Recently in trifle Category

Lone Ranger Joke

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Joke just over the email transom:

The Lone Ranger and Tonto went camping in the desert. After they got their tent all set up, both men fell sound asleep.

Some hours later, Tonto wakes the Lone Ranger and says, "Kemo Sabe, look towards sky, what you see?"

The Lone Ranger replies, "I see millions of stars."
 
"What that tell you?" asked Tonto.

The Lone Ranger ponders for a minute then says, "Astronomically speaking, it tells me there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo.  Time wise, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three in the morning. Theologically, the Lord is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What's it tell you, Tonto?"
 
"You dumber than buffalo pie. It means someone stole tent."

Book Review: Homeland

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Homeland (Forgotten Realms: The Dark Elf Trilogy, #1; Legend of Drizzt, #1)Homeland by R.A. Salvatore

My Rating: ★★★✩✩

Homeland is a solid fantasy adventure, set in the world of the Icewind Dale, the Dungeons and Dragons based computer RPG that I've been playing with a friend. It tells the story of how Drizzt, a dark elf who's story was first told in the Icewind Dale trilogy, became an outcast from the deeply evil and chaotic Dark Elves, and begins the Legend Of Drizzt. Nothing to set the world on fire, but interesting enough for me to both read and get the second in the series.

Menzoberranzen is an underground city, virtually a world all in itself (although the economies, feeding and other basic civil engineering feats are never explained). Here in this perpetual darkness live the Dark Elves (or Drow), a chaotic evil society who's basic tenet is that if you can get away with it, you should do it. A strict hierarchy of "houses" rules this strong matriarchy, and the top 8 houses form a ruling council. If you want to move up, you need to completely wipe out a house "in front of you", so each moves up one position. And by completely wipe out, we mean to the very last survivor (or witness). Do this, and your house is cool in the eyes of the Spider Queen Lloth, the evil deity all serve.

Drizzt is born just as his house (ranked 10th) attacks the 4th ranked house, and his life is to be sacrificed to Lloth. But he escapes this fate (obviously!) and grows to be a curious little Drow, as he doesn't understand the bloodthirsty Drow and their spider deity. Although he gets sent to all the right places and learns to be a swordsamn (using scimitars!) of unparalleled mastery, he always doubts the evil society and finally escapes (or is banished - sort of "I quit", "You can't quit you're fired" scenario) to the far reaches of the Underdark.

I enjoyed the book, although the writing could be a bit wooden. Drizzt also seemed to be a bit of a whiner and I never truly got to understand his hatred of a society he never knew an alternative to, besides the fact he had blue eyes. Many of the fight scenes, while packed with action, seemed to provide unnecessary and even confusing details.

I guess the "first" three books were written as a sort of prequel to the original 3 books of the Icewind Dale trilogy, so it can be a little confusing to figure out what order to read them in. I've decided to read them in story-chronology order, so I've already ordered up book 2, Exile. It was actually my first eBook purchase (I read Homeland on my Nook as well), used to test the Borders.com eBook coupon usage. Short review - worked fine, but it takes several hours from purchase to actually bein able to download the book, which was weird, I thought. But like I said, it was good enough for me to finish and order the second, so go with that.

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Book Review: The Poacher's Son

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  The Poacher's Son (Mike Bowditch Mysteries)The Poacher's Son by Paul Doiron

My rating: ★★★★✩

The Poacher's Son tells the story of a young game warden in the backwoods of Maine, trying to escape the shackles of a broken home and make a life for himself. His dad, a bit of a lowlife and (ex?)poacher becomes a suspect in a gruesome murder of another game warden and the rep of a company buying up forests in Maine and threatening to kick off people who have quasi-legal houses on the land. Tauntly and authentically written, this book is the first one in a while that kept meup reading.

Game Warden Mike Bowditch's life is a bit of a mess. Newly graduated from college, he loves the idea of being a Maine game warden, but his new wife isn't so crazy about life in the Great North Woods and has left him for the "bright" lights of Portland. Then he gets a mysterious message on his answering machine from his dad, who has become a fugitive after a double murder in his small home town. Now everyone suspects Mike's motives, although he's convinced the cops have the wrong man and is trying to find the truth without stepping on too many toes.

As a guy who has spent more than his fair share of time in the Maine woods, I can say that Mr. Doiron has nailed the woods, game wardens, and the relationships they have with everyone else. My relatives were more on the other side of the law :) but this Maine author writes with amazing clarity and accuracy. Hard to believe this is a debut novel!

My biggest complaint (and it's a tiny one!) is one I have had with plenty of mysteries lately - the police get fixated on a suspect too quickly and with too much rigidity. I think the police would be more flexible in their suspects, but many books have them picking someone out early and sticking with them, right or wrong, good evidence or bad. Seems a little forced, and it did here, as the evidence mounts in other directions.

But other than that, it was a really fun read. I couldn't put it down, staying up way too late the first night and finishing it up the second night. Easy read, with a tense, interesting story. I can't wait for Mike Bowditch #2!

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Joke: Parking Spot

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A guy was driving down the street in a sweat because he had an important meeting and couldn't find a parking spot.

Looking up to heaven, he said: "Lord, take pity on me. If you find me a parking place I will go to mass every Sunday for the rest of me life and give up me whiskey!"

Miraculously, a parking spot suddenly appeared.

http://i596.photobucket.com/albums/tt45/getfrank/070510/parkingspot.jpg

The guy looked up again and said: "Never mind, I found one."

Joke: Bud Goggles

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The latest joke carelessly tossed over the email transom:

A husband and wife are shopping in their local Wal-Mart. The husband picks up a case of Budweiser and puts it in their cart.

"What do you think you're doing?" asks the wife.

"They're on sale, only $10 for 24 cans" he replies.

"Put them back, we can't afford them" demands the wife, and so they carry on shopping.

A few aisles further on along the woman picks up a $20 jar of face cream and puts it in the basket.

"What do you think you're doing?" asks the husband.

"It's my face cream. It makes me look beautiful" replies the wife.

Her husband retorts, "So does 24 cans of Budweiser and it's half the price."

On the PA system: "Cleanup on aisle 25, we have a husband down."

  The Best Old Movies for Families: A Guide to Watching TogetherThe Best Old Movies for Families: A Guide to Watching Together by Ty Burr

My rating: ★★★★★

Wow, what a wonderfully fun book! Lots of great movies to expose the girls too, who already have a pretty good appreciation for B&W movies. They loved "The Kid", enjoy the 3 Stooges and really had fun with "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein" (even if Burr disparages that classic).

Definitely going to show them "Bringing Up Baby" and "Meet Me In St. Louis" next. Wish more of these were available on demand as opposed to DVD rental, but hey, what can you do?

So if you love "old" movies, even if you don't have kids, get this book. There are lots of recommended movies, with plenty of interesting tidbits, to keep you entertained for hours.

If you have kids, don't really know old movies, and want to show them the classics, get this book. Burr goes to great lengths to explain why a movie might appeal to a younger generation, splitting the movies up into 3 groups - for the youngest of them, "tweeners" and teenagers. With 2 daughters of his own, this book hits particularly close to home and I am anxious as all get out to try a few more on them.

I'm marking this as "Read" but really will be returning to it often. My first purchase on my new Nook and a great reference to keep stored there.

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Nooks and Crannies

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After much deliberation and searching, I finally broke down and bought an "eReader". The new price cuts of the Amazon Kindle (down to $189) and the B&N Nook (down to $149 (wifi) and $199 (wifi & 3G)) got my friends and I talking about them, comparing them, and wondering about them. I had a $30 gift certificate to Best Buy (who sells the nook) and am doing a lot more traveling these days (we bought a camp on a lake in Maine), so I decided to splurge and pick one up. Disappointingly, Best Buy only carries the wifi+3G Nook, not the less expensive wifi-only one. I don't really think I need the 3G, especially as it doesn't look like the area where our camp is located is covered by the AT&T network (I don't have T-Mobile 3G but my wife has Verizon 3G). But I'm an impatient guy and want it now, so I splurged on the 3G version (disappointingly, 3G coverage seems to be the only difference).

I got it home, opened it up and here are my first impressions after lightly playing with it for a couple of hours:

  • It came with 1.3 version of the software, which I got to use for about 10 minutes, then it installed 1.4 automatically (and a little invisibly). Didn't really notice any difference.
  • You can't read it in the dark. Seriously, I wasn't sure about this! Guess that's why all the little book lights are sold for it.
  • It flashes from black on white, to all black, to black on white on every page turn, although I guess you get used to it. After playing with it for a couple of hours, it has already faded from notice, although not completely. The Kindle does this too. I'm surprised no review of these readers ever mentions this.
  • The touchscreen isn't as responsive as I'd like. And supposedly you can "swipe" it when it is dark to "turn" the pages, but that is even more sporadic. Not worth even doing. Edit: After reading the user manual, it seems there is a special swipe to use - make sure your finger is moving before it hits the screen. This seems to work better but it still annoyingly misses swipes, or turns the screen back into the menu selection.
  • If you have any idea you'll get a nook, or even if you don't, get a bn.com account set up. You'll need it to register your nook.
  • You need a working credit card even to download free stuff. I hadn't used my account in so long my CC on record was expired and I couldn't download anything.
  • I got 3 books with it free - Pride & Prejudice, Dracula, and Little Women.
  • There's currently an excellent promotion with a bunch of free classic eBooks like Huckleberry Finn, Red Badge Of Courage and more. Get an account and "buy" them, which puts them in your eLibrary, where you can later download them, either to your computer or your nook: All-American B&N Classic eBooks
  • You really really really want a touchscreen for the big screen too. At least I do, as I'm used to a touchscreen on my phone. Sometimes lists will show up and it is just soooo painful to scroll down the list using the arrow buttons on the little touchscreen. I realize there are tradeoffs here, but still... I did find one handy shortcut - press and hold on the down arrow and the cursor will skip to the bottom selection.
  • Looks like many books are wifi download only, making the 3G even more useless.
  • There's only like a dozen magazines and an equal number of newspapers, so that's hardly a big selling point. Wish there were more magazines.
  • Speaking of sparse, they waste a button for "games", which is chess & soduku. Woo hoo. It would be nice if they opened up a "market" for the Nook, as then all the Android software could move over to it.
  • Looks like plenty of bookmarking and note taking capabilities, but I haven't explored them much. You can only use these on books, not blog posts or other docs.
  • My page on the B&N social site is: My B&N. Come by and be my friend there :)

More notes from playing with it since yesterday:

  • The lending feature is something else that is overblown. You can only lend some books, and then only once for a short 14 days.
  • Calibre is one sweet eBook management system!
  • PDF reading is pretty rudimentary. At small font size, it scales to fit the display, but it really hard to read. At bigger font sizes, the line and page breaks are wacky. Hopefully, as I use Calibre to convert to ePub, it will be better.
  • It doesn't recognize MP3 v1.1 tags, so I needed to make sure the v2.3 tags were up to date on my songs. And even then, it doesn't look like the nice little color display shows the cover images :(
  • I wonder how good the graphics conversion works? Haven't tried installing any wallpapers or screensavers yet.
  • From The-eBook-Reader.com comes some nice site lists: Free eBooks and Where To Buy eBooks
  • Man, eBooks sure are expensive! I know even paperbacks are expensive these days, but still - $10 for most eBooks? Ouch.


Book Review: Murder At Manassas

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Murder at Manasses: A Harrison Raines Civil War Mystery Murder at Manasses: A Harrison Raines Civil War Mystery by Michael Kilian

My rating: ★★★★✩

Murder at Manassas (not -es, as in the title here on Goodreads!)  was a pretty solid start to the Harrison Raines Civil War Mysteries series. More of a 3.5 star book, but the main character was likable and the milieu was better than average and overcame the rather pedestrian writing and confusing plot.

Harrison Raines is a rather well off dandy, who passes the time playing cards and investing in various money making schemes. Washington DC is all a twitter, as the first big battle of the American Civil War is about to commence, with the Confederates meeting the Union at the nearby town of Manassas. The Confederates were to call this the Battle of Manassas, as they usually named them after nearby towns, while the Union called it the Battle of Bull Run, using a nearby river or other geographic location. The battle was watched by a whole stream of civilians, who flocked to the site from DC to catch what they figured would be the first and last battle of the Civil War.

Raines gets dragged along by Caitlin, with whom he is smitten yet who doesn't return the favor, as she loves John Wilkes Booth (yes, that Booth). But he does as bidden and they see the Union disaster unfold before them. They also see a Major Pleasants try to stem the tide of retreating blue, only to be shot down. Later he is asked to help retrieve the body and there uncovers a startling fact - Pleasants was almost certainly murdered!

This also leads him into a labyrinthine maze of torn loyalties, Federal jurisdictions, plots, counter plots and treachery. Who is trying to steal shoes from the Union and give them to the Confederate? Who killed a sargeant and tried to pin it on Raines? Can he find the answers to these before being arrested and thrown in jail by the DC marshall, or should he help Pinkerton?

Lots of minor characters show up and sometimes I lost track of them. There are plenty of historical figures who play parts, both major and minor in the story, including Clara Barton, Allan Pinkerton, and even Abraham Lincoln himself, who has some of the most amusing dialog. The story was a little too complex, I thought, and the writing servicable at best. But I liked all the characters and loved how the history was woven in. I'm looking forward to the second book in the series, A Killing at Ball's Bluff: A Harrison Raines Civil War Mystery.

PS: Darn it all - Michael Kilian died in 2005, ending the series at the Battile of Antietam, Harrison Raines book #6. That's sad

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Book Review: World Cup 2010

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World Cup 2010: The Indispensable Guide to Soccer and Geopolitics World Cup 2010: The Indispensable Guide to Soccer and Geopolitics by Steven D. Stark

My rating: ★★★★★

What a great book! If you are at all interested in the 2010 World Cup this is the book for you. Lots of interesting detail on all the countries, some World Cup history, bold predictions and more. Even a little blurb on each country's national anthem! Wonderful book!

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Book Review: March Violets

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March Violets (Bernard Gunther, #1) March Violets by Philip Kerr

My rating: ★★★★✩

Good to go back and reread an old favorite. This is especially interesting as I recently finished up all the current ones in the series (I hear there's another one on the way) and it was fun to read this with all the knowledge of the coming books.

In this, the first book of the Berlin Noir trilogy (there are also 3 more after the trilogy in the Bernie Gunther series by Philip Kerr), Bernie is asked by Herman Six, rich industrialist (do they have those any more or is that a WW2 idiom?), to find a necklace stolen from his murdered daughter's safe. Of course, it isn't that straight forward and before you know it, Bernie is involved in some nasty politics with such Nazi "luminaries" as Himmler and Goerring. He of course, is anti-Nazi, even to his detriment, and spends time Dachau even.

Spolier Alert! I'll do this in white - select the text if you want to read it!

Looking back on it, there seems to be an over-reliance on coincidence. This is especially true in thes search for the women's necklace, as there is a sudden plot pivot towards the end that is a little hard to believe. He actually comes across the daughter but doesn't recognize her, because he's never seen a picture of her. Then he notices a picture on Six's desk of her and says "Oh, I know her!". They then have to try to rescue her from the clutches of Six's own thugs. Not sure I buy it - even if he isn't investigating her murder, and she was purportedly burned in a fire, I still feel like he would have seen a picture.

And I also need to read the next book in the trilogy, The Pale Criminal to see if Inge shows up again, as she went missing in this book and that plot point was left dangling.

But all in all, it was a fun read. I don't usually reread books, as I have too many on my To Read list already (313 at last count!). But this was fun, visiting an old friend, as I haven't read this book in probably 15 years. There were still some classic lines, which I need to get put into Goodreads. Try this book if you at all like dectective fiction - you won't be disappointed.

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March Violets
Philip Kerr

Vehement Flame #5

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Finally came out with Vehement Flame #5, with the following list of artists:

Citay, The New Pornographers, pandoras.box, Taken By Trees, lowercase noises, Xiu Xiu, The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, The Stompers, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Moon And Her Mother, Psapp, Justine Bennett, Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson, GIGI, Big Pig

It's too big to upload, so please head on over to the web site for a listen. Or download it here:

Vehement Flame #5 : New and Free



Book Review: The Exile

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My rating: ★✩✩✩✩

What a bunch of junk. Wooden writing, cardboard characters and purple prose all led me to abandon this doorstop after less than 300 pages. Coincidences abound, emotions explode and very little of it makes any sense. 

Guess I'm just not the mass market thriller type.


The Exile
Allan Folsom

Friday Media [5]

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Not a whole bunch of media notes, but enough to fill a Media [5] again, I think:


     
  • Watched the original D.O.A. on Netflix Instant and liked it a lot. It had a little too much music and there was one strange spot where Frank Bigelow went to SF to "unwind" and he ended up in a hotel with lots of pretty girls and every time he glanced over at one, the music would do a litle wolf whistle, which I found a little jarring. But once the action started, it was interesting and ended perfectly.

  •  
  • Also finally got 'round to watching The Hurt Locker on Netflix Bluray. A solid, exciting action flick, with a top notch "you are there" feeling. But that's all - nothing too deep and sometimes even a little predictable. A real testosterone fest, with some excellent explosions, definitely putting my subwoofer to the test. A disappointing Oscar Best Picture winner, but a good view nonetheless. Virtually no extras on the disc at all, save for a commentary track (which I never get to anyway). And shouldn't they be wearing something on their hands?

  •  
  • Mostly just have time for TV episode watching. I enjoyed season one of Californication, although I find it impossible to believe anyone really talks like that. Finished season five of LOST, which I have enjoyed but find it a little too weird usually. Started to watch the first season of Ally McBeal but am finding it too angsty. I watched pilot episode for free on the computer, via Amazon Video On Demand, but watching a few more episodes on DVD is getting me hinky. Way too much angst. And I watched the first "season" of The Guild and thought it pretty funny. For some reason, I couldn't get the second "season" to play on my PS3 Netflix Instant, but I'll try again tonight.

  •  
  • I'm re-reading Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series, starting with the first one, March Violets. What fun. To balace off that fun, I decided to try a mass market "thriller" by Alan Folsoom. I saw the 3rd book in the series at the library and the back cover sounded interesting enough, so I grabbed the first massive tome, The Exile. I'm on about page 200 of the book and it's just painful. Absolutely no grace in the writing, all the characters emote wildly and the action is one coincidence after another. I'll probably soldier on for a few more chapters but I can't imagine actually finishing it.

  •  
  • Still listening to The New Pornographer's Together CD. My girls really like it, especially songs 3 - 5 : Your Hands (Together), Silver Jenny Dollar and Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk. It's a little uncomfortable saying their name to them though and I can just see them going to school and saying they love listening to Pornographers at home! And am also really enjoying Jakob Dylan's Women+Country.


The New Pornographers - "Your Hands (Together)" Official Video

Jakob Dylan: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert



BP Joke

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Not much of one, really, but the only thing one can do as we silently boil with ineffetual rage against the BP machine:

What do you call a boatload of BP executives sinking in oil-covered seas with no lifeboats, each one leaping into the vile mix of crude and salt water, flailing to stay afloat before their lungs fill with the poisoned mixture and they sink to the bottom to be eaten by oil-mutated bottom-feeders?

A good start!

Two boatloads?

A GREAT start!


HDTV Calibration

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I have a couple HDTV calibration DVDs, and I actually used one once. Now that I've replaced the bulb on my Sony WEGA TV, I probably should do it again. But I just found out about an interesting location for a calibration tester in this NY Times article:

If you own any Sony Blu-ray discs then you have already have the calibration tests you need. Type in "7669" in your DVD remote control and press enter – the Sony Blu-ray will lead you through a series of tests and screens to get your monitor perfect.

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