November 16, 2012

13 Questions: Leah Rhyne, Author of Undead America

Simple questions often prompt interesting answers, so with this in mind I created a list of thirteen questions for a new interview series. Some of the questions I borrowed from the Proust and Pivot questionnaires, and others are my own.

Leah Rhyne's first novel, Undead America: Zombie Days, Campfire Nights, is getting positive reviews on Amazon and is a fast-paced, fun read. Full disclosure: the author is my wife and a contributor to this site, but even if is she wasn't, I'd still be a fan, and I'm glad she had time to answer a few questions. chart Australian Dollar to Canadian Dollar

What is your favorite book?

I'm going to pretend that all the "favorite" questions are plural, because who can pick just one? Definitely not me.  So...on my list for books:

To Kill a Mockingbird
Pride and Prejudice
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (seriously - it's LOL-worthy)
The Shining

I've also read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl probably at least 30 times...seriously, I've read it a couple times a year since I was about 12. It's had a big influence on me, and definitely informs a lot of my writing.  But I always hate calling it one of my "favorite" books because...yeah, the story of a young, Jewish girl trying (and ultimately failing) to survive the Holocaust? Shouldn't be on a "favorite" list, probably. chart Australian Dollar Canadian Dollar

What is your favorite album?

For a girl who wasn't all that into music until college, I have a bunch of favorites. I'll break them down by genre, I guess.

Jazz: Kind of Blue (Miles Davis)
Older stuff: Anything Simon and Garfunkel, or Van Morrison's Moondance
Newer stuff: I am madly in love with The Avett Brothers, Mumford and Sons and The Black Keys right now.
Beatles album: Abbey Road

What is your favorite film? 

The Princess Bride
Indiana Jones (first three)
Back to the Future (all)
Star Wars (original three)
And I really like superhero movies...and horror movies.
My favorite zombie flick is Dawn of the Dead.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

When people complain about things, but don't try to change them. I work my arse off trying to make my life what I want it to can anyone else.  Don't like it? FIX IT. chart Australian Dollar/Canadian Dollar

What is your favorite place?

Manhattan, London, or my own red couch.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Oh, man, I wish I could sing. Sadly, my singing voice breaks glasses. (OK, slight exaggeration, but it's terrible.)

I also always wanted to be an actor.

And, well, honestly...writing is it. It's what I want to be when I grow up. Can't think of much else these days.

What is your biggest indulgence? 

Coffee, red wine, and chocolate - also, hugs and kisses from my daughter. I can never get enough of those.

What is your favorite food?

Don't But pizza from New York City, preferably from a little place that used to be in Penn Station - I remember stopping there all the time before heading back home after a trip into the city, when the munchies would hit right before the train arrived. That was the best pizza in the world. I wish I knew the name of it.

What is your favorite word?

Probably the F-word. I use it a lot. Or else, for a cleaner version, love. And Zoe. And (gasp!) Charles.

What is your least favorite word?

The c-word. I can't say it, can't even type it. It makes me blush.

Who do you least respect?

Sadistic dictators. They scare me. 

Who do you most respect?

Right now? Our President. I believe he's really trying to do what's right for our country, and the world. Does that sound cheesy? Maybe so, but I believe it.

What When and where did you answer these questions?

2:05-2:34 a.m. Thursday, November 15, 2012, sitting on my red couch in my house...I can't sleep and this seemed like a fun thing to do.

Thanks for having me!!

October 27, 2012

Undead America Now Available

On Halloween, MuseItUp Publishing released Leah Rhyne's debut novel, Undead America, which is now available on Amazon.

October 14, 2012

Why I Support President Obama

A friend of mine asked me why I support President Obama. Here is my answer:

As a preface, I think there's a stark contrast between between President Obama and Governor Romney, in regards to honesty, conviction and consistency. I think anyone who has watched Romney over the past few years knows he changes his opinions based on the moment, so if he were President, I don't think anyone knows how he would govern -- not even Romney.

In regards to President Obama, I don't agree with him on every issue, and he's let me down on occasion, but, overall, he's tried very hard to fulfill his 2008 campaign promises. If you look at the numbers, he has kept (or made compromises to keep) more than 50% of his promises, and another 20% are in the works. He has broken 17%, but that's not bad when you look at historical data. PolitiFact has all the numbers, if you want to see the details.

President Obama thinks about the long view and doesn't always do what's politically advantageous in the short-term. He takes time to think issues through and doesn't shy away from nuance. This is why he's not the best debater. He doesn't think or talk in soundbites. I like this about him, even though he gets beat up for it on occasion.

When Obama took office, he inherited a mess, which he has improved bit-by-bit, once again, thinking about the long view. It will take more than four years to turn this damaged ship around, and I think he's earned the chance to finish what he has begun. 

He saved the American auto industry and bolstered the economy through stimulus packages. There's debate around whether he did too much or too little in these regards, but I think he found a solid middle-ground. 

In regards to Obamacare, there are a lot of great benefits. Will it get tweaked and improved over time? Yes, but The Affordable Care Act is a good (if imperfect) start. Insurance will cover more people, which will help negate ER healthcare that is both expensive and ineffective. When LBJ signed Medicare into law in 1965 there was exaggerated talk of socialism, but, in time, LBJ was on the right side of history, and I think President Obama will be too.

When it comes to battling terrorism, the facts stand for themselves. Osama bin Laden and countless other terrorists are dead, and President Obama's resolve hasn't wavered. Also, he brought our soldiers home from Iraq, tightened sanctions against Iran and has a plan to extract the U.S. from Afghanistan. And how he handled these actions improved America's standing in the world, which took a beating during the unilateral Bush years. 

Regarding social issues, he ended DADT, pushed back on DOMA and backed gay marriage (although Biden forced his hand here). I know some people disagree with this one because of their religious beliefs, and here's where an important fact surfaces about my political views. Years ago, I realized I had  to step outside my own opinions and worldview when it comes to law. You have to view issues from multiples points of view and always remember do unto others. I'm not gay and rights afforded to gay couples don't impact me personally, but they do impact the lives of many hard-working, tax-paying Americans (not to mention many of my friends). I would never condone a law that forced a church to go against its tenets and marry a gay couple, but I wholeheartedly support civil marriages because it's the fair thing to do. Equality is equality.

In addition, President Obama passed Wall Street reform, helped oust Gaddafi, did away with torture, expanded Pell Grants, upped fuel-efficiency standards and increased support for veterans.

Also, Joe Biden says things like malarkey.

June 12, 2012

POrtal: Terminal Velocity

Well done, but I was hoping for Cake.

January 17, 2012

Jake Barnett, Thirteen-Year-Old College Kid

Here's an interesting story and interview by Morley Safer of 60 Minutes regarding Jake Barnet, a thirteen-year-old math and science prodigy. Seems like a good kid.

And here's the 60 Minutes Overtime video:

Andrew Sullivan Discusses President Obama

In this week's issue of Newsweek, Andrew Sullivan makes his argument for President Obama's reelection. Despite the off-putting cover headline (that Sullivan didn't write), his arguments are measured and fair. Sullivan's story, How Obama's Long Game Will Outsmart His Critics, debunks criticisms of Obama that come from the right and the left.

Andrew Sullivan opens by stating that most of President Obama's critics aren't making arguments based in reality.
It’s not that I don’t understand the critiques of Barack Obama from the enraged right and the demoralized left. It’s that I don’t even recognize their description of Obama’s first term in any way. The attacks from both the right and the left on the man and his policies aren’t out of bounds. They’re simply—empirically—wrong.
Sullivan goes on to discredit criticisms made by the right regarding everything from taxes to foreign policy.

Here is my favorite bit on taxes:
You’d think, listening to the Republican debates, that Obama has raised taxes. Again, this is not true. Not only did he agree not to sunset the Bush tax cuts for his entire first term, he has aggressively lowered taxes on most Americans. A third of the stimulus was tax cuts, affecting 95 percent of taxpayers; he has cut the payroll tax, and recently had to fight to keep it cut against Republican opposition. His spending record is also far better than his predecessor’s. Under Bush, new policies on taxes and spending cost the taxpayer a total of $5.07 trillion. Under Obama’s budgets both past and projected, he will have added $1.4 trillion in two terms. Under Bush and the GOP, nondefense discretionary spending grew by twice as much as under Obama. Again: imagine Bush had been a Democrat and Obama a Republican. You could easily make the case that Obama has been far more fiscally conservative than his predecessor—except, of course, that Obama has had to govern under the worst recession since the 1930s, and Bush, after the 2001 downturn, governed in a period of moderate growth. It takes work to increase the debt in times of growth, as Bush did. It takes much more work to constrain the debt in the deep recession Bush bequeathed Obama.
And on health care reform:
The great conservative bugaboo, Obamacare, is also far more moderate than its critics have claimed. The Congressional Budget Office has projected it will reduce the deficit, not increase it dramatically, as Bush’s unfunded Medicare Prescription Drug benefit did. It is based on the individual mandate, an idea pioneered by the archconservative Heritage Foundation, Newt Gingrich, and, of course, Mitt Romney, in the past.
And on the war on terror:
On foreign policy, the right-wing critiques have been the most unhinged. Romney accuses the president of apologizing for America, and others all but accuse him of treason and appeasement. Instead, Obama reversed Bush’s policy of ignoring Osama bin Laden, immediately setting a course that eventually led to his capture and death. And when the moment for decision came, the president overruled both his secretary of state and vice president in ordering the riskiest—but most ambitious—plan on the table. He even personally ordered the extra helicopters that saved the mission. It was a triumph, not only in killing America’s primary global enemy, but in getting a massive trove of intelligence to undermine al Qaeda even further. If George Bush had taken out bin Laden, wiped out al Qaeda’s leadership, and gathered a treasure trove of real intelligence by a daring raid, he’d be on Mount Rushmore by now. But where Bush talked tough and acted counterproductively, Obama has simply, quietly, relentlessly decimated our real enemies, while winning the broader propaganda war. Since he took office, al Qaeda’s popularity in the Muslim world has plummeted.
Sullivan then turns his sights to the left and lists the accomplishments of President Obama, noting that they have been made during The Great Recession and at a time when the Republican party won't agree to anything.
They [the disappointed left] miss, it seems to me, two vital things. The first is the simple scale of what has been accomplished on issues liberals say they care about. A depression was averted. The bail-out of the auto industry was—amazingly—successful. Even the bank bailouts have been repaid to a great extent by a recovering banking sector. The Iraq War—the issue that made Obama the nominee—has been ended on time and, vitally, with no troops left behind. Defense is being cut steadily, even as Obama has moved his own party away from a Pelosi-style reflexive defense of all federal entitlements. Under Obama, support for marriage equality and marijuana legalization has crested to record levels. Under Obama, a crucial state, New York, made marriage equality for gays an irreversible fact of American life. Gays now openly serve in the military, and the Defense of Marriage Act is dying in the courts, undefended by the Obama Justice Department. Vast government money has been poured into noncarbon energy investments, via the stimulus. Fuel-emission standards have been drastically increased. Torture was ended. Two moderately liberal women replaced men on the Supreme Court. Oh, yes, and the liberal holy grail that eluded Johnson and Carter and Clinton, nearly universal health care, has been set into law. Politifact recently noted that of 508 specific promises, a third had been fulfilled and only two have not had some action taken on them. To have done all this while simultaneously battling an economic hurricane makes Obama about as honest a follow-through artist as anyone can expect from a politician.
Sullivan closes with a flourish:
If I sound biased, that’s because I am. Biased toward the actual record, not the spin; biased toward a president who has conducted himself with grace and calm under incredible pressure, who has had to manage crises not seen since the Second World War and the Depression, and who as yet has not had a single significant scandal to his name. “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle,” George Orwell once wrote. What I see in front of my nose is a president whose character, record, and promise remain as grotesquely underappreciated now as they were absurdly hyped in 2008. And I feel confident that sooner rather than later, the American people will come to see his first term from the same calm, sane perspective. And decide to finish what they started.
I hope the Obama administration starts making some of Andrew Sullivan's arguments, and I also hope voters start looking at facts and stop missing "the screen for the pixels."

Chris Matthews | Andrew Sullivan Discusses his Cover Story

John Scalzi | Andrew Sullivan Posits a Hypothesis To Make Everyone Of Every Political Stripe Hate Him
Ezra Klein |  Wonkbook: The case for Obama, and the continent that stands in his way

January 7, 2012

Eva Zeisel (1906-2012)

Rest in peace, Eva.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

December 27, 2011

xkcd #993 & Don DeLillo's White Noise

I'm not sure if the following corollary is coincidence or homage, but xkcd #993 appears to reference a scene from White Noise by Don DeLillo.

Here's the comic:

And here's the scene from White Noise:
We ran into Murray Jay Siskind at the supermarket. His basket held generic food and drink, nonbrand items in plain white packages with simple labeling. There was a white can labeled CANNED PEACHES. There was a white package of bacon without a plastic window for viewing a representative slice. A jar of roasted nuts had a white wrapper bearing the words IRREGULAR PEANUTS. Murray kept nodding to Babette as I introduced them.

"This is the new austerity," he said. "Flavorless packaging. It appeals to me. I feel I'm not only saving money but contributing to some kind of spiritual consensus. Its like World War III. Everything is white. They'll take our bright colors away and use them in the war effort."
If it's an homage, I like the subtlety. If it's a coincidence, I like the serendipity. 

December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2011

First Kiss

This story and photograph have flown around the Internet, but it's such a heartwarming story and beautiful photograph, I had no choice but to post it.

Brian J. Clark/The Virginian-Pilot/AP