Couch by Benjamin Parzybok
ISBN: 9781931520546
Published: Small Beer Press
Released : November, 2008
256 Pages

This one came from Scalzi’s Big Idea. The concept sounded interesting so I threw it onto my Christmas list. My family thought I looked forward to it so much, they gave me two copies.  One of those went over to my brother.

I’ll start off by being honest – Couch started off stronger than it finished, but not by too much.  Each day as it sits and percolates in the brain, the more I enjoy it.  I may give it another read sometime.

Couch is about Thom, a computer programmer out of work.  His roommates are Eric, a con-artist who is not terribly successful and Tree, who sees visions and makes incredibly detailed figurines out of wire.

After their apartment floods, they are evicted and forced to take their couch with them.  Only the couch only wants to go one way. Try taking it the other direction and it becomes impossible to carry.  On top of that, other people have expressed an interest in the couch.  One offers tens of thousands of dollars.  Another is willing to kill for it.  Some are willing to die to protect it.

Couch has its dark moments and its lighthearted.  Parzybok did a wonderful job with his characters, primarily Thom.  The computer geek transitioned from a steadfast reliance on what made sense to accepting the magical.  He went from being shy and uncertain to going forward, even if he didn’t know where the couch was going to lead him.

It ended up being far more surreal than I expected, though it did pose questions and subjects I found fascinating.  One that stood out was posed by Parzybok in an interview and surfaces in the book.  Every civilization is built on top of another civilization.  That civilization is built on top of another one and so forth.  Who are we to judge that what has been discovered today is actually new?  How much have we thrown aside without realizing it?

It took me a little while to realize it, but the end result and the mystery of the couch is something close to the Hughes family.  I won’t spoil it, you’ll have to read the book for that, but it has something to do with the purpose of Seed Savers Exchange, the non-profit Steph works for.

Couch was an great book.  No, it’s not a book for weekend kicks.  It’s a bit more thoughtful than that.  Steph and I read it over our recent week long vacation (we actually fought to the book in our hand before the other person).  It was fun discussing it when we were finished, making the time spent together more enjoyable.  I would highly recommend it


That is the number of words written today in Genie Memories.  I’m proud of that.

This is because after two days of not writing at all, I was able to pick up the story without a problem.  In the past, this has been an issue.  I used to miss the flow of the storyline and it upset my ability to continue.  It might explain my abandoned works. I think I’ve figured out a pattern and it’s helping a lot.

I write basically four days a week.  The days I have off are Monday, Thursday (Tae Kwon Do and Sparring nights) and Sunday.  I’m not sure the last counts.  With NASCAR season, I tend to watch the race and not really write, but I always have some paper in front ofme to jot down ideas or flesh out story lines.  If something good comes of that, I sit down and write it out.  That’s the exception though.

A lot of writers make sure they write something every day.  I’ve tried that.  Over on Absolute Write, Uncle Jim suggests writers do at least 250 words a day.  This is a very good idea.  That is about one page of text each day.  In a year, you’ll have a 365 page novel.  Not bad.

It works for some people.  It didn’t work for me.  I found myself struggling to keep in front of the keyboard and getting frustrated.  That’s when I remembered something else Uncle Jim said – “Do what works for you.”  Every day didn’t work for me.  Four days a week, yeah, that’s working.  So I’m keeping at it.

In other news, I had two chances to go to Tennesse this year.  One with a family trip (cancelled due to economy) and the other for a conference.  I decided to pass on the conference and instead look to the fall one.  That’ll be in St. Louis.  We have friends down there, so Steph’s excited about that.  Program schedule isn’t posted, so we’ll see.

Log Rolling the Kiddies

Pardon me as I dabble in politics for a moment – Congress introduced two bills yesterday, S.436 and H.R. 1076, both entitled the “Internet Stopping Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Today’s Youth Act’. See how nicely they spelled out SAFETY? Them Congress Critters are always looking out for us.

Per CNet – the bill calls “for a sweeping new federal law that would require all Internet providers and operators of millions of Wi-Fi access points, even hotels, local coffee shops, and home users, to keep records about users for two years to aid police investigations.”

To which I respond with – WTF? Can I have a unicorn too?  Cuz it’s about as likely to happen.

Two years ago, I drove out to Walmart, a 3 mile journey from my house. I took a Canary, a device that detects wireless signals. It found 19 networks, 14 of which were open and not secured in any fashion. That is 73% percent of the networks. Three out of four people who did not secure their networks. Do you honestly think they’re going to figure out how to log the data?

The techno-morons in Congress, however, won’t recognize that. I’d like to say this would be laughed off the floor and never pass. It may not. But it does have ‘Youth’ and ‘Safety’ in the title so I don’t hold out much hope.

Then again, maybe this is part of the Stimulus Package. After all, there’s going to be a whole hell of a lot of hard drives purchased to store all this data.

One Year

It has been just about one year since I was officially diagnosed with IBS.

What’s changed?  Quite a bit.  I would be hard pressed to say I have ever been healthier in my life.  I haven’t had an attack in almost 9 months.  I almost broke 20 minutes in the 5K for the first time since college.  If it had been a flat course, I’m sure I would have.  I have more energy every single day and I no longer worry about if something’s going to hurt me or not.  My anxiety has dropped like a stone. Every bit of food that goes into my body is carefully considered and I do a good job of not eating things I know will cause me harm.

There are a few things I miss – Milkshakes, ice cream, hamburgers from the grill, and fried chicken.  It’s easy to get over that though when you consider the alternative.

OF course, new things have taken their place.  My favorite new meal – Black Bean and Butternut Squash Burritos.  I love sorbet (especially the Pumpkin Sorbet from Le Cellier at Epcot).  I’ve found how much fun it is to make meals just out of rice and whatever veggies are on hand.  There’s just a whole lot out there that was overlooked before.  So maybe this whole thing is good for me.  Who knows?  Hopefully it will be.

Now off to do some writing.

Can You Hear Me Now? Cease and Desist!

Amazon has just announced the Kindle 2. If you’re not familiar with the Kindle here’s the summary – it’s an Ebook Reader that can carry over 1,500 titles, has wireless access, and has a store with over 230,000 titles. It’s latest incarnation has the ability to ‘read’ the book out loud.

Some folks have an issue with that. The Author’s Guild’s executive director, Paul Aiken says, “That’s an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law.” In layman’s terms, Amazon paid for the electronic distribution rights of the books, but not the audio rights. There are several stories about this –, John Scalzi’s Whatever, and the Wall Street Journal, just to name a few. Do a search and you’ll find a lot more.

I may not yet be a published author, but I think the Author’s Guild is barking up the wrong tree here.

Text-to-speech features have been on computers for years. I remember using my first Sound Blaster Pro (8-bit) to greet me with ‘Hello Matt’ when I powered on my computer. Fun-times. The sound quality though left a lot to be desired. Would I want to listen to Harry Potter like that? Nope. I’ll buy the audiobook and load it onto my iPod. I hear the guy who does the reading is fantastic. The Kindle can’t be that much of an improvement

Is there any circumstance that I would agree with the Author’s Guild? Sure. If someone setup a Kindle and charged folks for a reading, yeah, that’s a no-no. I don’t think that is likely to happen though. Rent a movie and see how often you pause it to get a snack or visit the restroom. That’s 2 hours. Books will run 6 – 8 hours or more. Who is going to want to listen to a monotone voice that long?

Let Mom or Dad ‘read’ a chapter each night to their kid. Let them play it while driving their car. Not everyone has perfect vision and sometimes Braille versions of books don’t exist. The Kindle could really help with that and more importantly, spread the author’s audience.

Will I ever buy a Kindle? Not likely. Whoever heard of curling up next to the fire with a nice LCD monitor? Give me a book any day.

A Cult That Sucks…No, Really

Recently, our vacuum cleaner suffered some issues and died.  Had something to do with a motor or a belt, but we weren’t terribly torn up over it.  We’d only paid a little over a hundred bucks for it and really, it’s just a vacuum cleaner.  What’s the big deal?

Apparently, a lot.

Steph decided to question some friends on what to get.  She was leaning the Dyson route.  One of her friends, who does a great deal of house cleaning, offered another suggestion – a Riccar.  “Dyson’s aren’t bad,” Lanee said, “They’re good for hard wood floors, but they’re heavy.  Get a Riccar.  My mom has one and I love it.”  Lanee went on to tell us that when she went in to buy new bags for the vacuum at a local place, the store owner’s eyes lit up and he became excited.  “You have a Riccar?  Aren’t those wonderful?  They’re fantastic!”

Enthusiasm with a product is a good thing.  Maybe a bit over the top, but still good.  So we headed down to the store to pick one up. The store owner was excited again.  “It’s a wonderful vacuum cleaner,” he said while offering us a demo.  It was good.  Expensive, but nice.  Very lightweight, had all the attachments.  It also came with a second, smaller canister unit (think ShopVac) for those hard to reach places.  We decided to buy it, since, after all, we heard such rave reviews.

Not five minutes later, as we stepped out of the store carrying our new purchase, we ran into someone we knew.  She pointed at the vacuum cleaner.  “Did you just buy that?  I got one a few months ago and it’s fantastic!  It makes cleaning fun!  You’ll love it!”


Steph and I gave each other a look as we walked away.  We’ve gone beyond the boundary of enthusiasm.  We’re into something freaky.  Something…cultish.  On the way home, we joked about searching for fan clubs or secret meetings.  Maybe there was a convention dedicated to our new vacuum.

Then Steph used it.  She liked it.  A lot.  She called me out and pointed to the ShopVac-like thing and said “Push that button.”  I pushed it.  The power cord automatically wound up.  She was gleeful.

Okay.  I think I’ve lost her.  The cult of Riccar has…oh, I can’t think of the right word, but it’s got her.  Took her in its grasp.  Another victim Me?  I’ll fight the good fight and try to remain impartial.

Plus if I made the obvious cheesy joke, the sigh might throw out your back.