Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Dresden Files

Its late, I finished the newest Dresden File book about two days ago, and I feel like talking about the Series as a whole. So I guess I will.

The first three books of the Dresden Files were written by Jim Butcher while he was taking a few creative writing classes. He then sold the first three as a set. They got his foot in the door. None of the three is particularly stellar. But... they get the ball rolling. Each is better then the last.

There are 16 books in the Dresden universe as of the release of Skin Game. I figure there are at least five more in Butcher's head based on arc. I've been reading since I first discovered them shortly after the original three were released. I've heard them called formulaic and that's probably not unfair - but Butcher has a formula that just keeps you turning pages. And that, is the sign of a good book.

So what is the Dresden Files? Its the story of Chicago's only practicing Professional Wizard - and his world. He's in the phone book - no he doesn't do love potions, but true to most urban fantasy all those things that go bump in the night really are real. Dresden has a long arc and to describe it here would be to ruin its path for new readers. Suffice to say he starts out a practicing neophyte and becomes a badass in his own right, while making allies and lots and lots of enemies along the way.

Butcher does a fair job with Christianity in my opinion - honestly some of his best characters are staunchly Christian. The further into the books you get the more interaction with Christianity Dresden has. Harry Dresden is *not* a believer - he's a wizard after all - but Butcher's portrayal of Christianity is overall positive which can be somewhat uncommon in Urban Fantasy.

The series runs full steam with few stumbles until Ghost Story - which is book fourteen. Ghost story is a transition story - and transitions can be difficult. Butcher had to rewrite a rather large chunk of the book, from all reports and reading it - its clear to see where this happened and it tends to make the story just... not quite right. However, Book fifteen picked up the faltering series and put it back on the rails and got the engine re-connected to the train... and Skin Game takes that train and sends it straight into overdrive.

I've been a Dresdenite from day one. I didn't pick up Cold Days immediately on release because of Ghost Story. I did pick up Skin Game on Release.

Butcher is back on track - and I'm looking forward to see where this train is going.

All Aboard!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Friend Zone

This post can be blamed on Gothelittle Rose. Its all her fault. ;)

She's got an interesting post about the whole California 'Mass shooting' (I agree with another blogger on my roll that when did 3 become mass?). It caused me to write a rather long comment at her blog, which blogger then blew up and ate so I decided I'd just come back here and refine it.

Now, first off - Elliot Rodgers has a manifesto out there. I have not listened to it in entirety nor will I. But one of the points against him that women are rightly making is that he seems to have 'expected' them to have sex with him. That him simply existing is reason enough for this to happen.

They've also said similar things about a concept that has been called 'The Friend Zone' recently. They're still not wrong about the fact that they don't owe the male half of the species sex. And they're even probably right about the way that term has been used. However, I want to talk about that.

Yes. I'm going to lead with Elliot Rodgers, and leave his fucked up cowardly choices where they are. He killed people and then chose to kill himself. Spending his fifteen minutes of fame dead. Thats all the glory he'll get out of me.

So... onto the topic at hand.

*******

The current line of thinking bouncing around various corners of the internet is that the Friend zone comment means that men are expecting women to just provide them with sex.

I won't even argue that they're necessarily wrong in many cases. See Elliot Rodgers and the community he apparently wandered around in.

However this blanket statement forgets something rather critical. *Most* of the time, when a man strikes up a conversation with a female he does not know, and one of them is not currently working their job - (whatever that might be.) chances are that he finds her attractive. If he finds her attractive - some part of him is calculating if he thinks she'll make a good sexual partner - weather he's thinking longer term then that... depends on the guy.

But to think that men look at women, or women look at men as sexless objects is rather stupid. I have a female friend that most certainly 'put me in the friend zone.' I'll even admit that I mostly let that happen and that for a rather long amount of time - on some level it bothered me. I felt (and still feel) that given her stated goals in life I would probably make a better partner then the people she was choosing. That said, in retrospect she wouldn't have been as good a partner to me as I had been hoping.

She really is a good example of the people complaining about 'men expecting sex'. Let me explain.

I'm not going to use her name, so we'll just call her Molly. But I met Molly at work almost ten years ago now. She was an attractive girl in a job that didn't exactly attract attractive girls. I hit up a conversation both in person and over IM and eventually we started going out to eat now and then. Shortly after I met her, she shacked up with another guy, so I stopped really attempting any pursuit. I'm not wired to chase another mans girl. That didn't stop the fact that I found her attractive and would have started pursuit if the opportunity addressed itself. I contented with being her friend. I was 'friend zoned' - wasn't the first time.

Over the ten years or so I've known her, she's been with four serious partners. I know this because as her friend I get to find out about all corners of her life. Overtime I became, as I've come to find out her best and probably most dependable friend. I wasn't crazy or drama filled like her female acquaintances - I knew how to listen - and I didn't constantly harp her to go out and party - something she doesn't particularly like doing - but she never really learned how to say no. Either politely or otherwise.

During the time when she was with those four other guys, she also fooled around with about half of her male 'friends' - this does not include me. She never made the advance, and I certainly never did. She was in supposedly committed relationships - hence off limits. Not all guys have my moral compass. I would go so far as to say a large minority of men who were raised just a few years after me mostly lack it.

So, when she decided it was time for a big change - and found guy number four to come with her - and decided to move to Utah - she found that except four one or two of her 'guy friends' (myself among them) most of the guys either obliquely or bluntly asked if it was going to be 'their turn' for a pass at her bed before she left.

She was, rather offended. I didn't really try to explain it to her - but she made that bed. Making herself available to men outside her supposedly committed relation ship - and typically picking the next commitment from her pool of existing male friends built that expectation.

Does it make it right? No. But she laid that foundation.

If I'm bluntly honest about it, Molly was never a good long term choice for me. She wanted a lot of the things I wanted, but lacked the moral compass to understand how those things were supposed to work and why. She was however the most attractive woman in my life for a good long time and a good friend to boot. She still is. I agonized about that for a long time. The logical part of my brain knew better. Her moving to Utah finally let me put it in perspective. I don't think *I* would have had the long term 'friend zone' problem I had with her if she could have committed to one guy and stayed that way.

It would have bluntly made it clear to my morals that friends was all there was ever going to be. I would have been ok with that. I am ok with that.

But when women make themselves available to so many partners - it changes the dynamics of relationships. It means even though you're her friend you might still hold out a small (or large) candle of hope. So yeah, the 'friend zone' exists. Men who think women owe them sex are wrong.

But women have helped create the environment where long term 'friend zone' is possible in the first place. Bad or good, its the world we live in now.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Banging one's head against a Brick Wall

As my dad would say 'You do it, because it feels *so* good when you stop.'

I'm not sure I completely agree with him. But that wouldn't be the first time, either. Over at I aim to Misbehave the Captain (since he's no longer advertising his first name) had a very interesting post about the view point of people who had actually seen the elephant - in this case, killed people in the line of duty. As he put it - it was a tool in their arsenal that most people simply don't have. That knowledge that they *could* if it came down to it - end a life. Not that they knew *how* to - but that they could pull the trigger, so to speak.

I've never been there. I don't know if I could pull the trigger. I know *how*. But I've never had to test that particular theory. Rather glad for that too.

However, it got me thinking about the one time I can honestly say that I got as close as I've ever been to answering that question.

To this day I feel very lucky I didn't have to find out.

Background:
I was working in London at the time. Over there for a month and a bit more for my former employer. I won't pretend that I know everything there is to know about Europe or the UK after a Month in and around London, and a later week long trip to Germany. But I will say, I prefer it here.

I had stopped for supper alone, on my way home from work that night - and as a result was walking towards my Hotel - which wasn't in a horrible part of town - but it wasn't the best either. It sat on an edge between a more touristy area, and an Immigrant neighborhood, and the Subway station I took to get to the area was squarely in the latter.

There are cameras *everywhere* in London. I could rail on that for days. But thats not the point of this ramble.

As I'm walking along, little things start to make the hair on the back of my head stand on end. First - two groups of family - Mothers and some young children - break off from my line of travel ahead of me, and head down a side street... which happens to be better lit.

I should have taken the hint. It didn't occur to me afterwards though to note on it. But they were very abrupt in their change of direction.

As I cross the side street and continue down the block I'm on, I start to notice that the street lamps down this way aren't working as well, it was mostly just a side thought as I was thinking about work - I noticed it and dismissed it. There isn't any graffiti or anything - but a few of the lamps are broken. Ahead of me are three younger men, probably Arabic or Indian descent - but I've never been good at picking out accents or guestimating by skin color. I come from one of the most 'whitebread' parts of the country - I don't think people of other colors all look alike - but I really don't have practice picking out regions by skin color. Just not in my skill set.

As I get closer, they shift. The three had been sitting on the front stoop of one of the buildings along the street. As I walk up, one of them gets up and moves to lean against the light pole. That got my attention. The little things I'd been noticing and setting aside started to roll back in on me. If I'd been smarter, I would have crossed the street right then and there.

I did not, but as I closed the distance down to polite conversation distance I was trying to look three ways at once, and wasn't liking it. Then the guy by the lamp pulled out a cigarette - and asked for a light.

His buddies were smoking - lit cigarettes. They had fire. They had no need to ask me for some.

And in my minds eye I noted the lamp the guy was leaning on was out. There were no other people out on the street and it was late enough that there was no traffic - even on the main artery my hotel was on. No witnesses and its dark. And this guy wants me to turn my back on his friends.

Sure. It could have been an innocent thing. It may have been.

But it didn't look that way to me at the time, and it doesn't look that way to me in retrospect either.

I straightened up. I was taller then any of them, by about a head - and I outweighed them - I was about 280 at the time and while I wasn't in shape - I looked and look more like a former linebacker then how flabby I actually am/was. I put my hands up to shrug, though what I a was actually doing was making sure they weren't at my sides if this all went sideways.

"Sorry. No fire." I said as I slipped between them, never focusing on any of the three without turning my back on any one.

I slipped between them, and glanced back a few feet later. "Got a light" guy had returned to his spot on the stoop and was getting a light from one of his buddies.

I have never had all my instincts scream at me like they did right then. It took me most of the way back to the hotel to get my heart rate down. But that was the point when it all really hit home, and became real. There are people out there who might wish me harm, or at least wish to use force to relieve me of my hard earned posessions, and possibly my life.

It went from random theory I'd considered and pondered and accepted but never really... had proven.

To very, very real.

I won't pretend that I've never been caught in 'condition white' since. It happens. But the idea that I might have to defend my own life somewhere down the line is very real to me.

I have no idea how that would have gone if they had mugged me, even without me turning to the buddy. There were three of them. The smart money would have been to give them my wallet and report it. But what if they weren't happy enough with that?

What if it got violent anyway? I know from personal experience that I don't talk about that I can be a very violent person. I've never killed anyone, or hurt them seriously - but... it was a near thing once. I had rather severe anger issues when I was younger. I'm not completely clear of those - but I know how to deal with them when they come up without getting to that place where I'm at risk of doing something I would regret.

So - I know I can inflict pain on another person, and I don't think in the right circumstance it would be hard for me to take that a step further. But 3 on one? A well trained single person is at some advantage against three individuals that haven't worked together to the point of finishing each others thoughts... but... I'm not that person. If they were armed, I'd have been at minimum, a bleeding body on the pavement.

I might not have been alone. But that's of little comfort. I'm just glad I didn't have to find out.

I bought the closest thing to a club I could the next day - an umbrella with a solid steel shaft. It was the best I could do. I still never went down that particular part of the street again. I followed the young families and took the long way back.

I have never since had anything *near* that experience. I've been in places where I didn't necessarily feel safe, but I've never felt overtly threatened before or since.

Its not a pleasant thing. But it puts self defense in a stark contrast. In a hypothetical situation, where things have gone sidways and its them or me, and there are more of them then there are of me? I want something to give me an chance. The best tool for this job is a firearm. Nothing else is better.

And I have no doubt that if I was in that situation again, and this time, things did go sideways... and if I was carrying a pistol? I would have shot them.

My dad has said he'd shoot them in the leg. Never mind the serious issues one is going to have with law enforcement about that he and I have argued at length about this. He would shoot to wound.

I wouldn't. I know that much. Center mass, until the threat stops.

I hope I never have to find out if I can pull the trigger. But... the idea that there is a threat to my person that could make me *ready* to is no longer theory. I know what it feels like.

And its very, very hard to explain that sort of knowledge to someone who hasn't been there. It can be a bit like beating one's head against a brick wall, in fact.

~Jon

Monday, April 21, 2014

Huh... this is still here.

Well, its been a long, long while. I don't really have a blog following, but as one of my very favorite bloggers to read said recently 'You still have things to say.'

And I do. So I'm going to resurrect this. However I think the posts are going to shift - In the distant past I was writing to an audience as much as anything else (never mind it may or may not have existed) I think going forward I'll be writing for me.

If people read it, cool. If not -it matters not because the words here are for me, to parse and ponder.

Actual content coming tonight after work.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Flying with the Angels now.

Yesterday the Aviation world lost something special.

Bob Odegaard died doing what he loved, flying. He was practicing for an airshow in Valley City North Dakota in a blue F2G Super Corsair that he and his son's had restored the previous year when either pilot error or mechanical failure caused the big former fighter/race plane to strike the ground at catastrophic speed.

To the best of my knowledge, Bob died on impact.

He is survived by his two sons a daughter and his wife. They have been my friends since I was kneehigh to a grasshopper and my heart goes out to them.

You fly with the angels Bob, to the sound of big round engines and Merlin V12s

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Change

Well, after seven years with my previous employer I've moved on to a new pasture, and a new job. I'm still in Tech Support with more of a focus on Enterprise IT, and Project management. The hours are normal people hours so I've had to contend with the evil daystar quite a bit more - and I'm a *salaried* employee. And I even get *Holidays*.

The shocks to the system are constant. To really ramp up the 'change' depeartment I've started going to the Local Family Wellness Center, which was build by the Y and Sanford Health (I work for Sanford Health, and get a discount) and I've started minimally swimming laps for 30ish minutes every morning.

Which, leads to a pretty solid full body ache. This week, a friend is going to join me, and we'll probably start lifting every morning as well... which will *really* start the ache.

Its been a pretty big shift. But a good one. Change isn't always necessarily good, but this one *is* and its long over due.

More later!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

So... based on the SCOTUS decision the government could do the following....

Alright. Lets make a few things clear. Based on the summary's I've read, the Government can't make you buy something with the Comerce clause, but apparently penalizing you for *not* doing something it deems to be right and proper can be considered a tax.

Also keep in mind that the reason the 'Majority Opinion' (I'm not going to get into Robert's possible flip flop) states the law must stand is they don't want to mess with what Congress can and can't tax.

It took an *amendment of the Constitution* to allow the Congress to impliment an INCOME TAX!

Try to remember that as I throw out a couple of examples.

Lately, one of the things people have been going off about is that the government is starting to think people are too fat. We probably are, admittedly, but its not the government's business to care, in my opinion.

Example One:

So what if the next law of the land states that you need to eat healthy. To determine what healthy is, they pick a bunch of fruits and vegtables, and state that you must by X amount per month. I don't know what X is, but lets say its half a pound of each, per month.

If you don't, the first year it'll cost you, 200 dollars in a penalty tax. It might be cheaper to pay the tax.

The second year, the rate goes up by 100 dollars, and so on, ad-infinitum, until you decide its cheaper to just buy the damned vegitables.

Example Two:

Government wants more green energy. People aren't buying enough, and the company's building Green Energy aren't making money for whatever reasons. So the government passes a law that states that every house should have six photovolaic panels on the roof to suppliment the energy use by the house. Those panels should be bought by, hm... say, Solindra.

If you don't buy six panels (who's size is determined by the size and worth of your home, natch) for every year you haven't mounted them, you pay a thousand dollars extra in taxes. However, after five years, it goes up to five thousand dollars, and continues going up until you're paying far more in taxes, then you would to just buy the damned panels.


And, just to prove I can throw in a 'Conservative' example, that would be just as wrong:

Example Three:

Colt, an American icon, and a gun maker has fallen on tough times. We can't possibly let such a name slip into obscurity. Of course, bailouts are pretty unpopular now, so the government can't just write them a blank check. So, we're going to state that Every man and woman over the age of 18 should own a firearm. And infact, we think you should own a firearm of the AR-15 variety. But, it has to be built by Colt.

For every year you don't do this, we're going to tax you five hundred dollars. After five years, the tax will go up to about fifteen hundred dollars. After seven, the tax will be three thousand dollars.

All that sounds fair, right?

Didn't think so - but thats roughly what the SCOTUS decision on ObamaCare has opened the door for.

Enjoy!