Reading Update, a Congratulations and another Time Trip

Hey everyone. Busy weekend, so I’m getting this post off late.

ReaPoison-Priestessding Update

I started reading Poison Priestess, the 4th book in Karen Azinger’s Silk and Steel Saga. While it is pretty gripping, right now, it’s all villains, all the time (almost). The last book left the minor villains behind and focused on the Mordant–who is the major villain–and the heroes, with just a few updates on the small fry. At the time, that was just fine with me. Now, however, there has been fourteen straight chapters of three villains, interspersed with occasional chapters of the beleaguered queen, Liandra.

I don’t read heroic fantasy to read only about villains, so I’m hoping this changes soon.

Congratulations

U. S. Army Ranger Tab

Although I have little hope of either of these young women reading this post, I wanted to offer my congratulations to Captain Kristen Griest and First Leiutenant Shaye Haver of the U. S. Army for making it through Ranger School. I always felt that there was a certain percentage of women who could equal the physical strength and endurance of a man, and they have now proven it.

When I joined the Air Force, I wasn’t exactly gung-ho, but I was a little affronted at the physical standards. I started Basic Training at a physical fitness level that I thought was the basic qualifications for getting into Basic Training. Once I joined, I learned that they were the qualifications for graduating, not for joining. And they assumed that we would have to work up to that level.

This is basic high-school fitness, guys. The ability to run two miles without stopping, do twenty or so sit-ups and the same number of push-ups, to lift fifty pounds. Anyone who was in reasonably good shape could have done it, so I guess that was all they were looking for. Not one of us washed out for failing to meet those standards–not even the ones who were slightly overweight.

Since any average day in high school cross country was much more challenging, I always felt I could have easily met the men’s standard–even the fifty sit-ups. So the fact that these two Ranger graduates met much tougher male standards makes me very happy for them.

Army Graduates First Female Rangers

Time Trip

I have another Time Trip post I’m planning for sometime this week–probably Wednesday. I hope you enjoy it!

Time Trip: Changing the Channel

When I was a kid in the 70s, we had a great stereo. It was capable of booming out Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra (aka the theme to 2001: A Space Odyssey) at window-rattling decibels. Which is exactly the way my uber-nerd young dad liked it. He didn’t listen to rock-and-roll, and he didn’t care if the entire neighborhood knew it.

But there wasn’t much to that old stereo except the record player, the receiver, and the speakers. Dad had it mounted on a shelf installed above the TV. The record played at 72, 45 and 32 RPM. It was fun to listen to records at the wrong RPM, because the sound would either get too slow or too fast. The scratchy beat you hear in Rap music was well-known to us when someone bumped the record player, because the needle would go scratching across the record, often ruining the delicate vinyl.

Oh, and don’t leave records in your car on a hot day. They melt.

The TV was big and boxy and encased in actual wood. It had dials instead of buttons, and you had to turn the channel via knobs. It was considered furniture, and doubled as a sideboard. We kids sat on the floor in order to watch.

Here’s our TV, all decked out for Christmas. I think I see a volume slider. Check out the stereo and speakers above. I over-adjusted the color so you can see the detail.

70s TVA common superstition at the time was that you should not sit too close to the TV–it would hurt you, somehow. I don’t know the nature of this dreaded malady, but I did find out that if you tested your mother’s theory, your nose might get a nasty static shock.

There was no remote. To change the channel, you got up, walked over, and twisted a dial.

Where I grew up, we had channel 2 (NBC), 6 (CBS) and 9 (ABC), plus PBS, which I think may have been channel 5. Later on, we got a local independent channel at number 12 or so, and then even later, we got FOX on channel 15. Something else was on Channel 33 or thereabouts. These were on the UHF channels, because VHF (Very High Frequency and Ultra High Frequency) only went to channel 12 or 13.

When there was nothing on TV, there really was nothing on TV. Saturday morning was all cartoons, and Sunday morning was all Christian broadcasts. Star Trek reruns were on the independent channel on Sunday Nights at 6. Happy Days was on Tuesday Nights at 8. Love Boat was on Saturday Night at 9.

Advantages over Modern Tech

Yes, those old TVs had some advantages over modern tech. These days, when you turn on a TV, often nothing happens while it boots up. So unless you pressed the button on the TV itself (which I often do), you don’t know for about ten seconds if the danged thing is on, or if you didn’t aim the remote in the right direction. This situation often perplexes the older people in my life, who are accustomed to TVs lighting up immediately when you turn them on.

In the old days, when you turned on the TV, you would see a dot. It would eventually grow to fill the screen. If your hearing was good, you also heard a high-pitched whine that was quickly subsumed by the TV audio.

Got any old TV memories to share?

 

New Occasional Series – Time Trips. And an Oops.

I scheduled my first post in a new series of posts that I am calling Time Trips. Most of them will be fun looks into the past at some old bit of technology or an obsolete way of doing things. I’ve written such posts before, but now they have a name. At some point, I’ll go back and tag those old posts and put a link to them on the sidebar. This will be an occasional series, and I already have three posts ready.

If you subscribe to this blog, you got an inadvertent preview this afternoon. I intended to schedule the post for Wednesday afternoon, but due to a WordPress quirk, it posted immediately. At some point, WordPress started using the date and time that you first started writing as the defaulted scheduled posting date, which is almost always in the past for me, often months or even years ago. So y’all got a Time Trip post dated from last August. If you click it, it won’t go anywhere, because I had re-scheduled it for this Wednesday before remembering that it would change the date and time on the URL, thus rendering all links I previously blasted out as dead. Sorry about that!

(Now you know why I’m looking to move this sitelsewhere.)

So, there you go–an unintentional perk of subscribing to this blog. You get to see my mistakes in real time. :)

IMO: When to Give Up. And When Not To.

 

Today’s post is about perseverance. When to stick to it. And when to not to.

No, I’m not planning on giving up on anything. But that is not to say that I have never given up on stuff. Once, I dreamed of being an artist. I still have pictures that I drew in the 6th grade, and they are not bad. I stuck it out all through high school, mostly because I already had signed up for the courses. But then something happened after I left high school.

I discovered that it was not my passion.

So, I stopped doing it. Well, not entirely. I still have extensive art supplies and I still occasionally use them. I have a discount card to my local art store. And I keep up my calligraphy skills. But, I no longer actively pursue art as a career or even as a serious hobby.

More difficult to give up was music.

When I was in my 20s, I rediscovered music. I retaught myself how to play piano and I started taking violin lessons. For two years, music overtook my life. I was a very serious violin student. I practiced for hours each week–probably 2 hours a day (in addition to working full-time) and 10 hours over the weekend. I was also still writing my Trunk Novel Epic, so I was also a very serious aspiring writer.

And then I went back to school.

And at the ripe age of 27, I realized that with the demands of a full-time class schedule, I’d have to pick one serious hobby. I asked myself, which hobby do you honestly have a shot at turning into a career? So the violin went into the case.

Why? As a musician, I really did start too late. And I was inspired by an old woman I knew in my community orchestra who had re-taken up the violin at the age of 60. I knew I would not lose my ability to read music–at least not permanently. I may temporarily forget how to tell the difference between E-major and A-major on the musical staff, but I’ll never forget how to play them, and I’ll never forget the theory behind them.

Although I didn’t play for about 15 years, I did take it back up again, and I did brush off my piano skills. (I would have brushed off my violin skills as well, but the danged thing keeps eating my D string.) Still … it’s not a serious hobby. It can’t be, until I can quit my day job.

What about writing? I’ve had some successes, but nothing career-changing. I think it’s the one thing that I won’t ever give up. At least, not for long.

What hobbies or interests have you had, that you eventually lost interest in?

Random updates: Webhost Research and Unposted Posts

I got a sudden fever this morning, so I took advantage of some physical downtime to research potential new homes for this blog. This is a WordPress.com hosted premium account. I first moved here several years ago to escape hackers who kept taking advantage of the fact that my then-webhost wouldn’t the underlying mysql database. And through the magic of DNS services, y’all came with me.

And so, I’ve been here ever since, feeling somewhat limited, but not overly so. Every year, I would research self-hosted websites, but none seemed to have the anti-hacking support that I was looking for.

Until now.

In the coming months, I’ll either move this site back into a to self-hosted site, or I’ll port the whole thing into another platform altogether. I’d like a place that makes it fun to blog again. I’m not sure if, anymore, that is WordPress.

~*~

Since I’ve been poking around my website, I made a discovery–I wrote all kinds of posts that I never posted. What happens is this:

  • I get inspired by a great idea, and start writing a post.
  • Something distracts me, and I save it as a draft, and set my computer aside.
  • I never remember to finish it.

Among these unposted posts are one that I decided to run tomorrow on stick-tuit-iveness, and two posts on an upcoming feature that I’ll announce later. I want to get several posts written before I commit to this.

(I also had a book review from a few years ago that I had pulled into draft status. When I reposted it today, it sent emails to all my subscribers. Sorry about that if you experienced some deja-vu when re-reading.)

And finally, there are two reviews that I started, but never finished. One is mostly finished, so I’ll try to get that posted soon as well.

Oh, and don’t worry about whatever’s making me run this low-grade fever. Obviously, it’s not slowing me down much. :)

Series Review – The Silk & Steel Saga

The Steel Queen CoverThe Steel Queen
The Flame Priest
The Skeleton King

by Karen Azinger


This is going to be a very unusual review for me, wherein I will gush praise for a self-published series.

I read these about a month ago, during a brief period of unemployment. There are currently six books in the series, with the final seventh volume due out toward the end of the year.

I found these books while looking for a warrior-woman story. I ended up getting a warrior teenager, but she grows up quickly, so I shall not quibble with that. I absolutely devoured these first three books. I didn’t continue reading only because I like to take books in series three at a time. I plan to start reading the series again in September, and hopefully the last book will be coming out by the time I am ready for it.

At the center of this story is Princess Katherine, who is the only daughter among five brothers who are all warriors. She wants nothing more than to be a warrior as well, but that is forbidden to women in her kingdom. She lives in a castle that is fortified with some sort of long-forgotten magic, and which is home to the Octagon Knights, of which she longs to be a part.

The story begins when she tricks a newly-made knight into promising to train her as a warrior.The Flame Priest

Meanwhile, something evil is wakening. Twenty or thirty years earlier, the Mordant has his executioner kill him so that he may be born again. His rebirth is due, and his kingdom is stirring. A messenger comes south out of his lands with a warning, but the only one who listens to his cryptic message is Kath, and the reader doesn’t find out what it means until book 3.

It’s hard to write about three books without spoiling book one and two. So I’ll speak in general terms.

First–these characters are great. Ms. Azinger can really get behind the eyeballs of her characters and make you feel what they feel. The evil characters seem unstoppable, and the good characters are playing constant catch-up. The deities of the evil characters give them all sorts of advantages, and the good characters seem to be hopelessly left in their dust. Or, in their trail of bloody body parts.

And the plot has some of the most unique elements I’ve read in a long time. Sure, the over-arching plot of the dark lord is familiar, but the execution is fresh. For example, the Mordant is a harlequin, which is a soul that has been reborn over and The Skeleton King Coverover because he has pleased his evil deity with his dark and bloody deeds. And once he is reborn, he has to get back to his old kingdom and prove who he is by passing all these tests that he, himself, devised. In the meantime, other, younger harlequins–and one harlequin wannabe–are trying to out-do each other with their evil-deeds-doing in order to please their deity so they might be reborn again. And as the reader, you don’t know about the secret harlequins, the identities of which, once revealed, are devastating.

The story is told from multiple viewpoints that include two warrior princesses, a bard prince who ventures into an evil theocracy, his native guide from the theocracy, an archer who travels with one princess but falls in love with the other, two Octagon Knights, the queen of a wealthy and powerful nation, her evil son, a candidate harlequin who ventures into the evil theocracy to make it even more evil, and of course, the Mordant, and more.

I loved this series and may not be able to wait to read more.

Updates, Recent Research and Upcoming Series Review

This summer has been pretty active. The action started when I was laid off. The timing was actually pretty good because over the next couple of weeks, I was needed to help with a family illness that came up during the same time. And then we went to a long-planned wedding. I made three trips across Florida in five weeks. When we got back, I received a job offer, which I accepted. I started a week later. Just after that, we had to bundle my daughter off to camp. Which involved a huge amount of shopping and packing. She came back the following week, which meant a round of unpacking and laundry, and the week after that, we made another trip across the state.

This weekend, I’m having a little downtime.

Recent Research

While polishing up East of Yesterday, I had to revamp a scene where a group of young men must sneak into a camp and retrieve some stolen items. One of them needed to cover for the noise they were making, so I decided to have him sing a song. Since he’s from the Revolutionary War era, he sings an almost-forgotten song from that era. Here’s the opening verses:

THAT seat of science, Athens,
And earth’s proud mistress, Rome;
Where now are all their glories?
We scarce can find a tomb.
Then guard your rights, Americans,
Nor stoop to lawless sway;
Oppose, oppose, oppose,
oppose, For North America.

We led fair Freedom hither,
And lo, the desert smiled!
A paradise of pleasure
Was opened in the wild!
Your harvest, bold Americans,
No power shall snatch away!
Huzza, huzza, huzza, huzza,
For free America.

You can find the full song at Bartleby.

Upcoming Review

I recently read the first three books in an excellent epic fantasy (and warrior woman!) series, and I’ve written a series review.

Any reviews I post here are for books I’ve purchased and enjoyed. I generally don’t post negative reviews because I don’t usually finish books that I’m not enjoying. Sometimes, people still contact me for book reviews, but I have not requested any material from anyone since I closed down Debuts & Reviews. Katie and I briefly discussed reviewing again, but I ultimately had to bow out, because if I were to make this a review blog again, something else in my life would have to go.

I have the series review scheduled to post on Monday.