The Geek Must Flow

Book Review: City of Miracles

City of Miracles (The Divine Cities, #3)City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

City of Miracles is everything I’ve come to expect from Robert Jackson Bennett–dark, entertaining, moving and altogether human in a way that most fantasy writing never achieves. A must-read unique story in a genre often defined by dogmatic tropes. I can’t wait for Bennett’s next project.
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Trump left the Paris Accord–I didn’t

I remember Earth Day in 1992 when I was second grade when I first heard about the rainforests. In fact, we had a whole week dedicated protecting the rainforests. My second grade teacher had an entire week of activites planned in understanding the rainforest and why cutting it down was bad.

My favorite activity was always turning the classroom into a rain forest. We would spend hours cutting out leaves from construction paper, hole-punching them and stringing them up on green yarn to create a canopy. I may have enjoyed the activity so much that my bed room strongly resembled a rainforest for years afterward.

All through elementary school we had a week dedicated to conservation and environmentalism. This was a bit surprising considering I grew in rural Pennsylvania, somewhat harshly (but not unfairly) referred to as Pennsyltucky. My school wasn’t exactly a bastion of liberal thought. But still, almost 30 years ago in a very conversative area, my parents and teachers understood the importance of conservation.

Not for the first time, I wonder if Trump couldn’t have learned something from an elementary school education.

I spent the next decade or so watching Tiny Toons and Plucky Duck as the Toxic Revenger, Fern Gully, and Captain Planet.

Throughout college, I was active in conservation efforts on campus. After college, I volunteered with Americorps doing conservation work in California. My first car was a Subaru, which I bought because of the zero emission plant in Indiana and high MPG. Every car I’ve bought since then has been a Subaru, including the short-lived Subaru hybrid.

Every week, my household recycling is twice, if not three times what we send to the dump. We compost when we can. We stay away from most easily disposable items. We don’t eat red meat for many reasons, one of the major reasons is the environmental impact.

I say all of this because this isn’t going to change. Trump making the incredibly stupid decision to leave the Paris Accord doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop doing all of these things. I will resist the Trump stupidity by … continuing to do what I’ve done before. I’ll limit my consumerism. I’ll eat sustainable foods. I’ll contain to patronize those companies that hold the conservation and protection of our planet in the same high esteem I do. I’ll avoid fossil fuels as much as possible. I’ll only purchase cars that have a high MPG.

I was doing all of these things before. I’ll continue to do them in the future, just with a little added streak of the #Resistance. Trump might have left the Paris Accord, but me and my household –we are still very much a part of it.

An Explanation of ‘Video Games are Better without Stories’

Monday, I took my normal jaunt over to MassivelyOverpowered in the morning and picked up The Daily Grind, which is a daily a prompt about something in the news or video games or just something that came up in discussion elsewhere on the website. Monday’s prompt was about whether games, MMOs in specific, need story.

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Scientists aren’t stupid, and science deniers are arrogant

The Logic of Science

Debating those who reject scientific facts has been a hobby of mine for several years now. It’s not a very rewarding hobby, and it comes with high stress levels and periodic fits of rage, so I don’t particularly recommend it. However, it has exposed me to countless pseudoscientific arguments on pretty much every topic you can imagine, and on each of those topics, I have found that not only do people with no formal training in science think that they know more than the entire scientific community, but in almost every case, they think that there is a fundamental and obvious problem that essentially all scientists have either missed or are willfully ignoring. If you think about this for a minute, it’s rather incredible. It’s amazingly arrogant to think that you can, via a few minutes of Googling, find a fundamental and obvious problem that essentially every scientist everywhere in…

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Book Review: A Conjuring of Light

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic, #3)A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Good action scenes and some good character development can’t overcome the trope-like behavior of major characters, overdeveloped but never realized plot-device characters, and a long list of frustrating unresolved subplots.

I was really excited for A Conjuring a Light. I feel in love with the first two books. Schwab created a deep world, characters with complexity that felt real and interesting, a casual treatment of sexuality, and a magic system was refreshingly unique in the fantasy genre. I left the first two books satisfied but excited for the next installment–always wanting to find out more. What happened in Black London? Why was the difference between Gray London and White London? There were so many great questions I was left with.

But I felt like the third book didn’t provide any additional insight and in fact left me with more questions. But instead of being engaging, the questions were frustrating as the reader is only given brief hints at what’s going on without any deeper explanation.

In the previous books, characters had depth and multiple dimensions and motivations. In the third book, those same major characters suddenly went 1-dimensional and flat. Interactions felt more like tropes than true organic happenings that fit with the characters. One such instance is a lover’s quarrel in which one party refused to listen to the other to the point of being obstinate as if there were raw, angry feelings between them. Expect were perfectly fine discussing anything not about their past as if they were best friends. They had moments of weird intimacy that felt incongruent with the characters build up. The whole book felt off from lack of believable motivation characters.

There wasn’t much resolution of minor plot lines and it felt like they just .. withered on the vine. There were allusions to important events (like Kell’s past) that were tantalized then dropped never to be revisited. Some things were never really explained, such as the role of Grey London in all of this despite Schwab making it clear that Grey London was important somehow.

Character motivations really flat for me. Both leading players and supporting players boiled down a single-minded motivation to the exclusion of any common sense whatsoever, such as Ojka or Rhy. If Schwab was trying to communicate a dogmatic steadfastness to a certain ideal, I didn’t get that from reading. There often wasn’t enough context about why a character was single-minded about something to make it feel authentic.

The book also introduced some characters that felt like they were going to be really interesting, only to have them serve their plot purpose and fade away. Supporting characters like Hastra, the soldier who’s better as a priest, never feel realized. Their backstories felt like something that Schwab started and then got bored with and never finished.

Negatives aside, the book does have its good points. The beginning of the story started off with a bang and picked up the frantic feeling from the end of the second book. The explorations of the King and Queen as characters felt satisfying and deep. Most of the action scenes were fun and engaging. The book introduced a a coupe interesting minor characters that I wanted to know more about and tantalized me enough to hope they appear in future works.

Overall, A Counjuring of Light had a few high points but they were overshadowed by trope-like motivations and flat character progression. There tantalizing hints at deeper meanings that are frustratingly unrealized. It’s entirely possible that Schwab was laying the ground work for future entries into the series, but the execution of the ground work was more frustrating than engaging for me. If the first 2 books not been as good as they were, I would probably be less critical of A Conjuring of Light.

If you fell in love with the first two books, the first one is worth the read. If you were lukewarm or just thought it was OK, you’ll likely find A Conjuring of Light. hard to get through.

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We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep.

William Shakespeare


Why I practice: Finding Peace in 2017

The events of the last few weeks have been trying to most of us with a conscience. Everywhere I look online is discord.  People are fighting every where–Twitter, Facebook, the streets, the Capitol. The US is in a state of a disarray that’s been decades in the making. We won’t come through unscathed. We are a divide nation, at war with itself more than anything else. Our friends and family are fearful for the future. We probably should be. It’s all so … big.

Too big in fact. If you let it, the weight of the challenge we face would crush you. There are too many battle fronts, too many issues, too many implications to feel anything more than a sense of dread when you think about how to push back the tide.

I’m one of those people who wants to save everyone and its just … too much. I get anxious, overwhelmed and everything feels so much more dramatic, impactful, important whether it actually is not. I become obsessed with ‘keeping tabs’ on things, which often translates into me reading too much vitriol online, which leads to me being more overwhelmed. Which leads to me being more anxious — it’s a cycle.

Then, I practice.

I stop and I breathe. I reminder myself to come back to the moment and to think about “What can I do right now, right this moment that will fix everything?” Unsurprisingly, the answer has always been nothing. I’m reminded of a quote from a wonderfully B movie,  The Core:

I came here to save my wife and my two children and… seven billion lives… it’s too much. I just hope I’m, I’m smart enough and brave enough to save three.

Whenever I start to feel overwhelmed by the world, or how to fix, I come back to my practice. I breathe deep, stop thinking, stop talking, stop worrying just stop everything for just a moment. I let my mind become that still pond of clarity. Then I ask myself, “What can you do to change what’s making you anxious in this moment?” Nothing. The answer is always nothing because I know I can’t control what’s happening in DC, or on Twitter, or in Congress.

What can I control in this moment? Me. I can always control me and my reaction to the world around me. There are terrible things happening, but right now, in this moment, there aren’t terrible things happening to me. I can choose to smile in spite of everything. I can choose to feel compassion for people who I feel are seeking to hurt me. This is what I can control.

But it’s not easy. I didn’t just wake up one day and decide this is how I was going to live my life from now on. I still get overwhelmed with the world and the hatred. I still get anxious wondering if it’s going to OK to be gay in the future. I’m still scared about what the future holds from us. But the difference is–I practice. I meditate every other day. I do yoga, I exercise – – I practice my mindfulness when it’s easy to practice, so that I can remember to practice when it’s not.

I have to keep bringing myself back to it. Some days I fail and I get overwhelmed and anxious, so that’s OK. Every day that I chose to smile despite the craziness, I’ve lived the kind of life that I want to live. Everyday that think about people I don’t like with compassion, I’ve lived the kind of life that I want to live. Every day that I look in uncertainty of the world, the discord and say, “For at least my own little corner, I will be calm and welcoming and happy,” I win.

This is not to say that I won’t fight for what I think is right–that we should be good, open, and inclusive. I’m just saying while all of this is going on, I strive continue to be at peace with myself. That my time and energy will go towards things that matter, and not being overwhelmed over things I can’t control.

In the end, I practice to be at peace with myself. I practice to accept my powerlessness in the grand scheme to remind me that I empowered in my day-to-day life. I practice to focus my efforts where they’ll have the best outcomes. I practice to remember that despite how the world might make me feel, that I am always free to live my life the way that I know to be good.

I leave you with a geekier quote yet, from the most famous and irascible kender ever known, Tasslehoff Burrfoot:

He said kenders were small because we were meant to do small things. ‘If you look at all the big things in the world closely,’ he said, ‘you’ll see that they’re really made up of small things all joined together.’ That big dragon down there comes to nothing but tiny drops of blood, maybe. It’s the small things that make the difference.'”

It’s the small things that make the difference. It’s why I practice.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 


  1. “Never be in a hurry, do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset” – Francis de Sales

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