The Charlatan’s Boy, by Jonathan Rogers, is a story of two people traveling around the island of Corenwald, deceiving people in exchange for their money. They had the best gig around, with Grady playing “The Wild Man of the Feechiefen Swamp,” but it ended when the people stopped believing in feechies. We get to come along on their quest to make money, and learn all about the boy named Grady.

Grady spends most of the story wondering who he is, where he comes from, and if he’ll ever fit in with the society of Corenwald. His life with the Charlatan is anything but ordinary, which does not help his desire to discover his past. His struggles and pain feel so real, you can’t help but like the kid and wish him the best.

The Charlatan’s Boy is well written and easy to read. The characters are developed and I felt as connected to them as a city boy can. The story flows from one location to the next, never missing a beat. The dialog and descriptions bring Louisiana to mind, and is makes the story seem all the more real.

Though the book reads like it was meant for a younger reader than I, I enjoyed it. I would recommend this book to whomever likes to read, no matter what age they are.

** I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

With the popularity of gritty reboots for every movie, I think my blog needs one. I’m not going to change the format much, but I will be adding some content… some actual content!

Details will be coming in the near future, stay tuned!

Way back in April I was driving with my girls home from my Aunt’s house in Kansas. The road into Nebraska is a highway, but for some reason the 10 or so miles between the state line and the first town has a speed limit of 55mph. While I had my cruise set at 56 or so, I was passed by two vehicles driving at least 20mph over the speed limit. They flew by me and were forgotten.

As I approached said first town, I started slowing down for the first speed zone (45mph) and planned on continuing to slow down for the next speed zone (35mph), however, I saw on the top of the next hill a County Sheriff’s car coming toward me. I did the typical panic-ridden glance at the speedometer and realized I was fine, so I continued my slow deceleration. The sheriff’s car turned left in front of me and stopped. I knew I was caught, although I’m not sure what I was caught for yet.

I continued into town, and sure enough, the sheriff followed me with his lights on. I pulled over as soon as the road widened and he proceeded to give me a speeding ticket for 45 in a 35mph speed zone (he said I was driving 47). As I mentioned, I had my girls in the car with me, so I didn’t challenge the reading. I was rather upset thought.

The next weekend I went back to my Aunt’s house and as I came home again, I realized something: the Sheriff clocked me in a 45mph zone, not a 35 as he had said. He even turned to wait for me to pass in the same 45mph zone. I was really hot at this point, and decided I was going to fight the ticket. With my court date in June, I had a long time to seethe.

With all kinds of scenarios playing out in my head, I began to think of my defense. I have always heard that if the officer doesn’t show up, you get off, so I really didn’t try all that hard. I got a rather surprising awakening that day in June…

My first time in the courthouse I found it with no problem. I was there 30+ minutes early, but as some of you know, I cannot be late (seriously, no matter how hard I try!). They were surprised to see me there for a speeding violation (nobody does that you know), but I had to wonder what they thought since they had yet to receive my money and admission of guilt. I got a seat early at the Clerk’s comment that they would be busy.

Busy they were. Before I went in about 20 or so kids came in and put in a mass guilty plea for Minor in Possession. Apparently there had been one hell of a party somewhere. One of them had to go in front of the judge, because this was his second MIP. His sentence was pretty harsh, and I was rather pleased to see the judge was fair, as the kid apparently hadn’t learned his lesson.

The second person in line before me discussed his community service options with the judge. Again, the judge was fair. I was up next.

After being informed of my rights, I went ahead and pleaded “Not Guilty.” to the violation. Well, since the deputy could not make it to the hearing, a trial was scheduled for July. The law worked exactly as it was designed: without both parties present, there cannot be a fair hearing.

As trial approached, I worked a little harder on my defense. I had waived my right to an attorney, because do I really need one? I was looking at it this way: I was right, he made a mistake and if I won, I won, and if I lost, I lost. Not really a big deal.

One month later my trial date was upon me. I dutifully drove down the the courthouse again. (Did I mention that this was an hour and a half – one way!) This time I was there alone, with the Judge, County Attorney and the Deputy Sheriff. Here’s a brief overview of how it went:

  1. The attorney asked the deputy two and a half pages worth of questions about his character, ability, longevity and skills as a deputy (none of which I was questioning), then proceeded to show certificates for the deputy’s training and the radar’s (who knew it was Doppler?) accuracy (also not was I was questioning).
  2. I got my chance to cross-examine, which I didn’t need to do because I wasn’t questioning the deputy’s competence.
  3. After being sworn-in, I gave my testimony in narrative form and presented some pictures of where the deputy stopped me and where the speed limit actually changed.
  4. The attorney cross-examined me, asking some rather pointed questions that tried to make it sound like I thought the deputy was incompetent. Again, that was not what I was trying to insinuate.
  5. The judge made his ruling: I had caused enough doubt on the location of the clocking that it could not be determined that I had been 10mph over the speed limit.
  6. The attorney interjected that I had actually been clocked at 47mph, meaning I was still speeding. My first reaction was to argue that there was no supporting documentation, but since the competence of the deputy had been called into question enough times (never by me), and I have to drive through this county every time I visit my Aunt (not to mention I had to go home that day), I just smiled and let the judge give me a speeding ticket for 2mph over the speed limit.
  7. I thanked the Judge, attorney and deputy and left the courtroom. I stopped by the really nice clerk again, who gave me my $10 fine (plus $48 court costs!) and I paid it.
  8. I drove away at a minimum of 5mph under the speed limit. At least until I left the county, then I sped up to the speed limit (which I always drive at now, to avoid tickets!)

So the moral of the story is: you can beat a ticket, but only if you are smart and in the right in the first place.

And just in case anyone who reads this knows the Deputy Sheriff in the southernmost county in NE (on my trip) who has been a deputy for 18 years, please tell him this:

I have the utmost respect for you. I never called into question your ability or intelligence, only the location of the clock. I appreciate the past 18 years you have protected your county and community and I pray that you continue to serve until you retire.

I just wish you would have caught the two drivers who passed me south of town.


I know this is kind of dated, but I started the post when it was new… I’ll finish it now.

At the latest Pwn2Own hacking conference, Internet Explorer 8 on Windows 7 fell in 2 minutes. In addition, the longest standing hacker to win money has found 20 bugs using what he calls a “dumb fuzzer.” In other words, something simple that any hacker would know about and know how to do. So why is it that huge companies with huge security departments and teams of programmers fail to run the same “simple” attacks that could have prevented 20 bugs?

Laziness? Ineptness? No concern for quality? All of the above?

(Just so no one accuses me here: Safari on MacOS X fell really quick and so did Firefox and Chrome. I know nothing is perfect, but come on!)

Microsoft has been around since 1975. They released Windows in 1985. They released Internet Explorer in 1995. I know security wasn’t an issue in the early days: most people were still nice back then. Now however, it’s apparently more important for people on the Internet to try to ruin other people’s lives than be nice. But I digress…

So Microsoft has has 25 years to make Windows more secure and 15 years to make Internet Explorer more secure. I know it’s not that simple: as technologies/people change, so does the attack surface of a product. Simple attacks from 2005 aren’t the same as simple attacks in 2010.

However, that being said, it’s a little more than frightening when a company as huge as this can have their browser hacked by something so simple that every hacker could do. Of course, maybe that’s by design: maybe they’re fixing the really bad ones because the dumb fuzzer is too simple to worry about.

So… how can you protect yourself while you’re online? The answer is a lot more complicated than you were hoping for. Rather than try to tell you what to do, I’m going to highlight what I do to try and keep my online browsing safer.

What I do:

  1. Only look at web pages I think are trustworthy. The problem here is it’s a judgment call: in the same manner I look at a strange van with a strange person inside offering candy as suspicious, others might see a nice person giving children candy. I’m less trusting that most, so I do look at most web pages with suspicion. As it was said by a Watchguard employee, “I don’t trust my computer, why would I trust yours?”
  2. Keep my OS (and browser) updated with the latest patches. Microsoft’s recent patch Tuesday tied the record for the most bug fixes (Computerworld, I’m too lazy to post a link). I have applied them to my system (Windows 7) and I am also using the latest version of Firefox, my browser of choice. I also keep IE fully patched even though I don’t use it, since I do make use of the rendering engine when I have to.
  3. Something that gives me a warm fuzzy (albeit maybe a false sense of security) is that I run a script blocker on Firefox. It allows me to pick and choose what scripts run on any given website. It can also let me allow scripts from a certain site while not allowing others to run from 3rd parties. As a result, some webpages look funny, but I see a lot less ads than most.
  4. Keep my email fully patched. This is one that most people don’t think about: how is email related to web browsing? If you have a web-based email client, it’s obvious. If not, then how? Outlook uses Word to compose messages, but still allows HTML to run, for example. I use Thunderbird for my email client, and I make sure it’s patched because I get links and HTML in my emails all the time.
  5. Another thing I do with email is not open anything that’s junk. I set up a rule, a really simple rule: If you’re not in my address book, you’re junk. No offense to anyone, I do look through junk and put the people I want in my address book, but if I don’t recognize it, it’s deleted without reading them. As a result: I only get 1 to 2 emails a month worth reading… Out of more than 20 per day!

I really can’t think of more… I know the last two are only partially related to web browsers, but they are still good tips!

At any rate, the key here is that web browsers are not secure, no matter how much they say they are. There are people out there that have no other job than to figure out how to ruin your online experience. The guy at Pwn2Own made something like $20,000 for finding the bugs and hacking into systems. Black Hat offers cash prizes too, and these are the ones that are “accepted.” There are many others out there who offer a lot more and don’t try to help fix the problems found.

Ok. I’ll get off my soapbox now. Just remember that your web browser isn’t a secure as whoever made it says it is.


I came to the sudden realization today that James Cameron ruined my unfinished story when he created Avatar.

I like the Elder Scrolls series of games. It started with Morrowind when I was in college. I played it a lot! I also modded the game quite a bit. It was my modding that led to the creation of two races: the Arkane and the Safmer.

In creating the Arkane, I started with the Bretons. They are heavy magic users. The Arkane took that premise to the next level. They were major magic users, with few rivals. I created the mod and made them smaller and lighter than the Bretons, but with much more magical power. I played as an Arkane for a while, but wanted someone more powerful, who could hit someone with a sword.

In creating the Safmer, I started with the Altmer, the tallest of the elves. I made the Safmer taller and more powerful than the Altmer, they mastered melee and yet still had some command of magic. They were gifted warriors who were well protected by their environment (cold). Also, as their name implies, I made them blue skinned. I finished the game with a Safmer, played over 2,000 days and progressed to the most bad-assed being on the entire island of Vvardenfell with a Safmer. I could sneak-attack and kill a Dagoth lord with a single shot – I was that cool!

Shortly after that I started writing a story, inspired by the characters I had created. I have written several chapters, and created the world, complete with writings and religions of the different races. It’s nowhere near finished, I add to the story less frequently than I add to this blog, so as you can imagine it’s not really coming along very fast.

So now I have large (my hero is over 7 feet tall), blue-skinned elves in a story… See the problem? Avatar (in case you’re one of the 17 people who haven’t seen something relating to the movie) has large (over 10 feet I think), blue-skinned cat-people in its story. If I do ever publish my story (which has nothing in common with Avatar – not even a single sub-plot!), I will be forever criticized with dreaming my story up from Avatar.

Now, before you jump to any conclusions on what I’m saying… Cameron did not steal my idea for Avatar. I don’t know him and have never discussed anything with him. If he found my Morrowind mod and it gave him the idea for the Navi, well then I’d like some money, but I can’t prove that anyone downloaded my mod, let alone Mr. Cameron. I’m just saying that I had my idea before I’d ever heard of Avatar, and now I’m not sure if I can finish it without comparisons.

At first, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make the story significantly different from the Elder Scrolls universe, but after playing Oblivion (which I’m playing as a Safmer), I’m confident that I copied only my people’s descriptions from that world. I’m more influenced by Tolkien (and his mastery of creation), Lewis (and his beautifully simple delivery) and Le Guin (and her gorgeous world).

So what do you think I should do? Should I continue writing my story in the hopes that someday I’ll complete the tale and publish a book? Should I can the whole project as a lost cause and write something else if I want to publish a book? Should I give up on writing completely and focus on gaming? Should I stop asking stupid questions and go to sleep?

Sound off in the comments what you think I should do…


Here is a list of things I saw from up in the air:

  • A working nuclear power plant.
  • A cargo ship covered in shipping containers. Translation: huge ship. Looked smaller than a micro-machine!
  • Another Great Lake… Big, blue water.
  • We flew over several smaller planes, from the small propeller-driven plane over the Great Lake to the smaller passenger jet that seemed much too close to comfort for me!
  • A fire. A huge fire. I couldn’t see the fire, but I saw a column of smoke rising from the ground up into the air. The column rose up to a certain point and flattened out. Strange sight.

We were told to go to the airport hours early, as people can get stuck in traffic for hours at a time and security can also take hours. We skipped out on the classes and took the early bus to make sure we got there in time. Thank goodness for carpool lanes! We moved through traffic fairly well at first, but came to a halt with everyone else: 7 lanes stopped (I think there were 7… it was hard to tell). Apparently there was an accident and they had to move it across traffic to get it off the road. Total delay: 5 minutes, tops. Probably less. The hour trip took us about an hour.

Security… the largest airport in the United States and we have to pass security. Took us 5 minutes. Seriously. We got in line, got a squiggly line put on our boarding pass, walked through the metal detector, re-combobulated ourselves and found our gate. Then we sat.

We sat for quite a while. Since everything went according to plan, we were there a couple hours early. Or more, it was hard to tell.

The airplane back was smaller than the one on the way. It was crowded too. Too many kids. Seriously, there were at least four small kids in addition to several toddlers and a few more older ones. Not very much fun, but at least there was no delays. During the flight, the one behind me kept kicking my seat, while the one in front kept crying. She was adorable, and cried very quietly, so that one didn’t bother me. The one several rows up however cried long and loud. It was more than a little annoying! I survived though.

The second leg was completely different… The plane was almost empty, so I was not crowded. We actually had to have several people move from the front of the plane to the back to even out the weight. I never knew that was a problem, but maybe it was just for the smaller aircraft.

The flight was uneventful, outside of the toddler boy who was so good on the first leg decided he didn’t want to fly anymore. Felt sorry for the mom, there wasn’t much she could do until he fell asleep. After that it was nice!

We landed safely and I made it home to my family. That’s all I really cared about. It was a good trip and I had fun. I just hate flying!


Situation: a three-day business trip to a city and state I’ve never been to before.
Flight: one-stop in a city I’ve never been to before in a state I’ve visited many times.
Purpose: to go to a conference on a piece of software we use/distribute/support.

Here’s how it went:

Check In.

Got to the enclosed parking area that will be paid for by my company (grazie!) and was told where to park. No worries there… except that BOTH the cars in the spaces beside me parked on/over the line. Darn good thing I have a tiny car. At any rate, I squeezed my way in without hitting either car (a miracle), making sure I parked closer to the car on my right (sorry red car driver). I got out and made it to the bus. We drove around the corner and picked up the last person we needed to before heading to the airport when I realized: I forgot my glasses! I had the driver stop and made a mad dash to/from my car to get my glasses. I finally realized the danger of having separate prescription glasses/sunglasses. Anyway, I got them and we made it to the terminal.

The terminal. WOW. There was nobody there when I got there, but shortly another passenger meandered over. He said that he had been waiting for quite a while for someone to show up to check him in. Apparently the attendants typically show up around an hour before the flight departs, he said the TSA said. Great! At any rate, after a fairly good line started behind me, a gentleman came out and attempted to log in to the pretty Dell computer behind the counter. I say attempted because he couldn’t.

He went back to the back and we waited for a while longer. Some random airport employee saw our line and knocked on his door. He poked his head out, looked around (looked rather confused too), then went back in. We waited for a while longer. Then he came back, looking at his cell phone, and logged in (apparently with another employee’s id – he told us that). At any rate, he was friendly, helpful and fairly efficient with my check in, so I can’t really fault him anything.

I got through the security checkpoint with no trouble outside of my boots. Yes, I wore high, lace-up boots to the airport. It’s the danger of traveling light and bringing just the shoes you need. So now I’m at my gate, 92 minutes before my flight leaves, and my wife calls, asking me where the caulk is. What? We don’t have any, so I told her she would have to buy some, but that’s beside the point.

First leg:

Boarding the plane was simple. I got a window seat, and the frequent-flier who sat beside me was 2 inches taller than me, and about 60 pounds heavier! He was very nice and we talked for most of the flight. The plane was little! I had to Valet Check my carry-on bag because it wouldn’t fit. The flight was decent, fairly short and the view was typical Midwest brown. Final decent was the customary ear-popping experience, but we landed pretty smoothly. Lunch was good and we settled in for the 2.5+ hour layover.

Second leg:

After we boarded, we were informed that there was a light bulb out on the dash of the cock pit. Maintenance had been called and it’s a really simple fix. I plugged my phone headset into my arm rest and settled in for the short delay. I found out two things: XM Radio sucks and it’s really hard to stay awake on an airplane with nothing to do.

XM Sucks: 241 channels and not a single rock station! Are you kidding me? So that and the lack of anything that played alternative music let me to 90′s music. Seriously…? No rock, no alternative? That disgusted me for a while, but then my lack of sleep caught up with me. I laid my head back and closed my eyes for a minute, then decided I would text my wife and let her know that we’re delayed. I look at my watch while I’m typing… and realize we have been setting there for 50 minutes! We ended up getting the light bulb fixed and took off after an hour delay.

I’m not sure how many maintenance people it takes to change a light bulb, but it apparently takes them an hour to do it!

So we landed an hour late (we made really good time in the air) and had to walk to the other end of the airport! That was fun. At any rate, I made it safely to my destination, and only an hour and a half late. I’ll have to get registered tomorrow!

Stay tuned for part two: The return trip!


We were getting supper at the friendly local Taco Bell Friday night. As I pulled up to the window to get our food, the manager poked his head out and told me our food would be out in a minute. As he looked away, another worker (I’ll guess a teenager) came up to him and said…

“I know it’s Friday because my brain hurts. My brain always hurts on Fridays.”

As my wife started laughing, I bit my lip. More often than not, I’m highly critical of stupid people and people who say stupid things, but this time I am going to try to figure out what’s wrong with the poor teenager.

My first inclination is to guess he is still in school. So he went to school for five entire days in a row, learning whatever it is teachers teach these days. That could fairly well explain why his brain hurt.

However, while I can understand learning a great deal of information can lead to headaches. I also know that headaches are not something you get from high school subjects. I remember one lesson from college that left me brain-dead for several hours, but I managed to recover before the evening darkened too much. So the average high school lessons probably did not lead to the brain pain felt by said teenager.

Unless… he’s not overly bright.

Maybe he plays sports, and Friday practices are extra long, leaving him both tired and sore. That makes sense… except that leads me to the most ignorant part of the phrase: the brain cannot ‘hurt’.

The brain controls all responses to pain, but it cannot feel. While this doesn’t make sense to me, I can go with it. Since his brain can feel no pain, he must either have a headache, some neck pain, or something similar.

So I’m back to he’s not overly bright.

OK, maybe this post is just me raking a poor stupid teenager over the coals, but it gives me a chance to rant about something that really bothers me: quality of schools. I won’t pretend that I enjoyed school or that I learned a lot (there I said it!), but the education I received was quite a bit better than what I’m hearing about.

Sometime before I was born, America led the world in Math & Science. Of course, since that’s all we taught, we forgot how to read. Naturally, the government and schools pushed reading (during my childhood). While this was good for some, as a whole we’ve fallen on the Math & Science front (my field, sort of). Apparently we are incapable of teaching children multiple subjects.

So now we have schools that specialize in specific areas to help children develop further if they show interest: widening the rift between intelligent people and people who can communicate in more than one area.

Plus with Won’t Teach A Kid Twice (No Child Left Behind) in full effect, rather than teaching a subject or two until they get it, we’re teaching them to kiss off class and we’ll still graduate them. Great plan.

OK, I’ll get off my soapbox now… I’m worse than the ignorant people: I share my opinion!


I like music. I really like to listen to music, especially in the car, but that’s another story. My favorite music is rock music. Godsmack, Disturbed, Linkin Park, Sevendust, Shinedown, Seether, etc. All groups in my playlist. Always in my playlist. All of these groups have something in common: a Parental Advisory label on their music (except Shinedown). This isn’t a big worry to me, I really wish they wouldn’t need the label, but I’m not that worried about it. The problem is my children, especially the older one. The one that likes to repeat everything Daddy says.

The other day she was sitting on the floor with a number of letters in front of her. She kept repeating “S-O-B” over and over and over again. After telling her to stop, I noticed that the row of letters in front of her lacked an S, an O and a B! Where did she learn that? I’m still not sure, I’m pretty sure it’s not my music and I don’t really say it like that.

Anyway, music that I like unfortunately has words that I do not want my children to be saying, let alone hearing. So more or less I’m only allowed to listen to music when my children are not around. While this isn’t as much fun, I’m getting used to it. I only listen to music in my car (can’t put the kids there), at work or on my computer when the kids are in bed or with headphones (an almost impossibility with children). No worries, right?

Now for the other story: What about the 4 and 10 hour trips to see grandparents? I drive, and I need to stay awake, and music helps me with that. So how do I prevent my children from learning all sorts of colorful language that they will use to embarrass their mom and I in grocery stores?

I only play the clean music in the car with them. It’s a bit of a challenge, as some of the best songs have the gratuitous f-bomb (still unsure why Linkin Park started swearing). However, I have made a few custom cds for the car that keeps me awake and are kid-friendly.

One of my married friends, while we were in college, liked the same music as I did. His girlfriend, now his wife, disapproved of the swearing in the music. So I started saying music he liked that she approved of was “[him] friendly, [her] approved.”

Now my music is ‘Justin-friendly, kid (and wife) approved.’

Sound off: what kind of music do you like, and how do you get away with listening to it, if you need to do such things?


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