I had planned to make my next post about music, Disneyland, the Tim Powers Alternate Routes signing, the Darius Rucker concert, etc. But I haven't organized my thoughts enough on any of those topics to blather about them here yet. So until I do, here are my thoughts on an e-book I just read, Perimeter, by Mike Rothman.
I was contacted by another author last week, Mike Rothman, who is self publishing a novel, Perimeter, on Amazon and was looking for some semi-intelligible reviews (emphasis on semi in my case).
The very brief description available on Amazon (and identical description on Goodreads) didn't really leave me full of hope that this would be a book I'd enjoy.
Levi is a "fixer" in a fix.
The CIA needs his help. The Russian mob wants him dead.
With enemies closing in and nowhere to turn, he learns that the one person who may hold all the answers ... is his dead wife.
I went back to Amazon and Goodreads today and saw that the book's description has been fleshed out with a lengthier synopsis. But, to be honest, the synopsis probably wouldn't have piqued my interest any more than the initial description did. It just doesn't sound like a genre I find especially enjoyable. Which is kind of funny, because I love the Jason Bourne/Jack Reacher/Jack Ryan/James Bond International Man of Mystery movie/TV genre. If that's all Perimeter had been, I might not have enjoyed it much. Fortunately (for me, anyway), the book is a little more than just another impossibly tough and skilled super dude running amok, thrashing bad guys and saving the day. Not a lot more, but a little more.
First, a brief description of the story's protagonist: Levi Yoder. Though not entirely a spoiler, it was surprising to me that Levi is an expatriate Amish (or whatever you call an Amish guy who gives up the Amish lifestyle and moves to the city to live amongst the "English"). My early impressions of Levi were that he is, despite his dubious occupation, a good guy. There's almost no profanity in Levi's internal monologue or spoken dialogue (the first two chapters don't get profanity worse than "heck," "crap," or "hell") and his motives always seem to be pure. I prefer a protagonist in my stories that is on the side of angels. Or who is, at least, morally unambiguous.
Pretty early on, the events of the story felt a little Tim Powers-ish. So I suspected the supernatural was going to play a big role in the story (which can detract-from or add-to the story, depending on how well it's done). If a book is set in a universe where supernatural stuff exists as a normal thing, then supernatural elements in a story aren't a huge problem. But in a story where nothing else is different from the world around us, supernatural elements have to be deftly handled to not feel goofy - Tim Powers is great at this. I'm happy to say that Mike Rothman is also good at keeping the supernatural elements from dominating the story (or at least turning it into a cartoon).
Speaking of well-handled stories with a supernatural bent (at least initially - we'll pretend the sequels never happened), Highlander ranks among my favorite all-time films, and parallels the events in this story (a little bit, anyway). Here's a brief excerpt to show why I see this similarity (a conversation between Levi and a monk who is, essentially, immortal):
"I've lived with this for longer than you can possibly imagine. I can't explain how or why it has come to pass. I've visited with doctors, and they cannot explain it. Oh, they certainly want to study it, but I don't think there's yet an explanation that medical science can give. This thing that we share makes some aspects of our lives terribly difficult. The ones we love, they all grow old and die." The monk's expression turned somber, and he pressed his lips together into a fine line. "That's truly the most terrible part of what we share."
And a little later:
I have no idea how you received this thing, but I can smell it on you. It's almost like the way an animal can recognize its own kind by the scents in the air.
It's very Highlanderish. But there are definitely differences - which I will keep to myself to allow for some mystery when you read the story. Actually, the supernatural elements of the story are almost more comic book than supernatural - beginning with the origin of the change that occurs in Levi's cancer-ridden body. The antics of everybody's favorite X-Man, Wolverine, come to mind. He's super fast, super tough, heals fast, etc.
There's quite a bit of Jason Bourne-type fighting action. Don't worry, there's an explanation for why Levi is able to handle himself so readily in the preceding chapters. I like this scene, set in an Afghani village:
A clatter sounded behind him, and he turned to see a woman, clad from head to toe in a black burqa, exclaiming something unintelligible as a half dozen cans of food spilled from her over-filled canvas bag. She cursed under her breath and scrambled after the cans as they rolled away.
Without thinking, Levi scooped up one of the cans that came to rest near his foot. He approached the woman and handed the metal container to her. "Here you go," he said softly in halting Farsi.
The woman's eyes widened through the narrow slit in her burqa, and the background sound of people haggling over prices at the nearby stalls suddenly grew quiet.
An Afghani man who'd been standing next to the woman yelled at Levi in Dari, "You pig! How dare you!"
The woman backed away, and three men approached, two of them wielding knives.
It dawned on Levi that he'd probably made some huge cultural faux pas that he was about to pay for - in blood.
With his body tensed, he dropped the can and backed away.
A man's arm snaked around his neck from behind. Without thinking, Levi grabbed the man's wrist with his left hand, raised his right shoulder as he'd done thousands of times before, and ducked forward, escaping the grasp of his assailant. With a quick twist of the man's wrist, something snapped, and the attacker screamed.
From the corner of his eye, Levi caught sunlight glinting off metal. He ducked just as another man slashed at him with a foot-long knife.
The blade came within inches of Levi's face, but he swept the man's feet out from under him. The man hit the ground, his breath blasting from his lungs.
Levi slammed an elbow into another attacker's face and felt the man's cheekbone crack.
Suddenly the sound of boots racing across the rocky ground echoed all around him, and American voices screamed warnings in multiple languages. "Hands up! Drop your weapons!"
Within seconds, Levi and his attackers were surrounded by a dozen soldiers, all aiming assault rifles at them.
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
Though the profanity starts out really light, it picks up quite a bit as other characters enter the story and includes a great many f-bombs. Interestingly, the pretend profanity (crap, heck, etc.) is interlaced with the heavier profanity throughout the story - and not just from the Levi character. There is a little bit of sex-related content, but it's not explicit - more TV-MA than R-rated.
I'm looking forward to the further Adventure of Levi Yoder. I'd rather read them in a physical book, but I might be able to motivate myself to read them on my tablet. I just have so many books to read on my tablet already...
I'll try to get to all the other stuff soon. I also need to work through the backlog of books I've read over the past few months, so you have that to not-look-forward to, Dan.
I'm about seven completed books (all physical books) behind in mentions here now, but I'm working on catching up. It's putting a serious cramp in my reading because I don't want to add any more finished books to the pile until I've made some headway with mentioning the books I've already finished. And the book I'm reading now, The Dinosaur Lords is really challenging my resolve not to binge read. It's much better than I expected. But more about that in a month or two (or six).
I read Take Back the Sky a couple of months ago. It's the final novel in Greg Bear's Trilogy of books including War Dogs and Killing Titan (if the trilogy has a name, I'm unaware of what it might be, but the War Dogs trilogy seems to be an apt name. So that's what I'll call it from here on out).
A couple of books after completing Take Back the Sky, I read a novel set in the StarCraft universe by Timothy Zahn called Starcraft Evolution. Why am I mentioning them together now instead of mentioning the books I've read in the order I read them? Well, I'll tell you why. Even though each is a very different story and the writing styles are equally different, they both fill a common niche in my head that I call "Space Marine" stories. And because of that, they jumped to the head of the line.
Take Back The Sky
I haven't really done Take Back The Sky's predecessors, War Dogs or Killing Titan, justice here. They only received a super-brief mention last November. Sadly, I never really put much effort into explaining why these are books worthy of your hard-earned dough. I did, funnily enough, reference the StarCraft connection briefly in November.
So why do I associate the War Dogs Trilogy with StarCraft and not some other alien-infused novel, movie or video game? Well, similar to the aliens in Ender's Game, the aliens we first meet in War Dogs, the Antags, are insect-like and, in my minds eye, very like the critters in the Aliens movies. Thus also very much like the Zerg in StarCraft. But there are other aliens in the books that are, also relying on my mind's eye, more like the Protoss in StarCraft. There were other alien races also popping up here and there which didn't really fit the StarCraft mold (bats, squids, amorphous blobs), but they didn't really fit anything else, either (except maybe some of the aliens in Piers Anthony's super old Cluster series that I read probably almost thirty years ago and barely remember - there are just weird bits and pieces floating around in my head). So it's the Earth-folk (the Terrans) against the aliens - with the help of other aliens who ae providing the crazy advanced tech that gives the backward people of Earth a fighting chance. That's not exactly out of the Starcraft playbook, but it feels similar to me.
Pretty much all the action in Take Back The Sky takes place inside this giant alien ship that sounds like it contains at least several square miles of alien landscape within. It's filled with all kind of bizarre aline flora and fauna and is constantly evolving into different bizarre "screw gardens" - sort of like a dark, twisted Alice in Wonderland. The first Greg Bear novel I ever read a million years ago (probably before I read the aforementioned Cluster series) was The Infinity Concerto. Images from this barely remembered novel kept coming to mind as I read Take Back The Sky. Though I barely remember it, it left impressions of a dark, scary Dark Crystal-like monster-filled world, much like the creepy alien world within this ship.
Here's Vinnie's first "view" of the ship from within the transport bringing him up to it.
For a time, I feel like I'm floating in space, no body, just a pair of eyes-vision doubled, so it's a quartet of eyes - but very low rez. I can barely make out the stars. Then my perspective shifts and I think I see Saturn's rings, lightly sketched and again doubled, giving me a weird ache in my eye muscles. There are little flashing symbols on the different rings, the shepherd moons - then the view goes back to that goddamned ship. I have to guess through Bird Girl's eyes, or maybe what someone is telling her - because she can't see it directly, can she? - how big it really is.
The vessel we're closing on is maybe nine or ten klicks long and has a short, blunt tail. Forward of the tail swells a gray bulb maybe two or three klicks in diameter. Full of fuel to get home? There's a cylindrical midsection about four klicks long and a klick in diameter, and at the prow or nose, a long, skinny tube like the needle of a hypodermic. Big and ugly. Forward of the bulb, just back from the nose, five long containers are arranged in pentagonal frames around the middle cylinder like bullets in a revolver. Not all that different from the Spook, actually, but maybe ten or fifteen times longer. I can't see what drives it. I'm given the impression the big ship has been hidden away for years - kept in reserve, but by whom, and why?
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
And here's the first view of the ship's vast interior.
We reach the open end of one tube and emerge on one side of an aggressively amazing space. It takes a few confused seconds to process what we're seeing.
Big ship indeed.
A wide curved landscape stretches beneath us, rising on two axes to a central shaft maybe half a klick away, itself a hundred meters thick. The curved surface butts up against the shaft and then smoothly spirals around it, like the surface of a screw or the inside of a shell. No way of knowing how many turns the spiral makes, or how long the shaft is, but what we can see, upper surface and lower, is coated with a carpet of bushy green, red, and brown vegetation. Enclosing this giant spiral is a blank, almost featureless outer wall. The way the lighting concentrates on the screw itself is mysterious - no obvious source and very little scatter against that surrounding wall.
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
Here's a creepy trip through Alien Wonderland in a weird train that zips around within the ship.
Before I can hazard a guess, the car starts to move in the opposite direction - aft. We each take hold of a black arm and swing our legs into the cab, trying to hang on as the car picks Q speed. We're on our way, slammed this way and that as it swerves to avoid the thickest and most productive branches.
All around us there's growth and noise, branches rearranging, more cars passing on the opposite side of the trunk, bundles of raw materials being ferried and delivered to the branches...
The cell is metastasizing. The ship feels more and more like a gigantic, cancerous lump, producing death and destruction a million tons at a time.
Farther aft, huge objects, the embryonic beginnings of big hang on the outer branches, some hundreds of meters long and still expanding, their hulls not yet closed over. Other, larger grapplers and industrial organelles move new components toward these ships, through gaps in their unfinished skins, and into what I have to assume are the proper positions.
The whole Guru war machine is in full gear, getting ready for a voyage across the solar system and beyond, to a far world where humanity's new enemies are being fed the old line of imminent conquest and domination...
Recycle whatever you can, right?
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
As with the previous two novels, Take Back The Sky has flashbacks to Vinnie's (Master Sergeant Michael Venn) childhood that explain who he is and how these events shaped him and his relationship with Joe, one of the officers. The book is told first-person, always in Vinnie's voice. Many of the flashbacks take place in San Diego, which I enjoyed because it was easier to paint my mental imagery of the story as I read. And as might be expected from characters that are marines, the language is salty. Exceedingly so. There's no shortage of every form of profanity you could imagine.
Here's a early snippet that's less of a flashback than just a memory about Vinnie's childhood and his wise old granny.
My grandfather was a colonel in the Rangers. My grandmother was a fine Army wife and very smart. One of the things she taught me is that God can do anything except change a man's mind. "That's why there are wars," she said, and knew the subject well. In two wars she had lost a husband, two sons, and a daughter, leaving her with just my mother, who was thirty when her sister died. "Men are so goddamned stubborn they will insult, curse, and shout until they can't back down, and then decide it's time to send our children out to die. The fellows who order up wars almost never go themselves, they're too old. But they're still cowards. If you're a leader and you screw up a war, or maybe if you just start a war, you should blow your brains out right in front of all the Gold Star mothers, sitting on bleachers in their Sunday best - and that's what I say, but don't quote me, okay? This kind of talk upsets your mother."
Until I was eight and my mother and father divorced, we lived on or around military bases.
Take Back The Sky definitely wraps up the trilogy with a nice little bow. A lot of people die, some people live, and the alien threat is - as far as I can tell - neutralized.
So you've saved Mankind from marauding aliens. What are you going to do now?
You're going to Disneyland!
Right now, I'm a fraud. I do not want to have killed anyone or anything. I do not want to die like a soldier and end up in Fiddler's Green. I want to die the death of a dreaming child.
Someday, if God will honor a solemn request, I'd like us all to join up at Disneyland in Anaheim. A great big reunion of old enemies, old friends, old warriors. We'll meet in the parking lot, where I last saw my aunt Carrie, before she went off to die in the Middle East, and stroll between the ticket booths and up the steps, past the flower gardens, to climb aboard the old-fashioned steam train...
But first I'd explore the train station and listen to the conductor's ghost - a balding mustached guy from a really old western, speaking behind a window, probably wearing a vest or an apron...telling us where we need to go next to have fun or just relax. "This way, boys and girls...to the happiest place on Earth"
So sappy it's painful.
We'll shake hands and talk, and then just sit in silence before strolling to the other rides, the other celebrations. The restaurants. The gift shops.
Silly ideas keep me going.
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
I get the feeling that Greg Bear hasn't been to Disneyland in a couple of decades. Nevertheless, this is a well-expressed sentiment for why I love Disneyland as much as I do.
If you haven't played the Starcraft Computer game, there's really no use tying to explain to you what Starcraft is. And you definitely won't enjoy this novel because it assumes a familiarity with the political history, alien creatures, Terran weaponry, and basically everything that has taken place in Starcraft I and II.
It's not the only, or even the first, novel set in the Starcraft universe, but it is the only one written by an author who has never disappointed me: Timothy Zahn.
Here's an early battle scene that will be nonsense to the uninitiated (I noted several of these that I found interesting in the story, but decided that sharing more than one was overkill).
When something goes to hell, one of Tanya's instructors back in the Ghost Academy had liked to say, everything else will probably go to hell with it. In this case, Ulavu barely had time to warn that a zerg was approaching when ten of the creatures burst through the foliage a hundred meters away and headed straight toward them.
Tanya felt the air freeze in her lungs as she reflexively ran the numbers. Five leopard-sized zerglings were ranged at the front of the pack, their sickle-bladed limbs and razor fangs poised to cut straight through CMC neosteel and tear into human flesh. A baneling anchored each end of the line, the bloated acid sacs on their backs pulsating as they strode along. That acid would take marginally longer to destroy their armor, but would be no less effective at the job. Behind the banelings were a pair of hydralisks like the one the group had encountered earlier. But these two had nothing of that first hydralisk's air of idle curiosity about them. Their eyes were fixed on the intruders, their claws twitching, the muscles that launched their poison needles rippling with anticipation.
And behind all of them, one of the nastiest heavy-ground zerg of them all: a ravager, standing even taller than the hydralisks, its broad, turtle-like shell surrounded by a crown of bone spikes. Set deep within the circle of spikes was an organic mortar capable of launching globs of acidic bile through the air, strong enough to destroy even protoss force fields.
"Combat stance," Whist said, his voice unnaturally calm as he took a wide step to the right and brought up his gauss rifle. "Hold first until they close to seventy meters, then target the hydralisks first. When the zerglings get within fifty meters, switch targets to them - "
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
It's funny how this same scene in the game would be over with before you had a second to consider the attack formation (and, in truth, most attack formations in the game consist of disorganized swarms of troops due to...well, due to it being really hard to coordinate with any more control than just mob charges).
The events of Starcraft Evolution are told with a strict third-person narrator voice. And the various troops in the sotry, though also marines, have a much less-profane way of expressing themselves. So this is a fine book for all ages, unlike Take Back the Sky.
If you have played the Starcraft PC games and can appreciate a well-written follow-up to the events that concluded Starcraft II, this is a book for you. Starcraft fans may also enjoy the Koprulu sector Timeline at the end of the book. I did. It might be a good place to start if you're unfamiliar with the games and still want to read a well-told SciFi story.
c. 1500 AD - A group of rogue protoss is exiled from the protoss homeworld of Aiur for refusing to join the Khala, a telepathic link shared by the entire race. These rogues, called the dark templar, cut their nerve cords to permanently sever their connection with the Khala.
2231 - The government of Earth launches four supercarriers - the Argo, the Sarengo, the Reagan, and the Nagglfar - - to colonize hospitable planets mapped out in a nearby star system. Tens of thousands of passengers are placed in stasis for the journey, which is estimated to last one year.
2232 - The supercarriers' linked navigation systems fail. The ships travel through space blindly, without a programmed destination.
2259 - The ships' warp engines finally melt down. The supercarriers emerge into an unmapped region of the galaxy that will later be known as the Koprulu sector, and they make emergency landings on three planets - Umoja, Tarsonis, and Moria.
2323 - The Terran Confederacy is founded on Tarsonis.
2475 - Two corporate entities on Moria form an alliance, the Kel-Morian Combine, to stand against Confederate intrusions on their territory.
2485 - Tensions between the Confederacy and the Kel-Morian Combine explode into open war. This conflict will later become known as the Guild Wars.
2489 - The Confederacy declares victory in the Guild Wars.
2489 - Umojan colonies form a military coalition called the Umojan Protectorate to ensure independence from Confederate tyranny.
2489 - Senator Angus Mengsk and members of his family are brutally murdered by assassins after Mengsk dissents from Confederate leaders. His surviving son, Arcturus, openly rebels against the Confederacy from his homeworld of Korhal IV.
2491 - The Confederacy decimates Korhal IV through nuclear bombardment. Arcturus Mengsk begins sustained guerrilla operations against the Confederacy.
2491 - Mengsk's forces, the Sons of Korhal, capture ghost operative Sarah Kerrigan and secure her cooperation against the Confederacy.
2499 - FIRST CONTACT
*The zerg, a previously unknown alien race, invade the planets of Chau Sara and Mar Sara. Shortly thereafter, a second unknown alien race, the protoss, razes all life on Chau Sara.
*Marshal Jim Raynor, while leading the fight against the zerg on Mar Sara, rebels against the Confederacy and joins with the Sons of Korhal.
*More planets openly revolt against the Confederacy.
2500 - THE DOMINION RISES
*Arcturus Mengsk uses the Confederacy's own experimental technology to draw the zerg Swarm to. the capital world of Tarsonis. The planet is utterly destroyed. Mengsk also leaves his loyal operative Sarah Kerrigan behind to die, causing Jim Raynor to defect.
*Unbeknownst to terran forces, Kerrigan is captured by the zerg, not killed.
*Mengsk declares himself the ruler of a new nation - the Dominion. He consolidates the scattered forces of the Confederacy under his command.
*The protoss homeworld of Aiur is overrun by the zerg, but the Swarm's leader, the Overmind, is killed.
2500 - NEW CONFLICT
*Forces from the United Earth Directorate (UED) expeditionary fleet arrive in the Koprulu sector, seeking to assert control over terran planets.
*With the Overmind dead, Sarah Kerrigan - newly infested and empowered by the zerg - seeks control of the Swarm. She allies briefly with protoss and human factions to oppose UED forces.
*After securing her position as the uncontested ruler of the Zerg, Kerrigan turns on her allies. Retaliatory assaults against her stronghold on Char by protoss, UED, and Dominion forces fail.
*Surviving UED forces scatter. None return to Earth.
2502 - Dominion intelligence confirms that Artanis, a young protoss military commander, is leading both the Aiur protoss and dark templar factions.
2504 - CIVIL WAR
*Jim Raynor redoubles his insurgent activities against the Dominion. Valerian Mengsk, Arcturus's son, aids him in secret.
*Zerg forces begin to invade Dominion territory again.
*Civil unrest spreads across core Dominion worlds after allegations of Arcturus Mengsk's excesses are made public.
*Armies led by Valerian Mengsk and General Horace Warfield invade the zerg planet of Char (with assistance from Jim Raynor's forces). They neutralize and capture Sarah Kerrigan.
2505 - THE SWARM REEMERGES
*Arcturus Mengsk launches a raid on Valerian Mengsk's stronghold in Umojan territory. Jim Raynor is captured. Sarah Kerrigan escapes.
*Arcturus Mengsk declares victory against the zerg and enacts a brutal civil suppression regime to end unrest.
*Kerrigan reclaims control of the zerg.
*The Swarm invades Korhal, cutting a direct path to Arcturus's palace and killing the emperor. Zerg forces leave the planet immediately.
*Valerian Mengsk becomes the Dominion's leader. He pledges to reform his father's policies and promote peace throughout the Koprulu sector.
2506 - WAR WITH AMON
*The protoss' Golden Armada launches an attack to retake Aiur from the zerg.
*During the invasion of Aiur, the protoss discover that the zerg on the planet have been enslaved by the rogue xel'naga Amon. Amon then corrupts the Khala and gains control of all protoss within the psionic link. The dark templar Zeratul severs Hierarch Artanis's nerve cords, destroying his connection to the Khala and allowing him to escape Amon's possession, but Zeratul is killed in the battle.
*Artanis liberates as many other protoss as he can. They join up with the surviving dark templar and flee from Aiur on the arkship Spear of Adun.
*Artanis and his forces journey to Ulnar to learn the fate of the xel'naga, the protoss' ancient benefactors, and find that all but Amon have perished. While there, Artanis uncovers Amon's plan to use the protoss and the Overmind's remains to forge a new host body. If Amon succeeds, all life in the universe will be destroyed.
*Using an ancient xel'naga relic known as the Keystone, Artanis drives Amon from the Khala, and the formerly enslaved protoss sever their nerve cords to ensure their freedom. Artanis and his forces retake Aiur. Amon is banished to the Void.
2508 - AFTERMATH
*Kerrigan, Jim Raynor, Artanis, the broodmother Zagara, and their forces enter the Void to attempt to defeat Amon once and for all. Kerrigan absorbs the remaining power of a xel'naga, becoming xel'naga herself. She gives Zagara command of the Swarm. Then, with the aid of her allies, Kerrigan destroys Amon, disappearing shortly afterward. Raynor also disappears sometime after the battle.
*The terrans, the protoss, and the zerg end hostilities with one another.
*Valerian Mengsk begins open elections in the Dominion.
*Zagara takes control of the systems near Char for the zerg Swarm.
click here to show the full quoted excerpt
I had planned to talk about the Alternate Routes Tim Powers signing and the hardcover of A Study in Emerald that I picked up on the night of the signing, but I've run out of steam. Next time. I was also going to mention a bunch of other non-book stuff, but that, too, will have to wait.
I was re-reading the Harry Potter drivel I'd written and discovered more than a few typos, so those have been corrected. Not that anyone saw the earlier draft (Dan, I'm talking to you), so this public service announcement is probably needless...
A Brief Break from Books
I've still got a bunch of books to blather on about, but I'm going to temper my sadistic tendencies and just talk about non-book stuff today (well, mostly non-book stuff). I'll even spare you the details of this weeks's Tim Powers book signing for Alternate Routes...until next time, that is - if I don't talk about it soon, the details will fade away and you'll have to read about it on some other idiot's web site/blog.
Here's something else noteworthy about Idaho - it's a great place if you're a fan of unusual soda flavors. While Utah is admittedly better than California, Idaho has the best options just about everywhere you go. And not just unusual bottled and canned soda - Idaho even has them on tap in their soda fountains. We stopped at a Subway in Pocatello, Idaho for lunch and their soda fountain options included one of my favorite unusual soda choices, Red Cream Soda. And later, in Rexburg, we went to a Nielsen's Frozen Custard diner and they had a homemade root beer option in their soda fountain. I was skeptical because you never know with "home made" flavors, but it was amazing. Very creamy and not at all artificial-tasting like every canned root beer. And later, also in Rexburg, we went to a movie at a small theater downtown and they had Ironport in their soda fountain. If you've never had Ironport, it's a difficult taste to describe. It is really tasty, though.
And speaking of the Rexburg theater, it cost a grand total of $11 for two tickets to see Rampage with a big bag of popcorn and a large fountain drink (the glorious Ironport). It was an older theater and the movies weren't brand new releases, but they weren't that old (not like the DVD-released movies that play at the Temeku theater in Temecula - which I'm still happy to drive 45 minutes and pay $3.50 per ticket to see).
One last noteworthy thing about this trip to Idaho - I'd never been to this area and was surprised to see signs about the Idaho Dunes (AKA St. Anthony Sand Dunes), so we went on a little drive to see themup close. They're just outside of Rexburg (several miles outside, actually) and right in the middle of a typical mostly-green Idaho landscape. The area isn't huge, but there are definitely several square miles of tall, drifting dunes like you'd see in the middle of Arizona. It's a little bit surreal. These I did get a few photos of, but my phone didn't really do them justice.
And semi-related to Idaho (from the trip through Utah on the way up to Idaho, anyway), I discovered that you can get Ethanol-free "Clear Gas" at select gas stations in Utah (mostly Maverick stations). It's 88 Octane and just about as expensive as the 91 Octane regular gas, but I like the idea of introducing cleaner burning fuel to my car when I can, so that's what we filed up with whenever possible.
Bald Guy - Cards for every occasion
Also back in May or June, I picked up a congratulatory card (actually a bunch of them, but only one of that bunch is going to get a mention here) for my nephew's college graduation from the University of Utah. Except I couldn't find any Congratulatory cards that I thought worthy of my three or four bucks. So I checked out the tried-and-true Bald Guy cards at the mailbox store down the street. And found this one.
The front of the card is semi-complimentary: "You're One is a Million." Only semi- because when you look at the illustration, you see why the object of this statement is one in a million - and not for any complimentary reasons. The card's interior text is what really drives the backhanded compliment home: "But don't get too excited. Statistically, that means there are 6,700 people exactly like you. Happy Birthday."
Since this wasn't a birthday occasion, I did what anyone would do and just crossed out "Birthday and wrote in "Graduation." That's normal, right?
I mentioned that we adopted a tiny little dog from a Yorkie rescue outfit many moons ago, but haven't really said much about him since then. He's doing well and has become such a part of the family that he insists on being held - or at least seated very nearby - whenever we're relaxing.
Here's a funny video that Emeli took when she was recording a video of the little guy for her friend. It's noteworthy because he did something unexpected - he shared his dark side and gave that bear a wack upside the head.
He also showed his softer side when he gave the stuffed bear a big (though involuntary) hug, so he's clearly a complicated little man.
One last thing - here's a little glimpse into how I spend at least a little bit of my free time: writing Harry Potter fan-fiction (Sorry, Dan, not that kind of fan fiction). I was inspired by the Android game I've been playing on my tablet for the past few months, Hogwarts Mystery. It got me thinking about things in the Harry Potter universe that didn't fit very well and how there are so many time gaps in the stories that are begging to be filed in with content.
It's a work in progress (I do actually plan on tying the story's loose ends up so they fit within the events of the films/books), but this is most of what I have so far. I've tried to remove all typographical errors, but I'm sure many remain.
I still have many, many other things to mention (many that have been languishing unmentioned since last year), but in the interest of sparing Dan and anyone else who stumbles across this sad collection of internet-drivel the trouble of reading it, I'll conclude here for now.
1 Pocket Stories was a web site I created, based upon another web site I enjoyed perusing until its demise called Ficlets, that allowed people to write short stories in a Twitter-type environment. Each mini-story is limited in length to just 1,024 characters. I never quite finished the site and, despite having written a few stories on the site that I'm sure no one else has ever read, I eventually allowed the domain name to lapse. The site itself still exists, but it's not 100% functional.