Friday, November 30, 2007

Mini Review: Beware False Profits

Beware False Profits by Emilie Richards is the third book about minister's wife Aggie Sloan-Wilcox. As this book opens, Aggie and her husband Ed are in New York City. But their weekend away hits a detour when a member of their congregation goes missing. They track down the last place he was seen, a bar where he performs once a month as a cross-dresser.

With that trail having turned cold, they return to their small Ohio town just in time for the mayor's wife to be murdered. She had just joined the board of the charity the missing man runs. Are the two events connected? Aggie can't rest until she finds out.

I am so glad I gave this series a chance. I almost passed it by because I figured I would disagree with the main character's theology. And do I ever! But that doesn't form the basis for any of the story. It's just part of who the characters are.

And the characters are rich. I especially love watching Aggie try to raise her two daughters. And the plot is good with plenty of twists and turns.

This is a good series for anyone who enjoys cozies.

If you want more information, read my full review of Beware False Profits.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thursday Threesome Times Two

Since last week was Thanksgiving (and I didn't do the Threesome), I've got a double dose of fun from The Back Porch.

Last week's was brought to us by time.

Onesome: Over-- and under. Above and below. Up and down. How's about at least a pair (three would be ideal ) of matching phrases?
Open and close. In and out. Happy and sad.

Twosome: the-- next day? Black Friday! Are you going shopping? Decorating? Working? Hiding in the closet?
I hung out with family during that Friday. And went to a play that night.

Threesome: Years-- of research have proven that more years of research are needed! What would you like to see researched? ...and don't go high; this is 'just us folks' here; I'm thinking: whether there's enough cheese in mac and cheese!
How about if there are too many studies going on?

And this week's edition is brought to us by Neutragenia.

Onesome: Therapeutic-- household addons: Do you use candles or aroma therapy or bath soaps or salts around your place?
Those things usually bother my allergies, so I don't use them. I like to comfortable at home instead of miserable. :)

Twosome: Moisturizing?-- How's the weather been? It's the rainy season in the US; what's happening where you live?
Actually, it's been warm and dry. Definitely cooling off, but still very dry. There's a chance of rain tomorrow, and I really hope it does rain. We sure could use it.

Threesome: Lotion-- Since it's Winter in the Northern Hemisphere, it's dry skin time (yes, you too, Mark!). Do you have any hand lotion suggestions for the gang?
My skin is pretty dry year round. But yes, winter makes it worse. My suggestion? Neutragenia. I love the stuff.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

And We're Back!

Yes, we have returned from our Thanksgiving in Texas. And we have started referring to ourself in the first person plural.

Okay, not really. :)

I had a wonderful time with my family.

But I almost didn't make it. I missed my flight out on Wednesday. The Flyaway broke down, so I left a half hour later then I intended. And the traffic was horrid. Fortunately, I was able to take the next flight, which left an hour later. And it only cost me $25, which wasn't bad at all. It was too bad because I was supposed to get in 15 minutes before my parents, but considering the alternative, it wasn't bad at all.

Some good friends of my brother and sister-in-law came to Thanksgiving dinner. I've been hearing about them since they moved to Texas, so it was great to finally get to meet them.

Friday night we went to see A Christmas Carol at Dallas Theater Center again. I think the kids liked it more this year, while Mom and Dad liked it less. Figure that one out.

Saturday, I met up with Lori from my Trixie boards for lunch. We had a great time just chatting. And it was my first experience driving in Dallas. My brother gave me great directions, so it wasn't a problem at all.

Sunday was church in the morning and a youth game night in the evening.

Monday we went for a walk in the White Rock Lake area.

You'll notice what is missing. I didn't make it to Half Price Books. :( Next year for sure.

But we played lots of games. Mostly Mexican Train Dominos and Settlers of Catan. I had never played that second one before. It's fun, although I don't think I'm as addicted as most everyone else seems to be by that game. I was feeling good that I was getting close to winning by the end of the weekend.

It was really cold, however. Apparently, the cold front moved in with us on Wednesday. It actually snowed Thanksgiving day. Not enough to stick, but I could definitely see it in the air. It had warmed up by the end of the trip, but it was much warmer here when I got back last night. But the ironic thing is we've had bitter cold Santa Anna winds all day today. Yep, I think we're fast approaching winter. Considering it is almost December, I guess I can't complain too loudly.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Reason #932 Why I Love Southern California Weather

This last weekend, the weather was absolutely gorgeous! It was a little cooler Saturday, but Sunday things warmed up again. We had the condo opened all day, and I loved having the fresh air in the place.

And Sunday I also put up my Christmas lights. It's wonderful being able to do that when the weather is nice. I'm going to have to keep an eye on my lights, however. They don't all seem to want to stay lit this year. I've got some that are burned out and I need more replacement bulbs. But I've also got some that seem to be loose and not connecting, and that is what is making the whole string go out. But if I jingle them, they come back together.

Let's see, what else have I been up to? Not much. I did get to go see Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium Saturday afternoon. I really thought I'd like it, but it turned out to be more serious then I was expecting.

But the big news came yesterday. I am tied for number 76 at Amazon. Considering the guy I am tied with hasn't written for a couple years, I will pass him eventually. More exciting, yesterday was the once a month stats update at Epinions. And I have made the top 1000!!!!! That was two years of work and over 600 reviews. It might help if I wrote more often in the higher hit getting categories. Books especially isn't where the people are. But I enjoy it. We'll just have to see how high I can get considering those who have been there longer have such a head start.

As soon as I post this, I'm on my way to the airport. I'm heading to Dallas for Thanksgiving with my family again this year. So I will see you all when I get back.

Mini Review: Mr. Monk in Outer Space

Mr. Monk in Outer Space is the fifth tie to the TV show Monk.

In this entry in the series, Monk is asked to find the killer of the creator of a cult science fiction TV show. Since the killer was dressed as a character from the show and the murder happened right outside a fan convention, the police assume they will need his attention to detail to make find the needle in a box of needles. But the costumes and culture of the fans makes Monk uncomfortable. Can he over come that to find the killer? And how will he react when he learns that his brother Ambrose is also a fan?

Like the show, this book provides a good puzzle and plenty of laughs. I made a few of the connections before Monk appeared to, but that was minor. My bigger complaint was that the characters occasionally slipped into caraciture, something I feel the show does upon occasion, most notically this season.

All told, I did enjoy this book. So if you love the show, check out Mr. Monk in Outer Space.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Good Stem Cell News

I just caught this headline at Yahoo.

NEW YORK - Scientists have created the equivalent of embryonic stem cells from ordinary skin cells, a breakthrough that could someday produce new treatments for disease without the explosive moral questions of embyro cloning.

Research teams in the United States and Japan showed that a simple lab technique can rival the complex and highly controversial idea of extracting stem cells from cloned embryos.

It was a landmark achievement on all fronts, defusing one of the most divisive debates in modern medicine and religion. It was lauded by scientists, ethicists and religious groups.

"This work represents a tremendous scientific milestone — the biological equivalent of the Wright Brothers' first airplane," said Dr. Robert Lanza, whose company, Advanced Cell Technology, has been trying to extract stem cells from cloned human embryos.

"It redefines the ethical terrain," said Laurie Zoloth, a bioethicist at Northwestern University.

"It's a win-win for everyone involved," said the Rev. Thomas Berg of the Westchester Institute, a Roman Catholic think tank. "We have a way to move forward which ... brings the kind of painful national debate over this controversial research to very much a peaceful and promising resolution."

This is indeed wonderful news. I hope those pushing for government funds for stem cells will back off now. There is no longer a need to kill people, or harvest them if you will, to do this research.

And I seriously hope that the research on these stem cells produces great results.

I will be interested to hear what those who claimed we would find nothing worth noting by pursuing other options will have to say on this issue. I would hope for some apologies, but I won't be surprised if the result if deafening silence instead.


So I've wanted to get to this post for over a week now. And finally here we go.

And I am going to come down on the side of ... nobody.

Let's be honest here. Strikes in our modern age never make anyone look good. We aren't talking about unsafe working conditions. We are talking about greed on both sides of the table pure and simple. Because if you don't like what you are getting paid you can always find a new job. If enough people did that, you might be offered more for your old job to get your level of expertise back. That's the free market economy at work.

I can see an argument for the writers. All creative endeavors pay royalties of some kind for new copies of the original. If these writers were writing books, they'd get paid every time their book was sold. Why not for TV and movies?

And let's be honest, CEO's get paid too much money as it is no matter what industry we are talking about.

On the other hand, it is the production company that is paying the majority of the costs of making the shows and movies to begin with.

And writers get paid an up front fee for writing the script. These royalties are in addition to the fee. And those fees are rather nice. Heck, one script is almost as much as I make in a year.

Of course, that would only really be helpful if a writer was on a TV show, which doesn't happen all the time. In fact, I keep hearing about how half of the writers are out of work at any given moment. So, um, work in a profession with better job security. Or, get another job during those down times. No one is forcing you to work in a job with no security.

And comments like this one do more to push me to the studio's side. Way to resort to preemptive name calling, Paul. See if I ever knowingly support you again. Ever.

Frankly, I am getting tired of the overblown rhetoric over the whole thing. One essay I read said this was taking a stand against all corporations and if the writer's caved it would make things horrid for all of us in any industry. Um, okay.

But let's be honest, this will impact me. And everyone else who enjoys some entertainment. But especially me.

I'm not worried about the returning favorites I watch. True, Lost or Heroes might have short seasons. 24 might take a years off (and maybe it will do them some good.)

I am, however, worried about the new shows I've found that I love. I can't wait each week to watch Chuck and Pushing Daisies. Neither show is exactly high in the ratings, but they have begun to build an audience. A long strike could ruin a chance the shows will last a long time. Either people will forget about them, or the studios will preemptively cancel them.

And let's talk DVD releases. Oh, I know the studios make millions off them. They hardly cost anything to produce, so most of the sale price is pure profit. So the studios could realistically eat the cost of what the writers are demanding without feeling much of anything.

But anyone who thinks that studios will do that raise your hand so I can come whack you on the head.

Once this is settled, watch for DVD prices to rise by several dollars. I won't predict how much for sure, but you'd better believe that we, the fans, are the ones who ultimately will be paying for the raise the writers are demanding. Especially since the Screen Actors Guild will be doing the same thing over the same issues come summer.

And, when the writers realise how rich the corporations are getting off their work, we'll go through the entire things all over again.

There are new talks scheduled for Monday. I hope they lead somewhere. Because if this drags out, it will get resolved in time for the actors to strike. And then we'll essentially loose two years of TV and new movies before this gets resolved.

Making everyone involved on both sides of the issues look like big babies.

Mini Review: Staying Home is a Killer

Today's mini review is of Staying Home is a Killer by Sara Rosette.

Ellie Avery is meeting her husband for lunch at the squadron when she runs into her friend Penny Follette. Penny is happy about something. Which is why when Penny dies by suicide that afternoon, Ellie doesn't buy it. Fortunately, the police don't buy it, either. Unfortunately, they think Ellie is a person of interest in the case.

Ellie's husband is an air force pilot stationed in easter Washington. That provides an interesting background to the book. And the plot was decent. Unfortunately, the characters were weak. I kept forgetting who all the suspects were, and constantly flipping back to remember who they were drove me crazy. The writing was rather weak as well. At times, over description slowed the book down so much it go frustration.

I enjoyed the story, but I don't think I'll pick up the next in the series.

For a full review, check out my Epinions review of Staying Home is a Killer.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mini Review: Last Light

I'm falling behind on these reviews. Let's see if I can catch up before I leave for Thanksgiving. Okay, at least get two in.

Last Light by Terri Blackstock

This book follows the Branning Family as they try to survive in a world without modern conveniences. No, this isn't a reality TV stunt. All modern technology has suddenly stopped working. So now the Brannings and their neighbors must find a way to survive despite not knowing how to do any of the things they need to do to survive.

As if that weren't enough, someone in the neighborhood has murdered and robbed another neighbor. Who could it be? Are they ever going to be safe?

I found the story completely captivating. I could hardly put the book down. At times the characters felt a little shallow, but that was a minor issue. I did figure things out earlier then the characters, but that only made me more engrossed in the book.

This is a Christian novel, and I appreciated the spiritual issues the characters struggled with over the course of the book as well.

If you'd like to know more of my thoughts, read my full review of Last Light.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Word Association for November 18th

Here we go again.

  1. Toasty :: Warm
  2. Allegations :: False
  3. Herb :: Seasoning (Okay, I had seen a little further down the list)
  4. Bacon :: Eggs
  5. Neck to neck :: Race
  6. Simon :: Peter
  7. Heels :: Toes
  8. Fundamentals :: Essentials
  9. Middle :: School
  10. Seasonings :: Poultry

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thursday Threesome for November 15th

This week's edition is brought to us by Santa's little helpers (already?) and The Back Porch.

Onesome: Classic-- get togethers? Is that on the list for next week, say about Thursday? ...or do you 'lone wolf' the Thanksgiving season?
I will be getting together with my family. This is our fourth year in Dallas, so that part is relatively new. But I always spend it with my family.

Twosome: Christmas-- Ready or not, here it comes! Complete with shopping and decorations and wants and needs and yeah... Are you ready for the experience? ...or does a nice South Seas cruise sound like a workable alternative?
Bring it on! I can't wait to pull out my Christmas music without feeling funny for listening to it. And I will probably put up my outside Christmas lights tonight while the weather is still pleasant.

Threesome: Elves-- and other helpers? Do you have any lined up to assist on Thanksgiving Day? ...or to decorate in the weeks to come. ...or do you even need them?
On Thanksgiving Day I will be one of the elves. As to getting ready for Christmas, it's the Mark show. I have never had a roommate who really was interested in helping decorate. And they certainly aren't interested in helping me shop for my family and wrap presents for my family. I never have understood that last part. :)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Signing Traps

So I actually did something this weekend! All of it Saturday. It involved lots of driving. And with gas prices as they are, that's rather expensive.

First up was a book signing down at Mysteries to Die For. They had several of the authors who had written stories for the anthology Hollywood and Crime. The stories sound much darker then I normally read, but I really wanted to give it a try. The panel was fun. And I was able to pick up Mr. Monk in Outer Space at the same time, which I am loving.

Then that night, I went to Glendale and met up with Angelique to see The Mousetrap at Glendale Centre Theatre. Master's had done it my first semester here, but that was 12 years ago. I remembered the villain, but I had forgotten just about everything else. I remembered just about everything before we were told, however. Once again, they did a great job. I am so glad I started going to that theatre!

Sunday was a quiet day around the condo after church.

Monday night, the men's Bible study I've started attending had a dinner instead of our regular meeting. It was nice to hang out and fellowship with them. And the food was delicious!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mini Review: Green Water Ghost

In the sixth mystery in the Luanne Fogarty series, author Glynn Marsh Alam shows no signs of letting down her fans. Green Water Ghost opens with Luanne and boyfriend Vernon on a walking tour of a nearby swamp. The discovery of new bones mixed in with the old changes things, and the two are soon called on to dive a nearby pond looking for more bones. How did the bones get there? Who are they? Is someone covering up a murder?

I still love this series. The writing is vivid, making you feel as if you are there in the swamp with Luanne. I could feel the crisp air and cold water when she had to dive. The characters are sharp as well. And the plot is entertaining with several twists I never would have expected.

Once again, Glynn Marsh Alam has proved what a wonderful writer she is.

If you'd like to read more, check out my full review of Green Water Ghost.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Word Association for November 11th

Before I get to this, I want to wish you a Happy Vetran's Day.

Okay, down to business.

  1. Treadmill :: Going No Where Fast
  2. Stroke :: Golf
  3. Exclusively :: Contract
  4. Lash :: Eye
  5. Red carpet :: Movie
  6. Credit card:: Spend
  7. Points :: Mortgage
  8. Domestic :: Chore
  9. 21 :: Blackjack
  10. Inject :: Drugs

Friday, November 09, 2007

Not Much

You know that feeling of being busy but not having much news to report? That's me.

I'm busy keeping up with TV shows (while I can. More on my take on the strike next week). And write reviews. Which is rather funny considering I was going to take it easy and write fewer reviews this month. You didn't actually believe that, did you? Cause I did. So far, I've got 8 reviews posted this month at Epinions and 7 at Amazon with one more waiting in the wings. Ah, to really truly slow down.

The good news is that I should make the top 1000 at Epinions when they update their stats this month. They only do it once a month. I don't quite have the numbers yet, but expect to tomorrow. And it will probably be mid week next week before stats are updated. For months I've been trying to predict whether I would make it this month or next month. But I've had a huge influx of hits in the last couple of weeks, which has really helped. The only problem would be in the threshold moved up more then normal this month. So we'll have to wait until next week to see for sure.

One thing that has really helped is my review of Bee Movie. The short version? It's only okay.

Other then that, I hung out with Clint and Kurt last Friday night, which was fun. Clint starts his new job tomorrow, so I have a feeling I won't see him much any more, which will make me sad. But such is life.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Thursday Threesome for November 8th

Welcome to this week's edition, brought to us by cell phones and The Back Porch. And I have a feeling I will have boring answers, too.

Onesome: Motorola--, Sanyo, Samsung? Which brand of cell phone are you most pleased with?
Since I don't have a cell phone and don't know the brands of anyone who does, I don't even know where to begin.

Twosome: Phone-- time, and more time, and more time... Okay, are you one of those who simply lives on their phone? ...or do you consider phones a necessary evil?
I don't live on the phone (and I've got them at work and home), but that's not because I hate the phone. I just don't seem to use it that often.

Threesome: Tools-- of the trade? Do you use your phones more for work use or for personal use?
Personal use, definitely. Even here at work I bet that half my (limited) phone time is for personal stuff. I should point out I talk on the phone one or twice a day at work max, so it really isn't that much.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Mini Review: The Kite Runner

So, after having read and loved A Thousand Splendid Suns, I picked up Khaled Hosseini's first novel, The Kite Runner.

This book centers on two boys, Amir and Hassan. The two are friends growing up in 1970's Afghanistan.

Frankly, friends is too strong a word. Hassan is devoted to Amir, but Amir treats him in a very fickle manner until one day Amir witnesses an act of evil being done to Hassan and both their lives change forever.

I didn't find this book nearly as enjoyable as his other. I found the plot predictable and was one step ahead of the story the entire time. And it didn't provide nearly the glimpse into Afghan history and culture the other one did. But the characters were still strong and I was pulled through the entire book.

In the end, this book is obviously a first novel. Okay, but not the great literature deserving of the praise everyone gives it.

If you'd like to read my full review of The Kite Runner, follow the link.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Word Association for November 4th

Welcome to this week's word association.

  1. Assets :: Liabilities + Equity
  2. Concern :: Worry
  3. Over the top :: Overacting
  4. Supplies :: Staples
  5. Mustache :: Trimmer
  6. Doug :: Boy
  7. Coach :: Carter
  8. Bleachers :: Sports
  9. Stripes :: Stars
  10. Assortment :: Random

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Thursday Threesome for November 1st

Welcome to the first post of November. This week's edition is brought to us by procrastinators and The Back Porch.

Onesome: Time is-- your friend? ...or your enemy? It's your call, but how do you feel about "time"? Are you in need of a spare cupful? ...or are you set?
I think Time is. I wouldn't say it's a friend, and it isn't an enemy. I know it is there, and I'm okay with it.

Twosome: on my-- way out the door, the last thing I check is to see.......
is that the lights are out

Threesome: "Side--out Sports"... I just love that name. Have you seen any fun signs or slogans lately you can share with the gang?
Nope. No one creative around here.