Friday, May 30, 2008

Hawaii (Finally)

I've only been back from my vacation a week and a half, and I haven't posted about it once yet. Gee, I'm falling down on the job.

As I mentioned, I went with my family. It was a celebration of Dad retiring and my parents' 40th anniversary. So it was them, my brother and sister-in-law, and me. We stayed on Kauai and spent the entire time there. We were in a condo on the island. It was a two bedroom/two bath place, which meant that they got the bedrooms and I got a hide a bed in the living room. But it worked out. And the condo was so nice, as was the setting. It was in a beautiful garden. We couldn't see the beach, but the view was still pretty. And the beach was in walking distance, not that we did. Too much else to do.

We went on several hikes while we were there, which aren't my favorite thing. But I survived. We also went snorkling three times. Now that was pretty amazing. The fish were beautiful. I could have done that every day and not gotten tired of it at all.

The last night, we went to a luau at the Smith Family Plantation. It was expensive, but well worth it. The food was good, the grounds were beautiful, and the show was very good. It was a great way to end the trip.

The weather could have been better. We had some bad fog a couple days that made things hard to see, especially in Waymaya Canyon. And out boat trip was very choppy. But it was still warm enough every day that we didn't need anything other then shorts. And it only rained on us as we were leaving.

Plus, with the long flights to Honolulu and back (we changed planes there), I got lots of reading in. 4 books in a week. So watch for those mini reviews coming soon.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thursday Threesome for May 29th

Today's edition is brought to us by the fast lane and The Back Porch.

Onesome: Life Goes Faster-- than you want it to sometimes. Is anything moving just a little too fast for you lately
At times yes, and at times no. I can't believe May is almost over, but it's not like I want time to pass slower either.

Twosome: (Faster) Than You-- can pull a search? ...anyone know where the subject and title for this week's T-3 came from off the top of their head? No? It's worth a quick search...
I had to look it up, but I found it right quick. Good reminder, too.

Threesome: Think-- ing about Summer? Time at the beach? Vacation plans? ...or not: has the fuel price thing put a hold on some plans? ...or are you thinking of alternate forms of travel for Summer fun?
I just got my summer league team information. I'm on the purple team this year. Never been that color before. First game next Wednesday night. And I can't wait to play ultimate again!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

May Movies

I have been spending a lot of time in the theater this month. So I thought I would share my thoughts on these movies for this week's Watercooler Wednesday.

The month started out with Iron Man. I know a lot of people are raving about this movie, but I'm not one of them. It was fine as far as superhero movies go. But it was an origin story, which meant that it took forever to get to the meat of the story. Once it did get going, it was over way too fast. And I really didn't feel like I got to know the characters well enough to spend time with them when the plot was so weak.

I also saw Made of Honor. Yep, it's a romantic comedy. But the actors were good and the movie had some funny and touching moments. It doesn't need to top any rush out and watch it moments, but if you have a chance to see it, do.

On the other hand, you need to rush out and watch Speed Racer. This would be the undergod sports movie of the month. But it is so worth seeing. I was ready to stand up and cheer multiple times during the film. And it looks incredible. It truely is a feast for the eyes. Just be sure to watch your speedometer on the way home because I felt like racing when I got out of the theater.

Now, I do have a confession to make. As much of a Narnia fan as I am, I have never particularly liked Prince Caspian. However, the trailers for the movie made me think they might have changed stuff too much. So it was with some trepidation that I went to see The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Oh, did they change that story! Yet they managed to work some scenes and lines from the book into the story. My problem with the book has always been the slow start and back story. They cut that down tremendously, which really helped. I'm not sure I like the sub-plot involving Peter, but on the whole it was well worth seeing. And they pulled in a lot more from the book then I realized. I say this because I skimmed the second half of the book when I got home from the theater.

Finally, there's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Since I've only watched the original trilogy a couple times, I must admit I wasn't counting down the day until I could see this one. And maybe that's why I liked it. I felt it captured the fun and adventure of the original trilogy pretty well. Now, it's not perfect. But then again, the others weren't either. I did think the ending went too far, even for an Indy movie. But I'm willing to accept that. And I definitely don't think it was more over the top then the previous films were.

So, in the order you should see the films, the list is:
Speed Racer
Prince Caspian
Indiana Jones
Made of Honor
Iron Man

And we won't discuss how many movies I've watched at home this month. And I was on vacation for a week. I think I need to get a life in June.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Two Late Thursday Threesomes

Yes, I'm back. And I do intend to blog about my trip. But right now, let's play catch up on Thursday Threesomes

Onesome: Mark--ing devices? What do you use to mark things up around the house, school, work, wherever? Does the Sharpie rule? ...or do you believe in the sanctity of the pencil ?
Whatever is handy and does the job. Most of the time, I grab whatever pen is closest. But I do have some pencils and one Sharpie around the house.

Twosome: "My-- day starts off best when I......" I'll let you fill in the blank at your place!
Get up on time (says the guy who got to work late today because he over slept.)

Threesome: Words-- of a feather clump together? Nah, but hey: what word pairings do you use routinely? Are you into alliteration? ...pithy comments? 'Down home' sayings? Give it up for Thursday!
On the other hand, I find myself using "On the other hand" quite a bit.

Onesome: Anna's Tax-- Okay, what is the most onerous tax you've ever run across? Yes, alcohol and tobacco can fit in, but I was thinking of some regional quirk...
Use tax, which means I have to pay sales tax on items I purchase from out of state buy have shipped to CA. Get your hands off my money, already. Especially at 8.25%

Twosome: Wholesale-- or retail? Do you prefer to drive to the wholesale stores to save over the regular store prices? ...or does the handy 5000 pack of macaroni and cheese not work for you?
I'm not a member of any wholesale stores, so I will go to the regular stores, obviously. Of course, I am a regular shopper at Wal-Mart.

Threesome: Sale-- Do you have 'Tax Free' sales in your area? Every so often one of the hardware places has a "We Pay the Sales Tax" weekend. ...and hey, 8% is 8%!
Yes, furniture and hardware stores around here do it quite regularly. But since I hardly ever buy stuff from them, it really doesn't matter to me. Now if the local bookstores would do that....

Monday, May 12, 2008

Weekend at the Movies

Okay, maybe it wasn't at, but two of the five I watched were in the theater.

It all started Friday night, when I went to see Speed Racer, which I loved. I had a free ticket that expires in a week and a half, so I went back Saturday to see Made of Honor, which I enjoyed.

Then, I came home and started watching the movies I had on my DVR. There was Huckleberry Finn, a musical version of the story that was okay. Sunday, I had a double feature of Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile, which I would have enjoyed more without the language.

If you think this post is short and sounds like I was in a hurry, you'd be correct. I should be packing to get ready to leave for a week with my family in Hawaii. I am taking my lap top, so I might or might not be checking in. Either way, have a great week.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Word Association for May 11th

I'm just posting this under the wire for a Sunday post.

  1. Track :: Race
  2. Snake :: Oil
  3. Assignment :: School
  4. Blockbuster :: Movie
  5. Bombastic :: Angry
  6. Adventure :: in Odyssey
  7. First time :: Experience
  8. Aged :: Wine
  9. Grip :: Get a
  10. Shortcut :: Faster

Friday, May 09, 2008

Mini Review: Caught Redhanded

Yes, I know I've done a lot of these mini reviews this week. But it's been a slow week, and I'd like to catch up before I leave on vacation Tuesday, so I keep pressing on.

Today's book is Caught Redhanded by Gayle Roper. (Link=Full Review)

Two weeks before her wedding, Merry Kramer decides to get into shape. That's why she's out running early the next morning. While jogging, she finds the body of Martha Colby. Martha was a local women in her late 20's. So why was she killed?

This is the final book in a four book series, and for that reason I enjoyed it. I loved finally getting some closure to these character's lives. And the wonderful characters kept me glued to the page.

The story, on the other hand, was predictable. I had everything figured out by the half way point. The only surprise was in a sub-plot.

Fans of the series will enjoy this book. But you really shouldn't start here.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Thursday Threesome for May 7th

Time for this week's Thursday Threesome, brought to us this week by Williamsburg, Virginia and The Back Porch.

Onesome: Fife-- Barney? ...a musical instrument? ...the number after 'four'? What came to mind when you saw this week's title?
The instruments used during the Revolutionary War and the set of Christmas ornaments I got at Trixie Camp in 2001 that have a fifer, drummer, and flag carrier (whatever they are called.)

Twosome: and--do you recall a painting of a fife and drum set with a flag? No? Maybe one of our American History majors can link it in...
I can picture it, but that's about all at the moment. Couldn't tell you who painted it or where I had seen it before. Update: Looks like kwizgiver found the one I was thinking of.

Threesome: Drum--lines? Do you love them? ...or do you even know they exist? I'm wondering if this is an "Eastern" thing...
Um, um...What a drum line? (That's my way of voting for an Eastern thing.)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Mini Review: Curse of the Spellmans

Today's mini review is also an entry in this week's Watercooler Wednesday. The subject is Lisa Lutz's new book, Curse of the Spellmans. (As always, the link takes you to a full review.)

It's been two years since the first book in the series, and life in the Spellman family is about to get wacky again. Okay, wackier. Everyone seems to have secrets. Father Albert is sneaking out of the house and coming back with wet hair. Mom Olivia is also sneaking out of the house for some property descruction. Oldest son David is mobing around his house. Youngest daughter (by 15 years) Rae is trying to make up for almost accidentally killing her best friend Inspector Henry Stone. And Izzy, our 30 year old main character) is hot on the trail of the copycat vandals ruining neighbor Mrs. Chandler's holiday displays. These vandals are copying the crimes that Izzy did when she was a teenage (not that she has any idea what you are talking about).

But it's their neighbor that really has Izzy's attention. He claims to be "John Brown," but since he won't divulge his background, Izzy is suspicious. And her investigation leads to her getting arrest 4 times (or twice, depending on who you ask) in a couple months. What's really going on?

This is such a hard book to describe. There are so many subplots. And you just can't truly capture the wackiness. But it is so much fun. I laughed multiple times over the course of the book. The characters are wonderful and seem real even if they are exagerated.

The book is classified as a mystery, but the mystery takes a back seat to the family dynamics. I'd call if more of a disfunctional family comedy.

And you really should read the first in the series first. While this book explains what you missed in The Spellman Files, it spoils most of that book in the process. I couldn't imagine it any other way, so it's not a complaint. Just a warning.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Funny Book Review Request

When I started climbing the ranks at Amazon, I started getting offers of books in exchange for reviews. Most of these come from self-published authors, but I have occasionally gotten them from authors I already know I like. Believe me, I jump on those while I normally ignore those from the self-published authors.

Every so often, however, I get one that just makes me shake my head in wonder. Such is the one I got over the weekend. Here is how it reads. (Names changed to protect the guilty.)

I got your name from the Amazon book review you wrote about the 2006 book "XYZ, A Memoir " by Author.

I recently self-published a book on the same topic, "Book Title." If you think you might be interested in reviewing it and place a review on amazon(no obligation of course), I'd be happy to send a complimentary copy if you'll reply with your snail mail address.

Best Regards,
Self Published Author

So what's wrong with this e-mail? Let's start with the obvious. I'm really not that interesting in a reviewing a self-published book by an author who can't capitalize Amazon or but the proper spaces around the parentheses. (Yes, those mistakes were his.)

Now for the ones you probably wouldn't have noticed. I never reviewed XYZ. In fact, the first time I had even heard of it was when I got this e-mail. So obviously, this author didn't do his research/homework.

Furthermore, the e-mail included links to the books on Amazon. Or at least they were supposed to. The link to XYZ worked correctly. But the link to the author's own book took me to a home repair manual with a completely different name.

No thanks, but I think I'll pass on your "masterpiece" if those two paragraphs are an example of your writing style and book.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Mini Review: The Black Dove

Today's mini review is on The Black Dove by Steve Hockensmith (Guess where the link takes you.)

It's summer 1893, and cowboy detectives Big Red and Old Red are still in San Francisco trying to get real jobs as detectives while waiting to find out if Big Red's book about their previous two cases will be published.

While wandering through China Town, they are reunited with a friend who is obviously on edge about something. Then, when they go back to see him the next day, they find him dead. But suicide doesn't sit right with Old Red, so he begins investigating. Can they figure out what happened in a part of town where they aren't welcome?

Once again, this book has that wonderful historical feel to it. While there are lots of funny parts, the overall book is very serious in tone. In fact, it is the most serious of the series so far. The mystery was compelling and the characters are great, especially Big Red and Old Red, who I really feel I've gotten to know over the three books in the series to date.

My only complaint is the character's foul mouths. Everyone seems to swear at every opportunity. I enjoy the books enough to overlook that, but if that bothers you, you might want to steer clear.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Word Associate for May 4th

Taken from here:

  1. State :: of the Union
  2. Lively :: Debate
  3. Valet :: Car
  4. Traction :: Gaining
  5. Official :: Statement
  6. Red hot :: Chilli Peppers
  7. Powder :: Room
  8. Replies :: Note
  9. Flagrant :: Disobedience
  10. Tweet :: Bird

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Rest of the Story

Earlier this week, I posted about the LA Times Festival of Books, but that was only part of my weekend.

The fun began last Friday night when Kurt and Kellie came over. We hung out, ate pizza, watch Lost, and played Sequence Dice with Clint. It was a fun evening.

Saturday, while at the festival, I got a cell phone. Sprint was a "Sponser" and so have a booth there. While the deal on the phone turned out to be the same deal they offer on it in the stores, they waved the activation fee and were giving away bluetooth headsets. And the expensive ones, too. I couldn't pass up a deal like that, so I signed up. So far, I'm happy. I'm even thinking about canceling my land line before I leave on vacation in a week and a half.

Sunday morning, the candidate for Senior Pastor at our church came and preached. I think he was trying to hard to impress us and, as a result, didn't impress me at all. We'll see how he does this week.

I only spent a couple hours at the book festival Sunday afternoon. From there, I headed down to Santa Monica and played ultimate on the beach. It was the perfect day for it. After I got completely exhausted, three of us jumped in the ocean for a couple minutes, then we stood around talking. I wound up staying with one couple chatting until the sun set. It was beautiful. My camera was in the car, and I really wish I had had it with me.

The rest of the week was pretty ordinary. Bible study Monday night, talking to my family Tuesday. Last night, I did go see Iron Man. I had planned to go by myself, but at the last minute I met up with Paul's friend Brad (thanks in part to my cell phone.) We enjoyed it, although it was a bit slow in the first half.

And that's about it from my end of the world. I'll be leaving in a few minutes to pick up from car for the shop. Mainly just routine maitenance, but I did need a new internal air filter, and that was pretty expensive. Surprisingly, I still don't need new brakes. I don't think I've ever replaced them. And with how much they squeak, I was sure I would. But hey, if I don't have to spend the money, I won't.

Mini Review: Killer Mousse

Today's mini review is of Killer Mousse by Melinda Wells. (As always, the link takes you to my full Epinions review.)

Della Carmichael has been given the opportunity to host a cooking program on the Better Living Network. But on the first night of her live show, her taste tester dies from the dessert.

Mimi Bond was the previous host of the networks cooking shows, and she was a despised woman. Even though Della had just met her that night, the police seem to be looking at her as the best suspect. Can she figure out who did it and keep her new job?

I wanted to like this book more than I did. The plot was decent, and I liked Della.

However, the plot seemed to get sidetracked by stories that had nothing to do with anything. I was kept expecting them to provide a clue or something, but they never did. Worse yet, they were in the last 100 pages of the book.

More fatally was the romantic sub-plot. I hated every aspect of it. And it was unrealistic to boot.

So, while I wanted to like it, I can't recommend this book.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

May Day Edition of Thursday Threesome

Welcome to May and this week's edition of the Thursday Threesome, brought to us by The Back Porch.

Onesome: The magic-- of Spring? Has it started yet where you are? ...or if you're 'down under', how is Autumn progressing?
It has started. And compared to the rest of the country, we don't seem to be flashing back to winter, either. But it sure would be nice to have weather consistently in the high 70's instead of fluctuating between 95 and 70.

Twosome: month of-- transition? Are you looking to be out of school? have the kids out of school? No? Heh. How about just thinking about where you want to go this Summer? ...maybe within walking distance, -no?
Well, I'm going to Hawaii with my family in a week and a half. And school ends here in a week or so. My biggest transition is the ending of the TV season.

Threesome: May-- I ask you if you know which song the title for today's piece was taken from? I'm thinking Laanba has a chance at it, but any fan of Dumbledore's original actor might know it...
This is from a song?