Tuesday, March 03, 2015

My Lasik

I got Lasik a few days ago.  No particular reason. My eyes had stopped changing so dramatically and the idea of zapping your eye so you don't need glasses EVER AGAIN was appealing to me, as an eighteen-year-old.  But the surgery was so new, I imagined of Jack Napier's transformation in a back alley.  Now I'm thirty-three, and it seems like the procedure's had the bugs hammered out, even for someone with my dense prescription (I couldn't even get the cool glasses that don' have frames, just ear holders glued to the lenses).

So in November I went through exam after exam after exam, just about all of them some variation on "put your chin on this thing and stare at the blinking light for a while", I couldn't schedule a surgery until the end of February.  So I simply wait and wait and wait.  And then the day comes, me having almost forgotten about it.

More exams, signing consent forms, trying not to let your attention drift because the nurse is explaining when to put the eye drops in because if you don't your eyes WILL fall out of your head and start walking around like little Mike Wazowskis.  I was pretty nervous the days preceding because these are my eyes.  It's not fixing a broken finger or getting an appendix out.  This is one of my senses, one of the ways I perceive the world around me.  Perhaps the most important way.  If I don't have my eyes, what am I going to do?  What if there's an accident?  What if the guy who's done hundreds of procedures isn't there that day?  What if a fly flies under the laser?

This horrified me the first time I saw it.  And it kept running through my head for the last week.

They take you to a sterile room and lay you down on a chair between two large, amorphous medical machines with combinations of black and white casings.  One for each eye.  Without my glasses, I can't tell much about what's happening, except that I'm staring up at a circle with an orange light blinking, not unlike the dentist's light (that reminds me, I need to make a dentist appointment).  After some swabs with numbing agent and other chemicals (which I'm used to; because I wear contacts, my eyes are no longer very sensitive) they put in some kind of eyelid expander (which made me realize HOLY HELL WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME?)

I have no idea when the actual laser came into play.  I didn't see it, but I understand you can only see lasers in the movies.  I do know that at some point there was a machine smell, like oil or metal spinning up.  That was likely it.  This happened for each eye, and it didn't hurt, from what I could tell.  The only thing that really hurt was putting the eyelid thing in, and that was just pressure.

Then I was told to stare at the blinking yellow light while they did something.  I don't know what it was but my frame of vision was bobbing around like dishwasher liquid in a lake.  I stared at that light like my kids were gonna die unless I stayed glued like Boba Fett on a Star Destroyer.  They could have made it a little brighter and contrasting -- I lost it several times.  Thankfully, the doctor kept telling me "Fantastic, you're doing a good job, everything's going great" constantly through the procedure.  I needed that.  Also the Valium they gave me.  (Legal mind-altering substances?  Yes, please).

The whole thing couldn't have taken more than ten minutes, both eyes.  I think the actual operation was a matter of fifteen seconds.  After that was putting things back together.  Then everything was still blurry, I couldn't quite tell if my vision was fixed or not, because I now had clear, plastic discs taped to my eyes.  The pain gradually increased.  The sheet said I couldn't open my eyes for two hours, but the nurse said that didn't really matter. Nevertheless, I didn't dare open my eyes, except a few glances to make sure I wasn't tripping over the curb to the car.

When I got home, the pain increased pretty bad.  At the two hour mark, I tried opening my eyes.  But the thing was, I didn't want to.  I wanted to lay back and keep my eyes closed.  But I thought you had to as some kind of, like, physical therapy or something.  Note to future people who choose Lasik: you do not need to do this.  Just because you are allowed to see, doesn't mean you have to.  For me, I've never teared so much in my life.  I couldn't keep my eyes open for more than a few seconds.  Too early to think something's wrong, but frustrated I couldn't help the kids play Mario Kart or anything.

The next morning was better (and I was surprised how easily I went to sleep).  The pain was mostly gone, which I think was more from having my eyes pressed back into my skull than the laser.  I finally took the eye shields off, and... I could see!  It felt like when I wear my contacts.  My eyes still felt kind of dry and blurry, and things weren't as sharp as when I had my glasses.  Four days later and it's still the case, but it's getting better.  Nobody's really commented on the absence of my glasses.  Except my wife, who's thrilled because I never cleaned them.

My vision still isn't where it was when I had the glasses (although that could be because I have to put eye drops in every hour).  I'm still not eagle-eyed like my wife, so I'll still have to rely on her to read the road signs.  My daily life hasn't much changed -- I could barely notice my glasses usually, I had become so used to them.  But when I look in the mirror, I can see my normal face again.  It's the same as it was, but now... I'm sexy!

Monday, March 02, 2015

The Top Three and Bottom Three of 2014

When I rate books, I use the "desert island" test: three stars or above means "if I was stuck on a desert island and could bring infinite books with me, I'd put it on the list". If I decide I wouldn't bring it with me, it gets two or less.

Well, this year didn't have any one stars for finished books and very few unfinished. But also, not many five star books. I guess it was a middling year for me. That or I'm getting more critical.

However, I need to recognize a certain work: "Y: The Last Man". This, and another, were the only two things that got five stars this year. But I didn't count "Y: The Last Man" in my tally because it's a comic book/graphic novel/what-have-you. Is that fair? I don't know. But I do believe it's one of the best stories I've read. Five stars just for taking a high concept and executing it well. Now to the books.

The Best Things I Read In 2015


It's got clever plot, humorous characters, and a driving action plot. Even with it's biggest flaw -- trying to translate very visual action into literature (as if baiting Hollywood) -- the epic story stays down-to-earth with its main character, a guy with strengths, weaknesses, and quirks. The author manages to make a giant plot easier to swallow by coating it in YA. And the resulting dish is delicious.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz

There's something about this story that keeps me thinking about it. The story gets doled out in pieces, switching between different flashbacks, timelines, and perspectives. But the emotional ennui of being a teenager, the real-life details and grit, reminds me that it's one of the best YA books I've read. Sometimes being a teenager is just a matter of day-to-day survival. It's difficult to create a YA story that fulfills an angsty character without making him or her too whiny (Speak, Dante and Aristotle Discover the Universe). It's a fine balance that's easy to topple. But when it works, it stays with you forever.

Candy Girl

Naked chicks and sex. In my home state, no less. Nuff said.

All right, I'll say more. I think what struck me the most was the use of elaborate similes. At times, it was tiresome. At others, infinitely clever. It's not heavy, it's about a subject I'm interested in. It contains good information while staying colorful and light. It can be easy to devolve into cynicism and pettiness as I've seen firsthand (A Stripper's Tale/Tail by "Diamond"). I got a much better idea of the sex industry from this than other books on the subject.

The Worst Things I Read In 2015

The Sky Is Everywhere

Everyone seems to love this book. It made me gag. Fucking hippies with their fucking hippie problems and inability to recognize what are problems and what aren't. Combine that with a cliche conflict of "which boy should I choose?" and you've got a book that decided it was precious before anyone else had a say.

The 13th Floor

I hate to do this. This person is trying her best, I'm sure. It's just that I gotta be honest. The book is just not that good. Maybe I'm not the right audience. Maybe I have impossibly high expectations.

Vegan Vampire Vaginas


With a title like that, you know it's got to be good. Someone on Goodreads sent me a message, asking me to review it since I've read some bizarro fiction. But unlike The 13th Floor, I have no compunctions about writing this one off. If you solicit someone for a review, like reading someone's diary, you deserve what you get. Even wacky stuff has to keep a reasonable amount of characters, have a coherent plot, and motivations that make sense. It's not just some weird comic book dream logic with as much offensive stuff as you can stick in.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Top Posts of 2014

Yeah, I know this isn't exactly timely.  I got sidetracked by vacation and then super-sidetracked by trying to figure out how to cull the damn data I needed.

Once again, Morgan Smith Goodwin is the winner.  People love that red-headed burger-slinger.  After that, it's the "Analyzing the Disney Villains" intro, and then "Milk & Honey".  After that are newcomers Mother Gothel and Maleficent round the Top Five.

Nothing from this year even cracked the Top Twenty Most Visited.  Dr. Facilier's analysis clocks in at twenty-three and the next doesn't occur until 73 (Ursula).  Others from this year include favorite Disney animated moments (#112), analyzing Rourke (#116) and Snow White's Evil Queen (#120).

Here's what I can't figure out.  I received a significant peak on July 17, but I can't figure out why.  I didn't post anything controversial that day.  The traffic patterns don't deviate from the norm.  Everything looks like the same patterns as the year.  Did Wendy's come out with a new ad campaign then or something?  Did they add more MSG?

Get it?  MSG?

Friday, February 20, 2015

Musa Publishing Shuts Down

So Musa, where Merm-8 has been published, is shutting its doors.  They announced it via email to its authors today that, at the end of the month, all links will be pulled from buying sites and rights are reversed back to us.

So in six short months I go from achieving my dream of being a published author back to the beginning.  I won't have a book to show off and say "yes, I'm in the marketplace".  I can't point people to an Amazon page or promote on Twitter or anything.  I'll be back to where I started.

I don't blame Musa at all for this.  No anger.  They've been good and straightforward with me.  I've questioned some of their decisions and marketing choices, but nothing but love.  I thought they were doing fine, because they had hired/promoted a bunch of new people last year, so I thought the company was moving up.

The executives said that they hadn't been accepting any profits from the venture for four years.  They've put it all into promotion and company-building.  This is why I couldn't be an entrepreneur.  I can't imaging working so hard on something and seeing no reward from it.  Much less for four years. Imagine how the people around them must have been affected. You'd have to really love the industry you're in for that kind of commitment.  I hope they all find better lives out there.

But where does that leave me?  Well, I guess it's back to the query list.  No reason to let a good book go to waste.  I'll probably start going directly publishers again.  I think there was one site where I had some moderate success.  I might try them again if I find the e-mail.  After that?  Anybody's guess.

FYI: If you've been putting off a purchase, now is definitely the time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Analysing the Disney Villains: Pinocchio's Villains (Pinocchio)

Origin: Pinocchio (1940)

This movie's got four different antagonists and they all get equal screen time. None of them stand out, none are related, and none of them are particularly threatening.  But they all play a part in Pinocchio's quest -- to gain moral fiber. So I decided to try a quadruple threat match.

Motivation: Monstro is probably the most memorable -- he gets his own level in Kingdom Hearts -- but he's a being of nature. He doesn't do anything out of malice, just instinct. Honest John and Gideon are the Laurel and Hardy of street swindlers, a la Fagin and his bunch, although they're more malevolent (child trafficking). Stromboli does it for the accolades (and I can only assume puppetry was more popular back then. Nowadays all we got is Jeff Dunham). I'm not really sure what the Coachman wants. Pleasure Island's got to be a lot more to maintain than anything he could get from selling donkeys. Why doesn't he just go into breeding? I have a bad feeling he's not doing this for the money.

Character Strengths:  Well, let's start with the easy one.  Monstro is a big frickin' whale.  He can swallow people whole and keep them alive for months with the fish he eats.  It's handy when you're part kaiju, part prison cell.  (Con: vulnerable to Heartless).  Stromboli and the Coachman don't seem to have any outstanding characteristics, but no glaring weaknesses.  Aitch J and the Giddy aren't the brightest bulbs in the chandelier.  The Coachman demonstrates dominance over the two, and Pinocchio escapes their scams both times.  I have a feeling they could be suckered in by their own con game.

Evilness: I think the Coachman wins this hands down. One's just a pickpocket, one's an animal, and one's an entertainer (see Sander Cohen) But the Coachman is literally taking kidnapped boys to a private island where they indulge in sinful activities that turn them into donkeys. And he's doing this for no real gain. In fact, at several points, he is implied to be the devil, and his M.O. reinforces that.

Tools: Honest John doesn't have much but his cunning and connections. Stromboli's got strength on his side (although you don't need much to be stronger than a marionette, no matter what those Puppet Master movies say). Props to the Coachman for somehow keeping an entire island stocked with cigars, alcohol, candy, roller coasters, destructible artifacts and buildings. But Monstro is a big fucking whale. He can swallow whole people and keep them alive for years in his belly (despite that this ends up his undoing). Maybe it's my appreciate for Moby Dick, but you just can't beat the Godzilla of whales.

Complement to the Hero: I think it's fair to say that all four enemies are fairly strong in this category. Each has a purpose in the plot to teach Pinocchio some kind of lesson about ethics. They each play a part in tempering the little wooden puppet into a real boy. However, it's not like they all represent some sin or ethical dilemma. I guess you could make a case for a few of them. Honest John discourages Pinocchio from going to school. He shows that book smarts have more value than street smarts, because the teachers of street smarts aren't in it for your benefit. The Coachman teaches that a life of vice and indulgence only turns you into a jackass. Stromboli demonstrates the power of greed and vanity, but I'm not sure how much Pinocchio picks up from this. And I'm not sure what Monstro represents. Maybe something about wrath, although I don't think Pinocchio has an angry bone in his body. (Does Pinocchio have bones? Or splints?)

Fatal Flaw: The only character that experiences a downfall is Monstro. The rest escape their karma. No comeuppance for J. Worthington Foulfellow or the Coachman. Stromboli loses his star performer, so I guess there's something there. Monstro smashes into a giant cliff trying to eat Pinocchio and Geppetto, but he seems fine a few frames later. Not like a whale corpse washes on shore somewhere. Maybe it's the world itself that's the true antagonist.

Method of Defeat/Death:

Appearing in Five Nights at Freddy's 3

Final Rating: Three stars

Sykes (Oliver and Company)
Alameda Slim (Home on the Range)
Rourke (Atlantis: The Lost Empire)
The Evil Queen (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs)
Ursula (The Little Mermaid)
Dr. Facilier (The Princess and the Frog)
Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)
Willie the Giant (Mickey and the Beanstalk)
Hades (Hercules)
The Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland)
Jafar (Aladdin)
Shan Yu (Mulan)
Man (Bambi)
Clayton (Tarzan)
The Horned King (The Black Cauldron)
Mother Gothel (Tangled)
Cobra Bubbles (Lilo and Stitch)
Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmatians)
Madame Medusa (The Rescuers)
Captain Hook (Peter Pan)
Amos Slade (The Fox and the Hound)
Madam Mim (The Sword in the Stone)
Claude Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
Scar (The Lion King)
Prince John (Robin Hood)
Edgar (The Aristocats)
Ratigan (The Great Mouse Detective)
Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty)

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Snooze Button

I frickin' hate the snooze button.  I don't use it, and I don't think you should either.

First of all, it's the biggest damn button on the clock.  When my alarm goes off, I don't want it to come back, I want it to turn off permanently.  I don't want to get ready then, ten minutes later, wonder why I hear the radio upstairs.  Why do they make the "alarm reset" button the same size as all the others, but "snooze" is eight miles wide?  You have to maneuver like a blind man to avoid pressing it.

And why set an alarm if you're going to turn it off anyway?  On "This American Life" they had this one guy on who kept hitting snooze, even after his girlfriend tried to wake him up.  After he told her EXPLICITLY to wake him up at a certain time.  He said "it's like the sleep is better if it's past when I'm supposed to get up".  What's with that mentality?  It's destructive.  It's unhealthy.  How many people are you pissing off by your slacking, bad attitude?

Maybe I'm an asshole, but I say, if you're not going to get up, why bother setting an alarm at all?  Why bother setting anything at that time?  You're not getting more sleep, you're getting worse sleep for longer, wasting your life in bed.

I made sure my college girlfriend (now my wife) got up every day for class, no matter how much she complained about that she was a senior or that the grades weren't based on lecture or it was a class she was taking for a GPA boost.  No!  You get your ass up and get moving, every day, because you never know what's going to happen.