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Life sure gets in the way of blogging…LOL

It has been a busy few weeks, not much to write about other than lots of work and being sick with a nasty cold.

But I do have a few pictures to post…

Western Tanager

First time seeing the Western Tanager

Pacific Fritillary

Pacific Fritillary

Pacific Fritillary #2

Pacific Fritillary #2

Orchid

I’m told it is an Orchid

Dead Wood

Dead Wood

June 1st Sunset

June 1st Sunset

Grey Cat Bird

Grey Cat Bird

I went for a Reptile Walk hosted by the local Naturalists Club on the first of June, I was only able to get the one somewhat decent picture of the racer below. The group was split up as we searched the area but I was not with the group that found the 2 other snakes. Still it was very educational for hints and tricks in tracking them in the future and I now know a good area to go looking for pictures. I need to get me a rattlesnake picture, that would be one to check off the photo bucket list.

Yellow Bellied Racer

Yellow Bellied Racer

Red Ants

Red Ants have been getting worse around here lately

Other than that I have not read a novel in a while so I picked up Dean Koontz’s – Odd Apocalypse. I have liked the previous Odd Thomas novels so lets see what trouble he finds himself in this time…

So enough for now…as some other sparkly has my attention…till next time…OH SO SHINY…
D.

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Review: China Miéville’s – The Scar…

January 14, 2013 Leave a comment

So back on September 9th 2012 I received via twitter a recommendation by Myke Cole author of the Military/Fantasy series Shadow Ops (Fortress Frontier hits shelves on January 29th, go buy it) to read China Miéville’s novel The Scar. Having never read anything by Mr. Miéville I bought a copy. And as you can tell by the fact it is now January 14th, 2013 I’m a tad late with my review…apologies to Mr. Cole.

mykecolerequest

Now I’ll be honest, I had to go back and read the book a second time as the first time it did not fully grab my attention. But considering the issues that were occurring in my life at the time I think I can say with conviction that my mind was busy on other things. So to be fair to the author and the book in general I went back to it after things had settled down in the real world so I could immerse myself into Miéville’s world. ..Wonder if this would count as a clever transition …

So, as a late comer to the world of Bas-Lag I find myself in a Steam-punk world of ships, dirigibles and magic; populated by Human, Remade (people altered with mechanical and magical means usually criminals as punishment but not limited too) and non-human life forms.  Now each of the Bas-Lag novels is described as self-contained story not to be considered a series; but there is a small link to the first Bas-Lag novel Perdido Street Station via The Scar’s central character Bellis Coldwine. This link is the premise for her fleeing the authorities of New Crobuzon which has placed her onto the path of events that are about to unfold.

Stepping aboard the ship Terpsichoria as a translator bound for the new colonies of Nova Esperium; Bellis Coldwine hopes to evade capture and disappear till things settle down back home. Unfortunately for her and the other passengers their lives are about to take a drastic detour.  During the opening of the voyage we are introduced to 4 other characters that will be noteworthy for the rest of the story. Johannes Tearfly, a scientist who’s field of study is Botany. Tanner Sack a New Crobuzon criminal that has been remade as punishment for his crimes.  There is Shekel, a young cabin boy who is serving on the Terpsichoria. And upon visiting the Cray city of Salkrikaltor we are introduced to one Silas Fennec a New Crobuzon spy who takes over the ship on official business and immediately turns them back towards home.  On the return voyage they are attacked by pirates of a floating city that has been a rumor in the history books for hundreds of years: Armada.

I find Mr. Miéville is a very descriptive writer generating images in the reader’s mind of the world his characters live in. He can get a little overboard with his language every now and then but nothing too distracting (one word he used that kept bugging me was chymicals though). His description of the city of Armada, its leaders and inhabitants draws you further into the story and their possibilities.  Armada is lead buy a couple called The Lovers and keeping the inhabitants in-line is their bodyguard Uther Doul. Armada is on multiphase plan that only the leaders are fully aware. The Lovers and Doul drag the city along in a series of dangerous events in their quest for the possibility of ultimate power. Johannes Tearfly plays a vital part in one of The Lovers plots using his knowledge of sea life to their advantage, but once the task is completed he is cast aside and just keeps whining about it…

In the midst of all this intrigue we come back to Silas Fennec who brings not just one destructive force against Armada but two. Causing immense trauma to the city and people of Armada in the effort of getting back home and escaping a race called the Grindylow whom he has stolen vital information from. Silas has no qualms about using people to suit his needs and plays Bellis and through her actions Tanner for fools; scarring their trust in him and each other. Silas is also spreading rumors and inciting revolt on Armada in the end causing other characters to come to blows over the course of the story. Others in league with the Grindylow use their attack as the means of pushing Armada into a full-on civil war.

Now the books title The Scar is an actual destination in the novel; but in my humble opinion it actually refers more to the mental, physical and emotional scars of the characters. Be those scars self-inflicted or inflicted by others. The Lovers are at the forefront with their sadomasochistic/ritualistic mirrored scaring of their bodies during their lovemaking. There are the physical and emotional scars endured by Bellis during the events of the novel that she will carry for the rest of her life.  Even lesser characters like the remade woman Angevine the lover of Shekel shows how people can be marked by allowing others into their lives; this is shown by the mark left on her engine after Tanner Sack upgrades her boiler. Many are killed and many more are forever scarred by the events that transpire. Some of those marked grow stronger from their ordeals while others succumb. Bellis in some ways becomes less naive and stronger but in the process becomes the cold uncaring woman she pretends to be at the start of the novel. Others like Tanner, takes his punishment of being remade and embraces the change by fully transforming himself into an amphibian.  As Tanners chirurgeon (Miéville spelling not mine) states:

“You’ll be tender, Mr. Sack,” he had said. “And even when you’re well, I want to warn you: some of the cuts I’ve made, some of the wounds, they may heal hard. They might scar. In that case, I want you not to be downhearted or disappointed. Scars are not injuries, Tanner Sack. A scar is a healing. After injury, a scar is what makes you whole.”

In the end my thoughts are: you can embrace the scars and be whole, or you can reject them and be forever broken .

I found The Scar to be a novel full of intrigue and strife, battles and magic all set in a truly interesting world. Being that I have not read anything of Miéville’s before an appendix or a world map might have been a little helpful, maybe even a small breakdown of his magic system, but that’s just me. The novel consists of stories within stories and a learning curve and growth for all the characters involved. Do The Lovers reach the Scar? Who lives and who dies? The normal questions one asks of a book, but I won’t tell because that would be cheating, you want to know?

Go read it yourself…or another review as they might have given more away…

So enough for now…as some other sparkly has my attention…till next time…OH SO SHINY…
D.

The Daylight War cover…

October 14, 2012 2 comments

So, Peter V. Brett author of the Demon Cycle series is having another contest over at his website (it ends October 15th, 2012 so work fast if you want to enter), this time it is the: Make your own Daylight War cover contest. So I decided to enter, which meant that I would have to draw something. So here is the breakdown on the final cover. I mainly use my old Photoshop program for simple photo editing so this was a bit of a change for me working with multiple layers and transparencies.

I started with a drawing of two of the main characters in the series. After finishing the drawing I scanned it into the computer and cleaned up then I saved it as a transparent PNG file for later.

Daylight War Drawing

Next was to find a background, so going through my photo’s I found this picture that I took back in August.

Original Photo

I then tweaked the image in Photoshop and created this watercolor like effect with a touch of HDR (High Dynamic Range).

Altered Background

After that I overlaid the original drawing and cropped the background image to fit. I then did some further editing to the layers in Photoshop to adjust the image and then inserted one more layer for the title. After it was all said and done the final image was created and submitted to the contest and Mr. Brett.

Final Cover

I received a tweet from Mr. Brett, he seemed to like it, so I am hoping I win! But after seeing some of the other entries I think I may be in trouble.

So enough for now…as some other sparkly has my attention…till next time…OH SO SHINY…
D.

UPDATE: I have been notified that I am one of the winners! Very Cool!

Limping along…

September 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Over the last few months I have been dealing with a re-accruing foot issue that has me in a great deal of pain and limping along during my work week. Last week I thought I was finally on the mend until Friday rolled along and bang I was back on the pain bus. I have been to my doctor about this issue but figured enough is enough, off to the hospital for me. I took along China Mieville’s – The Scar to read as our local emergency department tends to be a rather long wait, but this time I got in and out rather fast. Considering the fact that I have been having this issue for months on and off I thought there must be something else going on with the foot, so I was able to talk the doctor into some x-rays. Unfortunately for me it appears that the ongoing issue is well, ongoing. Nothing showing up in the x-rays so another round of anti-inflammatory drugs and back to limping along.

My new job offers to pay for gym memberships at 2 of the local gyms; I will follow up later this week to see if I have to wait till my probation period is over before I can sign up again. Though my new job has my physical labour levels up compared to my last job, I think it might be good to get back to the gym.

Unfortunately for me there will be no returning to the good old days of the gym…gotta love how that bar is bending under the strain…

515lbs

515lbs

Some people asked why I was trying to lift so much, and it always came down to the fact that it was testing my limits and getting to the next heavier weight. It was the challenge, sure I could do lighter weights over and over, but there was something to doing those heavy lifts that got my adrenaline going.

And for those wondering…yup I lifted it…one does not look his best when lifting that much weight though…LOL

Yeah Me!

I was fooling around with some filters and paint programs with the Insulated Sunset 2 photo from the other day and came up with these…

Insulated Abstract 1

Insulated Abstract 2

Insulated Abstract 4

Once again, I kind of like them…but I have been known to be wrong…

Also have another motivational poster that I created from a picture I took today of my daughter climbing one of pieces of climbing equipment at the park.

Perseverance

Perseverance

So enough for now…as some other sparkly has my attention…till next time…OH SO SHINY…
D.

Return of the Journal of an unemployed bum at home…Day 2-3:

September 9, 2012 Leave a comment

So, as of the last time I was writing these things I really did not cover off the weekend events. So on that note…

Here is a picture of Saturdays sunset…

September 8th Sunset

Okay maybe a bit more about the weekend…

I picked up China Mielville‘s – The Scar this weekend. This will be my first time reading anything by this author; he came recommended to me by Myke Cole author of Shadow Ops: Control Point. Mr.Cole has requested my thoughts on the novel via Twitter:

Yes Sir!

So I will try another attempt of an average Joe book review after I have completed the book.

I truly appreciate Mr. Coles’ contact with his fan’s, I’m sure he has much better things to do (especially with Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier due out early next year!) than to respond to my tweets.

I also bought David Weber‘sHow Firm a Foundation I have been waiting for this one for a while as I do not have the room anymore to purchase Hard Cover novels and must wait for the trade paperbacks to come out. I should be buying the eBook versions but my ereader is having some issues as of late. Also there is also something comforting in having a real book in ones hands; though not really environmentally friendly.

Sept 9th Sunset

So enough for now…as some other sparkly has my attention…till next time…OH SO SHINY…
D.

Book Review: Shadow Ops: Control Point – by Myke Cole

February 16, 2012 Leave a comment

I am not normally someone that would do a book review on my blog for many reasons, here are a few:

  • Because I am not a professional book reviewer
  • Because I am not that eloquent of a writer
  • Because I am just your average Joe book reader that no one knows
  • and too many others to list here…

But I feel the need to write something about Myke Coles’ Debut novel Shadow Ops: Control Point.

I came across Myke Cole on twitter through following author Peter V. Brett writer of The Demon Cycle Series (an amazing series in it-self so go buy it). So Mr.Cole can blame him for having me as a follower now. As of late I have been trying to go digital on my books purchases in an effort to stop having boxes upon boxes of books piling up in my home. But I have been having some issues with my tablet and the e-reader programs so have begun buying paperbacks again. If you follow my blog you are aware that I have recently been laid off work so my book buying has taken a back seat in an effort to save some cash. Stuck at home being an unemployed bum has given me far too much time to sit online. But this allowed me to be online when Peter V. Brett tweeted a link for a contest on his website; the prize was a copy of Shadow Ops: Control Point along with a signed book plate and challenge coin. Lucky me I was the first to answer the question correctly.

The prize pack arrived on Feb 14th containing the book, personalized signed book plate and a very nice challenge coin. I was surprised at the size and weight of the coin; I’m wondering if they will make a few of the SOC units as stand-alone challenge coins in the future for purchase. (Hint, hint)

In the first hour of reading I found myself 150 pages into the novel as I was pulled into the story and cast of characters but eventually had to put the book down and go to sleep. The evening of the 15th I was able to finish the novel with a desire to read more right away. I hope the publisher is looking to have this as a long running series versus a finite trilogy. I believe there is unlimited longevity for the series based upon the characters and the world created.

So if I haven’t bored you to death yet and you haven’t searched for something else to view on the web let’s get to the story…

The series centers on Lieutenant Oscar Britton living in a world that has suddenly awakened to find that Magic has returned. Every major world and/or military power has created their own Special Forces teams that use these new found magical powers. For Britton he is attached to the US military’s Supernatural Operations Corps – or SOC.

Those that have magical powers are considered Latent. If you do not report your powers to the government and make ill use of them you are a Selfer (only caring about your-self and endangering others) which will have you tracked down by the SOC and arrested or eliminated. As with anything the governments of the world have decided what “Good” magic is and what is “Bad”. Those whose latency is found on the negative side of the magical coin are classified as “Probes” short for Prohibited.

Magical classifications are as follow:

Legal Schools:                                  Prohibited Schools:

Pyromancy – Fire Magic                    Negramancy – Black Magic/Witching

Hydromancy – Water Magic              Necromancy – Death Magic

Terramancy – Earth Magic                Portamancy – Gate Magic

Aeromancy – Air Magic                      Sentient Elemental Conjuration

Physiomancy – Body Magic

Prohibited Practices:

Terramantic Animal Control (Whispering)

Offensive Physiomancy (Rending)

This new world’s morality is brought into question right from the beginning of the book with an operation to take down two “selfers” on a rampage at a local high school. Internal and external conflicts arise regarding the use of force and the actions of team leaders. Britton struggles with the results and questions the chain of command.

Britton later manifests a prohibited latency; not in control of his new powers he has a number of incidents that make him a target of the SOC and is classified as a selfer. Captured, he enters into a world conspiracy theorists can only dream about. Secret bases, secret SOC teams, and confronted by the abuse of power that surrounds him Britton must make numerous ethical choices. Britton is forced daily to deal with the consequentialism theory: Do the means justify the end? Driven by his morals to do what is right for those around him and to escape his future role as a classified weapon, Britton goes rouge.

His efforts to escape lead him to make some monumental decisions that have both good and tragic ramifications for himself and those around him. Death & destruction are common place. The old idiom: Absolute power corrupts absolutely is prevalent in this new world of magic. The characters Fitzy and Harlequin are prime examples of the corruption that can occur.

Myke Cole leads the reader through his newly created world and those who inhabit it via highly detailed and action packed storytelling that draws the reader in wondering what will happen next. Coles’ own military background allows for seamless integration of procedures and terminology that only adds to the flow of the story. Character interactions could almost be classified as bi-polar as philosophies change over the course of their internment at the training center and subsequent battle engagements they take part in. I could elaborate on the “secrets” mentioned before but I leave that to the reader to discover. Let’s just say there are numerous exciting twists both in plot and world creation that will come out of left field for the reader.  This book encompasses multiple writing genres smoothly integrated into a cohesive novel which should appeal to many different readers.

I await the next book in the series to see what becomes of Oscar Britton and those that were pulled along with him. Does he have the internal fortitude to live with his choices?

What are you waiting for?…go buy the book already!

So enough for now…as some other sparkly has my attention…till next time…OH SO SHINY…
D.

Day 14 + 15 and a bit of 16: Journal of an unemployed bum at home…

February 13, 2012 Leave a comment

So being that it was the weekend there is not much to report, not that there is much to report on any other given day so far.

I did have an impromptu interview on Friday and was told to try and keep Monday free, 10:30am and still no call back…I might be out of work, but I can’t sit by the phone all day.

I have come to the rapid conclusion that me at home and not working is very bad for the waistline (not that me at home is ever good for it). Sure the failure was buying the box of cookies in the first place; but then it just turned into the following over the course of 2 days. Walk into kitchen to wash dishes or some other task: “Oh, I’ll have a cookie…”. 10-20 minutes later back into the kitchen: “Oh, I’ll have a cookie…”. An hour later: “Oh, I’ll have a cookie…”

…THERE ARE NO MORE F@#%!#@ COOKIES!

So today being the start of Week 3 with no job seems a tad surreal. I am doing some more of the basic tasks around the house today in case the district manager decides to call about that job. I also went and bought a few books over the weekend to keep myself busy. Since I normally can read a paperback in a day when undisturbed I am reading very slowly as to make them last.

Being home and on the computer far too much has allowed me to win a copy of Myke Coles’ debut novel: Shadow Ops: Control Point , I am waiting for its arrival along with a Challenge Coin he has created for the book. From the reviews it sounds like I will be in for an exciting read. From what I gather from his site and online book reviews if this was a video game title it would be Dungeons & Dragons* – Modern Warfare 4*. (*titles copyright of their respective owners) The modern world wakes to find that old world magic has returned and that such power tends to corrupt.  So many of the world powers create their own military versions of Super­nat­ural Oper­a­tions Corps, and let the mayhem begin.  On a side note I wonder how his Meme is coming along… Check out Myke Cole on twitter or read his blog which you can find via the included link above.

Other than that my stint of being unemployed continues, hoping this will not drag on much longer, severance package or not…

So enough for now…as some other sparkly has my attention…till next time…OH SO SHINY…
D.

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