep me out.

and no, I will not be sharing my wii fit age with you.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2009 in culture, life

 

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On process

I’ve become very interested in the nuts and bolts of how other writers work, for some reason. I used to be obsessed with this, to be honest, when I was realy wanting to write but for some reason not able to make it happen. I guess I was always hoping I’d stumble upon some secret way of doing things that would make it all click together. Obviously, never happened …

anyway, blame Tobias Buckell. I find particulalry apt the picture of himself plotting, as my process is similar, but sometimes looks a lot like me surfing random crap on the internet for “inspiration” and, of course “research.” A wikipedia addiction can be a terrible thing.

Anyway, my process has finally evolved into something that worked for me. I am at the point now that I can make the writing happen when I need it to and not be at the mercy of the muse, who never really shows up at the right time, and usually babbles on about a hundred different things at once when she does. yes, those of you who know me in real life, my nine-year-old, red-headed, adhd daughter is probably my muse given physical form.

So, if you are like me and like this kind of thing, here is the process …

step 1 — (we’re starting at part three of a writing day, but you’ll see why in a second) “compose” three pages (or so) in my moleskine notebook. With my handwriting, this is usually about 1000 words. I find that I cannot feel creative trying to write first drafts on a computer screen. There’s something about the feel of the paper as its texture makes certain vibration in the pen or pencil as it’s moved across, something very tactile that accesses deeper layers in the brain. I’ve tried to do it straight to the computer, but the work is not as good. Once this is done, I put the writing away for the day.

step — 2 this usually happens early in the morning. I take what I typed up yesterday, which has been printed out in green ink, and mark it up with a blue pen. I try to do this as I read it aloud. This is the “bleeding smurf” phase of the writing, and it hurts about as much as it sounds. This is the phase of the murdered darlings. Then I go back into the word document, and make the marked changes. I print the day’s work out and leave it in the computer tray so I do not lose it and waste more paper and ink reprinting it (as you can see, there are multiple challenges here).

step 3 — I get out the moleskine and I type in what I “composed” the day before. The first time in, I type it in green, so I’ll know where the fresh stuff is. It also helps psychologically so that I’m not committed yet to specific phrasings or sentence structures, and for some reason don’t feel as bad about undoing the work I’ve done later.

return to step 1.

It seems like it would be a lot of extra work, and would slow me down to do it this way, especially the writing and then retyping, but working this way, with sort of a rolling three day edit going on, it prevents me from getting bogged down in the whole-project editing phase, which is where a lot of stuff dies because I hate editing and the thought of doing a complete project all at once, in all the detail it would require, makes me get out my procrasti-nation issued passport and head anywhere else but here. Usually, final read-throughs are much less painful this way.

i was thinking about posting a picture of my desk here too as that is all the rage these days, but have decided to spare you the horror. Besides, i would need to get a release from all of my star wars expanded universe action figures, who are currently involved in a major sith vs. jedi campaign. So far, the Jedi are holding the territory around the water fountain, but Mara Jade is having a hard time fighting off Darth Talon, who’s sneaking around the computer speakers … se we should probably wait until they’re done. It’s just polite …

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2009 in life, writing

 

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