Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tim Drake is a gift to humanity and I will fight you over this

Alright, so I was going to do a post about something important, like my realizations about how some things are intrinsically evil, but now I'm going to talk about comics.

Because there's a rumor going around that DC comics is going to kill off my favorite Robin and I'm bracing myself for it with tomorrow's comics delivery. And maybe they won't, and heck, the original Tim Drake has been gone for like...three reboots? But Tim is my favorite, I grew up with him as Robin and I may riot. I don't know.

And then there's this piece of goodness:

*grabs everyone and shakes them*



I know people complain about Robin not being a hero in his own right but these people are wrong in all their life choices and I will fight them.

Give me my small, genius child in live action. Give me Nightwing. Heck, give me Red Hood (though explaining all of that would probably be awkward). Give me Damian, though again, that would require a LOT of explanation and some reworking of the al Ghul's.

But most of all, GIVE ME TIM DRAKE. Give me THIS Tim Drake.

Also, bts video because I can:

And eventually I'll make the post about intrinsic evils.

Possibly after my period of mourning.

Wed ETA: Jesus, DC, what are you DOING?

You're going to make me buy comics on a regular basis again, aren't you? AREN'T YOU?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Locked Room Mysteries

I'm a big fan of murder mysteries as a genre.

My favorite set up for a murder mystery is the locked room.

In case you're not familiar, this is basically that the crime happens - generally it's a murder thought sometimes it's an abduction or a theft or something along those lines and it seems on the surface to be impossible.

The room is locked. There's seemingly no way for the perpetrator to get in or out, no sign of how the crime could have been committed and the criminal get away.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did this sort of a story several times in his Sherlock Holmes series. I'd say that Sherlock was my first detective, but really it was Encyclopedia Brown and then Nancy Drew. I wanted to be Nancy Drew for years, I swear. But I digress. Agatha Christie also has several stories with this (Poirot is my favorite of her characters, I never really got into Miss Marple) theme. I believe, however, that the earliest version of this trope would be by Edgar Allen Poe - Murder in the Rue Morgue.


Again, I digress.

But I love mysteries and there's something extra eerie about this sort of a mystery. You know, in most fiction, that there's going to be a sensible explanation for what happened. Still, there's always the thrill in the beginning that this should be impossible, that there couldn't have been anyone else in the room, so who stabbed the Earl?

These are almost the perfect intersection for my love of mystery and my love of the creepy, supernatural end of things.

There are not nearly enough of these being written, and written well, in my personal opinion.

I've stumbled across a sub-genre of it, recently, however.

Murders on cruise ships.

So, The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. This is a new novel and it was one of those, hey, you read The Girl on the Train, you might like this. And it sounded like I would so much so that I pre-ordered it in hard-copy.

And I did. I did enjoy it. So much.

Basic premise, Lo Blacklock is a writer for a travel magazine. She's sort of middle rung in her job at the beginning of the story, but looking to make her way up the ladder to be a feature writer. She gets the opportunity of a lifetime when the lead features writer is put on bed rest due to a complicated pregnancy.

So now Lo is sent, in her place, on a week long cruise on the brand new top of the line luxury cruise ship, Aurora Borealis. This is a make or break kind of moment for her career. So, in spite of the fact that she's still reeling from a home invasion (that we experience at the beginning of the book) and a fight with her long term boyfriend that she gets on the ship anyway.

She is nervous, on edge, and afraid for her safety even as she reminds herself that being on a cruise ship is possibly the safest she could be. After all, the ship is occupied by high profile men and women and there's no way for anyone to get to her on the ocean.

Then the eponymous woman in cabin 10 (next to Lo's cabin) vanishes. Lo is certain that she heard the woman being murdered, but when security shows her the cabin it's empty. Not as if the occupant is out somewhere else, but as if it was never occupied at all. Which is what everyone else on board insists to be the case.

Security and everyone else on board try to tell Lo that she imagined things, that the stress of her assault and the break in (the robber hit her, not her boyfriend, in case that was a thought you had) combined with the fact that she already suffers from depression (which she sees therapists for and takes medication to help with) made her unreliable. But Lo knows what she saw and what she heard. She knows there was a woman in that cabin and that she's no longer on board.

Which means that a murderer is.

And she's trapped with them.

While it's not a locked room, the book has the same feel. There should be no way for the crime to have happened. There's a highly controlled environment, with a limited number of people. There's the eerie paranoia of not knowing who (if anyone) can be trusted.

There's also a great deal of gas lighting attempted, and subverted by the fact that Lo will not put up with that bull.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Today has been a good day

A little over a month ago I had my yearly physical. This includes an ultrasound of my thyroid, since people with Hashimoto's (my specific diagnosis for the hypothyroidism) are at a higher risk for developing thyroid cancer or even just growths that eventually need to be removed.

The solution for this, obviously, is to have the thyroid entirely removed, but that's a surgery that's not really done lightly, given the position of the thyroid on your throat, etc. etc. It's not, from what I understand, a particularly risky or dangerous surgery, but I'm of the school that if you don't need to have a surgery you shouldn't have it. Any surgery carries risks. And there are other complications that follow, since your thyroid is actually rather important to your immune system and your emotional stability, and a bunch of other things you never think about until yours doesn't work right.

Anyway. On this years ultrasound they found a nodule that they decided was concerning. Concerning enough that they sent me for a biopsy.

I was supposed to have that biopsy today, and I have a follow-up with my endocrinologist next week. I've spent the past month quietly freaking out, to be honest. It doesn't matter how many times my doctor told me that the chances of it being anything serious are extremely low, or how even if it did turn out to be cancerous that thyroid cancer is extremely treatable.

I've lost a lot of people to cancer.

They always tell you it's treatable, in the beginning.

Sometimes that turns out to be a lie.

I went into the imaging offices today prepared to have needles stuck into my neck so I could find out what I needed to do.

Turns out I don't need to do anything.

The radiology student couldn't find the nodule that was on my initial ultrasound. The radiology tech couldn't find it.

The doctor himself couldn't find it.

It's gone.

Maybe it was never there in the first place. The tech who did the initial ultrasound where the nodule was found was a fill-in - the normal nurse had broken her arm. The imaging center has better equipment - this is what they do and they're the best place around to get this kind of work done. They had me stretch my neck out when the original tech didn't. The position of your neck can affect the shape of your thyroid (amongst other things) and it can make it look like there are things in places that there aren't.

But the tech, my primary physician and my endocrinologist all saw it on the initial ultrasound pictures.

So...I think it was there. Or something was.

And it's gone.

Today is the feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

I'm thankful, today of all days, that I'm back in my faith. That I had somewhere to turn my fear and worry to and know that no matter what happened, I had that strength to lean on.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Book: Australia's Strangest Mysteries by John Pinkney

Amazon - $2.99 or free with Kindle Unlimited
Non-fiction - Paranormal/Disappearances/Unexplained Phenomena

"DRIVER FRANK CLEWER sparked panic in his rural hometown - when he began to leave trails of scorchmarks and flames wherever he walked. 

The Baffling Burning Man's brush with the impossible occurred in September 2005, and was chronicled by TV news crews and hundreds of witnesses. Astonished scientists at the University of New South Wales found that Frank was generating 30,000 volts of static electricity: a charge powerful enough to melt synthetic carpets. 

But somehow he survived the mysterious ''√≠nner fire'' without the slightest lesion on his skin - the only visible evidence of the colossal voltage he'd carried being a charred hole in the knee of his jeans. 
Many media outlets treated the Clewer case as a one-off event. But SHC [Spontaneous Human Combustion] has been inexplicably occurring for more than 2000 years,with one of the earliest recorded events dated 52 BC. 

In this unique book, bestselling author and journalist John Pinkney describes the mysterious history of the' flames from heaven'' -a phenomenon which obsessed even Charles Dickens, who described it in his novel Bleak House. 

Pinkney also presents a new selection of some of the most tantalizing cases he has investigated during a lifetime's research: 

UNEXPLAINED DISAPPEARANCES, from the enigma of the vanishing heiress to the saga of the 'jinxed' ship, which disappeared with 130 people aboard. OUTBACK RIDDLES The desert aboriginals whose astonishing song saved trhe life of a dying woman 4000 kilometres away... the uncanny invasion of Lake Eyre...the monster that guarded an abandoned potato farm...the startling UFO √≠ncursion in Queensland's Isla Gorge. 

MYSTERIOUS DEATHS, including the fate of John Friedrich, 'the man who never was''...;the horror in Sydney's dunes...and the American divers'' diaries of death. 

EERIE PHENOMENA Strange Case of the Shining Crosses...Magazine Foretells Death of JFK...Riddle of the Tiger that Rose from its Tomb...Lost, on a Road Without Shadows. And more.

These pages offer you intriguing insights into some of our planet's most perplexing mysteries."

I fairly recently subscribed to the whole Kindle Unlimited thing. A friend accidentally signed up for their month trial and I am a lemming so I jumped on board too.

It's basically fabulous for someone like me who reads a whole lot and occasionally has trashy tastes that she's not willing to spend real money on. So, for example, there's a whole bunch of books that kind of look interesting but are only 70 some odd pages for $2.99 or some ridiculous amount of money. That's not a good deal. But you pay $9.99 a month and you can read as many books as you can read if they're on the Kindle Unlimited library and there are a bunch of them.

And thus my trashy, trashy heart rejoices.

So many ridiculous books, so little time!

Okay, there's some legitimate books on there too, don't get me wrong. I, personally, am abusing the existence of this library in order to indulge myself.

I found Australia's Strangest Mysteries in the manner of all true book nerds who are on an insomniac bender: recommendations. The 'so you read this book, well you might like THESE FIFTY OTHER SIMILAR BOOKS THAT ARE ALSO INSANE' feature is dangerous. Pretty sure this one started at trucker ghost stories and ended in Australia. So.

This book actually turned out to be less ridiculous than you might suppose given the subject matter and the fact that it is most likely one of the self-published variety. Don't get me wrong, I have a deep and abiding love for the fact that people can basically get published now if they want it bad enough without ever having to go through a major publishing house. After all, this is how we got The Martian and that is a glorious piece of science-fiction. However, proof reading is somehow the first thing to go when people self publish and that...that can drag the whole thing down. '

ASM (it's too long to type the whole title out, I'm lazy, sue me) doesn't suffer from the worst of the sorts of errors that come through self publishing. It's not full of typos and misspellings and weird formatting. There are a couple of things here and there, but mistakes get through big name publishers sometimes, so I'm inclined to let a reasonable number of these sorts of things slide.

The stories are interesting, if you're into the weird fringes of reality, though some are less 'weird' than others. One of the later sections is about the possibility of the Tasmanian Tiger still being alive somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Australia, and given how many new species we discover every year, I find that less weird and more a really nice possibility since it would be one less species that humans have driven to extinction.

Lake monster stories definitely fall better into the weird and wonderful category, like UFOs and highways (or other stretches or road) that appear to take people on a really extreme detour into...another dimension, maybe? Most definitely more weird.

The man who was, briefly, slight on fire and leaving flames behind him where he walked? Weird. Very weird. I'm fascinated and horrified at the thought of spontaneous human combustion, because there's no way to prevent or predict it, assuming it's a real thing and not a series of conflated events that bear nothing in common with one another except for fiery death.

My favorite stories out of this book are the mysterious disappearances, though. There's the story of a heiress who lived in squalor in the last years of her life (due to being a spendthrift in her younger years) and apparently just wandered away one day to die. Or the young adventurer back in the late 1800s who went back to get water with which to save himself and the head of the expedition and was never seen again?

I think my absolute favorite story, though, is that of the SS Waratah, a luxury cruise ship that vanished in 1909 with something like 220 people aboard. There's the plain fact that clearly, the ship sank. That is, generally, what happens when a ship vanishes at sea. The fact that they've never found the wreck or any part of it is not even that odd, given the vastness of the ocean, the fact that no one is really sure where it was when it went down, and currents, etc. Recent tragedies have driven home how difficult it can be to find anything lost in the ocean, even when you have a pretty good idea of where it crashed/sank.

The eerie part comes in with the stories of how the ship was considered jinxed from the start (stories that were told even before the ship vanished, cutting off the possibility of this just being people wanting to say that they knew something was wrong). The captain, by all accounts an experienced sailor, urging the ship line to take the ship back to dry dock, that there was something wrong with it that made it unsafe to sail for long; or the prophetic dreams of an engineer that was berthed on the ship but chose to get off and make other arrangements as soon as he could, in spite of the extra cost of the lost fare. His concerns were recorded - he urged other passengers to get off as well, but in the end he was one of the few who survived having sailed on the SS Waratah because he listened to his fears.

What could have happened that the ship was unable to send out any sort of distress signal? Why did the captain choose to keep sailing even with his fears that there was something catastrophically wrong with the ship? In the larger sense of things, why do only some people get these warning premonitions of doom and death? Or do more people get them and we just don't know about it because they never tell anyone else and fail to listen to the warning and take the knowledge of it to their deaths?

Over all, I liked the book. It never goes too in depth to any one story, but gives a detailed over view and more information for some of them. There's never really any answer to any of it, which is why I guess the book isn't called 'Australia's Most Solved Mysteries'.

There's a sequel to this one, Australia's Strangest Mysteries 2, which I'll likely pick up some time in the future. It's also on Kindle Unlimited.

I'm giving this one a 3/5 because I enjoyed it quite a bit and it gave me new fodder for my Marie Celeste-esque obsession.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Book: Under His Kilt by Melissa Blue

Category: Contemporary Romance/Erotica

"Jocelyn Pearson is determined to spend her last month as a twenty-something doing everything she's too busy or scared to try. Her imagination runs wild and then fixates on Ian Baird. He'll be working at the Langston Museum for a short stint as a consulting curator. He's Scottish. He believes sex is fun to be had. He's the perfect choice for a fling. She only has to get him break his rule about sleeping with co-workers. Seducing a man was on her bucket list...

Ian is no one's fool and knows exactly what Jocelyn wants—him. If she didn't work for the Langston Museum, he'd be more than happy to oblige any and every fantasy she desired, but she's the curator. She's sweet, inexperienced and well liked by everyone including the museum owner and director. Ian can't risk losing such an important contact for his consulting business. Not even when everything within in him craves a taste of her.

When Jocelyn sets her sights on him, there's no way Ian can deny her. They agree their affair will end in thirty days. No emotions, no entanglements, just sex. The closer the end date looms, they start to question if it's possible to walk away. They'll either have to come to terms of what they've become or stick to their original agreement."

*cracks knuckles*

Okay, let's try this.

I'm pretty sure that I heard about this book on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, which is a fabulous website and even more fabulous podcast. Even if you don't like romance so much, they're worth a listen. They cover a huge range of topics and they're hysterical and fun.

On the surface, this seemed like it would be a book I'd enjoy a lot. Both the main characters are mature, intelligent adults who have careers and are fairly well able to drive themselves as far as where they want to be and what they want to do.

Too often in romance you get a heroine who's been sheltered, blah, blah, blah so she can be magically virginal or at least so unaware of what she likes that the hero gets to show her the true glory of All the Things with his Magic Wand.

Sometimes you might get a virginal hero, but it's less common. Unless it's m/m romance, but that's a different topic and it's still not all that common in that, according to my experience.

I went into this thinking it would be a carefree kind of hook-up story, and of course at the end they'd wind up staying together because *romance*, but it honestly turned out to be a little too carefree for me.

Jocelyn and Ian get together almost from page one. The whole 'conflict' over Ian's rule about not sleeping with co-workers is more of a tiny speed bump than anything else. After all, he's a grown man who is almost literally helpless when faced with a woman who wants to do the do with him. Because he's so hot that never happens, or something. IDK. I wanted more plot.

The book is basically sex interrupted with random bits of life that don't really do anything.

They work at the museum together, but it's brief scenes and then back to one or the other of their apartments to work through Jocelyn's 'bucket list' which is just a list of pretty tame things she wants to do to/with Ian.

It's decently written, and I don't regret taking the time to read the book. I can't say 'buy' because it's free on Amazon. But it also wasn't very satisfying. I skimmed over the sex scenes after the first couple because they weren't all that interesting and not really what I was there for anyway. And since there wasn't much actual growth or discussion between the characters there wasn't actually a whole lot to the book. For me, anyway. It seemed very much like they both went from 'this is totally casual' to 'I want this person for forever' in the span of two or three pages. Character change without showing the development is not really the way to go.

I should say that it's also entirely possible that I became dis-enchanted with the characters really quickly and didn't give them much of a chance. Fairly early on in the book Ian talks about having taken his dog Sadie (whom he describes as the love of his life) to the shelter when he started this job that has him traveling a lot. And, I know that this is a fictional dog, and I know that these are fictional people, but that pissed me off.

I have a thing about animals, okay? Are you honestly telling me that he couldn't have found *someone* to take the dog? This is a fictional world, people, it would have cost the author nothing to say that he gave the dog to a friend. Nothing.

And then Jocelyn decided to randomly get a puppy, because Ian had had Sadie and abandoned her and Jocelyn had never had a pet before and this is not the right reason to get a dog, okay? This is selfish and childish and stupid and I have a problem with this, clearly.

Soooooo....I might not be the most neutral party when judging these two. Admittedly, this is probably a silly thing to get stuck on, but here we are.

Not a bad book, but not a good one either. There's at least four more books in this series, apparently, Under the Kilt. I won't be buying them, but they seem to have a fairly consistent 4 - 4.5 star review on Amazon and Goodreads, so other people enjoy them. Possibly the sex scenes are what the people are after, I don't know. I wasn't impressed, but to be perfectly honest I've read a lot of sex scenes in my long, long reader lifespan.

Rating: 2/5

Sunday, June 26, 2016

If You Feel Judged, That Would Be Me

I want to start doing book reviews on here again, only, you know, better this time. But I'm always torn between not saying enough about the book and possibly saying too much.

Maybe this time I'll be able to strike a balance. We'll see.

In the mean time, I'm working late tonight - the guy who usually works weekends is in Cuba visiting his family with his son - and listening to my podcasts. The one I'm listening to right now is Real Ghost Stories Online.

Basically, people call or write in to this podcast which is run by a husband and wife and tell their 'haunting' story. I use the quotes because sometimes I'm certain that these people are definitely making a mountain out of a molehill or are misinterpreting what is happening around them. They believe, so they believe that everything is a ghost or a demon or what have you. Which is just ridiculous, and I say that as someone who really does believe in ghosts.

Also, the people calling in clearly do not practice what they're going to say before they say it. Which they really should because my God, so many of them ramble and go on tangents and I would really like them to stop that. This is not, most of the time, a live call-in show. The calls are recorded and then played later, or the emails are read out loud by the husband half of the hosting team.

Anyway. For an example of people who are interpreting something wrongly (in my opinion), there was a woman who called into the show a couple of episodes back from what I'm listening to now. Her grandparents were apparently murdered and it was gruesome and horrible. After the murders, she started having nightmares about a 'woman' showing up in her room at night with her grandfather's head, demanding that she look at it. She wouldn't, and the woman would eventually go away in the nightmare.

The hosts validated her belief that it was some sort of spirit visiting her but reassured her that it was probably just a 'predator' ghost and not a demon.

Or maybe she's just dealing with a really traumatic experience via her subconscious. But that's not even brought up. Maybe I shouldn't blame them, I mean the show is supposed to be about ghosts, right? But if you believe everything that's thrown at you, there's no...standard, I guess. I think, if something has an alternate, realistic explanation then that's the explanation. It's only once you hit the wall of normal explanations that you can go to the supernatural.

I believe I've seen ghosts. But I also admit to myself and everyone else that there is a good chance that there are other explanations for what I saw or what happened. I don't go around declaring every bump in the night or speck of dust a ghost.

Because I'm a reasonable human being, okay?

ALSO, it seems like every other caller/writer on this story is an 'empath'.

That's not a real thing.

That's not a real thing the way Hannibal uses it, though I'll allow it since it's a *fictional* show about the love between two *very* strange, lonely men.

That's not a real thing the way they mean it.

Ah, Inigo Montoya. You feel my pain.

People can be empathetic. They can feel *empathy* for other people. But you do not literally experience other peoples' emotions as if they are your own. It's...it doesn't work that way.

It's not a real thing.

Then again, psychics. *throws confetti in the air* I don't believe in them either. So maybe my chakras are blocked or something.

Okay, that was a little sarcastic.

Still true.

Unrelated, I love how I already had tags for every random thing in this post.

I'm consistent.

Additionally unrelated. I never get rid of anything that might still be useful. So I still have my scarves and snoods and such. I've discovered that snoods are fabulous for doing yard work since I've grown my hair out. It's long enough that even putting it up in a pony tail doesn't get it off of my neck and it's too thick to do that doubled up thing that some girls do. All that ever manages is to make me cut the hair tie out later so I don't rip off my scalp.

Score one for the snood.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Caution: Be-Aware of Gators

I had to get up early this morning, after working late last night due to work based shenanigans.

Mid running around, getting all the animals taken care of, dogs walked, chickens fed and iced (we put ice in their waters to help keep them cool) and listening to Kellogg our newest rooster try to crow (he sounds like the worlds tiniest, saddest fog horn at the moment) I hear the news that there was a gator attack last night.


Here's a link to the story: Alligator Attacks Toddler at Disney Hotel.

This is just *sad*. This poor family is on vacation and this happens. And I don't know, I started by thinking that this is a tragedy that is no one's fault, just a...matter of nature being nature, but I'm starting to think that maybe Disney could have taken some more precautions, warned people about the danger better. But this is just based on what I'm reading in the news, not first hand knowledge, and there may be warnings and precautions I'm not aware of.

Disney has signs everywhere that the water is not for swimming because no matter how hard you patrol and attempt to make a 'gator-free' zone, the truth is that gators can wander in. They get up and walk from water source to water source in certain climates and times of the year. And they can just swim into this area, from what I understand these aren't self contained lakes.

Gators are stealthy. It's kind of their thing.

Gators are *everywhere* in Florida. It's a fact of life.

Body of water? Probably a couple of gators in there. People who grow up here just get used to it? Even people who've lived here for years get used to the idea that it is not necessarily safe to just hop in that nice looking canal or pond. Doesn't stop us from doing it, mind you, but we're at least aware of the dangers of our own actions.

This family is from Nebraska. I don't know if they've ever been to Florida before, or if this was their first trip, but there is no way that they were properly aware of the danger or they wouldn't have had their toddler in the water. No one puts their child in danger intentionally.

The one and only time my grandfather ever hit me was when I ran toward a canal when I was probably about this little boys age. He caught me and spanked me and I'm not sure which one of us was more upset, but you can bet your ass I didn't go near a canal again for years - I wasn't one of the kids jumping in to swim because, well, it left an impression.

I'm sure they saw the signs and stayed in the shallow water because they thought that was safe, because the signs say 'No Swimming'. If the signs I've seen in the news articles are accurate, they don't mention gators, just ask the visitors not to swim please. I've never stayed at the Grand Floridian so I can't say from experience if there are other warning somewhere along the beach.

Would the family have acted differently if the signs mentioned there being gators in the water, even as a possibility? I think they would have.

The articles all quote the authorities as saying that they're still holding out hope, looking for the boy. But, honestly, they're not going to find him alive. They might not even catch the right gator, if it was just passing through. A gator might not be a crocodile, though we have those in Florida too now, and no ones quite sure how they got here, so isn't that exciting, but they're still deadly. They're predators.

Earlier in the month they found the body of a man in the mouth of a gator a bit further north of where I live. They're still not sure if the gator killed him or if the man died of other causes and the gator was just feeding opportunistically.

There's a better than good chance that somewhere along the line, this gator was fed by people. Maybe not even in the area where the attack happened, mind you. Gators who are fed loose their natural caution around people. They associate people with food. And that's where attacks happen. Not all the time, but enough that it's a known factor. There's a reason we're told not to feed the wildlife. 

They haven't caught the gator yet, but they've caught at least four others (adding to the tragedy is that they have to kill the gators they catch - not at all on the scale of losing your child, but just one more thing) in the area. The one that made the attack is supposed to be between 4 and 7 feet.

Let's say the average weight of a 4-foot gator is 240 lbs. A 7-foot gator might be 420 lbs. (All very rough estimates, mind). That's not 240 pounds of human. That's muscle. Prehistoric muscle. The parents tried to save their son, and miracles can happen, but the chances were never good. It's always weighted on the side of the gator.
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