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Recent Reads

Couple of books I’ve finished recently.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch - not really a great cover, but okay!

I finally got around to reading The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. I was actively writing when this book came out to great acclaim, so rather than eagerly read it to see what all the excitement about, instead I shunned it under the mistaken principle that if something was popular, it couldn’t actually be any good.

Dear reader, I was wrong. This book is really good. Everyone has opinions about it. Each time I’ve mentioned that I was reading it, I’ve been on the receiving end of cannons full blasting opinions and thoughts on the books, characters, and general series. It’s gotten to the point where I’m not sure where the opinions of others ends and my own begin. But isn’t that always the case with being online these days?

My primary interest, at least at first, was reading it as a source of inspiration for the fantastic RPG Blades in the Dark by John Harper. I’m about a year into my first campaign of Blades in the Dark with my Dads Play D&D group, my longest running group at this point. It’s very clear from the start that Harper took a healthy amount of inspiration for Blades from Lamora. The names for things are subtle shifts, but the power dynamics are very familiar to any player of Blades. The focus on thievery in a decadent city is all there. Sure, Harper updated it from medieval Venice to a Victorian one, but it’s there. It was great seeing the inspirations laid bare.

What I didn’t expect was how much I would enjoy the prose itself. There are some lovely turns of phrase on every page. A wit apparent, you would say. Clear talent. Earlier this year, I said I would read nothing but easy, schlocky reads, and those were fine to start me out, but I was still hungering for something more. Lynch’s talent was readily on display, and while the book maybe faltered a little in the latter quarter, it was a fine, fine meal. I enjoyed it very much, and I look forward to not taking seventeen bloody years to get to the next book in the series. I wish Past-Me hadn’t been so very very stupid.

Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

Last night, a mere few hours after finishing Lamora, I picked out one of the cozy fantasy reads I had downloaded on my Kindle app – this one called Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree. It was a recent topic of discussion on my Discord, and dear friend Jenn Reese noted that she was in the high 100s in line on the waiting list. This got my attention–these days, I’m intrigued by anything that is showing popularity, as opposed to old, envious me. I opened the book, intending to browse the first few pages, not really expecting too much.

Reader, I finished the book in two and a half hours. Mind you, it’s a short one–far shorter than Lamora, but I had plans last night. I was going to watch some dumb movie or spend time idly browsing shitty internet content. Instead, I found myself sucked into the tale of the orc Vy and her attempts to open a coffee shop. Low stakes, they said. I was concerned that the book would have no tension or conflict, but that is not at all what “low stakes” means. It just means that this isn’t a fantasy novel about saving the world. It’s about the fate of a small business! And I adore that. More stories about retiring adventurers opening small businesses and making friends along the way. I have another title called Orconomics on my list to read next. I’m looking forward to it. If it’s half as good, I’ll be happy.

February is the hardest month for me to survive, and I suspect deep down that it’ll be the month in which I die. We’ve never gotten along. It’s when the light in the world seems dimmest. This February is not much of an exception, although today is sunny and nearly 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so maybe it’s giving me a bit of a respite.

Mostly I experience February with an overwhelming sense of exhaustion. It wears me out and I find myself wanting to sleep 10, 11 hours a day or more. The past few days have been just that – long stretches of sleep broken up by bouts of reading. Throw in a hot shower every other day for some concerted thinking time, and that describes my life right now, minus some very stressful work days.

February is also the month I find myself least content with my lot in life. My dreams are rife with purchasing strange, enormous houses, or tales of travel gone wrong. February is when my wanderlust becomes an irresistible itch. The only thing that keeps my in one place in February is that my son is still in school.

But! We’ve made all the arrangements for a trip in March to Florida. That’s right–it’s time that we pay tithe to the Mouse. My son has patiently waited since 2020 when we had originally planned a trip to the Kingdom, and we can put it off no longer. I expect to purchase myself a very expensive lightsaber that I get to assemble myself, so it won’t be entirely to his sole benefit. It’s not my usual kind of vacation, but I’ll make do. Honestly, getting to take the kid places he’s never been before is almost as fun as traveling solo.

So, I shall grit my teeth and endure February as I have 44 times before, and at the end of the dreary month, we have a lovely trip as a reward. Life is pretty good, when I’m not burdened down with hallucinogenic dread from my Seasonal Affective Disorder. Today is a part in the clouds. I’m going to make the best of it until I can’t. What else can we really say to do?


I Like Big Kaiju And I Cannot Lie

I managed to get my eyeballs on a screening of Shin Ultraman and the first half was pretty much what I’ve always wanted in a giant monster movie. Honestly, I don’t really care about Ultraman himself. I’m here for the beastly boys.

The integration of the human characters worked so much better here than just about any other kaiju movie besides Shin Godzilla (which I also loved). When the extraterrestrials started showing up in the second half, I was much less interested, but boy was the first half excellent. More giant rubber suit monsters in my life, please.

One of my earliest memories that I still retain (or perhaps at this point it’s just a memory of a memory) is sitting and watching Toho pictures with my Dad. On Saturdays, we’d watch Star Trek, do yard chores, and watch 60s and 70s Godzilla pics. In those very early days (I had to be 4 at the oldest), my Dad spent a lot more time with me than I remember him spending later. I hope I spend a lot more time with my son–I like to think that I do, thanks to having a non-traditional work situation. I wonder what he will remember fondly about the time we spent together?


Friday, Friday, Gotta Get Down on Friday

Let’s pretend I didn’t l just write a post about how I fucked up, okay?

It’s Friday and that comes with great relief. I dove into my work week on Monday still not yet fully recovered from my terrible cold. I think the reason I have such a hard time with colds now is that it impacts my ability to sleep with a C-PAP. So not only am I sick, I’m also under-rested. Anyway, I hit the ground running this week trying to catch up and it’s fried me. I’m having a light morning of admin/meeting tasks and then I’m headed to the couch to rest and recuperate.

I’m really looking forward to watching Poker Face, Rian Johnson’s new TV show. And given that the kid is having a sleep-over, TV will be out of the question tonight.


The Innocence of 80s Films

Netflix has backed up a dump truck full of 80s schlock to the servers and we benefited last night. The kid, depressed that he wasn’t allowed to play video games because he had stayed home “sick” from school, was mollified when I put on the classic Schwarzenegger/deVito film, Twins.

Twins proposes that Arnold’s character and Danny’s character are the product of a government-led genetic experiment to make the perfect person. Arnold is kept and Danny is shipped off to an orphanage. A patently horrifying and traumatic concept, but the whole thing is played mostly for laughs. There’s rarely a moment of seriousness in the movie, even as deVito scams his way around town, duping people out of money and stealing cars. Arnold’s character is the picture of naivete, probably one of my favorite performances from him. His character in this is just sweet and well meaning. It’s refreshing from all the bad asses he plays later. I would not be surprised if he had a wonderful time making that movie.

The eight year old loved it, and couldn’t stop going on about how it was a “good movie.” I was bemused, but honestly, it’s not bad. It has some real lovely moments, and there’s just something charming about how vaguely innocent it feels in comparison to modern movies. There’s not much in the way of cynicism in it, even though there really should be, given the subject material. It’s mostly a tone thing, hard for me to put my finger on.

We followed up with the 1990 film Kindergarten Cop. There’s some of that feeling of innocence in this one, but it plays much of it as a straight cop movie until the kids come on screen, when it suddenly turns into a big budget production of Kids Say the Darnedest Things. I remember this one being a huge hit when I was a kid (“It’s not a tumor!” being an oft-quoted line) but honestly, after watching these films back to back, I think Twins is the stronger film. Danny deVito’s charm lends a lot to the picture which is provided to some degree by the adorable Pamela Reed (seem familiar? She later went on to play Leslie Knope’s mom!), but not to the same level of impact or importance to the story. Arnold as a double act was something special, and not something we ever really got to see again. It should come as no surprise to anyone that both of these films were directed by Ivan Reitman. He had the spark, and may he rest in peace.

Every time I think or watch or even talk about 80s movies, I am reminded of a memory of my father’s father watching old westerns on the TV (when he wasn’t watching sports) and feeling vaguely bad for him for having to watch such “old, boring stuff.” As a man in his mid-40s. I am fully aware now of the power of nostalgia, and I want to travel back in time and retract my private reaction. I get it. Nostalgia is one of those blessings/curses of getting older. I try not to partake too much, but I really do enjoy these movies and how they feel like the came from a much more innocent period in our history. In my history, too.


Intellectual Starvation

It’s a short one today. My life is so consumed by Open Gaming License fallout and such that I have been swamped these past few days. I’m rapidly running out of steam and desperately in need of the weekend. Stay tuned to the end of the post for a few miniatures too.

So I’ve been reading Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and it’s really hitting the spot. Reading it for 30 minutes at a time even has been giving me the satisfaction of a particularly well-cooked meal does, and it suddenly hit me. All of these months without reading real written material crafted with a purpose other than to get clicks has been starving my brain.

I am being a bit hyperbolic, but I think there’s something to this comparison, something in the nature of internet content in 2023 and the way we consume it that is thin fucking gruel. It’s addictive though, and so we scoop it up. It’s low effort, so we can do it for hours and hours. But increasingly, I am convinced that most of it is not only not beneficial, but is actually harmful to our ability to think clearly.

I’ve had to dip back into Twitter lately to get work related news and I find the site so repugnant that I find myself subconsciously holding my breath while I scan the feeds. I dip back out as quickly as I can. It’s amazing how only a few weeks away can make something you previously felt was essential seem completely toxic.

So at least in that sense, my 2023 is going better than my 2022. I’m on book number four of the year and showing no signs of slowing down. I feel sharper, and I’m noticing that my writing skills here are improving already. I do have some bad habits to fix, like starting new paragraphs with the word “so.”

If I have any advice to you, my six readers, it’s give up on social media and read a book. Jesus, that’s boring advice. But it is what it is.

Here are the four miniatures I painted last night – #14 to #17. I am particularly proud of the wet-blending I did on the axe. I’ve never tried that type of gradient transition before, but now I’ll probably be looking for places to do it all over because it’s sexy as hell.

Four assorted miniatures painted by Jeremiah Tolbert
That left-most dwarf was a crappy print and hard to paint, but I do like the other three.


Murderbot and Mini #8

I finished All Systems Red by Martha Wells tonight, which was an easy, breezy read, the first of the Murderbot series of novellas. I’m reading whatever I feel like this year to get back into the hobby instead of just focusing on what I think would “improve” or challenge me, but I think I may want to find a few things that push me harder after the last few books have warmed me up. I liked this and will read the others, but I didn’t love it the way many seem to love them. I hope I’m not becoming too jaded in my old age. I want to be wowed still. I hope I can be.

I also managed to paint this little murderous halfling/hobbit for our Frostgrave model pool. I’ve never succeeded in painting half-way decent human eyes before, but I think this guy’s eyes turned out decent! It’s funny how I don’t like these minis when photographed as much as I like them in reality. I had to shoot a couple of angles to really capture him. As always, the base is a work-in-progress. After all, it’s a goal to paint 365 minis in a year, not a goal to do 365 nice bases!


Pumped up and ready to fight God

There have been two large turns-of-events in the past few weeks that may dramatically effect my clients, and thus, my own personal ability to make a living. In both cases, they involve actions and the consequences of those actions by large corporations.

First, Amazon has decided to end its Kindle Subscriptions program. In the world of SF/F magazines online, Kindle subscriptions has been a dominant source of income that has allowed this space to flourish. Magazines such as Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Uncanny, and more will face very serious challenges ahead because of this. Even older trad magazines like Asimov’s and F&SF will be impacted, certainly. I expect many magazines will be forced to close if they cannot find adequate sources of income to replace the Amazon money. While I no longer actively write short fiction, this is a major blow to the field, and one that makes no sense. This is all about Amazon being a penny-pinching Grinch, and it does nothing but make little people suffer. A handful of magazines got invited into the Ponzi scheme that is Amazon Unlimited, but not all. And what can we do? Will Amazon listen to upset consumers? Nah. Why should they care what 10,000 odd magazine subscribers think about anything? They’re Amazon.

The second event is that the new open gaming license under which 3rd party publishers are able to publish material compatible with official Dungeons & Dragons books has been leaked. There’s a lot not really clear right now, but one common interpretation of this is that not only do they intend to place strict constraints (financial reporting, royalties) on OGL products for the upcoming new edition — they intend to claw back provisions given in the past for previous editions. The popular refrain has been, in response to rumors of an Open Gaming LIcense update, to say “well, we will just keep using the old one and old editions.” This leaked edition seems to say “naw. We no longer allow that.” In fact, they explicitly say that the new OGL is intended to stifle “competition” which is what they see the third party publisher as now.

The result of these changes will be like an atom bomb being set off in the third party publishing space, which has been rich and vibrant over the course of 5th edition. My client Kobold Press will most certainly be impacted by this (Note: I’m a contractor for all these companies listed here and my opinions here are my own and do not represent the views of those companies). I imagine my client Monte Cook Games will also be impacted, although perhaps not as much as Kobold. New royalty requirements alone could put people out of work or out of business. I’m not privy to any specific details about how it will impact my clients; I’m just reading the writing on the wall here.

My initial reaction is one of helplessness and fear, but that’s quickly been replaced with anger and a desire to burn down shit. As a life-long (seriously, 39 years of experience) player of D&D, this will be the final nail in the coffin for me as a consumer if this goes forward. Not only will I stop purchasing Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro products, I will stop playing the ones I own. I’m more than happy to switch to OSR products or any number of other creative systems that exist.

Also, it just really awakens my socialist tendencies. I’m so fucking tired of how publicly traded corporations only have to serve one thing under our system of capitalism – shareholder value. They can destroy the environment, the arts, whatever they like, all in search of quarterly profits to make stock ticker go up. The corporation as a concept primarily exists to protect individuals from liability anyway, so they were rotten to start. At this point, I say fuck all corporations. Ban stock trading. This form of capitalism is ruining us and many things we hold dear, just so some rich assholes can get richer.

I may not be able to successfully boycott Amazon, but I can boycott a toy company. And if this moves forward, I sure as hell will be. I suspect that Wizards/Hasbro has significantly overplayed their hand here. They will soon know the wrath of nerds — nerds with a million competing options available to them. Under the current system, everyone can and has been able to succeed. But under these proposed changes, the whole thing comes crashing down all due to greed and a typical corporate desire for control.

In my opinion, the idea of D&D is far too important for one company to control its future. The idea and heart of it will live on no matter what the current corporate owners do. But it’s going to cause some pain and suffering in the process, and that’s just dumb and avoidable. The open gaming movement may have to design an alternative that is open to all. And so we see that with Wizards, at least, all they will do is cut off one head of a hydra, piss it of, and see several more grow in its place. It was small and they literally had a monopoly on selling hydra chow. Now who knows what will happen?


man in black tank top and black shorts wearing black boxing gloves


Cheating the System

Don’t tell anybody, but I’m actually writing this in the past. I’ve been busy enough during my work day lately that I’m taking a few minutes while waiting for a download to complete to jot down my Wednesday post on Tuesday night. I don’t know that it really goes against the spirit of my goal to blog every day in 2023. I mean, i’m drafting this now, but who knows, maybe I will add to it more tomorrow. Any blogging should help habit form, right?

Anyway, here are miniatures 1 and 4 for the year. The dragonborn paladin on the left is my player character in my buddy Elwood’s D&D campaign, and the dwarf on the right is just something I thought would be fun to paint, taking a break from the goblins. Love that orange hair. Ginger dwarves are cool.

Miniatures of a dragon and a dwarf

On the reading front, I finished Book I of the Bobiverse series today. I’d been seeing this self-published SF novel mentioned all over the internet for a few years, so I thought I should have a look and see what the fuss was about. If Andy Weir and Earnest Clines had a baby, that baby would write something like We Are Legion (We Are Bob). A software engineer’s brain is cryogenically frozen, then scanned and used as an artificial intelligence to pilot von Neumann probes in the future. The protagonist is a big nerd and one of those omni-compentent engineers that have a solution to everything. The first chapter is pretty laughably bad, but like many of these novels, when it got down to the central conceit, it was very readable and easy to see why it is popular. No real ending to speak of, though, so maybe I’ll have to read the second one. I would only recommend this to people who have a tolerance for engineers that love the smell of their own farts like myself. I mean, I have a high tolerance, not that I like the smell of my own farts. Well, I’ll let you be the judge of that.

The book itself isn’t as important to me as much as the fact that I read it and finished it in two days. It’s been at least six months since I finished a book, possibly more. Something went weird in my brain after I had COVID and I just found it incredibly difficult to focus on books. I think it’s what freed me up to have so much time to paint, honestly. To get myself to build back up a reading habit, I’m giving up trying to force myself to read “great literature” and letting myself read utter trash all year. Nobody cares but me, and reading is such a pleasant pastime in the cold winter months. Given the brain struggles, I don’t need to make it harder for myself by assigning myself intellectual broccoli.

That’s all for this one. See you in the future!


white and blue wallpaper


Shirley Jackson – Memory and Delusion

I cannot recall having read any Shirley Jackson stories (something I am resolving to rectify now) but this essay found on the New Yorker gives a glimpse into her mind in a way that makes her entirely sympathetic and relatable.

It explores how our experiences provide fuel for writing, and how memory works for writers–how it is a kind of multi-faceted resource we draw upon.

The whole thing is easily readable, and I’m struggling now to not quote it in its entirety, but here’s one part that resonates for me:

That is one half of writing, of course. The lower depths, as it were. The other half is what I might delicately call information. Henry James got the idea for The Spoils of Poynton from a single remark heard at dinner, but he also had to find out somehow what lovely possessions looked and felt and smelled like, the tapestries splendidly toned by time, the thrilling touch of the old velvet brocade.

–Shirley Jackson, “Memory and Delusion”

You can read the essay on the New Yorker website. It’s the first in a three-part series. Found via a retweet of Glen Mazarra by Livia Llewellyn


Work From Home Tips From a Battle-scarred Veteran

I’ve been working from home full time for eleven years now. I’ve worked from “home” in Colorado, Kansas, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, and France. I don’t expect I’ll be traveling any time soon, but I’ve got the scars and hard lessons learned about how to work from home effectively.

Set Boundaries

If you can, establish a specific space for your work-from-home activities. If you’re a work-a-holic, a big problem can be that the boundaries between your life and your time working for The Man start to blur. What’s it hurt to check your email at 9:30 PM at night? Ask me when you start waking up at 2 AM and checking them like clockwork. It’s a slippery slope, and you need boundaries. We need rest and recovery time from being in a work mindset. Human beings need leisure as much as we need income to survive, so try not to sacrifice one for the other.

One of the most important skills you’re going to learn when you work from home is how to maintain a sense of work-life balance. Start right away. Set a space and set regular hours. Give yourself a schedule and stick to it outside of emergencies. Your sense of well-being will thank me.

Take Regular Breaks

The Pomodoro technique is the death of flow for me, but I try to remember that I regularly need to get off my butt and move around. Stretch, pace, and at least twice a day, I take a 20 minute walk around the neighborhood. It’s very easy, when working at a computer, to let your entire body atrophy. Remind yourself with regular timers to move. You don’t want to have joint problems or RSI or any of that. You’ll have more energy.

Don’t Take Accidental Naps

It’s okay and even encouraged to nap, but you can lose a huge chunk of your day to an accidental nap. If you sit down on your couch for just a moment, that can easily turn into two hours. Don’t kid yourself; plan your naps if you want them. Try not to let them go on too long, or the guilty feeling will override any positive benefits you get from them.

Desk Snacking

With the pantry only maybe a dozen feet away from your workstation, the temptation to snack will be there. If you can’t avoid snacking while your work, don’t be like me; don’t take the entire bag to your desk; fill a bowl. Chances are, you won’t taste anything you eat, and you’ll definitely not be feeling good if you finish off an entire box of Girl Scout cookies at your desk. Don’t ask me how I know this.

Get Dressed, Maybe

This one will be controversial. One of the great things about working from home, assuming you don’t have a video conference meeting, is that you can dress as comfortably as you want. You can work in your pajamas, or in the nude (I recommend against snacking in the nude, though. Crotch-crumbs are no fun). However, I find it’s helpful to building a work mindset to put on something resembling a work outfit. I do not work in my pajamas because I just don’t find myself concentrating very well, because I’ve missed a habit. Habits have a way of nagging us if we don’t carry them on.

A lot of what you’re going to be doing in the early days is building good habits to keep yourself productive.

Don’t be a Slave to Productivity

One thing that was hard for me to realize was, I couldn’t actually work and bill for an eight hour day. The truth is, nobody in an office does eight hours of work a day under perfect circumstances, and you’re sure as hell not going to at home either. Realize that there are human constraints on your productivity. You can trade health for productivity (both mental and physical), but that’s a bad bargain, my friends. You will always end up regretting it.

Don’t be afraid to take breaks to chat with people. Make a social media post. Read a news article. Don’t let your entire day become that, again, we’re talking about building balance here.

Be Patient

You will find a natural rhythm over time, but you’re going to have to be patient, and you’re going to make mistakes, no matter how many articles like this one you read. That’s okay. You’re only human, and each day is a new chance to get better at it. Have some fun with it.