San Bernardino: We don’t care


America to San Bernardino: We don’t care.
America to Roseburg: We don’t care.
America to Colorado Springs: We don’t care.
America to every other mass shooting every single day: WE DON’T CARE.

I include all of us, every single American, in this statement. We know mass shootings happen every day in our country. We know this doesn’t happen anywhere else. And we don’t care. Every single one of us is totally okay with the daily, unprecedented violence in our country.

Some of us argue for gun control. We post outrage on social media and back it up with statistics after every shooting. Then we pat ourselves on the back and fall silent until the next shooting, where we have the same statistics and outrage ready to repost.

Some of us defend our 2nd amendment rights, with our own statistics on how gun laws don’t work. We sometimes suggest solutions like better mental health programs, but protecting our rights overwhelms our desire to solve the problem.


Just a suggestion: Try reading the whole amendment.

Some of us are numb. We’ve seen the cycle too many times with no change and no longer speak out. We’re overwhelmed, apathetic or discouraged. Every time a mass shooting happens, more Americans join this group.

Our politicians don’t do anything meaningful to combat these events. They don’t pass gun control laws, mental health programs or anything else to curb the violence because we don’t demand action. We don’t hold them accountable. Few politicians face this as a major campaign issue. We don’t vote them out of office or impeach them for inaction because none of us care enough. The only entity that does care is the NRA, and money is very convincing. Like those who argue guns aren’t the problem, the NRA focuses on preserving gun rights rather than addressing the problem.

These massacres will continue daily until we care enough to make it an issue. Until we call out the NRA and our politicians and hold them accountable. Until we demand solutions and don’t accept inaction. It doesn’t matter if we want gun control, mental health programs or any other bipartisan solution. As human beings we have to act together to show our disgust with these killings.

If that doesn’t happen and we don’t step up, then we will continue to not care. And this cycle will repeat.

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I Thought The Supreme Court Was Conservative


Check out my previous Musings From a Geek Dad blogs here! Updated every Monday.

Last week was a great week to be a liberal. It was a great week to be black, uninsured, sick, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning. The Confederate flag is coming down (a step in the right direction).The Supreme Court ruled Obamacare is still legal and that LGBT partners can marry. These are not only liberal victories, these are the RIGHT THINGS TO DO.


This sums up the weekOMG HOW DID THEY GET THE DOORS OPEN?!

All of these topics the Republican party stands against. (The Confederate flag may be an exception to this, but topics like no gun control and no such thing as white privilege are certainly Republican tenets.)

Obamacare has been upheld at least twice by the Supreme Court. Gay marriage is now the law of the land, and I cried when I read Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion. And this is from a Court with a majority of conservative justices.

A conservative Supreme Court has been a champion of liberal values in the past week. It has gone against some of the bedrocks of the Republican party’s platform. What does that say about the Republican platform?

This should be a signal to the GOP. They are out of step with the Constitution. They are out of step with public opinion. They are on the wrong side of history. They need to figure out what being a conservative means in the current world, and what their constituencies really want.

I am far too cynical about politics to believe this will happen. But the signs are there. Please don’t ignore them.

But for now, I’m all like Everything Is Awesome.

Don’t Let The Confederate Flag Be a Distraction


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Don’t Let The Confederate Flag Be a Distraction

Don’t get me wrong. The Confederate flag is a powerful symbol of racism that should be done away with. Kudos to Walmart et al for stopping its sale.



I started this post titled “The Confederate Flag belongs only on the roof of the General Lee,” but even that is not true.

However, I don’t want its removal (hopefully from South Carolina as well) to distract from the two equally valid and important problems the shootings expose: Racism and guns. I don’t want us to fool ourselves into thinking we’ve “fixed” the issues of the SC church shootings simply by taking care of the flag problem.

The Confederate flag is a symptom of racism. Flying the flag of a nation born of slavery above a state capitol is the equivalent of flying the swastika. But barring its use does not mean the underlying issues have been resolved. And SC gave us yet another mass shooting, which seem to crop up now every few months.

Racism still exists. Largely unregulated gun access still exists. These are the important issues we still struggle with. I am proud we’re slowly getting rid of the Confederate flag, but this is a bullet point under the bold heading of racism. Minority incarceration, racial bias and income inequality in an environment already plagued with income inequality are much bigger issues that are harder, but much more important, to fix.

And guns? I’m sick of hearing about another mass shooting every few months, gun suicides, travesties of justice and the NRA’s morally bankrupt excuses. We need serious gun regulation, as the much-misconstrued second amendment itself states.

Walmart, Amazon and others get kudos for dropping the Confederate flag from their stores. But when they stop selling guns, then I’ll stand up and cheer.

I’mma Call ‘Em My Ninja Stix


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For those of you suffering from MS or any disease that affects mobility, I may have an answer for you. I call them my ninja stix.

I have been dealing with Multiple Sclerosis for over a decade. For those who don’t know, MS is a condition where your immune system thinks the myelin coating of your nerves is particularly yummy, and gradually turns your nervous system into a bundle of frayed wiring. There are numerous types of MS, the most common of which involves attacks of symptoms every year or so with no symptom in between. However, I have Progressive-Relapsing MS, the rarest form of the disease. My symptoms are always present AND I have attacks where my symptoms get cranked up. All of this is just as fun as it sounds.

Along with common symptoms like fatigue and heat sensitivity, I have a constant struggle with mobility. At my best I look drunk when walking. I have used both a cane and a walker to help, though neither help that much and both take a sizable piece of humble pie to use. Yes, even after a decade it’s hard to both admit I need help, and ask for it when I need it.

But in preparation for our trip to France, my wife found sidestix, which has changed my mobility picture.


Yes, the blur is from the speed at which I’m moving.

Sidestix are customized forearm crutches made in Canada. Each set is individualized based on your height, leg and arm length, forearm circumference and grip size. The are light, adjustable and improve my walking more than any other aid has.

I have ditched both my cane and my walker in favor of these. I don’t have major terrain concerns anymore, nor the risk of falling or fatigue. I originally called them my gimp stix, but my wife thought that was too derogatory. So since I am now going to train to be a handicapable superhero a la Daredevil, I call them instead my ninja stix,

Watch out, criminals of Seattle. I’m coming for you.

Game of Thrones, Storytelling and the Ick Factor


I am a huge fan of both the Game of Thrones books and the HBO series. My first loyalty will always be with the books. But they have become two different entities, with the series dropping or altering subplots, being blatant with points that are still mysteries in the books, and removing/combining/killing book characters. Most of these changes I approve of. The series will run fifty hours after the current season, and it takes some readers that to get through just one of the books.


However, the series has become increasingly sensational and graphic, to its detriment. This has been a worry for me in the past. Sexposition doesn’t bother me, but the addition of controversial scenes that subtract from the story, or don’t add to it, does. The gay relationship between Renly and Loras was so subtle in the books that I missed it completely; I like making it more prominent, but the series has stripped all the nuance and personality out of Loras by focusing myopically on his homosexuality. (In the books, the guy is an arrogant badass who takes Dragonstone.) Another example, and the most disturbing to me, was Jaime taking Cersei in the sept over Joffrey’s body. This isn’t in the books, and I don’t see the story need for its addition. This exploited rape, one of the most deplorable crimes there is, for sensation and controversy rather than for the story and crippled Jaime as a character.

The use of rape in last week’s episode was equally meaningless, and just as exploitative.

This scene happens in the books… sort of. A girl named Jeyne Poole is masquerading as Arya, and is wed to Ramsey. Reek/Theon knows immediately it’s not Arya, but says nothing. The scene goes down similarly and starts to break Theon’s Stockholm syndrome.

In the series, it’s Sansa. And I have enormous problems with it because it adds nothing to the characters. It uses a horrible violation for absolutely no story reason.

In the books, the scene is still graphic and deplorable, but does have a story justification. None of the torture Ramsey visits on Theon before this is shown in the books. Theon disappears at the end of book two, and Reek appears in book five. We don’t know how horrible Ramsey is. We don’t know what Theon has been through. We know Jeyne has her somewhat tranquil life and this monstrous action destroys it.

We already know all these characters in the series. Ramsey doesn’t need to violate anyone; we know he’s Joffrey dialed up to 11. We know Sansa has been abused, and actually seemed to be getting a handle on things previously. And Reek could have been prodded into action in other ways. It wasn’t necessary to move the story forward.

In short, the rape adds nothing to the characters or story, and has no use other than sensationalism and controversy. GoT is a realistic fantasy, true, and people in power historically raped for control and power, but that doesn’t mean it has to be shown.

I have written a couple rape scenes in my fiction. I never do it without care. It risks triggering survivors, and it risks being exploitative. It always has to add to character and drive the story forward, in a way that nothing else could. Also, I only know I’ve done it correctly if it makes me uncomfortable to write it.

I can’t speak to whether the writers, directors and crew et al were uncomfortable, but the scene fails on all other levels. I want to keep watching the series and I hope it tones down the exploitation and unnecessary graphic action, but I can only take so many missteps. Get your act together, GoT. Don’t be graphic just to be graphic. Tell your story. That’s why we watch.

How To Blow A Toddler’s Mind


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As you may recall from my previous blog post, our house was trying to kill us. We found out when we were kicking off our house remodel. Asbestos, lead in the windows, twins murdered in room 237 and haunting us… you know, typical new house issues.


Before. You can see our two -year-old Sebby’s artwork on the wall.


During. The offending death laminate with death glue, death nails and death pattern trying to murder death kill us.


Minus death tile. And death cabinets, walls, sink, floors, appliances and weight-bearing support beamsWAIT WHAT.

Luckily, the whole remodel was worth it. Hardwood floors throughout, new appliances (like an induction stovetop!) and cabinets, and a new, blank canvas for Seb-err, I mean, new paint.

AfterNow I can start my new blog, Cooking With Flavor. And by flavor, I mean tequila. And by cooking with, I mean drinking. And by blog, I mean drunk.

The remodel touched the entire house. For a week, we packed up everything and left the house while the floors were refinished and stained. We didn’t unpack most things until about a week ago. Which brings us to blowing Sebby’s little toddler mind.

So we are smrt parents. When our kids find that one stuffed animal, toy or blanket that is theirs, we buy a second one. This one we secret away for emergencies. You know, that special blanket getting left at a rest stop two states ago during a road trip. That cherished car getting melted in the fireplace. That stuffed bear which got decapitated in a freak lawnmower incident. Any number of catastrophes can befall that special something every child chooses, so we, as smrt parents, bought a back-up to avert those catastrophes.

Sebby’s item of choice is a gray stuffed bunny, creatively named “BUNNY!” (Yes, it is always screamed with a big smile.) So we have an extra bunny hidden away, just in case.

Well, both bunnies were packed during the remodel. And somehow, during the remodel chaos, both bunnies got unpacked, and both bunnies ended up in the nursery.

One night I’m putting Sebby to bed and preparing to read him and his sister The Book With No Pictures. Sebby screams “BUNNY!” and clutches the furry little guy to his chest.

Then he sees another bunny on the floor.

He does a toddler double take. “Bunny?” He stares at the bunny in his hands, then looks at the identical bunny on the floor. “Bunny?” Then back to the one in his hands. Then back to the one on the floor.

Then he goes apeshit.

“TWO BUNNIES!” He screams, loud enough to wake up the neighborhood, and grabs the second bunny. He holds one in each fist, their bodies dangling by the necks, as he parades around the room triumphantly. “I have TWO BUNNIES!” He yells again, in case somebody in Spanaway didn’t hear him the first time, and holds both in a death grip to his tiny thundering heart.

Well, now you can see why we’re smrt. Somehow we have to get the second bunny away from him without him noticing. Or break down and buy two more bunnies, in case he loses one or both of the ones he’s claimed. And chances are, at some point that rascally little toddler will find the two spares we just got, suddenly have four, and we’ll have our first lesson in exponentials.

At least we’re starting him on maths early. Or on biology. Rabbits do, after all, breed like… well, rabbits.

Yea like im gonna take the goverments word (Misspelled On Purpose)


I have to stop opening myself up to Facebook debates with uninformed people who can’t spell.

The other day, a friend of mine reposted this link.


I thought the numbers here were at best pointless, and at worst deliberately misleading. There are over four times as many whites as blacks in the country. A much larger percentage of minorities are killed by police than whites, and that doesn’t even address that their deaths are in more deplorable circumstances.

Well, silly me, I made a comment to that effect. And, of course, got a response.


Fine, don’t believe the 13%. There’s census data to back it up. But the point is there are more whites than other minorities (hence why they’re minorities) so the numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Mr. Cowboy Hat had what I’m sure he considered a mike-drop response.


Hence the misspelled title of this blog. It’s not like he was commenting on statistics from the media in the first place. You can’t trust the government or the media, especially if what they say contradicts your own beliefs.

There were a bevy of responses I could have given:

I take it, then, that you agree with my second post, unless you think whites are a minority in the US?

I noticed you live in the Lewis-Clark Valley. I moved away twenty years ago. Is it still the utopia of diversity I remember?

So you don’t trust Fox News, Boehner or Dubya either? Good. That’s an excellent move.

Do you not take Merriam Webster‘s word, either? (I figured he wouldn’t get that.)

In the end, I didn’t respond. It wouldn’t come to anything, and many of my immediate reactions were attacks and not discussions. I’m not sure what point he wanted to make, or if he had one beyond arguing.

There is a partisan gulf in this country, and few people want to discuss what’s happening with an open mind. I have opinions as strong as the next person, and some are very hard to sway. But I like to think I would engage with an open and informed mind. Regrettably, too many people have no desire to discuss or compromise. And more than economics, racial tension or religion, that is the issue that most hurts our country.

Power Grid: Why You Must Play This Game



I know what you’re thinking. A game about building and maintaining a power grid? That’s it?

You: Does it include bribing officials for permits?
Me: No.
You: Then assassination of said off-
Me: No.
You: Is it during a war?
Me: No.
You: On Mars?
Me: No.
You: Is Gojira, zombies, a plague or an imminent asteroid impact involved in any way?
Me: No.
You: Then this sounds dumb. Let’s just play Ken’s Job: The Board Game. (Yes, I have a friend Ken who works for PSE.)

Yes, Power Grid sounds dumb. But for all you board game players out there, Power Grid is like Ticket To Ride and Puerto Rico had an illegitimate baby who was raised on Wall Street by his wacky uncle Small World.

Granted, I have played the game only three times. And each time we have discovered major rules we didn’t use or screwed up in previous plays. But each game got better and more fun.

Power Grid is a game for 2-6 players and takes about two hours. The players pick connected regions of the US equal to the number of players (forcing interaction between players a la Small World) and bid on the power plants in the marketplace. Players buy coal, natural gas, oil or uranium based on what runs their power plants (and what is cheapest) and build generators in cities to form a power grid. Then they spend the resources they bought and earn money for how many cities they can power. The winner is the first player to power a certain number of cities.

This game is all about money and resource management, bidding up opponents for power plants they want while getting yours on the cheap, nabbing cheap resources, blocking opponents by connecting strategic cities, and manipulating the turn order to be first to bid, buy resources or place generators as your needs demand. There is a load of strategery at each stage.


Yes, Smithers, we’ve taken over every Springfield in the heart of America!

The best thing about this game for me, beyond the abundant ways to strategize, is there are no dice. The only randomness is the beginning turn order and the generators in the market. It mixes the best parts of so many games that I can’t help but love it.

With the deluxe edition, you also get the Europe map on the other side of the board and nice wooden pieces. We have also had players as young as ten play and do just fine.

At first, the game may seem daunting with its complexity. But after you get the hang of it, it moves really fast and is super fun. I highly recommend it for your next game night!

Refine Your Prose: Don’t Let English Get In the Way


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Refine Your Prose 5: Don’t Let English Get in the Way

This tip may be the most crucial for breathing life in your narrative and making it your own. But using it without the utmost care can destroy the readability of your prose.


When James Ellroy sent his novel L.A Confidential to his editors, they told him he needed to cut the length. Not wishing to remove any of the scenes or plot of his story, Ellroy went through and removed every verb, adverb and adjective he deemed unnecessary.

I feel you recoil. Sentences need these words! Verbs in particular are one of the two pieces of every complete sentence. How can you publish a novel that ignores major structural underpinnings of the English language?

Ellroy did. And his prose full of sentence fragments and verbless narrative –which he uses to accentuate the speed and rhythm of his story – created a unique writing style, called Ellrovian prose, that redefined the genre. He would later refine the style with White Jazz and his proceeding works.

Prose is rife with examples of broken English rules. Forgoing rules when necessary can lift your prose to an unforgettable level. But forgoing those rules too liberally, too grossly or without care can ensure no one will read your work.

I wrote a story in college without punctuation or capitalization. It was new! It was fresh! No one wrote this way! (Except every other college creative writing student in existence.) And it was unreadable.  I broke the rules of punctuation and capitalization just to break them, not for any reason that added to my voice or the work.

Even writers that break rules with purpose can be difficult to read. It took me several chapters to grok Ellroy’s style in White Jazz. Cormac McCarthy routinely dispenses with apostrophes, commas and quotation marks. Though McCarthy’s prose is beautiful, I can’t get through many of his books because the lack of punctuation plain bugs me.

This post does not advocate breaking the rules of basic English just to break them. A writer needs to know how to correctly use a semicolon, when to use less versus fewer, where in a sentence a comma belongs, and what the difference is between its and it’s. This comes well before a writer should even have an inkling to consider suspecting that she might want to examine investigating the development of a style that might occasionally contemplate breaking rules. You need to know the rules before you break them. And even after you have a great handle on English, you can develop a memorable style without breaking a goddamn thing. Hemingway, Twain, Faulkner and Vonnegut have styles all their own and don’t go out of their way to mess with English rules.

English rules are rules for a reason. They allow people to understand the writing of others. Our job as writers is not just to communicate with our readers, but to connect with them. When done with skill and forethought, breaking an occasional rule can connect more fully and make prose more beautiful without sacrificing communication. But when those things distract your readers, your work will be relegated to the reject pile.


My Star Wars trailer takeaway: Han Solo is a grumpy old codger


Everybody has seen the latest trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In case you are that one person who didn’t see it (or not, in which case it’s likely you want to see it again), here it is:

I admit it, I loved it. It’s already better than the prequels. (And yes, despite popular opinion about Revenge of the Sith, I think they’re all terrible movies.) But I found myself ruminating afterward not on all the awesome in the trailer, but on the end, specifically the moment when the one and only Han Solo says, “Chewie… we’re home.”

Before you jump to share my excitement, I focused on it not in the way that most of the fan boys and girls do. Han Solo is… old. It’s been close to forty years, man. And it’s not the years, it’s the mileage. He’s wearing an outfit almost identical to the one he wore four decades before. Hell, it might be the same ol’ trusty duds that saw him through that unfortunate carbonite incident back on Bespin. He’s still driving the same jalopy that was a piece of junk forty years before, when he still had the edge to keep it in top form with his special modifications. To put it in terms of a time right now, in a galaxy we’re in right here, he’s driving and wearing this, today.


Sell old blue? They don’t make ’em like her these days! Let’s see you play my 8-tracks over your Blueteeth thingamawhatsit or whatever the hell you kids are using.

In short, Han Solo is my grandpa. The old codger on his porch with his blaster pistol screaming “Get off my lawn!” at the rascally Ewoks that have moved in to his neighborhood.

I may be wrong. Along with Captain Kirk and James Bond, Han Solo defined manhood and cool for me growing up. The first two examples have aged quite well. I can only hope Han will do the same.

But until I see Han once again shooting first in the cantinas of The Force Awakens, the image of the grumpy old smuggler that time has passed by won’t leave me. Let’s just hope Lando Calrissian doesn’t show up in the next trailer, kicking back a Colt 45 and playing holographic cribbage with his buddies Han and Chewie in the Falcon’s assisted living compartment.