Snowflake Day

It’s no surprise how I feel about Christmas. I mean, there’s other reasons besides what I posted in my last blog. I’m not someone who gets attached to tradition. I’m not a fan of routine. Doing the same thing, every year in and every year out isn’t my bag. I’ve been celebrating Christmas every year for decades, people. I’ve been decorating trees, baking treats, cooking turkeys. When it comes to Christmas, I’ve done it all. Time for some new traditions.

Enter Snowflake Day. This isn’t an original idea, it’s lifted from a cartoon that only aired for a season back in the early ‘naughts. We stole the idea, because that’s one tradition we’re keeping. If the early Christians can steal the idea of Christmas from the pagans, then we can certainly steal this holiday from a failed animates series that features most of the cast from Scrubs.

Snowflake Day is the holiday replacing all other holidays during the winter months. By trying to avoid offending anyone, you manage to offend everyone, which is a win in my books. The story of Snowflake Day tells the tale of Snowflake Jake the pirate. In a quest to make the holidays open to anyone, Snowflake Jake captures all the other representatives of the holiday season and threatens to make them walk the plank if they keep up their traditions. They agree, Snowflake Day takes the place of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

Instead of gifts, you exchange spices. Instead of turkey, stuffing, and gravy, there’s lamb tacos, cocktail weenies wrapped in pastry, and jerky balls. And instead of a Christmas tree, you light up a non-denominational snowman. So we took it the full nine yards. We decided to throw a party and have lamb tacos, cocktail weenies wrapped in pastry, and jerky balls.

Lamb tacos? Easy peasy. Now, instead of pure lamb, we went with a mixture of lamb, pork, and beef, because the flavor of lamb is a potent beast. I went with a straight up Tex-Mex blend of spice to throw in there, garlic, oregano, cumin, and three different kinds of dried chilies. Threw in a little pico de gallo, some fresh peppers, and some home-made tortillas, and you’ve got a tasty taco feast taking place in your domicile.

Cocktail weenies wrapped in pastry. This was the easiest item on the list because it was the one I cared the least about. I took hot dogs and wrapped them in store-bought pastry, the kind that comes in a can and explodes if not handled properly. There’s actually a warning on the packaging, telling you to point the lid away from people, children, and small dogs. Technically, it was the most dangerous dish to make on the list, but I still managed to pull it off without a hitch. Once the pastry is out, all you’re doing is wrapping the weenies. Feel free to insert your favorite tubed meat joke.

The toughest item on the list, without a doubt, was the jerky balls. Partly because I had no clue what a jerky ball was. I could have gone with beef jerky balls, but this presented two problems. One, jerky is drier than sand, so getting it to stick together in a ball would be a challenge. Two, beef jerky is crazy expensive. What happens to be cheap right now is turkey, so I went with ground turkey mixed with Jamaican jerked spice. I purchased a utility turkey and decided to debone it. I’ve deboned a number chickens in the past, so I figured this would be a cakewalk. Two hours later, and turkey gunk in every corner of the kitchen, I had a bunch of turkey with no bones in it. Two hours after that, I manage to grind the meat and mixed in the spices. Turkey jerky balls are now done.

The rest of the party is straight forward enough. Most of the Snowflake Day songs are simply knockoffs of Christmas tunes, so we decided to play MIDI versions of famous Xmas songs (if you’re unfamiliar with the MIDI audio format, it’s what predated the mp3 format. It’s mostly known for being incredibly crappy). Little pirate hats were made for various objects in the apartment, and snowflakes were hung from the ceiling with care.

People came, we exchanged spices, lamb tacos were noshed, and Snowflake Day Carols were not sung. I put a kibosh on that right away (sorry Kat, I’m only willing to go so far for a joke, and that boundary is singing).

Will we be doing it again? I’m not one for traditions, but I’ll honest, lamb tacos are the bomb and turkey jerky balls, although a hassle to make, are pretty tasty. I might do something a little more extravagant next year, with stewed lamb meat done as a curry. So yeah, we’ll be celebrating Snowflake Day again. If you’re lucky, and you’ve been good all year, maybe you’ll hear the YoHoHo instead of the HoHoHo, and Snowflake Jake will bless your home with a bounty of cumin and basil.


The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Truthfully, if I have the opportunity, I’m going someplace with a beach for Christmas. Tradition can take a back seat for sunshine and sand.

p.s.s. Holy shit, is it a goddamn pain in the ass to debone a turkey. I swear, the turkey fights back. I could have worn the thing like a cape.

The Christmas Blues

Christmas used to bring such joy, back in the day. It truly was, for the most part, the most wonderful time of the year. These days, not so much. I’ve been trying to narrow it down, the last couple of revolutions around the sun, exactly when Christmas stopped being fun, or at least as fun as the season once was.

At first, I thought it might be a nostalgia thing. Like most things, holidays were more enjoyable as a child. Being a kid meant not having a care in the world. You weren’t expected to buy gifts, instead, you just showed up at the tree come Christmas morning. You had to create a couple of gifts, sure, but your teacher was making you do that anyways. My parents were overjoyed to get lousy pottery made with love. Candy also seemed to taste better, I can’t handle it the way I used to. But I don’t think nostalgia is the root of my Christmas woes.

Maybe it’s the stress. The malls are packed with shoppers, and heading out to buy gifts is a nightmare. Everyone is on edge, grinding their teeth at the thought of having to brace the masses in order to find the perfect present for that perfect someone. Can’t be that, though. Not for me at least. Kat and myself are making our gifts this year like we did last year, and I can only see the tradition continuing. Instead of a crappy macaroni card, my mom is getting straight up crappy homemade macaroni.

Why was I feeling burnt out? Why is everyone around me, loved ones, friends, and coworkers, tired of Christmas? I mulled it over some hot cocoa and Irish cream, because nothing helps the blues like alcohol does. I check the calendar and realized it’s only the 14th of December. Hasn’t Christmas been on the radar longer than fourteen days?

That’s because we’ve been celebrating Christmas since November 1st. The day after Halloween, the pumpkins go down and the trees come up. We’re now celebrating the holidays for one-sixth of the year. Christmas is now soaking close to twenty percent of my time. I love a good party. But two months of Christmas music, of shopping, of bright lights. I can’t take it any longer.

Even a month is pushing it. A twenty-five day period to be cheery is tough. From now on, I’m going to start celebrating Christmas in April. I’ll buy advent calendars at reduced price and store them away for three months. I’ll stick turkeys in the freezer and forget about them. Instead of snow, I’ll put on rain boots and go dance in the rain.

Why are we celebrating Christmas anyways? It’s Santa’s birthday, and we’re making the poor guy work? That’s ridiculous. Not only are we making him work, we’re sending him out in the freezing snow (or the blaring heat if you’re down on the other side of the hemisphere). April would be a better time for everyone. Santa wouldn’t have to work his birthday, and delivering gifts would be a lot easier. Not only that, but you can buy all your gifts early on boxing day.


The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I’m looking forwards to seeing people, though. Heading back to G-Spot for a couple of days! Woot!


Mr. Charlton is a Terrible Code Monkey

I was recently working on a project for a friend of mine who’s a software engineer, helping him put together some 3D modeling stuff. Nothing outside of my scope, but it’s been a while since I’ve sent anything to a 3D printer, so there was some stuff I had to relearn. We ran into one major issue after I had built the first model. When we sent it off to the 3D printer, the 3D printer said the model was too small. It was so small, in fact, my model wasn’t even showing up at all.

Now, I’ve been doing this sort of thing for a while. When the printer balked at me, my first reaction wasn’t “What’s wrong with this stupid hunk of garbage”, it was “Okay, let’s  simplify the problem”. Instead of checking the model (which I had spent hours on at this point), I sent a boring 3D cube to the printer. I ran into the same issue. The cube was too small. Huh! This instantly told me my model was probably fine, but the model and the 3D printer weren’t talking to each other correctly. Something was getting lost in translation. So I made the cube 100 times bigger. Success! The cube was being recognized. I made the model 100 times bigger, and the issue disappeared.

I told my friend, the one who contracted me to do this work, about the issue and how I solved it. He told me the process I went through, simplifying the problem then testing it, was the same way a coder would tackle the problem. Little did he know I’ve been teaching myself the ins-and-outs of coding for a while now! The philosophy of working with code is the same as the philosophy of generating 3D models, which is also the same philosophy of dealing with technology and computers in general; Test the easy, big stuff first so you can narrow down the solution. Also, your computer does not respond very well to yelling instructions at it.


Strangely, it doesn’t respond to hand gestures either.

Coding isn’t something that comes naturally to human beings. Unless the person has some sort of specific autism, coding is a skill everyone will struggle with. Learning how to code and making little programs has taught me an incredibly important skill, one I never got the hang of in grade school, at college, or anywhere before in the workplace. The skill of being miserable at something, and failing over and over again.

I was pretty good at school. I wasn’t an exemplary student, by any stretch of the means, but I didn’t struggle with any subject. There’s never been a time where I was overly challenged. The only challenge I ever faced was of my own doing, as I tended to procrastinate. Any problem can be made difficult if you wait until the absolute last minute to take it on. School and work never really put me in the path of failing. If it was school, I did well if I put the slightest amount of effort in, and work was basically showing up and doing the job.

Enter coding. I started coding, ever so slightly, a couple years ago. I was a lousy coder back then. These days, well, I’m still pretty awful at coding, but I can look at code and make some sort of sense of it. I can make little scripts to automate tasks. The truth is, I’m not sure if I’ll ever actually be good at coding. I think it’ll always be something I struggle with. That okay, though, because there’s few things I’ve found in life to be as enjoyable as solving problems, and a computer, well, that is basically a box full of problems that need to be solved.

The point I’m trying to make here is very few people are naturally good with computers. The rest of us nerds have to work for it. So if you’re trying to teach yourself how to code, there’s a trick that will keep you on track. The trick is learning to be happy with failing, over and over again. A computer doesn’t hand out participation trophies. Having code that is 95 % correct will still return errors. The computer will only recognize code that works. But when you finally do figure it out, there isn’t anything I’ve found that is quite as satisfying.


The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Okay, an orgasm can also be satisfying, but anyone can give themselves one of those, so it’s a different kind of satisfying, I guess.


Who Would go to WestWorld?


Westworld is a new series on HBO. The intellectual property, on the other hand, is a couple decades old. Westworld was originally a movie written and directed by the late Michael Crichton, and it premiered in 1973. In the movie, Westworld is one of three amusements parks that sits alongside Medieval world and Roman world in the near future of 1983. Tourists pay the astronomical price of one thousand dollars to spend a day in the park. The parks are filled with androids, and you can indulge in sexual encounters or a fight to the death. The androids are programmed to be incapable of violence against the tourists. Until, of course, something goes wrong. A computer virus begins to affect the androids, who are now able to maim and kill people.

HBOs series follows roughly the same plot, except there’s a lot more focus on the engineers building and maintaining the world. There’s only Westworld here, and again, the price of admission makes the park available to only the incredibly wealthy. There’s a pretty drastic change in tone, though. Michael Crichton’s Westworld was an amusement park. It was a place where you’d sleep with an android, get into a fake bar room brawl, drink a pile of whisky, and get into a shootout with the park’s antagonist, ‘The Gunslinger’ played by Yul Brynner. The HBO’s version is a lot… darker.

I like dark. I’m a huge fan of black humour. But Westworld in 2066, where the show takes place, doesn’t really seem like an amusement park. First off, the androids are made from flesh and bones. They bleed. They feel pain. And tourists can do whatever they please to these more-human-than-machine androids. Always wanted to scalp a person? Knock yourself out. Want to mow down a large swath of people? We’ve got a storyline just for you. Feel like killing children? Come to Westworld to experience the realest child killing you can do without actually killing a child. It seems more like a place where sociopaths go to live out their wildest desire. At the same time, as monstrous as some of the tourists seem to be, if Westworld was real, it would probably play out more similarly to the online games we have today.

The problem isn’t Westworld. It’s the fact that I can’t rent out the place, by myself, and have an adventure, by myself. This is how I would imagine the scenarios would actually be played out.

Scenario #1: The mysterious Salesperson at the Tack and Trade.

I’ve just gotten to Westworld. I’m wearing a sleek duster, and some killer cowboy boots. My hat is on point. I’m getting a horse at the Tack and Trade, the local store. A burly man with a mean mustache is running the joint. We start to talk, shooting the breeze. He takes me outside and shows me my new horse. It’s a majestic white stallion. We go back inside to square up. He leans over the counter and begins to tell me a story, a story of buried treasure and a map he has in his possession.  I’m intrigued, the plot thickens. All of sudden, another tourist starts shooting. He’s not shooting any of the people, mind you. He’s shooting the horses. He shoots my horse. I go outside, to find my beautiful animal full of holes. The perpetrator, dressed in green neon leather chaps and a pink fuzzy cowboy hat, looks me right in the eyes, and proceeds to teabag the dead horse. He screams “***BLAZE420*** representing 2Short Clan!” He then flips me off and walks away. I have lost the immersion.

Scenario #2: My Hired Gun.

I’ve gone to the next town over, walking there because all the horses in the previous town were shot. On the way over, I met a strange man. He is out in the desert, dying of thirst. I give him a long pull from my canteen. He’s grateful, saying he was left out to die here. I tell him I’m headed to the town close by, but I’m new to these parts and could use a guide. He says hell to that, he won’t be my guide, but my bodyguard. I’ve given him his life back, and now he has a life debt to pay to me. We start walking to the town, only to have a man on a horse chase us down. His horse is silver and has rockets on the side. He screams “They said you’d be dying in the desert!” He hops off his horse, and begins walking toward my new companion. This new threat is not very tall. Instead of running, my bodyguard pulls down his pants, turns around and presents himself to this new man. They proceed to copulate, with the small man screaming “How do you like this, Brian Treverson? How does it feel to be fucked by the great Anthony Sung?”. My bodyguard continues to thank Anthony repeatedly. It’s only later that I find out billionaire Tony Sung paid extra for the privilege of having an android modeled after a bully he dealt with in college.  That android just happened to be the one I rescued. I have lost the immersion.

Scenario #3: The Beautiful Bar Room Stranger.

I make it to town. I decide a stiff drink is in order, so I head to the saloon. Piano music plays a ragtime ditty, and I stand at the bar. A coin is slapped on the bar, and soon I’ve procured a bottle of whiskey. I pour myself a drink, when a lovely young thing saunters up to me. “Mind if I have a taste, Mr…” I once again nod at the bartender, and he brings another glass. “Mr. Charlton,” I say. “The Illustrious Mr. Charlton”. We both take a sip. Her eyes dart around the room. “Mr. Charlton, we’ve found you at last. I’m a United States Marshal, and we’re in desperate need of men like…” she’s interrupted by an incredibly intoxicated man who bursts into the saloon. He belches uncontrollably. He gets up on top of a card table and exclaims to the bar “I’ve been eating nothing but HoHos and packaged noodles for three weeks. Let me show you my collection.” He then drops his drawers and defecates all over the card table. “No Rules!” he says in a singsong voice “NOOOOOO RUUUUULLLLES.” He’s not an android, and the stench is real. I begin to vomit, the smell is too much. I have lost the immersion.

When I first started watching Westworld, I couldn’t imagine what kind of person would go there. When I thought about it for a minute, I realized exactly what kind of person would go there, and that group is not being represented in the show. To anyone with the vision of a future theme park with no rules, just remember one thing; People will take you up on that, and they might start breaking the rules in ways you never imagined.


The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Tell me, Anthony Hopkins. You’ve built an incredible world, but how would you keep the trolls out?

p.s.s. You remember Martin Shkreli? Tell me he wouldn’t spend a week in Westworld ruining everyone else’s time.

Idiots on the Political Spectrum

What do you picture when I say the words ‘Political Spectrum’? For most of you, it’s a line. You have the left (on the left side) and the right (on the right side). This is the image almost every media outlet, every pundit, every social media post leans toward. I’ll draw you a little picture.


I hope this makes sense.

I’m going to tell you a story of two people I’ve been hearing a lot about lately; Rachel Notley, the premier of Alberta and leader of the Alberta NDP, and Dr. Jordan Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto. If you live in Canada and you pay attention, then you’ve probably heard about these two people.

Let’s talk about Rachel Notley. Depending which side of the graph you sit on, you think she’s either doing a good job in an unstable economy, or she’s the spawn of Satan and wants to destroy everything you hold dear. She has received death threats. People want her to lose her job. She was recently the focal point of a protest, in which the crowd shouted out “Lock her up!”, even though she has broken no laws. People who sit on the very right side of the spectrum want to destroy her, either figuratively or literally.

Let’s talk about Dr. Jordan Peterson. Depending which side of the graph you sit on, you think he’s standing up for what he believes in, or he’s the spawn of Satan and is committing hate crimes.  He has received death threats. People want him to lose his job. He’s been the focal point of a number of debates, many of which he’s drowned out by chanting and megaphones. People who sit on the very left side of the spectrum want to destroy him, either figuratively or literally.

I sincerely hope I’m using language that doesn’t make me seem elitist (apparently be elite is a bad thing) or use ideas that are triggering anyone (my blog is not a safe space). I hope the person reading this sees the similarities between the extremes of both sides.

There’s a theory in political science called the horseshoe theory, in which the two opposing sides of the spectrum have more in common with each other than those closer to the center. If you don’t remember what a horseshoe looks like, here’s another picture.


I also hope this make sense¹

The issue right now, and in my humble opinion is the biggest issue on the planet, is our political discourse is framed with these extremes in mind. When dealing with the very ends of the spectrum, every issue is polarized. There is no middle ground. These extremist, on both sides, are the most vocal. They’re the ones spamming your feed with online petitions (I see issues from both sides), they’re the ones engaged in every argument, they’re the ones who are the problem with politics in the world.

I’m going to ask you some questions.

  • Do you find yourself constantly arguing online?
  • Do viewpoints that counter your own make you upset, angry, or otherwise emotional, ie. We need to stop all pipelines, or, people are gender-binary?
  • If someone, especially if they are in a position of power, has a viewpoint that contradicts your own, do you fantasize about their downfall or their failure?
  • Would you be offended if someone said you were on the other end of the spectrum than the one you associate with, ie. You’re a card-carrying conservative  and someone called you a left leaning thug, or, you’re a die-hard liberal and someone said you were a right-wing bigot.
  • Have you ever used the words right-wing or leftist, or any political label as an insult

If you’ve answered yes to three or more of these questions, you’re the problem. It isn’t the pipelines, the protesters at standing rock, the culture war, or taxes. These aren’t the problems, the issue is the conversation has now been dominated by those at the extremes ends of the horseshoe. And you people are idiots.

Here’s how you can stop being an idiot. Rather than looking up information to support your claim, look up information that contradicts your position. This blog was originally going to be a rant against Dr. Jordan Peterson. After I took the time to look into what he was saying, I found myself respecting his position. I don’t agree with what he says, but I can’t argue with his right to say it. The one thing I absolutely agree with him on is the fear of ideology. For Jordan, it’s a fear of left-wing ideologues turning the world into a Marxist utopia, where the able-bodied are made lame and wings of progress are clipped to give everyone equal advantages (I believe this is pretty silly). For me, it’s a fear the conversation is now dominated by the polar extremes of the spectrum. Discussions and arguments are seen as something to be won or lost, rather than having your own idea challenged to see if it holds. Combine this with a for-profit media that is more concerned with turning heads than jounalistic integrity, and you have a recipe for an uninformed polulace unable to correctly govern itself, paving the way for authoritarian figures who promise to solve the issues with ease. It’s how someone as unqualified as Trump has managed to gain the presidency.

So challenge your ideas. In my case, it led to me chaning my opinion on a subject. Now I’m less of an idiot than I was yesterday. Which should be a goal for everyone reading this.


The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Knowledge! Making people less idiotic since the dawn of man.

¹Image taken from

Mr. Charlton is Sick of Winter

My shoe has a hole in it. Not a very big hole, mind you, but a hole none the less. I discovered the hole on my commute to work this morning. There’s a fresh blanket of snow on the ground, just a skiff. When I was walking, a little ball of snow had gathered in the hole and compressed into a solid chunk. The part touching my foot started to melt, and the water has frozen on the bottom. It feels like I have a cold, wet, rock in my shoe. So I hobbled the rest of the way to work, and there was only one thing crossing my mind; Mr. Charlton is sick of winter.

There was a time when winter was easily the greatest season of them all. Summer was alright. School was out and we had two to three months of time off to play in the sun. The downside was the mosquitoes, which my hometown got in spades. Fall was lame, as it was the beginning of school. Not to mention the colours and the changing of seasons was lost on a child of my age. Spring was okay. It was wet, ’cause the snow had melted, and the free time we had was spent building little dams blocking streams. If there were times as a child that led me to a career in civil engineering technologies, this was it. But man, winter…

Winter was king, plain and simple. Sure, it was cold, but when you live in a little mountain town, the possibilities are endless. The first Christmas I remember vividly was when I was five. We had just moved into a new house, a house that was much closer to the mountains. Going to the hill, any hill, from the trailer park required a ride. In our new house, the hills were a block or so away. My parents capitalized on this and bought my brother and I GT snow racers.


King of the Hill

If you’re unfamiliar with this bad boy, this is the Noma GT snow racer. A GT made you the coolest kid on the hill, and we had two of them. To celebrate our new gifts, we went to the best sled run in town; Snake Hill. We were close to a hill, a little chute we could go down in a few seconds. Snake hill, on the other hand, was a short drive away and always a tobogganing party. It was packed, and for good reason. It was a sled paradise. Someone would normally have a fire at the bottom where you could warm up, and it was a hot spot for kids who’s birthday landed in the winter, like both my brothers.

There were two rides you could take. You could hike up this steep chute, a bomber that would take you down in under a few seconds. It was a speed run, and it wasn’t unusual for half a dozen children to pile onto an inner tube and barrel down this crazy grade. Kids would be bouncing off the tube as the few second ride progressed, and you were lucky if you were one of the two kids still clinging on for dear life. As a bonus, the kids on board would typically aim for the fire, making it a goal to try and run over the burning logs. This happened once, and after having to put a kid out with snow, I think we wised up and avoided the fire from then on (I can’t remember who went up in flames, but it was probably my brother Kelly. He’s the most flammable Charlton).

The main attraction was Snake Hill, so aptly named because it was a twisty, winding toboggan run that took at least a minute or two from the top to the bottom. Snake hill wasn’t as fast as the chute, but it was a better ride. It felt like a bobsled run. It had big, sweeping curves and a couple of shortcut jumps in the run. Getting up to the top was dangerous, because the only way up was walking on the run itself. Walking up required getting out of the way of speeding kids on crazy carpets, and it wasn’t unusual for a kid flying down to run into a kid climbing up, resulting in a high-speed collision. It was like a bowling alley, except the balls were fifty-pound children screaming down the hill at knee height, and the pins were fifty-pound children moving slowly up an icy slick toboggan run.

The GT changed the game, ’cause you could steer. The brakes on the thing were useless and would tear up the run (it wasn’t unusual to shun a kid if they were using their brakes), but the thing steered pretty well. When you were on a non-steering toboggan or a crazy carpet, you were basically holding on for dear life. With the GT, however, you were in control. That crazy run was now a race track, and you were driving the sweetest ride on the block. As a kid, I loved winter.

Now? I live on the prairies. Getting to a hill is a dangerous trek, and now that I’m an adult, these things cost money. Skis are expensive, and I get weird looks when I plow smaller children out of the way on the GT. The cold didn’t used to bug me, but now it gets me right to the bone. My skin used to be full of moisture and life, now I have to slather myself with hydrating cream, or dust my naked body with Gold Bond powder. I hate dusting my body people, I’m not a chinchilla.

The Norse blood that ran through my veins now runs dry. Maybe it’s because it’s the first real cold snap of the year, and I haven’t adjusted to it yet. But I think after living three decades on this planet, as well as having options, I think the warm coast might be a nice change of pace. Nothing wrong with the prairies, but there’re so many years on Earth I want to live with cracked and bleeding lips, and 30+ is enough of them for any lifetime.


The Illustrious Mr. Charlton.

p.s. Here’s the website I got the picture from.

p.s.s. It’s mostly the seafood, actually. That’s the real reason I’m moving.

p.s.s.s. Like some mussels in a nice cream sauce.

p.s.s.s.s. Oh man, with some bread for dipping? Talk about my jam right there.

Mr. Charlton Doesn’t Go to Calgary

Crazy thing. I’m supposed to be in Calgary right now. I’m not in Calgary, which may leave people who were expecting me to be in Calgary to ask the question “Mr. Charlton, why the hell are you not in Calgary?” This is a valid question. I wanted to be in Calgary, so very badly, but sometimes you have to go with your gut feeling and bail on a situation when it’s appropriate.

A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine (We’ll call her Lisa) invited me out for drinks in Calgary. I don’t live in Calgary. Where I live right now isn’t even that important to the story. What you need to know is my current location isn’t Calgary. Now, there was a very long time where my location was Calgary, because Calgary was my home. I love Calgary, and I have a lot of friends who still call Calgary their residence. I was headed to Calgary to meet some of these people.

Here’s the thing. I have been stressing out these last few days. I took on a lot of projects recently, and I was getting worried about deadlines. They’re manageable, but between the coding I’m helping Kat with, the 3D modeling I’m doing for a friend of mine, plus work, plus the fact I’m still trying to write two thousand words a day, plus the coding I’m doing for myself, well, my time has to be managed properly.

I planned out the entire day. I had some time on the bus to get some stuff done, I had breaks in between meeting friends, I had my day sorted. I would get plenty of time to code, plenty of time to visit, and plenty of time to write. I was going to have a great time.

I didn’t plan on outside circumstances, though, like the bus being an hour and a half late. Where I live wasn’t important to the story before, but I guess it is now. I live in the wind capital of Canada, Lethbridge. I stood out in the cold wind for over an hour and a half. People waiting with me ended up leaving, or calling friends and sitting in their vehicles. Slowly, my day was being eaten up. And I was getting more frustrated by the moment. Plus, it was cold out. I dressed appropriately for someone waiting fifteen minutes, not an hour and forty-five.

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run

Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

So I bailed. I said, “If the trip is starting out badly, then it’s a good sign to count my losses and chill for the day.” That’s what I’m doing. I’m going to treat myself to a nice lunch, and I’m going to work on some of the things I had planned on getting done.

There’s a lesson here. In our fast-paced world, we’re constantly bombarded with catchy slogans like “Live to Win” and “Bite off more than you can swallow, then chew” and “Gotta hustle every day” and “The man who stands upon the largest pile of skulls can see the furthest”. But sometimes, if you’re gut is telling you to slow down, that something ain’t right, then back off.

I’m not in Calgary, and it might be a good long while before I’m in Calgary again. That’s a shame, because I really do love the city. To all my friends, I’ll be out later than sooner, I’m afraid. In the mean time, you’ll find me right here, on the internet.


The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. ‘Ain’t’ wasn’t always a word, but it is now. Which is grand, as it makes me seem like I’m full of folksy bumpkin wisdom.

p.s.s. Just CHALKED full of bumpkin wisdom.

NaNoWirMo – A Retrospective

A lot of you may have been wondering where I’ve been for the past month, minus the electoral upset taking place in the good ol’ USA. Well, I’ve actually been right here, typing out much smaller blog posts, and not spreading the word via social media. Mostly because unlike my longer, larger and more interesting posts, these were updates regarding my the little journey to write a 50,000 word novel in the span of thirty days. As of Monday November 28th at about 3:30pm in the afternoon, I crossed that finish line.  So bear with me as I talk about writing 1,667 words a day for the month of November.

It wasn’t all that hard.

Now, I’m not diminishing anyone else’s little victory, but I’m saying is not once during this month I felt stressed out by the thought of sitting down and writing a bunch. It never felt like a daunting task. All I had to do was make sure I was ahead of the daily quota, and to keep plugging away every day at it. Some days I only got 800 words scribbled down. Other days I managed to blow through more than 3,000 words. No matter the day, I managed to get some writing done. Not only that, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I still managed to give this blog an additional couple hundred words. I know some of the people here are writers themselves, so I’m going to whisk you away on an adventure into how Mr. Charlton managed to get so much writing done in so little time.

The Bad

1) The novel (so far) is a complete piece of shit.

I’ll state this right off the bat; it’s not a good book. The characters stand around shouting exposition at each other. Sometimes a chapter will end with “And then they all went out to do the jobs they had to do”. There’s a couple of little flourishes in there that I’m proud off, there’s also complete chunks of novel missing, replaced with COME BACK AND WRITE THIS SCENE IN LATER or GO BACK AND CHANGE THIS CHARTER SO THIS PART WILL MAKE SENSE. I’d love to sit here and tell you I wrote a masterpiece, but I’d be full of it.

2) I still have a shit ton to write to make it an actual novel.

It ain’t over yet, I’m afraid. There’s still at least another two months of writing needing to be done before I could even call this a first draft. I’m happy I was able to complete the task National Novel Writing Month set out for me, but the truth is, 50,000 words isn’t a heck of a lot. Both science fiction and fantasy novels tend to be at least twice that number. Seeing as how this is a science fiction novel I’m writing, I’ve got a long way to go before I can actually call this a first draft.

3) Holy sweet Peter, is this going to require a hell of an edit once it’s done.

With the book being in bad shape, once it’s actually completed, the book will need a complete overhaul. There are sentences that will need to be pulled out into full paragraphs to better paint the scene, and there are entire paragraphs I’m going to have to widdle down into sentences because when you’re trying to get a word count in, you occasionally pad stuff.


The Good

4) Every damn novel ever written requires an edit once the first draft is complete.

What did I expect, that I was going to crap out ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ in the time frame of thirty days? Even a book like ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ needed an edit after the first draft and numerous edits after the first edit. Here’s some wonderful news; I like editing. I’ve got no issue going over things with a fine tooth comb and giving it some TLC. Heck, if you’re a writer out there and you want someone to go over a page or two of your stuff, pro bono, give a guy a buzz.

5) I learned I’m a fast typist, and I’m getting better every day.

Hand-eye coordination, people. Whoever told me video games were a waste of time can suck an egg.



If the groove is going, I can crank out 1,500 words in an hour. That means I can crank out 3,000 words in two hours if the mood is right. And here’s the kicker. I could be faster and more accurate. Saying you’re a writer who can’t type is like saying you’re a chef who can’t slice an onion properly. Get better at your craft.

6) No such thing as the right time to write.

Picture a novelist. Maybe they’re in the nook of their home, a warm cup of coffee next to them, undisturbed. You’ll hear people say things like, “Unless the mood is right, and I’m in my special nook, there’s no way I can write”. Well, that’s fine and dandy for people living in some magical world that’s not populated by anybody else, but I live on planet Earth, and this shit can get wild sometimes. I would say that somewhere between 5-10% of this book was written on my phone. I’m on the bus and I have ten minutes? I can crank out 50 to a 100 words. I’m 15 minutes early to pick someone up? Another 100 to 200 words get put into an email and sent to myself. The right time to start something, whether it’s writing, or Ju-Jitsu, or learning to weld is right now. And if you’re lucky enough, the thing you want to learn is something portable, like writing or drawing or the harmonica.

Overall, I’m glad I did NaNoWriMo. I learned some things about myself, and because I hit the 50,000 word mark, I get a sweet deal on some killer writing software.

Don’t worry, next post I’ll be back to the usual garbage I normally write.


The Illustrious Mr. Charlton.

p.s. My other big secret is not having children. My lord, do I have so much wonderful free time to myself.

p.s.s. Seriously, if you’re an aspiring writer, send me your stuff. I’ll give it the classic Mr. Charlton once over.