Eclipsing Reality

By Ande Jacobson

Years ago, although I lived and worked on the west coast, I spent a good deal of time near Washington, D.C. on some temporary work assignments. On these extended trips with my technical team, I had some time to explore the various museums and monuments on the weekends after some very long work weeks. Little did I know that one such outing would blossom into a vivid lesson on how easily people can be swayed by exaggeration or even completely false information presented as fact, eclipsing reality in dramatic fashion. Continue reading

The magic of the written word

By Ande Jacobson

Writing can be a powerful tool. Written words have the power to induce strong emotions. They give us a way to record history, events, and ideas. They can entertain and inspire. In telling a story, a writer is often trying to elicit a strong response in their readers. As a reader, it can be quite enjoyable to lose one’s self in a well-told story that runs us through a variety of emotional responses.

With the ubiquity of text messaging, the internet, email, and social media, many of us are thrust into the role of writer as well as reader on a daily basis. We share ideas and concerns as we connect with friends and foes, often making new friends along the way. We debate, we cajole, we support, and we entertain through our written exchanges. And sadly, we can sometimes push people we care about away. Continue reading

How the South Won the Civil War unmasks the American paradox

By Ande Jacobson

Professor Heather Cox Richardson, a prominent professor of American history at Boston College, has gained notoriety in the last several months as the author of a popular series entitled “Letters from an American” which appear on her website as well as on her professional Facebook page on a nightly basis. She began writing these letters in early November 2019 in response to numerous questions she received trying to make sense of the political events of the day. In these letters she provides a nightly roundup of the day’s political news, and along the way, she provides lessons delving the depths of American history to show where many of these ideas and tactics originated. On April 1, 2020 (after she was well into her nightly series), her latest book, How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America, was released. In this book, she describes what she refers to as the American paradox. This paradox is based on the principle that throughout American history, equality depended on inequality. She shows how this paradox started before the founding of the country and ripples throughout our nation’s history driving much of the division we see in American society today. Continue reading

My magical, musical journey: Part 4 – my return to organized music

By Ande Jacobson

As I mentioned at the end of Part 3, something was sorely missing during the dark years when I wasn’t involved in any organized ensembles. I still played my instruments at home and whenever I would drop by my mother’s house to visit. At some point during every visit, I would play a little ragtime or Chopin on her piano. She really didn’t want me to get my own piano because she was afraid that I would visit less often if I could play comfortably at home. Also, she really enjoyed it when I would bring my clarinet with me and play along with her for a bit. Still, between my own personal practice, the occasional simple duet with mom, and attending professional productions from time to time, I still had a pretty big hole in my life. Work was going well, and I eventually married a very dear friend. The marriage didn’t last, but it would turn out to be a very pivotal point in my life, especially musically. Continue reading

Clive Fleury’s ‘Kill Code’ is a compelling read

By Ande Jacobson

In December 2018, TCK Publishing released a new science fiction novel, Kill Code, by Clive Fleury. This gripping dystopian story is packed with action, intrigue, and a hero who might just have bitten off more than he bargained for as he tries to right the wrongs he’s seen all too often. In a not-too-distant future look at the little blue marble in space, the planet is ravaged by climate changes. The planet, and especially the Los Angeles area, has heated beyond all imagination, and there are really only a few hours of daylight that are even partially tolerable. The oceans have risen so quickly that weekly measurements show massive encroachment on waterfront areas, and humans have been pushed further and further inland. Over the top of it all, corruption is rampant, normal citizens have lost almost everything, and Hogan Duran wants to do something about it.

Duran is a former soldier and disgraced cop living in squalor with his former police partner, Max Creeling. Creeling is now wheelchair bound after a shooting that ultimately got them both removed from the police force. Instead of just squeaking by, Duran wants to make a difference. After years of scrambling to get what work he could, an opportunity finally presents itself that Duran just can’t ignore. The prestigious National Security Council (NSC for short) beckons to him to join. Well to be fair, Duran had applied and been rejected several times, but finally he’s invited to take the entrance exam. There’s just one small problem. The test can be deadly. If that weren’t bad enough, Duran comes to realize, beyond the challenges of getting in, there are some terrible secrets that are even more dangerous.

The book is short, only 149 pages, and it moves very quickly, much like the pilot of an action-packed television series. This is not surprising given Fleury has produced, directed, or written several projects for television and film, so he knows those mediums well.

The story is told in first person from Duran’s point of view, so the reader can only know what he knows. The reader learns Duran’s and Creeling’s backstories early on, and when Duran makes his way to the gleaming NSC headquarters to try to win entrance into the elite NSC forces, several other characters are introduced, each with secrets in their past that unfold to Duran slowly throughout story. As such, some of the supporting characters are a little underdeveloped or single dimensional because Duran can be fooled, and by extension, so can the reader. Although portions of Kill Code read a bit like a script, Fleury adds plenty of descriptive material to allow the reader to easily visualize the settings as Duran experiences them.

There are a few minor editorial issues such as using the subject form “Max and I” when it should be “Max and me” as an object, but they can generally be forgiven as the reader digs into this fast-moving, near-future world.

In addition to being Fleury’s first novel, Kill Code is the first book in a series under development. While the series may well take the reader in numerous, unexpected directions, this particular story doesn’t so much resolve as setup the next installment of the story. As such, the last chapter ends abruptly, leaving the reader hanging. Still, overall the book is an enjoyable read, and even though the world is dystopian, it provides a nice escape from the current world’s reality.

Kill Code is available in both paperback and digital formats.


References:
Kill Code: A Dystopian Science Fiction Novel
TCK Publishing
Clive Fleury’s other projects
Clive Fleury’s Author website


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My magical, musical journey: Part 3 – the college years

By Ande Jacobson

This piece of the journey picks up where part 2 left off. When I started college, I was torn. I loved music with every fiber of my being, but I also very much loved science and math. I wanted to become a doctor, but I still considered majoring in music for a very brief moment. I knew that to get into medical school, one only had to fulfill the required coursework and take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), but they could major in anything they liked. Still, I loved math and science, so I decided that I would major in the sciences, but still pursue my music somehow. Long story short, I never got into medical school. In fact I never even applied. Along the way, I switched from majoring in biochemistry to electrical engineering (still heavily in the math / science realm), and I pursued my music as well, just not as a major or even a minor. I also made one very firm decision before I got to the campus to start my first term. I never wanted to march again. Continue reading

The performing arts during a pandemic

By Ande Jacobson

With the country in the throes of an ever expanding pandemic, all non-essential group activities have been suspended. This is of course a necessary measure to help slow the spread of a serious health threat. Numerous businesses are affected, and many won’t recover with such a sustained stoppage of commerce. Not unlike sporting events, this is also a particularly devastating blow to the live performing arts where audiences normally gather to enjoy the efforts of artists presenting theatre, music, and dance right in front of them. Audiences cannot gather in person at this point, and realistically with social distancing, performers can’t perform in their normal fashion either since that would put them in close proximity to one another. In an attempt to keep the arts alive, even in these difficult times, this situation has sparked a widespread and creative use of technology. Continue reading

The leapling’s struggle

By Ande Jacobson

29 February only occurs in years divisible by 4, and for centennial years, only in those divisible by 400. This little oddity has been written about in verse in that famous poem that has become a favorite mnemonic for remembering how many days each month contains:

Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November;
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone,
And that has twenty-eight days clear
And twenty-nine in each leap year.


29 February also figures prominently in musical theater in that Gilbert and Sullivan favorite, The Pirates of Penzance. In the G&S story, the hero, Frederick, through an unfortunate accident had been apprenticed to a pirate in his youth. He was slated to be released from his servitude on his 21st birthday. Alas, the lad was a leapling (one who was born on 29 February). Because of this unfortunate birth date, he wouldn’t have the 21st occurrence on the right date until he had lived for 84 years. The story of course doesn’t end there, but it takes a few interesting turns along the way.

There are also many more pragmatic issues associated with 29 February in the world of software. Julian Day 060, i.e., the 60th day of the year, occurs on 29 February in leap years, and on 1 March the rest of the time. This can serve to inspire many software tests to make sure that the accounting is correct. Of course the larger problem is at the end of a leap year rolling into the next year since there are 366 days rather than 365 before rollover should occur. The year 2000, the first centennial year since entering the computer age, was predicted to be the end of every computer system. Software engineers the world over prepared for the rollover into that year, across JD 060, and for the rollover into 2001. The world didn’t end, and although there were a few small hiccups in some systems, there was no worldwide computer shutdown.

Other concerns surround when to credit a birthday for leaplings in non-leap years. Does it fall in February the day before the date should occur, or in March, the day after? There is no real consensus in the leapling community for when to observe one’s birthday when there is no 29th in sight, and solid arguments can be made either way. Fortunately, a standard has evolved where official documents and events depend on one’s birthday to keep it in one’s birth month, at least in the US.

The real struggle for leaplings occurs when they reach what would normally be their eighth birthday as a child. For people born on every other day of the year, there is no confusion. Their birthday rolls around on the same day each year, and they get a year older. When one is young, these events are often cause for great joy as they get closer to being able to achieve various milestones in their lives. When one gets much older, the number of years tends to be less important, until they get to those decade milestone birthdays. But when a child reaches the age of eight, most of the people in their lives insist that no, they are only going to be two, and this can present a difficult obstacle. After all, what eight-year-old wants to be a toddler?

By the time a leapling approaches age 12, they start to enjoy the idea that they are only “3” and yet can do things a toddler could potentially only dream of doing, or more likely couldn’t even comprehend. After that, the game ensues for the rest of their lives.

Still, many milestones will occur on the wrong day, and quite possibly in the wrong month. Decade milestones only fall on 29 February every 20 years, rather than every 10 like they do for everyone else. And 29 February only falls on a Saturday every 28 years.

29 February is unique day. Be kind to the leaplings in your lives.


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WVLO’s “Once Upon a Mattress” is coming to Saratoga in March/April 2020

By Ande Jacobson

West Valley Light Opera (affectionately known as WVLO) is working hard to open its next production, Once Upon a Mattress, with music by Mary Rodgers (yes, the daughter of that Rodgers), lyrics by Marshall Barer, and book by Jay Thompson, Deal Fuller, and Marshall Barer. This little theatre staple has been around since 1959. The show, running 7 March – 4 April 2020 in Saratoga, brings Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of “The Princess and the Pea” to the stage with a lively score, vivid staging, and lots of wit and humor. The story follows a hapless prince and an unconventional princess (originally played by Carol Burnett) trying to overcome an evil queen’s cunning and hilarious attempts to keep them apart. There’s a second love story in the mix as that couple deals with an urgent (and emergent) situation. Through it all, audiences will enjoy the many colorful characters in the kingdom. This is a happy, fairy-tale show guaranteed to have audiences smiling and fighting the urge to hum along with the many familiar songs such as In a Little While, Happily Ever After, Sensitivity, and Normandy. Continue reading

My magical musical journey: Part 2 – high school acceleration

By Ande Jacobson

This piece of the journey picks up where part 1 left off, the summer before my freshman year of high school. Leaving junior high behind, there was a lot ahead, and that summer was an eventful one. Normally, the incoming freshman class didn’t start band rehearsals until school commenced in the fall, but this particular summer was different. The band had been invited to participate in a massive summer parade as part of the Lions Club International conference in San Francisco, so there was no time to lose. The high school’s band was an award winning organization known throughout the western region as a top notch marching band. Their strength wasn’t in the drum corps style of marching or field shows. They thrived on military-style street marching competitions where everything, including standing inspections of the uniforms, hair length, musical interpretation, and marching precision was scored. My class, as incoming freshman, had a lot to learn in short order. Continue reading