One habit broken, starting a new one

it’s been over 30 days and I haven’t bitten one of my nails, so we’re going to say that that is done, Mission Accomplished! Unlike our President I doubt you’ll continue to hear about the struggle against my nails for the next 4 years when I say ‘Mission Accomplished’ I mean it! I’ve been biting my nails for as long as I can remember so I’m excited that I was able to break the habit. I have to admit that cutting them with a clipper is a hassle especially on my right hand, damn my dexterity! It does show a little more class than shoving them in my mouth…

Like I said in previous posts I’m going to try and start doing Zazen, specifically shikantaza, which according to Hardcore Zen translates into “just sitting”, he also calls it “the real deal” and “hardcore zen” I’m going to start tomorrow morning and do it for 20 minutes. Planning how to do it wasn’t that difficult. I just sit and look at a blank wall for twenty minutes, not trying to think, but letting thoughts come and go as they please. The important thing is to set up a consistent schedule and keep to it! I’ll report back to you all regularly on my progress.  We’ll see how this goes…

In other news I’m taking a break from non-fiction for a bit, it is just too depressing right now, especially Squandering America.

More Soonish…

The joy of “trash” fiction

I just finished reading Drew Karpyshyn’s Star Wars book, Darth Bane: Path of Destruction. I haven’t read a Star Wars book since Timothy Zahn finished his first trilogy, the one with Thrawn in it. Anyhow, I like the Star Wars universe, it’s fun but it’s also incredibly shallow in ways. I’m not saying this to knock on Star Wars, it is a problem that most genre (sci-fi/fantasy) books and settings have. All the good guys are called light and look good and all the bad guys have called dark and are ugly, the exception to this is for evil women who are either young and beautiful or old and ugly. I think my readers are smart enough to pick out the sexism inherent in that fact. Anyhow I enjoyed the book it was quick, entertaining and about as far as you can get from what I have been reading (see my reading and what I recommend lists).

Of course the book suffers from what I just mentioned the story centers around a young man who names himself “bane” and is bald and pale evil. He begins his training in a Sith academy so that one day he can join the “brotherhood of darkness” and now he is embracing his evil. The book is good except when it gets bogged down in this completely cliche, shallow, parody of ethics and morality… Very few people ever see themselves as evil, they almost always believe what they are doing is good and right… I wholeheartedly believe that there are evil people, but they are rare, it is usually good, or misguided people doing evil things. I wish genre fiction could get past this so that great stories in fantastic places can have realistic people living in them as opposed to the cardboard cut outs we usually see…

Um, not going to put this on my “I Recommend” list…

But I did want to share my thoughts on the book with you!

Adventures in Paranormal Investigations by Joe Nickell – A great, if brief, collection of Mr. Nickell’s studies of various paranormal happenings across the globe in the service of Skeptical Inquirer Magazine. The book will not convince true believers of their errors but skeptics will find his tales light and entertaining reading. Several times I would have liked a more thorough study or investigation done, or perhaps more of the author’s thoughts and insights… I guess we’ll have to wait for Mr. Nickell’s next “real” book for that!

You’ll always be able to read my review of it over at

7 books that can change your mind

Words are powerful little things. When used wisely they can spark discussion and change, even revolution. Here’s a list of books that when read carefully and considered honestly can change your life. why 7? Because it’s not 10 so I’m not ripping off a late night host and every other damn person on the internets… Yup, I’m completely original! In no specific order, here we go!

7. Getting Things Done by David Allen – If you have heard of the man he’s sort of a guru for tech heads and the IT crowd. Allen’s done a lot of things in his life but know he works on productivity. “Peace of Mind is an empty in-box” . GTD is new age spiritualism without the new age and spiritualism. Every thing in your life can be reduced to a list of tasks, tasks can either be done now or organized to do later. Everything that needs to get done goes in the in-box, process your life until the in-box is empty, viola! Check out the spread in the November issue of Wired or read it here. Also check out to see how others are implementing GTD in their lives.

6. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson – This book originally published in 1962 largely birthed the modern environmentalist movement. Carson was the first to write extensively about the damage humans were causing to the environment. Carson’s message is still needed today in a world rapidly being stripped of it’s resources and beauty to satisfy our needs. If you want a more current treatment of the environmental crisis try Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth or Newt Gingrich’s A Contract with the Earth. Yup, this is a bi-partisan issue and one that must be addressed soon!

5. Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud – Comics can be about more than just pseudo-homo-erotic relationships between spandex clad Men and boys. Scott McCloud uses the genre’s style to explain the who, what, when, where, and whys of comics. An insightful look at just how comics have contributed to storytelling in our culture. After being converted you’ll want to see some of the good stuff, try Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series or Bill Willingham’s Fables

4. The Bible by Dead guys – Have you read it? It’s supposed to be the best selling book of all time. Millions believe it was dictated by God, and contains every answer to every question you might have. So… have you read it? If you believe that it is the word of God, and haven’t read it, why not? Seems like it ‘dbe a priority… Maybe because it’s filled with mostly drivel and the ridiculous? I urge everyone to sit down and read it cover to cover, and then ask yourself could any “divine” being come up with the stuff that is in it? If your God suffers from OCD and is a murderous, misogynistic prick then… yeah, maybe he wrote this one… There are plenty of religious texts to satisfy your curiosity

3. The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin -Written nearly 150 years ago, this book still has the power to drive people batty. Note that these people are not scientists, Among scientists there is no debate over whether evolution happens, nor is there any debate if it is done through natural selection and common descent either, they’ve moved on to much more exciting and esoteric topics since then. No, Darwin’s seminal text gets fundamentalists upset. People who like to believe that the Earth is only about 6000 years old… I’m not going to give their tired arguments any play here. Read the book it’s amazing, and the theory is still spot on, though Darwin didn’t know how… For further reading check out the 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution, any essay by Stephen Jay Gould, the Ancestor’s Tale by Richard Dawkins, or anything by E.O. Wilson.

2. The Blank Slate by Steven Pinker – Pinker is a experimental psychologist and a  vocal advocate for evolutionary psychology, which tries to explain functional traits of the human brain like memory and language as products of natural selection, this is his most famous book. In it he takes the nature vs. nurture debate head on, coming down hard on the side of nature winning out. Environment plays some role in who we are but Pinker shows that the science (mostly twin studies and models) that our genetic make-up plays a much more powerful role in who we become/are. The book is often seen as an attack on free-will which is why it has become so controversial. He discusses somewhat the ethical dilemmas such a beliefs brings up, like is it just to punish someone for being violent when their genes have programmed them such, would eugenics be a good idea, is it right to screen children and people to see if they have unsocial genes, etc… A delicate subject and a honest discussion of what it means to all of us and society if we are much more programmed than we like to think.

1. The Amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon –  If you’ve gotten bored of fiction and don’t like reading sci-fi or fantasy. This book is for you. Chabon’s work straddles the fine line between literature and fantasy. His books all contain an element of the fantastical while remaining firmly rooted in our reality. Chabon won a Pulitzer for this book, if you like it and want more of the same he has other books out or you can try some of Neil Gaiman’s books, though they are more fantastical, or something by Chris Moore.

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