Worthless Review: Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters

(Worthless becase you’ve likely heard much about this already.)

Percy Jackson 2: Electric Boogaloo

Just kidding.

Percy Jackson: The Sea of Monsters

I’m really enjoying this series. In this second book, Percy and Annabeth set off on another quest, this time to save Grover and the Camp. There’s more action, more terrifying and evil monsters to challenge them. More twists. More turns. More mishaps.

I can’t say I liked it better than the first book, mainly because I rarely think a sequel is better in any media. Even if it’s as entertaining as the first one, it doesn’t have that surprise element that new discovery brings. At least for me. And it’s certainly not just this series, but any series. When you read a first book, you’re not just meeting the characters and learning the rules of their world, you’re also meeting the author and reading what he can do. So, with any second book, for me, there’s a little sheen knocked off by expectation and a sense of pre-existing knowledge.

But I digress. For the target audience, youngsters that want to be enthralled with what their reading, it’s another success. It’s full of adventure and easy to cheer for heroes. And, as series go, does a nice job answering enough questions to satisfy the reader, while posing even more, making it nearly impossible to not continue on to the next book.

Highly recommend.


Worthless Review: The Lightining Thief by Rick Riordan

(Worthless becase you’ve likely heard much about this already.)

Finally got around to reading Rick Riordan’s The Lighting Thief. It had been on my to read list for a long time, ever since a fellow kid-let enthusiast and friend had raved about the series, probably three years ago. And, I have to say, it was worth the wait.

Really enjoyed this book. I think it’s a great one to get kids excited about reading. The action is never ending, and even the exposition is fast paced. The dialogue is entertaining and witty and smart. The characters are admirable if flawed, and I think easily identifiable with kids.

But mostly the story is terribly exciting. Can this misfit of a boy, who happens to be the half-god son of Poseidon, successfully complete his arduous adventure, literally to hell and back, to save his new found Olympus-based family? (And can that question get any longer?) Like any great Odyssey tale, the obstacles are seemingly insurmountable until they’re cleverly disposed of.

While it won’t win any literature awards or earn great recognition as an example in character study – simply because it isn’t meant to be – it is a book that can challenge and teach children even as it entertains them. It is simply a great story, in the same vein as Harry Potter, it’s a fantastic adventure, and I fully understand why kids are drawn to it. Endlessly entertaining.  

A Bazaar Day


Spent a fantastic afternoon at the Armadillo Christmas Bizarre. I always love this Austin tradition, shopping for locally made, unique gifts while Austin musicians play in the background. And today was no different. The Palmer Events Center was stacked full with row after row of often handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces, which I perused while Eliza Gilkyson sang.

Went home with this from artist Jay Long: www.jaylongstudio.com

Went home with this from artist Jay Long: http://www.jaylongstudio.com

For me, it’s inspiring to see the art and the artists at the show. Their commitment to their work, from the sheer volume they’re able to create – be prolific, they always tell us writers – to their willingness to stand and sell it day after day.

Got this beautiful gift from Curious Customs: curiouscustoms.com

Got this beautiful gift from Curious Customs: curiouscustoms.com

And, with so many amazingly beautiful pieces, it’s affirming to see people’s willingness to trust their imaginations. Whether molding wire into ornate sculptures or seeing art in flattened bottle tops, some truly creative people are at this year’s show.

It holds glasses! wolfsittler.zenfolio.com

It holds eyeglasses! wolfsittler.zenfolio.com

I don’t believe all art is meant to speak to all people, but I’d be flabbergasted if you couldn’t find at least one thing there that spoke to you.

A gift for myself - a handmade journal: ionahandcraftedbooks.com

A gift for myself – a handmade journal: ionahandcraftedbooks.com

And, in true Austin fashion, the canine community was not left out. The Texas Hearing and Service Dogs non-profit, which adopts dogs from shelters and trains them to be service dogs, was there accepting donations. To say thanks, they sent me home with a dog.

But the best part of all? I now have 99% of my Christmas shopping complete! Now, what to get the sister….


The Battle Concluded

Part II.

I laid in wait for my enemy to return. Four days passed and still no sign of him.

The morning after our initial encounter, I searched for him under my bed to no avail.

Once again, I donned my protective armor and, without physically touching any of the objects, painstakingly removed every item that had made its home under my bed. My protective staff-racket served its true purpose well again, keeping me from having to shove my unprotected hands into the dark void under my bed. The thought of it, of the demon potentially lashing out and ripping the flesh from my hand with its vicious pinchers, terrified me.

Instead, I used the racket as a rake and pulled the objects out one by one. With each jerk, as an object cleared the edge of the bed, I immediately jumped back to the ready, prepared for the monster to show itself. But no luck. Box after box. Game after game. Folding chair after suitcase. Nothing. It was as if he had disappeared as quickly and as suddenly as he had arrived.

Satisfied he had slipped from right underneath me, I, with the same deliberate attention to my protection, returned every item to its darkened place.


Part III.

Three nights of sleeping with the lights on later, and my enemy still had not returned. When will he show his disgusting face again? I wondered. Or did he retreat fully? Did he run back to the vent from which he came, too afraid to challenge me again?

How I wished that were true, but something told me this battle was only going to end one way: with one of us dead. Nay, my enemy was simply waiting for the right moment.

The moment came that very evening.

When the devil reappeared, I was sitting on the same couch he had first banished me to. He was at the top of the wall directly across the room. It seemed he liked to look down upon me. I started to push myself to my feet, as I had but one choice, to ready myself for battle. But then I paused. My eyes widened and my pulse quickened as the realization hit me.

He was positioned over the entrance of the hallway that led to my armory-closet.

What was I to do?  I certainly couldn’t fight without my weapons. I felt naked without them, and that was no condition to be in for fighting. There was but one solution. I would have to cross his path unprotected.

I immediately ran straight at him. The element of surprise! I believed if I ran fast enough, he wouldn’t have time to react, and, sure enough, I flew through that hallway entrance and didn’t hear any response nor see any flash. He had been bested for the moment.

It took me only seconds to prepare, but this timeI added to my arsenal. I realized, in our previous struggle, when my foe came so dangerously close to my feet, that I might need something bigger and stronger with which to crush him, something that didn’t require putting my body in harm’s way. There was one object that immediately sprang into my mind: a book. A big heavy book that would flatten a monster like him quickly, easily – and painlessly, I hoped. After all, I didn’t wish him pain. Just death.

With my racket and ball in one hand and a book in the other, I took off running again and didn’t stop until I reached the couch. Again, the devil had not moved. Perhaps he knew an action as rash as falling onto me was not ideal. He had other tricks up his sleeve. I could feel it.

This time I decided I would not be the aggressor. Instead, I would allow his actions to dictate the course of our combat. So I sat on the couch, waiting.

After a few minutes, my enemy became impatient. He frantically dashed back and forth across the top of the wall, as if looking for the best path to mount his offensive. In response, I got up from the couch and moved closer to him. I stalked his every movement, anticipating the time he would make a mistake and put himself in reach of my racket. This time, I would surely not miss.

It came sooner than I thought. He reached the far corner, the one that put the greatest distance, and the dining room table, between us, and veered once again toward the floor. Now I would have to maneuver around the table as well. He was smart, this one.

Then ingenuity struck! With the low hanging light over the table, the racket was too long an object to be swinging about. Plus, the narrowness of the racket’s frame demanded the most accurate of strikes, something, to be honest, I wasn’t sure I could deliver. If only I had something with a bigger surface, something that would have more force behind it during that initial blow, something that increased the odds of an instant kill, victory would be mine.

I quickly discarded my racket and book onto the table and yanked my heavy sneaker from my foot. Yes, I would have to get closer. Yes, my precious foot would be exposed. But these were risks worth taking for what seemed like a sound strategy.

He was halfway down the wall by the time I got it off. There was no time to waste. I took two steps around the table, cocked my arm back, and flung it forward with a force so violent it could rip the dead from their graves. The sole of my sneaker connected with the wall. For a second, as the shockwave reverberated back through my arm, I thought I felt a surrendering smush of exoskeleton.

But alas, I had missed again! As I pulled my arm back, the cockroach sprung from the wall. I let forth a banshee-like scream and once again retreated.

This time, the cockroach did not follow me. Instead, he scrambled onto the solid, black base of a wrought iron wine rack I had sitting in the corner. He must have thought it the perfect camouflage, but in reality it was a fatal mistake. It was the perfect surface on which to smash him with my book.

I slowly picked the book up off the table. This was it. The moment I had been waiting for, the moment I would finally rid myself of this horrible creature. He would haunt me no longer. With two hands to keep it horizontal, I drop-threw the book.


I then leapt onto the book and drove my feet into the ground to be sure the death blow had been successfully delivered. I heard a second crunch, then silence.

It was over.

The triumphant rush of victory was exhilarating. I had killed the monster! I had vanquished mine enemy! I was the winner!

Yet, I felt the tinge of remorse every hero feels when they take the life of their enemy, as if a part of their life’s purpose has been crushed as well.

I left the book there for over an hour. I couldn’t bring myself to see what had become of him. Out of respect for my valiant foe, I paid him the traditional time of mourning. He had fought a great battle, forced me to be resourceful and creative. It had not been a straightforward smash job. This one had taken planning, and I was the better bug killer for it.

Finally, I removed his dead carcass from the cover of my book – a cloth cover, which, in hindsight, was poorly chosen – as well as any remnants from the wine rack’s base. I then removed my armor and returned my weapons to their place. The battle was complete.

To this day, if ever I hear that sound…tsp. tsp….tsp. tsp… my eyes instantly return to the area of my wall where it meets the ceiling, expecting to see the devil again.

If he comes for me, I will be ready.

The Battle

A true story, in three parts.

Part I.

With the moon pinned at its highest, the devil came for me. He roused me from my slumber with a simple sound.

Tsp. Tsp….Tsp. Tsp.

My eyes snapped open, and even though nothing but darkness preceded them, I knew I was not alone.

Tsp. Tsp….Tsp. Tsp.

It was the sound of scratching steel. The sound of someone – or something – forcing itself through an opening it was not meant to pass.

Tsp. Tsp….Tsp. Tsp….Buzzzzz

The final noise forced me upright. My enemy had arrived.

I sprang from my bed and rushed for the light switch. Merciful light washed over my room. My eyes wanted to close from the resulting pain, but I forced them to stay open, lest I be caught unawares.

It took me only seconds to find him. My foe. Crouched and still at the point where the ceiling meets the wall directly over my dresser. The perfect place, I thought, for there’s no reaching him there.

He was black as a demon’s heart, and his six legs protruded from his armored body like spears. The only movement was from his two antennas, thrashing in front of him as they searched diligently for my pulse. Oh, those dreaded antennas. Like a wounded soul, they would never let me get close.

Nay, this hunt was going to be a challenge. Yet one thing was certain: this cockroach would not live to see the sunrise.

Luckily, in my initial flight, I had managed to place myself between the devil and the bedroom door. I slowly, silently crept out of my room and headed for my closet. It was time to dress for battle. A simple, cotton nightgown would not do. I carefully selected a pair of long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, leaving as little skin revealed as possible – less area for the monster to strike. I then put on my heaviest sneakers, the best for crushing roaches. If he rushed at my feet, I would be ready.

Or so I hoped.

Next I selected my weaponry. Considering where my foe had placed himself, I needed a way to coax him from his lofty perch. I selected a yellow, rubbery orb that could be hurled at my enemy quickly and precisely without causing damage to my domicile. Yes, a tennis ball would serve me well. Yet, while it was the perfect tool to use when on the offensive, I would need something should I have to fend off a counterattack. For that, the obvious pair: a lightweight, yet vicious staff that would strike down my opponent with a single stroke. A tennis racket.

Armed and ready, I returned to my room. He had not altered his position, but his antennas had ceased their search. I surmised that they must have found their target.

The battle was to begin.

I positioned myself along the wall opposite him, aimed my missile, and fired. Miss! It landed not two inches behind him, sending him scurrying towards the corner. I could tell he had not expected that. I quickly retrieved my bludgeon and took aim again. Another miss! I continued to reload and fire, pushing the villain further along the top of the wall.

But, alas, with each step, he was getting closer to me. I had not foreseen that my own attack would draw my enemy near. I made a quick, evasive action: I jumped onto my bed and crawled to the other side. Now there was once again significant space between us.

With the pause in my attack, the monster stopped. I froze as well. What was I to do now? I was a considerable distance from him, and any chance I had at hitting him with the ball had declined drastically. How could I get him back into striking distance?

As I contemplated whether to move closer or not, he made the first move. He ran directly to the corner, took a hard right, and began running down the wall. I leapt with a mix of excitement and panic. As he scurried towards the floor, he entered the range of my tennis racket. A blow from my trusty staff would mean almost certain death for him, even if it meant, for me, getting within an arm’s length of my attacker. But what if I missed? What if I was not successful and he made it to the floor? That would be disastrous. Too many objects to hide behind and openings to disappear into.

He was moving fast now. I had no time to think. I had simply to react. I ran around my bed and pulled my tennis racket high over my shoulder. I swung. This time… contact!

My racket connected with the target, but it only grazed him. Instead of smashing him flat, I managed to catch him with the lip of the racket’s edge and fling him from the wall. He landed silently on the ground. And, with the forward motion of my swing, I had pulled him dangerously close to my feet. As I stood staring at his unholy form, fear gripped me and I couldn’t move. I felt a shriek welling in my throat.

The devil was so close!

In that instant, with my guard down, he took his chance to strike. He ran directly at my frozen feet, antenna at the ready! Lo, divine providence had other plans for that night, for within a half inch of my foot, he veered again and headed directly under my bed.

Suddenly my faculties returned, and I ran from the room. Following such a close brush with imminent death, retreat could not be considered cowardice.

With my back firmly pressed against the hallway wall, I relived the events of the last few seconds. Was he toying with me? Had this been his plan all along and now, from under my bed, he would torment me? Or had he simply reacted like I had and was now regrouping for his next attack?

It didn’t matter, I told myself. The fact remained that an evil cockroach, sent by the Under Lord himself, was now under my bed, and, given the late hour, I had little interest in going after him. The process of removing everything from that underbelly in order to locate him was too daunting a task to undertake that night. Sleep was calling to me and tomorrow was fast approaching.

I shut my door, and then shoved a towel under it, blocking the slight opening. I considered for a moment the likely hood the monster would be able to escape my blockade and renew his attack while I slept, but I brushed the idea off as silly. Nay, the battle was over for that night. But it would continue, if not the following day, then soon. The devil would come for me again, and I would be ready.

I collapsed onto my couch, exhausted from the night’s events, and surrendered to the sweet release of unconsciousness.

To be continued….

The Final Season: Was the Marathon Worth It?

Ok, so I took a much longer break than I meant to. Oops. But onwards and upwards.

When I finished my marathon blogging run of posting something for every game the Atlanta Braves played last season, I imagined my first post after the season would be a reflective one. After all, I did the marathon as a way to challenge myself to be more consistent about writing. Sure, it was a little a bit about my love for a team I’ve followed for over 20 years, but mostly it was about setting a tangible goal.

Was it worth it?

I think so. I posted 162 times over 6+ months, and, in terms of length, they were all legitimate posts, too. There were a couple times when I felt like just throwing up a picture with a witty comment and being done with it, particularly for the mid-week games on the West coast. (And, for a few of those, I must admit, I did post the next morning instead of waiting up for the end of the game.) But, no, I didn’t do that. I wrote full posts of around 1,000 words every time.

I wrote at the beginning of the marathon that I didn’t think the challenge would be finding stuff to write about, and I was right. I brainstormed a massive list of potential topics to pull from, and when I finished, there were still topics left.

However, I also wrote that I thought the real challenge, as it probably is for all writers, would be to make each post worth reading, and on that effort, I’m not sure I passed with flying colors.

Along that line, I told myself that once a post was up, there would be no editing. It was published. It was done. So I did very little reading back of what I posted. Of course I edited before I posted, and I did – a couple times – see something after I posted, like a misspelling, and allowed myself to change it. But for the most part, posted equaled finished.

That’s how my quality check pans out. It’s very easy to go back and read through some of my posts the purpose of reflection. And what do I find? The quality certainly varied. I think a lot of that had to do with the topic I chose for that day. It’s obvious, to me the reader, which topics really inspired me and were easy to approach, like those related to childhood memories just poured out of me, while other, more technical posts didn’t.

I also learned the quality of my work tends to suffer when it’s two in the morning and I’d rather be sleeping. Shocking, I know.  Same goes for when I was semi-sleeping and forcing myself to stay awake to finish. Those posts, and you can probably tell them from their lack of coherence, were some of the worst. That, friends, is called procrastination, and is, thankfully, not something I am prone to. But when you’re blogging for the 15th time in 17 days, it may not always be the most appetizing pursuit, so, yes, I was known to put off working on a post until after a game was over. And, of course, as divine punishment, I swear those were the nights I was stuck with a less than inspiring topic that seemed to stand between me and the page.

But that exercise did teach me a good lesson. While I may not enjoy writing on command, I can do it. It can be done. So, in that sense, there’s no excuse for not writing at least something, say, six out of seven days a week. Writing every day, whether it’s 500, 1,000 or 10,000+ words, can be done. It can be done early in the morning or late at night or on a lunch break. Even on the busiest of busy days, there are 30 minutes that can be cut out for writing.

I know this now, and I’ve found it easily implemented in my own life. I’m happy to say that habit I started has stuck with me, and I’ve written a lot over the past few months I haven’t been blogging, whether it was work on my book or on short stories I hope to post here soon.

So, because of that, I’m glad I made myself take on the crazy marathon. It gave me a clear goal, which I also learned is something I desperately need to be successful. It gave me a purpose for this blog, which helped to keep it going. And it showed me the concept of ‘sitting your butt in the chair’ truly is the only way to write. To be a writer, you have to write. Seems simple enough, yet it is a concept many find difficult to grasp. And you have to do it even on the days it’s the last thing in the world you want to be doing. Practice does make (closer to) perfect. And that’s all writing every day is. Not chiseling away on the next, great American novel. It’s just practice.

My final thought, which I have to say as I was focused on the Braves, is that it was sad to see the season end the way, via the extremely liberal “in-field” fly rule, the lack of opportunity to play more than one playoff game, and the farewell error from a certain, future Hall of Famer. But that’s ok – that team is young and full of talent. Next year should be a lot of fun. (Alas, hope springs eternal.) I doubt I’ll be documenting it, though. Onwards and upwards.

The Final Season: Close It Out

Atlanta 4 – Pittsburgh 0; CJ: 1-1, R

Final Season Stats: .287/.377/.455, 14 HR, 62 RBI, 111 H, 58 R

Final Career Stats: .303/.401/.529, 468 HR, 1623 RBI, 2725 H, 1618 R

It happened. The regular season ended. It always seems to do that, though, no matter how much I protest. At least this year Atlanta will see the postseason, even if only for a brief few hours.

But this last game also means the last day of blogging for me in this epic marathon gauntlet I voluntarily ran into. Today’s post will mark the 162nd time I have posted in the last 6+ months. That’s… a lot. Even I can acknowledge that. I can also acknowledge that it is not a pace I can maintain. In fact, I imagine this being the last post for at least a few days, if not a week or more. I need a little break.

But instead of waxing philosophical about what the last six months have meant to me or shown me, what I got out of all this, if anything, I’m going to finish like I started – writing about baseball. And not writing about what I feel when the season ends or how I long for baseball during the winter (and I do), but writing about a completely random thought I’ve had about this game I love.

Cue the closers (which is fitting as it is my last post).

I had this great conversation with my dad, as I often due, while watching a baseball game recently. Actually, it was a highlight MLB or ESPN or whoever chose to show during the game we were watching, and it was of Tampa Bay Rays closer Fernando Rodney finishing off a game for the team. And if you know anything about Rodney, you know he seems like kind of an intense, yet animated dude. He cocks his hat to one side, has a long-ish, unkempt beard, and makes large gestures with his arms when he completes a save.

This display of, what I assume to be, machoness prompted a comment to my dad about how all closers are crazy. His response: “Well, they need to be.” This led to me saying the expected, ‘Go on.’

It’s my father’s theory that, to be an effective closer, you have to be a little left of center. His reasoning is that it takes a special kind of person to get amped up for coming in with the game on the line. Typically, when closers get the ball, their team is up by only a run or two, and they are tasked with making sure it stays that way. Their team has battled for eight innings to force themselves out in front with only one half inning standing between them and victory. “So, here’s the ball, closer, and don’t screw it up for the rest of us.’

Being a closer is a high pressure job, for sure. Your sole purpose is to ensure wins. No matter how good the batters are that you’re facing and no matter what the situation as far as men on base threatening to score, you are to come in and close the door. The stress, the adrenaline, the nerves, the sense of control. I could see how some players would enjoy all that. I, personally, not so much. I’m non-confrontational. Put me in for some long relief early in the game with the team down seven because the starter blew up. That I can do. But close? I’d have a stress-induced asthma, panic, and heart attack all at once. But those guys that do it and are good at it seem to love it. Obsess over it. ‘Give me the ball, coach! I’m ready.’

That sort of reckless disregard for anxiety is probably where the tattoos, beards and antics come from. They let loose both literally, with their pitches, and figuratively, with their emotions and, possibly, self-control.

Don’t get me wrong. I love closers. The Braves have one of the best in the game in Craig Kimbrel, and he is certainly a big part of their success. So definitely love closers. I just think it’s funny how so many of them fit into that characterization. Crazy guy with long hair, wild gestures and Technicolor tattoos. The kind of guy that looks prone to getting into bar fights with bikers. And I realize while Kimbrel may not look that way, he does look as intense as any of them when he’s out there.

The best exception I can think of, to offer a counterpoint, is Mariano Rivera. He was, for what seems like decades, the Yankees’ closer. (He’s hurt now but looking to make a comeback.) He is a guy that calmly goes out to the mound, void of all tattoos and piercing holes and flashy gestures, and mows opponents down like they’re blades of grass, just sitting and waiting to be chopped up. But he seems like the exception much more so than the rule.

But, hey, if it’s late in a game and the team needs to shut the door, I don’t mind a guy with a questionable appearance or behavior. As long as he’s effective, we’re good. Again – as long as he’s effective. If he is, I’ll wear as many fake beards in as many fake colors as I can find.