movie personal philosophy politics

FB Recap: Privilege in Back to the Future

Growing up gives you a perspective that can ruin all the good things of your childhood. I’m going to comment on Back to the Future here, so if that’s an integral pillar of /your/ childhood, you might want to skip.
books personal review

Books 2020


Paris at the End of the World




Working Futures

Bridge of Spies

Redemption Falls

The Secret Lives of the US Presidents

This is How You Lose the Time War

Cities: The First 6000 Years

World War Z


A Brightness Long Ago (re-read)

The Consuming Fire (re-read)

The Last Emperox

Star Wars: Darth Vader Vol 1: Vader (graphic novel)

The Diamond Age (re-read)

Murderbot 1: All Systems Read

Murderbot 2: Artificial Condition

A Memory Called Empire

The Invisible Hook

Target: Vader (graphic novel)

Renaissance Diplomacy


Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City

movie personal review science fiction

Meh the Force Be With You: Review of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Spoilers for the final chapter in the Star Wars Saga.

personal role-playing

Jauf, human fighter

Just Another Uninteresting Fighter

I’m steadily making spare characters for D&D 5e, partly to help me gain insight into game mechanics while I work on my Musketeers-inspired campaign, but mostly because it’s a fun exercise. I don’t usually do fighters so I thought it was time to give it a try. I’l say this: D&D 5e has finally done a good job making fighters into more than just dumb muscle.

Here’s his Level 3 character sheet.

personal role-playing


Update 2019 May 8: Here’s Jeribon’s 3rd-level character sheet.

I’m getting back into D&D, hopefully, and I’m starting with Jeribon, a gnomish rogue. In the best traditions of the Internet, I’ve just stolen this image (from ) until I can figure out one for myself.


Jeribon was a young gnome at the time of the Sundering (ten or so years old).  His earliest memories are of escaping the chaos and destruction by fleeing westward.  He has vague, nostalgia-tinted memories of bona fide gnomish communities, rather than the scattered and diffuse enclaves that exist now.  A lot of his memories are sepia and warm and, he knows, probably idealized.

Jeribon was the youngest of three children.  The middle child Amya (aged 35, or “teenaged” for gnomes) did not survive the passage to the west; her absence is a chasm between Jeribon and his oldest sibling, and was a millstone for his parents while they lived.  The eldest, Bero, had just attained gnomish adulthood (40 years) and had been about to embark on his own independent life when the Sundering hit.  Jeribon’s parents were middle-aged (about 150) at the time.

After some time wandering as tinkers through the west, Jeribon’s family ended up in Ironkeep, joining the small gnomish enclave there and offering their tinkering and inventing skills to the diverse population.  Jeribon’s mother eventually secured a place with a minor noble and the family settled on the noble’s land a short distance from Ironkeep.  On reaching maturity (40 years or so old), Jeribon undertook the usual gnomish rumspinga, flitting from enclave to enclave to learn gnomish culture in the diaspora.  During this time he picked up his scar and lost his earlobe, but he doesn’t talk about it.

A couple of years later he returned to the noble’s estate and settled in as part-time tinker and part-time archivist.  He and the noble shared a minor obsession with the written or printed word, and both enjoyed amassing a store of “wisdom” both obscure and trivial.  Bero, feeling constrained, eventually went off on adventures and he lost track of him.  Both Jeribon’s parents passed away a half-century or so after the Sundering – somewhat sooner than the usual gnomish lifespan.  Though they had found peace and a semblance of joy in the diaspora, the loss of the gnomish homelands had diminished their spirits and they simply didn’t hold onto life with as much gusto.

Jeribon remained at the estate through several more generations.  He spent most of his time squirreled away in the family’s library (ever-increasing, if at a slow rate), serving as archivist, librarian, and sometimes-tutor.  Quick to dispense what knowledge he has (whether you asked for it or not), Jeribon was generally regarded more with amusement than respect, but since his role as tutor was informal and backed by no actual power, he was remembered fondly by the various scions of the noble family.

Alas for them, the family fortune declined with time.  Almost imperceptibly, the noble line found itself shunted aside as the Iron Confederacy stabilized, recovered, and expanded.  Their rough-hewn ideals fit less naturally into a maturing polity.  Eventually, the line dwindled to a single female heir.  When her parents died, she was foisted off on a fosterage and the lands confiscated by ruthless, but entirely legal, means.  Jeribon found himself on the streets.  He had enough means to live comfortably, but his beloved library (which, after all, wasn’t actually his) was broken up and sold piecemeal.

Unimpressed by the niceties of the legalistic maneuvering, Jeribon made off with his two favorite volumes – one, a history of the kingdoms before the Sundering and the other, a compilation of swashbuckling fairy tales.  Although he probably could have found a comfortable similar posting, he found himself repelled by the thought of settling back into a nice conventional life.  He’s seen the powerful make the rules to their favor and break them without a moment’s hesitation, and he’s decided he’s going to be a free agent from now on.  And if along the way, he can liberate some of the ill-gotten gain from the powerful and shameless, that’s all to the better.

movie personal

Movies 2019

  • Aquaman (12/27/2018)
  • Bumblebee (1/3/2019)
  • Teen Titans Go! To The Movies (2/16/2019, Google Play)
  • Captain America: The First Avenger (3/15/2019, rewatch, amazon rental)
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier (3/16/2019, rewatch, amazon rental)
  • Captain America: Civil War (3/17/2019, rewatch, amazon)
  • Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse (3/20/2019, amazon rental)
  • Captain Marvel (3/21/2019, AMC Southroads)
  • Little (4/22/2019, B&B Starworld)
  • Avengers Endgame (4/29/3019, B&B Starworld)
  • SHAZAM! (5/17/2019, B&B Starworld)
  • Men in Black International (6/23/2019, B&B Starworld)
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (12/28/2019, B&B Starworld)
books personal review

Books 2019

A Song for Arbonne by Guy Gavriel Kay

This was a re-read for me, as it just became available on Kindle.  It in fact wrapped up my complete re-read of Kay’s fiction, which I mostly handled in 2018.

Grant by Ron Chernow

After reading the award-winning (and musical-inspiring) Hamilton by Chernow, I was moved to pick this one up — especially after a positive review by the Grant-fanatic in my life.  I’ve only read through the start of his presidency, but Chernow delivers the same unaffected but impactful style and brings his subject to life.  Incidentally, there are a lot of books about the Civil War; they often neglect the western campaigns. This book covers the War, of course but its subject requires Chernow to pay attention to that part.

The Prophecy Con by Patrick Weekes

Book 2 of the Rogues Of The Republic, a follow-up to The Palace Job

The Paladin Caper by Patrick Weekes

Book 3 of the Rogues of the Republic.

Taken together, these three books are a decent if low-impact fantasy series. Intentionally or not, they have a real Leverage vibe (especially the third one), although they’re not quite as polished as John Roger’s classic TV show. Con jobs in fantasy settings are becoming more common (The Lies of Loch Lamora, the Mistborn series) but they all seem to veer into straight up combat at some point. Weekes does a decent job moving the plot along and the (huge) team of players is well-constructed, with everyone getting sharply-drawn personalities.

The Three Body Problem by Cixin Liu

The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas pere

Solaris Rising Vol. 2 anthology

Tales of the Dying Earth by Jack Vance

A People’s Future of the United States anthology

Ancillary Justice by Anne Leckie

A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay

Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe ed. by Robert B. Parker

The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

The Raven Tower by Anne Leckie

Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang

John Quincy Adams: Militant Spirit by James Traub

An excellent biography of the 6th President, whose term in the Oval Office was in fact one of his lesser accomplishments in the fields of diplomacy and public service.

James Madison

The Clockwork Dynasty


The Collapsing Empire

The Consuming Fire

A Wizard of Earth-Sea

Fall, or Dodge in Hell

The Collected Works of Arthur C. Clarke

The Map of Knowledge



The Fifth Season

American cantos Health of the Republic personal philosophy politics

America is a Choice

It’s been two years since I woke up to a country I didn’t recognize, and I’ve spent a lot of time wrestling with what that means.  I suspect that won’t be ending any time soon.

Over the course of this administration, my social media feeds have been peppered with reactions to outrages that were virtually unimaginable (in my bubble) before — an accelerating dash toward authoritarian or even dystopian policies and attitudes: Endorsing political violence.  Calling for imprisonment without trial or even evidence.  Designating a free press “the enemy of the people”.  Caging children.  

movie personal philosophy review science fiction

The best thing about The Last Jedi

I finally got to see The Last Jedi (after two previous failed attempts, both amazingly sold out afternoon shows, a month after the premier).  I liked it a lot.  My personal rankings of the “main” Star Wars movies is now something like

  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. Star Wars (A New Hope)
  3. The Force Awakens
  4. The Last Jedi
  5. The Return of the Jedi
  6. The Revenge of the Sith
  7. The Phantom Menace
  8. The Attack of the Clones

But there was something that really stands out.  Spoilers ahead!

books movie personal review science fiction

The power of the dark side

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No, this is not a political post.  🙂

I absolutely tore through the omnibus Kindle editions of the Darth Vader comic (one of several in the rebooted Marvel line).  I guess it really paid off for Amazon to make Volume 1 free to Prime members because it hooked me fast.  I ended up buying Volumes 2 through 4 as well as the crossover event Vader Down.  Combined, they cost me about what a standard novel would, and they were well worth the money.

Oh, spoilers below.