Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Legacy Weapons

It's been a while since I had a chance to blog. I am in the realm of law school finals... so that has kind of consumed my life for the past couple of weeks. My grandparents came to visit over the weekend and my grandpa gave me a .32 revolver from the 1890's that used to belong to my great-great grandpa. Being a huge history nerd (and a weapons nerd) I was pretty stoked. I had talked to my grandpa about getting a pistol a while ago but then law school started and I stopped having a life. :-P

I have a lot of weapons and replica weapons on the walls of my home theater room. In the room with my Martin Logan speakers and Pioneer plasma you'll also find Sting (the sword of Bilbo Baggins), an Igorot shield and spear (from the Philippines), a Sephiroth sword (Final Fantasy VII), and a replica of a George Washington flintlock pistol (from Mt. Vernon). I'll continue to add to this room over time.

The coolest weapons I own though were passed down to me from my grandpa. My great-grandpa had a massive collection of guns, bows, arrows, etc. The two items that have made it down to me are an English longbow and the .32 revolver I received Sunday night. If nothing else, I figured it would be cool to post some pictures. I'm feeling lazy today though because my torts final was yesterday so these pictures were taken with my iPhone.

English Longbow

A longbow is a bow long enough for its owner to draw the string to a point on the face or body so it varies with the user. Longbows generally have been anywhere from 3 ft to 6 ft tall. Mine is closer to 6 ft (it's a little taller than I am). You can find out more about them here on Wikipedia.

I've thought about having it restrung but I don't know if it would break. It's old and not in the best shape. I used it as a staff when I played a guard in Hamlet in 6th grade so I've had it for a long time now.

1890's Smith and Wesson .32 Revolver

For being over 100 years old, this revolver is in really good shape. The handle is slightly cracked on the other side but there's no other real signs of damage. This particular revolver was made by a Smith and Wesson subcontractor, Harrington and Richardson Arms Company. The patents listed on the top are from 1895 and 1896.

This gun was originally purchased by my great-great-grandpa and then it was passed down to my grandpa and now has found its way to me. Grandpa told me it hasn't been fired in around 40-50 years so I'm now thinking I might try to find a way to display it somewhere in my house as opposed to checking to see if it will still fire. Like I said, it's in decent shape with no visible cracks so I bet it would still fire, I just don't want to risk breaking it.

So there was no real point to today's blog post, I just didn't feel like studying for Friday's final yet. Also pictures of weapons are cool. Oh and if you're still looking for Christmas gifts, might I suggest any of the books I've written as most of them are now available in paperback. You can check them all out on my Amazon Author Page.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Book Sales Breakdown: First 1000 Sales

I love it when numbers work out nicely. I sold my 1,000th book on the last day of September 2014, so it made figuring out totals a lot easier for me. I figured I would do a short breakdown of the sales numbers including the Top 5 books that got me there. I'm going to try to take a while to put all of the info together because I really don't feel like starting on my homework yet.

My first 1000 book sales consisted of 687 e-books, 253 audio books, and 50 paperbacks. It's interesting the way book sales work in 2014. Go back a decade and e-books weren't even a thing. Here's a pie chart because pie sounds really good right now:

So around 2/3 of my first 1000 sales were e-books, around 1/4 were audio books, and around 1/20 were paperbacks. Most of the paperbacks were actually sold this year. I sold 1 paperback my first year and 11 my second year. As of right now, in just 2014, I've sold 48 paperbacks and that's not including the ones I bought and then gave away to people.

As for my best sellers, I have one book that has sold over 200 copies and two that have sold over 100. Here's the breakdown of my Top 5 Bestsellers:

Constantine: The Emperor of Tolerance
203 copies sold as of 9/30/2014

Caribbean Piracy: Pirates and Privateers
111 copies sold as of 9/30/2014

Horror Stories from a Computer Tech
103 copies sold as of 9/30/2014

Explanations and Advice for the Tech Illiterate
87 copies sold as of 9/30/2014

Jehovah and Hades: Books 1-3
56 copies sold as of 9/30/2014

The book covers above are linked to the ebook version on Amazon. The Top 4 have gained a considerable boost because of the audio books they have sold. Jehovah and Hades: Books 1-3 has made it to 56 on nothing but e-book sales (also this is just the three book collection version. If I included individual sales of each title plus the collection, it would be over 100). The somewhat interesting thing is that three of these titles still have no reviews on Amazon. Horror Stories From A Computer Tech has 18 reviews and Explanations and Advice For The Tech Illiterate has 9 reviews, but the other three have none.

As of now, the most books I've sold in a single month is 70 (and that was October 2014 so those numbers are not included in my first 1000 sales). October broke down to 43 e-books, 17 audio books, and 10 paperbacks. It's really nice to be able to have a little extra side income while I'm in law school and working a part-time IT job. So to everyone who has purchased one of my books, left a nice review on one of my books, or shared one of my books with a friend... thank you! Writing fiction and non-fiction has been a very entertaining hobby and I still continue to write when I get small amounts of time in between homework and other things that are currently draining my life.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

New Book Cover for Minor Demons

Just wanted to start this off by saying that I really liked the cover Doug Beckstead made for Minor Demons. Other projects have taken his time lately so I'm going with another graphics artist to redo the cover for Minor Demons and for a new Middle Demons cover (which I have now but I won't be revealing until I have the book written... and that's about another 30,000 words. I would love to finish it but law school + work is sucking my soul.) As a final sendoff, here's the old Minor Demons cover:

Still awesome. Ok. Moving on. I hired Elizabeth Mackey (who redid the fonts and text on my non-fiction books) to do the new covers for Minor Demons, Middle Demons, and eventually Major Demons. The new cover is live on Amazon (both for the e-book and the paperback). Here it is:

The new cover features Leech instead of Shadow. Lilith will be on the cover for Middle Demons and Shadow will be on the cover for Major Demons. The font and type for the Middle Demons cover is the same as it is on this cover so that the series will continue to feel like a uniformed set.

Just to give everyone a heads up, Minor Demons will be free on Halloween (10/31/2014). This is the last time I'll offer it for free for a while. Make sure you grab a copy and then leave me tons of good reviews. (If you're back on my blog on Halloween, here's the link to grab it for free.) I hope everyone has a great Halloween. Oh and one final picture for you:

Happy Halloween from the league of assassins! :-P

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Dollar Shave Club Executive Blades vs. Gillette Mach 3 Blades

I generally have used Mach 3 blades to shave my head. I also like to shave my beard around my goatee every couple of weeks or so. I've been completely shaving my head since I was about 22, if I remember right, so I'm closing in on 7 years. I think the prices they charge for razor blades are ridiculous.

I've seen ads for the Dollar Shave Club (which I will now refer to as DSC) on Facebook and recently stumbled upon this New York Times article that prominently features the DSC. It's worth a read. Companies like Gillette and Schick have grown slothful with their massive product margins and overwhelming market share. Gillette has around 60% of the razor blade market and reported a 60% gross margin in 2004 (the year before they were purchased by Procter and Gamble). I want to pay for razor blades, not Gillette's TV commercials and advertising.

I decided to give the DSC a try. I generally get the Gillette Mach 3 Turbo 10 pack at Wal-Mart. It's around $30 or about $3 per razor. The DSC's high-end package is the executive blade and a 4 pack is $9 or $2.25 per razor (that's with shipping included). I made the purchase Sunday night and had my first DSC kit by Wednesday. Here's what it looked like:

The package came with 4 of their executive blades (6 blades per razor), a razor handle, a membership card (which I found amusing), and a sample of their shave butter. I just tried out the executive blade and I'll compare it to the Mach 3 that I've used for years:

Razor Handle
The razor handle for the DSC is better. Occasionally I've needed to hit my razor against the sink to clear it out and that has resulted in a Mach 3 blade popping off the handle several times before. I don't see that happening with the DSC razor handle. I didn't try to break it or anything, but the razor handle the DSC sent me seems stronger.

Razor Blades
The executive blades from DSC have 6 blades per razor while the Mach 3 blades have 3. I've seen people argue about which razor is better based on the number of blades (some argue for more and others for less). Here's what the blades look like side by side:

DSC razors are on the left and Mach 3 razors are on the right. I decided to give the DSC executive blades (and the shave butter sample) the best test I can: I shaved my entire head and my beard around my goatee (which I've let grow for a few weeks now). I'm used to a little razor burn and occasionally nicking myself (especially around my ear) with the Mach 3 blades. It didn't happen with the executive blades. No cuts. No irritation. The DSC razor made it around my ear with no problem. The shave was much smoother, closer, and cleaner. I just wanted the DSC razors to be COMPARABLE to the Mach 3 razors so I could save a little money. It turns out that they're better (at least for my shaving needs).

Now to be completely honest, the DSC blades do clog a little easier with short hair than the Mach 3 blades do but the DSC blades did a better job on my beard (which was slightly longer than the hair on my head). It took me the same amount of time to shave and I didn't really find this to be an inconvenience.

DSC Shave Butter vs. Gillette Shaving Cream
I use Gillette Fusion Hydra Gel for shaving my head. With my first use of the DSC razor, I tried their shave butter sample. I like the shave butter, but I'm not sure yet if I'll order any next month. The Gillette Fusion Hydra Gel is generally around $4-$5 and the shave butter is $8 for a 6 oz tube. I'd say they're comparable and maybe give an edge to the shave butter since it did lead to a smoother shave.

Ultimate Conclusion
I originally wanted to try DSC's $9 a month package with the executive blades and then go down to the $6 a month 4x blades if I thought the executive blades were alright. I'm going to consider this over a few more shaves, but I think I want to stick with the executive blades. I'll save money either way and I really like the executive blades so far. DSC has a $1 per month option (2x blades per razor and that doesn't include shipping, 5 cartridges per month), a $6 per month option (4x blades per razor and that includes shipping, 4 cartridges per month), and a $9 per month option (6x blades per razor and that includes shipping, 4 cartridges per month). You can also have them ship every other month if that's all you need.

So the DSC executive blades definitely have my recommendation. If you think you'd like to try them out (or any of their other packages), please use this link to join because I get a small credit towards my plan when I refer people. Hopefully this helps a few of you save some money. If you have any thoughts or comments on the Dollar Shave Club, feel free to comment.

Update 4/3/15 DSC reached out to me and asked me to add a link to their Twitter. You can check them out on Twitter by clicking this link. I've been a member for 6 months now and I'm still with the $9 a month package. I have no intention of switching back to Mach 3 blades.

Update 8/14/15 DSC sent me some free products shortly after I posted this blog post. I reviewed these products after months of using them. You can see my review of their One-Wipe Charlies, Dr. Carver's Shaving Butter, and Dr. Carver's Post Shave Moisturizer by clicking this link.

Update 9/12/15 It was pointed out to me that a company called DORCO makes the razor blades for DSC and you can get the razors directly from them for a bit less through Amazon ($2.10 per razor instead of $2.25). You can check DORCO's razors out on Amazon  by clicking this link.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hobbit Swords

Welcome to Episode One of stuff I can hang on the walls of my home theater room because I'm a single guy (so no one can tell me not to). It's a working title. Actually my entire house has a mixture of stuff I've purchased in my world travels and stuff I just thought was badass. The elvish blades from The Hobbit fall into the latter category, as I've never been to the Shire or on the journey of Bilbo or Frodo.

I like collecting random knives and swords. There's not really any rhyme or reason to my collection, I just like having them around. Last Christmas, I received a replica of the Sting sword (letter opener?) from my parents. Here's a picture of the sword on my wall:

I've linked the photo to Amazon in case you want to check it out there. There are two versions of Sting on Amazon, the Bilbo version and the Frodo version. They are similar in price and I've linked to the Frodo version (which is the version I have). The Frodo version of Sting includes the Elvish markings on the blade that Bilbo added at the end of his journey. "Maegnas (Sting) is my name, I am the Spider's Bane." The Bilbo version of the sword is exactly the same minus the Elvish markings.

I plan on adding an additional two swords on the wall next to Sting (on either side). The first is Thorin Oakenshield's sword, Orcrist. The company finds this blade at the same time that Bilbo finds Sting. Thorin uses it for a large part of the first and second movies until the elves capture the company. Legolas takes it from Thorin at that point. Here's a picture of Orcrist, the goblin cleaver, on Amazon:

I think this is the coolest looking of the three blades. It sucks that the elves took it back. It's been a long time since I've read The Hobbit and I don't remember what happens to it. I just looked it up and I won't include what I found out here because that would be a spoiler for the third movie. I'll simply say that the blade does end up back with Thorin.

The final of the three swords that I want on my home theater wall is Gandalf's sword, Glamdring. Gandalf finds this sword in the same troll horde where the company acquires Sting and Orcrist. It's Gandalf's sword throughout the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies. Here's a picture of Glamdring, the foe hammer, on Amazon:

Orcrist and Glamdring are still just on my wish list for now, but Sting looks really cool as a display piece on a wall. Thanks for checking out Episode One of stuff I can hang on the walls of my home theater room because I'm a single guy (so no one can tell me not to). Tune in next time when I talk about other stuff in my home theater room.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Free Fiction Saturday

In celebration of Salt Lake Comic Con (and making it through my first two weeks of law school alive), I've made all of my fiction titles free for today only (9/6.) Grab as many as you'd like and please consider leaving a review if you enjoy them. Thanks everyone.

Minor Demons http://amzn.to/1cyKjCV
The Journals of Jacob and Hyde http://amzn.to/13eos1j
Jehovah and Hades http://amzn.to/VyOAiV
Jehovah and Hades: Federal Case http://amzn.to/URVxx2

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Reinvesting Author Royalties In The Books That Earned Them: History Articles

Since new covers added sales to my travel photo books (and then to my tech illiterate books), I decided to finish out my non-fiction book re-branding by having the covers for my history articles redone. I kept the original images and handed them over to Elizabeth Mackey (again) for more professional looking covers. Here are the six new book covers (and they're linked to their Amazon pages):

Constantine: The Emperor of Tolerance

Constantine has now sold over 200 copies if you combine sales from all formats. I considered buying a new image but ultimately decided that it sold pretty well as it was, so all I really needed was a better looking title and a more uniform location for my author name (you'll notice my author name is now in the same location and font on all of my non-fiction titles.) I decided to follow suit with all of my history articles.

Caribbean Piracy: Pirates and Privateers

Caribbean Piracy just broke into triple digit sales not that long ago, becoming my second history article to sell more than 100 copies. I still really like this image. It features a monkey mask I got in Hawaii, a shark-tooth dagger I got at the Polynesian cultural center, and a dagger I had made in the Philippines. The monkey mask was brightened up a bit for the current version of the cover.

The Mormon Theocracy

The Mormon Theocracy is unique among my history articles. It has no subtitle and it actually contains two history articles instead of one (one on the early Mormon theocracy in Utah and a second article on Gregory Palamas, the Orthodox monk, and his thoughts on God.) Since it was hit by a 1 star review from someone who never read it, it has recovered to become my most reviewed history article and has had a decent number of sales this year.

Luther Standing Bear: Assimilation

Luther Standing Bear features an Igorot shield and spear that I purchased in Maharlika (in Baguio when I was last in the Philippines.) I wanted it badly enough that I didn't negotiate very aggressively for it but it also slightly hurt my negotiating stance that I could only find it in one shop. This article received it's first five star review this year and has sold the second most paperbacks of any of my history articles for 2014 (the award for most paperbacks sold this year goes to Constantine as of right now.)

Prayer: Archangels and Intercessory Beings

Prayer was hit by a one star review at the same time The Mormon Theocracy was (by the same crazy lady who never bothered to read it.) I made it free for a while to get some more reviews and it currently has a 3 star rating overall with 6 reviews. The praying Mary and Joseph carvings are a part of a nativity set I purchased in Baguio. Now that it's back at an average rating, I've set it to eventually go back to it's original price. I'm not sure when exactly that will happen.

Gateway to the Vikings: L'Anse aux Meadows

After some decent sales in 2013, my article on the Vikings who explored North America was hit with a two star review. It's currently set to free through all major e-book retailers. Vikings has actually done better via Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and Apple as a freebie than it has through Amazon (which is unusual.) It still only has the one two star review on Amazon, claiming that this article doesn't tell you where L'Anse aux Meadows is and that all of the info in it is available for free. He's right about his first point (I assume people know how to use Google) but way off on his second point. Many of the articles I referenced in this article are only available via JSTOR (a paid subscription site for history articles.) If you're looking for an interesting read and grab this one as a freebie, please consider leaving a review if you learn from it or enjoy it.

I've also gone to a more uniform pricing format for my history articles. Making $0.70 per copy sold wasn't working very well and Amazon's new price analysis tool recommended that I change the price to $2.99 on all of my articles based on data collected from other non-fiction titles similar to mine (Constantine was already at that price and outselling all of the others.) I went with their data and moved the price to $2.99 on all of them except for Vikings, which is currently free. I still don't know what I'm going to do with the five article collection, so I've let it keep it's original cover for now and stay at a $4.99 price point until I figure out what to do with it.

Friday, August 15, 2014

2014 Book Sales (so far) Closing in on 2013 Final Numbers

I have to keep this brief because I'm going to Salt Lake early today to get my law school books (or at least as many of them as I can get.) July e-book numbers came through for Amazon yesterday so I was able to update my book sales numbers. I have final numbers on e-books (including Apple, B&N, Kobo, and Scribd) through July, paperbacks through July, and audio books through June (those tend to lag a little behind the other numbers updates.) All of those added up puts me at 341 book sales, which puts me only 31 sales away from matching last year's total of 372. I should be able to break that by the end of this month which means 500 sales for 2014 is a real possibility, but I'll beat last year's total for sure. Here are the top ten books that got me to this point in 2014 (and they're all linked to Amazon, so if any of them look interesting it would really help me out if you spend a few dollars and get one you don't have yet):

Horror Stories From A Computer Tech
53 sales (10 e-book, 43 audio book)

Traveling the U.S.: East Coast History
36 sales (32 e-book, 1 borrow, 3 paperback)

Jehovah and Hades: Books 1-3
35 sales (33 e-book, 2 borrows)

Constantine: The Emperor of Tolerance
29 sales (15 e-book, 4 borrows, 4 audio book, 6 paperback)

Geek of Legend: The Elvish Screwdriver
29 sales (7 e-book, 1 borrow, 21 audio book)

Explanations and Advice for the Tech Illiterate
23 sales (13 e-book, 7 audio book, 3 paperback)

The Mormon Theocracy
19 sales (13 e-book, 4 audio book, 2 paperback)

Caribbean Piracy: Pirates and Privateers
17 sales (6 e-book, 2 borrows, 8 audio book, 1 paperback)

Minor Demons
16 sales (15 e-book, 1 paperback)

Luther Standing Bear: Assimilation
12 sales (7 e-book, 1 audio book, 4 paperback)

Thanks once again to anyone who has purchased or reviewed any of these for me. The small amount I make from selling books is about to become a lot more important as I take on massive debt to go to law school and drop my work hours to part time.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The NSA Took Down Syria's Internet for Two Days?

By now I think most Americans know who Edward Snowden is. His most recent revelation about the NSA actually had me laughing when I first heard it (I can see what he said as plausible and it's kind of hilarious.)

In 2012, Syria's internet went down for two days. Syria's president blamed "terrorists." Others blamed the Syrian government. 92% of the internet providers in the country went down. Snowden is claiming that what actually happened was that the NSA accidentally shut down Syria's internet while attempting to infiltrate it.

This article in The Guardian states "The unit allegedly attempted to install an exploit in the hardware of Syria’s main internet service provider that would have provided NSA with mass access to internet usage, communications and patterns in Syria, where a civil war was developing into an Islamist insurgency, destabilizing the Middle East."

Apparently the NSA covered it's tracks pretty well, because we're just finding out about this now. Everyone in Syria was blaming the government, the terrorists, or a botched router update from the country's largest internet provider. No one accused the NSA. Well played NSA. I feel like there should be a meme with that Dos Equis guy:

So there you go. I went and made a meme for it. I can't think of much else to talk about today, so I hope this story made you chuckle. Now I'm starting to wonder what will happen when the hacker group Anonymous messes up...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Law School Laptop

People have asked me in the past what kind of a computer I have. The answer isn't always something that's easy to explain. My desktop at home is an i3 with 16 GB of Kingston DDR3 RAM, an Intel 120 GB SSD, a WD 3 TB hard drive, and a graphics card with a small amount of dedicated memory. I also have a Razer gaming mouse and a 500 watt power supply. My desktop doesn't have a brand, I built it from spare parts and a few parts that I bought at a good price. Even when I buy a computer from a brand that I generally trust, I usually make modifications to it.

Since I needed a new laptop for law school, I figured I would link to the exact Asus model I'm going with and blog about what I'll be changing on it. The image below is linked to the laptop I just purchased from Amazon if you want to see the full specs:

This laptop has a 14" LED touch screen, an i5 processor, 6 GB of DDR3 RAM, a 500 GB hard drive, and around a 5 hour battery life. Most of the laptops I was looking for with something around these specs that included an SSD were closer to $1,000 whereas this one is only a little over $650. In addition to the Asus laptop, I ordered one of these:

This is a 250 GB SSD made by Samsung currently going for $130 (it's also linked to Amazon if you want to check it out.) SSDs are way faster than a typical hard drive, make less noise, and have no moving parts. I plan on cloning the 500 GB hard drive in the Asus on to this 250 GB SSD and then using the SSD in the laptop. Yes, I'm finally going to have a computer with Windows 8. I was heavily leaning towards putting Windows 7 on the SSD, but Windows 8 supports the touch screen capabilities of the laptop (and I may occasionally use touch screen.) So by purchasing my own SSD and moving Windows 8 over myself, I'm saving myself a couple hundred dollars over most comparable laptops that have an SSD and the specs of my Asus laptop.

There are lots of programs that can clone your current hard drive over to an SSD. In fact, the top review on the Samsung SSD that I linked to above informed me that the Samsung SSD comes with cloning software. It really is a smart move if your current computer is really sluggish / hurting for speed. Every computer I plan on using in the near future has an SSD (or will have one if I need to build myself a new one from parts at any time in the future.) It will make more of a difference than upgrading RAM and SSDs are finally coming down in price to the point where they are affordable. I'm going to start recommending this as an option more often now when people tell me about speed issues their computer is having.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Crazy Busy Preparing for Law School

I don't really have time to talk about anything cool or important today. No history, no technology. My schedule posted for law school with my book list. I can also get a parking pass now (which I'll need), register for the law library, and get my university ID. Just when I knock everything off my to-do list, there's a new list to start on.

My laptop for law school should come in on Wednesday. The laptop had all the specs I wanted but it had a regular 500 GB hard drive. I ordered a Samsung 250 GB SSD and I'm going to image that and put it in the laptop. Now that I've had a SSD for a while... I just can't go back to regular hard drives.

I'm going to miss having the chance to write fiction. I'm going to miss having free time in the mornings. I'm going to miss fishing. Here's a picture of the two channel catfish we caught the last time we went fishing:

They were about 3 lbs each. We also caught over 60 white bass. I'm pretty well stocked up with fish right now. Even though things are going to get harder, I'm excited for law school. The pre-orientation week homework has been an enjoyable read. It's a case study of a dispute over a Claude Monet painting and all of the laws involved with having a plaintiff in Germany and a defendant in New York.

Thanks to everyone who reads my blog. I'm going to try to find time to still post a couple of times a month and I hope you've enjoyed the blog posts every weekday last week. I still plan on doing some more this week. I just don't have time to blog much today.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Theodosius the Overzealous Christian Emperor

I haven't done a history blog post in a while and I decided today would be a good day to write one. In my history article, Constantine: The Emperor of Tolerance, I argued that Constantine set up an empire that was tolerant of both Christianity and paganism. While Constantine did seem to give a greater boost to Christianity under Roman law, he also allowed paganistic practices to continue and saw Christ more as his "Summus Deus" or patron god. The empire remained unified and intact with two main exceptions, the rule of Julian and his persecution of Christians and the rule of Theodosius and his persecution of pagans.

At the time Theodosius came to power, the Byzantine empire was divided into east and west. Each half was ruled over by an Augustus, or supreme emperor. This is a remnant of the tetrarchy set up by Diocletian that ended when the empire came to a unified rule under Constantine. Theodosius was a general and military commander under the rule of the Emperor Valentinian. He retired shortly after the disgrace and execution of his father, Theodosius the Elder.

Valentinain was killed in 375 AD. Valentinian II and Gratian, his two sons, succeeded him in the West. In 378 AD, Gratian invited Theodosius to take command of the army in the East where their uncle, Valens, had died at the battle of Adrianople. Valens had no heir so this was ultimately an appointment to Augustus of the Eastern Roman Empire. Gratian was killed in a rebellion in 383 and Valentinian II in 392, after which point Theodosius appointed two of his sons as rulers in the East and West but he ultimately ruled over a unified Roman empire.

Roman emperors generally held off on their Christian baptism until their death because being Emperor required them to do many things that would make them a poor Christian. They also didn't want to be tied to and made to listen to the Church hierarchy. While Theodosius was a Nicene Christian and passed the Edict of Thessalonica (signed by Theodosius I, Gratian, and Valentinian II on 27 February 380) making all Romans profess the faith of the Christian bishops and cementing Nicene Christianity as the state religion, that was minor compared to what followed in his rule. After all, Constantine had also made Christianity the state religion but he didn't persecute or severely punish pagans like Theodosius.

At one point during his reign, Theodosius slaughtered 7,000 Romans in a stadium for their part in a rebellion that led to the death of a local Roman garrison captain. Bishop Ambrose wrote to Theodosius and rebuked him, calling him to repentance. Theodosius went to Ambrose, shed his Emperor garments, and bowed to Ambrose in public penance. Any other Byzantine Emperor simply could have said that Ambrose couldn't call him to repentance as he was simply a "Christian investigator." They could have even had Ambrose put to death for speaking against the emperor. Theodosius, as a baptized Christian, was in a position where he had to listen to the Christian bishops.

Theodosius was violently ill in 380 and thought he was on his deathbed. He was baptized, but then recovered from the illness that he thought would claim his life. His policies from that point on, about 381 AD, were radically anti-pagan and pro-Christian. He reinforced the ban on Roman religious customs, made haruspicy (divination using animal entrails) a crime punishable by death, allowed the criminalization of all local leaders that didn't punish polytheism, and allowed Roman temples to be attacked and looted without recompense.

Between 389 and 392, Theodosius issued a series of decrees that removed non-Nicene Christians from their church offices, turned Roman religious holidays into regular work days, banned blood sacrifices, closed Roman temples, and punished all forms of witchcraft. He also is likely behind the closing of the ancient Olympic Games in 393 AD. Until his death in 395, he continued to persecute pagans and non-Nicene Christians. After his death, the empire split back into east and west.

All I have time to offer here is a brief summary of the rule of Theodosius. For my article on Constantine, the most useful secondary source on his reign was called A.D. 381 by Charles Freeman. I'll link to his book below (it's available as an e-book, paperback, and audio book.)

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Journals of Jacob and Hyde Audio Book is Now Live!

It spent nearly a year in production. My narrator, Tobias Ezra Queen, hired out three smaller character parts (out of his own pocket) so the audio book also features Jenn Henry, Rish Outfield, and Big Anklevich. It's probably the best fiction audio book I have available as of right now and at 2 hours and 22 minutes, it's definitely the longest.

As of today, the book is now available at Amazon, Audible.com, and iTunes. The e-book is a free download through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and many other ebook retailers. If you have the e-book, the audio book is a great add-on. I promise. Links to the audio book below:

The Journals of Jacob and Hyde on Amazon

The Journals of Jacob and Hyde on Audible

The Journals of Jacob and Hyde on iTunes

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Router Recommendations

I was going to call today's blog post a "Tech Advice Thursday" but I don't know if I'll be able to do these every Thursday. Law school starts in less than two weeks. So I guess today can be an unofficial Tech Advice Thursday.

For a long time, I was fine with sending people to an electronics store to pick up what I recommended for them. With the way most salesmen act inside big box electronics stores now, I'm not so sure that's a good idea anymore. I won't go into the specifics, but since I left Best Buy and the Geek Squad, it's become pretty clear that the quality of their salesforce isn't what it used to be. They'll try to talk you out of what would be best so they can make more money or just to prove that they "know more" than the former Geek Squad guy who gave you some ideas (even though most of them couldn't tell you the difference between an N300 router and an N600 dual-band router.)

Routers die. You'll end up having to replace your router at some point. It might be after a couple of years if you got a lemon, maybe five years, maybe ten. Eventually you'll have to replace it. I've set up hundreds (possibly even thousands) of wireless networks. I've done them in homes, small businesses, medium-sized businesses, and even in a 10+ story hotel. I won't claim that I know more about them than anyone else (because that would be a stupid thing to say), but I do know a lot about what works and what doesn't when it comes to wireless.

I'm a big Netgear fan. Over the years, I think I've set up more Netgear routers than any other brand and they generally didn't have any issues. I think they're good quality at a good price. I'm also generally fine with Linksys routers. The absolute best routers, in my opinion, are made by Apple (I used Apple Airport Extremes mixed with Airport Expresses when I set up the wireless network for the hotel.) They're also way more expensive, so I wouldn't recommend them for every scenario. So let's look at three routers from a good, better, best viewpoint. I'll also link you to an Amazon product page where you can look into a good example of what I'm talking about.

1. N300 Router

The image above is linked to the Netgear N300 router that is currently in my parent's house. They have a large house and this covers the entire area. I like this router for a basic N300 router but I like a couple of the extra features as well. The ethernet ports are all gigabit ethernet ports which means they will transfer information better and faster through ethernet connections. It's important if you're running this router to a desktop or if you run it to an ethernet switch (if you get an ethernet switch, make sure it supports gigabit ethernet as well, like this one) to run CAT5 to your entire house. This is all the wireless speed most people are going to need.

2. N750 Dual-Band Router

If you're going to go with a dual-band router, I would personally skip the N600 since it's basically just two N300 networks on two separate bands. I would jump to an N750 dual-band router which has an N450 and an N300 band. The images above are linked to two N750 dual-band routers (Linksys on the left and Netgear on the right.) I've set up many N750 routers from both Linksys and Netgear without any problems. Both of them also support gigabit ethernet. Some advice though when dealing with dual-band networks, don't name both bands / networks the same thing. That will cause some problems for you eventually.

3. AC Dual-Band Router
Welcome to overkill mode. The router pictured above is a 6th generation Apple Airport Extreme. They're crazy expensive compared to most other routers. Wireless AC is 3x faster (theoretically) than Wireless N but keep in mind that in order to use Wireless AC, your device must support Wireless AC as well (I discussed this in a blog post called The Weakest Link: A General Technology Rule. If you haven't read it, I would recommend that you check it out.) With an Apple Airport Extreme, you're getting the fastest wireless network with the best wireless range but Apple networks are also incredibly easy to extend (which is why I used Apple routers in the hotel.) If you ever need to extend an Apple network, you can purchase an Apple Airport Express to extend it. It won't create some new network name and rebroadcast the signal, it'll rebroadcast the network you set up. You will lose some speed, but it's the easiest kind of network I've found to extend.

Please keep in mind that these are just general recommendations. I don't know your specific circumstances so I wouldn't say any of these three would necessarily be your perfect fit. Thanks for reading and I hope this helps a few people out who feel trapped by today's technology. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Tech Riddles of a Bridge Troll

I've been pretty busy this morning taking care of some student loan stuff and some other errands but I wanted to post something short. In my new Geekus Maximus novella, I included three new tech riddles brought to the book by Borg, Org's brother, who is seeking vengeance on Robert for the death of his brother. I'll post the three tech riddles here before I post them on my author page and Facebook. These are all original riddles made up by me, so hopefully you'll excuse them if they aren't all that good. Here they are (if you think you have the answers, post them in the comment section below):

Riddle number one. When I’m not hooked up you can’t see what you do. My cable ends both can screw and unscrew. What am I?

Riddle number two. I use random letters to determine my speed. I start in the center and branch out like a weed. What am I?

Riddle number three. I don’t move; I don’t speak, but I get the job done. When it comes to my kind, I’m the fastest to run. What am I?