Spammers are Using My Number

It appears some spam phone callers have somehow decided to use my phone number to start calling people. I base this off the fact that I’ve now had two different people call me up within the last two weeks, wondering why I keep calling. These are people I don’t know. I haven’t called them before. They just seem to be calling me out of the blue, and when I answer, they’re fairly irate, wondering why I keep harassing them.

Needless to say, it’s a bit disconcerting to get yelled at by strangers, and I’m more than a little put out about it. On the other hand, my options for dealing with it aren’t too great.

On the one hand, I could do what I always used to do, and just not answer the phone when strangers are calling. However, this became more difficult once I became the Stake Executive Secretary. Now there are members from across the state calling me sporadically, and it’s usually easier for me to help them if I just pick up the phone when they call. Otherwise, I have to deal with trying to get back in touch with them, which isn’t always a hop skip and a jump. (Due in part, no doubt, to the number of spam calls we all keep getting, which makes us want to just not answer the phone.)

I can enable a call filtering service on my phone, which sends unknown numbers straight to my voice mail. Again, not the ideal. Instead of doing that, I think I’d just stop answering my phone first. Either way, if I go down that path, I’d probably change my voice mail message to something like “If you’ve been getting calls from me regularly, know that my number has been picked up by some spam services. It’s not me. Please just block my number, so both of us don’t have to deal with them.” But then again, there are actually people who I am trying to reach, not all of them known to me. I don’t want someone I’m trying to reach from the stake to think I’m a spammer, because then I can’t do the things I need to get done.

So for now, I’m kind of just hoping that this problem goes away on its own. Countless ostriches with their heads in the sand can’t be wrong, can they? It becomes a balancing act between how I want to disrupt my life.

Why has it gotten to this? Why is it that people are using technology to do idiotic things like have robots call strangers in an effort to convince those strangers the IRS wants their money? Probably because a portion of those strangers fall for the scam and send those robots money . . .

I’m just saying, if they’d had spam callers on The Jetsons, the future might not have looked quite so rosy. Where’s my flying car and my cushy button pressing job?

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Movie Review: A Marriage Story

I think one of the reasons I often don’t get to see as many of the Oscar nominated films as I’d like is that so many of them are movies that require a fairly hefty emotional investment. A lot of the time when I’m ready to watch something, I want to do nothing more than sit and be entertained. “Deep thought” is far from my To Do list. “Get depressed” is even further. Of course, that’s not entirely fair. It’s not as if all serious movies are depressing. They just are designed to make you think much more than your average Marvel movie, say.

But at the same time, those Oscar movies are often the best ones I see. I know they’re worth my while in theory. I’m just too lazy to prod myself to watch them in practice, which is why I’m glad I have this goal to watch as many of them as I can. (Goals work best for me when they get me to do something I want to do and wouldn’t do without that goal.)

Marriage Story is a classic example of this. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver portray a couple that’s falling apart. The film depicts the demise of their marriage in all its painful, excruciatingly acted detail. It’s a hard movie to watch, but it’s a very well done movie. (I had no idea Randy Newman did the score, which I felt added a great touch to the whole thing. I should have known.)

Driver and Johansson really dig into their roles, inhabiting them to the point that we feel we know them by the end of the movie. This isn’t a divorce where one person is “bad” and the other is “good.” Rather, they’re both complex, and the marriage fell apart for a number of reasons, with hints of other reasons lying deeper still.

One of the things I appreciated most about the movie was the attention to detail. Driver plays a director, and Johansson plays an actress. When they’re preparing (individually) to be observed by a social worker to report to the judge on their parenting skills, Driver focuses on getting the house just right. He perfects the setting, talks to his son, works on dinner. Johansson, on the other hand, focuses on her performance, practicing through what she’ll say beforehand. Details like that make me want to parse the movie apart further, because they hint at the sort of thought that went into the construction of the movie.

Was it perfect? Not quite, in my book. I gave it a 9.5 instead of 10 for one basic reason: I felt like the movie skewed a bit too heavily toward Driver’s character, slightly favoring him in the divorce’s fallout, and glossing over some of the mistakes he’d made that caused the divorce. It’s nothing glaring, but it was enough to make me keep expecting they’d finally address it in the movie, but they never really did.

Maybe that’s unfair of me. Maybe I should just be accepting of the fact that Driver’s character was a shade nicer than Johansson’s. But it felt off to me, and that held it back from a perfect score. That said, I still loved the movie. Loved how much the real communication between these two people who clearly still had feelings for each other had broken down to the point that the only time they actually communicated, they were shouting and crying. Loved how it led by listing all the things they liked about each other, and how even that led to their relationship’s ruin.

It’s a thought provoking movie, but it’s not one you’re going to leave feeling good about life. (Well, maybe you’ll feel good that your life isn’t Driver and Johansson’s . . .) I would not be surprised to see any actors walk away with awards, but I would be disappointed if it wins best picture instead of 1917. (I’d be surprised if it won, considering the director didn’t get a nod for best director . . .)

Have you seen it? What did you think? It’s streaming on Netflix now for free. (Rated R for language, but a fair bit of it. If that’s not a turn off, I think this would be a good one to watch as a couple, if only to discuss ways you feel their relationship went wrong, and what you can do to avoid that. My takeaway? Communication. It always seems to come back to that for me. If your communication lines breakdown, then your relationship tends to wither away.)

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Movie Review: 1917

When I watched the Oscars last year, I decided that this year I wanted to do a better job actually watching as many of the films before the Oscars came around again. So that’s what I’ve set out to do, though there’s not a ton of time before they come (the 9th this year! That feels about 2-3 weeks earlier. Am I wrong?)

First up, I went and saw 1917 when it opened. I’d heard a lot about the movie ahead of time: the tale of a pair of young soldiers in WWI tasked with bringing vital information across the battlefield. If they succeeded, they’d save the lives of 1,600 men. If they failed, those men were doomed. Even more intriguingly (to me), the movie was made to seem like it was one long continuous shot. No cuts. How could I resist?

The movie is a masterpiece. I loved the whole thing. I know some had found the continuous take to be a bit too gimmicky, but it worked wonderfully for me. It made the movie that much more compelling, and I felt like it was a real callback to a simpler sort of film. “This is the story. These two men. That’s all we’re going to show.” When you use that approach, you can’t have a bunch of cheats you usually get to use. No cutting away to a different scene to raise tension. The audience knows and sees exactly what your characters know and see. Because of this, I found some of the action pieces so much more riveting than they might have been had they been told in the standard style.

In many ways, the movie reminded me of Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old, which was also a great piece. The acting and plot in this film were great, but I really have to hand it to the cinematographer. It looks amazing, and the tricks they had to pull to make the “one continuous shot” feel real are fairly incredible. It’s telling to me that the film was nominated for 10 Oscars, but not one of those was for acting. That doesn’t often happen, I don’t think. This is not an actor’s film (anymore than DiCaprio’s Revenant was an actor’s film, but let’s not go there). This is all about story and execution. I loved it.

The movie is rated R for language (11 f-words, if you’re keeping exact count) and its grisly depiction of war. (It’s filmed in the middle of trench warfare, and it doesn’t shy from showing exactly what that would have been like.) However, this would be a movie that I’d recommend to just about anyone who’s at all a fan of movies (and is mature enough to handle the gore). I found it completely gripping. 10/10, and I would be pleased as punch to see it rake in the awards.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

New Book Deal Announced: MURDER CASTLE Heading Your Way!

If you were following me on Facebook or Twitter over the weekend, you already know the big news: while I was offline in Utah, the news broke about a new book deal for yours truly. This would be one of those things I’ve wanted to tell you about for the last while that I couldn’t. I first got news of the offer right before I went out Trick or Treating with my kids on Halloween. That’s a long time to sit on something before I get to share it with others.

So what does this deal actually mean? For one thing, there’s the obvious: MURDER CASTLE will be out in bookstores, ready for you to read in summer 2021. I began writing the first draft of the book in October 2016, so that’s five years from the first words to being in print. What’s it about? Etta’s sister runs away to Chicago in the 1890s, intent on seeing the Chicago world’s fair, even though it’s half a continent away. Everything seems wonderful at first. She sends Etta a series of letters describing the fair, her new job as a maid, and even a man she’s met. And then the letters stop. Convinced something has happened to her, Etta runs away herself, intent on going to Chicago and discovering the truth. But the truth turns out to be much more sinister than she ever imagined . . .

It’s based on the real life story of HH Holmes, America’s first serial killer, though I take considerable license with the plot. It was a very different book for me to write, and I had a lot of fun in the process. It’s got some pretty gruesome scenes in it, but nothing too awful. (That I can remember . . . it’s been a while since I read it . . .) Definitely YA and not Middle Grade, however.

You’ll notice the deal is for two books. That means MURDER CASTLE will be the first, and then I’m on contract for a second, as yet to be determined novel. My hope is that will be one I’ve already written, as I’ve got several primed and ready to go, but I’ll have to submit those to my editor and see what she thinks of them before I know what will happen there.

I haven’t seen my first edits on the book yet, and I’ve never worked with this new editor before, so I have no idea how much revising I’m going to have in front of me. Could be a lot, could be a little. That will derail current writing projects, but that’s a problem I’m more than ready and eager to deal with. 🙂

Of course, I’ve learned over the years never to take anything for granted. You celebrate the victories as they come along and roll with the punches when they pop up. For now, it’s a happy day in Bryceville. I can’t wait to share the book with you.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Degu Housing Crisis

Over Christmas break, one of the items on the family To Do list was to clean out the degu cage. Never a popular task, but one which we’ve followed for years without serious incident. Our degu lives in a two tier affair, the bottom made out of a 30 gallon aquarium tank filled with wood shavings, and the top being a wire construction complete with an exercise wheel and a second floor lair. It’s worked well for us these past eight years.

This time, however, when Tomas and DC went to dump the cage contents on the compost pile, the glass aquarium finally gave up the ghost, with an entire side of it shattering into the snow. This was, needless to say, Not Part of the Plan, and it left us in a bit of a jam. We had a cage top that was still fine, but no cage bottom. Without a bottom, there would be no place to contain the wood shavings. We could try putting it in a cardboard box (we had plenty of those after the holidays), but that would get nasty fast.

A quick perusal of Craig’s List and Facebook Marketplace showed us there were other glass tanks around, but none the right size. And a new one would cost upwards of $100. That’s a bit rich for my blood, especially for an eight year old degu and no plans to get a new degu once she departs us. So I did what any self-respecting American would do: I took the dimensions of the cage top and went to Walmart.

My mission? Find something (anything!) that would work for a cage bottom for the little critter. The trick? The cage top was exceptionally long. 31 inches long, 14 inches wide. And after scouring the entire Walmart, DC and I were coming up with nothing. I had figured a plastic bin would work, but all the ones we found were just an inch or two too short. We tried bookcases as well, but they were just too big, or too expensive.

Finally, we tried the Christmas section, and there we hit pay dirt, coming across a single bin that was 34 inches long and 18 inches wide. Better yet, it was all of $15. We bought it, brought it home, and set the degu cage top inside it.

Problem: it was so tall, the cage almost completely disappeared inside it. This made it less than ideal for our degu, since she couldn’t see out, and the kids couldn’t see in to watch her. So I did what any self-respecting American would do: I got out my Dremel and cut windows in the side of the bin.

I’m pleased to say that with about 20 minutes of work, our degu can now see out just fine. Better yet, her new cage has convenient carrying handles, so moving it around for cleaning and transportation is simpler. Would I recommend it if we were just starting out on our degu ownership adventure? No. But for the end portion of the ride, I think it should be perfect.

American ingenuity wins again!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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