Tuesday, December 23, 2008


So, one goal I had for the year was 200 blog posts. And this is it. I've made my goal! (And it's one reason I am blogging when I should be packing to leave for Christmas.)

Of course, I've only made it so far thanks to the Spring and Fall reading challenges and the mini reviews I was doing for those.

Last week, I dropped $1000 on my car. Minor things like timing belt, water pump, front breaks. All things I'm glad I have taken care of before heading to my parents.

But this weekend turned out to be all about fun. Heck, I barely got presents wrapped and laundry done. Friday night was Kurt and Kellie's annual Christmas party, which was fun as always. And I made Blonde Brownies and Strawberry Whippersnappers, both of which seemed to be a hit. Personally, I think the brownies are better, but I'm not a fan of the artificial strawberry taste.

Saturday I hung out at the condo and went to see Yes Man, which was okay at best.

Sunday at Sunday School, I was invited to head out with a couple guys and race electric go carts. Wow, they moved fast! I was almost the slowest person on the track, but it was fun. At the price for 8 minutes, I probably won't do it again soon, but I'm glad I did it.

Then I headed over to Jason and Ashley's to drop off some books for him to read. Wound up staying to watch the end of the Redskin's game and then play some Mario Kart Wii. That got me in the mood, so I came home and played more.

Yesterday I goofed off, just barely getting the afore mentioned present wrapping and laundry done. But I did head over to Chris and Brooke's for a Christmas Open house. I was only going to stay an hour. You guessed it. I stayed two.

Now? I really need to pack so I can get to Donald and Heather's at a decent dinner hour so we can have a good visit before I have to continue on to Mom and Dad's.

If I don't check in before, have a very Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fall Into Reading 2008 Wrap Up

So, the time has come to talk about how I did this fall with the Fall into Reading Challenge.

Here are the books I read (all links take you to my Epinions.com review.)

On my original list:
Stamped Out by Terri Thayer
Relentless by Robin Parrish
Stalking the Puzzle Lady by Parnell Hall
Three Bags Full by Leoine Swann
Ninth Witness by Brock and Bodie Thoene
Murder Most Maine by Karen MacInerney
Six Geese A-Slaying by Donna Andrews
The Clockwork Teddy by John J. Lamb
Mr. Monk is Miserable by Lee Goldberg
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling
A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman
Shooting Gallery by Hailey Lind
A Vicky Hill Exclusive! by Hannah Dennison
Whatever Tomorrow Brings by Lori Wick

Books not on my original list but I read anyway:
Dark Pursuit by Brandilyn Collins
The Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson

Books on the list not read:
Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far by Amy Grant
Murder in Grub Street by Bruce Alexander
Slay it with Flowers by Kate Collins


All but three of the original books? With two books added to the list this fall? A total of 16 books read? That's incredible! Like four books more than I thought I'd get through incredible. Of course, the planes rides for my trips to Disney World and Thanksgiving really helped. Especially Thanksgiving when I got most of two books read on the plane.

Two of the three books I didn't get to were left overs from my Spring reading list. That's just embarassing. I must get them read.

Favorite new author discovered? Robin Parrish. I'd been reading his non-fiction articles for years, but his fiction debut was wonderful.

Most disappointing read? Stamped Out closely followed by A Vicky Hill Exclusive!

So that's it for me for now. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I'll definitely be back for the Spring reading challenge.

Mini Review: Three Bags Full

My final review for Fall Into Reading 2008 is Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann.

The premise sounds quite intriguing, and I had to pick it up. A flock of sheep decide to band together and solve the murder of their shepherd. And it will take all of them because they each have a unique gift like exception smell, perfect memory, or being extremely clever.

Unfortunately this was one of those books that I could get into when I was reading it but had a hard time picking it back up after I had set it down. Between the 20 sheep and the humans, the cast was too big to keep straight. And the plot started out fairly slowly thanks to time spent talking about the sheeps' daily routine.

Probably the thing that bothered me the most was the anti-religious tone. One character was little more than a Bible thumping pamphlette distributor. And, while I found the idea of the sheep thinking the local priest was God (he lives in God's house), I was uncomfortable with what that meant for the narration as he was one of their chief suspects at various times.

On the whole, I finished Fall into Reading like I started with, although I wasn't as disappointed with this book as I was Stamped Out.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mini Review: Six Geese A-Slaying

Yep only two more to go, plus the wrap up. And one of them is the Christmas mystery Six Geese A-Slaying by Donna Andrews.

Meg has been tapped to run the town's annual Christmas, er Holiday, parade. It's only hours before everything is supposed to start, and Meg has her hands full keeping peace between the humans, animals, and drummers and pippers.

The last things she needs to be dealing with is town grouch Ralph Doleson. In a case of miscasting, he isn't playing Scrooge but Santa. At least he would be is someone hadn't killed him with a stake of holly through the heart. Now Meg has to get the parade together and sniff around for clues.

Let's get the bad out of the way first, the plot was a tad weak and I had it figured out pretty early on.

Okay, now the rest. The characters were their normal charming selves. And the first half was hilarous with several great laugh out loud moments. The second half the plot became more important, but it had some good laughs as well.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mini Review: Stalking the Puzzle Lady

Finally getting a chance to talk about Stalking the Puzzle Lady by Parnell Hall.

This book finds Cora Felton, the public face of niece Sherry's Puzzle Lady cross word puzzle columns, getting ready for a publicity tour for her second job, hawking a breakfast cerial. But before she can get out the door, a puzzle is left there with a message in it. Is it a threat? Cora can't decide. But when one of the people on the tour turns up dead, it looks like it might have been.

This book seemed to have a hint of a stronger plot them most in the series thanks to the very personal nature of the case for our main character. Yet the trademark humor had me laughing the entire way through. And even though the book was set out of town, all the main characters make an appearance and most play an important part in the book for a change.

Unfortunately, the ending was weak, another staple of the series. Just once, I'd like to see Cora do a good job of solving things. Still, I love the series so much it's a minor complaint.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


So last night, I was driving home and the following sing was flashing on the freeway I normally take. "Freeway closed 3 miles ahead due to SNOW."

I thought I lived in Southern California.

Of course, the snow wasn't that close to me. It was just the last exit before the snow on the freeway.

It was 35 when I was driving home. My poor car heater never really warmed up.

Fortunately, we are supposed to start warming up today and get back to the 50s. I never thought I'd say this, but I am looking forward to the warm 50s.

In other news, I got to hang out with Kurt and Kellie for a while on Saturday. We watched Wall-E after a great dinner at Souplantation. They've got their turkey and stuffing soup back again this year. I had two bowls.

And I really hurt my shoulder while working out Monday. It's getting much better, but it's still not completely well. So I've been doing alternatives like running or bike riding. Hopefully if I take another few days off it will heal completely, or at least get back to where it was before.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mini Review: Tales of Beedle the Bard

Today's mini review is of a mini book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling.

Of course, this book is a part of the Harry Potter universe. Beedle the Bard is a writer/recorder of wizard fairytales. This book contains five of his stories along with Dumbledore's commentary on them.

Each of the stories is short. With the commentary, they are about 20 pages each.

But that doesn't mean they aren't fun. The touch of whimsy and magic that fairytales need are present. And magic isn't always a bad thing here (not that it is in all our fairytales either. Just as Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.)

The third tale is rather dark and gruesome, which might not make it appropriate for younger kids. Then again, the original versions of some of our tales are rather gruesome, too.

Finally, the last story in the book is "The Tale of the Three Brothers" which played an important part in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. So, really, we are only getting four original stories.

But you know what? The book is fun. And really, that's all that matters. I read it no problem in a couple hours.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mini Review: A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax

Today's mini review is of a reread: A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman.

In the fourth in the series, Mrs. Pollifax is off to Switzerland for the CIA. She's hunting for missing plutonium and they believe it has been sent to a resort. So off she goes to find it.

Once she arrives, she is distracted by a handsome man who won't admit what he does and a boy who is staying with his sick grandmother. Or are they distractions?

This book is the first time that Mrs. Pollifax has to do some detective work. And she does great at it. All the fun and danger of the previous books are here. It's one of my favorites in the series, and I loved rereading it just as much.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Let's Post Something

And for a change, it won't be about books (although I really need to get going on those if I am going to get them all done before Fall into Reading is over.)

So, what have I been up to since Thanksgiving? Not too much of excitement.

The expection to that was last Saturday. I went to Mysteries to Die For annual Christmas party. Yes, I bought a couple books for myself, but I did plenty of Christmas shopping as well. And I got to chat with authors Lee Goldberg, Joanne Fluke, and Laura Levine. Plus I sampled Joanne's new Hint-a-Mint Brownies. Can't wait to get that recipe.

I'm just about done with my Christmas shopping. I just need to get something for my uncle and his dog. I know what I will be getting. It's just a matter of getting it.

And I made a very pleasant discovery this week. Since I started doing the Fit Quest workouts in July, I have lost 20 pounds. I've still got more I would like to loose, but this is a very positive start. Now, if I could just be turning some of that into muscle I'd be really happy. I'm just not gaining muscle as quickly as I would like to gain it.

In other news, the financial crisis is hitting the college where I work hard. We had meetings about it all afternoon, so I'm a bit depressed. There are hard cuts, but no across the board pay cuts and I still have a job. They cut a benefit, which is in essence a pay cut. But, as I said, I still have a job, so that's a very good thing.

Well, tonight I am off to the Christmas concert at my new church. That's my big plan this weekend. Man, I really need to get a life again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mini Review: Shooting Gallery

Shooting Gallery by Hailey Lind is the second Art Lover's Mystery. Set in San Francisco, they center around Annie Kincaid, owner of a faux finishing business. Oh yeah, and she has a past as an art forger, something she learned from her grandfather who still practices the crime.

This book opens with Annie at a showing only to discover the sculpter dead. Everyone thought his corpse was another piece. That same night, the Brock Museum next door is robbed and one of Annie's friends is the prime suspect. Plus Annie has been hired to get a reclusive artist to return the sculpture he was going to restore and now refuses to give back.

But if all this weren't enough, Annie's mother suddenly arrives in town and demands Annie leave the entire thing alone. Never one to listen well, Annie keeps right on going. Will she find the answers?

This is a fun romp. Between all the threads, the plot moves forward quickly and never stops until the end. Annie and her friends are a wonderful cast of characters.

And there's plenty of humor. In fact, this book has the funniest stakeout scene I've ever read. I laughed my way through the book.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Mini Review: Ninth Witness

Today's mini review is of Ninth Witness, the latest AD Chronicles book by Brock and Bodie Thoene.

This book interrupts our march to the Crucifixion and Resurection to flash back to the episode from Jesus' childhood. While Jesus, Mary, and Joseph are heading to Jerusalem for His first Passover celebration, nine year old orphan Jude is trying to take his sister there so that will be taken in by family.

The plot will be fairly predictable to anyone familiar with the New Testament. But that's hardly a new thing in this series. As always, what really brings it to life are the characters. I especially liked the interaction between Jesus, John the Baptist, and a young Simon Peter.

What I didn't like was the theological implications of several things over the course of the book. They went for the perpetual virgin myth with Mary for starters. Then they changed the meaning behind some lines of scripture in the climax. It's not exactly earth shattering stuff, and I can see where they got that meaning, but it's still wrong.

So, as a result, I am going to give this a mediocre reaction. But I know fans of the series will definitely want to read it.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Mini Review: Murder Most Maine

Wow, I'm really getting behind on these. I need to start posting.

And, along those lines, I will be talking about Murder Most Maine today. This is the third Gray Whale Inn Mystery by Karen MacInerney.

Spring has finaly sprung on Cranberry Island and Natalie is hoping business at her bed and breakfast will pick up. The weight loss retreat she has booked should definitely help. But things get off to a rocky start when one of the two leaders is a former girlfriend of Natalie's boyfriend John. But when the other leader turns up dead, things go from bad to worse.

I really enjoyed this entry in the series. The story moved forward steadily, and a sub-plot involving the lighthouse on the island certainly helped. I had a good feel for the setting. The series characters are well drawn, but I did have a hard time keeping all the guests straight. And the book even includes a few recipes at the end for you to try.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Yep, I'm Back

Yes, I have returned successfully from a great Thanksgiving.

Heck, this year, I didn't miss my flight. I made it to the airport with about an hour and a half to spare.

It was cold in Dallas. Looks like it was around 70 here most of the time, but it was in the low 50's there. And it was very windy. Let me tell you, a cold wind bits right through you.

Thanksgiving was just the family this year. And it was delicious. Like there was any doubt with my mom and sister-in-law doing the cooking.

We got to visit several of b&sil's friends over the course of the week. That was great.

And we made our annual trek to see A Christmas Carol, which I think we all enjoy more every year. It's funny because we pick apart the changes they've made from year to year, too. This year they used too much smoke effect at one point, so the smoke detector went off. They had to clear us all out for a few minutes, then resume the play. But the actors got right back into it without missing a beat.

Sunday was spent at the church were my brother works. There are some neat kids in that youth group. Most especially the one who always remembers me every year. Okay, so I'm a little biased.

I think I did better reading wise than normal this year. I finished three books while I was gone.

And I kept up on my workouts. Granted, I didn't do much variety. But I did something all but two days, one of them being a travel day.

All in all, it was another great Thanksgiving.

And I can't believe it's December 3rd already. I really need to start getting ready for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

As you are reading this, I am flying to Texas for Thanksgiving (assuming the light rain doesn't delay us any). I will be taking my lap top this year, so I will check in if I can. In not, I'll be back in December.

Meanwhile, have a great Thanksgiving everyone!

Mini Review: The Kingdom Keepers

Now here's an imaginitive idea for a series. Take five middleschoolers, turn them into half human/half hologram versions of themselves, and put them in Disney World's Magic Kingdom to fight evil from Disney villains. That the premise of The Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson. And I'm sure it's not surprise to those who know me to find out I really enjoyed it.

The book focuses on Finn, one of the five teens. They were hired to have their likenesses made into Holographic Hosts for the Magic Kingdom. But when they go to sleep at night, they wake up as holograms in the Magic Kingdom. And strange things are happening. It's only after a fight with a group of pirates that they begin to take things seriously. Can they stop the evil trying to take over the park and possibly the world?

It was set in Disney. The plot moved forward quickly with several page turning scenes. How could I not like it?

Well, the book does have some serious flaws. Outside of Finn and his real world friends, the rest of the characters blend together. And there is a major plot hole involving how much Walt Disney could have done with things in the park. But I was willing to let them slide because of how much fun I was having.

There is a follow up book set in Disney's Animal Kingdom. I'll be reading it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Irony, Thy Name is Obama

Okay, so let me see if I have this straight.

All through the Presidential campaign, we heard about how President Elect Barak Obama was the true canidate of change because of how little time he's spent in Washington.

And one of his big arguements against McCain? McCain would just be the third Bush term.

So, now that Obama is picking his cabinet, who does he seem to be selecting? Former Clinton people, including Senator Clinton herself as Secretary of State.

I guess this means that the next four years will be the third Clinton term.

Now, before anyone starts jumping on me, his choices seem qualified. I'm not going to fault him for picking them.

But really, when he tried to distance himself from everyone in Washington, including the Clintons, to run to people who served under them is very funny.

My Nightstand - November 2008

So it's time for 5 Minutes for Books' monthly What's on Your Nightstand Meme.

I am about half way through Ninth Witness by Brock and Bodie Thoene right now. I'm beginning to really get into it, although it is so short, I think I'll truly get into it about the time it ends. My biggest frustration is this is yet another flashback to Jesus' childhood. I don't think we'll ever get His death and resurrection.

Up next will be Stalking the Puzzle Lady by Parnell Hall. Yes, quite a change in styles and topics and genres and just about everything.

Monday, November 24, 2008


You ever notice how you seem to go through cycles? Right now, I am in a blog drought cycle. Despite my good intentions, I never seem to make it here to blog. Every day, I tell myself I will. But then I don't.

Part of that has been because of my reviewing storm. Every day, I have been reviewing as much as I possibly can. Fortunately, I think I've done all I wanted to get done before Thanksgiving, so I can start to relax.

Not that I've got nothing else planned for the next couple of days. I've got the Dancing with the Stars finale to blog (I'm just glad it won't be waiting for me when I get home for a change.) And I've got to pack, do one last load of laundry....

But that's all in the future. What have I been up to?

Actually, I've been hanging out with Kurt and Kellie quite a bit. And that's been nice.

A week ago Saturday, I hung out with them over at the Johnson's where I got to meet the Johnson's new son. Babies are so cute. Kurt and Kenny even joined me for the workout that day.

Then we hung out again this last Friday night with Dawn. We went to dinner and a movie, seeing Changeling. I wanted to see it mainly because it was written by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Strazcynski. It was much darker than what I normally see, but I really enjoyed it.

Saturday, I went to see Bolt. Absolutely fabulous movie. So very funny but with real heart. What are you still reading my blog for? Go see it today.

Other then that, I've been keeping up with my TV shows and enjoying my new Blu-Ray player. I finally figured out the best way to hook it up to my sound system. And with the digital optical cable, it sounds amazing!

Speaking of TV, I was disappointed last week to learn that ABC has canceled Pushing Daisies and Eli Stone. I really enjoy both those shows. I was expecting it. But it's still a major bummer. Couldn't something else from my schedule be canceled so I can still watch those two? Looks like we will get to see the filmed episodes, so it can be a long, slow goodbye.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mini Review: Mr. Monk is Miserable

Today's mini review is of Mr. Monk is Miserable by Lee Goldberg.

The book picks up where the last book left off, with Monk and Natalie in Germany. Natalie has talked her boss (via blackmail) into going on a real vacation in Paris. And so they arrive in France. Monk isn't happy about having nothing to do, but Natalie is trying to enjoy every minute she can relaxing.

That is until they visit the catacombs. There, Monk finds a modern skull in the middle of all the ancient bones. Worse yet, the person was murdered. Who could it be? And will this ruin Natalie's vacation?

The plot started out rather slowly, but that's my only real complaint. The characters were true to their TV personalities. Okay, so Natalie was a selfish jerk for a while, but she did realize it before the book was over.

And the story was hilarious! I was laughing out loud so many times. There's a sub-plot in the second half that fans of the TV show will particularly love.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happy 80th, Mickey

Today is Mickey Mouse day, according to the list of random holidays. And do you want to know why that is? Because today is Mickey Mouse's birthday. And this year, he is turning 80.

80 years ago today, Steamboat Willie premiered in New York.

As Walt was fond of saying, "It all started with a mouse." Just think of all the things we would have missed out on if Mickey hadn't been a hit his first time out.

As you might have guessed, I love Disney. So I for one am very thankful that Mickey came to be and was so popular.

So here's to you, Mickey, and many more happy years ahead for all of us.

Fire Weekend 2008

As you might have heard, we had a couple small fires around here this weekend.

I thought to myself Friday night, this is prime fire weather. Super dry with a strong wind blowing. I've got to stop thinking that.

I actually didn't know about the fire in Sylmar until I went to do some shopping on Saturday. I drove out of my complex, looked up in the sky, and saw the smoke. So I turned on the radio to see what they would say, and I found out just how close it was.

I continued to moniter the news all day as best I could. When they stopped talking about that fire and started talking about the ones in Orange County, I figured nothing was being threatened up here.

The fire did move north despite the winds Saturday night/Sunday morning. It even made it as far as the canyon where I work is. But it was several miles away from work.

The fires appear to be pretty much out around here now. The winds are dead, which is always a blessing. I finally smelled smoke in the air at my condo this morning, and it was pretty strong here at work this morning, too. But it quickly dissipated and I'm not smelling it any more at all.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Something to Say?

I really feel like I should have something exciting to blog about. I'm probably blocking it. But I just can't think of what it is at the moment.

Wednesday night, I wound up hanging out with Kurt and Kellie for a few hours. I was just going to drop by and return their Enchanted DVD which I had borrowed for comparison purposes. But they invited me to dinner. We hung out and talked for a while, then watched Heroes.

And Wednesday night, some friends here in town had a baby. I get to meet him tomorrow, so I'm pretty jazzed about that.

So My Own Worst Enemy has been canceled. Since I was about to stop watching it anyway (I was going to give it one more week), it's no big loss. Heck, I could even delete Monday's episode unwatched with no guilt. I'm waiting for the ax to fall on one of the other shows I like. I just don't want any of them to go. Yet I need the time in my schedule.

And I've joined a group blog called Books for the Holidays. The idea is to help people find books for everyone on their gift list. Now, I just need to actually make a post. I'll do that this weekend.

Not that I have a simple weekend lined up. I'm trying to do so much watching and reviewing of stuff it isn't even funny. We'll see just how far I get, I guess.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mini Review: Whatever Tomorrow Brings

Today, I'll be talking about Whatever Tomorrow Brings by Lori Wick. This is the first in her Californians series. And yes, it is a Christian romance. But there's a reason I decided to read it. It's set in the town I grew up in, granted over 100 years before I was born. Still, I thought it was a neat connection.

After her mother dies, Kaitlin Donovan is left in charge of her younger brother and sister and their father returns to Hawaii to settle their affairs. The trio soon feel the need to leave their aunts, and Kaitlin gets a job teaching in Santa Rosa.

It's there that she meets Marshall Riggs. He's charming, handsome, and a little maddening. Yet he seems to care for Kaitlin. And she feels stuff around him she has never felt before. Where will their relationship go?

So, let's get the obvious out of the way first, the story is predictable. And, frankly, I'm not sure much else needs to be said about that.

But it was the characters who were charming. For me, they came to life and I couldn't wait to see what would happen next. By the time the book was over, I was sad to leave these good friends.

The writing was weak, with frequent point of view changes (usually in the same scene). But once I got into the story, that didn't bother me as much.

Yes, I plan to read the rest of the books in the series and find out what happens to the rest of the Donovans.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I Finally Got One!

So, this weekend saw me make a big purchase. One I've been planning to get for a while now.

I bought a Blu-Ray player!

I went with Panasonic's new 35K, Blu-Ray live player. That's the one I've been eyeing for over a month now. Circuit City seems to be the only place around here to have it, and they were offering 10% off your first purchase if you open a Circuit City card, so I did.

As you can imagine, I spent a lot of time this weekend playing with it. So far, I'm very happy with it. I compared a couple movies side by side, and you can really see the difference. Blu-Ray is so much sharper and clearer. I haven't noticed much difference in the way of sound, but that could be my system. Frankly, I'm not even sure how to play with it.

But now I've got to resist the urge to buy more Blu Ray movies. I have so many I want to get. But they are so expensive. If I can just wait a little while, I know the prices will start to drop. But patience has never been a virtue I have.

Saturday night, I did leave my player behind and go hang out at Kurt and Kellie's for a while. Kurt wanted to have some friends over to play the new Guitar Hero. The new one isn't any better than the old one. Translation, even with singing and drums, I still hate it. It would probably help if I knew and liked some of the songs on it. On the other hand, it was nice to hang out with the gang, some of whom I haven't seen for quite a while.

My uncle and aunt came through town on Sunday, so they called me up, and we had lunch. It was great to see them.

When I got up Friday morning, I thought I'd spend some time reading this weekend, but all this stuff came up after that. Needless to say, I hardly touched my book. Or the collection of Mickey Mouse shorts I'm supposed to be watching to review on Mickey's 80th birthday next week. I guess there's always next weekend.

Thursday, November 06, 2008


Apparently, there are already at least three Impeach Obama groups on Facebook.


The guy hasn't even been thrown into office yet. Can't we at least wait until he does something like lie under oath before we talk about that?

We may not be happy with the outcome of the election, but we've got to accept it and not jump on the other side the instant the results are in.

And yes, that applies to both sides of the aisle.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Post Election Thoughts

I went back today and read my thoughts on the Presidental election four years ago. Obviously, I have a very different feel this time around.

As I pointed out a couple months ago, this was a historic election. 40 years after the turmoil of the 60's, we have an African American as our President. That's saying something about our country. I wish I thought this would lower the charges of racism that fly fast and furious around us, but I don't think it will. But it should be a long way toward it.

The problem I have with Barak Obama is his policies. If he sticks to his election promises (like withdrawing taxes or redistributing the wealth) I'm not going to be a happy camper. He has the most liberal voting record in the Senate. I'd probably have the most conservative. Not to mention his view of sitting down with no rules with our enemies.

Which brings me to McCain. In my opinion, the only thing has done right in recent years is pick Sarah Palin as his running mate. His maverick standing actually bothered me way too much as he often seemed to be on the other side of issues from me. So my vote for him yesterday (and it only took me 25 minutes start to finish to vote. Still the longest time it's ever taken me) was more a vote against Obama. Yes, I really should have socked it to the Republican party and voted third party. But I was thinking of the overall percentages not just how California would fall.

So with the Presidency in the hands of the other political party and the House and Senate there, too, I will probably be ranting more about the state of things then I have in the past. I think the next few years will be interesting.

But, in all my rants, here is what I promise. I will never resort to cheap nicknames when describing the other side. I will argue based on facts. Yes, I will get emotional at times. But name calling and baseless accusations won't be part of my posts. I will remember that the people I disagree with are human. They are worthy of my respect as such even when I disagree.

And who knows. I thought I might rant more about things the last four years (or last few months) then I have. I might stick to my usual diary and Thursday Threesome posts. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Power Outages and Disneyland in November

I knew there was something from two weeks ago I wanted to blog about. The extra two hours I got off work.

A week and a half ago was my allergy shot day. As I always do, I sat there and read for the 30 minutes I have to wait. As I was driving back to work, I kept thinking how much I'd love to just be able to sit down and read the final 50 pages of my book. Then I walk into work to find our power was sort of out.

In my building, we had lights but no computers. In another building, we had computers but no lights. The network was down, so even in those buildings we couldn't do anything. And in my office, one of my lights was working, but the other one wasn't.

Needless to say, they sent us home. So I went down by the pool and finish my book.

Now, let's move along to this last weekend, where I went to Disneyland again.

Mary was in Anaheim for a conference and wanted to go to Disneyland, so Angelique and I readily agreed. And we invited another Southern CA Trixie fan. Julie could make it, so we had four of us.

Angelique was able to score us discounted park hopper tickets, so we went to both parks. And, while it was crowded, we managed to do quite a bit. Definitely hit the big rides at both parks. Frankly, we did better than I thought we would. So obviously, it could have been more crowded then it was.

Plus, we finally got to eat at the Blue Bayou! For those who don't know, this is the restaurant you see when you first start out on Pirates of the Caribbean. We've talked about eating there for years. We've even tried a couple times to find that they were already booked for the day. But Angelique looked up their number a few weeks ago, called, and got us a reservation. The food was pricey (not too surprising). They didn't have much beside fish, so that part didn't thrill me. But the food was good and very filling. We all walked away stuffed. That was a highlight of the trip.

We were very fortunate with the weather. We got spit on for a few minutes (while doing the tea cups). Heck, it wasn't even heavy enough to call it sprinkling. Yet both my roommates told me it poured up here at home, including thunder and lightening. And it sounds like they got quite the storm to the east of Anaheim as well. We need the rain, but I'm glad it missed Disneyland on Saturday.

Unfortunately, I still couldn't find the Christmas lights I saw at Disney World and want to get. I guess I'll have to take a trip down in December and see if I can find them. I did find one place on line selling them, for $10 more than the park will sell them to you plus shipping. Even though it would cost me that much in gas, the principle makes it well worth driving that distance.

I haven't voted yet today. I was going to vote before work, but there was quite a line waiting to get in. Even with no line, it seems to take a while to get it done, and I didn't have the time. Hopefully everyone else had my idea and all tried to vote early so I won't have to fight any crowds this evening. (Hey, a man can dream, can't he?)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Life Update

So, it's been forever since I talked about life, hasn't it? And I've been busy doing stuff, too.

For example, my parents were in town the last weekend in October. We met up with Angelique and went to see Importance of Being Ernest at Glendale Centre Theatre. We really enjoyed it. Sunday was spent fighting trying to get their computer to play Blu-Rays on my TV. By the time we figured it all out (thanks to one of my roommates) we weren't interested in watching a movie any more. Did do some picture comparisons, and there wasn't as much of a difference as I expected. Not that this is going to stop me from buying a Blu Ray player here pretty quickly.

And I've been trying to keep up with TV shows. I am so ready for one of the shows I watch to be canceled. I have a list they can cancel any time they want. Yet I won't stop watching them. What is wrong with me?

Last Monday, we closed the office early to go to my co-worker's memorial service. It was hard at times, but it really did make me look forward to heaven. And it makes me wonder who non-Christians deal with death at all.

I'm saving a couple things for seperate posts, so I think I'll quite here while I'm ahead. But that doesn't mean I lied earlier. I do have other things to report.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Mini Review: Dark Pursuit

I did indeed finish Dark Pursuit by Brandilyn Collins this week.

Darrell Brooke has a well earned reputation as the "King of Suspense." His novels are automatic best sellers and his legion of fans is huge. But that was before the auto accident that left him physically and mentally weak. Now he can't even concentrate to figure out the plot of his one hundredth novel. And he's been working on it for a year.

Meanwhile, across town, Kaitlan Sering arrives home from work early one day to find a dead body in her bed, the third in the small town in a year. The evidence in her apartment makes it obvious that it is her boyfriend, Craig. Since Craig is a police officer and the son of the police chief, she thinks that Craig and his dad have been surpressing evidence, so she can't just call the cops. She runs to the only place she feels she can, her estranged grandfather Darrell Brooke.

With her very life in Darrell's hands, Kaitlan has to trust that he will come through for her. But can he overcome his mental fog long enough to pilot Kaitlan through this real life thriller?

I loved this book. The plot grabbed me and wouldn't let me go. There were several well written suspense scenes. I often find they don't work as well on the page as they might in a movie, but here they worked perfectly.

My only real complaint was the character arcs. As in, there really weren't any. We got some of that kind of stuff crammed into the last couple chapters, but that just made it feel tacked on to me.

This book doesn't come out until December, and I recomment you get a copy when it does. I'm going to have to find more of Brandilyn Collin's books.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday Threesome for October 30th

This week's edition is brought to us by the exciting events of this weekend and The Back Porch. (No, my life isn't really that pathetic. It's my attempt at a public service reminder, okay?)

Onesome: Daylight-- Savings Time is up here in the US this weekend. Ready? Set? Go? ...or will you just wake up and worry about it sometime Sunday?
I'll change my alarm clock when I get back from Disneyland Sunday morning so I get the maximum sleep before church. But I'll worry about the rest of the clocks later. Of course, since I'm not using VCR's any more, I have very few clocks I need to worry about changing. I like that!

Twosome: Savings--? Hey, do you use coupons when you shop? ...and do you go looking for them online?
I do at important places like bookstores. Otherwise, I just pay the price. I tried using coupons, but I never remembered to take them. And since it's just me, I don't know if I really saved enough to make it worth while.

Threesome: Time-- to batten down the hatches where you are? They've had snow in Ohio and Ottawa; and we may not hit the 80's this weekend in CaliLand: is Winter approaching for you?
I'm told we might be getting rain showers this weekend. It's supposed to be in the low 70's or colder for the next couple weeks. I think fall has finally arrived. :(

You've Got to Love the Irony

This was part of a longer e-mail about our recent weather change here in Southern CA. But the last paragraph cracked me up.

For the remaining fans of Man Made Global Warming, London received a heavy
snowfall (the first October snow since 1922) as Parliament debated a Global
Warming Bill. Switzerland has also received the most October snow on

You've got to love the irony.

Mini Review: The Clockwork Teddy

John J. Lamb's Bear Collector Mysteries have become a favorite series of mine. And the latest, The Clockwork Teddy, didn't disappoint at all.

Brad and Ashleigh Lyon are in California catching up with old friends and participating in the Sonoma teddy bear festival. Early that morning, Brad witnesses a person in a bear costume attack and rob a fellow artisan.

That night, Brad and Ashleigh are visiting with his old San Francisco Police Department partner when there is a call to go to a murder scene. Brad tags along for old times' sake and finds a robotic teddy bear at the scene. Even weirder, he thinks the murder is connected to the robbery that morning. What's going on?

One reason I love the series so much is because of the characters. Brad and Ashleigh are the kind of peole you'd want to spend time with in real life. The supporting characters are also well drawn. Plus I love Brad's fun sense of humor and puns.

The plot is a combination of police procedural and cozy, and it works well. I did figure one part out before Brad did, but I couldn't put the book down anyway because I still needed the rest of the pieces. And the last 50 pages had me glued to the book.

If you have missed this great series, drop everything and go get it now.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What's on my Nightstand - October 2008 Edition

I meant to do this yesterday, but the day got away from me. But fortunately, 5 Minutes for Books is willing to forgive tardiness like this.

I am currently about 60 pages from the end of Dark Pursuit by Brandilyn Collins. I can't wait to finish it tonight and see how it all ends. Look for more on the book at the end of this week or early next week.

Up next will be Whatever Tomorrow Brings by Lori Wick.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mini Review: A Vicky Hill Exclusive!

Unfortunately, today's review is another negative one. The first three books of Fall into Reading were me trying new authors, and I have only liked one of them, and it wasn't A Vicky Hill Exclusive! by Hannah Dennison.

The mystery is set in a small English village and stars Vicky Hill, a new reporters for the local once weekly newspaper. She is longing to do more than cover funerals, but the more beautiful Annabel seems to get those assignments.

But one day while Annabel is sick, Vicky decides to follow up on a tip and hopefully get a scoop. Some mutilated chickens have been found at the dump. Then a local death begins to look suspicious. And the villagers are acting pretty crazy. What's going on?

The plot was interesting and certainly kept me reading. It was the characters that ruined it for me, specifically Vicky. She was an idiot. At first, I found it funny, but it quickly wore out its welcome. And every time she got a clue or red herring, she came up with some wild explanation on how it all fits together. Frankly, that made it hard to follow what was really happening.

Then there's the issue of her virginity. She was dying to lose it, and convinced that half the characters, male and female, wanted to take it from her. I have a feeling those scenes were supposed to be funny, but I found them uncomfortable and embarrassing.

Believe me, I won't be going near the sequels.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday Threesome for October 23rd

This week's edition is brought to us by The Back Porch as always.

Onesome: Just-- the Cell Phone? ...and no land line? How does it pencil out for you: do you need to have both a cell phone and a home phone in your life? How about down the road? Do you see yourself disconnecting from the hard-wired connection?
I got rid of my land line when I got my cell phone this Spring. And I so love having a cell phone!

Twosome: Checking-- accounts, a thing of the past or something that will be around for a while? I'm wondering how much we're coming around to debit cards and online payments...
Um, where do you keep the money that covers the stuff you pay for with your debit card or an online payment? Your checking account, of course. Now, checks might be a thing of the past pretty soon, although I still find myself using one or two every month.

Threesome: In-- the same vein: how about the net itself? If you're on it for basic communications then what happens when your handheld device becomes your email/chat/and voice communication system? Do you bail from the hardwired home links when wifi becomes just a little more ubiquitous? ...and before you answer, check in with any teen you see walking down the street with their head in the Net!
I don't see myself giving up full internet any time soon. It doesn't help that I don't pay for internet access on my phone. However, I don't think it will really go away in the near future.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Good (Earthly) Night. I'll See You in the Morning

So, the co-worker I mentioned last week passed away this afternoon.

I'm not surprised. Honestly, it would have been so much harder for him and his family if he had lived. But I am surprised at how sad it has made me.

Jim was a cheerful pressence all the time. I honestly can't remember seeing him angry or upset, and he worked outside my office. Frustrated, sure? Especially when his computer did something he didn't understand or expect. But he always had a smile and friendly greeting for whoever walked through the door.

And he was a consistent employee. By that I mean he hated to take time off. He was dedicated to getting his work done in a timely manner.

He made a point of learning and remembering people's names. It actually upset him if he couldn't remember to greet someone by name.

And he made a point of saying "Good morning" and "Good night" to each of us every day.

Since Jim worked outside my office, his abscence this last week has been noticable. And I know it will be moreso as time goes by.

In fact, the news that he was in Heaven hit me harder then I expected it to. I knew it was coming. But there is a finality to it. It can't be undone.

So yes, I am grieving right now.

But it is that weird grieving with hope that Christians experience. See, I know exactly where Jim is right now. He is in Heaven. He is not suffering here on earth. (Honestly, a prolonged illness would have been devistating to him.) He is face to face with God. He is in a place so magnificent that they walk on pure gold. I mean, think about that.

And I know this seperation is just temporary. I will see Jim again and get to spend all eternity with him.

And that is a comfort. Not that it doesn't hurt, but that it helps.

Right now, I am picturing Jim smiling down as he says, "Have a good night. See you in the morning."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mid-October Disney Trip

Isn't it wonderful that I have to start specifying which trip I am talking about like that? Yeah, I think so, too.

So, anyway, Angelique, her mom, and I went to Disneyland on Saturday. Meeting up was a snap. I looked up as I parked and there was Angelique getting out of the car two doors down from me.

There were plenty of people in the park, but I we got everything done we normally try to do. And I really didn't feel like we had to rush to try to get it all in. I'm glad we were able to get everything in since we probably won't in two weeks. This will make me more willing to go with the flow.

And we got plenty of shopping in as well. I was looking for one of the villain pins it looks like I missed completely. Hopefully ebay will come through for me. And I was trying to get some Christmas stuff. But despite the abundance of Christmas stuff out, I didn't find what I was looking for. Specifically, I wanted to find a Disneyland castle ornament to match my Disney World castle ornament and some lights I found. They are Mickey Mouse shaped lights with red and white stripes on them to look like candy canes or peppermint candies. They had them everywhere at Disney World, but the cast members thought I was crazy when I asked about them here. Fortunately, I did get the red, white, and blue ones. Just barely got one of those because I saw them moving them to the back. Again, they were everwhere at DW.

And I won the grand prize at the trivia contest at lunch.

During the Master's lunch, they have various trivia questions. I've won small prizes in the past for some of the questions. This year, I decided I wasn't even going to try if I wasn't interested in the prize. When they announced the last prize, I knew I had to try. It was a hooded sweatshirt, hidden Mickey book, and 5 Disney Dollars. We're talking about a $70 prize. And the question? Name the first five Disney movies in order. Heck, I've been studying for that one for years thanks to my DVD collection. I have it sitting in release order.

Of course, the prize wasn't without its set backs. I discovered a couple hours later that the sweatshirt still had the anti-theft device in it. So I had to go into a store and beg them to trust me (since I didn't have the receipt) and remove it for me. But I found a manager at the World of Disney store (the first one I tried) who took down some information, but removed the tag as well. It's a very nice sweatshirt, but it is a large. I think I really need a medium, but I don't think I'm going to try and return it. I can make it work.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Week And A Half

And in all that time, I've talked about books and movies and Thursday Threesomes. But not much about me. Me, me, me.

Frankly, there isn't much to say. I've had a boring week and a half where I go to work, go home, and watch TV. Thrilling stuff, I know.

(And now I'll contradict all that.)

Last weekend I had nothing going on. Only weekend like that for a while. I watched two movies on Saturday and one on Sunday. I really enjoyed The Man Who Knew Too Much, but didn't care for Madagascar. Chicken Little was a good the second time around as the first.

Sunday, I was going to go to Pasdena and play ultimate again, but my friend Kurt called and wanted to hang out. Since we haven't done that in a couple months, I changed plans and went to his house where I played Guitar Hero for the first time. Okay for an hour or so, but not something I am going to rush out and play again.

One of my co-workers is in the hospital. He is 82 and has had two strokes in the last month. I've said for the last couple years that I want to be like him when I get to that age, and I still say that. Up until this, he's been fine. Full of energy and so friendly. Honestly, if I had half his energy today.... The first stroke was rather mild and he was back to work this week, but the one Tuesday night was much bigger. Things aren't looking good right now, but you truly don't know. All we can do is pray because God does know what is best and what He is doing. Still, it's hard around work knowing he might not be back. I am going to miss his cheerfulness.

In happier news, tomorrow is Master's day at Disneyland. What, you think I am going to let a week at Disney World keep me from going? You don't know me too well, do you?

So, maybe this wasn't exciting, but at least it is my life right now.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thursday Threesome for October 16th

This week's edition is brought to us by fencing and The Back Porch.

Onesome: Dodge--? ...as in "Get outa'? Okay, so tomorrow is Friday: where would you go to "get out of Dodge" for a day (if you could, that is)?
Probably where I am going on Saturday, Disneyland!

Twosome: Parry--? What's your best comeback? ...and yeah, "Oh, yeah?" doesn't count !
You know you're wrong.

Threesome: Block-- Parties: do you have them? Apartment get togethers count too. Oh, heck, even dorm keggers, -eh?

Nope. Get to gether with friends? Yes. Neighbors? Not so much.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Darker Superheroes?

I was afraid of this.

A few weeks back (I think it was before I went to DisneyWorld), I saw a report that Warner and DC Comics, inspired by the huge success of The Dark Knight, plan to push all their superhero properties to the darkest level their respective characters will allow.

Now I realize I am in the minority, but I didn't care for The Dark Knight at all. (And I got attacked for my opinion, too. If you want a good laugh read some of the comments on that review.) In my mind, the movie was way too dark. There was not even a glimmer of hope at the end of it. While I enjoyed Batman Begins, I will go out of my way to avoid seeing this movie ever again. And I had to go home and clear my mind with the nice theropy of Monsters Inc.

Now, I realize that Batman is a dark character and most of what I have seen isn't true to the character. Fine. I can live with that. I now know to think carefully before I injest any more Batman.

But let's think about some of the other characters this affects. Superman. Wonder Woman. Aquaman. I'd say the list could go on, but I don't know my superheroes all that well. The point is, dark isn't the word that comes to mind when I think of the characters I've just listed.

Furthermore, let's think about superheroes for a minute. They're designed to fit into our fantasies. We're talking wish fullfillment, really. Who wouldn't want to fly or make others tell the truth. This really isn't a dark place. When I think Superhero, I think light escaptist fun.

Yes, Superheroes need villains to fight. Otherwise, their lives would be boring and we wouldn't want to read about them/watch them. I get that.

Maybe I just need to actually read comic books. I must admit I have never done that. Most of my exposure to Superheroes comes from TV and the movies. And I know that this means I am not seeing the characters are the were created to be known. Fine.

But the first thing I think of with Superheroes is escapism. I'm not looking for morals about life. I'm not looking for darkness. I'm looking for your basic good vs. evil story where good triumphs at the end of the day. And the fact that I can predict the outcome isn't a bad thing as long as I care about the characters and enjoy spending time with them. But if I am going to leave the theater depressed, then I certainly won't care about the characters enough to ever come back.

So, please Warner Brothers, rethink your decision. Keep Batman dark. After this last movie, I won't be going back to him anyway. But don't take away Superheroes from me because you think everyone wants them to be dark. Some of us find real life dark enough and go to a movie for something fun and light.

(This post has been my entry in this week's Watercooler Wednesday.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mini Review: Relentless

Today is obviously book day around here. I'm going to catch up on my mini reviews. (I've got to finish my current book soon!)

Today's review of is Relentless by Robin Parrish. I bought this book when it came out in 2006, yet waited until now to read it. Yes, I can be an idiot.

One morning while walking to work, Collin Boyd looks up to see...himself walking to work. As he hurries to catch up with himself, he looks in a window and sees a stranger staring back. Then a mysterious woman appears and tells him that his life is now in danger. What in the world is going on?

So, obviously, this book has a strong fantasy element to it. But that didn't bother me in the least. The plot still raced from one event to another. In fact, I had a hard time putting the book down. It's one of those where, just as you get one answer, you get two more questions. It was a little bloody in spots, but basically a great read.

It's the first in a series, and I can't wait to read books two and three and find out what happens next to the characters

Newbery Winner: Bronze Bow

This month in the monthly children's classics discussion, we are focusing on Newbery winners. Now, two of my choices have already been discussed (Witch of Blackbird Pond and My Father's Dragon), so I am going to go with a third, The Bronze Bow.

This book is set in 1st century Galilee. The story centers around Daniel, a young zealot who has a very intense hatred of the Romans. When he is forced to return to Nazareth to care for his invalid sister, he meets Jesus. Will these encounters change his life?

This was the book we did for English when I was in 8th grade. (I was home schooled at the time.) My entire family fell in love with it, and I went out and read the rest of author Elizabeth George Speare's books.

What makes this book so great? The story pulls you in almost from the start. And there is always something going on. It may not be exciting action, but there is plenty of conflict.

Better yet, the characters are real. You truly come to care for them by the time the book is over.

I can remember Mom reading this book aloud to us and the entire family being captivated by the story. This is a "kids" book that they will enjoy but will entertain any adult who reads it. It's certainly worked on me when I've reread it.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mini Review: Stamped Out

Yes, with Fall into Reading comes my habit of writing mini reviews on my blog. I always include a link to my longer review at Epinions if you are interested in reading more.

Unfortunately, my fall got off to a poor start with Stamped Out by Terri Thayer.

With her marriage dissolving in San Francisco, April takes a job offer from her father and moves back home to Pennsylvania. She only plans to stay for a year or so to get her feet back under her.

But on her first day on the job, a demolition project unearths a skull. Since her father built the building just demolished, the local sheriff zeroes in on him. And since the sheriff is known for his less than fair tactics, April knows she will have to figure out what really happened to clear her father's name. Can she do it?

Basically, I didn't like anything about the book. The story moved forward very slowly, with too much time spent on the sub-plots. Then there are the main characters. I hated over half of them. Even April herself got on my nerves with her whiney "whoa is me" attitude. Granted, if it had been over her recently failed marriage, I would have understood. But she was still upset over her father leaving her mother for a man. And that happened over a decade ago when she was in high school. Frankly, her attitude was childish most of the time.

I won't be moving on with this series, and I highly recommend that you don't even bother with it.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Thursday Threesome for October 9th

Looks like The Back Porch doesn't have a Thursday Threesome listed this week. But since I haven't yet done the one from when I was at DisneyWorld, I'll do that one.

Onesome: "Goodbye,--Norma Jean"? Hmmm.... Best song ever? ...or did he top himself when he adapted it for Princess Diana?
I actually have heard either version of the Elton John song, so I don't have an opinion.

Twosome: Yellow--lights: run 'em or slam on the brakes? ...or do you plan your speed so you never hit them yellow? ...or maybe, "What yellow light, Officer?" !
Usually it's slam on the brakes while grumbling that I have to wait. But if I am close or have sat through the light a cycle or two already, I will push it through.

Threesome: Brick Road--s and flying monkeys? Okay, did those things just creep you out? ...or were you one of those people who really, really, really wanted one for a pet? Just askin'...
Pretty much, they creeped me out in the movie, but I thought they were cool in the book. A walking contradiction. But what about that surprises you. :)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Since Disney

Yes, I've been back for over a week now, and I'm still blogging about my Disney trip. But there has been other stuff going on in my life. Really!

Naturally, things have been busy at work as I try to get back in the swing of things. I think I'm finally there, but we'll see what shows up next.

And I've spent lots of time trying to catch up on TV. I think I am watching too many shows, yet there are none I want to cut out. And I've got three more premiering next week. I know ratings are low at the moment on a couple of my shows. I hope they don't get the ax as a result.

As if I hadn't had enough of amusement parks, I spent Saturday at Magic Mountain. My friend Debbie was back in town, this time with her youth group. So I spent a day trying to make myself sick on all the big coasters. I hadn't been since 2004 or so, so it was lots of fun. I really should get an annual pass again. I was trying to ride X one last time, but it shut down due to mechanical problems. I waited until about 12:40 for them to finally admit it wasn't coming back up. But I got a free pass to be used by the end of the year out of it.

The unfortunate thing is we had sprinkles on and off on Saturday. Yep, first rain in months, and it was that day. It wasn't enough to truly slow us down, however. And we all seemed to have a good time despite the weather.

Sunday I headed to Pasadena for the Ultimate Frisbee pick up game I intend to join regularly. It was great to get out and play. Although between the two I was so sore that night. And my workouts the last couple of days have had more leg stuff then I would have liked.

And I think that's about it. You are now up to date on my thrilling life.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Disney Report 4 - The Final One

Yes, that's right. I am going to get the last two days of my Disney trip done even if it kills me.

But before I move on to Saturday, I do need to make a point about Friday for those who haven't been to Disney World. It isn't like Disneyland where you can walk from Disneyland's main entrance to CA Adventure in two minutes. The parks are miles apart. You have to take shuttles (or monorail) do get from one to the other. And yet I was extremely blessed with that. I walked onto every shuttle or monorail I needed on Friday. I had had to wait up to half an hour earlier in the week. But this time, when I was ready, there was the shuttle.

Okay, so on to Saturday.

Saturday started very early in the morning. We had a group photo at 7:15 AM. That meant I had to get up and get going earlier than I would have liked. But we were all there and ready on time. The photo went quickly, giving us some time before we had to get on a bus and head to EPCOT.

Our next group event of the day was Mouse Quest. We were broken into teams and then given a series of clues or questions we had to find the answer to somewhere in EPCOT. We did one set in Future World and one in the World Showcase. Basically, it was a glorified scavenger hunt. But it was lots of fun. That took all morning, and we ended in the America portion of World Showcase, so I went to see American Adventure again. Yes, I loved it so much I did it two days in a row. From there, I wander through the rest of the countried I hadn't made it to yet and watched the two films - one in France and a Circle Vision one in Canada. That one is hosted by Canadian Martin Short and it is so funny.

At one point, I was going to wander over to Magic Kingdom in the afternoon, but I just didn't have enough time to make it worth while. Instead, I spent time in the Future World part of EPCOT. I rode a Segway in one of the Innoventions pavillions. That was fun yet challenging. And I rode Test Track several times in a row. And I found most of the Christmas ornaments I was planning to buy in Magic Kingdom, so I bought them there.

Even with staying in EPCOT, I was the last one to make our dessert event that night. We had a roped off (and therefore) private patio area to watch the fireworks that night. And we had delicious desserts to enjoy, too. The fireworks were neat, although they did spend too much time focusing on the ball or Earth. It is only cool to watch it rotate so many times.

But no, the day wasn't over yet. About 10 of us headed over the Magic Kingdom after the fireworks. We were hyped up on sugar and adrenialine, so we had a blast making fools of ourselves. We sang Disney songs at the top of our lungs on the monorail. Then we sang along with Pirates and Splash Mountain. We had lost some of our spunk by the time we hit Small World. And we ended the night with Space Mountain. It was around one by the time I got home and to bed. It was totally worth it.

But that didn't mean I could sleep in Sunday morning. I only had a few hours left. I packed, checked out, and headed back to Hollywood Studios. I rode Toy Story a second time (after waiting in an hour long line), Rockin' RollerCoaster, and Tower of Terror before heading to the next park.

And here's where I really blew it on several fronts. Before I left, Mom and Dad had told me to be sure to see the totum poles at Wilderness Lodge. For some reason, I was thinking they were impressed with Fort Wilderness Campground. So I took the shuttle there, planning to take the ferry over to Magic Kingdom. So I ride the shuttle from Hollywood Studios to Wilderness Lodge to the Campground, going right past what I was supposed to see. Then, after getting out, I discover I am at the opposite end of the campground from where I need to catch the ferry. So I set out walking. It was at least a mile away. I must admit I did enjoy the campground. It made me want to stay there. Although I'd be at the parks the entire time and never truly enjoy the campground. I just enjoy camping that much, I guess.

Anyway, I did finally make it on to Magic Kingdom, where I went to PhilharMagic one more time. I wish I had gotten there early enough to do it twice because I had a tall guy sitting in front of me, blocking part of the screen. But I needed to move on. I bought the castle Christmas ornament I couldn't get the day before, then headed back to my motel where I had just enough time to grab lunch before it was time to catch the UnMagical Express (hey, it can't be the Magical Express if they are taking you away from Disney World toward your real life) to the airport.

And I'll give them this on the Magical Express. I checked my bag onto my flight from my hotel before I went to the parks. It was great to not have to worry about that all day.

Angelique and I were on the same flight back to LA. I was flying with Delta this time, and I didn't have nearly the had times I did with the flight out on United the week before. Everything went according to plan. I made it home a little before 11, tired.

As you can tell, it was a great trip. Yes, I'd go back, although I don't know if I would rush back. We already have the majority of the stuff I loved there here in California. And it's much cheaper to do Disneyland for a day. Still, there are enough differences and enough things we don't have here that I would like to go back at some point in the future. We'll just see when that winds up being.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Disney Report 3

Obviously, I didn't get back to continue on about my trip yesterday, so here goes today.

I believe we've made it up to Thursday. (And I must say the interest in these posts has been much greater than I imagined it would be. I thought I was doing this mostly for me.)

Thursday, I went to Typhoon Lagoon. I went with Dana, Roxanne, and her husband Rickie. But we met up with Mary, Marnee, and Marnee's sister and roommate.

They have a real wave pool. And by that I mean a pool that sends out real waves. Yes, it also does the "storm at sea" stuff I had been in before. But those waves were much larger than the ones I usually swim in at the ocean.

In many ways, the rest of the park was your typical water park. Now, since I love water parks, I don't mean that in a bad way. But it had speed slides (although not the highest kind) and tube slides and a lazy river. And we had a blast hanging out together.

The park does have two things that set it apart. First, you can swim with sharks. They've got a small salt water pool with docile sharks in it. It's small, so it's over before you know it. They don't let you dive below the surface, either. But it was still cool.

The other park that really stood out is the water slide roller coaster. These slides actually use powerful jets to shoot you up and down hills. They are fast and lots of fun. We all enjoyed those.

My biggest gripe is that one group of slides had a long path to the top. It wandered around and you go up and down and up again. I'm sure it's for summer crowds, but as I got tired, I just wanted to get to the top. And all the stairs were starting to get to my knees.

Ironically enough, I think this was the coolest and least humid day of the trip. Of maybe that was how it felt because I was wet.

We left mid-afternoon to head over to Hollywood Studios for that night's group dinner. That was my first chance to see some of the people who arrived on Thursday. We ate at the Prime Time Dinner, a restaurant themed around the 50's. The decore looked like a house from that time period. They had black and white shows on TVs, or at least bits of the shows. (Of course, one of the shows was Dick van Dyke, which was a 60's show.)

And the waitresses treat you like they are your mother. For example, I got in trouble for whining. And when I tried to point out that someone else had said what I said first, I was yelled out for being a tattle tale. And yes, I was the first in the group to get in trouble. But plenty of others were told to finish their food, especially their vegetables. No bribing, but plenty of pressure if they didn't.

We finished Thursday by going to Fantasmic. The idea behind the show is the same as here in Disneyland, but they actually have a stadium set up so you can sit down and watch it. You still have to get there early if you want good seats. We did, and we were about 8 rows back in the middle. They have a large portion in the middle inspired by Pocahantus, which I think dates the show. Overall, it was very good.

Thursday was the only night I made it back to the hotel before 11. In fact, it was 10. I hung out on the patio and talked for a while and even jumped in the pool and talked to the people there for a while. I was going to be in bed by 11, but that didn't happen. It was my usual midnight bed time.

Friday, I struck out on my own with one goal in mind, hit all four parks picking up stuff I had missed. And I did hit all four parks, but I didn't hit all the things I had missed. Of course, that's my fault.

I started out at Animal Kingdom because I wanted to do Expedition Everst again. Walked on it three times in a row, once with Tanya, before moving on.

Next up was Hollywood Studios. I wanted to see the Beauty and the Beast show because it is my favorite Disney movie. I should have skipped it. I knew they couldn't do the entire thing in half an hour, but they really hacked up the story. It was okay, but not something I'd rush back and see. I also road the Great Movie Ride again and did the back stage tour. I even took pictures around the park since it had been raining when I was there on Monday.

Next up was Magic Kingdom where I wanted to hit the Steamboat and the Tikki Room. By the time I got off the steamboat, the parade was going, and it was exactly where I needed to go, so I headed to Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. I got a little sidetracked in Tomorrowland and repeated a few things. But it was hard to turn down no wait for Space Mountain or the Buzz Lightyear ride. Heck, I even road the Jugle Cruise again, this time not saying a word so I wouldn't get into trouble again.

But I did finally make it over to The Tikki Room. Now I had heard that they changed the show around in Florida. In fact, they call it "Under New Management." I wanted to see what I thought of the changes. Take my word for it. Don't go see it. Basically, they tried to update it by adding Iago from Aladdin and Zazu from Lion King. The premise is these two birds have bought the place and are going to change things up. But change is not always a good thing. Why they messed with a classic, I'll never know. This one wasn't funny in a cheesy way. It was just painful. Now, it might help that I am a huge fan of the original. But I just didn't like it at all.

I did make my major pin purchase of the trip here, too, before moving on.

I had intended to make it to EPCOT early and finish off the world show case, but it was rather late by the time I got there. And I was dangerously tired. I say dangerously because we had to be up early Saturday. But I pressed on. I made it about half way through the world showcase before I got too tired to continue. I stopped with the American Adventure, a movie/animatronic show. I loved it! Although with all the animatronics that pop up, the "stage" area (really a hole between us and the screen" had to be much bigger than it looks to us. Hosted by Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain, it recounts America's history in 30 minutes from the Pilgrams to the present day. Yes, some things get compressed, but it does a reasonally good job.

While I wanted to keep pressing on, I knew I needed to leave. But on the way by, I checked on Soarin'. It had a half hour wait, which was the shortest I had seen, so I went a head and did that. Yes, it's exactly the same as the one here in California. But it is so much fun no matter where it is I don't care.

That meant I got in later then I wanted on Friday night. So I went straight to bed. We had to be up early Saturday morning, so I tried to get all the sleep I could.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Thursday Threesome for October 2nd

I'm hoping to get back to the Disney trip tonight, so I thought I'd post this now. Brought to us this week by ...tom... and The Back Porch.

Onesome: Your-- ability to see beyond the horizon is limited only by your imagination. Discuss !
But what if your imagination and what is really over the horizon don't match up?

Twosome: mileage may-- be lower for some drivers due to variables like under-inflated tires or speeding up to get to the next red light. Hmmm... Any tips out there for those trying to stretch their fuel dollars?
While I have become quite the led foot, I do take my foot off the gas if I know the light is red ahead of me. Not only does it save gave, but it saves your breaks, too.

Threesome: Vary-- this, vary that, and pretty soon you've broken up a routine. Here's one: what routine of yours really needs to have a little variation introduced? (I'll exclude changing the flavor of your Friday evening ice cream snack; while a little change may be good, radical events should be planned out!)
My weekends could use more ultimate Frisbee, something I hope to change soon.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Disney Report 2

Now, you'd think that I'd visit all four park before I went back to one, right? Well, you'd be wrong. See, Tuesday, I was back to Magic Kingdom. I spent the majority of the day hanging out with Jenn and Angelique. They started the day with a character breakfast at a nearby hotel. I slept in a little and got to the park about the same time they did. And we managed to hit the majority of the park.

And I've got to say, the lines really helped. The longest line in Magic Kingdom that day was for Peter Pan's Flight. We almost literally walked onto Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain.... You get the idea. And since we fast passed Peter Pan, our longest wait of the day was Jungle Cruise at 20 minutes.

And I did get into trouble on the Jungle Cruise. I gave one of the guides punch lines for him. Honestly, I thought he was going to stop it had been so long since he'd said anything else. And since it is one of my favorite lines, I had to say it. (But that was nothing like the yelling I got on Tuesday.)

It rained for maybe 20 minutes all day. It was cooler, but still humid and overcast. But this was the last of the rain we had done.

And I went to Mickey's PhilharMagic for the second time. This 3-D movie was one of my favorite things there. Donald steals Mickey's sorcerror hat and tries to conduct the orchestra. Things get wildly out of hand and he finds himself chasing the hat through songs from several Disney movies. The 3-D is great, the computer animation georgeous, and the songs fun.

I was the only one of the trio signed up for dinner that night. It was a character dinner at the Liberty Tree Restaurant. Several of the classic characters (Goofy, Minnie, Chip and Dale) came around while we ate turkey, stuffing, roast beef, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, etc. family style. Lots of fun, even if Dana did convience Dale I was crazy.

From there, I hung out with Jayne, Susan, and Dana. We thought Animal Kingdom was open late, but we were a day off. Instead, we went to Downtown Disney were I bought some pins and then split off to hit Pleasure Island. I stayed later then I wanted to originally because I went to the comedy club. I laughed lots, but it wasn't at jokes I should have been laughing at. I popped into the Adventurer's Club, but it was too crowded to really do anything. So I stopped in a couple of the music clubs on my way back to the bus to the resort. I think I got in about 1 AM. Yep, another long but good day.

Wednesday, I finally made it to EPCOT. I started off the day by myself, but soon met up with Jenn, Angelique, and Rhonda and her family. We did stuff in the Future World part like Test Track and Mission Space for a while. Then Jenn got us backstage to look at the aquarium stuff, specifically the dolphine enclosure. That was special and something very few people get to do.

Fromt there, Angelique and I split off and started in on the World Showcase. We didn't get very far before we met up with the group who had dinner that night. It was too expensive for my budget, but we met up with them because some of them wanted to hit Disney Quest. This is a virtual theme park Disney has in Downtown Disney. Think virtual reality games. It was fun, especially the Virtual Space Mountain part, where you get to design and then ride your own rollercoaster.

The weather all day was overcast, but it was also cooler and less humid. Translation: the best weather we'd had all week.

(Since I've been telling everyone about my trip all week, I think this qualifies as an entry for Watercooler Wednesday.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Disney Report 1

I'm guessing it will take me a few days to report on the week, but we'll see.

Despite all the drama getting my flights to Florida arranged (what, you missed this post?), everything went fine at the airport. I was on the flights I thought I was on, got my boarding passes and checked my luggage with no problem. My flights were on time. And I slept pretty well on the longer first one. Heck, I even got a good nap on the second. And my room was ready when I got there since I got there later then originally planned. Which meant I could leave stuff in there and head out to the park.

As planned, I headed to Magic Kingdom first thing. I was supposed to connect with Angelique, but that didn't happen since her cell phone wasn't working and she was so tired she went back to her room to nap. But I did spend the day hanging out with Lori and her sister. It was their first time in any Disney park, so we had lots of fun. And I discovered just how disorienting things could be. Yes, it is the Magic Kingdom, but it is layed out very differently. Even the attractions with the same names are slightly different. The Fantasyland dark rides are longer and tell the story better. Haunted Mansion puts you on the ride sooner and adds a library filled with books by ghost writers. We hung out in the park until about 10 but then decided to go back to the hotel and get dinner. I met up with a whole bunch of my friends, and we hung out near the pool until close to twelve.

Monday morning was up and going early again. Animal Kingdom opened an hour early for resort guests (and there were plenty of us), so Lori, her sister, Angelique, and I headed there first. We started with Kilimenjaro Safari, a ride through an African preserve with real animals. I've heard that you see more animals in the morning. We certainly saw plenty. We skipped the raft ride because we didn't want to get wet. But we did ride Expedition Everst, which I loved. At that point, we split up, with Angelique and I finishing out the park by ourselves.

From there, we headed over to Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM). We managed to hit most of the rides here as well. It did help that the park was open late for resort guests that night. That's why I did Toy Story Midway Mania with only a 30 minute wait. (I love that ride.) We met up wtih the rest of the group for dinner at the Sci-Fi Dine In Theater. It's a restaurant set up to look like drive in. You even eat in cars and they play cartoons and previews for old 50's sci-fi movies. It makes it hard to talk, but it is lots of fun.

The one thing that was pretty bad about Monday was the weather. It started off party cloudy and humid, but it quickly clouded over. It started to rain about 2:30 and never really stopped. It was a warm rain, but I was concerned about my camera and cell phone getting wet. If it weren't for those things, I would have enjoyed the rain. Not that I let it stop me. I just covered my backpack with one of my coats and kept right on trecking.

See, I told you it would take me several entries to cover the entire trip. :)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Yes, I Am Back

Well, I was going to start posting about my trip today, but I spent too much time trying to catch up on TV. (And, yes, I am completely hooked on Heroes again already.)

But it's been a week since anything was posted, and I did want to pop in and let you know I was still alive. I had a great time in Florida at DisneyWorld. And I plan to post more about it later. I walked so much! Part of me is looking forward to returning to work so I can relax. Of course, the huge pile of work I will have waiting for me won't let that happen.

More details to follow soon. Right now, I need to start watching/blogging Dancing with the Stars. I'm ready for bed, and I've got two hours of that to go.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Gays and Christians

This week, I found out about a Christian singer who has come out of the closet. He's divorsed his wife and is now attending a gay friendly church and a living that lifestyle. This is a classic Christian artist who has probably faded from the minds of most Christians. And no, I am not going to name names because it is irrelevant for this discussion.

The article I read it on allowed comments. And the comments were fairly typical. There were those who promised to pray for the man. There were those who quote the scriptures that condeem the gay lifestyle. Then there were those who attacked the Bible thumpers for being hypocrites and compassionless. There were even those who praised the man in question for being true to himself.

And you know what. Both sides are right and both sides are wrong.

Let's make it abundantly clear I believe God condems the gay lifestyle. I am not going to go over them again because everyone on both sides is familiar with the verses that talk about this.

But what is the first Christian response when we learn someone is gay. To shun them. Take a step back, sometimes almost literally. To condeem them to hell. To throw up our hands and walk away because they have turned their back on God. And by all means, don't get too close because we might catch it. Whatever it is.

Now the pro-gay side is quick to point out that Jesus never said one word on the subject. And they are right. (Frankly, that's a red herring.) They are also quick to point out that Jesus showed compassion and love to those his society considered sinners. And they are absolutely correct. Remember, the Pharisees condeemed him for eating with tax collectors and prostitutes.

And remember his response. "It isn't the well that need a doctor but the sick."

On the flip side, we need to remember Jesus's words to the woman caught in adultry. Yes, he said "Neither do I condem you." But look at his next words. "Go and sin no more."

Yes, Jesus was kind and compassionate to sinners. (Praise God He was.) But He also called them on their sin and called them to repent. Remember Zacheaus. Jesus spent time with him, and as a result he repented. Would Jesus have continued to hang out with him if he rejected the call to repent? Maybe, maybe not.

Of course, Jesus did have an advantage because he knew the heart. The best we can do is love and call to repent. We will never know if someone's heart is beyond repentence or not.

But I want to look at the charge of hypocracy leveled at the people condeeming the sin of homosexuality. There is a certain point where it is true.

Let's look at the Christian music scandels of last decade. Sandi Patty admitted to an affair, got divorced, then married her lover. Amy Grant also divorced and remarried. And Michael English got someone other than his wife pregnant. In two of those cases, there was clear violation of the commands of scripture. In Amy's case, it really is hard to know all the facts to judge if there was sin on either side.

And how were they treated? Amy was hardly hurt. Sandi Patty disappeared for a year then came back. Only Michael English truely was hurt by his affair.

And I'll admit I was right there. While I haven't bought any more of Michael's music, I certainly continued to buy Amy and Sandi's music.

And there is a point where I can't judge. I am only getting part of the facts.

But when someone is living in sin, it is my job to call them on it, especially if that person is a believer.

Now, is the sin of homosexuality the unforgivable sin? Let's remember what Paul said in I Corinthians. "And such were some of you." And, while God dispises it, remember that list from the preceeding verse. "Neither Homosexals nor adulterers nor forecaters nor liars nor thieves will enter the kingdom of Heaven."  Fornecaters.  You know, anyone who has sex outside of marriage.  If that doesn't get you, there's always thieves.  And if that doesn't get you, there's liars.  Basically, this verse points out that no unforgiven sinner can enter the kingdom of Heaven.  So we can't sit here and judge someone else as worse than us.  In God's eyes we are just as deserving of hell as the homosexual.

So I can't sit here with impure thoughts and judge this person as worse than I am.

I can't sit here with anger against someone in my heart and judge this person as worse than I am.

And that's just from the last few days.

The truth is we are all sinners saved by grace. And we all will struggle with sin until the day we go home.

But there is another angle to all this. I just acknowledged my sin (rather publically). When I repent, I am forgiven. But this man isn't struggling with sin. He isn't trying to repent. He is living in it. In fact, he has embraced it. That is not something to celebrate. That is something to grieve over. And that is certainly something to pray over.

So yes, I will be praying for this man. But I will also continue to examine my heart. Because I am no better than he is without God's grace forgiving me daily of my sins.

This has been a rather series topic for Watercooler Wednesday.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fall Into Reading 2008 List

As you are reading this, I am enjoying Disney World in Florida. This is the first time I have scheduled something early, but it's a cool feature that Blogger has.

Anyway, since today is the first day of Fall, it's time for the Fall Into Reading Challenge hosted by Callapidder Days. Here's the list of books I will be trying to read this fall. Nope, it's not much longer than I can realistically get through. Why do you ask? :)

Stamped Out by Terri Thayer (This book should be "in progress" since I plan to start it on the plane tonight.

Next are the books I still haven't gotten to from my Spring List:
Mosaic: Pieces of My Life So Far by Amy Grant
Relentless by Robin Parrish
Murder in Grub Street by Bruce Alexander
Stalking the Puzzle Lady by Parnell Hall
Three Bags Full by Leoine Swann

Upcoming Books by Authors I Like:
Ninth Witness by Brock and Bodie Thoene
Murder Most Maine by Karen MacInerney
Six Geese A-Slaying by Donna Andrews
The Clockwork Teddy by John J. Lamb
Mr. Monk is Miserable by Lee Goldberg
The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J. K. Rowling

That's twleve books, which is probably a realistic goal. But I'm not stopping there. Here are other books I already have I'd love to get around to reading this fall.

A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman
Shooting Gallery by Hailey Lind
A Vicky Hill Exclusive! by Hannah Dennison
Slay it with Flowers by Kate Collins
Whatever Tomorrow Brings by Lori Wick

Since I am in a hurry, thinking about packing and Disney World, and tired after last night (read Saturday's post to find out why), I reserve the right to edit this list as the fall progresses with things I may have forgotten.

Edit: And here are books I am adding to the list.

Dark Pursuite by Brandilyn Collins (only because I didn't know I was getting an ARC until it arrived in the mail.)
The Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson