Her Majesty Slays Dragon

[ElizaM 2:15 p.m.] YOUR MOM SENT ME THE ARTICLE

[GwenR 2:30p.m.] What article?

[ElizaM 2:31 p.m.] THE ONE THAT SAYS YOU KILLED A DRAGON

[GwenR 2:35 p.m.] ...did you read said article?

[ElizaM 2:36 p.m.] NO I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THAT

[GwenR 2:40 p.m.] ...I don’t have time for *you.*

[ElizaM 2:41 p.m.] WHY READ BORING NEWS WHEN YOU CAN JUST TELL ME
[ElizaM 2:45 p.m.] YOU KILLED A DRAGON????
[ElizaM 2:45 p.m.] WHAT
[ElizaM 2:45 p.m.] HOW?!!?
[ElizaM 2:46 p.m.] I THOUGHT IT WAS A JOKE BUT IT IS ON THE OFFICIAL NEWS???
[ElizaM 2:47 p.m.] ARE DRAGONS BACK????!!??
[ElizaM 2:59 p.m.] HEEEYLPPP

[GwenR 3:37 p.m.] You’re saying girls can’t kill dragons?

[ElizaM 3:38 p.m.] I AM SAYING NO SUCH THING I AM SAYING THAT DRAGONS DO NOT EXIST

[GwenR 3:56: p.m.] Yes, they do. And I killed one.

[ElizaM 3:57 p.m.] CALL ME NOW

[GwenR 4:37 p.m.] Can’t. In council meeting. Texting under table. Don’t think anyone’s noticed. Kind of don’t care if they do.

[ElizaM 4:38 p.m.] Look at you slacking off on your royal duties EXPLAIN DRAGON

[GwenR 4:45 p.m.]“Ridding the land of the pestilence scourge of dragonkind” is still listed as one of the sovereign’s duties, you know. Which I just did.

[ElizaM 4:46 p.m.] …
[ElizaM 4:46 p.m.] AGAIN DRAGONS NO EXIST YOU NO KILL DRAGON

[GwenR 4:55 p.m.] Lower case letters and punctuation exist. And I did too kill a dragon.
[GwenR 4:56 p.m.] Technically.

[ElizaM 4:57 p.m.] AH HA! The the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and do it now.
[ElizaM 4:58 p.m.] Punctuation. Different shaped letters. Happy?

[GwenR 5:05 p.m.] Fine, fine, okay, so one of the administrative royal duties that I don’t bore you with because you have the attention span of a newt is going around to any heads of estates whose private roads the Crown uses and formally asking permission of said heads to use said roads. 
[GwenR 5:06 p.m.] This permission does not pass from monarch to monarch, so I’ve had to go around and re-ask every.single.person. It has been a pain.
[GwenR 5:08 p.m.] But I guess a necessary one because, if you remember, Rowling’s Rebellion of 1624 had to do with King Geoffrey IV...wait, I should probably go back to his dad King Edward IIV…

[ElizaM 5:09 p.m.] I WILL MURDER YOU WITH YOUR VINTAGE QUILL PEN, NERD.

[GwenR 5:15 p.m.] Sheesh, just trying to give you some context. Anyway, so there’s this nobleman, let’s call him Stinky, up in the backwoods of some region known as Spring Hills that was all “Of course, of course, use my roads. Except this one. Thankkksss.” And I was like, “Whatever.” But then it turned out that we actually kind of needed that one for complicated economic nerd reasons I will not borrrrrrre you with.
[GwenR 5:17 p.m.] So I was like, “Hey, can we use that road too, pretty please?” Sent a nice official email and everything. And he was like “Nah, for Reasons.”
[GwenR 5:19] So then I actually gave Stinky a call. He seemed fairly cordial, maybe a little...vacant, and I was like, “What Reasons?” Then he paused, took a gulp (I could hear it over the phone), smacked his lips (which I could also hear), and said, very deliberately: “Wellllll...that road is in the north of our property...and there’s a dragon in the north.”

[ElizaM 5:20 p.m.] Wuuuuuttt

[GwenR 5:22 p.m.] Eeeeexactly. And I was like, “I beg your pardon?” I was honestly so confused.
[GwenR 5:23 p.m.] And then he spins this yarn about some dragon living up in the northern hills and it being dangerous to go out there and how a hunter got eaten...

[ElizM 5:23 p.m.] *coocoo* *coocoo*

[GwenR 5:25 p.m.] Yeah. At the time I was just like, “Okay, so...good talk,” and just hung up. But then the PM may or may not have kind of yelled at me, and so I called Stinky back and was like, “Yo, I’m coming to slay the dragon.”

[ElizaM 5:27 p.m.] The PM yelled at you? OFF WITH HIS HEAD. Also LOLZ "slay"

[GwenR 5:30 p.m.] I mean, not really and I kind of deserved it. I just let some backwater nobleman talk my ear off about some mythical dragon marauding his property. It was not one of my finer moments. 

[ElizaM 5:31 p.m.] Okay wait SO THERE WAS ACTUALLY A DRAGON???

[GwenR 5:33 p.m.] I’m getting there, I’m getting there. So we show up at this backwater estate in Spring Hills, Stinky comes out to greet us, and let me tell you “vacant” didn’t even begin to describe him.

[ElizaM 5:34 p.m.] GET TO DRAGON PART

[GwenR 5:36 p.m.] I’m just trying to give you some context. Anyway, our whole first hour at Stinky's really is a funny story, but it is kind of long, so I’ll spare you for now. So we get in the cars and drive up and down the north road, and surprise, surprise, no dragon. Although General R noticed something kind of funny looking on one section, so we get out and they start investigating around, and they find this hidden hatch in the side of a hill. They open it and……..

[ElizaM 5:48 p.m.] AND?

[GwenR 5:50 p.m.] This lizard pops out.

[ElizaM 5:51 p.m.] Lizard.

[GwenR 5:53 p.m.] Yeah, but I promise, it had enough excess skin that it kind of looked like wings! But it popped out all of a sudden and I freaked out and stomped on it and killed it.

[ElizaM 5:55 p.m.] You stomped on a lizard and killed it.

[GwenR 5:57 p.m.] A lizard that kind of looked like it had wings, yes.

[EizaM 5:58 p.m.] I do not understand.

[GwenR 6:02 p.m.] So, if there was a dragon in the north, I stepped on it. Thereby slaying it. All hail me.

[ElizaM 6:05 p.m.] I can’t even with you right now.
[ElizaM 6:05 p.m.] That got picked up by the news?
[ElizaM 6:06 p.m.] Your MOTHER sent it to me.
[ElizaM 6:06 p.m.] I was not aware she had a sense of humor.

[GwenR 6:06 p.m.] It’s a human interest story about the monarchy! Royal slays first dragon in 1,000 years! Mom was proud!

[ElizaM 6:07 p.m.] …
[ElizaM 6:07 p.m.] So what about the hatch?

[GwenR 6:10 p.m.] Oh, that’s where Stinky hid his stash of illegally traded moonshine among other...things. Which is why he thought it was a good idea to tell the Queen that she couldn’t use his road because of a dragon, and stuck to his story with a straight face the whole way through. Like I know I'm new at this and this is a piddly kingdom but still, guy, have some class.

[ElizaM 6:11 p.m.] "Piddly"...NERD...but honestly being queen kind of sounds lame a lot of the time (love you, so proud!), but this is actually kind of funny.

[GwenR 6:15 p.m.] Okay, but that first hour at Stinky’s is actually really funny. I’m out of my meeting now, call you? 

[ElizaM 6:16 p.m.] YAS PLEASE

Waking

Thomas was a gullible boy, as his mom had always said. Something about the time Thomas had traded his brand-new scooter for a beat-up wooden sword a friend was peddling. It was a great sword, mind you, perfect for playfighting and re-enacting.

But unfortunately, being gullible wasn’t something that could always be helped.

Thomas was also easily frightened–his overactive imagination could come up with numerous worst-case scenarios in any given situation–sometimes, sitting in church, he would imagine what he might do if someone came in the front door with a gun and tried to take everyone hostage. Thomas’s plan involved surreptitiously rolling out the side door and sprinting to a house next door to phone the police. Another contingency plan involved hiding behind a row of chairs until the coast was clear for escape. Brave Thomas planned to rush the intruder, but Real Thomas wasn’t sure that was the best idea. It was good to have a plan, though.

Thomas was all about plans.

As he slowly woke up on Saturday morning, he rolled over in bed and rubbed his eyes. The covers were all twisted around his body. Normally, an alarm would go off, but since it was Saturday, he had gotten to sleep in. It was still dark, although a bit of light was glowing around the window blinds, so it must have been about 6:30. Thomas’s eyes fluttered shut, and he dozed.

He gradually became aware of his vision again–the sleeping image became a real one, and his brain began processing the image of his room. He had been dozing with his eyes open. His eyes widened as he saw a shape curled up on the desk at the foot of his bed. What could that be?

It’s a snake!, Thomas thought, and a big one. How had it gotten in his room? It didn’t make sense – maybe through an air vent. He remembered listening to a mystery novel involving a poisonous speckled snake that murdered a person by slithering through an air vent and dispatching its sleeping prey.

It could definitely happen. Thomas could make out the silhouette of the snake’s rings lying in lazy rolls on the surface of the desk, its vaguely triangular head raised and alert. What was it doing?

Just resting, probably. But if Thomas moved, it might strike without warning. So Thomas had to think. He didn’t have a contingency plan for this. He could pull his quilt over his body, like a matador, then make a mad dash for the door. But if the snake moved for Thomas’s ankles, he’d still be dead.

Those snakes could be vicious – he shuddered to think about what a bite might do to him–cause him to lose all nervous response and shake uncontrollably.

Just then, Thomas remembered – he had left his hoodie on the desk. That’s all it was, at least probably. Summoning his courage, he reached over to the blinds and opened them. Sure enough–just his hoodie.

He jumped out of bed and swiped the hoodie off the desk–he had been meaning to hang it up anyway. No more snakes were going to get him. In case this happens again, he thought, I need a better plan.

The End.

Druthers

Rainy days have so much potential, but all too often we focus on what we can’t do instead of what we can.  In the picture book Druthers by author and illustrator Matt Phelan, a little girl named Penelope is bored because it’s raining.  Druthers coverSo her daddy asks her what her “druthers” are, and…if I told you anymore, I’d give the whole story away, so I’ll leave it up to you to see where it goes.  Druthers has a sweet story and lovely watercolor illustrations which are full of expression and detail.  Phelan is a talented artist, and I really enjoy how his paintings meld with the simple narration.  Druthers has a clever premise, and I like how Phelan uses the book to define and expand on the term “druthers” while also telling a story about a little girl, her daddy, and a rainy day.

If you’re interested in more books by Matt Phelan, I have reviewed his graphic novels Bluffton and Snow White on our sister site Flint and Bone Comic Reviews.

How the globalization of the market brings greater richness and innovation: an example

The Internet and flight have increasingly shrunk the boundaries of countries. While one hundred years ago travelling abroad would have been a major ordeal, today it is much easier. Similarly, the Internet has allowed virtually instantaneous global communication and commerce to become the daily norm. Whereas in the past, expertise was limited to countries or geographic regions—and only the people with ‘trade routes’ to those areas could benefit—, nowadays ideas flow pretty freely across countries around the globe, and I would argue we are better for it.

A quick example:

This is not meant to be an exhaustive, or even thorough, study, but merely some observations from about 10 years of following a specific industry. As anyone who has known me personally can attest, I have had a keen interest in the sporting cutlery market—especially pocket knives—for quite some time. As such, I have followed trends, sometimes closely, sometimes not, but it has interested me to see the way the market has changed over the past decade.

A couple key factors that I value when looking at an industry are richness and innovation.

Richness:

‘Richness’ can be a tricky term whenever talking about a specific market. There are two main factors that I would consider to contribute to this:

a. Diversity in Cultural Heritage—This part is pretty self-explanatory, and is relevant to the following point as well. Part of what makes knives such an interesting market to me is the variety of history. Culture plays a huge part in some designs—the Nepalese have the ‘kukri,’ the Philippines has the ‘Balisong,’ the Japanese the ‘tanto,’ and the Scots the ‘Sgian-dubh.’ Each knife bears a distinct heritage that is fascinating in and of itself.

b. Unique Design—The history and culture cannot be mentioned without it necessarily cascading into the point of design. Every knife is built differently: different blade shapes, lengths, grinds, materials, finishes, garnishings, etc., all of which stem from the creator’s cultural influences.

Whenever looking at the modern knife market, there is a definite richness brought by the diversity of cultural backgrounds represented. Whether looking at the aerospace grade precision of some Japanese and American manufacturers, the material innovation present in Europe and the U.S., and the design influences from all over the globe, the complexity and growth of the industry can be directly linked to the widespread diversity represented by the men and women who make it up and the cultures they represent.

1. Asheville Steel Phoenix, 2. Wander Tactical Hurricane, 3. Mcusta Tactility, 4. Svord Peasant knife
Production Innovation:

Each continent really brings its own influences and contributions to the table, but one that I would like to specifically mention given recent events is China. Not so many years ago, China was known as the center of the ‘budget’ knife world—the place where the cheap and low-end blades came from. However, this trend has been gradually changing. Bringing sophisticated machining skills and design chops, at a fraction of the price that American and European makers are capable of, many new Chinese companies have been pushing the envelope in what consumers can expect in terms of quality for the price. Without a global economy, it would be easy for innovation and cost cutting measures to be localized, but with the widespread availability of products, the best man can now offer his products to the world and challenge the status quo.

Conclusion:

Global markets enhance the offerings available to consumers, and this is always a good thing. While ten years ago I never would have thought that Chinese companies would be giving American/European/Japanese producers a run for there money, that is certainly happening in the present. Better products, at more affordable prices, with an even greater breadth and representation for different cultures, give consumers an ever better option for their needs.