Aug 052009

Remember those books?  I think it was the only time I “lost” a book from the library and couldn’t return it.  The one where you’re a spy.

In an effort to read more to Sal, I picked up some of these little gems from Amazon.  They have a younger kids version of the books and so far I think they’re a hit.  Like the reviews of the books say, there are some strange endings to some of the paths (like spending a good portion of your life in jail, or getting stuck on a robot planet without ever seeing your parents again), but that hasn’t been too much of an issue. (Update – while making those amazon links, I stumbled upon this choose your own adventure…which seems like it strays a little from their typical recipe.  Browse through the first few pages and tell me if this is the choose your own adventure genre you grew up with – there isn’t a decision point in the first couple of pages, but that first page definitely stands out…I might be getting myself a choose your own adventure book too now.)

What is strange is that Sal will choose the “right” thing to do. He hears a little magical “help!” coming from his sand castle late at night and you ask him if he’s going to go investigate the castle right away or if he’ll wait till morning and he’ll think about it and then wait until morning.  And if he’s got the choice of going to do something himself right away or to go get help or his parents, he’ll go find help or his parents.

So I’m pleased that he does the “right” thing – cause I’m superimposing that onto how he’d react to that situation in real life.  Considering how long he thinks about some of his choices, I think he does take it seriously.

But I’m a little sad that he’s not more “adventurous”.  We haven’t been able to find the sea monster in some lake, cause we keep going the safe route. Though, I don’t want to push him that way and then end up having a kid that is out of control in real life.  I like knowing he’s not going to run out of the house in the middle of the night cause he thinks he hears something.

So we’ve had to swap roles.  Sometimes I get to choose the adventure and my character is the one that ends up being the reckless one and he hears about the adventures that I go on (I’m the one that went to jail, not him.  He found some emeralds that were stolen years ago and returned them to the police…)  Though sometimes I end up with happy endings too.  Ahem.

So overall, I think it’s been a success.  He leafs through the books while I’m at work and he knows that there are pages/pictures of the story that he wants to get to, but we don’t always figure out the path.  When he learns how to reverse engineer the story, I’ll be impressed.

I think this week, while his mom is away, we’ll work on writing our own choose your own adventure book for her to read…

Jul 092007

I think Kurt Angle used to wrestle under the guise of some dude who wanted to censor some of the other wrestlers on the WWF – but I’m too lazy to find that kind of imagery right now. I miss Rikishi for that matter.

Anyway – the subject came up last week while a friend was telling a story. They wanted to write about it, but, because of the readership, they felt that it was not a story that could be shared. Too many details that could cause harm.

I thought about many a story that I’ve not typed here for the same reasons. Friends, family, co-workers. There are different subsets I want to share various stories with, but I don’t have that kind of control here, writing. It is like I need that postcard secret outlet, except designed for long stories that don’t fit on a postcard. With the ability to notify a subset of people I know who might find the news funny or interesting or juicy.

But that doesn’t seem to exist and so I’m forced to spread my questionable news/gossip through more traditional channels. Sometimes that gets me down.

Oh well.

You know what else gets me down – reading Marley and Me. Not because the book is particularly down, but because of expectations. Others read it and laugh and cry. I read it and keep wondering – when am I going to laugh and cry? And nothing happens. I’m a rock. I don’t want to be – just am. I seek out emotional experiences and come up empty.

So then I cried.

Actually, I did laugh out loud at one point near the end of the book. But I can’t find the section again, and most of the end of the book [SPOILER alert…though not really a surprise…] is about the end of the dog’s life so I’m wondering what was really worth laughing about there. Another not so good sign of things for me.

Reading the book made me think that I could have written the same thing. If not better. If only I was a writer. But I too spent the first few nights with my arm hanging off the bed into a cardboard box so a little dog would feel some new master comforts. And we’ve got some crazy dog stories with Chapo losing his eye, or going through obedience courses and trying to get over his small dog complex. And I can describe how owning a dog bleeds into family and parenthood too. Though it does make me worry about the day Chapo will be gone. He should be around for another 10 years. That’s a lot of time. A lot of Sal life too…uh – all of it. It is going to be ugly.

Reading the book made me miss my old dog a bit – he was big and crazy and out of control and required a shovel to clean up after. But only a bit. The good stories only go so far in matching up with the bad stories. I’ll send a copy of the book do my father who ended up caring for Spike and who now has a of black lab and a huge poodle. He had another black lab too earlier, but he passed early.

I feel with my 7 pound dog who isn’t a terror, I feel like I’ve learned my lesson and moved on and reading about others stuck without the lesson, who even want to go through the lesson again – just didn’t do it for me.

It is strange though, how my father will probably like the book and will laugh and cry while reading it. And how, like the author’s family, he runs his life by their walking schedule, always keeping his dogs in mind while making plans. This is the same guy that had trouble getting to my soccer practice and such when I was growing up.

So then I cried.

Random side note for the day: I thought up another reason I’m leaning towards one kid. I’ve spent all my name-juice on coming up with Sal. If we have another and it’s a boy (I hear there’s a 50/50 chance of that!) then I’ll need to come up with another name and I’m just not feeling it right now. Maybe that’ll change. But maybe not…

And finally, just in case you’re reading lady, while your dog escaped last week, it got out of the neighborhood, bit some dude that was trying to help, and ran onto the freeway, running against traffic, forcing the CHP to get involved! Crazy huh? But you’re not supposed to know any of that.

Jun 212007

but have a 2 year old kid…yeah, this isn’t that interesting after all.

But I’ve been reading Snow Crash – cause it got brought up on via comments on Shawn’s little reading list and he’s actually read the book cause of it and I finally found my copy that I bought and there was this one line Shawn told me after he read the book:

Let’s build it.

Now, Shawn recommended Digital Fortress, which was a horrible book, but left me feeling like I wanted to jump into the encryption technology game. So I would have been weary if Shawn was the only one recommending the book, but he wasn’t. He just wanted to build something from it.

Which has made the book a lot more interesting to me than it would have been without it. As it is, I am kind of struggling to make it through the book. Without his comment, I’d have borderline interest in the book. But with his comment, each chapter or two has me thinking of what we could build:

  • A bad ass pizza delivery car
  • A bad ass pizza delivery company
  • Skateboard wheels that will stamp our logo on a fresh dog dropping
  • Computer goggles
  • The Metaverse

Okay – I stopped there. That one just sounded too hard. But now that it’s just me and Sal, for some reason I’m finding it easier to find time to read, so I’ve picked up the book more:

  • A redneck katana (rebar with tape on it)
  • An exercise video, using a redneck katana
  • A motorcycle sidecar with a nuke on it
  • A bit image that would fry people’s brains.

The last one is really the one I’d be most interested in. And kind of what makes the book a little more disappointing for me. I figured that this was the issue – that “Snow Crash” would be something that would crash your brain – but it’s a theme from a short story I read of Phillip K. Dick’s a long while ago. But since he was writing science fiction a long time ago, instead of a snowy image that would only work on programmers who were used to thinking in bits – it was a fuzzy image – kind of how I imagine the 3-d stereograms where you need to look at them with your eyes focused in the distance.

He was building up on some fundamental computer science – where there are always programs that are not representable within a given language. Then, since your brain is a computer, there is some input that it would not be able to handle. And there were these images floating around that would just “crash” your brain if you stared at them. Little kids would find copies of these images and try and see how long they could stand to look at them…but since they were copies or imperfect in some way, they didn’t “crash” the kids. Just give them shivers.

Terrorists, however, had perfect copies of these images and would take over TV stations to put the image up, effectively “crashing” populations. So to protect themselves from the terrorists, some people would let the government filter what they could and couldn’t see in the world…thus protecting them from the terrorists.

I just got caught up in that story with the image that could crash brains and didn’t really dig the whole terrorist/goverment battle aspect. So, I feel like a big part of this Snow Crash book I’ve read before and liked more the first time. But there might be more cool things to build in the book, so I will continue on.

I just don’t like exchanges like:

Hiro: Wait, is it a drug, a virus, or a religon.
Juanita: What’s the difference?

Too neat and easy to write. And I’d be pissed if someone answered a question of mine like that. Unless we’ve been drinking. Then I wouldn’t care. I’d just order another. Anyway, that’s the last exchange I read this morning and I’m not sure I wanna go back.

So I’m here instead. Venting and relaxing. For me, what’s the difference?

The only question left is – who’s gonna take me up on my reading suggestion in Shawn’s comments?

May 272007

There’s a better picture to go with this title – but since I don’t have a Blackberry Curve yet, I didn’t get a chance to take a picture at the Watsonville Fly In that we went to. It was much colder than we anticipated and Sal was finding that the gobs of sunscreen he had on was not providing much warmth. No jacket packed. Sal was even saying “jacket” as we were walking to the entrance.

The attendant told me that they had kids sweatshirts inside. So instead of turning around, we forged onward. Still hearing a little dude demand a jacket. We get to the booth. All sold out of children’s sizes. Not many other booths selling clothes – we circled around and came back. Okay – we’ll buy an adult sweatshirt – we just need to keep him warm.

They only have one left. A Large. Whatever. This is life when traveling without Moms. But – it was on sale – 10 bucks (instead of 25) cause it had a torn cuff. I think that Sal was instantly comforted as my heart warmed up 100%. It was nice picture, once we rolled the sleeves up to the armpits. Sal was wearing shorts too – so the overhang of the sweatshirt was actually really good.

The airshow was fun – the F-18’s didn’t want to go home, repeatedly doing fly bys interrupting the Marines who were talking about their Harriers. Trying to talk about their Harriers. I guess the F-18’s were from the Navy and there’s a little rivalry going on? It was all kind of loud. Afterburners especially.

Another photo op maybe was Sal jumping down out of some transport helicopter in his adult L sweatshirt. Curve release date is supposed to be next week. Or the week after. It has been the same gossip story for the last 3 weeks. Every week I fall for it.

But that isn’t what I really wanted to talk about.

I’ve wanted to ship a package for a while now. But then Catherine saw this dude on the cover of the San Jose Metro and if I could work things out – then I could send two things in a package and that’d save me some postage.

The dude is this author that I used to work with. I’m not particularly fond of his writing, but others are. As commented, when he signed the first book for us, he didn’t get Catherine’s name right. And when we asked him to fix it, he asked us if we wanted to buy another book. Ha ha. No thanks, funny joke though.

Wasn’t a joke. He just crossed out the bad version and wrote the corrected version above the crossed out one. His books are that freaking precious. Catherine once went to get a picture autographed from a film star for me – and she put an ‘h’ in my name. Catherine corrected her and without a moment’s hesitation a new autograph was being started. Those are my two data points. I don’t know what it says about industries, cause I don’t generalize or stereotype. I just know I have my favorites for a reason.

Anyway – so I email this guy cause I thought he’d be flattered that someone would notice his picture and then send a note a long. And after a gentle bit of ribbing (hey, were we expecting pure flattery?) I asked him if he could send a personalized copy of the book to a friend – as they are big fans and would get a kick out of it. I offered to paypal him some money for the book, shipping and handling and time and trouble.

All I got back in response was a time and date for his next book signing. Jesus. I’m not vain enough to think that it was cause he wanted to meet up again. Plus, it didn’t say any of that in the reply. And I would have gone, except I had to drive my mother down to Los Angeles on that day.

So – where are we now? An original package delayed and no book. And spite around the book now too.

Being cheap has its perks…but I guess it doesn’t always get you friends. Or sweatshirts that fit. Maybe it builds character though.

[editor’s note: my favorite part of writing this was finding the link by doing a search for “world’s finest crap barry eisler” – 2nd result]

Nov 292006

We got our matching books yesterday – the bitch in the house and the bastard on the couch. I read a few essays already and I like it so far.

They aren’t serious. Just fun casual reads, with lines that I’ll try and remember and will shape a sentence or two in my future. I’m looking forward to it.

Here are a few that stood out for me (from different stories):

Her expectations were dismally, even insultingly, low. From my name, she had imagined a swarthy, hairy, squat Greek man with eyebrows bushy enough to shelter small birds from predators.

Imagine the cactus with milk so sweet it’s worth the needles.

It was a moment injected with danger on so many levels, a moment so bizarre that while it was happening I wondered if I would one day discuss it in front of a jury.

When I refused to fight the boyfriend of a girl she had beaten up, she said I was a wimp and incapable of keeping her safe. Both charges were absolutely true, but they stung.

Catherine brought up that maybe we’re starting off by reading the wrong books – that she should be reading the bastard book. I thought, “Reading it? She’s writing it!”

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Aug 092006

Chuckolate and I were getting into a couple good discussions last week during a happy hour. I came out of it wanting to buy two books. One for me and one for him.

For him – The Blind Watchmaker – by Dawkins. I wasn’t able to present Dawkins’ ideas very clearly so I figured the book would do him (him == either of them actually) more good. Not that I think it’ll change his mind on intelligent design, but just because I know he’s got an open mind and is up for the discussion. What discussion? Well…

One side of the argument is that if one is walking through the forest and sees a pocketwatch on the ground, one could think – “Hmm…this watch is so complex and precise and has so many parts moving in concert, there must have been some master designer behind this work.”

Dawkins in this book and others, makes the argument that natural selection can result in similarly complex systems – without any forethought or explicit design. That even when there is no direction – only evolution – complex systems (mainly us) can still be created. Eyes, plants, the richness of diversity on the planet – all from natural selection.

I’ll re-read some of the book before I give it to him, cause he’s on vacation anyway – and it’ll help me next time I need to try and explain it. Perhaps I should have re-read it before writing this post…

But instead, I wanted to start reading the book for me. Much lighter stuff. It’s a graphic novel. Or comic book. It seemed to me that he was impressed with Purvey cause it made her list. It was always on his list. But sometimes, having something in common with someone can be powerful. Anyway, since they both recommended it, I thought I’d give it a try.

So the package arrives today and I’m holding both books in my hand. There’s a new cover for The Blind Watchmaker but I like the old one (pictured above). Then I look at the other book – Y: The Last Man – and I smile big time. Really big. And I feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

The first quote on the top of the cover is from and says – “This is why God created comic books.”

What a small world indeed.

So it was with that kind of warm fuzzy feeling that I started reading it. It’s interesting – the life of the last man on earth – but kind of…short?  There’s like 8 more books or something I need to buy to get the rest of the story, at 10 bucks a pop.  Maybe it’s time to see if the Sunnyvale library carries comic books. I mean, graphic  novels.

What it did help inspire me with – is the fact that it’s mostly dialog. When I write, sometimes it’s mostly dialog. Now maybe I’ll start thinking about writing a comic book.  There was a drawing book Catherine was thinking of getting me when we were at the Obon festival this past weekend…what a small world indeed.

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