Archive for Idiocy

Nature Has Selected Me to Die

Okay, so maybe it’s not that bad.

Here’s the deal: I have several friends who get all choked up when the plants start having sex. The trees and grass start spraying their loads in the air, and these poor bastards start coughing and wheezing and sneezing. I often tell them, “Nature has selected you to die.”

Now it’s my turn. A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with a handful of food allergies. Actually, the nurse’s exact words, “I’ve never seen this many positive reactions before.” Broccoli is on the list, which made happy (never could stand the stuff), but so are things I’d been eating most of my life, like tuna, salmon, soy, and even tomatoes.

Understand, I was raised on pasta twice a week and pizza at least once a week. When we moved out of the Chicago ‘burbs and couldn’t get good pizza, my mom drove the good stuff an hour home after work. When the pizza joint found out what she was doing, they gave us one of their delivery warmer bags, free. If there’s anything I’m immune to, its should be any member of the nightshade family.

Yet here we are. The short version is when I eat stuff I’m allergic to, my esophagus has the same reaction as my friends’ windpipes when they inhale pollen: white blood cells rush to defend our body from the wicked invaders and everything swells up. I’ll get heartburn, and if I keep exposing myself to these things, my esophagus can swell up to the point food gets stuck. Too much swelling, and I’ll have to hit an ER to have it extracted.

Fun, right? Oh, and if it goes on too long and goes untreated, there’s always the possibility it could turn into esophageal cancer. Metal. \m/

The treatment after my initial diagnosis was to avoid all the allergens, take Omeprazole, and to use the same inhaler as the pollen-allergic crowd. Instead of inhaling it, though, I swallow it. Within a few weeks the swelling was gone and I had no trouble eating. The follow-up endoscopy a couple of months later showed a clear, healthy esophagus. Score.

But I’m stubborn. I eventually strayed back to old habits. I still avoid tuna and salmon, and might have a little soy at a Chinese restaurant or sushi joint, but like I said, I was weaned on pizza and pasta. Avoiding tomatoes is a tough ask for me, even when most of the pizza around here is garbage. So here I am, two years later, getting food stuck from time to time.

Stupid natural selection.

Last week, I decided it’s time to get disciplined again. I’m gonna avoid all the stuff that triggers my allergies. For reals this time.

I’ve already blown it twice.

First, we had fish (tilapia) on Wednesday. I was working out after dinner, trying to figure out why I had such bad heartburn. Then it hit me: the tartar sauce is made with soybean oil. I checked the label and sure enough, mystery solved. The second time I screwed up, I had ketchup with a meal, and I just didn’t think about tomatoes. (Visiting Mexican joints is also fun when you’re avoiding tomatoes.)

Which leads me to my next point: If you don’t already have food allergies or sensitivities, you have no idea what a pain in the ass it is to shop around this stuff. I got a small sense of it when we scaled back on our sugar intake and avoided high-fructose corn syrup, but man, soy is in a ton of stuff. Mayonnaise, tartar sauce, and salad dressings are largely made with soybean oil because it’s cheap and it’s stable (it won’t spoil on the shelf).

Try it sometime. Pick something to avoid like soy, wheat, or high-fructose corn syrup, and start reading labels in your kitchen. Good luck! I even tried to make gluten-free chili for a potluck, and only found out after the fact that chili beans have wheat in them.

Beans, man! It’s a good thing I pulled the can out of the garbage before taking the crockpot to the event. Two people attending have gluten-free diets, one by choice and one by doctor’s orders.

Which leads to another problem: the food crazies. I went surfing for a mayonnaise recipe, and while there are several, I had to suffer through a couple tirades about the evils of soybean oil to get through them. I’m all about exploring the flavors of the original tartar sauce and mayonnaise recipes, or making something cheaper than packaged goods, but holy hell, I don’t need a tirade about subjecting my kids to the nefarious soy and gluten agendas of Monsanto and Conagra, especially when it’s attached to some shady pseudo-science even the recipe writer doesn’t understand.

For example, one said, gluten is “like glue for your intestines.” Um, no. You want to go paleo, keto, vegan, whatever, knock yourself out. There’s nothing wrong with making choices out of fitness or morality, or even with making a statement against some conglomerate’s marketing and/or competitive practices. Just spare us the junk science and bullshit conspiracy theories.

Anyway. I have to avoid pizza for a while again. And tonight I learned the hard way that extra-virgin olive oil does not make good mayo (too strong), so I need something lighter. Props to Boar’s Head for not putting soybean oil in their Pub Style Horseradish Sauce, giving me an alternative for sandwich at lunch.

Here’s to not letting food kill me any time soon.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Dreaming in the Digital Age

The Wife and I took the Rugrats to the Peoria Riverfront Museum yesterday, and we checked out their Dome Planetarium for the first time. They’ve got a great setup, and one of their features was the short film Back to the Moon for Good, featuring the Google Lunar XPrize.

When people ask why our students need to be studying in the STEM fields, this is just a part of what it’s all about. We need to have goals again, to have big dreams to follow. To reach for the stars and beyond. To solve human problems like cancer, or a loss of drinkable water.

If we told the NASA engineers who sent us to the Moon in the ’60s and ’70s what the space program would look like today, they’d be beyond disappointed. People can blame the government, and politics, and money, but it really comes down to the people themselves. The people who ask, “Yeah, but what has the space program done for us?”

If they were to be honest, they would ask, “What has the space program done for me?

I have two responses. First, here’s a list. Second, get your head out of your ass.

The school district I work for held a parent meeting for our technology program, and inevitably the anti-technology set had to put their two cents in. One complained we were only making our kids dependent upon technology, implying technology makes kids dumb and lazy. Another was from the “back in my day” camp, proudly proclaiming he wouldn’t touch a computer if we bought it for him.

Both speak from a position of ignorance. They honestly have no idea what technology has done and can do for them and their children, so they breed contempt and complacency rather than inspiring dreams.

Saying “I’m not good with technology” in 2015 is the same as saying “I don’t know how to read” in 1915. If you think it’s funny that you can’t operate the smartphone in your hand, then congratulations, the world has officially left you behind.

If you have trouble with technology and you just don’t get it, I’m sure you’ll get by. But don’t let your headaches get in your kid’s way. Let your kids start dreaming again, and aspire for bigger and better things, because the rest of us have no desire to return to Bronze Age savagery.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Anna Gunn’s Character Issue, and the Troll Problem

Take a moment to read “I Have a Character Issue” by Anna Gunn. It’s an op-ed piece about all the hatred and threats Gunn receives for her portrayal of Skyler White on AMC’s Breaking Bad. It’s unreal.

I understand the hatred of Skyler White, but at the same time, she’s a great character (and a very well-acted character by Gunn). She strikes me as a very real character, making tough choices as she’s trapped between her fear and disgust of what her husband has become and the love she still has for the father of her children. She has undergone her own transformation, albeit not as extreme as Walt’s.

On top of which people seem to forget Walt is the bad guy. Yes, he’s our protagonist, he’s become a badass, and on some level a lot of us can relate to him. But he’s also a complete anti-hero. If he were our own neighbor and we learned what he had done, we would be in complete fear of him, not awe.

Ladies, how would you react if this were your husband? Guys, how do you think your own wives would react if you were Walt? Whether it’s support for criminal enterprise or taking the kids and running, it’s going to be a strong, visceral reaction. She’s not going to turn into June Cleaver and bake you a cake.

As for this:

“I have never hated a TV-show character as much as I hate her,” one poster wrote. The consensus among the haters was clear: Skyler was a ball-and-chain, a drag, a shrew, an “annoying bitch wife.”

This sexism is ridiculous. If women really behaved the way some of these idiots think they should, they’d have even less respect for women than they do now.

Then we have the hatred of Gunn herself. Holy shit how ridiculous is this? She didn’t write the character, she portrays Skyler as written and directed. Yes, Gunn absolutely brings her own strengths to the character and makes Skyler her own, but she’s not the one dictating Skyler’s actions. You hate Skyler White? Complain to Vince Gilligan.

It also demonstrates how people can’t separate the persona from the actress, and it’s a scary side of celebrity culture. People fall in love with characters and fawn all over the celebrities, without thinking the actor is very likely someone completely different from whom they are portraying.

Anna Gunn played a very different wife in Deadwood. Did she catch any flack for that one? If so, certainly not on this level. Do these same people expect Bryan Cranston to be Walter White or the bumbling Hal from Malcolm in the Middle? He can’t be both, but he’s a dude so he gets a pass.

I find a little comfort in knowing these same people wouldn’t have the stones to say things like “could somebody tell me where I can find Anna Gunn so I can kill her?” if they weren’t sheltered by the anonymity of an online account and the distance of a keyboard. However, we need to squash this behavior. Our school band director has a great quote on the bulletin board in his classroom: “What you permit you promote.”

When the people managing these forums and comment sections don’t do something about the sexist idiots, and the other users let them run their mouths without confrontation, we’re telling them it’s okay. They get to think their little zinger was so awesome, and then they do it again and again.

If we want to change the behavior, then we need to stop letting it slide. We need to stop saying, “great, another troll,” and move on. How do you kill a troll? Expose them to light. Take away that anonymity. Make them eat the very shit they’re shoveling.

If we don’t, it’s only going to get worse.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Some Creators Need a Smack Upside the Head

It’s okay to gripe about a job. Everyone does it at some point, and it’s good to get things off our chests once in a while. But to walk away from a dream job because it’s harder than one expected? That’s just stupid.

I have a lot of friends working full-time in the creative field. Some write books, some write comics. Some are artists, some are musicians. To many of them, this is the dream job. Heck, to me, this is the dream job. They’re realistic, though. They know there are pros and cons to this kind of work, and there are times they get pretty stressed out. Every so often, however, one of them wonders why he didn’t stick with a “real” job and avoid the array of troubles he’s dealing with.

This makes me want to punch them square in the face.

Let’s put these troubles in perspective, shall we?

Complaint 1: Money, or, “I miss a steady paycheck.”

Yeah. As if going back to the grind of a day job suddenly makes home improvements, emergency car repairs, and other unexpected financial hits go away. As if all of us can afford steak dinners and expensive bourbon every night of the week. Learn to manage your money as it comes in, rather than blowing it on books and bar tabs because you happen to have a full wallet at the moment.

Complaint 2: Insurance, or, “I can’t afford these medical bills!”

News flash: insurance is the single biggest hit on most of our paychecks, and it probably was on yours, too, back when you still had said “real” job. Even then, it doesn’t cover everything. Most affordable insurance plans are garbage. I’m still making payments on family surgeries from two and three years ago, just as you will have to do when you have that sudden unexpected medical crisis that wipes out your savings. (And you do have a savings account, right? Refer back to “learn to manage your money as it comes in,” above.)

Complaint 3: Taxes, or, “Holy shit, I owe the IRS a ton of money!”

Hahahaha! Yeah. You can move to a state without sales tax, or without property tax, but you’re still going to owe Uncle Sam. Our employers siphon Uncle Sam’s cash off our paychecks for us. Learn to do the same on your own.

Complaint 4: Working for The Man, or, “My editor’s a moron.”

Everyone is beholden to somebody, and that includes editors at major publishing companies. The bigger the company, the more stockholders and board members there are breathing down their necks. Congratulations, you’ve just figured out your boss is just as good or as bad as any other boss out there.

Oh, you’ve got deadlines? Poor baby. Remember inconvenient schedules, mandatory overtime, and someone watching your time card? Remember having to work holidays, or not being able to just take a break to work down at the coffee shop? Remember not being able to take a walk around the park when you feel like it to clear your head?

Work is a verb. It’s something you do, wherever and however you do it. Even if we start calling it “super happy funtime,” I’m sure there would be some part of it we hate.

Complaint 5: The Fanboys, or, “Man, they’re tearing me apart on this forum.”

Let’s take Superman for example. The problem is everyone knows who and what Superman is, what he represents, and how his story should work, but these things are not the same for everyone. When a fanboy says “Superman would never . . .” he means “My Superman would never . . .”

Now extend that same thing to any other character, or to a traditional monster like werewolves. Things are tough all over, precious. Many critics and reviewers write from the perspective of “I wouldn’t have done it this way,” and all you can do is ignore them and move on. If Stephenie Meyer lost any sleep over the “vampires don’t sparkle!” thrashing she received, she consoled herself with thick wads of cash.

Complaint 6: The Letdown, or, “This isn’t as fulfilling as I thought.”

Finally we have the Big One. It kind of ties back to work still being work, but part of it is perhaps reevaluating expectations, and why exactly you felt this was the dream job in the first place.

If a writer landing a regular gig at Marvel or DC thought that meant he got to hang around the hallways with his favorite superheroes all day, for example, then he had the wrong expectations. If a writer landing a tremendous contract with a New York publishing house thought book tours meant packed signing events and rivers of booze, then he had the wrong expectations. If a screenwriter thought his screenplay would make it to the screen without a million studio notes, directoral changes, and input from actors, then he had the wrong expectations. All you can do is do the work and hope for the best, and work work work until you reach a point that you have the juice and the trust to do it your way.

If the expectations of the work are in line, then maybe it’s time to ask what your expectations of satisfaction are. If you find fulfillment in the steady paycheck and the insurance, then fine, begone. Make room for the rest of us.

You have to find the work fulfilling.

Let’s compare two products: a fantasy book and a widget. Both bring in the same amount of cash for an individual, whether it was paid out through royalties, an hourly wage, or a salary.

The fantasy book gets mixed reviews. Some folks are calling it a Game of Thrones knockoff, but there’s also a group of people who really dig the book. It dips in the Kindle charts, there’s a modest movie option but no real traction, and the author moves on to his next project.

The widget, meanwhile, is just another product on the shelf. Whether we’re talking production or sales, it’s the same, day-to-day business: go to work, move widgets, go home, collect a paycheck. Once in a while the employee beats a production quota or sells a shitload of widgets and gets a pat on the back, maybe even lands a nice Christmas bonus. Then it’s back to business as usual. The industry slumps and rebounds, and pretty soon it’s on to the next widget.

Me, I’ll take the fantasy book every time. I’m not writing for fame and fortune, I’m writing because I enjoy it. Some parts of the business side are a pain the ass, but some parts are a lot of fun. I know not everybody is going to enjoy my work, and I know it may not bring in tons of cash and solve all my financial woes, yet I still find it fulfilling.

So again, every job sucks. Some may sound like the bestest gig ever!, but then you still have to deal with people, and with disappointment, and with financial hardship. It’s okay to bitch about these things.

Just don’t sit there and tell me you never should have taken on that dream job, or that you’re going to walk away because it’s too difficult, because you clearly haven’t considered the alternative.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Bipartisanship is Killing Us

We’ve lost the middle ground. Whether discussing the economy, guns, abortion, or religion, too many people—especially our politicians—take one side and treat it as an absolute. Their way is the only way, and the media drives the wedge in deeper by encouraging the rest of us to choose sides.

This has to stop.

What was more painful about Romney’s now-infamous 47% statement: his gall to state it in such a demeaning manner, or the fact that it hit home so hard? The zombie-like devotion to one side or the other has disgusted me for a long time, and it’s been rubbed in our faces more and more during the last few elections.

When all we do is choose sides and shout at one another, nothing gets done. The refusal to sit down and discuss both sides of an issue to find a reasonable solution is beyond counter-productive, it’s damn near political sabotage.

The shocking violence at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT yesterday is the most recent in a string of mass violence that we’ve been faced with in recent years. I work in a school district, and we have a K-4 building. Every day I watch those children file out of the building while waiting for my own kids. Sandy Hook is as horrific as it gets.

The moment the news hit, the gun comments started on Twitter and Facebook. “Great, now we’re going to have people trying to ban guns again! You can’t take away my Constitutional right!” Fuck you. “See, we told you guns were evil! Ban them now!” Fuck you, too.

I’m a gun owner. I live in a community of hunters. Yesterday I received a Christmas card that included a photo of a 3rd grader holding a hunting rifle with a scope. Guns do not signify evil to everyone, and there are families who bond in activities involving guns, just as mine did with target shooting.

However, I also do not support the NRA (more on that in a moment). I have an Illinois-issued Firearms Owner ID card, and I don’t look at it as a grave infringement of my rights (in fact, it’s laughably easy to obtain). I do think waiting periods are ridiculous and ineffective, but again, I don’t view them as some tremendous violation of my rights. I support concealed carry, but I don’t believe guns and carry permits should be issued to everyone who wants one.  I don’t even fear gun registration, and I’d be willing to discuss registration as a part of concealed carry.

The NRA causes as many problems as it solves. They do a great job of supporting families who are gun owners, of supporting hunters, and of pointing out the many instances were firearms were used in defense of life. However, they do a shit job of doing anything to prevent  guns from getting into the hands of the wrong people. Take the Operation Fast & Furious scandal, for example: Fast & Furious was hampered at least as much by poor legislative support than it was the incompetence and in-fighting of federal agents.

The NRA should be front-and-center helping create solutions, not entrenching itself with the tired old “out of my cold, dead hands” statement.

This is why, even as a gun owner, I signed the White House petition to immediately address the issue of gun control through the introduction of legislation in Congress. I’m not sure I could have stated it any clearer than this:

The goal of this petition is to force the Obama Administration to produce legislation that limits access to guns. While a national dialogue is critical, laws are the only means in which we can reduce the number of people murdered in gun related deaths.

Powerful lobbying groups allow the ownership of guns to reach beyond the Constitution’s intended purpose of the right to bear arms. Therefore, Congress must act on what is stated law, and face the reality that access to firearms reaches beyond what the Second Amendment intends to achieve.

The signatures on this petition represent a collective demand for a bipartisan discussion resulting in a set of laws that regulates how a citizen obtains a gun.

I just hope our congressmen have the balls to find the middle ground and are willing to keep extreme lobby groups like the Brady Center and the NRA from sabotaging real progress.

If past behavior is any indicator, nothing will change, and before long we’ll have another incident like Sandy Hook or Aurora and the discussion fight will start all over. Then die down again. And again, nothing will get done.

Remember the definition of insanity, folks? I give you the United States bipartisan political system.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Halfway Halloween

The Oliveris had a good Halloween this year. The Rugrats loved the costumes they picked out, and they got to wear them to two Halloween parties and for trick-or-treating. We logged a little over two miles knocking on doors tonight, and this year Little Bird stayed in the lead most of the time. Twice we ran into little kids who got scared of the Rugrats’ costumes, and there were several comments from candy giver outers (it’s a technical term) about their scary costumes.

Ghost-Faced Killer

The Ghost-Faced Killer stalks his prey

However, our community fell short for Halloween this year.

This town has set hours for trick-or-treating, and even then kids are only supposed to knock at houses with the porch light on. This year, those houses were fewer and farther between than any year we’ve gone trick-or-treating. Even houses we knew usually participated had their lights off.

We also saw fewer trick-or-treaters out and about. The far side of one street is usually choked with traffic, and there are often cars driving all up and down the streets as parents watch their children or ferry them from block to block. This year? Hardly any traffic at all. We ran into a few small groups of kids, but never did we have to wait in line at some houses for other kids to move on.

In the end, while we did have a good haul of candy, it was around half the size of what we usually get, even in the years we walked shorter routes.

I wish I had an explanation for it. I can’t imagine it’s a religious objection, as it’s never been a problem in the past (at least, not a big one). The economy? Candy’s not that expensive. I suppose it could be an activity at the school, but we generally work around holidays (and even then, it would only affect the high school students). Even the cooler temps and chill breeze haven’t deterred trick-or-treaters in the past.

Whatever the cause, I hope it doesn’t become the norm. Halloween is the one holiday that hasn’t had the fun sucked out of it for one reason or another. The kids and I look forward to visiting the Halloween store for months in advance, and we know we’ll be home to go trick-or-treating.

If I find out in the paper tomorrow that some whackjob is trying to kill Halloween in our community, it’s going to be war.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

It’s Not Rocket Science, People

Two days in a row, ignorant people cut in front of me in lines.

On Sunday, it was an old man at a restaurant. I stood a few feet back from the person at the register so I wouldn’t block the lane into the dining area, and I had my credit card and my check in my hand. Along comes the old man, right past me to the register, both cutting in front of me and blocking traffic. He leaned hard on a four-post cane and I wasn’t in a hurry, so I decided to laugh it off because I’m sure I could have stood there a lot longer than he could.

Tonight, I waited in line behind someone at the photo counter at Wally World. I didn’t want to crowd her, so I stood about four feet back and leaned on a display. Along comes over-tanned, bleach-blonde valley girl (if I had a five spot for every time she said “like,” I’d have left the store a rich man), who goes straight to the counter to my left. The instant the other woman left with her photos, this girl jumps in. Had she just been picking up photos, I may have let it fly. I have less patience for arguments than I do pinheads.

Instead it was a big production about her camera card. As she dragged the counter person over to the kiosks, I said “No, go ahead, I wasn’t waiting in line at all.”

Blondie shot me a look like I’m the asshole. Fortunately the register jockey figured it out and excused herself to get my photo.

It’s not having to wait longer that bothers me, or the inconvenience, it’s the simple fact these people did not even bother to look around and see if they’re about to give someone the shaft. Is it that difficult to be courteous to people, whether in line, in traffic, or at the movie theater?

“Are you in line?” is not a difficult question to ask. Or hell, simply wait a second and see if the other guy steps up to the counter. If not, you’re golden.

Take the blinders off, people. There are a number of reasons to always be aware of the people around us, and courtesy is just one of them.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Collaborators vs. Leeches

A friend hit me up for a collaboration two nights ago. I want to do it for three key reasons:

  1. I trust this guy.
  2. I know he’d put in the effort.
  3. He was up front about the terms of the contract and the split.

This is what makes a good collaboration. This is why I was happy to work with guys like Brian Keene, Jesus Gonzalez, and Mike Huyck in the past.

Leeches make me cringe. These are the idea guys, but a notch worse.

These guys tell you they have a killer idea that will make a fortune, and they want you to write it for them, gratis.

Of course, in their eyes, it’s not gratis. They think their idea is gold. They think it will make a fortune for you both and you’re stupid for not dashing off to the keyboard with all speed. Of course you’ll still get rich only getting 10%; this idea is gold, remember, dumbass? It doesn’t matter they have no production/editorial input other than to encourage your keyboard jockeying skills.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Again, writers are passionate about their own ideas, or they get paid to be passionate about others’ ideas. As cynical as that may sound, that’s how the business works. “For the love” doesn’t put food on the table, and writing someone else’s stuff for the love takes us away from things that may potentially put food on the table.

If you have an idea, make it happen. Sit down and write. Learn the craft.

Do the work.

If that idea is really golden, congrats! You’re published. If not, you’ll have learned something for the next idea.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Reviews Are Not a Form of Protest

My man Shawn has his Goodreads and Twitter accounts tied together, and this popped up today:

The man generally has good taste in books (I know this because he reads my stuff), and I dig that title, so I popped over to Amazon to learn a little more about the book. $12.99? Hmm. But we’ll get to that in a minute. I scrolled down and eyeballed the reviews. It had a fair amount of four- and five-star reviews, but also a couple each of one-, two-, and three-star reviews. I normally discount one-star reviews because they tend to focus on a specific, personal beef, but I decided to check them out anyway.

I was right, they’re useless. What’s more, they were offensive. Check it:

Amazon 1-star review 1

Amazon 1-star review 2

I tend to agree $12.99 is expensive for an e-book. At that price point, I, too, will be holding off on my purchase until either my to-read pile shrinks or I have a little extra spending cash. However, a review is not the place to air these beefs. A review should be about the book, not about your irritation with the publisher.

Would you beat up a Walmart cashier over his company’s pricing policies? No? Then why do it to the author? I’m sure Tim Powers has zero input in the pricing of his books. Why damage his reputation or turn away possible sales over it? It’s especially stupid for the first guy who claims to love Powers’ work.

Really, Mr “Publishing pro?” Your love is not worth an extra three bucks?

Writers survive on one thing: sales. Without reader support, they won’t see another book contract.

If anyone out there has a beef with a publisher’s pricing policies, I suggest they bitch at the publisher instead. It’s easy in this case because HarperCollins is on both Facebook and Twitter. Asinine one-star reviews are easy for an editor to ignore. On the other hand, if you start a campaign to get a whole lot of people telling HarperCollins directly that their pricing sucks, maybe the right people start to pay attention.

You didn’t like a book? That’s cool. Ding it as you wish. But at least read the book and make it an honest review, not just an angry missive to the publisher.

Don’t be a douche.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

The Karate Rap

This kind of shit is why most people don’t take martial arts seriously.

On one level, whoever wrote the song seems to have at least a basic understanding of what they’re talking about. Sadly, they had no idea how to write a song, and they should be flogged for the parakeet rhyme alone.

Yes, parakeet. But I’d be shocked if most of you can make it that far into the video.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

McDonald’s Will Kill Us All

When the Superflu comes, McDonald’s will be the vector.

I let the kids talk me into McDonald’s for lunch because it’s one of the few places we can get something to eat and then I can get some work done while they stay occupied on the indoor playground. I always end up regretting it, but today my regret went to a whole new level. Check out the photo below of their service counter, shot in the middle of the lunch rush.

McDonald's will be the death of us

Not pictured: the Grim Reaper and the circling buzzards

Looks like any typical day at a McDonald’s, which most of you have seen before, right? Right. Now let’s take a closer look at these people, from left to right.

The boy in the black baseball cap is probably nine or ten years old. He walked up to the counter, and he rested both elbows on somebody else’s tray.

The old lady in the obnoxious shirt has set her purse on someone else’s tray. The manager in the black shirt is not bothered by this in the slightest as she sets food on the trays around it.

On the other side of the counter, you can just make out a shorter employee in a yellow cap. Just a moment ago she exchanged cash with a customer, directly over someone else’s uncovered french fries and a chicken sandwich. Her arm passed within an inch of the fries, and do I need to remind anyone how filthy cash is? I may have just become a germophobe. Also, minutes after this photo was taken, I told her I still needed my daughter’s chocolate milk. See the cooler on the right in the background? She couldn’t reach into the back, so she knelt on a stack of trays and used it as a step stool. The same trays which are about to go onto the counter for customers’ food.

On to the lady in the blue t-shirt. She had the sense to push a tray back a bit to set down her purse, as the tray had food on it already. However, she then leaned over the tray to speak to the cashier. Had it been my food, I would have asked them to take it away and make me some food that other people hadn’t breathed on. Or potentially spat on if she ordered something with a lot of P sounds.

So what’s the lesson here? Order everything to go so it’s in a bag while it’s sitting on the counter? No, the lesson is to stay the fuck out of McDonald’s until they fix their horrible line management and customer order practices.

This ordering system is a mess in general. People are forced to negotiate their own spot in line and nobody seems to know when it’s their turn to order. Then there’s nowhere for them to stand after they’ve placed their order, so there’s constantly someone in the way. This is compounded by groups of people—usually parents with small children—who don’t have the sense to have some of their group sit and wait at a table rather than near the counter. Having to watch total strangers breathe on, lean on, and handle cash over food is injury on top of insult.

The drink station is just as bad. People jam their way around it, cut in line, stand there for ten minutes while their kids decide what they want, allow their kids to attempt to fill their own cups and make a mess, stand in the way while they wrestle with lids and straws, and generally do their best to create a traffic jam. Once again, this is compounded by groups, especially parents who keep their swarms of children around them while they fill drinks. They ran out of lids, they later ran out of tea, and because the ketchup is at the same station, you have to wait for all the drink jerks to get out of the way so you can get your ketchup.

I have to assume McDonald’s went to this new setup to speed things up. It’s got to be faster than the single line through a corral, right? Apparently not. It’s like the toll plazas all around Chicago: they added a whole bunch of booths, and now the traffic jam occurs after the booth, when people have to fight their way back into fewer lanes, rather than before the booth, when they’re stacked up to pay.

News flash, McDonald’s: the food doesn’t cook any faster. Now you just have to try to fill ten orders at a time instead of two or three.

“Welcome to McDonald’s! If our food doesn’t kill you, our horrible line management practices will.”

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

SOPA Must Die

If you surfed the Web Wednesday, I’m sure you ran into a SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) blackout somewhere. If none of that made sense to you, check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s one-page summary of the problems with SOPA.

It’s a good example of Congressmen not understanding what they’re legislating, or what they’re asking this legislation itself to accomplish. A SOPA supporter and PIPA (SOPA’s sister, the Protect Intellectual Property Act) co-sponsor Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) recently posted copyrighted video to his own YouTube channel. His excuse? “YouTube is excluded from the bill as it is written right now.”

Say what?

This means posting copyrighted clips to YouTube violates the spirit of the law, but not the word of the law. In other words, someone can upload pirated crap to YouTube and get a free pass. (Or, more likely, it’s a matter of “We’re afraid of Google’s lawyers.”)

Make no mistake, this is not about protecting the little guy, it’s about protecting big corporate bucks in the guise of protecting the little guy. Do the Hollywood unions like the WGA, SAG, or the production support unions support these bills? Not the general membership. In fact, most creators oppose SOPA, but the bill’s sponsor, Rep Lamar Smith, says they don’t count. It’s all about the lobbyists who are protecting their own interests.

As a creator myself, I’m not a fan of pirates. In fact, I would prefer to deal with pirates like this:

Whoops, I guess that would get my site blacklisted! No, wait, the video is on YouTube. Guess I’m golden after all? Brain hurts. Moving on.

No, I’m not a fan of piracy. But I’m also not convinced they’re doing as much harm to me as some think, and I’m sure as hell not convinced protecting my meager income by destroying the very network I’m leveraging to make a living is going to do a damned thing to help any of us.

The worst case scenario? We end up with a censored, restricted Internet that countries like China and Iran have. We rally behind freedom of speech and condemn other countries for blocking their citizens from access to information, yet we’re attempting to pass legislation to give corporations the same capabilities to shut down websites that China and Iran have. It’ll be a new age of digital McCarthyism, where Hollywood will point a finger and someone will get blacklisted.

It just boggles the mind.

Here are the 67 pinheads (as of this writing) who think $$$ trumps freedom. SOPA may be “shelved” for now, but that’s not good enough, and PIPA has to die with it. Make sure these people understand the damage they’re trying to do, even if it’s just by taking a few seconds to sign petitions like Google’s.


Khan Academy has posted an excellent video explaining SOPA and its problems, as well as outlining some of the scarier provisions of the bill.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.