Just in case you didn’t know…

I have a Facebook author page at facebook and a website at ericlahti.com.  My website has some free short stories as well as some book cover variants, the fb author page has just a bunch of random thoughts and stuff.  Drop by and say “Hi” sometime.

 

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Aiyah

Gather ’round, children.  Your crazy Uncle Eric has a story to tell.

First off, let me explain the title.  Aiyah is a Chinese term used to express a sigh or general displeasure.  I picked it up years ago while I was watching the tail end of Lethal Weapon 4.  I still haven’t seen the whole movie, which is a pity because Jet Li is awesome even if Mel Gibson is crazy.  I thought it was a great word and it somehow managed to work its way into my general use vocabulary.  In some ways it’s kind of like uff da, which also somehow wound up in my vocabulary.  Uff Da is similar, but Norwegian instead of Chinese.  So, there you go: you now have two new ways to express yourself.

Anyway, this story begins in 2002 with a cat and a cranky neighbor.

Anyone who has cats knows that they tend to go where they want to go and there’s not much you can do about it.  I’ve had plenty of other people’s cats in my yard and never thought much of it.  At the very least, cats are good for natural pest control and usually fun to watch.

In 2002 we had a cat who was a natural escape artist.  Open the door and, poof, he was gone.  He’d come back when he got hungry so we never really thought much of it.  Come early December and it’s cold and snowy outside and we see the Animal Control guy driving around, so we manage to snatch the cat and bring him inside.  Didn’t help much, since we still got a ticket and an order to appear in court, but it did show we were trying.

Yes, we got an order to appear in court over a cat.

Court date comes, we show up to defend ourselves and the Animal Control officer shows up.  Turns out he thought the whole thing was silly, too, and says as far as he’s concerned there shouldn’t be any charges and tells us to please do our best to keep the cat out of the neighbor’s yard.  He knows it’s an impossible task, but he has to say it anyway.  We all shake hands, charges are dismissed, pay the court fee and move on with our lives.

Over time, the cranky neighbor down the street dies.  His house gets sold and gets sold again.  The cat, who was no spring chicken to begin with, dies.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, my wife is prepping a demonstration of how to do background checks and types in my name like she usually does.  Normally, this returns zero results.  This time, however, my name pops up for having an outstanding warrant for my arrest for failure to appear in court twice in early 2003.  Over the cat.

Over the past 12 years, I’ve had two national security checks done on me, been called to jury duty, voted, registered my car, changed jobs and never once did this appear.  Turns out, the Metro Court has been getting some flak for not digitizing all their records and, in the last month or so, managed to get all their data put into the main database, including my data.

Now, to make things more interesting, the local PD has a policy of doing warrant sweeps every now and then to, you know, pick up the various miscreants in our society and keep them locked away from the good people.  They like to do these sweeps Thanksgiving morning, that way they can maximize the amount of discomfort you get by locking you away over a major Holiday.  So, had Metro Court actually gotten everything done, I could have spent last Thanksgiving behind bars for a crime I didn’t actually commit.  Good times, good times.

So, here’s what had happened.  Some clerk failed to note that we showed up in court the first time we were in court.  This led to two summons being sent out within a week of each other, both to an address two blocks from where we actually live.  Naturally, they got returned and no one in our judicial system bothered to look any further into it.  They obviously know where I live because I got my jury summons at the right place, but somehow or another tripped up on this one.

End result: I had an outstanding warrant out for my arrest for 12 years over a cat that is now dead being in the yard of a neighbor who is also now long dead.  I had to post bond to keep from getting locked up and the court absolutely refused to believe I showed up twelve years ago because they had no evidence that I had been there.  I’m pretty sure a lack of evidence is not sufficient evidence to prove something happened, but that’s just my opinion.  Had to hire an attorney and go to court, again, over something that happened twelve years ago because some city clerk didn’t do his or her job right.

Ultimately, the charges were dismissed and the warrants quashed (which means they’re supposed to be purged from the system), but since these guys couldn’t get their act together over twelve years, I’m sure I’m going to have to explain what happened over and over again to every potential employer and in every DSS audit I go through from here on out.

On the plus side, I can say I was a renegade from justice for twelve years before the long, clumsy arm of the law finally caught up with me.

Aiyah.

Women

A couple of weeks ago, well right around the last time I got off my butt and actually posted something, I got a like from another blogger.  This happens so infrequently, and I’m so immensely excited when anyone likes my blog posts, that I immediately headed to her blog to see what TK writes about.  Her blog is here, btw (http://chaptertk.com/) and it’s much better formatted than mine.  Honestly, though, I’m a programmer, not a designer, so cut me some slack.

When I checked out her blog, it took me directly to this post, an interesting look at feminism from a geekier perspective than I’m used to seeing.  Usually when you hear about sexism it doesn’t pop up in comic book conventions or other geeky pursuits.  And, yes, I consider myself a geek.  I read comics, I program computers, I play video games.  I’m actually something of a Renaissance Geek.  I was a geek before it was cool to be a geek and spent many happy evenings with my fellow friends playing D&D or Traveller back in my high school days.  So, I know from whence I speak.

Anyway, one of the things about geeky culture is that women have traditionally not been a part of it, but in my day we were certainly open to it.  Jesus, how old am I?  I just used “back in my day,” in an un-ironic sense.

In a way, after I read TK’s post, I kind thought to myself, “Man, that’s fucked up.  Why are people like that?” and moved on.  But what she wrote kind of pinged around in my head and I was reading reviews on Hack Slash on Amazon when I came across this gem from a mouth breather who shall remain anonymous.  At least here.

“Like I reviewed in Red Sonja, females in comics must be relegated only to roles of sex objects and victims. It is so lame to attempt to make them super at all. What a waste of money. Anybody want my copy for free? I need to make room for dust on my shelf.”

I’m hoping this was just a troll attempt.

So, that brought that post back to the forefront of my mind and I spent some time trying to figure out what it was that stuck in me.  Still not entirely certain, but something hit me, so, TK, congrats, you spoke to someone.

Anyway, after looking at the post I made about Men’s magazine covers a lot of people probably consider me a misogynist dinosaur, but I would have to disagree with that.  I actually consider myself something of a feminist, especially if you consider feminism from the classical perspective that says women are people, too.

Geeks of the world and, indeed, people of the world need to get over this idea that 51% of the human population is less important or less capable than the other 49%.  It just doesn’t make any sense and there’s absolutely no reason to keeping thinking women are inferior to men in any sense.  I’ve met women who are better programmers than I am.  I’ve met women who are worse programmers than I am.  I’ve met women who are better fighters than I am (and I’m no slouch myself).  I’ve met women who are worse fighters than I am.  I’ve met women who are smarter than me.  I’ve met women who are dumber than me.

See where this is going?

There’s an old saying that goes something to the effect of “If you go looking for something, you’ll find a way to find it.”  Go looking for the idea that women aren’t as good or smart or worthy and you’ll manage to find a way to prove it to yourself.  It will probably be a fallacious argument, but if it’s truthy enough, you’ll believe it.

Sure, women are somewhat different than men, and, frankly vive la différence, but the differences are less important than the similarities.  So, can we knock this crap off and start treating people as equals?  Especially in our own little geeky microcosm?

Now, I know something like two people are going to read this, but oh, well, I felt I had to say it.

Normally I’m above such things…

Indie launching a book was quite the experience for me.  For some reason, I thought I’d be able to just put it out there and throngs of people would come and hail me as the new king of stuff and things.

Yeah, about that.

Anyway, in an attempt to get people to find my novel through the all the noise, I signed up with Story Cartel.  For the next 21 days, you’ll be able to get a free copy of the book and maybe some other free stuff (like Amazon gift certificates or a Kindle).  All you really need to do is sign up (it’s free to read stuff there) and you’ll have access to all kinds of indie authors absolutely free.  Catch?  What catch?  It’s strongly recommended that you leave a review, but it’s not really enforced.

Get a copy here, and enjoy the read

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Dancing with the ocean

We spent most of last week in Oceanside, CA, enjoying the ocean and visiting Legoland.

Legoland, for those who haven’t visited, is an impressive experience.  The rides are mediocre and the lines to get on them on horrendous, but the sheer amount of things that can and have been made entirely out of Lego pieces is mind-blowing.  So, in a way, you really get two trips to Legoland: one is the experience of waiting an hour for a two minute ride, the other is getting a chance to see just how creative you can actually be if you set your mind to it.Image

I like to think Einstein would find a sculpture of his face made entirely out of little pieces of interlocking plastic blocks somehow fitting.  No pun intended.  In a way, Lego sculpture harkens back to the days of 8 bit graphics programming.  It’s a way of taking chunky pixel blocks and making something that looks smooth out of them.  My first programming was done in BASIC and Logo, both of which produced 8 bit graphics.  Logo wasn’t hard to produce graphics and animations in, but BASIC was pretty nightmarish.  Anyway, end result is I looked at the Lego sculptures of giant spiders and Einstein heads and playful foxes and Star Wars scenes through the eyes of a programmer.  It made me wonder if Lego will ever make a set based on characters from the old 8 bit games.

I’d send the idea to them, but I know they won’t accept any external ideas.  Last year, I had an idea for a Lego series: Lucha Libre wrestlers fighting for freedom.  There were all kinds of places Lego could have taken this idea.  Central American folklore is chock full of colorful characters and monsters that could have been used for heroes and villains.  It would be kind of like Ninjago, only with Mexican wrestlers and chupacabras.  It would have been epic.

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Imagine this guy as a minifig.  That’s Fire, by the way, and he actually set his gloves on fire for the photo.

Alas, a Lego rep told me they have a group internal to the organization that comes up with all their ideas.  Oh, well, I can still dream, right?

So, back to Legoland.  It’s a spectacle, to be sure, but it’s also very different from the Lego I grew up with.  Sure, the kits were always there, but the emphasis was always on creativity and new ways to connect those chunky blocks into new and exciting toys.  Now it feels like Lego is more interested in collectors and fanboys.  The sheer amount of kits out there is amazing and the way people collect them just to watch them increase in value is disheartening.  They’re toys, they should be played with, not stuck on someone’s shelf.

We also spent some time on the beach.  Oceanside was pretty damned chilly last week.  The air temperature hovered right around 62F to 65F and the ocean was in the same range.  Doesn’t sound too bad, but try taking a dip in a 60 degree ocean sometime.

Still, my Viking blood called out to me and I spent the better part of an hour dancing with the ocean, ducking under breakers, riding swells, getting knocked over and generally having a great time.  I firmly believe if you’re near the ocean you should take some time to swim in the ocean, even if it means it will take you four or five hours to warm back up again.  Which, coincidentally, is exactly how long it took me to change from bluish back to my normal pinkish.

During this time, my son got his first chance to play in the ocean.  Me being me, I took the opportunity to give him an object lesson in Kenpo’s horse stance.  For those of you unfamiliar with the horse stance, stand with your feet slightly more than shoulder width apart, bend your knees and drop a little.  It’s a common stance in most martial arts and, once your legs get used to, it gives you a stable stance that’s easy to move around in, but hard to push you out of.

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Yes, that’s Elvis Presley and Ed Parker.  Elvis was a black belt in Kenpo and actually trained under Ed Parker, the man who brought Kenpo to the mainland.  I’ve seen some videos of Elvis practicing and I can’t say I was overly impressed, but he was a black belt.  Presley’s stance is way too wide to be really effective, but Parker’s is pretty spot on.

So, my son and I are in the waves up to our waists and he keeps getting knocked around by the breakers until I told him to use his horse stance.  Voila!  He finds he can handle the smaller waves pretty easily now.

The differences between Legoland and the ocean are, obviously, pretty staggering.  Legoland is exactly what Lego wants you to see.  It’s amazing, but it’s a programmed and neatly ordered kind of amazing.  The ocean is amazing for it’s sheer, raw, natural power and while I was playing in the waves I realized I like the raw power over the programmed experience.

In some ways, this is what I was trying to get to with my last post, even thought it probably didn’t come across as anything other misongeny.  There was a time in this country where we sought out the adventure, now it seems like we seek out the programmed experience.  At one point we wanted to find the new and exciting and now we just want the latest trend.  Instead of finding our own way, we let someone else decide what we need.

Watching people going to and from the beach was something of an eye opener for me.  I saw a guy on a bicycle riding his dog down to the beach.  He’d built a platform on the top bar of his bike so his dog, an extremely happy looking pit bull, could ride up front and hang her paws over the handle bars.  I also saw a girl with lavender hair and a lace dress trucking it down the sidewalk on beach cruiser.  Her dress kept trying to get stuck in the wheel and she just kept moving it out of the way and carrying on.  Both of them changed the rules and did what they wanted and everything seemed to work out just fine for them.

Kind of made me want to tell my office job to piss off and move to the beach and live for a little while.  Maybe I could be like Fire.  I’m a pretty big guy and decent fighter.

Or maybe I’ll just grab my skateboard and take my 43 old body out for a spin.  You’re never too old to have some fun.