#WeekendCoffeeShare: Vidya Gaemz edition


If we were having coffee, I’d be grateful: it would mean I was sitting down and out of the house and talking to an adult who is not my wife.  I love my wife dearly, don’t get me wrong, but this “unemployed/full time author” thing means I speak to no adults other than her on a typical day, and I miss contact with grown-ups.  Hell, I’m even starting to miss contact with kids, as the only one of those I ever see is my own son.

Yes, fine, I admit it, I’m starting to miss certain aspects of teaching, and all aspects of having a job.

You know what else I miss?  Video games.  I’m hoping you’re a gamer, because I kind of want to talk about them.  When winter break rolled around and I stopped having uninterrupted blocks of time during the day because the boy was around, I stopped playing Fallout 4, and I haven’t been back to it since.  I have three or four games on my iPad that get a lot of attention, but I just don’t seem to be able to carve out time for console gaming any longer (winter break has been over for nearly a month, remember) and when I do whatever I’m playing inevitably pisses me off somehow.

An example: I just heard from someone on Twitter that she bought The Witcher 3, a game I’d previously decided not to bother with, and she had to download twenty gigabytes of patches and updates before actually getting to play:

Which … holy crap, I’d never even fucking play the thing.  That would literally make me so angry that I’d abandon the very idea of playing the fucking game.  (Think I’m kidding?  I’ve done it before.)  I cannot properly express how much I hate what has happened with this generation of consoles.  I mean, that’s, what, eight hours of downloads, and who the hell knows what kind of shit your cable company pulls afterwards if you’re with the wrong people.  Bah.

For someone who spends ridiculous amounts of time sitting in front of his computer, you’d think computer gaming would be a viable use of my time.  Also no, despite being able to name several games off the top of my head that I’d like to be playing or that I actually have on my computer and have never actually opened.  Why?  I dunno.  I just don’t.  And I miss it, but despite having loads of free time and the means to be doing whatever I want, I’m not doing anything about it.

So I’m hoping you do, and we can talk about the games you’re playing, so that I can live vicariously through you.

The end.

Taking the day off

I’ve got a fairly busy afternoon ahead of me and screwed off all morning, so don’t expect fireworks around here today.  Buy a book, if you like; January has to redeem itself somehow.

Meanwhile, this song has been running through my head all morning, but I don’t know any of the lyrics, so I’ve just been wandering around the house mumbling about young dudes.  This behavior will no doubt make me popular while I’m out in public in a bit.

On that job hunt

derbs.png.jpegA few months ago I sent out a flurry of applications for work-from-home, set-your-own-schedule types of jobs.  One of them was doing background checks on people who are trying to get security clearance to work for the federal government.  It didn’t look like something that would be super fulfilling as a life goal, but my mentality at the time was basically fuck it, apply anyway.

Forward to the end of January, yesterday specifically, and I get an email from these people, informing me that I’ve passed the first stage of screening (which apparently just involved reading my resume and cover letter) and need to take a couple of online tests as the next stage.

Tests?  ‘Kay.  Sure, why not, and I was stuck on the manuscript anyway so I needed something else to do.  The tests turned out to be childishly easy once I figured out what was actually going on; the first was a Flash replica of a Windows desktop and they asked me to perform several basic tasks like “attach this to an email,” “delete this file,” “rename this file,” and things like that.  They allotted fifteen minutes, I was done in five. You get to make one mistake on each question before you fail it, and I made a mistake on the very first question because I didn’t quite get what was going on (if they want you to open the Start menu to open a program, and you click anywhere other than the Start menu, that’s an error) but I was perfect from then on.

The second test was literally “write these three emails.”  The first was explaining a policy to an employee, the second was giving directions to a place to a job seeker, and the third was informing the staff of a mandatory meeting.  In each case they gave me a bunch of details they wanted me to include but otherwise let me write the message as I saw fit.

I resisted the urge to make the second email dude, here’s our address, if you can’t figure out a way to get directions in 2016 other than bothering me for them you don’t get the job.

I got another email late last night informing me that I had passed Stage Two and asking me to email them several times in the next few weeks where I would be available for a 30-minute phone interview.  Included in that email was a description of the training process for the job.

Which is three months long, full-time, mostly out of town, and unpaid.  And, furthermore, if I were to complete the three-month unpaid training and not spend a year in the job,(*) I would have to pay them for the training.

They will not be receiving a list of times to call.

The really sad thing is, that entire story legitimately represents the closest thing to good news on the job front I’ve gotten lately.  Whee!

(*) And if you thought to yourself I bet they haven’t said how much the job pays, you get a cookie, because no, they didn’t.


61BcvUoJGML.jpgI don’t know what to do with this one.  Generally I know when I’m reading a book whether I like it or hate it or, more rarely, if I’m hate-reading it, which is definitely a thing.

(Actually, before I go any further: trigger warning for rape.  Don’t go anywhere near this book if you’re someone who needed that trigger warning.)

Here’s the problem with AN EMBER IN THE ASHES:  it’s just well-written and interesting enough to keep you moving past the problematic parts, but problematic enough that you feel like you’ve wasted your time, or at least that you need a nice long shower, once you’ve done so.  The basic scenario is pure YA; the world is split into two factions (shades of Divergent) for no clear reason, one of the factions is Really Evil, and there are two main characters on either side of the struggle and a second girl to provide a convenient love triangle.  Oh, and two of the three mains have a chance to be the Emperor.  Of the bad guys.

The villains are cartoonishly evil; the Commandant keeps killing and/or maiming all her slaves (while simultaneously complaining about how much they cost her) and the other bad guy is basically a more one-note version of Draco Malfoy crossed with all of Joffrey Baratheon’s ideas of progressive gender relations.  Take that and toss in, oh, I dunno, thirty or forty rape references over the course of the 450-some-odd pages of the book.

It’s YA.  It’s YA and it’s filled with rape references, but no actual rape.  Ordinarily I would think “does not contain rape” would be a good thing about a book, but much like the Sansa dilemma in the Game of Thrones books, once you’ve referred to a character potentially being raped (and yes, of course she’s underage) enough times, the reader eventually can get very close to the point where they would like you to get on with it so that the book can fucking move on.  If that sounds terrible, it’s because it is, but seriously: Sansa’s entire story in the GoT books for the last three thousand pages has been “Is this the book where Sansa gets raped?” and it’s at the point where that’s almost the sole reason for her existence in the narrative: to make you worry that she’s going to be raped.  It’s exhausting.  Anton Chekov is out there somewhere spinning in his grave and yelling at you.

This entire book is “Is this the chapter where one of the three young female protagonists get raped?”  Because two of them are slaves, and it’s made clear that slaves should expect to be raped all the time, and the third is a badass soldier type who, by virtue of her martial prowess one would expect to be less likely to have to put up with that shit but catches just as many rape threats (from Draco Baratheon, over and over again) as anyone else– and, worse, the book basically puts her in a place by the end where it’s pretty clear that she’ll spend at least the next book being assaulted over and over and over again.  The other two might be safe, but who knows.

“So why’d you finish it, then?” you might be asking.  And I’ll make it worse: I finished this book in basically three big gulps, including one point where I sent out a Tweet that the next reference to rape would be the book’s last chance and then somehow made it ninety more pages (and to bed) before another one.  (So, yeah.  That’s about 1/4 of the book with no rape references.  The other 3/4 is chock full of them.)

Thing is, Sabaa Tahir is actually a pretty damn good writer despite this one thing.  Then again, so is George R.R. Martin, and I’m pretty much done with Game of Thrones too.  So the book’s going to keep you reading until the rape references or the vaguely incoherent worldbuilding or the occasional odd character choices drive you away.  On a page-to-page basis, though, it’s well-written, and it’s the type of book that makes you think it’s completely predictable and then keeps yanking the rug out.

I three-starred it on Goodreads; I feel like anything I race through like I did this book deserves at least three stars, but I could justify anything lower than that without much of a problem, and right now I sort of feel like moving it down to two.  Because blech.  But, somehow, blech where I’m still thinking of picking up the sequel.

See what I mean?  I have no idea what to think of this damn book.

Thirty years ago today

I was in fourth grade.  This morning is one of my first real memories, and the prologue to Skylights is pure autobiography.


Rest in Peace: Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, Judy Resnick, Mike Smith, Cmdr. Dick Scobee, and Ron McNair.