October 2010 Archives

Recent Books

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Some short reviews of the books I've finished(!) in the past month or so.

 Solar Solar by Ian McEwan My rating: ★★★✩✩ Solar was a very strange book. It tells the story of Michael Beard, a dissolute former Nobel Prize winner late in life, just floating along between speaking gigs, government panels and spots on company boards. He's gaining weight, getting divorced (for the 5th time) and finds it impossible to get motivated. A few things happen (good and bad) and his life is chronicled. I almost gave up on this book, deciding to follow Hank Stuevers' 50 page rule but before the 50 pages were up, he traveled to the Arctic for some pretty interesting comic (mis)adventures and so I stuck with it. Still not sure why, as Beard isn't that attractive, interesting or clever a character. I guess I just wanted to see what happened to him next, and was wondering if it would ever be explained why an aging, overweight, egotistical blowhard like Beard could keep finding women, especially attractive women (it wasn't).
L.A. Outlaws: A NovelL.A. Outlaws: A Novel by T. Jefferson Parker My rating: ★★ L.A. Outlaws is the first in a series by crime fiction veteran T. Jefferson Parker. The series features LA County Sheriff Charlie Hood and in this one, his path crosses with Suzanne Jones, a teacher by day and car thief / holdup artist / Jesse James-like Allison Murietta at night. Told both from Hood's and Jones/Murietta's point of view (plus a few slightly jarring other first person bits), it was a good ride, telling an interesting story of robbery and redemption, with plenty of blood and violence as well. I listened to it "on tape" (actually, MP3s burned to CD from my library) and it was really well done, with a male and female reader who both did a great job. Pretty good story marred by an all too predictable and far too clean ending. I'm anxious to try the second in the Hood series, The Renegades.
Quicksilver (Baroque Cycle, #1)Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson My rating: ★★ Quicksilver is a book I've been reading for quite some time - according to Goodreads, I started this book on April 29, 2009! I'm not sure why it took so long. I guess it is pretty dense and it is a very big book (about 1,000 pages), but I really loved every minute of it. What a wonderful cast of characters, great writing and some exciting scenes. Hard to really describe in a nutshell. A very meandering book, written in many different styles. One chapter could be a mini-play, another chapter written as a letter, yet another a normal 3rd person chapter, it basically tells the story of three people - Daniel Waterhouse, an English intellectual who is a close friend and supporter of Isaac Newton; Jack Shaftoe, a swashbuckling adventurer and "King of the Vagabonds"; and the very pretty and whip smart Eliza, rescued by Jack from a Turkish harem. The first of a monstrous trilogy, I can't wait to get started on The Confusion!
The BreachThe Breach by Patrick Lee My rating: ★★★✩✩ The Breach was an interesting sci-fi'ish thriller, the first in a series, about a weird "breach" from which strange and almost magical artifacts come through, and how these powerful items, in the "wrong" hands, could destroy the world. It started of well, with the usually very compelling "average" man thrust into a situation where he needs to adapt (rapidly!) or die, but then it wanders off into some pretty weird territory. It includes some pretty hard to swallow scenes of total urban destruction, with little or no repercussions. In many ways, The Breach reminded me of Suarez's Daemon, with its near future plausibility and pretty mixed up storyline (both were first novels as well). It was a page turner though and I am looking forward to the next one.
The ShotThe Shot by Philip Kerr My rating: ★★ The Shot is a Philip Kerr thriller about an assassination attempt on John Kennedy and the efforts of the Mob (!) to thwart it. A very odd book, with mostly repugnant characters, made it one of my least favorite Kerr books. It has a problem it shared with The Day of the Jackal, about de Gaulle getting assassinated - you know it isn't going to happen (well, tragically in Kennedy's case, not yet). Although he does make it all plausible in the end, and even hints of a conspiracy on the real assassination, it still wasn't a very compelling book. When your "best" character is a corrupt ex-cop hired by the Mob, you know you have problems.

One interesting thing about the above "books" is just how many different ways you can read one these days. One was a borrowed hardcover (The Shot from a friend and ), another a library hardcover and then finished in paperback (Quicksilver), another a book on tape (L.A. Outlaws) and the other two were ebooks borrowed from my library and read on my Nook. I'm really enjoying my Nook, and A10.0 is reading Little Women on it and loves it too.

View all my Goodreads reviews

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I Remember

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The Friday Drabble #10: Treats or Trick?

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drabble-150x150.pngRoss has a special Friday Drabble today and I couldn't resist joining in! Join in with your own 100 word stories on Fridays, and tag them with "friday drabble".  Link to them in the comments and/or on Twitter with the hashtag #fridaydrabble.

Of course, it would be a Halloween one, so here's mine.



The mist lifted as he struggled through the thick undergrowth. A weak sun fought both fog and leaves, giving him enough light to avoid the branches that had been whipping across his face as he raced away. He wiped the blood from his eyes, but not in time to notice a protruding tree root and he crashed to the ground. Scrambling to his feet, he looked wildly around for an escape. A break in the thick forest beckoned, but a massive hand grabbed him by the throat, lifted him from the ground, his legs thrashing. It squeezed.  All went dark.
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Book Review: The Beatles

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The Beatles:  The BiographyThe Beatles: The Biography by Bob Spitz

My rating: ★★★★✩

I finally finished this nearly 1000 page behemoth! And, actually, it was worth it. Never really a huge Beatles groupie (before my time - honestly!), but I have most of their albums and really like their later stuff. The earlier music, while catchy, just isn't sophisticated enough for me.

In this massive biography, Spitz starts with John Lennon and then Paul McCartney growing up in Liverpool, a grungy industrial backwater. Both had pretty tough childhoods - Lennon's father left the family when Lennon was very young, and Paul's mum died of cancer. Both turned to music as a refuge, as neither was a very good student. They quickly bonded and even began writing songs as teenagers, despite very little exposure, as during that time, only a few foreign stations carried any interesting music.

The Beatles wave to fans after arriving at Ken...

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George Harrison, a few years younger, starting hanging with them and they formed a band with some other mates. The music business was even more insular and hard to crack than it is today, but they persevered and were off to Germany for some hard living and hard playing. 8 hours a day on stage, they honed their craft to a fine point. After they got back, they canned their drummer, Pete Best and hired Ringo Starr. Some say it was due to a lack of technical prowess, although Spitz also claims that part of it was jealousy on McCartney and, especially, Lennon's part as Best was drawing too many fans.

Spitz then chronicles the rapid rise of Beatlemania and just how crazy things got, as The Beatles tried to survive their crazy fandom. It is a wonder they toured even as little as they did, as it must have been very exhausting. Then, as they made money like the printed it, they spent it on various endeavors, from clothing to plays to music.

The book ended as they split up, in the late 60s, as jealousies really tore the band apart. John was mad at all the control Paul was trying to take, while George was tired of being the 3rd, unappreciated wheel. Even Ringo got tired of the bickering, so it was a relief to all when they went their separate ways.

A very read
Screenshot of The Beatles from the trailer for...

Image via Wikipedia

able book with only a few nitpicks. I got tired of all the armchair psychology Spitz went into. Some of it was possible but plenty of it was junk. I just didn't believe the part about being jealous of Best, and a few other times. I realize these guys are high strung "artists", but they must have been a little more confident of their own strengths than Spitz makes them out to be. I also thought he delved into the childhoods of too many peripheral characters. While I realize Brian Epstein, their first manager, is an integral part of the story, there was just too much detail of his background, going back a couple of generations.

It was really eye opening just how little control The Beatles had over many things, from financial to even music. It was amazing how mangled their US releases were. The record labels just kind of picked and choose the songs that went on what albums, packaged new ones, all willy nilly and without anything The Beatles could do, especially in the early years, But even later, when they were the biggest thing on the planet, their music was turned over to Phil Spector for "production" without any of their input. It was crazy.

Spitz did an excellent job describing the music, though. Each album's creative process as described in fascinating detail, from the early days of just 4 of them playing intensely, to the wildly creative days of Rubber Soul, Revovler, and then, of course, Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road, where they were just breaking new ground in music every song, or even every bar. What a heady time that must have been!

I really enjoyed the background into the phenomenon that was The Beatles. Certainly, it was a book that had its own soundtrack, as the songs constantly played in my mind while reading. Highly recommended!

View all my Goodreads reviews >>>
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Cheap Roku & Free Netflix

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If you buy a Roku box via the link below, you get the lowest price and I get a free month of Netflix - a win-win! And I love my Roku box!


Get $20 off a Roku Player!

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imbibing Away

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Drambuie Bottle

Image via Wikipedia

We had our weekly cocktail & computer gaming session last night and we opened with a cocktial found in the latest issue of imbibe magazine, which showed up in the mail yesterday. While many of the cocktails in this magazine tend to use fancy, custom syrups (like this month's The Witch Hunt, which wants you to make "apple-cardamom syrup" ), there's always a few that are useful. In this case, we tried the The Kilted Pistolero, which is a very nice tasting mixture of tequila & Drambuie. It says the recipe was created to bring the bottle of Drambuie from the back of the bar (guess no one likes Rusty Nails or Stingers any more!)

The Kilted Pistolero

  • 1.5oz blanco tequila (I actually used my favorite reposado, Cazadores
  • 3/4oz fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4oz Drambuie
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters (I used the Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters)
Shake in ice-filled shaker and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Rusty Nail

  • 1.5 oz Scotch (I'm a Dewar's White Label fan)
  • .5oz Drambuie

Pour Scotch and Drambuie over plenty of ice in an Old Fashioned glass. Stir well, and serve with stirrer.


Stinger

Same as above - pour liquors into Old Fashioned glass with plenty of ice. Stir and server with stirrer.

We followed that with a full icey mug of Sierra Nevada North Hemisphere Harvest beer, one of imbibe's 50 Best Brews for Every Season, in this case, the Fall beers. I went on a quest for the fall beers last month and found a couple. The Brooklyn Brewery Oktoberfest beer was only okay - nothing too memorable. The Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen was realy good while the Aecht Ochlenferla Rauchbeir was a truly strange tasting "smoked" beer.

I was also able to find the Southern Hemisphere Harvest beer (which was pretty good) but it wasn't until Michael found it that we got to try the Northern Hemisphere. A very hoppy beer. I liked the Southern Hemisphre better, as it was smoother but with as much character as the Northern.

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Joke: Deer Camp

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MsRedPen posts a pretty funny joke, which is especially apropos, as my annual battle to go to Maine deer hunting approaches as well.

Four guys have been going to the same deer camp together for years. A couple of days before they plan to leave, Ron's wife puts her foot down and tells him he isn't going.

 Ron's friends are very upset that he can't go, but what can they do?

Two days later, the three men arrive at the campsite only to find Ron sitting there with a tent set up, firewood gathered, and dinner cooking on the fire.

"Whoa man, how long have you been here? How did you talk your wife into letting you go?"

"I got here last night. Yesterday evening, I was sitting in my chair and my wife came up behind me, put her hands over my eyes, and said, 'Guess who?' I pulled her hands off, and she was wearing a brand new nightie. She took my hand and pulled me to our bedroom. The room had candles and rose petals all over. On the bed she had handcuffs, and ropes! She told me to tie and cuff her to the bed, and I did.

 And then she said, 'Do whatever you want.'

So, here I am."


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Beautiful Maria of My SoulBeautiful Maria of My Soul by Oscar Hijuelos

My rating: ★★✩✩✩

Just didn't do anything for me. I last about 3 CDs worth but reading about "the most beautiful girl in the world", and the dozens of ways to say that, just got plain tiring. She wasn't really all that interesting as a main character -just a blank slate. And while the seedy underworld of Havana was well described, everyone seems to be a lout. I just moved on.


View all my Goodreads reviews >>>


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FCKH8

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It's late enough here on the East Coast of the US to drop the F-bomb, isn't it? Many times, right? Well, here's the pretty funny ad for FCKH8.com -

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Back In The Saddle Again?

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Well, I'm back to Jiggle The Handle after a couple years absence. Actually, it looks like it has been about 3 1/2 years since my last Jiggle post, as I went over to the ill-fated Vox. Mind you, it was fun while it lasted. I really enjoyed the community that built up and, even though I had sort of stepped away from even that, it was a shock to hear of Six Apart pulling the plug. I hemmed and hawed about what to do next. There were a few tools for saving my Trifle One Sided blog and importing it into a few places. I did do the Wordpress thing, as well as the Typepad thing. I did the Multiply.com thing and even the Blogger thing (on TrifleOneSided.com even). But it wasn't the same.

And my MovableType installed on my server had grown stale and out of date. I was running MovableType v3.02 (I think) and MovableType v5.0 had just been released. And my FreeBSD ports system had completely mucked with the installed version, so the MovableType control panel didn't even work. On top of that, I really wasn't feeling very predisposed towards working with MovableType at all.

But I bit the bullet and did the tortuous upgrades, one version at a time, until I made it all the way to v5.031. And, especially with the addition of web sites, I hate to admit it, but I really like it. Darn it all.

So I've just imported all my old Trifle One Sided posts into my Jiggle blog and let's see what happens. I'm going to try and use this one the way I used to use it - Jiggle will be my general blog platform, Daemon Dancing is my Linux / Techie / Nerdly blog and Incredible Brightness of Seeing will be my movie blog again. Heck, I've been tempted to restart my From Here To Oblivion blog again, which chronicles my Elder Scrolls 4: Obilivion gameplay. You can follow them all from the main sites - http://anaze.us for the non-tech blogs and http://linux.amazingdev.com/ for the techie talk.

Woo hoo!

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from October 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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