The Good Girl

Here is another book I would have skimmed over or missed because the story is told with first-person narration. Lucky for me, Audible was giving it away as part of their Twentieth Anniversary Celebration.

By lucky, I mean lucky-ish. By the end of the fourth or fifth chapter I knew how the story would end.
It might have gone differently, I might have been kept in suspense, but once again a good author hoisted her story on its petard with the first-person narrative style.

I know, I bitch about this all the time. I promise, when I write a review about The Handmaid's Tale, or Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I will praise their expert use of the first-person, until then we have tropes, cliché’s, and The Good Girl.

With The Good Girl, we get three first-person viewpoints: Eve, Gabe, and Colin. Eve is the naïve mother, Gabe the detective investigating Mia Dennett’s disappearance, and Colin is her abductor. Each character has a distinctive voice, is well written, and—on the Audible version—I enjoyed the characterizations by each of the readers. Each character is also a stereotype. Not unexpected in a world where NCIS and Law & Order have longer runs than Moses.

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New Novella in the Fiction Section

The first week of January I sat down to write a short story about Ryan Jameson. It quickly grew into a larger project than I expected. The result is Special Correspondents Lottery, a novella length tale of how Ryan Jameson found his way to the Santa Maria and in the center of the biggest event in human history. I have published it in five parts in the Shorts section of this website. Enjoy.

My First Martial Rant

I was digging through old notes, making a list of things to do, when I found an early rant about my martial art practice. With mass shootings a monthly occurrence, and Russian troll farms influencing American thought, it is time to revisit my steadfast belief in non-violence and skepticism.


Before the last century internal martial art–or neijia–masters taught their students orally. Students who practiced hard and served the master well passed the art to the next generation. At the start of the last century, some masters published books about taijiquan, baguazhang, and xingyiquan. Publishing this knowledge was expensive, so only a few tried. Those that succeeded grew their schools, and their lineage survives to this day.

The Internet gives us an opportunity to access these teachings in a way the old masters could not imagine. But the business model for martial art masters has not changed. Emphasis is on the old ways and traditional methods. They insist that you cannot learn from the written word or video instruction. Their argument is that there is a secret transmission that is impossible to capture in a video or the with the written word.

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A Glossary for The Fundamentals

Including a glossary for a fantasy or science fiction epic is standard practice. Tucked away at the end of a book, they are useful references if you have set a book aside for a while and need to re-familiarize yourself with the language and culture of a story.

The first time I read the Lord of the Rings, it was a massive hard-bound copy I checked out from the Public Library. It included all three books, a biography of Tolkien and a glossary that rivaled the Silmarillion. I had a special bookmark for the glossary, and often lost myself tracing entries while assembling Middle Earth in my head.

Another epic that included a glossary at end of each book was The Wheel of Time. Here, though, the glossary tried to contain itself to the book at hand. Occasionally there was a term I was unfamiliar with, if it was not in the current book’s glossary, I would have to dig out an older book to find it, or read on, hoping the story would remind of the term's meaning.

I wrestled with including a glossary with The Fundamentals, and decided against it. The world is a different place since Jordan and Tolkien published their novels, on paper. As I write this, I am reading The Handmaid’s Tail in paperback and am surprised how different the dynamics are from reading on my Kindle.

My earliest outlines of The Walking Circle included a glossary section for Martial Art terms, and I have carried that forward with my fictional writing. This gives me a lot more flexibility over including the terms in a book. I can add graphics to the entries, and indicate the volume where the term was first introduced.

Without further ado, here is the initial pass at my fictional glossary.



Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Journey

Do you know the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton's Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition? It is an epic tale that challenges biblical fables. So much so, that the crew of the Endurance survives is the least amazing fact of the story.

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage is an example of storytelling at its finest. It could have been just another retelling of Shackleton's ill-fated Trans-Antarctic Expedition, instead it becomes a story about the crew of the Endurance, and how they managed as a team on the ice of the world's most isolated continent. Alfred Lansing's writing is simple and unadorned. He recounts the tale of the ill-fated expedition using the diary entries of the ship's crew. Lansing weaves these individual diary entries into a complete narration of the events between December 22, 1914 and August 30, 1916. We get a picture of not only the man who lead the expedition, but the incredible crew that accompanied him.

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Twenty Years of Climate Change

Do you know what scares me? The comments attached to this video on YouTube. There was a time I would dismiss such things as trolls, attention seekers, and link builders, but then Trump happened. The comments run the full gamut, from not understanding the impact of climate change on famine and poverty to denying the moon landing, to flat Earthers. 


Personal Study

After discovering Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming’s original, yellow Taijiquan book, practicing Taijiquan became everything to me. I moved outside, eating, drinking, and practicing under a Pin Oak tree. At heart, however, I am a skeptic, and seeing Taijiquan through the works of a single author did not satisfy my need to study more broadly. I later learned that the most ardent practitioners of Taijiquan suffer through the same phase.

My early passion with Taijiquan coincided with the earliest days of the Internet. At the time, there was little material online. The big box bookstores had a few titles, but for more detailed instruction you had to search the pages of Tai Chi magazine or other martial art magazines for VHS videos.

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Taijiquan Posture Vocabulary

Vocabulary is the foundation to understanding a subject. The same is true with Taijiquan. For now, I am ignoring the translation problem and focusing on the basic vocabulary we need to communicate the Taijiquan routine.

Is the Taijiquan routine a sequence, or a routine? Is a static position a posture or a form? The interchange of the words form, posture, and stance creates confusion. For example, is it the Yang Style Taijiquan form, sequence, or routine? Is that the Ward Off posture or form? Are you in the Bow and Arrow posture or stance?

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Tax the Rich: An Animated Fairytale


Time Enough for Love

I have started this task of reviewing every book I have read since childhood. It is a ridiculous notion. I can’t remember every book I have read. Just now, I thought of one; a bear, and I am pretty sure an otter, have an adventure or two (no it’s not what you’re thinking). I think it was a series. I loved the books, but they were paperback, and I trashed them in a fit of organization. Still, I am an author now. The Fundamentals is moving to publication, and as for sharing my love of the written word I have been mum.

Reviewing my list, I decided that grouping the historical works by author would save time. Another problem with dredging up memories of old books is the desire to read them again before putting a finger to the keyboard. No problem, I have decided to cheat. I will piece together recollections from what others have said and make up the rest.

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On Writing Well

This book has become mantras I recite as I edit my work. I first turned to it when I worked for Cargill. After ten years in retail, I was rusty on the basics of a good paragraph. When you are heads down on a project, struggling with how to say it, the advice in this book grounds you to what is important; pulling weeds.

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Choosing Other Exercise

In my two books on the martial arts, I shared how my early focus on taijiquan benefited me on multiple levels. I also shared how my related success led to pain from sitting with a computer for hours on end. My focus on taijiquan helped to create my success, and that success lead to the later pain. That same pain lead to my intense study of baguazhang and hours of circle walking every night.

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Teacher, No Teacher, Teacher

My process of learning Taijiquan is not unique. I know this because one of my earliest inspirations in Taijiquan study, Jou, Tsung Hwa, said so. Now, Jou was not talking directly to or about me, but he shared his journey with Taijiquan in his books, and those stories spoke to me and my journey.

The title of this post paraphrases the Zen Koan: "First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is."

Learning a new art or skill is like this. First you see the mountain, and think that others have climbed that mountain, and you would like to follow them. You start climbing the mountain, and the trail goes up and down, back, and forth, and you are not sure if you are on the right trail, or even the right mountain. You think back to when you decided to climb the mountain, how beautiful it was in the distance, but now, when you look around, you cannot see the mountain because you are too close to it. Finally, you reach the peak of the mountain and looking back you can see all its peaks and valleys behind you.

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Shooting Dovetails

Following my post about the NRA being co-opted by the gun industry to expand and protect its market, I wanted to share some of the better articles about our national gun conversation.

The first comes from the always thoughtful Nick Kristof at The New York Times. Titled Do We Have the Courage to Stop This? Mr. Kristof reminds that about 300 Americans a year dies from a ladder falls, while guns kill 30,000. Yet, we have pages of regulations about how to build and sell a ladder, and almost none for guns. You might think that's because guns are mentioned in the Constitution, and ladders aren’t. But don’t forget that to maintain a well-regulated militia part, I know the gun industry hasn’t.

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Linux Trip – The Motive

With my geek-out weekend ending I had a working installation of Linux Mint with the MATE desktop, and I was unhappy with it. My reasons for looking at Linux were simple, I was tired of the increasingly closed garden Apple was creating. I came to Apple because I knew the new OS X was a solid OS built on a fine pedigree of open source software.

I stayed because projects like Fink and MacPorts made grabbing the latest open source projects ridiculously easy. It was a good mix of stable, working, programs that let me get my day-today tasks finished without any headaches, yet I could take a dive deep into geekdom when I wanted to.

When the iPod became a huge hit, I looked like a genius to my friends and family for making the move to Apple when everyone else thought they were dead.

With the two Lion releases, however, Apple closed the door on the spirit of openness that made its OS popular with professional coders like myself. The door is not locked, you can still walk through it, but it is closer to being locked than with any other desktop OS I have seen.

I don't know if you follow the Linux desktop wars (if you're reading this post, you do, but humor me) but the Ubuntu team has created a stir with their Unity desktop fork of the Gnome 3 desktop. Before Canonical and Ubuntu created a user schism with their Unity changes, the Gnome team had to endure the same fate as they tried to move users to the Gnome 3 desktop.  And, guess what, the KDE team created an outcry when they migrated from version 3 of their project to version 4. See a pattern?

As someone disconnected from the Linux desktop community for seven or eight years, I found the various states of outrage over desktop changes as... interesting. Since the step-by-step I had found to get Linux on my Nvidia equipped MacBook Pro were on a Linux Mint forum I was left with an impression that the MATE, and later Cinnamon desktops from the Linux Mint project were better than the desktops they replaced. MATE is a Gnome 2 improvement, and Cinnamon a fork of the maligned Gnome 3.

I had downloaded the MATE distribution of Linux Mint because that was the recommended version for newcomers to the project. My first boot to the desktop was on the Live DVD, and I thought it was a stripped-down version. I proceeded with the install and when the desktop first displayed, I thought I had been time shifted back to 1995. I could not believe that this was the better than Gnome 2 or 3 desktop. Remember I have used a Macintosh for twelve years, so I do have different standards than a Windows user. Even at that, I have used Windows through XP on various work computers, and this was much, much, worse. It looked like Windows 95. Maybe that is what some people like, but not me. I could even buy the argument that some older hardware needed this old frogy looking desktop, but I have found several reviews that indicate MATE takes more resources than its Cinnamon or Gnome 3 counterparts.

The greatest feature of Linux, however, is its openness. And thanks to that openness you can choose from a variety of desktops. Unlike the closed source systems of Windows or Mac OS X, with Linux you can recreate your entire computing experience with the installation of a few packages. I opened Mint’s Software manager and chose the Cinnamon Desktop packages. A few minutes later I was at the session manager.

This was my first visit to the session manager, and I noticed that besides the Cinnamon desktop I could choose the Ubuntu Unity desktop, and the Gnome fallback. I chose Cinnamon and while the desktop was an improvement over MATE, I can say that I was still not impressed. The biggest problem I had with Cinnamon was that when I enabled edit mode with the panel, I could break the desktop at will. The effects were better than MATE, but there was nothing new here.

Since the session manager gave me the options of choosing Unity and Gnome, I logged out and chose Unity. For the first time, since I started this Linux adventure I was impressed. Unity feels very much like the Macintosh. My favorite feature of the Mac is Spotlight. With a tap on Command-Space I can launch programs, or find a document.

Unity's HUD is similar. I have not seen it find a document based on its content, but I understand that is a lens I can add. Not unlike Spotlight expects programs to install access to its indexing database.

I was impressed enough with Unity's performance that I decided to go all Ubuntu and grabbed the original install DVD I had created to start this project and, with my new-found knowledge on getting past Linux's limitations with my graphic card, installed Ubuntu 13.04 from scratch. And there came my next big disappointment.


Linux Trip - Introduction

April was winding down, and Cinco de Mayo was right around the corner. In Kansas, the weather can go from bitter cold to hot in late April and this year was no exception. I was looking for a distraction from the cold. I looked through my long Someday list in my planner and decided that it was time to try Ubuntu Linux.

I rummaged through closets looking for my old MacBook Pro. An Intel dual core unit with the RAM maxed out; I figured it would be a safe machine for a Linux install. Turns out my wife had the laptop at the office. Her laptop had died several months ago, and she had used this machine as a backup while her laptop was in the shop. By the end of the week she had brought it home, and when she left the house to spend time with friends, I decided it was time for me to geek out. With the house and the Smart-TV to myself, I settled in for a cold spring's night of hacking.

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China is Killing Itself

In October, the Earth Observatory project posted a photo of the smog over China.  The haze was thick enough to completely hide the land or water surface below, and it extended far to the south and east. The air is so bad in Beijing that the US Embassy measures and shares the air quality on a Twitter feed.

I wanted to share this image to give you an idea of how bad the situation is. The problem with pollution in China is not just Beijing. It stretches for hundreds of miles. China’s pollution problem is so bad it is changing our climate. When you hear about a product recall, such as pet food contaminated with steroids, or tea poisoned by diesel truck fumes that is a side effect of China’s poor environmental regulations as well.

China is killing itself, for profit, for pride, for reasons that we may not understand today, but wrestled with in the past. The US created agencies like the EPA, and it has worked. A City like Los Angeles, our Beijing of the 1970's, is livable today. The irony is that in the 1970's the citizens of Beijing were riding Bicycle's instead of driving cars, but as wealth came to China they started driving cars, and created a slow nightmare ever since.

China is killing itself, and its death will be the greatest disaster our globe has ever seen.