About Lance

The Renaissance Ninja is dedicated to his family and experiencing the world with them.

Year of Celebration—April

So I’ve sucked at Blogging for March, but it’s been a busy month, particularly with a family vacation to Cuba. Perhaps April will be better.

We’ll start with the days of the month for Year of Celebration.

April starts with Foolishness Day. Yes, I’m not celebrating April Fools’ Day. The ethics of pranking your friends and family are dubious at the best of times, so I don’t see the point in taking a day (or half a day, depending on your tradition) to celebrate something I disagree with.

However, I can certainly do something foolish today, something silly. I may even share what it is. I encourage everyone else to bypass the practical jokes and just engage in something mindlessly fun and possibly publicly embarrassing if anyone notices.

For the rest of the month, there are lots of things to celebrate. If you don’t like mine, make up some of your own.

  • 1-Apr-13         Foolishness Day
  • 2-Apr-13         International Children’s Book Day
  • 3-Apr-13         1st of of Dark Sky Week
  • 4-Apr-13         Vitamin C Day
  • 5-Apr-13         One Day Without Shoes Day
  • 6-Apr-13         Plan Your Epitaph Day
  • 7-Apr-13         World Health Day
  • 8-Apr-13         Cherish an Antique Day
  • 9-Apr-13         Name Yourself Day
  • 10-Apr-13       National Sibling Day
  • 11-Apr-13       Eight Track Tape Day
  • 12-Apr-13       Yuri’s Night
  • 13-Apr-13       James Bond Day
  • 14-Apr-13       Look Up at the Sky Day
  • 15-Apr-13       Rubber Eraser Day
  • 16-Apr-13       National Stress Awareness Day
  • 17-Apr-13       Pet Owners Independence Day
  • 18-Apr-13       High Five Day
  • 19-Apr-13       Day of Silence, Garlic Day
  • 20-Apr-13       Astronomy Day
  • 21-Apr-13       Kindergarten Day
  • 22-Apr-13       Earth Day
  • 23-Apr-13       Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day
  • 24-Apr-13       Hug Your Kids Day
  • 25-Apr-13       Take Your Daughter to Work Day
  • 26-Apr-13       Richter Scale Day
  • 27-Apr-13       Morse Code Day
  • 28-Apr-13       Great Poetry Reading Day
  • 29-Apr-13       Greenery Day
  • 30-Apr-13       Honesty Day

 Be well, everyone.


Year of Celebration—March

February had lots of neat days in it, though I spent quite a few of them ignoring the internet. A couple of small internet vacations helped me be more productive and active in other areas of my life. There’ll be one a week long in March, too, for a family vacation.

But that doesn’t mean the Year of Celebration ends or gets put on hold.

March begins with Harry Belafonte Day. Musician, actor, activist, Harry Belafonte sticks out in my mind first for an episode of the Muppet Show, the finale for which he sang “Turn the World Around” which, aside from being one of my favourite songs in any genre, eventually served as the inspiration for a story that almost qualifies as a novel. Mr. Belafonte turns 86 today, and he still speaks in public, arguing for a better, brighter future. Here’s a recent sample: http://www.democracynow.org/2013/2/18/we_must_unleash_radical_thought_harry.

There’s other stuff coming up, too. Have a look at what I’m celebrating and join me, or pick some of your own.

01-Mar-13       Harry Belafonte Day
02-Mar-13       Dr. Suess Day
03-Mar-13       Namesake Day
04-Mar-13       Grammar Day
05-Mar-13       Multiple Personality Day
06-Mar-13       Frozen Food Day
07-Mar-13       Alexander Graham Bell Day
08-Mar-13       International Women’s Day
09-Mar-13       Barbie Day
10-Mar-13       Day Of Awesomeness
11-Mar-13       Plumbing Day
12-Mar-13       Plant a Flower Day
13-Mar-13       Earmuffs Day
14-Mar-13       Pi Day
15-Mar-13       Ides of March
16-Mar-13       Lips Appreciation Day
17-Mar-13       Submarine Sandwich Day
18-Mar-13       Goddess of Fertility Day
19-Mar-13       Farscape Day
20-Mar-13       Spring Equinox
21-Mar-13       Common Courtesy Day
22-Mar-13       Goof Off Day
23-Mar-13       National Chip and Dip Day
24-Mar-13       Ada Lovelace Day
25-Mar-13       Tolkien Reading Day
26-Mar-13       Make Up Your Own Holiday Day
27-Mar-13       Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day
28-Mar-13       Something on a Stick Day
29-Mar-13       Festival of Smoke and Mirrors
30-Mar-13       Something on a Stick Day
31-Mar-13       World Backup Day

Be well, everyone.

2013 Convention Schedule

First off, if you see this twice in your feeds, I’m sorry. Because it’s relevant in several places, I’m cross posting it to both my author blog and my personal one, but a day apart.

That said, to no one’s surprise, I’m raising a group of geek kids. My wife is the token non-geek, she thinks, but has either developed geeky attributes as she’s adapted to the rest of us, or she’s just letting her inner geek out to play a little more. Either way, we’re a geek family.

And we like cons. Each of us for different reasons, probably, but a lot of those cross over. Cons are fun.

I’ll be attending four conventions this year, with the possibility of yet to be scheduled day trips to a couple more depending on days off and budget at the time. This is on par with last year for me, but with some differences as one of those was World Fantasy which I went to on my own and two were day trips.

But for 2013, we’re looking at this as a minimum:

We (myself and my oldest daughter) will be at Ad Astra April 5-7. This is mostly a lit con with some other stuff thrown in. I’m looking forward to renewing a few real world friendships, conducting some interviews, going to some cool panels, and having a great time with my daughter. Tickets purchased months ago, hotel booked.

On May 24, by request as a birthday present, I’ll be taking the same daughter to Anime North. She’s in love with anime and cosplay and it seems like a natural fit. Again just the two of us. Further, I have agreed to cosplay for the event. We will both be attending as characters from Soul Eater. In her case, the heroine Maka, and in my case Professor Stein. Tickets purchased.

August 22-25, the annual family pilgrimage to the geek mecca known as FanExpo (also, I believe the third biggest con in the world after San Diego and New York comic cons). Four days of everything geek, and I do mean everything. Whatever it is, you can probably find it at FanExpo. Tickets not on sale yet, but vacation time booked.

Finally, there’s a small con starting just down the road from us, Quinte Mini Con in Belleville on November 9 & 10. Shortest drive to a con ever for us. Both daughters are in, son debating, wonderful wife to attend if she’s not working. Tickets not on sale yet, but they’re supposed to be, so probably any second, we hope.

It’s always the Year of the Geek, but it almost seems like 2013 is also the Year of the Con.

Anyone have any suggestions?

Be well, everyone.

Star Trek Novels

Once upon a time, there was a teen aged boy who loved Star Trek. He watched the show every day after school, starting just a few minutes after he got home on the bus. This was in mid 1980s, in the days before Star Trek: The Next Generation, at least two years before he even heard rumours of a new series in production.

One Saturday afternoon, stranded in the grocery store waiting for his mother to finish shopping, on a spinning book rack near the cash registers, he found a novel with the holy phrase of Star Trek on the cover and the promising title of “Web of the Romulans”. In that moment, the universe expanded and he knew he could not leave the store without that book.

And he didn’t. I didn’t. And it was the first of many, many Star Trek books. For the next decade or so, I picked up every Star Trek novel I came across, eventually collecting the first sixty or so Original Series and twenty-five-ish Next Generation numbered novels and most of the one offs published as hard covers (though I usually waited for the mass market paperback). Throw in a few of the older books discovered in used book stores and, all told, I probably had something around 100 Star Trek novels in the house. And I read a lot of them more than once.

It wasn’t necessarily about the stories because a lot of them weren’t terribly original and some of them weren’t very good. It was about the characters. More adventures for each of the main characters from each crew. In a novel, you can give them a lot more screen time, see deeper into their thoughts and their world.

I stopped buying Star Trek novels after a while, trailing off to only the big ones and ignoring the DS9 and Voyager books completely. My tastes moved on to other things, mostly, but I’d reread one once in a while. Maybe partly for nostalgic reasons to remember my own youth, but also partly to stay in touch with the characters between movies.

Recently, delving deeper into the e-book world, I’ve picked some up again. I still prefer paper books, but seem to be able to read more electronically. Portability, ease of storage, convenience. Whatever the reason, so far this year I’ve read 10 books and 7 of them have been Star Trek novels. Of the three in progress, one of those is a Star Trek story, too.

A return in excess to my youth, perhaps. It’s still about the characters, only now I’m getting back in touch, and wondering if I started with the right book. You can dive into the universe almost anywhere, I think, but it seems like Pocket Books is attempting a Star Wars: Expanded Universe type thing, picking up after the end of Nemesis. But don’t quote me. That’s just an impression based on what I’ve read so far, and maybe things will change.

Or maybe I’ll get bored after I’ve touched based with the characters enough. I’m already easing back a bit, reading one Star Trek story while I’m reading two non-Trek e-books and a paperback, but I’m not giving them up completely. While I haven’t found one yet that I could say more than “I liked it”, there’s nothing saying that every book you read has to be awesome. Liking something is good, and I mostly like Star Trek books.

Because, and I’ll say it just one more time, it’s all about the characters.

Pick a crew, pick a member of that crew, and s/he is someone’s favourite, a great many someones. Pick another, and we probably all still like them. We enjoy reading about them. We want to read more, to see the universe get bigger, to believe in the power of the Star Trek future. We understand, we identify, we enjoy.

I’m going to step out onto a limb and say that in some ways Star Trek novels are the equivalent of series romance novels for a certain segment of the reading population. Fast, easy to digest stories but with familiar characters rather than familiar plots and plot points (yes, there are some of those too).

And that’s okay. It’s more than okay; it’s Star Trek.

Live long and prosper.

Year of Celebration—February

Well January was pretty fun and had lots of great little moments in it. February is a new month and that brings new celebrations. We’re going to start off with Serpent Day. Yup, celebrate the snake. Snakes are cool, and I don’t just say that because my oldest daughter keeps one as a pet.

Serpent apparently comes from Latin, meaning roughly “something that creeps”. Sometimes guardians, sometimes evil, often reviled or misunderstood, snakes are pretty neat animals, from how they move to how they eat to the wicked and scary poisons some of them have access to.

Oh and don’t forget dragons and sea serpents in today’s celebration, either. If you can’t find it in your heart to cuddle with a snake, spend a moment in reflection on the wise and massive serpents of legend. Or, if you like, your local lake monster, who’s probably a fresh water sea serpent.

For the rest of February, there’s a lot of stuff coming up. Pick your favourite or make up your own. Can you guess which of the below celebrations sprang from my slightly odd imagination?

01        Serpent Day
02        Groundhog Day
03        The Day the Music Died
04        World Cancer Day
05        Disaster Day
06        International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation
07        Ballet Day
08        Boy Scout Day
09        Read in the Bathtub Day
10        Umbrella Day
11        Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day
12        Darwin Day
13        Get a Different Name Day
14        Valentine’s Day
15        Gumdrop Day
16        Do a Grouch a Favor Day
17        Random Acts of Kindness Day
18        Battery Day
19        Set some new Writing Goals Day
20        Love Your Pet Day
21        Pancake Day
22        International World Thinking Day
23        Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day
24        Epic Poetry Day
25        Chilli Day
26        Tell a Fairy Tale Day
27        Polar Bear Day
28        Rare Disease Day

Be well, everyone.

Chimps in Spaaaaaaace!

I officially declare today to be Chimps in Space Day.

On January 31st, 1961, NASA launched a Mercury-Redstone rocket to do a capabilities test on the Mercury capsule. A four year-old chimpanzee named Number 65 was on board to enjoy the sub-orbital flight, lasting about 16 ½ minutes with 7 minutes of weightlessness. On his successful return to Earth, Number 65 received the name Ham (For a Chimpanzee? Really?) and a long, relaxing retirement at the National Zoo in Washington and then the North Carolina Zoo. He was only 26 when he died (average for a chimp is around 40).

Ham went up to see if it was safe to send people. During the flight, he duplicated pre-programmed tasks and had some heavy duty (for 1961) medical monitoring to make sure he was operating within normal parameters. The NASA scientists must have decided he worked out okay since they sent Alan Shepard sub-orbital only three months later.

Not the first primate in space, but among the earliest to survive the trip (a number of launch and parachute failures claimed early simian astronauts), Ham should be considered a pioneer, and certainly a hero of the early space age. The title of this post notwithstanding, neither the training nor the trip were probably all that fun for him.

Be well, everyone, and take a look at the stars tonight.

A Long, Long Time Ago in a Year or Two

Since the Mousketeer takeover of a galaxy far, far away was announced, every now and then, I debate in my head how I feel about the production of a new Star Wars movie.

I grew up on the original trilogy almost as much as I grew up on Star Trek, at least in terms of toys, and I watched all three over and over again whenever the opportunity presented. Yes, Luke is pretty whiny in the first act of A New Hope; yes, there are some inconsistencies in writing; yes, I would have preferred Wookies rather than Ewoks in Jedi; and yes, it would have been nice not to have any retconning done in the 90s. But I love Star Wars, to the point where I read the first few dozen expanded universe novels (and some of them were great).

In the very late 1990s, when we started seeing news and then trailers for Phantom Menace, I got excited. We all did, I think, the entire geek world, going to the theatre of films we wouldn’t have bothered with if they hadn’t been playing the trailer for it. For many, it was the movie we’d waited most of our lives to see.

And it sucked. Really, really badly.

Attack of the Clones was prettier, but worse. Not only was the writing horrible, but the actors weren’t allowed to actually act, with the possible exception of Ewan MacGregor as Obi Wan.

Revenge of the Sith started out better, but I started losing interest less than half way through and it was a long downhill slide as every conceivable item that might have been considered loose end got tied up, and most of them didn’t need to be.

When I heard Disney had bought out Lucasfilm and immediately announced its intention to start producing a new Star Wars movie every couple of years, I was cautiously optimistic. My first thought was that Disney could hardly do worse on the next three than Lucas did on the last three. I got a little more positive from there because Disney has managed some great stuff in the last decade or so, and they’ve slowly been taking over a lot of proven, awesome properties: The Muppets, Pixar, Marvel, and now Star Wars all come to mind. It’s hard to dispute the awesome of 2011’s Muppets. Pixar is mostly back on the uphill climb disrupted by Cars (the upcoming Monsters Inc prequel saddens me, but Brave quite makes up for Cars 2, which I refuse to see). And everyone caught the whole Avengers thing, right? Their recent track record is pretty good.

The latest announcement, with J.J. Abrams taking over the director’s chair for the first movie, leaves me a little less sure, but I’m not sure that’s fair. It’s well known I’m not a Lost fan, and that the Star Trek reboot of 2009 irritated me in a lot of ways. But in both cases, it’s because of major problems with the writing.

Lost was just ridiculously fragmented and confusing. I didn’t stick with it long enough to figure things out. If you liked the method of storytelling, it was probably fine. I didn’t. ‘Nuff said.

The 2009 Star Trek had half a good script and half something thrown together in a single sleepless night without the benefit of enough caffeine. It was well cast, well acted, beautiful, sounded awesome, and the opening scene was worth the price of admission, but it fell completely off the rails forty-five minutes or so in and the story never really recovered. I had a lot of issues with it, but, if you subtract a few really bad scenes, I can still watch most of the movie.

But we were talking about Star Wars, so I’ll sum up what I currently think about the next movie, and I don’t promise it won’t change in the light of additional information: if Disney hires actual writers and gives them time to come to terms with a good story, it’s going to be awesome. If they don’t, it’s going to be mediocre at best. Disney’s got a decent track record with writing the last few years, so I have high hopes. And besides, the world can never have enough awesome.

Be well, everyone. May the force be with you, and especially with the script writers.