Sunday, September 25, 2011

Goodreads: Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey

Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster CaseyRant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey by Chuck Palahniuk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Second review:
It's four years from the first time I read this book and I realize that if you're going to read a Chuck P. book, you really need to read it, absorb it, experience it. I was only into it with half my attention the first time and missed a lot, including some key plot points.

This time, it took me awhile to finish it because I'm only reading intermittently these days, but I made a point to focus when I did read it. This time around, it gets 5 stars all the way.

Buster Casey, aka, Rant is an exceptional but dangerous boy growing up in a small town with his mother, a woman who puts sharp metal objects in her food to make people eat slowly and enjoy it, and his father, who cryptically insinuates that he's not actually Rant's father and seems to know more about Rant's future than seems possible.

Rant also shows some strange abilities, like the power to tell what someone had for dinner two nights prior simply by smelling them (okay, it's a little more graphic than that, but you'll have to read the book to find that out). He also shows an affinity for being bit by poisonous and rabid animals.

When Rant moves to the city, what starts out as a story about a quaint small town and its black sheep turns into something completely different: a tale that takes place in an alternate universe where society is split into those who live during the day and those who live at night and people boost sensory experiences through ports in the back of their neck.

In the city, Rant meets up with a crew of "Party Crashers." Party Crashing is the favorite pasttime of Nighttimers and involves decorating cars and playing a large organized game of road tag with other teams. It's these fellow crashers, childhood friends and neighbors, family, and the people Rant has come in contact with or made an impression on that all tell his story in oral biography format.

It's hard to read this story as a coherent beginning to end novel because it's not. It's more like a documentary in which several anecdotes come together to tell a story and eventually end in an unforeseen climax. The characters speak in different voices, yet all voices are definitely Palahniuk's and characteristic of the voice used in his other novels. The pacing is quick, the factoids are fun, and the ending doesn't disappoint.

Reading this book again kicks off one of my Day Zero things to do, and that's to read all of this author's books again. I recommend this to anyone looking for something they can sink their mind into.

First review:
It actually took me a little while to get into this book. I'm a fan of Palahniuk but this one seemed a little slow to me. Told not by the main character but by those who knew him before his death, this truly is an "oral biography." The point of view constantly switches but once you get the hang of it, it's a fun way to read.

Like many of his books, this one takes bizarre to a whole new level. It's hard to really talk about anything that happens for fear of giving something away. To sum up, Rant lives in a world where rabies runs rampant, the new high is an experience "boost" through ports in the back of people's necks, and the big recreation game is Party Crashing, which involves complex tag games with cars.

Once I got into it, I couldn't put this book down. The premise is great, the writing is great, and the all of his books I've read so mind blowing.

View all my reviews

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Working to the Limit

Two minutes ago, I logged off of what became a 15 hour work day. There were a few breaks in there. I ate dinner, left the office, and exercised, but where my day job is concerned, my eyes have been glued to a computer screen for about 15 hours.

My brain is fried.

I don't consider myself a workaholic, but I do like to work. I like having a job, I like having the 8 to 5 stability, and I like getting things done. Right now I'm in overtime mode, which means I also like the extra money the work brings in, especially dealing with Jon going back to school and some recent doctor bills that were not covered by my Cafeteria plan (the year I lower it is the year I actually use it...go figure).

I sometimes straddle that fine line between a good employee and burn out waiting to happen. Right now, I have to admit that I'm not even thinking in terms of being a good employee. I'm not trying to cause trouble or anything like that, but there's alot of stress going down right now, and I'm feeling a little hurt about some recent decisions that were made around me.

Mostly what's driving me is this need to get things done. We implemented a new system and there's loads of work and it never seems to go down because we constantly have more coming in. Yet I feel like if I work hard enough and quick enough I can get it to a manageable level. Then I'll feel awesome.

What I need to try to remember is that even if I can do it (and really, it's going to take a lot of overtime and some miracles), I need to do it to satisfy myself, not anyone else. Because it's doubtful anyone will pay attention and because I don't want to be that person. I don't want to be the person who does everything for a pat on the back and who constantly tries to win the approval of others.

I just want to be the person who does her job well, accomplishes something everyday, and can just be happy with the little things. And of course, brings home a little extra in the paycheck.

I just kind of hope I figure out my limit before I really burn out.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Second Time Around

I started a post a few days ago, one that was filled with excitement and optimism and the promise of pictures from GenCon. I saved it, never finished it, and am now sitting in a hotel room on the last night of GenCon with a completely different mood from a few days ago. It's not necessarily a bad mood. It's contemplative and a little bit disappointed.

GenCon, the second time around, didn't live up to what it had been in my mind for the past year.

It wasn't horrible. The fun times were really fun. I got to spend time with friends, and I got to see old friends I hadn't seen in years. I got a chance to see how far I've come with my ability to walk. It wasn't as far as I wanted, but it was definitely an improvement from three months ago. I made alternate player in a gaming tournament (even though our team didn't advance) due to some crazy rapper skills I didn't think I had. I got to try out some new games and Jon even won a game for us to take home.

This year's con, though, had a distinctively different feel than last year's. From the start, we had problems with misinformation from the hotel we stayed at, so money ended up being a factor. While staying downtown seemed like a great idea (and part of it was), I missed the frugality and lack of stress of the cheaper hotel room outside of the downtown limits.

GenCon itself should have been easier to move around due to the expansion of the Indiana Convention Center. But there were places I never even saw, and the walk to get from point A to point B was longer. The movie and panel options were less than thrilling. The dealer room was definitely improved and actually gave me three great hours, but True event that I thought was fun last year...was disappointing and annoying.

Another disappointment? The people. Last year we talked to so many people. Everyone was friendly, everyone wanted to chat. People would say hi to you and strike up a conversation anywhere. This year was definitely lacking. Don't get me wrong, there were some good people. We talked to a guy in the Will Call line who was nice, and conversation made the time go by quickly. During the first couple days we were in Indy, Jon and I walked around the convention center and several people said hi. But once the con started, there seemed to be a general coolness that I didn't remember from last year. In some instances, people were downright rude.

I'm fully aware that all of this could have been simply my own perception based on my own moods. Admittedly, the issues at the beginning of the week had me down and a little worried. My levels of frustration were high when I thought I should be able to walk further than I could and had to sit down or avoid certain situations because I was in pain. I felt bitter and let down, and it's likely I projected some of that into my overall experience.

However, the con gets some blame too, because I'm not the only one who felt this way. Others I talked to were disappointed in True Dungeon. Several people complained about general rudeness, and people who heard me praise GenCon to no end seemed to be disappointed in their first experience. While I know my adverse moods can effect those in my immediate vicinity, I'm not taking credit for everyone's disappointment.

Will I go to GenCon again?  Probably. I feel that it needs another chance, a tie breaker to decide if this year was a fluke or if things are going downhill. I only have one year and a bunch of testimonials from our friends as a basis for comparison. I don't want to give up on it because there are some good times to be had here.

Next year I hope to be in better shape and better able to do more events. I'm hoping that by making some more frugal choices we can splurge on some things we haven't yet been able to do. Do I regret coming this year? Not at all. I still have some good stories and new memories and quality time with friends is never something I regret.

But I will be happy to get back to the real world.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Suzuki: The New Cool Hangout

Several weeks ago, Jon and I went to Wichita to get the car serviced before Travel Season 2011 in the Felber household. We had a good experience with Suzuki when buying our car and I felt comfortable taking it back to them for the oil change.

I'm not some weirdo who likes to hang out at car dealerships. In fact, I know some people who go when they're having free food days with no intention of buying anything, and I'm not even into that. But I like going to this one. I trust them to do the work right, they're all friendly, and the environment is really comfortable.

The recliners are comfortable, they have two TVs, they have an XBox 360 with Kinect, and they have several tables and chairs for people to sit at. Around the corner, they have fountain soda and snacks and real food. The day this was taken was hot dogs and hamburgers, so for the price of a full service oil change, we also got free lunch.

Of course, getting heckled by the Suzuki shark was a little unsettling, as was appearing in the video on their website a few hours later, but if I ignore the fact that I hate being on camera, it was actually kind of funny. I even reposted on my FB for the heck of it.

It's not every day I can say I look forward to getting an oil change in my car, but now it gives us a chance to go visit family and chill out somewhere strangely fun.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Getting Older, Changing Moods

*After finally getting a chance to revisit this blog after a few weeks, I found that this post, which I wrote before going to Michigan, never posted. So I'm posting it now. Some of what I wrote may or may not have more meaning now that my Michigan trip has come to an end, but I think there are some good things in this blog. 

If you’re still with me after my recent hiatus, thank you! Things got a little hairy, I got a little lazy, and I decided I just needed to take a step back, give myself some down time, and focus on getting a few big projects out of the way before I could get back into my smaller projects.

While some things have been taken care of, life is still moving at a full stride. Big projects are still afoot, tapering off just enough to give me some time to do other things. Travel season for Jon and I is here. As of the time I’m writing this, we’re only a few hours away from heading out on the open road to Michigan to visit family and friends for a week. I’m excited, but I’m also nervous. It’s good to see family, but people change, even loved ones, and there’s no guarantee that we’re going to “click” and get along like we may have in the past.

Then again, there’s always the chance we may get along better, too, which is what I’m ultimately hoping for.

I feel like I’ve gotten older and grumpier and more apathetic, and while I go through “let’s do this” phases, most of the time I’d rather just hang out and chill. I’m not one to put forth a lot of effort into group activities. I’ve become more selfish, which isn’t a huge stretch since I’ve always been a bit self centered. I still play the passive aggressive card but my aggression has moments where it completely overshadows the passive side. I’m quick to judge and I’m quick to write people off who tweak me even a little bit from the start.

I’ve become arrogant, yet I hate arrogance in others. I love being the one who “knows” things, but I find it irritating when others go out of their way to spout off the things they know. I make mistakes and that’s okay, but when I have to fix someone else’s mistakes I feel the need to throw things.

When you break it down into these components, I sound like a horrible person, and yet I like myself more today than I did 10 years ago. I have a sense of self that I think continues to grow and change with age. I’m proud of my accomplishments, happy with the freedom I currently have in my life, and gladly loyal to those I consider true friends. Sure, I cry a lot, I’m not eating as healthy as I should be and some days my moodiness alienates people, but it’s all a part of who I am. Fighting against that won’t help, so I’ve learned to roll with it.

And contrary to what it sounds like, I do think I have some pretty good karma going, at least in some areas. So with this coming weekend, I will remember that not only have I changed, but so has my family and while we have memories of how things “used to be,” time makes it impossible for those things to stay that way.

Hopefully we can all roll with it and have a good time.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Little Bit of This and That

Life is running at kind a kind of weird neutral right now. I have a lot to do, but it's been difficult with trying to keep with work stuff, going to the gym, and getting ready for our summer trips. I've been working on some research for a couple of projects as well and I kind of feel like I'm sort of at a standstill.

Besides the mundane things happening, there's nothing very topical to blog about. At least nothing that wouldn't enrage people, and I'm not feeling like enraging the masses at the moment. So just to keep up with the blog stuff, here's some random stuff happening in my world.

1. I love my gym. Having 24 Hour Access is great. In related news, my progress is slow but I am making progress. Note to those who don't know my current philosophy, I'm not making weight loss the focus of working out this time, since every time I do that, I just get frustrated and give up and gain back double what I lost. Instead, I'm just trying to get in better shape and just feel better overall. Compared to what my speed with walking was a month ago, I've definitely kicked it up a notch.

2. My writing hobby has drifted off but hasn't really been replaced by anything due to work and some research I've been doing for some smaller projects. I read a little bit here and there, haven't knitted in a long time, and use work time to watch TV. I'm currently watching "My So-Called Life" on Netflix. "True Blood" also started again, so I'll be keeping up with that as well.

3. I've been craving fruit like nobody's business and I haven't really wanted to eat anything cooked in about a week, or at least nothing cooked at home. I know we need to do some grocery shopping, but I haven't even wanted to eat hot foods. Last weekend, Jon and I were all about pizza hummus and pretzel bread. I think I could live off that for a week before getting sick of it.

4. My chiropractor turned out to be a God send. I credit part of my ability to move better to the gym, but a huge chunk of it goes to the doctor and his magic thumping gun. When I first started, I was going in twice a week, and now I'm down to once every two weeks. It wasn't necessarily a magic cure all, but it was just what I needed to get me moving again.

5. Last but not least, I'll be heading for Michigan in two weeks to spend much needed time with family and friends. I'll try to find something good to post and schedule, but I promise nothing. However, I'll hopefully have a lot of pictures of the great north to share when I get back. I'm really looking forward to it and it'll be fun to take the new car on her first road trip.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Joining the Festivities

It's been a long time since I've been to an actual festival, so it was nice getting to go to one a few weeks back with Sophia, who posted a couple days ago here about her 2-mile walk. Though I'm working on my health issues and trying to get to where I can walk, I wasn't in shape to join her and I won't wasn't easy getting around the festival grounds. However, the rests I had to take gave me a chance to take in everything, and I was able to get a few pictures of some of the art that represented the focus of the Smoky Hills River Festival.

Art, exhibits, booths, festival food, and entertainment were everywhere, and families and groups of friends wandered around enjoying seeing everything. The first thing we saw going into the festival was a bike exhibit, pictures, and decorated trees. None of the pictures of the trees came out well, unfortunately. 

 My favorites were the giant spiders, a display we got to see while heading to one of the tents to listen to Bill Harley, an amazing storyteller who was holding a workshop at the festival.

While I enjoyed what I did get to see, I'm a little bummed about all the things I didn't get to see. But I won't dwell on it. This gives me another reason to continue working out and getting into better shape. Next year I hope to be able to spend a full day there, not only joining the fun walk, but wandering around and enjoying all the sights, sounds, and smells.

Who knows? Maybe I'll even stay and dance during the evening entertainment.