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Older rants
Nov 20, 2018   My cubicle revisited, really-old ComicCon stuff, Emeli's Art, More Disney Adventures, The Zoo and Safari Park
September 9, 2018   Perimeter - an eBook thriller
September 3, 2018   Take Back the Sky Starcraft Evolution
August 11, 2018   Idaho Dunes Awesome soda Ethanol-free gas an awesome Bald Guy card Our rough dig Harry Potter Interlude story
July 21, 2018   The Cup in the Shadows (The Forbidden Powers Book 1)
June 24, 2018   Jake, Lucid Dreamer
June 13, 2018   Troll-stalking
May 23, 2018   Another badbartopia email spoofer, A sunny-day Disney adventure, Raymond E Feist book signing
May 15, 2018   A rainy-day Disneyland trip The Bassoon King
Apr 28, 2018   Down and Out in Purgatory
Apr 13, 2018   Operation Hail Storm
Mar 4, 2018   American Exodus
Jan 22, 2018   Christmas, Didn't Get Frazzled, The Sea People, The Rooster Bar, Last Burial Night, Doctor Who and the Krikkit Men
Dec 15, 2017   Mistrial, City of Death and Disneyland
Nov 14, 2017   Grace Vanderwaal - Just the Beginning
Nov 11, 2017   Tim Powers Signing at Mysterious Galaxy for Down and Out in Purgatory
November 4, 2017   Return to Disneyland, Halloween at the office, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Long Cosmos Maximus One year After War Dogs, Killing Titan Daddy, Stop Talking
October 29, 2017   Bruce Campbell Signing, Hail to the Chin, Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor
October 20, 2017   Meg & Dia, Imagine Dragons in concert, 2 Years 8 months and 28 Nights
October 17, 2017   All Apologies
October 16, 2017   Thrawn
Septempber 7, 2017   The Rage of Dragons, The Lincoln Myth
August 10, 2017   The Molly Ringwalds, Dia Frampton Musical awesomeness, Beauty and the Feast
July 28, 2017   The IT Sweatshop revisited, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, American Gods and The Magicians, Rogue One, Camino Island
July 24, 2017   CRV glovebox difficulties, San Diego Comic Con rant
July 11, 2017   Beauty and the Beast at the Lyceum, Earthweeds, Sons of Neptune Book 1, Aftermath, Empire's End, If Chin's Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor
June 30, 2017   Eastwood: No Direction Home book 2
June 23, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 4/4) - The PCH family vacation tale concludes, my new record, record player, and Emeli's site is live!
Jun 14, 2017   A noteworthy eBook mention before I return to my vacation ranting - No Direction Home
June 9, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 3/4) - The PCH family vacation tale concludes...almost. More pictures of spooky old houses, trees, rocks, and other things that nobody cares about! Plus, Goonies stuff
June 2, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 2/4) - The PCH family vacation tale continues... And more pictures of trees and other things that nobody cares about!
May 31, 2017   Excellent Adventures on the PCH (part 1/4) - Way more detail than anyone wants about our vacation up the coast of California and Oregon. And lots of pictures of trees!
Apr 26, 2017   Resurrection America, Pizza Studio art, AmandaLynn, Emeli art, and Disney art, and Gifted
Apr 14, 2017   My San Fransisco OSI PI adventure & "Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be"
Apr 12, 2017   Neil Gaiman speaks, Norse Mythology, American Gods comic adaptation, The Magicians TV series, and Dirk Gently on TV
Feb 2, 2017   A trip to the ever-less-magical land of Disney, The Prince of Outcasts, the Whistler, and a brief mention of The Magicians.
Jan 21, 2017   An update to my nerd wall at work, Found out about Richard Thompson (Cul De Sac) being gone, A list of all the stuff (or most, anyway) I've given up to new homes, A review of Dave! and Warp, and a couple of new doodles.
Dec 23, 2016   My final visit to Potterland and a couple of doodles
Dec 11, 2016   Books and related comics, and free/cheap stuff. Not taco Bell Material, President Me, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, The Hedge Knight (comic), The Sworn Sword (comic) Ooma, Ringplus, Amazon prime and other money-saving stuff.
Dec 4, 2016   I'm sharing my sad doodles with the world again. They're not very good, but I'll bet they're better than your scribbles!
Nov 12, 2016   Yet another trip to The Wonderful World of Harry Potter!
Nov 7, 2016   Blathering on about a few of the books I've read recently - Spire, The Check, and Dangercide, Pirate Detective
Oct 7, 2016   Yet another Visit to Harry Potterland. Oh, and my lease-mileage calculator.
July 25, 2016   Another Visit to Harry Potterland, a new car, a new shirt, a new dog, and a whole lot of the same old complaining
May 17, 2016   Email spoofers, Phishing emails, and scammers galore!
Apr 30, 2016   Winter's Edge and a Management zombie attack
Apr 23, 2016   Harry Potter land re-visited
Apr 9, 2016   Xenia...again
Apr 2, 2016   Sing Street, Batman vs Superman, Craigslist griping
Mar 1, 2016   The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hollywood preview, fun at work, Xenia's new song, A Vanishing Glow, Our Fair Eden, Race Wars, The Force Awakens
Jan 27, 2016   Text Wars, Books I've read... Yup, that's pretty much it
Jul 30, 2015   Xenia Martinez news Still selling stuff on eBay, Hyperbole and a Half (the book), The Path Between the Seas, Trigger Warning, In Fifty years We'll all Be Chicks
Mar 17, 2015   Selling my treasures on eBay, Hyperbole and a Half, the Long Mars, Gray Mountain, Anathem, The Golden Princess, The Given Sacrifice
Mar 12, 2015   You'll be sorely missed, Sir Terry
Jan 21, 2015   More BBC 4 radio dramatizations by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett: The Amazing Maurice, Guards! Guards!, Neverwhere, Night Watch, Small Gods, Wyrd Sisters
Jan 10, 2015   JabberWocky, Neil Gaiman style!
Dec 24, 2014   The Good Omens BBC treatment
Aug 03, 2014   Every hobby has to end eventually, right?
Oct 8, 2013   Warning: Extreme Geekness ahead!
Oct 1, 2013   The Bloody Crown of iGoogle
Aug 26, 2013   Headphones at work
Aug 22, 2013   The guvmint is gonna getcha
June 25, 2013   Dweebs vs Big Bang vs IT Crowd
Jul 3, 2012   Xenia Martinez & Dia Frampton concert
Feb 24, 2012   Reading...just not much
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Being an idiot with Lev Grossman
Jan 7, 2012   If it ain't broke...
Aug 22, 2011   non-ComicCon report 2011
A Thousand Splendid Suns
An Act of Self Defense
May 5, 2011   On Stranger Tides
vs.
On Stranger Tides
March 2, 2011   I'm a gigantic slacker...
Ikariam
Wild Guns
Lord of Ultima
Metin 2
Lord of the Rings Online
Dec 15, 2010   Bring out your dead!
Aug 17, 2010   San DiegoComicCon 2010
August 11, 2010   I'm not dead yet...
May 3, 2010   Hero Comics
Liberty Comics
Dr Horrible
Neil Gaiman & Sam Keith in Batman
The Guild, Felicia Day
April 27, 2010   Mean Gene Wilder! Grrr!!!
April 24, 2010   If it's not one Jihad, it's another...
April 20, 2010   The Satanic Verses
March 15, 2010   Unseen Academicals
Feblueberry 8, 2010   The un-reading shelf (from most of 2009)
Feblueberry 2, 2010   Emily the Strange, the Lost Days...a novel
Nov 25, 2009   Happy Halloween, Mom!
Nov 18, 2009   Summer Vacation in Idaho
Aug 20, 2009   San Diego ComicCon 2009
Aug 12, 2009   I'm a big, fat slacker
June 05, 2009   The networks are helping me cut back on my TV viewing
June 04, 2009   Mandy Moore's Amanda Leigh,
Chris Isaak's Mr Lucky
and
My name is Bruce?
and Emmy Rossum? Where am I going with this?
May 21, 2009   Randy would have really liked Fanboys...sigh
May 3, 2009   The Spring reading shelf
Apr 21, 2009   Holidays On Ice (a little late for Christmas)
Apr 18, 2009   Leviticus Cross and other Hector Sevilla comic book stuff
Apr 16, 2009   The fantastically amazing and banal Badbartopia RSS Feed
Mar 31, 2009   Neil Gaiman's Blueberry Girl
Mar 30, 2009   My Amazon mis-order turns out to be not so annoying as previously expected...
(AKA the Dr Horrible soundtrack)
Mar 23, 2009   Stephan Pastis & Richard Thompson have me looking forward to the 2009 SD ComicCon
Mar 19, 2009   Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog,
The Guild
Mar 08, 2009   The Wonderful Wizard of Oz comic adaptation,
Neil Gaiman's Sandman: The Dream Hunters
Mar 04, 2009   Little Brother
Mar 1, 2009   Pete & Pickles
Feb 11, 2009   She & Him
Flakes
Pushing Daisies
Jan 26, 2009   The Scourge of God,
When You are Engulfed in Flames
Jan 14, 2009   On the Road = hippy nonsense
Jan 12, 2009   One-by-one, my fish have met their maker
Dec 26, 2008   My Azeroth-avoidance continues
Dec 23, 2008   Nothing to see...move along
Dec 15, 2008   New scribbles
Dec 10, 2008   The Oct-Nov-Dec reading shelf
Dec 1, 2008   Shalimar the Clown
the economic impact of the events in Mumbai
Nov 21, 2008   Star Wars: Allegiance
Nov 20, 2008   Daredevil Black Widow: Abattoir
Nov 17, 2008   Travel Team
Nov 16, 2008   A new comic adaptation of The Wizard of Oz
Nov 14, 2008   Berke's Books:
The Last Basselope
Edward Fudwupper Fibbed Big
Mars Needs Moms
Opus: 25 years
Nov 13, 2008   Return to Azeroth?
Nov 12, 2008   Goodbye, Opus
Oct 29, 2008   Halloween costumes of 2008
Project Superpowers
Marvels
Ruins
Oct 23, 2008   The Graveyard Book
Interworld
Oct 16, 2008   Nation
Oct 10, 2008   The Joy of Programming
My foray into Ajax
Oct 9, 2008   My Saturn Scare
Opus ends
Terry Pratchett's condition
Oct 3, 2008   The Hitchhiker's Guide, Book 6...by Eoin Colfer?
Oct 2, 2008   Media master - music online
Sony builds a "better" camera
Sept 24, 2008   The September reading shelf
Sept 17, 2008   Still missing Randall
The Fish tank...again
The Graveyard Book
Sept 15, 2008   Slacking...as usual
The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang
Sept 9, 2008   The dearth of Opus strips
yes, I meant to say "dearth"
Sept 8, 2008   A new monitor goes bad...but it all ends happily
Sept 3, 2008   A Boy and His Dog,
Richard Corben,
H.P. Lovecraft's Haunt of Horror
Sept 2, 2008   A slightly newish look
(aka "why I will never be a graphic designer")
Aug 11, 2008   Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in all its incarnations Mike Kunkel's re-imagining of Shazam
July 29, 2008   San Diego Comiccon 2008
July 24, 2008   Neil Gaiman
July 17, 2008   Chris Isaak!
June 30, 2008   The Woman Who Wouldn't
Legends II
Mouse Guard Fall 1152
the Jetta's latest round of repairs
fishtank overpopulation
June 10, 2008   The Reading Shelf
Fish tank jungle
Attack of the bees
June 3, 2008   Missing Randall
May 9, 2008   My French Whore
Apr 28, 2008   Fish tank fatality
Flight of the Conchords
The Dangerous Alphabet
Mar 5, 2008   Gene Wilder book signing at Borders
new fish tank
subpoenaed!
Jan 11, 2008   The Jetta Strikes back!
The Plucker
The Anubis Gates
National Treasure II
Nov 8, 2007   San Diego on Fire,
A clean break from WoW,
UCSD Extension Java I graduation (kinda)
Making Money
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Oct 2, 2007   Back to school, Java class at UCSD
AT&T's Uverse
new sketches
Blockbuster movie pass
August 28, 2007   Mandy Moore concert!
Aug 19, 2007   ComicCon 2007 - Neil Gaiman, Iron Man and all the usual suspects
May 22, 2007   World of Spamcraft (and other spamalicious topics), forum fun...gus, the woes of being a contractor and PIRATES!!
Apr 5, 2007   I'm a conservative - bite me!
Timbaland? Dumb!
Marie Antoinette - snaggle teeth and teasing glimpes. Sweet!
John Q - a lesson about fatherhood or a liberal-propoganda film?
Mar 30, 2007   Things that make me grumpy-er,
employed again at last,
Finn and assorted other ramblings
Feb 8, 2007   The search for employment continues..and the unemployment benefits are NOT pouring in!
Jan, 22, 2007   Freed from the bondage of employment, a very brief review of a few books and films
Dec 17, 2006   Sad excuses, The Innocent Man, 1776, THe Man in High Castle, Absolute Sandman, Wintersmith, garage sale treasures: Ghost in the Machine
Aug 20, 2006   Writers of the Future XXII/Tim Powers, more movie reivews
July 20, 2006   San Diego ComicCon 2006
July 15, 2006   Superman Returns, inconsiderate morons, Peewee's Playhouse returns, my plea for more pirate movies
July 8, 2006   Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Wild Animal Park critters, site remodeling
Jun 27, 2006   The good, the bad and the mediocre (a bunch of movie reviews in the new forum).
June 15, 2006   Because of Romek - A Holocaust Survivor's Memoir
May 21, 2006   The DaVinci Code, Aeon Flux, Everything You Want
May 12, 2006   World of Warcrack, the Office, Coraline, my apologies...
Jan 24, 2006   Christmas Vacation 2006, Syriana, Traveling Pants, Wish You Were Here
Dec 19, 2005   Festive Neighbors, the death of Olivia, Media Misinformation surrounding Brent Wilkes/ADCS, Make Love the bruce campbell way
Nov 15, 2005   Microsoft Technet 2005 launch party, Lexmark printer problem, a bad, bad day, changing dentists.
Oct 22, 2005   Thud!, Anansi Boys, Where's my cow
Oct 18, 2005   Terry Pratchet Thud! signing, Neil Gaiman Anansi Boys signing
Oct 15, 2005   A very, very late Comiccon 2005 report.
Jun 23, 2005   The black hole of Warcraft, The Years of Rice and Salt, After the Sunset, Madagascar, Mr and Mrs Smith, Taxi.
Jun 3, 2005   All is quiet on the PM Front, War of the Worlds (the novel), Kingdom of Heaven, Sahara, Star Wars Episode III, Flight of the Phoenix
May 9, 2005   The program managers strike again, More of my horrendous sketches, Spanglish, A Lot Like Love, Elektra, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the film)
Apr 9, 2005   Stuck in Corporate Hell, a few of my recent sketches, Miss Congeniality 2, Collateral
Mar 21, 2005   Revenge of the Jetta (car problems), a Newegg purchase, a few new drawings, more Opus
Feb 13, 2005   The Mail mystery solved, more of my crappy sketches, A few new photos of the girls, bill-bert (introducing the new Project Manager), sweet phone skills, Opus, Dungeons and Dragons, In Good Company
Jan 27, 2005   Mystery mail, new photos of my beautiful kids, some new sketches, an Episode 3 spoiler, Opus, Going Postal, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Ubik, Remember the Titans, Lemony Snicket`s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Dodgeball
Jan 7, 2005   Christmas 2004, Update to the site, Elf & King Arthur revisited, National Treasure, Opus, Blade Runner
Dec 18, 2004   A new Stephanie sketch, another Target web page goof, the SD Union Tribune confirms Greg Bear`s research for Vitals, Miramar VW proves my dealer service assertions wrong, neighborhood Christmas fun, Opus
Nov 24, 2004   More of my mediocre drawings, nw russian mail-order coins, Star Wars toys, a big green spider comes to visit, Opus, Dies the Fire, Digital fortress, The Incredibles, Twisted, Van Helsing
Nov 03, 2004   Some thoughts regarding the 2004 election, rants about the environment, a memory rebate update, new computer issues, Opus, The Lone Drow, Deception Point, Roswell season 2 on DVD
Oct 12, 2004   An interesting quiz, mal-in rebates, a parrot joke, my new computer, thoughts on frame removal, web logs, Opus, Vitals, Star Wars trilogy on DVD, Ladykillers
Sep 23, 2004   My "Heath" sketch for Mark Oakley, an update on my a PNY rebate check, the fictitious AWNA Act, Browser Issues with the site, Opus/Pickles, The DaVinci Code, Garden State (Natalie Portman), Man on Fire
Sep 11, 2004   A new drawing: "Stephanie", redneck wisdom, my salary to hourly reclassification, funny video: news from iraq, an update on my mail-in pny rebate, a new rebate through Costco, Ella Enchanted, Highlander Endgame, Princess of Thieves, The Whole Ten Yards
Aug 27, 2004   Fun with my VW Warranty, Opus, Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix, The Land of SokMunster, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Wedding, Napoleon Dynamite, Hidalgo, Chasing Liberty, Out of Time
Jul 23, 2004   San Diego ComicCon 2004, the family summer vacation, Bruce Campbell, Opus, Nanny Ogg`s Cookbook, Angels & Demons, Folk of the fringe, Bourne Supremacy, i robot, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Cody Banks 2, Hellboy
Jul 19, 2004   *** PNY Rebate fun, IE Patch, Linux and socialism, liberal scum, Opus, BIM, timeline, master and commander, tad hamilton, stuck on you,cold mountain, 50 first dates, the terminal, spiderman 2, king arthur, a hat full of sky, the thousand orcs, meditations on middle earth
Jun 20, 2004   Memorial day pictures, Duplex, Mark Oakley/Heroes, Wild Animal Park Dinosaurs, B-52s concertman, Say After Tomorrow, Big Fish, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Eragon, A Hat Full of Sky, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
May 08, 2004   Pat Tillman, LOTR Toys, 13 Going on 30, Mean Girls, Tolkien Miscellany, Last Juror, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Pork Tornado
Apr 06, 2004   Roswell season 1 DVD and a some other mindless drivel
Feb 19, 2004   Highlander site contest results, new downloads, princess gallery updates, lord of the rings toys, harry potter, underworld. lost in translation, the hunted, a tolkien miscellany...
Feb 09, 2004   Murder at 1600, Radio, Cheaper by the Dozen, King Arthur, Spiderman 2, Van Helsing, Harry Potter, Tolkien Miscellany, Mark Oakley, massive snow in Idaho...
Jan 28, 2004   Swat, Uptown Girls, Somethings Gotta Give, Along Came Polly, Seabiscuit, Ashley Judd Marathon, Van Helsing, Harry Potter, Science Fiction Bok Club, Nanny Ogg`s Cookbook, RA Salvatore, Mythology (Alex Ross), Fastner & Larson, Best page in the universe, etc, etc...
Jan 07, 2004   Clint`s rules, X-Men 2, Holes, Pirates, Two Towers, Freaky Friday (Haley Hudson), new drawings, Thieves` World, Playskool Star Wars, new Interest section
Jan 02, 2004   nothing all that interesting...
Dec 21, 2003   Nemo, Highlander page, Christmas vacation 2003, star wars kid
Dec 12, 2003   E.T. (Erika Eleniak), new drawings, Opus, Santa Claus 2 (Elizabeth Mitchell), Legolas toy/pics, How to Deal (Mandy Moore), Myth update, Last Samurai
Nov 27, 2003   Another Fine Myth, Elf
Nov 22, 2003   Dude, Where`s Bill & Ted
Nov 18, 2003   Not much to say
Nov 15, 2003   Disneyland, Astronaut`s Wife, Dumer and Dumber-er, Monstrous Regiment
Nov 10, 2003   Terry Pratchett, Matrix Revolutions
110103   School of Rock, Terry Pratchett signing, Darth Vader MBNA bust, San Diego fires
Aug 17, 2003   Johnny English, San Diego Comic-Con
Jun 17, 2003   Assorted ramblings
May 28, 2003   Not much to say
May 24, 2003   Almost nothing of note
May 17, 2003   Matrix Reloaded, Pirates
Mar 23, 2003   The Police, Pirates, Lord of the Rings grievances part II
Mar 16, 2003   Lord of the Rings grievances part 1
Super auld stuff   A big list of old submissions with boat loads of broken links

Since you all love my inane blathering about the books I'm reading (sarcasm), I'm going to mention two more that I've just finished recently: The Scourge of God and When you are Engulfed in Flames.

The Scourge of God

This is another SM Stirling post-apocalyptic novel set in an alternate timeline (the action in the current novel takes place around this same decade) of the United States (mostly in the Pacific Northwest). This is a timeline in which all things technological have, for some reason, stopped working. And people are left to cope as best they can in a world without electricity, gunpowder, or internal combustion engines.

This is the fifth book in Stirling's Emberverse, an ongoing series that I've really enjoyed (there are five books thus far: Dies the Fire, The Protector's War, A Meeting at Corvallis, The Sunrise Lands, and The Scourge of God). I like the honesty of what life wold be like without technology - there's no Conan in these stories easily dominating all his enemies. No character is untouchable, no matter how integral to the story he or she seems to be. In this cold, harsh world everybody dies. And usually violently. The characters aren't all so perfectly good or perfectly evil that they become caricatures of themselves. Nothing is ever easy, even for the heroes of the stories. And there's plenty of well-written action, which is something I enjoy in a novel.

Here's a scene that I found noteworthy. It's an interaction between a Catholic priest, Ignatius, and Rudy, the book's main hero, as they are traveling together on a quest to find what may prove to be the cause of the Change. It's an interesting discussion of both the origins of legends and maybe even a little foreshadowing for what's to come at the end of their "quest."

"I have been thinking of what this quest means," he said, with the scholarly precision that he used for serious matters. "Have you noticed that you seem to be...collecting people? Of a particular type?"

Rudi chuckled. "Sure, and I so seem to have an attraction for disinheirited princes," he said.

"That is because you are a hero, I think."

Rudi frowned at him. "Well, thank you--"

The priest shook his head. "No, I'm using the word in a...technical sense. I suspect, my son, that you are a hero in the sense that Sigurd or Beowulf or Roland was. Heroes accrete heroes around them - heroes and great evils. I thought that was true only in ancient story, but apparently the archetype holds true in our lives as well."

"Ah," Rudi said softly. Was that a goose that just walked across my grave?

"Well, for my sake, I hope you're wrong, Father," he said. "I love the old stories, but sure and I'd rather listen to them than live them out."

"I too. Human beings live by their legends; but if what I suspect is true, then we are living in one." A wry smile. "But even Out Lord was refused when he asked that the cup pass from him."

"Something my mother said once...that my birth father had walked into a myth without knowing it. I hadn't expected the same to happen to me." He shivered slightly. "Does it make it better or worse that I know?"

"Perhaps we should have expected it," Ignatius said soberly. "We children of the change. It took the technology of our parents from us - but that is not all. Other things are...moving into the vacated spaces. It is as if time were moving backwards in some fundamental way."

"Back to the time of legends," Rudi said.

"Into the time of myths," Ignatius agreed.

"I wonder what will happen if we go back too far?" Rudi said.

Ignatius looked up at the stars. "We find God. Or God finds us."

The clash of Religions is a common theme in these books, as is the noting of the similarity of many religions. Later in the story, Rudy is talking about death and war with a Buddhist monk, Dorje.

"I was raised to be a warrior, but I've seen enough of war lately that it disgusts me, so. Not so much the fighting, but the...waste of it, the things that are broken that should not be."

"You have chosen a hard path, my son," the monk said. "One that will test your courage; and the risk of pain to yourself and the death of your body are the least of its trials. But be sure, if you have courage it shall certainly be tested; because no quality in this universe goes unused. Walk the Way you have chosen in its fullness; when you have reached its end, you will find that it is the beginning of another path."

"You don't think killing is the worst of sins, then?" he said, curiously.

Dorje sighed, "No, but considered rightly, it is...foolish. It is easy to kill. It is equally easy to destroy glass windows. Any fool can do either. Why is it only the wise who perceive that it is wisdom to let live, when even lunatics can sometimes understand that it is better to open a window than to smash the glass? But this world is mired in illusion, which is folly. As followers of the Way, we deplore the taking of life..."

Then he chuckled, slapping his knees. "Including our own! And more important, we deplore greedy or evil men taking the lives of those who look to us for instruction. There are few surviving pacifists in the world twenty-two years after the Change. A desire for peace does not imply submission to those who chose to be violent as their first resort."

Taking a cue from Tolkien, Sterling ends his books with cliffhangers that keep the reader hanging in suspense. He's a cruel, cruel author.

I also just discovered that Stirling has written another series of books, the Nantucket series (which may or may not be ongoing, I'm not sure), that are related to these novels (though instead of being set in an alternate Changed future version of our world, they send people from out time back about 800 years) and they may possibly help to explain what's going on. I'm reluctant to read these other books on the chance that they may ruin the ending of their sister-series, but I'm sure I'll get to them eventually. So much to read, so little time...


When You are Engulfed in Flames

This is another autobiographical peek into David Sedaris's life (as was Dress Your Family in Denim and Corduroy and Me Talk Pretty Someday (the other two Sedaris books I've read). I was laughing out loud constantly as I read this book, it's so filled with humor.

I suppose the irony is that Davis Sedaris is openly homosexual and doesn't make any attempt to disguise this fact in his books (there's no graphic depiction of sexual acts or anything like that in the books - they're not that kind of books). And I have definite anti-homosexual leanings (not the "go out and beat them up" kind, just the "resenting the 'you must accept our self-identification as a minority group!'" kind). Yet I love this book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good laugh - anyone who can stomach some pretty hard profanity, anyway. Sedaris himself isn't foul-mouthed, but many of the people he recalls experiences with were very foul indeed.

I'll refrain from sharing any of the excessively profane comments made by people Sedaris has known, but here's an exchange that made me laugh. He's talking about a horrible, abrasive old woman who lived in the apartment across his hall.

It was a stranger who brought us back together. In the ten or so years before she retired, Helen cleaned house for a group of priests in Murray Hill. "They were Jesuits," she told me. "That means they believe in God but not in terlet paper. You should have seen their underwear. Disgusting."

In her opinion, a person who hired a housekeeper was a person who thought himself better than everyone else. She loved a story in which a snob got his comeuppance, but the people I worked for were generally pretty thoughtful. I felt like a bore, telling her how unobtrusive and generous everyone was, and so it came as a pleasant surprise when I was sent to clean an an apartment near the Museum of Modern Art. The woman who lived there was in her late sixties and had hair the color of a newly hatched chick. Mrs. Oakley, I'll say her name was. She wore a denim skirt with a matching blouse and had knotted a red bandana around her throat. With some people this might be it, their look, but on her it seemed like a costume, like she was going to a party with a cattle-rustling theme.

Most often a homeowner would take my jacket, or direct me toward the closet. Mrs. Oakley did neither, and when I made for the brass rack that she herself clearly used, she said, "Not there," her voice a bark. "You can put your things in the guest bathroom. Not on the countertop, but on the toilet." She pointed to a door at one end of the foyer. "Put the lid down first," she told me. "Then put your coat and scarf on top of the lid."

I wondered who would be stupid enough not to have understood that, and I imagined a simpleton with a puzzled expression on his face. "Hey," he might say. "How come my jacket's all wet? And while we're at it, who put this turd in my pocket?!"

"Something amuses you, does it?" Mrs. Oakley asked.

I said, "No. Not at all." Then I jotted down the time in my portable notebook.

She saw me writing and put her hands on her hips. "I am not paying you to practice your English," she told me.

"Excuse me?"

She pointed to my notebook. "This is not a language institute. You are here to work, not to learn new words."

It went on for a while longer, but those were most of the parts that made me laugh the hardest.

Later, while he's in Japan to try to quit smoking, he makes several funny observations (including the origin of the book's title) that made me laugh. A lot.

In the end, we settled on Tokyo, a place we had gone the previous summer. The city has any number of things to recommend it, but what first hooked me was the dentistry. People looked as if they'd been chewing on rusty bolts. If a tooth was whole, it most likely protruded, or was wired to a crazy-looking bridge. In America I smile with my mouth shut. Even in France and England I'm self-conscious, but in Tokyo, for the first time in years, I felt normal.
....

A booklet in our hotel room includes a section on safety awkwardly titled [i]Best Knowledge of Disaster Damage Prevention and Favors to Ask of You[/i]. What follows are three paragraphs, each written beneath a separate, boldfaced heading: "When you check in the hotel room," "When you Find a fire," and, my favorite, "When you are engulfed in flames."

Further weird English from our trip:
On an apron picturing a dog asleep in a basket: "I'm glad I caught you today. Enjoy mama."
On decorative paper bags a person might put a gift in: "When I think about the life in my own way I need gentle conversations."
On another gift bag: "Today is a special day for you. I have considered what article of present is nice to make you happy. Come to open now, OK?"
On yet another gift bag: "Only imflowing you don't flowing imflowing." (This last one actually gave me a headache.)

And one last funy passage, for good measure, about his fish-like swimming abilities (as a nice little tie-in to the religious aspects of quoted The Scourge of God passages).

At the pool I currently go to, one of the regulars is a woman with Down syndrome. She's fairly heavy and wears an old-fashioned swimsuit, the sort with a ruffled skirt. Then there's this bathing cap that straps beneath her chin and is decorated with rubber flowers. Odd is the great satisfaction I take whenever I beat her from one end to the other. "I won three out of four," I told Hugh the first time she and I swam together. "I mean I really creamed her. "

"Let me get this straight," he said. "She's obese. She's as old as you are. And she has Down syndrome?"

"Yes, and I beat her. Isn't that great!"

"Did she even know you were having a race?"

I hate it when he gets like this. Anything to burst my bubble.

I no longer tell him about the old people I defeat. Older than I am, I mean - women in their late seventies and eighties. Then there are the children. I was in Washington State, at a small-town YMCA, when a boy wandered into the lap lane and popped his head, seal-like, out of the water. I would later learn that he was nine, but at the time he was just this kid, slightly pudgy, with a stern haircut. It's like he went to a barbershop with a picture of Hitler, that's how severe it was. We got to talking, and when I told him I wasn't a very good swimmer, he challenged me to a race. I think he assumed that, like most adults, I'd slow down and intentionally let him win, but he didn't know who he was dealing with. I need all the confidence I can get, and one victory is just as good as any other. Thus I swam for my very life and beat the pants off him. I thought this was it - he'd accept his defeat and move on with his life - but five minutes later he stopped me again and asked if I believed in God.

"No," I told him.

"Why?"

I thought for a second. "Because I have hair on my back, and a lot of other people, people who kill and rob and make life miserable, don't. A real God wouldn't let that happen."

I was happy to leave it at that, but before I could resume he blocked my path. "It was God who let you win that race," he said. "He touched you on the leg and made you go faster, and that's how come you beat me."

He really looked like Hitler then, eyes blazing like two little coals.

"If God knows that I don't believe in him, why would he go out of his way to help me?" I asked. "Maybe instead of making me win, God reached down and made you lose. Did you ever think of that?"

I continued my swimming but was stopped once again at the end of the next lap. "You're going to go to hell," the boy said.

"Is this still about me winning that race?"

"No," he told me. "It's about God, and if you don't believe in Him you're going to burn for the rest of eternity."

I thanked him for the tip and then I went back to my laps, grateful that at the church I had attended, the service was entirely in Greek. My sisters and I had no idea what the priest was saying, and when you're young that's probably for the best. L'il Hitler was only in the third grade, and already he was planning for his afterlife. Even worse, he was planning for mine. While changing out of my suit, it occurred to me that I probably shouldn't have contradicted him. It's insane to discuss religion with a child. Especially at the Y. What bugged me was his insistence that I'd had unfair help, that God had stepped in and pushed me over the finish line. I mean, really. Can I not beat a nine-year-old on my own?

Don't think that I've shared all the funniest parts of the book and now there's no reason to read it. There are so many laugh-out-loud moments that I'd have to post 80% of the book to share them all. If you like to laugh (and you're not too easily offended), read this book.



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