Travel and Scale

A few weeks ago I had the chance to go to Las Vegas as part of my work. I’d never been there before, so going was a real treat. I wrote a few first impressions while I was there and I’m going to add to them here.

These are the times when I almost wish I knew another language well enough to switch the language settings on my iPad. I always feel like somebody is reading over my shoulder. That’s a little something about being at a convention with a few thousand other people… there’s always somebody there.

Being my first time in Las Vegas also makes the whole event a little bit more overwhelming. The scale of things is amazing.

Let me give you a little perspective. The grey blocks are the representation of Ceasar’s Palace in Las Vegas (working with engineers makes scale things like this available – yay!). It’s not the place we stayed, but across the street. Check this out:

The yellow dot is my house. The red square is my daughter’s school and all of the grounds around it. It’s huge. That was the most overwhelming part of the whole thing. The folks that run things out there know how to get people from place to place. The only other place I’ve been that worked that well with that many people was Disney.

Scale works well here most of the time… from time to time it works against everyone. The keynote event today didn’t allow early seating. So literally thousands of people were jammed up at the entry to the main hall. Then the fire alarm went off. Then everybody stood there and resolutely ignored it…. Eventually somebody got that shut off.

So, that’s the first impression. There’s more but I’ll let the size of things sink in.

Doing that thing I don’t like

I normally don’t much like when folks make a “year in review” post. I kind of consider it cheating. It’s not new content… but as I’m looking at things I may have found one that I’m willing to consider. The picture here was sent to me by Goodreads. I use that site to track the books I read and review along with the stuff I want to remember when I go looking for the next thing I want to read. I like it – and this picture was something I thought was a neat addition.

BooksOf2013_GoodreadsThose are all the books I read and reviewed on Goodreads this year. 15 books in 12 months doesn’t really seem like a lot, but it’s not terrible. I have to admit that I don’t update Goodreads as frequently as I’d like – there are actually 2 books missing off this list that I’ve finished but didn’t get posted.

Of all the books on that list above – Neil Gaiman has proven to me once again that he ranks as one of the very top authors for me. His works can just be magical. I also discovered that I missed Jim Butcher. There was something I felt was missing during this holiday run and I couldn’t put a finger on it until I saw a post from Jim about when the next book in his series will be coming out. The past few years there has been a new Dresden Files book around the holidays. Didn’t happen this year. That pointed out that even after 14 or 15 books, I’m still on board.

So there it is. I cheated. What I read this year – the eclectic collection. What did you read this year that you’d recommend?


Holiday Cheer

I’ve seen a lot of stories and commentary about various aspects of this holiday season. These range from the sublime to the ridiculous. I’m going to share one of my own.

It all worked. It’s a small and simple thing, but it worked. This sort of thing just doesn’t get the notice it should on a regular basis.

My schedule is routinely packed. It’s chock full of tightly timed moves that get me from place to place, from meeting to event or school related activity. I don’t have copious free time and I am often dependent on timing between events being just right. Given holiday shopping traffic, this frequently fails to work in my favor.

Last week was one of those occasions. I made it from where I was teaching back to the area around my home, over to the store that has very limited hours (to the point where if you have a job you probably won’t get there), into another shop nearby and back to the house before dinner time and the need to pop back out for another meeting. It was as if I was being guided and I was destined to arrive on time. Perhaps it was my prior planning or the route I picked. Maybe the Adjustment Bureau had the day off (they oppose me almost constantly). Whatever it was, I made it and as a bonus did it without conflict with other people (something else shamefully common at this time of year). I got what I needed quickly, easily and conveniently. I was amazed. I felt even better when I realized as I walked back to my car from the second shop that “limited hours” shop had done what most of us like to do during the holiday rush. They’d closed 20 minutes early (earlier) so they could get a head start on traffic.

This is important to note. There are lots of things out there to be thankful for, or to give thought to, or be outraged about each and every holiday season. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter. The things you don’t note. Consider all the things that go right for you, even the little things. Sit back and enjoy the holiday season.

Merry Christmas.


I know that I don’t post here as often as many writers I know post to their sites. It is part of that commitment I spoke of a couple of posts ago. I attempt to post interesting and truthful things here. I genuinely attempt to avoid just turning this into some kind of “ads only” kind of space or allowing it to simply fade away. I don’t want to post something just for the sake of posting something.

I write. I’m not great at it, but I do it. I keep at it. I blog here because there are times when I have thoughts on things I want to express but those don’t fit with what I’m writing at the time. I want this to be a little part of me that I can share. I call it the pretend blog because I don’t have much of a readership at this point. I suspect that won’t change in the near future and I’m just “pretending” to be posting out things for my vast audience.

I was traveling for work last week. It was my very first trip to Las Vegas. I have three or four pages of notes about my trip. I want to post them here, but they definitely need to be cleaned up. Perhaps next time I travel I will actually get in a couple of good photos as well. As I thought about how to post these things, I recalled an author’s posts that were frequently about travel. There were times I felt bothered by those posts so I scanned or skipped them. I realize now the level of commitment that takes, to post about your travels while you’re travelling. I had my laptop and had it set up, but ended up working and not writing when I was seated in front of it. I will need to get better at this.

The author I’m talking about above is Mark Van Name. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him and hanging out with him in the past (one of the many reasons I love fandom and attending conventions). While I don’t know that he’d consider us “friends”, I always enjoy the brief times we get to chat or go for lunch. I also admire and respect (more and more as we go) the work he shares on his blog. His posts are honest and emotional – and it comes through in his words. He has totally committed to writing every day – even when he travels. You should go and check his blog out (and buy and read is books if you haven’t already) here:

I really suspect we are in some kind of special / golden age for science fiction and fantasy authors right now that others will speak of in awed tones years from now, the same way people sometimes speak now of getting the chance to meet and hang out with authors like Asimov and Clarke back in the day. There are other authors out there doing the same kind of blogging – and doing it for very large audiences. Scalzi, Wheaton, Hines spring to mind. I like Mark’s blog better. If I were a better writer I’d have the appropriate words to describe the subtle difference I feel between those blogs and what Mark writes. Whatever the differences may be, I intend to keep reading them all and hoping that some day the things I write here for “pretend” will give somebody else that same sense of connection and inspire them to do the same.

The Desolation of Tolkien

Maybe desecration is a better word. It’s a strong word to be sure, but reasonable to use in this instance. Let me make a comparison that will make many of you shudder.

This Hobbit movie is to the book as the movie Starship Troopers is to that book.

There, I’ve said it. That’s how I feel and I’ll stand by my statement. Some of you might think this fills me with rage and hatred, but that is not the case. I simply believe we have reached the point where we need to let this be Hollywood and Peter Jackson’s film. It’s not the book, it’s not the same as the story in the book and it misses a couple of important things. Just as the Troopers adaptation would have been much more successful if it had simply called itself “Bug Hunt” and divorced itself from angry fan-boy rants, this movie should have called itself something different also. Maybe, “Come Watch Tons of CGI” or “Pee first, this will be another long one”. Seriously – it’s expecting too much to just have the story as it was written. There was no love story. The action happened “off screen” in the book many times, and when it didn’t it was much longer and more drawn out than an action movie needs to be. There were peaceful people in the book and long periods of rest and recovery. These peaceful, restful times and folks don’t play well with 165 minute films. There needs to be something going on all the time, and that simply wasn’t the case in the book. The movie and the book are apart from one another and will never meet.

Spoilers start here!!

The subtle things were lost in this adaptation, and that’s the part I really don’t like. Gandalf is sneaky in the book. He gets all the dwarfs into Beorn’s house by way of stealth. Then this giant of a man / bear is shown to have a strong compassion for all living things. In the movie, they’re all chased into the house by Beorn in ferocious bear form. There he’s given back story, but with all the subtlety of a dwarven hammer blow.

Speaking of hammers… round peg, square hole. Legolas is NOT IN THE HOBBIT. There are elves, just not that elf. This is where the subtlety is lost – and where the changes become too much to bear. The love story is a blatant attempt to draw a female audience. Honestly – that’s Hollywood BS. I know loads of women who have a far better / deeper knowledge of this story – and who would line up (and dress up, thank you very much) to see this film – with or without this love story. I hope this is the Hollywood influence is to blame for this. If it’s Jackson and the writing team I will be sorely disappointed. I want to like what Jackson does – and almost always have – but he’s venturing dangerously close to the land of Lucas on this one.

I really like the review here: I think this reviewer shares my opinion.

So – after all this – should you go see this movie? YES. Here’s why: there are some things you need to see on the big screen. This dragon is one of them. He is wonderful. Go see it for the dragon – he deserves the big screen.

Traveling Man

I’m still trying to decide why the time is off on my web site posts. It’s a 5 hour difference and I can’t quite figure out why.

So, adding to that mix / mess I’ll be travelling this week – into another time zone that will be 3 hours behind. I think that will make anything I post here a day late (and perhaps a dollar short?).

Let’s see how the scheduled publish tool pulls this one off…