Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Anklecast 28

Big Anklevich makes his shameful return! This show is months late, because I was too ashamed to admit how little success I'd had with the novel writing thing. But sooner or later, you gotta fess up, so you can move on. So here I am with an apology, and a dedication to someone who deserved better.

We'll never forget you Ginger.

Right click HERE to download.

Music was "Crossing The Divide." Courtesy of Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech.com.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Anklecast 27: Onward to the Breech


In this month's episode, I answer a listener's question about the Dunesteef Novel Writing Challenge. I give a little bit of a teaser about what my novel will be about. Also, there's another story in the episode. Some people commented last week about how they liked the idea of having stories in the show, so I tried real hard and got one in there. It's the reason why the episode is so late, but you guys don't care, right?

So, hopefully you enjoy "Onward to the Breech".

Music was "Crossing The Divide." Courtesy of Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech.com.

Right click HERE to download the episode, select Save Link As, and save the file to your hard drive.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

It Begins...

So, June has arrived. Rish and I have been talking about each of us writing a novel for most of the year. I think it was back in February that Rish went to a writing symposium where one of the speakers outlined a plan for writing a novel in 90 days. Unlike normal, where hearing a plan like this would make Rish hate himself all the more and start making plans for taking his own life, instead he became excited. He'd always been of a mind that he would never write a novel. He equated it to running a marathon, another thing that he was certain that he would never do, but this author made it sound...if not easy, at least feasible.

So, we decided to go for it. I set the time table, because I knew my life would be too hectic to manage to write that much until summer arrived. So, June 1st through August 31st we will be implementing this plan.

Rish called it DuPoWriMo once when we were talking about it on TGMG. That's a play on our podcasting event we did a few Februaries ago, when we released an episode of TGMG for every day of the month. We called that DuPoReMo, or Dunesteef Podcast Releasing Month. That was, of course, a play on the NaNoWriMo event, or National Novel Writing Month. Combine the two, and you have DuPoWriMo, but I think it probably works out better if we call it DuNoWriMo. None of them quite work, I suppose, if you analyze the words. After all, it's not a month. But it doesn't matter. If you ever hear me refer to DuPoWriMo or DuNoWriMo in the future, you know what I'm talking about.

So, today's the 3rd of June. I'm three days into my journey. How has it gone so far? I think it's going pretty well. On my drive to work this morning, I recorded myself as I planned the plot of the story out loud. I just spoke, and my phone recorded. I did that on Monday as well. I think I'm working my way through the story pretty well.

My book will be called THE GAUNTLET

I have my main characters, Sebastian Jones and Ramona Jones. I know the bad guy. I know the inciting event. I know some of the obstacles that they will face. I know the big turning point at the end of act two. I know the finale. A lot of stuff needs to be filled in between now and when I start putting pen to paper, but the bare bones are coming together, the skeleton is appearing, and even some of the meat is starting to appear on the bones.

It's pretty fun so far. I suppose it'll become more of a slog later, when I have to write 1,666 words a day just to keep pace. But I'm not going to think about that now.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Green Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Time for book two in Robinson's Mars trilogy, Green Mars.

This book was more of the same, which is good, because I really enjoyed the first volume. It tells the story of the people who settled Mars, and their struggles to both terraform (or fight the terraforming of) their world, and to free themselves from the yoke of the earth-based companies that are calling the shots in their lives. The first book finished out with a revolution, but it was a failed revolution. The transnational companies that pull the strings on Mars put down the revolution, and killed many of the characters we'd been following through the course of the story.

This time around, the Martians change the way they go about things. The revolution is planned carefully, and not rushed into without forethought. And things go better in many ways.

The terraforming is also progressing at ever higher and higher levels. By the end of the book, Mars is definitely a green world (although the word green in this book has more meanings than just color. It also counts as a political philosophy, and I don't know if it's quite green in that sense of the word just yet). And, the next book is called Blue Mars, which they are well along the way to achieving as well. It's probably a rosy outlook on how easy it would be to terraform Mars, but it still fires my imagination. The idea of Mars as a smaller, redder version of Earth really excites me.

Now, I did say this book was more of the same, and I meant that. It is still as hard an SF book as I've probably ever read. Sax Russell becomes a major point of view character in this novel, and he is one of those scientist-type characters that should probably never be the point of view character in a novel. Pages upon pages in this book are devoted to his scientific musings, and laypeople like myself will just plain not understand much of what he has to say. Sax goes through a lot in the story, and changes significantly too. So, in the end, it was worth it, but be prepared for lots of in depth science talk in this book the same way as there was in book one.

Again, however, this book was enjoyable despite the incomprehensible science. The first book was very dark. Things went very poorly for people on Mars. I always thought the deal with trilogies was that the second book was supposed to be the darkest one, then the third book was where all the troubles were resolved on an up note. In this series, it's not that way. Book one is the failure where things look darkest. In book two, things look up in pretty much every way possible. And I can only assume that book three will deal with the aftereffects of all the changes book two brought us. I guess I'll see when I get to that one.

For now, however. I recommend this book the same as I did book one. In fact, I recommend it even more, owing to the more positive note it strikes. Of course it would be worthless to read without having read the first, darker book. So, you have to take the bad with the good. After all, you can't know that sweet tastes good without knowing that bitter tastes bad. At least that's what they say. Who says that? Well, those guys over there.

So, my next book...well, it should be the next chapter in the WWW trilogy from Robert J. Sawyer, but I'm just too into The Expanse right now, so I think I'm going to go ahead and read book three of that one, Abaddon's Gate. I'll get to the other one soon enough. It's not going anywhere. Don't judge me.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Anklecast 26: One Million Miles

I shipped my pants pretty much the whole month of April through. I'm going to turn it around, however. It won't be my condition forever. Novel writing time is coming up, and my story is starting to burn away in my mind. I'm getting excited about it. But I've got to make some changes to make this novel thing succeed.

I talk a bit about that, and I have a special surprise. Normally I don't do stories on here, but I wanted to show that I can turn things around, so I did one this month. It's a little bit of flash fiction called "One Million Miles." If you like it, let me know, and I'll try to do one more often.

Oh, and something I've never had before but will in today's show is a listener question! A listener sent me an MP3 file of their question, and I answer it on the show. That'll be fun too. All around good times today. Hope you enjoy it.

Music for the story was "Despair and Triumph." And my regular music montage is "Crossing The Divide." Both are courtesy of Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech.com.

Right click HERE to download the episode, select Save Link As, and save the file to your hard drive.

Related Links: That Weight-loss Blog That I Was Talking About That Dean Wesley Smith Blog Post That I Was Talking About


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Caliban's War by James S. A. Corey

So, I finished book two of The Expanse by James S. A. Corey. This one was called Caliban's War.

I don't get the reference from the title unfortunately. I know Caliban is a character from Shakespeare, because I looked it up. But I've never read The Tempest, or seen it or anything. Shakespeare wrote 38 plays, so there are tons of them out there that I don't know.

Then again, they are more likely referring to the Caliban from Forbidden Planet, a 1956 film. I've also not seen that...or at least, I don't remember it. I did see a lot of films in my time as a film major. I don't think that was one of them though. In that film, according to Wikipedia, Caliban is a monster created by one of the characters, and it ultimately rebels and tries to kill its master. That's much more fitting I think.

At the end of part one, we are left with some crazy events. It seems like part two should be dealing with the fallout that results from said events. Instead, they (meaning Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, the two authors who make up the duo that is contained within the pseudonym James S. A. Corey) take the path that it seems like many people making series take. They leave the ominous stuff on Venus alone, and go into a sort of side adventure. Then, at the end, it seems obvious that they're going to be going back to that stuff in book three.

The example that immediately comes to mind is the recent Batman trilogy from Chris Nolan. Batman dueled with Ra's al Ghul in Batman Begins. Then in The Dark Knight it's a new unrelated baddie named The Joker. Then in The Dark Knight Rises, we're back full circle to the al Ghul stuff, this time with Talia al Ghul, Ra's al Ghul's daughter.

So, we're in part two here with The Expanse. And while it's somewhat related to the Protomolecule that was loosed in Eros Station in book one, it's not a straight up result of the previous book's events. Instead, there's a new person or group behind this incarnation. The incarnation of which I speak is a nasty, nigh-unstoppable space monster. Wait no, a whole group of them. Oh, crap, in fact somebody's building an army of them. As Dave Thompson, ex-podcastle enforcer, put it on Facebook: "Space monsters FTW!"

I have a really hard time writing about books that I've read. How much should I say about it? I don't want to spoil it for those of you who haven't read it, but I do want to be able to talk about things that happen in it, and give a worthwhile impression. Oh well, I guess I'll do my best.

What did I like about this book? It was full of interesting action. It was also full of interesting characters. I really enjoyed the new character additions of Chrisjen Avasarala and Bobbie Draper. Avasarala especially. She's an old woman, which doesn't seem like fodder for an awesome character, but the layers they gave here were really interesting. Avasarala has an unbelievably foul mouth, especially for a grandmother, and at first it seems like a random trait. In the end, you find out why she has such a foul mouth, and I'm glad they let us know. I wouldn't have figured it out on my own, and it made her character all the more deep to me.

Also, there was a scene from the book in which Avasarala makes the best use of the C-word that I think I've ever seen in any media. It's much better than J. K. Rowling's character from A Casual Vacancy, who just uses the C-word in a random, and unusual way. I mention this mostly because my partner in crime and podcasting, Rish Outfield, really loves the C-word. He doesn't use it a lot, but loves the power that it contains. He claims it is the most offensive word in the english language. I argued with him about that once, but I think I've come to agree with him. The F-word is just too overused to have the power it once seemed to have. Anyway, if you love the C-word too, then I recommend you read these books, so you can experience that scene. I won't even tell you what scene it is. I think you'll know it when you read it.

Avasarala is apparently poised to become a much bigger character. In the upcoming TV series; the first season of which is based on the first book, Leviathan Wakes; they are introducing Avasarala in the first season, even though she did not appear in the first book. That will be interesting. Also, the series is on Syfy, a regular cable channel. Meaning one that isn't allowed to just use whatever language they want to. It's not HBO, which can hide behind that pay-wall and say that people know what they're going to get, so the shackles are off. How they're going to play Avasarala's foul mouth, which is a very integral part of her character, will be very interesting. I hope they pull it off, and I'm not disappointed.

Anyway, again I recommend these books. The second one has been as wonderful as the first. The quality hasn't dropped in any way. It's becoming one of my favorites. I just listened to borrowed versions of the audiobooks, but now I'm trying to figure out how I can get my hands on some nice hardback editions of the books, so that I can add them to my collection along with all my other favorites. Unfortunately, that looks difficult to come by. I hope Orbit Books publishes a new hardback collection when the TV series comes out or something, like they often do with movies or The Game of Thrones.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Wake by Robert J. Sawyer

I Recently finished Wake by Robert J. Sawyer

It was different than the space opera-type books I've been reading recently, like Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey and Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. Wake is a story about an artificial intelligence coming into being. It's the first volume of his WWW trilogy, which includes the books Wake, Watch, and Wonder. The other two are in my queue, and I'll get to the rest of the story eventually. I've got myself reading too many trilogies or series right now. I have to admit, the WWW thing, I think, is kind of cheesy, but it fits, so I guess that's fine.

Anyway, the book is about a girl named Caitlin Decter, who is blind. Her blindness has a rather rare cause. At the beginning of the book, she is approached by a Japanese scientist who has developed an experimental treatment for her particular form of blindness, and needs a test subject to try it out on. She agrees, and, by way of this experiment, becomes instrumental in helping an artificial intelligence that has been developing among the internet come to learn about itself, the world, and its place in that world.

The book was fun, incorporating a lot of the things that I've always liked about Rish Outfield's writing into this serious and significant storyline. Things like high school dances, teen love/heartbreak, and so on. Those kind of things that, no matter how old you have become, still seem to sit right there in the middle of your heart, which I suppose is why there's so many movies and books and TV shows and so on (video games, comic books, puppet shows) that have those elements worked into them.

I've heard that those memories, the ones from childhood through your teenage years, are the ones that sit right at your core. I suppose it's maybe because they're the first ones your brains lay down on the neurons. It's like when you make one of those soft serve ice cream cones. The stuff you put in last is what gets eaten first, and that first bit of ice cream is the very last thing to go. Even people like my dad, who is now almost eighty years old, still like to talk about their formative years, but if I ask him about the time when I was born...or any other time since then...well, he's kind of foggy on the details.

Anyway, I'm getting off course here. What I was trying to say is that I like to have my sci-fi draped in familiar trappings. It helps to make me understand and relate with it better. So, this book worked for me. I enjoyed it. And it ended, as the Ian Syndrome says, right where I wanted it to begin. Except that it was supposed to, because it's not really the end. It's only a third of the story. So, I look forward to the next one.

Oh, one other thing I wanted to mention. I listened to the audiobook version of this one, and they did something really cool with it at the end. There was a part where Caitlin is told to check out the words that a particular astronaut recorded and sent back to earth when he was on his visit to the moon. Sawyer, when he wrote the book, transcribed those words. But for the audio version, they actually got the original recordings, and cut them into the audio. I suppose that they are public domain, because I think anything generated by the government is, but still, I would never have thought somebody might do something like that. It's the kind of thing we'd do on the Dunesteef, but professionally produced audiobooks usually tend to shy away from Dunesteef-like things. I guess they're too afraid to upset those people who expected blandness in their audiobook. If it wasn't bland, they might not take a second drink. They might just walk away.

You know, it's like when you have a drink in front of you, and you think it's milk. And you bring it to your mouth without actually looking at it. You take a sip, and it's not milk. And even though it's Pibb Extra, which is really, really great. Because you thought it was going to be milk, it seems like the worst thing ever. Unless you have really great manners, you may actually spit it out all over the place. But, if you look down, and realize you drank from the wrong cup, and what you took was actually something really, really good. Then you can just enjoy it, and maybe broaden your palate.

I think the Dunesteef is one of those kinds of things. Something different enough that it only appeals to a small minority of the people who might otherwise enjoy it if it were packaged in a more familiar form. It's too bad. But the coolest things are always the things that are underground, not mainstream. So, I guess I can feel good about being cool, right? I am cool, right?

Anyway, I think I'm getting off course again. What I wanted to say was that it was really neat that they went the extra mile like that in their production. It gave the whole thing a bit of added worth in my mind. So, I guess I doubly recommend it.

It's a cyberpunk story, but it's not very cyberpunky, which is exactly how I like it.

Now it's back to Space Opera. My next read is part two of The Expanse. James S. A. Corey's Caliban's War. See you soon when I report on that one.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Six Seasons and a Movie

You may have noticed or will possibly notice in a time to come, that I have been making a lot of references to an out-of-the-limelight show called Community recently. I generally reserve bingeing to eating. It's how I got the name Big Anklevich, after all. Nobody calls me Trevor after I weighed in at three bills for the first time. So, I can't say that I have been binge watching Community, but I have been watching a lot of episodes of the show in a short period of time.

It started a while back when I noticed that all the back seasons of Community became available on Hulu Plus. I first came to Community in the middle of the second season, back in 2010. I managed to see a few re-runs from earlier that year, as well as seeing all the episodes from that point forward, and Rish loaned me a couple of episodes from the first season. But, my experience with Community couldn't be said to be anything better than spotty.

Then, after the end of the third season, which looked like it would be the last season (after all, they even had a final episode and everything), we jettisoned our cable in favor of Netflix, and I no longer could follow the show. But it wasn't cancelled after all. It turned out to go on to the fourth season, which was weird, because they fired the creator, Dan Harmon, from the show, and tried to run it without him. Rish continued to watch for a few episodes, but told me that the show went drastically off course, and he quit watching.

But, like I said, now it's on Hulu Plus, from season one all the way through season five. So, when I walk the treadmill in the morning, I punch up episodes of the show, and forget all about the pain in my feet and legs, laughing along with Jeff, Britta, Troy, Abed, Shirley, Annie, and Pierce.

And I'm here to recommend the same thing to you. If you've never seen this show, let me tell you now that you would love it. If you're reading my blog, then you are the kind of person that would love this show. It's so clever and fun, and does things that no other sitcom would dare to try. My wife watches a lot of sitcoms. She puts them on and uses them as background noise while she cleans the house. Usually, I do the piggish-man thing and don't help her at all. It's not because I'm a piggish-man, though. It's just that the shows she chooses are so awful that they drive me from the room. Just the laugh tracks alone are enough to push me out, and that awful way that the characters pause to wait for the studio audience to finish their forced laugh before they say their next line. In an episode in season 4, Abed imagines that they are in a sitcom with a laugh track, and it only serves to point out just how awful laugh tracks are. Why did any show ever do that?

Um, I got off track. Oh, yeah, my wife watches these shows like Last Man Standing and Baby Daddy, which I see as the normal fare you might get on television sitcoms. And then there's Community. It got low ratings, because it doesn't always play to the lowest common denominator, and it gave things time to happen. For example, check this out:

They said Beetlejuice three times, and in the background, Beetlejuice walked by...but each use of the word Beetlejuice was from episodes in three separate seasons!

Also, Community does things that other shows would never try. For example there was an episode in season two, where one of the main characters, Abed, makes almost no appearances in the main stories of the episode. But if you pay attention, in the background, he has a whole storyline in which he helps a pregnant woman deliver her baby in the parking lot of the school. Check it:

And there's so many other fun things. I noticed in the third season they started a running gag with the song, "Daybreak" by Michael Haggins. It began in their Halloween episode. Each character was telling their own messed up version of the man with the hook for a hand urban legend. When Abed told his version, he insisted that it would be unlikely that the people in the story would turn on the radio at exactly the time that the pertinent news broadcast came on to inform them about the hook-handed man who had escaped from prison. So, he had them listen to "Daybreak" for a while. The other characters were frustrated with his inability to get on with his story, but he really started something. They just kept playing, singing, and humming that song again and again from there on out.

And it goes on and on and on like that. But it's not just that. Sure, the show rewards you more than any other show I can think of if you pay attention, but each show is enjoyable and funny all on its own. They do a lot of really fun themed episodes...or meta episodes as some call it.

There was the mob movie episode. The bottle episode. The Dungeons and Dragons episode. The Ken Burns-style documentary about the pillow fort/blanket fort war. The claymation Christmas episode. The singing glee club Christmas episode. The Law and Order episode. The flashback clip episode made up entirely of clips from shows that didn't exist. And the season finale of seasons one and two involved some of my favorite television of all time, the paint ball episodes.

And, of course, there was the episode called "Remedial Chaos Theory" in which they explored all the different alternate dimensions created by rolling a die to see who has to go downstairs and get the pizza. Apparently, it's won Splitsider's award as the "Best Sitcom Episode of All Time". What's a Splitsider? I don't know. But my cousin Butch says it's also way funnier than that Baby Daddy show, which is for lamos.

I'm completely enamored of this show. I recommend it to anyone who wants hours of fun and enjoyment. The first five seasons are streaming on Hulu right now. Check it out.

Now, for the happy ending of all this stuff. Remember when I mentioned that the show's creator got fired off the show after season 3, and the show went drastically off course? Well, weirdly, the show's creator was brought back after season 4 to reinvigorate the show. The first episode of season 5 was called "Re-pilot". They sort of started it all over, and got things back on course.

But then, after season 5, NBC cancelled the show. But wait there's more! The show's still not dead. Instead of letting the show die off, Yahoo picked the show up for it's online channel called Yahoo Screen. So, now you can see the sixth season of the show too. It started on March 17th. I'm tyring to catch up to the present, so I can start watching those episodes too.

There's a catch phrase that started on the show in season 2, where Abed wanted that show, The Cape to last for a long time. When Jeff said it wouldn't last three weeks, Abed proclaimed it would go for "Six seasons and a movie." The phrase was brought up again and again throughout the run of the show, referring to how Abed wanted other shows, like Cougar Town and the like, to have long lives.

This year is Community's sixth season. And what's cool is that Sony is now talking about making a Community movie.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Anklecast 25

It was a hard month, with a lot of setbacks. I did still manage to accomplish a few things, and I also got motivated. I'm going to turn April into the best month ever. Just you wait and see...oh, and enjoy the show.

Music was "Crossing The Divide" courtesy of Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech.com.

Right click HERE to download the episode, select Save Link As, and save the file to your hard drive.

Related Links: That Blog Post That I Was Talking About


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson

Continuing with my posts about what I'm reading right now, we're here with Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson.

Reading this book right on the heels of James S. A. Corey's Leviathan Wakes was an interesting juxtaposition. This book is hard SF. Hard as a friggin' rock. There were times that Robinson would drone on and on about scientific things that I'd never heard of or even imagined in my life, and he would do this for page after page. Luckily these days I read most of my books with my ears. If I were reading with my eyes, I might have grown bored and given up, but since I'm trapped in my car for 45 minutes whether I listen to a book or not, I tend to just continue listening.

After Corey's book about space wars in a solar system populated by the Outer Planets Alliance, the Martian Congressional Republic, and the United Nations of Earth, it was really interesting to listen to an account of the settling of Mars, and the attempts to terraform the planet. Robinson goes into great detail on the geography of Mars too, talking endlessly about places like Valles Marineris, Pavonis Mons, and the Tharsis Bulge. It makes me want to know more about that Martian geography. It makes me wonder what countries in a colonized Mars would be called. I think they mentioned in Corey's book that Alex, the ship's pilot, came from the Mariner Valley. Also we had a story on the Dunesteef called "The Road to Utopia Plain" by Rick Kennett, which is another one of those Martian places...I believe, anyway.

Despite the dense nature of this book, I still really enjoyed it. It's pretty hard not to, really, being a kid raised on Star Wars and Ray Bradbury and similar stuff. I love nothing more than the idea of humans living on other worlds. The idea of Mars with a big blue ocean (although they're nowhere close to that at the end of this first book) is so neat to me. I looked online and found several artist's renderings of what Mars might look like if it were terraformed.

Ones like this:

Or this:

or this one here, which is really just a contour map, but the colors show you what is lowest, and depending on how much water there was, that's what would be ocean bottom:

This really fires my imagination. I've been building a space opera universe in my mind for years, and now it's definitely going to include a terraformed Mars. Maybe a terraformed Venus too. Hell, maybe even the moon as well. A thousand years in the future, they should be pretty skilled at terraforming, right?

Anyway, what's my verdict on this book? Well, I think it takes a certain kind of reader to enjoy it. If you like hard SF then you'll probably love it. There's still story and characters and so forth in there, it's not like it's a textbook or something, but a lot of readers might find it incredibly dull. There were definitely parts that bored me. But all in all, I really liked the book, and will be proceeding on to the next one in the series, Green Mars.

Not immediately though. First I've got a Robert J. Sawyer book, Wake, to read. I've read short stories by Sawyer, so I'm excited to see what he can do in a novel. Also, I want to read part two of James S. A. Corey's Expanse series before I go back to Robinson's Mars for part two. Luckily, my commute is so long, that it won't take me long to get to them all.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Fitness Challenge 2015 #5

This should probably be called #5 and #6, since I totally missed last week's update. But I'm not going to bother. Instead, I'll just report on what's going on.

The reason I missed last week's update was because Friday happened to be my niece's wedding. I was off work so I could attend it. I, therefore, didn't weigh in last week. On top of that, I ate really poorly over the weekend. It started with all the wedding food: cupcakes, Mission burritos at the luncheon, soda, punch, and so on. Then, the day after the wedding, my brothers and sisters all wanted to get together again before they left town to head back to California, so we met at a local Mexican restaurant, and I had more of the same.

I did finally weigh in for the contest when I got back to work on Monday, and was distressed to find that I'd gained weight from my last weigh-in ten days before. I'd gained three pounds. So, ten days wasted, ground lost in my quest to catch the leader, and the likelihood that I would fall into despair at such a result.

I'd dropped to third place after the last weigh in, when someone had amazingly lost 3.5% in one week. Now, after gaining three pounds, I've dropped all the way to sixth place. I used to feel secure in the fact that, because of the way the rules were, I was firmly in a cash winning position. But now that's no longer the case. The way the rules work, there's an overall winner, and then a lead male and lead female winner. Since the guy who has been entrenched in first place all this time is a guy, even in third place, I would still have come away with money. But now I've dropped to third place among the men. There's no money in that. I really needed to step it up.

Despite how sh*tty my life has gone recently, especially this week, I didn't allow myself to fall into that emotional eating/comfort eating pit. So many times this week did I want to eat something to make me feel better, but I fought it off. It may have to do with my new secret weapon: M&M's.

I picked up a couple of bags of them last week to use as mini sugar shots when I'm really craving something bad. I used this to my advantage the last time there was a weight loss contest that I won, and, after having several difficult days, I decided I was missing something important. Just like last time, I keep the bags of M&M's in my car's trunk, and when I go out to grab some, I only allow myself four to six M&M's at a time.

It's seeming to help me fight off cravings that I get sometimes. There were a lot of days that I came home from work simply ravenous, and I lost control and ate a ton of food, until my stomach was so full that it actually hurt. I would do it two or three times a week, which was really killing my progress. But this week, I didn't have one of those days.

When I weighed in today, I had lost those three pounds that I gained last week. As well as five pounds on top of that. I'm now down 7.64 percent. Not sure where this puts me in the rankings, but if everyone stayed completely flat this week, I would be back at third place in the contest. It's progress, at least. Where I should have had none. Hopefully, I can keep it up and catch that dang guy that's in the lead.

A cool thing that's besides the contest, I have lost 33 lbs. since January 1st. 10.5% of my weight. Eat your heart out Clay Dugger (you might as well, you'll never catch me).

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey, The Expanse Book 1

Shirley: "Shut up, Leonard. I found your YouTube page. What's the point in reviewing frozen pizza?"

Leonard: "You're talking about it."

Shirley: "Oh, that is true."


By chance, I was looking at old blog posts the other day, and I came across posts of myself talking about what I was reading. I don't know why I stopped doing that. It seems like a worthy use of this space, and I hardly post about anything anymore, so I thought I would get back to it.

I recently finished reading James S. A. Corey's Leviathan Wakes, and I have to say, what a damned cool book. It's the kind of thing I've been wanting to see for years. I only chanced upon it because I was looking for new stuff to read, and I used the Hugo Award nominees as my guide. It was nominated for best novel in 2012, but lost to Among Others by Jo Walton. I haven't read that one, but I'm sure it must be a good one. Maybe I'll get to it someday.

It's a space opera book, but it's not the kind of space opera that you see more often, you know the kind of stuff that is similar in vein to the Star Wars trilogy, what some people call space fantasy. Instead, it's grounded much more in reality. The people in the novel actually have to deal with things like gravity, or the lack thereof while tooling around in space.

There's just something so refreshing and neat about that. This book is basically one or two steps beyond what our own space program has reached right now. Every space opera-type story seems to be a hundred steps beyond, so you can't really see how we got there from here.

On top of that, gravity...or the lack thereof...changes other things as well, like the people. The story itself takes place in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Those who were born and grew up on the stations out there have bodies that are much different because of the micro-gravity that they developed in, than those who come from the power centers of the solar system, Earth and Mars. Belters are very tall and very skinny. Earthers are considered short and thick, and Martians are somewhere in between.

The book involves a war that takes place between the Outer Planets Alliance, or OPA, and Mars. Eventually, Earth is also dragged into it. Then, our main characters discover that there is in fact something else...something truly dangerous...that's actually behind it all.

The author is James S. A. Corey, which is not a person at all, but the pen name for the collaboration of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Daniel Abraham I know from writing the story Flat Diane, which I heard on Pseudopod in 2007, and the story The Cambist and Lord Iron: a Fairytale of Economics which I heard on Podcastle in 2009. Both of those were nominated for awards like the Nebula, Hugo, or World Fantasy Award. As far as I know, I'm not otherwise familiar with Ty Frank.

One really cool thing that I just discovered recently was that the series was picked up by the SyFy channel to be produced as a Game of Thrones-style show. Each book in the series will be made into a ten episode season. The book series is called The Expanse, and SyFy seemed to have learned something from the Game of Thrones series. For some reason HBO called the series Game of Thrones, the title of the first book, instead of The Song of Ice and Fire, which is the title George R. R. Martin had for the whole series. Now, they're in book four, but it's still called the title of the first book. SyFy made the wise move of calling the series The Expanse instead of Leviathan Wakes.

Don't know when that starts, though. My guess is fall of this year.

The book itself is a really worthwhile read, and I highly recommend it. Hopefully you'd enjoy it as much as I did.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Fitness Challenge 2015 #4

Lost two pounds exactly this week. Some people would feel good about that, because, after all, it's progress. Other's would feel crappy about it, because, after all, my goal was four pounds, so I only got halfway there.

Me? Well, I'm sort in the middle. I don't feel bad, because I did lose, and I don't feel great, because I didn't make my goal, but I'm fine with it.

I'm not losing fast, and I'm not sure why. When You're plateaued, one of the common answers is to up your exercise to another level. That's good advice, but I'm not going to take it. Instead, I'm probably going to downgrade my exercise. I released an Anklecast yesterday where I talk about finding the right time to write. I ended up deciding that I needed to write in the evening.

I was thinking of recording an extra Anklecast this month where I talk about that. I've decided that I'm going to do it differently. Writers write, after all, that's why they call them write-ers. There was a recent blog post that, while mostly just being an a-hole on an ivory tower bloviating about how he's better than you, also called out people who complain about not having time to write. In that particular case, he's right.

Writers find time to write, they make time to write. Dreams don't come true, they're made true. I'm going to keep eating like I am now, so, I'll keep losing weight, slowly perhaps, but it'll keep happening. I'll get there eventually. I may not win the contest...then again I may. Who knows.

But what I do know is, I'll be writing. I've got a five year plan, and I need to get moving on that thing.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Anklecast 24

Things didn't get better. Instead they seemed to have gotten worse. Something must be done, but what?

Music was "Crossing The Divide" courtesy of Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech.com.

Right click HERE to download the episode, select Save Link As, and save the file to your hard drive.


Friday, March 6, 2015

Fitness Challenge 2015 #3

So, it's Friday again, which is weigh-in day.

I had a weird week this week. My mother died of colon cancer when she was 50 years old, and my doctor said that when you have a first degree relative that had colon cancer, you have to start getting colonoscopies ten years previous to when they were first diagnosed. So, now that I'm 40, it's time to start getting probed.

So, on Monday, I had my procedure. A colonoscopy is a kind of a weird operation, because you have to clear the area out before they can go in. So, I spent the weekend first on a "low-residue" diet, then a "clear juice only" diet, and lastly...well, evacuating anything that was left.

By the time I was done, I'd lost something like six or seven pounds. Unfortunately, I wasn't going to stay empty like that forever. So, the pounds came back.

Tuesday and Wednesday nights, I had moments of weakness upon arriving home from work, and wound up pigging out a little bit. Those should have been good days for me, instead, I was lucky if I broke even.

I tried really hard Thursday night to avoid that same pit that I fell into on Wednesday and Thursday, which helped a little.

So, today, when I weighed in for the contest, I was down, but only down 2.2 pounds from last week, falling nearly two whole pounds short of my four pound goal.

I had big weeks earlier on, so I was ahead of my planned overall goals, but I'm not any longer. So, this week is going to have to be a really big week. I can't have the Tuesday and Wednesday breakdowns that I had this week. To keep with my goals, I have to lose 4.4 pounds.

The percentages came out earlier this week, and I have risen all the way from last place, to tenth place, to fifth place, now to second place. I don't know if this week was enough to keep me in second,  but I hope so. I'll have to kick it up a notch this week.

My total percentage is 5.24 this week. By next week, it needs to be at 6.71.  We'll see how it goes. Wish me luck.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

First Readers

Okay, everyone, I'm looking for people who are interested in being "first readers" of my stuff. It's free stories to read...but it's also a bit of work too.

Let me explain what that would entail. When I write a story, I would send it to you to read. What you would do while reading is keep an eye out for any typos or grammar problems, any sentence or phrasing that is confusing or awkward, look for any factual errors or plot inconsistencies, and any parts that you are bored by. You could also tell me about what you thought was strong in the story and what was weak, so that I can discover what my weaknesses might be and work on them, and know what my strengths are, and play them up.

Seems to me that this is pretty important for me to become a better writer. Rish Outfield reads my stuff, and gives me his notes, but that's probably not enough. I could use some more voices to help me out.

So, anyone interested?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Fitness Challenge 2015 #2

Okay, it's weigh-in day #4. My goals that I made in my spreadsheet require me to be down four pounds per week. I had a couple of weeks above four, however, so I was already a pound and a half above my goal.

Weigh-ins for the contest are kind of weird, because I have to do them at work. Usually I weigh myself on the way into the shower, so I don't have the weight of my clothes included in the total. It leaves me a little screwed up all the time, because I'm weighing myself at home and then at work, and the numbers are different, and I get confused.

But anyway, I came to work today...went to the bathroom and evacuated everything to make sure I weighed as little as possible...and then I went to the scale. I hopped on, watched the number appear and smiled. I'd made it under the goal I'd set earlier when I'd made my spreadsheet, a pound and a half under that goal! When I entered the total into my spreadsheet, I discovered that I'd lost exactly four pounds. So, I'd nailed my goal in both cases.

I'm pretty happy about the progress. Since I started trying, I hit my goal or exceeded it every week. I moved from last place, to tenth, and then to fifth. I've lost 13.6 pounds, and my overall weight-loss percentage is 4.51.

Last week's leader was at 4.22. So, my percentage puts me ahead of what he was at last week. Unfortunately, I'm sure he lost more weight this week. Moving up the charts from here on out is going to be pretty difficult.

I'm not going to go all "everybody wins, because every one is special" on you or anything, but if I don't win, I won't be upset, because this contest is just the beginning for me. The race is against me and me alone. The others involved are just along for the ride to give me motivation, because I do like a little competition.

And so far, it's working.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Fitness Challenge 2015 #1

In 2012, I, along with several other overweight staff members at my work, participated in a weight-loss contest. It was a Biggest Loser-style contest, where whoever lost the highest percentage of their weight won. I worked really hard, and lost 38 lbs. and won that contest. We immediately did a second contest, which I did not win. Then we took some time off (to gain some weight for the next contest I suppose), and did a third one the next spring. At the end of that one, we knew we had to give it up for good. Participation was way down, and so was the excitement for it. The last contest I won the "Top Male Loser" prize by being the only guy who hadn't gained weight during the three months, and I think I'd only lost a total of about a pound and a half.

But now it's 2015. Things have changed significantly since then. For example, I've gained all of those 38 lbs. that I'd lost in 2012 back, and another 20-25 on top of that. A lot of the rest of us who participated in those other contests have had the same problem. So, we decided to do it again.

I already had decided to lose weight with the chiming of the new year, so, even before the contest started, I was working on it. Listener, and friend of the show, Clay Dugger, mentioned on Facebook that he had a similar goal. So, the two of us got into a mano a mano challenge of who would lose 50 lbs. first. But, the two of us were struggling to have success. I lost about six or seven pounds right away, but then a started falling back into my same old lazy habits.

But the Fitness Challenge that my co-worker had been threatening finally arrived. It started on February 2nd. And I stumbled right out of the gate. My heart just wasn't in it, for some reason. I didn't do terrible, but I continued my routine of spinning my wheels and going nowhere. So, when the first week ended, I was up about a pound.

Still, I wasn't worried, until the percentages came out. Everyone weighed in (but me...for some reason I thought I was supposed to weigh in on Monday instead of Friday, so my percentage wasn't included on the list), and I found that everybody was taking this seriously. Unlike the last contest that I had won by not gaining, I was actually going to have to put some effort in if I wanted to be in the running. And there was some sense of lingering pride left over from having won the first ever contest that made me feel like I had to defend my title.

Upon seeing those percentages, I really became charged up. I was going to turn this thing around. I buckled down. I turned down opportunities to eat sugary treats (something I hadn't done the week before). I stepped it up with my exercising. At the end of that second week, I had lost five and a half pounds, which gave me a cumulative weight-loss of 4.2 lbs. I leaped from last place to...well, to tenth. I still had a long way to go.

But I wasn't discouraged. I mean, how can you be discouraged after losing five pounds in a week? I put together a spread sheet that could automatically calculate things for me as I entered my weight each week. I wrote goals on the spread sheet that I needed to meet. I even continued the spread sheet long past the final day of the contest, May 1st, to keep my progress going until I reach my final goal of 200 lbs. As long as I keep my goals each week, that should happen on Sep. 18th.

The spreadsheet and the goals got me even more energized. I seemed to be stuck for most of the week on the same weight, plateaued if you will. But finally, on Wednesday, I jumped off that plateau and started losing weight again.

Today, was weigh-in day #3, and, if the scale is right...and I'm not sure that it is, I lost another 5.4 lbs.  I surpassed my goal. And I'm feeling really good about myself.

I suppose I'll keep putting up a new report on this Fitness Challenge each week, so you can, if you'd like, cheer me on in my goal to be the man I once was in 2012.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Anklecast 23

I got a hitch in my giddy up. My groove has been disturbed, despite The System warning everyone against it for me in 1988. Something must be done to fix it, but what?

Listen in and find out.

Music was "Crossing The Divide" courtesy of Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech.com.

Right click HERE to download the episode, select Save Link As, and save the file to your hard drive.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Anklecast 22

Only a few months into the five year plan, and I am already dragging my feet, and trying to slack my way to failure. Rish got on my back about it the other day, and so I'm trying to get back to it.

How did December go? Listen in and find out.

Music was "Crossing The Divide" courtesy of Kevin MacLeod of Incompetech.com.

Right click HERE to download the episode, select Save Link As, and save the file to your hard drive.