Tuesday, October 6, 2015

My Upcoming Events

With the release of my latest book, Ghosthunting San Antonio, Austin, and Texas Hill Country, I have got numerous promotional events on top of the webcasts and other activities I do on behalf of my Skirmisher Publishing LLC and d-Infinity. All listed times are CST unless noted. 

October 7 (Wednesday), noon - 1 p.m.: "Lunch & Learn: Ghosthunting in the Hill Country," Wimberley Village Library, Wimberley, Texas.

October 8 (Thursday), 8 - 9 p.m.: "d-Infinity Live! Series 4, Episode 36: Mars" (webcast). 

October 10 (Saturday), 9 a.m. - 6 p.m.: Fantom Fest, Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center, San Antonio, Texas. 

October 15 (Thursday), 8 - 9 p.m.: "d-Infinity Live! Series 4, Episode 37" (webcast). 

October 22 (Thursday), 8 - 9 p.m.: "d-Infinity Live! Series 4, Episode 38" (webcast). 

October 24 (Saturday), 7 - 9 p.m.: "The Paranormal View" (radio show). The Paranormal View is a very relaxed, round table style talk show that focuses on bringing together experts, enthusiasts, and listeners with varied viewpoints. Instead of focusing strictly on ghostly phenomena, the show’s hosts, Henry Foister, Geoffrey Gould, Barbara Duncan,and Kat Klockow strive to provide listeners with topic's that cover all area's of the Paranormal. Ghosts, UFO's, Crypto, Psychics, and everything in between.

October 29 (Thursday), 8 - 9 p.m.: "d-Infinity Live! Series 4, Episode 39: d-Infinity Plays" (webcast and role-playing game session). 

November 5 (Thursday), 8 - 9 p.m.: "d-Infinity Live! Series 4, Episode 40" (webcast). 

November 7 (Saturday), 3 - 4:30 p.m.: "Local Authors Panel as Part of NaNoWriMo," Bulverde/Spring Branch Library, Bulverde, Texas. 

November 12 (Thursday), 8 - 9 p.m.: "d-Infinity Live! Series 4, Episode 41" (webcast). 

An Exercise in Resolve, Month 10

October started off with perfect walking weather, bright and sunny but also cool and breezy much of the time! 

October 1 (Thursday): Walked 0.6 miles with a light load. 
October 2 (Friday): Walked 1.2 miles with a light load
October 3 (Saturday): Walked two miles with a light load
October 4 (Sunday): No walk but mowed a section of the lawn. 
October 5 (Monday): Walked 0.6 miles. 
October 6 (Tuesday): 
October 7 (Wednesday):  
October 8 (Thursday): 
October 9 (Friday): 
October 10 (Saturday): 
October 11 (Sunday): 
October 12 (Monday): 
October 13 (Tuesday): 
October 14 (Wednesday): 
October 15 (Thursday): 
October 16 (Friday): 
October 17 (Saturday): 
October 18 (Sunday): 
October 19 (Monday): 
October 20 (Tuesday):  
October 21 (Wednesday): 
October 22 (Thursday): 
October 23 (Friday): 
October 24 (Saturday): 
October 25 (Sunday): 
October 26 (Monday): 
October 27 (Tuesday): 
October 28 (Wednesday): 
October 29 (Thursday): 
October 30 (Friday): 
October 31 (Saturday): 

Favorite Quotes

Once in awhile I hear someone say something I think is particularly cool, witty, funny, or absurd, or formulate something that I think is a good maxim, but almost as often I neglect to write it down and then only remember that something notable was said but not what it was. With that in mind I have started a post for material of that sort and attempt to update it periodically.

"Worst ... episode ... ever!" (This periodic judgement by Comic Book Guy in The Simpsons is, like some of my favorite quotes, one that I have the opportunity to often use myself with regard to the things I end up watching.)

"If I owned Texas and all Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell." — General Philip Sheridan, during a March 24, 1880, speech in Galveston at the Tremont Hotel

Her: "Are you still drinking"? (Upon my wife getting up and discovering me enjoying a pre-dawn glass of wine.)
Me: "No. I'm drinking again." 

"Do not prepare, serve, or eat a meal that does not include a vegetable!" (This is one of my own recently coined guiding maxims tying in with my efforts to eat more healthily and limit my consumption of meat to just once a day.)

"There are no IT limitations, just personal limitations." — IT expert Brendan Cass (This comment was in response to a remark by me about his ability to accomplish information technology tasks that were beyond the ability of other people I had worked with.) 

"Advice is just ego and ignorance disguised as helpfulness." — Dilbert/Scott Adams, in a July 15, 2015 comic strip

"Do you understand how much I hate you?" (Uttered by the woman cited in the quote below. The person who told me this assured me that he probably does not understand how much his wife hates him, or even entirely why, but that he is dedicated to making every attempt to.) 

"I hate you so much that I can't even describe it!" (This was uttered unprovoked to a friend by his maladjusted and apparently inarticulate spouse and he, knowing she would later deny saying something so hideously inexcusable, asked me to commemorate it here. I advised him to repurpose it as a daily affirmation.)

"Sometimes the only reason I don't kill myself now is because I know I can always just kill myself later." — Anonymous (Undeniably grim and clearly born from deep unhappiness but also fairly philosophical and amusing in its way.) 

"What we say about what we do is as important as what we do." — Michael O. Varhola (This is my own debatably cynical observation on the importance of promoting our own work and efforts if we want others/the public to notice them.)

"I didn't know we were going to be walking." — Diane K. Varhola (My wife has made this assertion multiple times every year for the past 25 years. We always end up walking, often in stupid and inappropriate shoes, so the basis for this statement has been questionable for a couple of decades now.) 

"We are most inclined to be creative when we are least able to be." (This is my own personal observation.)

"I should be able to visit my parents without having to die!" — Hayley Waters (Who says so? This was, in any event, my daughter's unhappy reaction to visiting a house full of cats that she is allergic to.)

"When I found inversion it changed my life forever, and I believe it can change yours!" — Dr. Roger Teeter (I actually own a Teeter Hang Ups inversion board and think it is great. What makes this quote amusing to me, however, is that "inversion" was historically used as a synonym for homosexuality, which can make its modern-day use hilarious when considered in that context.)

"Watch out for the poop!" — Carter Valentine (This sound advice was given to me by my grandson during a walk we took together in 2013 and can certainly be viewed as a profound allegory for the human condition overall.)

The following interchange occurred between my grandson and wife on Sunday, August 18, 2012:
Diane: "What kind of chicken do you want?" (While carving up a roast chicken we picked up at Costco for dinner.)
Carter: "The chicken nugget kind." (A statement met with laughter and us letting him know this chicken did not have any such parts.)

"Ah, the plot thinnens!" (This clever twist on a common phrase is one that I use whenever appropriate. I heard it for the first time in a movie based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, although the phrase certainly does not actually appear in any of the author's stories.)

"Hideous ... ugly ... freaks!" — Denis Leary/Gil Mars, Small Soldiers (It is amazing how often one is in public that this phrase seems apropos.)

"I'll tell you what!" (This common Texas phrase is used to express agreement with something someone has said, such as an observation about the weather. I noted during a recent trip to the East Coast that, after hearing it, people unfamiliar with this expression will pause and wait for you to "tell them what.")

"Not anti-Christian, nor un-Christian, but most decidedly non-Christian." — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"What I do now I do alone. I could not do it well with thee." — Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls (I often irreverently use this quote, either just the first part or in its entirety, to announce my departure for the bathroom.)

"There is a fine line between being a romantic and being delusional, and I often tend toward the latter." — Michael O. Varhola (my own observation of my tendency to view life as I want it to be, rather than how it really is.)

"Oh, so you want to play the truth game?" — Anonymous (In response to my asking someone why they sometimes deliberately lie to their friends as a device for manipulating them.)

"We are all so lucky to live in this God-forsaken place." — Anonymous (A resident's comment upon observing the natural beauty of Canyon Lake, Texas.) 

"Crazy is as crazy does" — Michael O. Varhola (my observation upon already-crazy people who deliberately do things geared toward making them even crazier and more unhappy.)

"You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas." — David Crockett

"No one ever died from a gut wound." — Michael O. Varhola (I picked this up from an Army buddy of mine c. 1986-87 and use it a lot. I don't think it's true.)

"Teeheehee! I told you about it!" — Chick in an Activia yogurt commercial

"Och, Hungary! Our dogs are from Hungary!" — Richard Allan (in response to a barmaid at the pub in Paddington Station, London, reveal her country of origin; "Och" is a Scottish word that means "yes," unless you use it in conjunction with "no," in which case it means "really no!")

"I do not presume that other people's problems are harder on me than they are on them." — Michael O. Varhola

"You need to scare kids, not scar them." — Lindsey Valentine

Overheard around 8:15 p.m. near the Hoffman Center 22 cinema in Alexandria, Virginia:
Him: "Damn hippies! I'll hacky their sacks ... " (in response to some kids in shorts and tie-dye shirts crossing the street in front of him)
Her: "Uh, do I need to remind you that you just smoked dope, that you're still in your sleeping shirt, and that it shows people partying on it?"

"That was pretty metal!" — Rico Nardini, Gen Con 2011 (in response to me downing a dirty vodka martini in one sip when he said it was time for us to get going)

"Put the boots to him — medium style." (coopted from Metalocalypse and used by me and friend Jon Reichman as a catchphrase during Gen Con 2011)

"Get the butter." — Marlon Brando/Paul, Last Tango in Paris (this line can be interjected for hilarious effect in any number of circumstances, as my friends Jon Reichman, Chip Cassano, and I have all aptly demonstrated over the years)

"In a respectable household, it's useful to have a weapon." — Gitt Magrini/Jeanne's Mother, Last Tango in Paris

"Fun was had by all." (common phrase brought to my attention when it was applied to a school play in The Simpsons, and used by me since then in writeups of events I have hosted or run)

"This one goes to 11." (coopted from Spinal Tap and applicable more often than you might think; used as one of our group's catchphrases at Comicpalooza 2012)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

An Exercise in Resolve, Month 9

Started off the month well with a new route that includes walking up to the mailbox, down to the end of the cul de sac, and then past the house far enough to bring myself up to an even 2 miles even by the time I am done. In general I carry a light load consisting of my shoulder bag, containing a camera and other gear and weighing about 6.5 pounds, and a 1.6-pound walking stick (although I usually don't carry the stick up the mailbox so that my hands will be free for anything I pick up there). Managed to make relevant Twitter posts some days and have included those here, minus any hashtags they might have contained. 

September 1 (Tuesday): "Two-mile twilight walk w. a light load; another breezy evening here in Texas Hill Country. Saw a herd of c. 20 deer on the lot behind mine."
September 2 (Wednesday): "Late afternoon 2-mile walk between teleconferences; running on a little more than 3 hours sleep and kept a sluggish pace."
September 3 (Thursday): No walk; got lazy and disorganized and ran out of time while trying to get ready for my weekly show. 
September 4 (Friday): Walked 0.6 to 2 miles with a light load (know I walked but did not log and do not remember how far). 
September 5 (Saturday): Walked between 0.6 and 2 miles with a light load
September 6 (Sunday): Walked between 0.6 and 2 miles with a light load
September 7 (Monday): Walked between 0.6 and 2 miles with a light load. 
September 8 (Tuesday): Walked between 0.6 and 2 miles with a light load
September 9 (Wednesday):  Walked between 0.6 and 2 miles with a light load
September 10 (Thursday): Walked between 0.6 and 2 miles with a light load
September 11 (Friday): Walked 0.3 miles up to the mailbox; started raining halfway there and was a torrent by the time I got there. Diane drove up and rescued me before I had to walk back in it. 
September 12 (Saturday): Got in a 2-mile mid-afternoon walk. Bright and cloudless but probably only in the mid-80s. 
September 13 (Sunday): Mowed lawn for about 30 minutes instead of taking a walk. 
September 14 (Monday): "Two-mile sunset walk with a light load ... Relatively cool here in Texas Hill Country and was able to keep a decent pace!" 
September 15 (Tuesday): Walked 1.2 miles with a light load (on top of a visit to Costco, which always involves a bit of walking in itself). 
September 16 (Wednesday): "Walked two miles with a light load in between late afternoon rain showers! Cloudy but bright and about 90° here in Texas Hill Country." 
September 17 (Thursday): Walked 0.6 miles with a light load and then spent about 20 minutes mowing the lawn. 
September 18 (Friday): Late afternoon two-mile walk with a light load; in the 90s here in Texas Hill Country but briefly had a cool breeze and some cloud cover.
September 19 (Saturday): Walked between 0.6 and 2 miles with a light load
September 20 (Sunday): No walk; was feeling lazy and unorganized and just failed to get one in. 
September 21 (Monday): Walked between 0.6 and 2 miles with a light load
September 22 (Tuesday):  No walk; was out doing errands during the day. 
September 23 (Wednesday): Was on the road early in the day, and managed to get a little walking in as a result, and then got in a late afternoon 1.2-mile walk when I got back. 
September 24 (Thursday): Felt kind of off most of the day but stuck it out and got in a two-mile walk -- figured it would not be an auspicious start for the next year of my life to blow it off on my birthday! 
September 25 (Friday): Walked just 0.6 miles up to the mailbox; torrential rain hit when I was going to walk and by the time it was done I could not go further before nightfall and did not fell like walking in the dark. 
September 26 (Saturday): Walked two miles with a light load. Was warm and I had eaten sort of a sub-standard lunch and so I was pretty played out by the time I got back and glad to eat dinner right away.  
September 27 (Sunday): No walk! And no good excuse; was just working through on things and did not make good enough use of my time. 
September 28 (Monday): Walked 0.6 miles with a light load.  
September 29 (Tuesday): "Managed to get in 2.5 miles w. a light load ahead of hitting a 100-degree heat index here in Texas Hill Country! Longest walk this month." 
September 30 (Wednesday): Walked two miles with a light load (with a break in between going to the mailbox and finishing the rest of it). Pretty hot for September but glad to have finished the month on a strong note! 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Top Twitter Fails

For the past several months I have been building a presence on Twitter and learning how to effectively use it as a tool for promoting my various projects, notably those with Skirmisher Publishing LLC, the d-Infinity game franchise, and the America's Haunted Road Trip series of travel guides. One thing that continues to strike me in the course of these efforts is how poorly a great many organizations manage their Twitter presences, even though it is clear that they want to use it as a tool. 

Following are the first of numerous common "fails" by Twitter users -- labeled as such primarily because they impeded growth or simply do not ultimately accomplish anything useful. Note that I am posting these for the benefit or individuals, businesses, and other entities that have a message they want to get out to an audience. If you don't care whether people follow you on Twitter, whether you can reach them about what you are doing, etc., then the following information does not apply to you, because it is kind of irrelevant to the world at large whether you are on Twitter or not. 

* Talking about things that are "coming soon"! It is hard enough to get people to genuinely pay attention to what you are doing and to get out the word about your existing products, projects, etc. Promises about things that do not yet exist, especially if they appear in your bio, look justifiably weak and just make the people who include them look silly — and this is all the truer if the promises are about something like a crowdfunding project! No one will ever say, "Oh, wow, these guys are going to have a Kickstarter 'soon'! That really makes me want to keep coming back and seeing this message again and again." 

* Misspellings in your bio. This is not particularly important in personal accounts but can be the kiss of death in professional or business ones. No one is going to buy anything from you if you can't spell, especially as this will raise the suspicion that you are running a scam and don't really have a real business at all.
* No Bio. Don't forego including a bio! Bots and other spurious users often do not have one and this is the kind of thing that can make people opt not to follow you and make it difficult to tell whether or not they should. A lot of accounts with no bios will also have no tweets, and this is indicative both of bots and of people who have set up accounts and then promptly abandoned them. 

* Failing to promote your own interests. It is amazing how many people indicate some economic motive for being on Twitter but will not actually take the most rudimentary steps to serve their own interests. If someone claims to be a "freelance fantasy artist" but does not follow back a fantasy game publisher, then you can be pretty sure that they are really much more likely to be a Starbucks barista. And a Twitter account that has something as blatant as a Kickstarter project associated with it that does not immediately follow back every legitimate follower is simply poorly run -- and if they can't even run a Twitter account properly, how can they be trusted to manage the project for which they want your money? 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A War of Many Names (Life In Civil War America)

Was chatting recently with my friend Pierce Tomas about some of the different labels that have been applied to what is officially called the U.S. Civil War. That prompted me to recall the following item, "A War of Many Names," which I wrote first for my Everyday Life During the Civil War and which currently appears in its successor, Life In Civil War America

"Few wars have been referred to in quite so many ways as this one, and its various names reflect a wide range of attitudes toward the conflict. The official name given to it by the victorious Federal government is, of course, the Civil War, a term that came into use in 1861. In the Southern states, however, the terms used in 1861 included the Revolution, the Second War for Independence, and the War of Secession.

A variety of other names came into use during the war and in the decades following it, most of which reveal partiality to one side or the other, a tone of reconciliation, humor or an emphasis on some aspect of the conflict. These include the Great Fratricide, the War of Northern Aggression, the War for Constitutional Liberty, the War Between the States, the War Between the North and the South, the War for Southern Independence, the Second American Revolution, the War for States’ Rights, Mr. Lincoln’s War, the Southern Rebellion, the War for Southern Rights, the War of the Southern Planters, the War of the Rebellion, the War to Suppress Yankee Arrogance, the Brothers’ War, the Great Rebellion, the War for Nationality, the War for Southern Nationality, the War Against Slavery, the Civil War Between the States, the War of the Sixties, the War Against Northern Aggression, the Yankee Invasion, the War for Separation, the War for Abolition, the War for Union, the Confederate War, the War of the Southrons, the War for Southern Freedom, the War of the North and the South, the Lost Cause, the Late Unpleasantness, the late Friction, the Late Ruction, the Schism, the Uncivil War and, especially in the South in the years since it ended, simply as the War. 

Overseas, the conflict was given still other names. For example, contemporary German writers refer to it as the North American War." 

Hopefully I have included some names for the Civil War that you had not yet heard before — and if you know of any that I have missed please add to the list by posting a comment here!