Current Events

Creating Greatness

Posted Thursday, November 10, 2016 at 9:18 am | Comments Off on Creating Greatness |

In 2008 half the population embraced “Hope and Change” because both were in short supply. In the eight years that followed, hope withered and not all the change was for the better. With this year’s presidential election, half the population embraced the opposing party’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” apparently blind to the irony that both slogans spoke to the same thing.

It’s past time we faced some difficult truths. The political machine desperately needs you to keep overlooking how they’re incapable of producing the kind of greatness our country needs. They get away with it because our culture clings to the notion of the president improving things for us as a way of avoiding our own responsibility. Greatness isn’t a commodity packaged and shipped from the White House. It’s something you and I create in our communities.

The “Greatest Generation” was thrust into the position by world events, but their greatness came from rising to the occasion. We can be this century’s Greatest Generation. You and I can each work hard, be charitable, create jobs (or at least be entrepreneurial), practice our faith, help our community, oppose injustice, keep learning, and treat others civilly and fairly.

The country has a short memory, but as recently as this past August a part of our country rose to true greatness. Remember? In the aftermath of a deadly flood in Louisiana which destroyed or damaged more than 20,000 homes and businesses, neighbor helped neighbor in a massive rescue operation while the government struggled to respond. They did so without expectation of reward and without regard to race, age, sex, education, or income. Even after the rescue, with thousands of people left homeless, neighbors who had almost nothing gave to those even less fortunate with regret that they couldn’t do more.

That, my friends, is what makes America great and it can’t come from Washington.

Books, Miscellaneous

Scrivener re-revisited

Posted Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 12:17 pm | Comments Off on Scrivener re-revisited |

If you read my post from last week about giving Scrivener another try, then first I congratulate you on being possibly the only person in the world still reading this blog.

Now that I’ve been using the software for week or two I really look back and wonder what the big deal was. This is not hard. Different? Yes. Hard? Not really. Granted, in the 9 months since I first tried it the software went through a version update. Maybe the UI was tweaked to make it more intuitive?

Looking back, I think my biggest mistake was seeing those training videos and thinking to myself “Version 1.0? Well that’s not the version I have now. I don’t want to watch a training video with out of date information. Where are the videos for the version I’m using?” (There weren’t any.) Now that I’m older and wiser, my advice is just watch the stinkin’ video already. It makes everything click.

In my other post I mentioned what a tightwad I am. I’m not qualified to tell you whether or not you’ll get $40 value from Scrivener. That’s an individual judgement. However, now that I’ve worked with the software for a while I do see the value. My advice: take advantage of their 30 day trial. That’s a generous 30 days of actual use, not a ticking clock. If you only use it once a week, your trial runs out in 30 weeks.


Movies and TV

Limitless reviewed

Posted Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 5:26 pm | Comments Off on Limitless reviewed |

I know I’m late to the game, but the movie Limitless bubbled to the top of my Netflix disc queue and I finally got a chance to watch it. (Confession time: the disc came sometime back in December and sat unwatched for two months.) The basic premise is that a loser gets access to a secret, designer drug that lets a person “use 100% of the brain instead of the usual 20%.” On the drug, he knocks out a brilliant novel then goes on to play the stock market and broker a multimillion dollar merger. Plus, complications.

For the most part, I really dug it. It was a fun concept, and most of the movie kept you wondering what trajectory this guy’s life was going to take. However, the ending was another matter. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, now is the time to stop reading. Go rent it, watch it, and come back. It’s okay. I’ll wait.

limitless poster


Okay if you’re still with me, I’m assuming it’s because you’ve seen the movie or you have no intention of watching it and don’t mind the ending being spoiled. Here goes.

Like I said, for the most part I really enjoyed it, but the ending just annoyed the crap out of me. It was like someone waved a magic wand and told us to forget everything we’d learned about how things were supposed to work up until that point.

Item #1: Did everyone just conveniently forget the blonde woman he’d screwed and who was subsequently found dead? Okay, yeah, the doorman wasn’t able to pick him out of a lineup and maybe he wouldn’t face charges. But considering he’d blacked out and could barely remember the last 18 hours, is he really that confident that he didn’t kill her? It’s true that his stalker demonstrated a habit for stabbiness, but what was his motivation? Was it an elaborate ploy to set him up for murder? That whole plot line just seemed like a heavy-handed way to get the lawyer in a position to take his jacket to steal the drugs he couldn’t have known where there.

Item #2: Mr. McStabby the stalker. A) Maybe he should have started with a note or a phone call saying, “Hey buddy, I know you don’t know me, but I have a business proposition for you. I’ll buy you a really awesome burger at this joint down the street if you hear me out.” Maybe it would have worked and maybe not, but the whole stalker act was clearly getting nowhere. B) He stabs two guys in Central Park and ends up in the middle of an ice skating rink with blood on his hands and a knife somewhere nearby. How does he not end up arrested at that point? Maybe the girlfriend should have stayed behind and talked to the cops. C) So after killing two people (three if we include the blonde) in his hunt for these drugs, now that the boss is dead he just lets Bradly Cooper keep the whole stash they recover from the lawyer? Really?

Item #3: I’ll admit, it was a neat moment when he stills DeNiro that he’s been off the drugs for months but they rewired his brain so that he didn’t need them any more. BUT. It flies in the face of the other 9/10ths of the movie. The whole time we’re not just told, but we’re shown how dangerous the drug is. How the people who quit taking it look like the faces of meth before eventually dying of organ failure or brain tumors or something. Without some additional explanation, this ending flips the bird at the entire movie’s world building. Maybe the labs he was funding found a way to safely taper off or maybe they found a compound that “rewired” the neural pathways, but whatever baloney excuse we could come up with was still better than the hand wave we got from the actual movie.

Item 4: This one harkens back to number one. As a happily married guy, I’ll admit the infidelity bothered me. Bradly Cooper happily screws his away across the movie with multiple anonymous sex partners, all the while supposedly still hung up on his girlfriend. Okay, the sense of power that comes with the drug is seductive, yada yada, I get that. But he never shows remorse. If you don’t have the morals to feel bad about cheating on your girlfriend then you’re not a nice guy and I sure wouldn’t vote for you. Which brings me to…

Item 5: Now that you’re super-smart without the help of drugs and you’ve already made your $40 million, what do you do next? If you’re the protagonist though, you run for office. He was earlier told that he’s so smart that he clearly has what it takes to run for senate, and later “who knows?” Now at the end we see that he’s doing just that. Clearly what this country needs is a super smart guy to tell everyone else what to do, and he’s the guy for the job. Except, considering he just made $40 million in a matter of months, any sort of political office would be a step down for him. He wants to make a difference? Great! I’d like to think if I were super smart and incredibly wealthy, I’d find a way to make a difference that absolutely didn’t involve politics. I’d set up foundations to deal with homelessness or hunger. What you wouldn’t catch me doing is wasting days debating a pork-laden transportation bill or a farm bill in which 90% has nothing to do with farming. I humbly submit that anyone as smart as (ostensibly) the protagonist would know to stay way far, far away from political office.

So that’s my take on Limitless. For the most part I really did enjoy the movie so I hope you don’t take my nitpicks the wrong way. It had a lot of great things going for it. Unfortunately, for me the last 20 minutes undermined some of the great work it had already established..


Scrivener Revisited

Posted Friday, February 7, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Comments Off on Scrivener Revisited |

Nearly a year ago I caught word in my social media circles that Scrivener download codes were on sale for only $20 at Amazon. For those not in the know, Scrivener is writing software. For years it had the reputation of being the go-to software for serious writers, but was only available for the Mac. Later that excuse was demolished with a Windows version but then the $40 price tag kept me from taking the plunge. After all, I’d been writing just fine with Word for many years. In fact, I found the “track changes” tool absolutely invaluable in my writing collaborations with Ed, Jerry, and the rest of my partners at 12 to Midnight and I was afraid that I’d feel its absence.

But $20; that was a different story. For one thing, 12 to Midnight collaborations had pretty much dried up. Not that there wasn’t occasional work to be done, but by last Spring we had already entered a new phase in writing. To use a musical analogy, the band was still technically together but we were mostly working on solo projects. I wanted to focus more on fiction and Scrivener has a reputation for being a great tool.

And hey, $20.

Scrivener is sold via digital download, so I paid my money, got a download from Amazon, found out that it was just the program that validates my code and initiate the download from Scrivener’s site, and finally got it installed.

My first impression: boy is it different than Word.

My second impression: the tutorial is TWO HOURS?

I’d already bought the thing though, so I sat in bed with the laptop and soldiered through 45 minutes of lessons before deciding that I’d had enough of that and it was time for some hands-0n. I added info on my characters, messed around with organization, and basically poked and prodded. Then I gave up.

The thing was (and is), my writing time is very valuable to me because it’s in such short supply. After having invested a couple nights of my precious writing time trying to learn how to use the software, I was done. I could either keep trying to overcome the learning curve for new software to do what I was already doing in Word, or I could write.

Also important, at the time I didn’t have a regular writing routine so I was using whichever computer was surrounded by the least distraction at the time. One day I might use the laptop another the desktop. I vaguely recall that the license allowed me to install on two machines (but I may be totally wrong about that), but even so I didn’t look forward to passing files back and forth. Maybe if I’d paid the full $40 I would have been more invested in trying to make it work, but the same price point that made it worth the risk for me to try made it easy to walk away.

Fast forward to February 2014. Scrivener came up in a friend’s conversation in Facebook and I related a significantly shorter version of what I’ve explained here. It got me thinking, though. In the story I’m revising I’ve had to cut whole scenes, some of which has really great dialog that I hope to recycle. I didn’t want to delete the text but I didn’t want it cluttering up my Word document either. I recalled that Scrivener was designed with that sort of scenario in mind. Also, I’m three months into a new writing routine in which I write during my lunch break at work. All my writing takes place on my ancient (6-7 year old) laptop, so no need to worry about Scrivener licenses or passing files back and forth. Maybe it was worth another try.

So yesterday for the first time in months I opened the program. My first job was letting it update to a never version, which was easily done. Next, I went online looking for video tutorials. I found the video below, which did a better job of explaining Scrivener basics in 10 minutes than the tutorial I used last time. I wish that I’d had the patience to watch this video last year because I think it would have gone a long way toward reducing the friction I felt during the learning process.

If you’ve been thinking about trying Scrivener, I highly recommend watching this video. It’s worth your 10 minutes.

Now I’ve important my short story into Scrivener using the “short fiction” template and moved all my cut scenes out of the main story but still accessible at the click of a button. I then began work on the next scene, which I’d already outlined and added as a note card. Scrivener, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Current Events

Fighting Fraud

Posted Friday, January 3, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Comments Off on Fighting Fraud |

Medicare drug fraud is big business, milking millions of dollars from the system. If an independent news outlet can examine the data and identify suspicious prescribers, why can’t the government? Why doesn’t the government act?

‘Let the Crime Spree Begin’: How Fraud Flourishes in Medicare’s Drug Plan

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