Monday, September 21, 2009

A Sad Event

Last Saturday, Audrey called me almost midnight to tell me she'd miscarried. Knowing that that meant her baby had died, I immediately asked if she was all right. She said she was, but I know she's still dealing with it. She and Shaun are sticking together to heal together.

Not only is this a death, but they wanted a child so much. This is also them putting aside the preparation, the excitement, and the expectation of having a child.

Bad things happen, but life goes on.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gift idea!

Stuck for a Christmas gift? Books are always good! But what if there aren't any editions out there that you can afford that are gift-worthy?

Here's a solution!

There are hundreds of books in the public domain out there, and many are online. Texts can be obtained easily from Project Gutenberg, and some illustrated editions are available from Google Books and Internet Archive. Also, sometimes a Google search can turn up illustrations.

If you have software that can format books, you're good to go! Just a bit of know-how can create good-looking editions of books.

Be sure that you aren't just creating a print-out of the book's text. Although it will require a bit of work, try fixing the paragraph margins for the book. They're done quite differently from webpages in a book. Make sure your text looks decent, and add a title page. (You can also try adding a table of contents.)

If you want to save your work as a PDF, the free software Open Office supports PDF creation, which many print-on-demand publishers will accept.

Try to keep a small page size (as in inches) when formatting your book. Smaller books are easier to wrap and more portable. You may want to visit some of the sites described in the next paragraph to determine a good size for your book.

Now, upload your finished file to a print-on-demand publishing site. is a good source for this. You will usually have to create a cover separate from the book, and Lulu offers a cover designer.

If everything you used is clearly legal, you can even use the site to sell copies of the book. (Remember, copies you buy will be at cost.)

I must remind you: be sure the text and any images and other material you use is public domain where you live. What is public domain in one country may not be elsewhere. If not, if the copyright owners find out, you could be in serious trouble, especially if you try to sell copies of your edition.

Although I mentioned Google Books and, not every piece of material has been cleared for use commercially. If they discovered you used their material, you could also be in trouble. Using these would probably be all right if you're printing up a copy for a gift, but if you're trying to sell it, make sure the version you have does not prohibit commercial use. Having warned you, if you get in trouble for this, I take no responsibility. People worked to get those online for everyone to enjoy. If they don't want you to profit from their work, that is their choice.

Also, if you're using illustrations you found online, be sure that they're okay to use in print. Just because it's online, does not mean it's free to use.

So, with a little bit of care, you could have a nice book to give to someone special!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Being Human Again

So, last Saturday night, BBC America concluded their initial airing of Being Human, the supernatural drama that was a big hit in the UK early this year.

Despite blurred middle fingers and bums, muted profanity, and some cut shots, the series was still able to shine and entertain. I was lucky enough to see the uncut British version before the BBC America began their airing. (So why did I watch it on TV? To show my support and see just how it was cut for America.)

Ignoring the pilot that's been pulled from syndication in the UK and is officially unreleased in the US, the series stands on it's own. Episode one begins with a monologue from Annie, a young woman who died under mysterious circumstances by falling down the stairs in her home. As she haunts her former home, we are introduced to Mitchell, a vampire who was converted in World War I to prevent the other men in his troop from becoming vampire fodder, and George, a neurotic young man who was attacked by a werewolf while vacationing in Scotland, and now changes into a werewolf under the full moon.

Unseen at present, George and Mitchell have become friends (odd, since vampires usually hate werewolves) and move into Annie's old home. It is only a matter of time before Annie introduces herself to the new tenants.

George and Mitchell have decided to try to slip into normal human society. George is careful about where he is when he transforms every month, usually in the woods, where he will likely only kill wild animals in his wolf form, and later, in an enclosed room. Mitchell is trying to wean himself off of blood, and is often seen snacking on food throughout the series.

Annie, however, is trying to discover how she died and why she's still around. To her delight, Mitchell and George can always see her, as they are supernatural, but normal humans can only see her when she is completely self-confident.


Episode one throws the viewer into lives of the trio (okay, two lives and an afterlife), as George is forced to stay at home as he transforms, Annie discovers her fiance is dating the woman she dreaded that he would turn to, and Mitchell must deal with Lauren, a young woman he made into a vampire during the opening monologue, and later, other vampires appear to make life difficult for Mitchell and his friends: the leader of the vampires Herrick, and Seth, a vampire who hides as an undertaker, ready to cart new vampire recruits to the vampire headquarters. (Placed in a funeral parlor, a device so cliche, even the characters comment on it.)

In episode two George discovers another werewolf, Tully, who moves in with the trio, as a mentor to George. However, he quickly becomes a pain, and despite his initial chumminess with Mitchell and charming Annie, alienates everyone but George. Tully eventually reveals a secret to George that makes George decide to end the friendship with his mentor and return home.

Episode three finds Annie struggling with her anxiety, and Mitchell and George introduce her to Gilbert, a guy who died in the 1980's, who tries to help Annie deal with her afterlife and possibly discover why she hasn't "crossed over." However, it results in her discovering the circumstances of her death. Meanwhile, George develops a romantic relationship with coworker Nina, while Mitchell tries to help Lauren with her blood addiction.

Episode four finds Mitchell attempting to befriend Bernie, a neighborhood boy, but when Mitchell accidentally loans him a vampire snuff video, the entire community thinks George and Mitchell are pedophiles, which sours Mitchell's desire to join humanity, and complicates George's relationship with Nina. Meanwhile, Annie discovers that her emotional turmoil over her death has led to poltergeist activity, and she tries to control it.

Episode five finds Mitchell joining the vampires again, helping them with their plan to convert the world to vampires, but an old flame and George and Annie help him see the vampires' true plan. George overcomes some of his hesitation to act, while Annie confronts her murderer.

In episode six, deciding to end the vampires' hold over him once and for all, Mitchell challenges Herrick to a fight. George, however, sees this as his opportunity to pay Mitchell back for the moment that they met: Mitchell saving George from being beaten to death by other vampires.

While some viewers want to nitpick about details they didn't catch, I found the entire series well-written and strung together very well. Character story arcs occur through the series, for example, in episode one, George expresses his disgust at Annie's presence, but in episode five, when Annie decides to resolve her death, George tells her that he doesn't want her to leave, now that he and Mitchell have been her friends.

Each episode consistently keeps a theme going in all the story threads. Fans have decided that the six episodes present the themes of death, friendship, love, identity, relationships, and resolutions.

Some American fans have criticized the series for it's short run. I think, however, that a short series helps the episodes become more plot driven, as opposed to American shows that often turn to fluffy subplots.

The acting is also terrific, from the leads to the secondary characters to the one episode-only characters. Just another reason to love it. One actor who plays a secondary character makes his character fairly likable in the first couple episodes, but later manages to act so evil, it was just amazing!

I'm still loving just how good this show is!

I'm A Monkey's Uncle...

This is my niece, Amber. (With her aunt Audrey and her dad, my brother Aaron.)

And yesterday, I scanned in Audrey's first ultrasound photos. Yes, she's pregnant. And according to the doctor, they conceived on the wedding night.

I've nicknamed Amber "Crazy Monkey Girl" because of her energy that always comes with kids that young. When Audrey told me that she was pregnant, I commented, "Well, there's another crazy monkey kid for me to be an uncle to... and it has a crazy monkey father."