Monday, September 28, 2015

Light Blogging

I haven't had a chance to read much of anything lately - too much traveling.
After our return from New Orleans, we had two days at home, then on Wednesday evening I flew from Boise to Baltimore, where my son picked me up and we went back to Quantico Marine Base to finish packing up his worldly goods and drive with him back to Boise. A late night cleaning, and a too short sleep in the Ramada nearby, as the movers had already taken away the bedrooms.

The next day was spent going from one office to another around the base, collecting checkmarks on his outprocessing documents, requesting records, and all that fun paperwork. Really. All stinkin' day.

Around 5 PM (and we started at 7 AM) we headed away from Fort Belvoir's hospital basement, and had a nice dinner in Old Occaquon at a place whose name I can't recall right now, but it's right down on the bay there. A couple of good microbrews and some decent seafood.

We had planned on going to the Virginia vs Boise State football game on Friday, so we drove down part of the way and got a room near Spottsylvania. A more satisfactory sleep this time, and a great breakfast at the Waffle House across the street. We discussed it a bit, and came to the conclusion that, though we had seats right on the 50 yard line, and it was going to be a great game, the wiser course was to begin heading west right away, since we needed to be back in Boise by Sunday night.

An uneventful drive through VA, PA and Ohio, and we stayed in Waseon on Friday night, had a nice meal at a Mexican joint, got a reasonable night's sleep, then pressed on Saturday morning for parts further west. Found ourselves in the middle of Nebraska by evening, and had some good ribs and steak at Uncle Dick's Steak House in Grand Island. Stayed in a threadbare motel run by some very nice Indian or Pakistani folks, and were thoroughly unimpressed by the continental breakfast the next morning.

The last day was a long haul, from the middle of Nebraska all the way to Wyoming, Utah and eventually arriving in Boise around 11 PM. A grueling marathon ride.

Back to work, trying to recover.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews

It's rather stunning what happens when you pick up a book written by true craftspersons. I usually end up staying awake past my bedtime, devouring it eagerly, until reason or sheer inability to keep my eyes open forces me to close. This was my experience with Magic Shifts, which I managed to pick up the same week it hit Amazon.

Kate and Curran have left the pack, in order to save Atlanta from death and destruction wielded by her father, Roland. She has acquired a magic bond to the land and its inhabitants that she hasn't even begun to figure out yet, which may make ongoing episodes interesting as she comes into her powers. They have formed their own security and investigation business, Cutting Edge, and moved into what passes for suburbia in post-Shift Georgia.

When an old friend from the pack, Eduardo (a were-buffalo) disappears during what should have been a routine job for the Mercenary Guild, Kate and Curran hunt for him, and stumble into a really nasty mess.  A powerful, vindictive magical being has come to town, and is taking control of humans and turning them into monsters.

The plot thickens when Kate's father, Roland, plays the devoted paternal type, rather than the psychopathic megalomaniac, and invites her and Curran to dinner to quiz them about their wedding plans.

Kate and Company seem to flail their way from one situation to another, dealing with the new and unexpected adversary, spending time with "Dad", navigating politics with the Pack they have left behind, and taking on a new challenge, reforming the Guild. But at the tail end of the book, Curran actually puts together  plan to confront the monsters which works, in far less pages than it should have. Did we run up against a word count limit?

Good story, lots of fun, and a few "in" references for old geeks.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Not with a Bang, but with a Whisper

Our final day in the Big Easy, the Crescent City, was pretty low key. We got up and went down to Daisy Duke's again for breakfast, and I had bowl of the fluffiest biscuits, smothered in country gravy, that I have ever encountered. Stuck to fruit juices instead of the temptation of their Bloody Marys. Went for a streetcar ride out to the Cemetaries - thousands upon thousands of above-ground graves, and reflected upon mortality.

Back downtown, wandered around on Royal Street and picked up some Mardi Gras beads to bring home for friends, had a smoothie at Smoothie King, and eventually got picked up at our hotel by the airport shuttle. Had an amazingly good muffuletta at the Cheesecake Scoop Cafe out at the airport - seriously - better than the Central Grocery original in my opinion.

The less said about the frustrations of air travel the better, at this point, but we did get home in the wee hours of the morning safely.

Perhaps a wrap-up on what it all means one of these days. Still digesting.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Jazzin' it Up

Decided on a whim to have breakfast at Daisy Duke's just around the corner from the hotel, and was extremely pleasantly surprised by the food and service. Had an alligator omelette with a bowl of grits and a lite fluffy buttermilk biscuit that was absolutely wonderful. They had an early bird special 2-for-1 Bloody Marys, and though we missed the deadline by about ten minutes, they still delivered on it with a couple of reallly really tasty drinks. 

The forecast called for 93 degrees, so I stopped at a Levis store and picked up a pair of shorts to wear, nipped back to the hotel to change, and we were on our way. Made a stop at the Jaxson brewery mall, but didn't find the brewery, then wandered on over to the Jazz National Park office and signed up for a walking tour. Had a good time on the tour, and then watched a trio play in a small ampitheater for a while. 

Checked out the jazz bars on Frenchmen St, but none of them were open yet, so we went back to the market area and had a decent lunch, though not a great one, of po'boys, but our seats were in the front row to listen to the Jazz Cats trio. Wandered over to the US Mint and heard a great jazz duo play and sing, then back across town to Lafitte's Blacksmith Shoppe for a quick Abita and then headed back to the hotel for a cool down before heading out for the evening.

Walked down to the Mississippi to go on a dinner and jazz cruise, but discovered that they were all sold out. A bit disappointed, we wandered back to the French Quarter and had a nice little meal in the courtyard of The Creole Kitchen - the oysters rockefeller, bienville and toulouse were marvelous! Wandered around on Royal Street looking at some of the art galleries for a while, but called it another early evening and left the crush of partiers before things got any crazier.

New Orleans Second Glance

We got up fairly early and walked down to Bourbon Street, where we had beignets and an Andouille sausage omelette while listening to a banjo player at Cafe Beignet. The beignets were hot and fresh, better than a Krispy Kreme, and the sparrow pirates made off with any unattended food, but the omelette was a bit uninspired. Took a self-directed walking tour of the quarter after that, until I lost track of where we were, and decided to simply head for Jackson Square.

Early in the day, the buskers and street vendors were barely setting up, so we wandered on past, only taking time to visit the Presbytere and look at the artwork and stained glass. 

Took  stroll on the Moon Walk, until the rising sun and heat grew unbearable. Bought a hat from a street vendor to shield my tender, bald scalp, then bought a day pass on the streetcar line and cruised on out to the Garden District, to marvel at the mansions, take a stroll in Audubon Park (which oddly enough had a very clean public restroom near the golf course; I wasn't expecting much), and see Loyola University. 

Headed down to Decatur Street across from the French Market to have a muffaletta sandwich at the Central Grocery. The sandwich was massive (we split a half) and very tasty, and we ate it at the crowded counter, washed down with a Dixie beer - a bit like Heineken, but with a sweet aftertaste. Wandered across the street to sample pralines and buy an ice cream cone, then wandered through the French Market, which contained an odd mix of touristy crap and occasional locally produced crafts. A lot of the stuff there we've seen in outdoor markets from one end of the globe to another. Bought a very very tasty organic pina colada from one of the booths, and sipped on that as we walked around.

Back to Jackson Square where things were in full swing. Lots of amazing artists to explore, and we bought a small drawing that we liked. Wandered onwards, occasionally poking our heads into interesting shops, and pausing to listen to busking bands along the way. In mid-afternoon the heat got the best of us and we had to retreat to the hotel for a quick shower and restful hour or two by the pool. 

Refreshed again, we jumped on the streetcar again for a tour of the CBD, which turned out to be a waste of time. Got off down by Harrah's casino and walked over to the area where the steamboats depart, then hit the outlet mall (bigger on the inside than outside, it seemed) and bought M some tennis shoes at the New Balance store, as the ones she had walked around in all day were hurting her toes. 

Back to the docs for a very nice meal of gumbo and crawfish etouffe at Poppy's Crazy Lobster, accompanied by a flask of Voodoo Juice and a very bayou trio playing nearby. Walked back to the hotel and called it an early night, though the good times were just starting to roll on Bourbon Street.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Easin' in to the Big Easy

Walking out the door of the airport in New Orleans, the heat and humidity hits like a brick wall. Took the shuttle to the Central Business District, and met my wife at the Renaissance Pere Marquette. Dropped off the luggage and went for a walk. Found the French Quarter and went for a stroll down the length of Bourbon Street to the land of the rainbow flags, at which point we turned around and walked the other side of the street - not in a figurative sense.

It was just past five o'clock, but the party was already getting started. It's like the line in Alice's Restaurant "you can get anything you want" on Bourbon Street. A friend had recommended Acme Oyster House for dinner, but the line was already down the block nearly to the corner by 7, so we popped across the street to Felix's and the food was fantastic.
One of their signature Bloody Marys, a Hurricane and a plate of Oysters Rockefeller to start - delishus! Had a great plate of fried seafood with just the right amount of spice, and called it good. 

Watched some street musicians for a bit, then wandered  back to the hotel, had a glass of wine and relaxed. Tomorrow we hit the pavement hard 

Travelin' Man

It seems, the older I get, that faces in airports trigger thoughts of "Hey, that looks like..." Is it just a craving to encounter a friend in a vast and lonely setting, or simply the inevitable coincidental facial and bodily similarities after a lifetime creating an internal database of friends, relatives, and acquaintances?

I often also wonder why, after decades of flying passengers around the country, the airlines haven'f succeeded in finding a more efficient way to board than the cattle call of confusion that reigns. Aside from the whole "let's seat the first class cabin first" method - which seems odd to me - why do we make the highest-paying customers wait the longest on the tarmac? - it would make a ton more sense to seat from the back of the plane forward, so that the people stowing their luggage in the overhead bins and juggling seat assignments aren't blocking the passengers who are coming in behind them. Add a couple of big burly flight attendants to toss the carry-ons up into the racks, and you'd really speed things up when little oriental grannies come up...short.

Today, for the first time ever, I actually witnessed a more reasonable group of people deboarding the plane for a change. Most of the time, everyone leaps to their feet the moment the plane comes to a stop at the gate and starts dragging all their baggage down from the bins. You know, people, you can't leave the plane until A) the door opens and B) the people in the 28 rows ahead of you get off of the plane. I always just relax in my seat until the two rows ahead of me are starting to move, then stand and gather my things to depart. Jumping to your feet earlier does not make people move out of the way any faster, and you're still going to have to dash to your connection - at the other end of the terminal...or in another terminal entirely.

Just some of my travelin' thoughts.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fast times, slow reading

It's been difficult to get anything up on the blog recently, as I've been traveling quite a bit more this summer than ever, and between being slow to finish books (almost four weeks on what I'm reading now), and not feeling the energy to post about a couple of bits of fluff that I did complete, there's been a drought to rival California's here.

I am, however, still alive and well.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Silver Bullet by S M Reine

The action shifts to  Reno, Nevada in the 2nd in the Preternatural Affairs series. Cesar and his partner, Suzy, are assigned to a special team investigating a magical power surge in the Biggest Little City in the World. The trail leads from a nightmare demon who runs a casino to an abandoned silver mine filled with giant spider demons, and right up against a nasty werewolf before the case is finally solved.

Cesar runs afoul of the OPA's security policies when his boss, Fritz, is kidnapped and he is forced to use his cell phone to contact a vicious VP of OPA. She would as soon kill as deal with him, so he has to think fast on his feet to rescue the boss and avoid being terminated in all senses of the term, as a security breach.

Again, long on action, short on plot, but a fun tale to while away a couple of hours. I've downloaded some more of Ms. Reine's work.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Witch Hunt by S M Reine

I believe this book was one of Barnes & Noble's weekly freebies, so I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be an amusing , if not engrossing, tale. Cèsar Hawke is a witch, who works with the Office of Preternatural Affairs arresting dangerous witches, demons and miscellaneous supernatural beings.

He's pretty new on the job, but seems to enjoy his work. After celebrating a successful investigation a bit too much, he finds the dead body of a woman he took home in his bathtub the next morning, a bullet hole in her chest. Cèsar isn't the type of guy who is prone to murder on a first date, and though the police are convinced of his guilt, and his bosses don't send anyone to bail him out, he still has a shred of faith in himself, and escapes custody to find the real killer - shades of OJ, anyone?

His partner, Suzy, seems to believe his innocence, and she gives him a place to hide out briefly, but as the story goes on, it appears that Suzy may herself be the killer. Hawke's naive faith in people leads him into a number of near-death experiences, and it's a dark, wild ride through a very spooky Los Angeles.

Definitely an author worth watching.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Werewolf Cop by Andrew Klavan

I really enjoy Klavan's blog posts on PJMedia, as well as a couple of his earlier police procedurals, so I thought Werewolf Cop sounded like a fun read. It didn't totally disappoint, at least. Klavan's writing was good enough to drag me to the ending, but not quite good enough to make me want to run right out and grab some more, alas!

Hotshot cowboy cop (in fact his nickname is Cowboy) Zach Adams runs up against an adversary he really can't handle when Dominic Abend, a former Nazi turned mobster, shows up in the U.S. Abend and his sidekicks torture and kill a known fence, searching for an artifact which was stolen from him, and then leave a trail of destruction as they interrogate everyone else who had contact with the item.

The trail leads the Cowboy to Europe, where he is attacked and infected with lycanthropy by a werewolf there. The werewolf doubles as an elderly female college professor, who has been hunting Abend for the purpose of destroying a powerful and evil magical artifact which he possesses. When Adams kills the werewolf, he inherits its mission.

Zach's mission is further complicated by the aftermath of an extramarial affair, and his inner struggles as he deals with guilt and the potential consequences of his infidelity if it should be revealed, and by the possible corruption of his partner by the criminal Abend.

Twisted, bloody, introspective - typical Klavan.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Kitty Saves the World by Carrie Vaughn

So, Kitty and her eclectic packmates become convinced that Dux Belloram,or Roman, has acquired a magical artifact which will empower him to cause a volcano to erupt - he seems to have done it with Vesuvius centuries ago. So the hunt begins. They lure him to New Mexico with the promise of a new ally - Cormac in drag, so to speak - and try to trap and kill him, but things go badly, and they are attacked by the usual demon and both they and Roman flee the scene.

When they return, Kitty's wolves have all gone missing, and she spends some time running around Denver trying to locate them. The new master of the local seethe of vampires is a weak-willed fellow, who falls under Roman's spell, and eventually forces a confrontation with Kitty.

At long last they discover that Roman is going to work his disastrous spell in Yellowstone, a cauldron of volcanic instability which is long overdue for an eruption. Kitty and all her allies pack up and road trip to the park, where they are able to divine Roman's location and face him down once and for all.

Vaughn claims this is intended to be the last of this series, and it's been a pretty good run, but once you've killed one arch villain, it's tough to top cataclysms and world domination, so she may actually be telling the truth.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A Rotten Person Travels the Caribbean by Gary Buslik

When Rick Steves speaks or writes about travel, you can be fairly certain that he demonstrates a high level of respect and love for the countries and cultures that he visits. On the contrary, Buslik seems to hold most of the places he visits and the people he meets in contempt. Granted, he's not only sarcastic about foreigners in his writing - he says nasty things about his wife and friends, as well.

I know that the purpose is supposed to be comedy, so one can forgive him some poetic license, but it wears thin pretty rapidly for me, and I gave up on it about halfway through. There's plenty of sarcasm going on in my own head some days, I don't need to increase the traffic.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Sword of the South by David Weber

Did I miss something? It seems as if there may be at least a short story, perhaps an entire novella, in between War Maid's Choice and this book. Bahzell and Leanna are happily married, running a tavern, with a ten year old daughter, Gwynna, who has a telepathic bond with a dire cat. How time flies!

The fourteen hundred year old schemes of Wencit of Rum are finally coming to fruition, beginning with the appearance of a bedraggled man without a memory, at least of who he is, though his knowledge of geography and swordplay and harpistry seem to be just fine. Wencit knows his true identity, but he refuses to enlighten the poor fellow, who names himself Kenhodan. I suppose if Wencit told him, he'd have to tell us, and spoil the surprise, which truly isn't all that surprising if you've read enough of this sort of thing.

Be that as it may, Kenhodan is the key to the next step in Wencit's plots, which revolve in this episode around the defeat of an evil sorceress, Wulfra, and the recovery of a powerful ancient artifact which she has under her domain, though not necessarily her control. Our mysterious red-headed warrior, Bahzell Bloody Hand, and the ancient wild wizard Wencit (say that three times fast) book passage aboard Brandark's fastest ship for the first leg of their voyage, enduring yet roundly defeating a pirate attack, then journey overland, pursued by Dog Brother assassins, for the remainder of the quest.

Things go about as expected, and the trio manage to deal with every obstacle thrown in their path, including an acid-spitting dragon. It is, of course, quite handy that Bahzell, as a Champion of Tomanak, can magically heal his fellow travelers from all the wounds they suffer in various skirmishes.I don't recall Aragorn being able to pluck out the arrows pincushioning (that's totally a verb) Boromir and lay on hands, but Bahzell is special, dontcha know.

There's a side plot which will probably become important in the 2nd or 3rd book in this final fantasy trilogy of Weber's involving Bahzell and Leanna's daughter, who appears to be slated to be the next incredibly powerful wild wizard, either succeeding or replacing Wencit as appointed guardian of Norfressa.

Predictable, but Weber is always quite readable.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Veiled by Benedict Jacka

Alex begins to worry about what will happen when his former master, dark mage Richard Drakh, decides to focus on either recruiting or eliminating Alex at last. His friends suggest that he join the Keepers, the law enforcement branch of the Council, to gain some extra protection and to make Richard more reluctant to deal with him violently. So he approaches his sometime friend, Caldera, and she gets him recruited on a probationary basis.

Just about the time Alex gets used to the idea that most police work is boring, a late night routine assignment goes horribly wrong and results in him being chased around a railway platform by an assassin, who very nearly succeeds in killing Verus. Alex begins to pull at the threads around the edges of his new case, and pretty soon begins to unravel a deadly conspiracy which holds incriminating information on many of the "light" mages on the Council.

This seems to be more of a transitional novel than anything. The point seems to be to get Alex firmly ensconced in his role as a Keeper, and to finally find a good teacher for Luna's Chance magic talents. Anne and Variam are in a holding pattern, though Variam has definitely found his home with the militant wing of the Keepers. The balance of power on the Council is shifting in a way it hasn't in centuries, as a dark mage is appointed a seat for the first time in history.

Hoping for book six soon, now.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Wicked Bronze Ambition by Glen Cook

 I've been reading Glen Cook's work for a long time - three decades, in fact. I may have to re-read his early Black Company novels one of these days and get some reviews up. I used a Christmas gift card to buy Nook versions of the first six of them recently, and picked this one up as an ebook to catch up on the Garrett series, too. Ebooks weren't even a gleam in their daddy's eye back when I first wandered the streets of Tunfair.

Though Garrett would much prefer to avoid the gazes of the dangerous and powerful, it's gotten a little tougher since being affianced to one of the most powerful sorceresses in the city. Her daddy and grandmother have decided they need Garrett to use his skills to find out more about the contest known as the Tournament of Swords, which threatens to kill off many of the children of the magical families of the kingdom, and by implication to put a stop to it, as well.

Then, someone kills his fiancee,Strafa, and all bets are off. Once the shock is over, he relentlessly pursues the identity of the killer(s), with the help of all of his friends whom we have come to know over a dozen or so books, as well as the resources of one of the powerful wizarding houses, since he is now considered to be family by the denizens of The Hill.

The downside to this novel is that it takes a long and winding road to discover the truth about who is behind the resurrection of the tournament and Strafa's murder, and Garrett stumbles like a drunken bull through it all, only the steadfast support of his friends keeping him from a dire fate on his own. There was almost an element of french farce to the whole thing, as Garrett repeatedly tracked down the usual suspects, hauled them off to be questioned by the Dead Man or to his friends in the Algarda or Relway's guard, then they would escape or be turned loose, and he'd end up tracking them down all over again for a new round of questioning.

Glad I pushed on to the end for a nice surprise twist.

Friday, August 7, 2015

True Enough by Farhad Manjoo

Manjoo seems to have set a new record for how quickly I grew disgusted with the premise of a book. Far from being an unbiased study of fragmentation of our news media, his premise immediately veered to the left, explaining why conservatives and Republicans believe all of the lies that come from Fox News, while the progressives and Democrats live in a fact-based world.

I'm sorry, this book was not "true enough".

The Power of No by James Altucher

I must have read an interesting article by Altucher somewhere which prompted me to put his book on reserve at the library. If that article was an excerpt from this book, it must have been the best thing he wrote, as the rest of it is a confusing, anecdotal gallimaufry of stale ideas about self fulfillment and success in life. I kept trying to push on and finish it, but I simply couldn't relate to what James and his wife, Claudia, had to say.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Spider's Trap by Jennifer Estep

While attempting to untangle a dispute between a pair of minor mob bosses at a meeting hosted on her friend's riverboat, Gin - now the reluctant leader of the Ashland underworld - contends with more of a blowup than anticipated when a mysterious stranger detonates a bomb on the boat. It takes Gin a while to determine who the real target of the attack was, and when she does, it brings back flashbacks aplenty from her days training with Fletcher.

As has become the routine in these tales, Gin doesn't really want to get too involved in pursuing the attacker until one of her friends gets hurt. In this case, it's bf Owen, who narrowly escapes death at the hands of a vengeance-minded metal elemental.

Ok, so I've wondered occasionally why the all powerful and all knowing assassin, the Spider, with all of her friends and resources, never seems to spend any time just thinking about her craft, and how to do things better. It seems like she was more effective in the earlier stories, actually.

One of the key plot devices in most of the conflicts is the use of elemental magic. Why don't any of her allies sit here down and just do a brainstorming session about what possible attacks and defenses a fire elemental, ice elemental, stone elemental, metal elemental, water elemental (you get the drift?) would be most likely to use, or have been seen to have used, let alone come up with some novel ideas for how to attack or defend against one? Fletcher was supposed to have been one of the most feared and respected assassins in the history of Ashland, and Gin has access to all of his files, but he never wrote down anything he had learned about how to kill elementals? If he kept files at all, they ought to have been useful stuff, right, not just gossip and reminiscences. Of course, in the first place, what self-respecting assassin would ever keep paper files laying around his home for anyone to stumble across. Really?

So, once again, Gin gets surprised by how tricky and powerful and nasty her latest foe turns out to be, and nearly dies several times, before finally doing something desperate enough to work.

Time for Gin to step up her game.

Monday, August 3, 2015

The Man Who Knew Too Much

Once upon a time, in my youth, I was the quintessential math nerd. Who am I kidding? I was a geek through and through in STEM fields. My life was a cross between That 70s Show and The Big Bang Theory and if you mind-melded together the characters of Eric and Leonard, it would pretty much describe my life. This book about mathematician Alan Turing stirred up a lot of old memories of fun times solving math problems. No, that's not an oxymoron, people!

Turing was one of the key figures in Great Britain's WWII effort to decrypt the secret communications of the German armed forces using the Enigma device. There's a pretty good description of the strategies employed and the counter-strategies that the Germans attempted to stay one step ahead of their foes.

One of the interesting things the British did to help them decipher the code was to plant mines in particular locations specifically chosen so that the Germans found them easily. Then, when the Germans sent messages back to headquarters to report the discoveries, the British knew what the content had to include (locations), and were able to use these as a key to decipher the rest of the message.

Turing was a homosexual, back in the times when that was still a criminal act in England, and he eventually may have committed suicide after being convicted of unnatural acts, chemically castrated by the government, and denied permission to work for the government in any capacity from that point forward due to security concerns. The book spends an awful lot of time interpreting nearly everything that Turing wrote, spoke or accomplished in terms of his sexuality, but if you ignore most of that, it's still an interesting, though tragic, story.

Fun quote:

"In Newman's laboratory, the walls were covered with brown tiles in what F.C. Williams, his partner in the project, called, a 'late lavatorial' style."

One of Turing's early creations, a computer called "Baby" was set to the initial task of testing Mersenne primes, a task which involved many man hours of calculations. Turing envisioned a time when his machines would become almost human, but I don't think he really had any concept of what the computer revolution would accomplish, and even though Siri sounds almost human at times, computers still have not evolved consciousness, nor have they become inventive or creative.

He also had the odd idea that computers could be taught by  method similar to the one we often use to raise children, with both reward and punishment.

I've certainly been tempted to punish mine...but I think it's got the upper hand.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Around the Web

Funniest thing I've heard today, at According to Hoyt,
"I made entire friendships based on how many books this person had to lend."

Saturday, July 18, 2015


It's been over a week since I actually finished a book and got a review posted. Summertime is making it very difficult to find the time to read, but I AM having lots of fun.

More when I get 'em.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The One-Page Financial Plan by Carl Richards

I really enjoyed Carl Richards' The Behavior Gap, both the book and his web site, and so I looked forward to reading his new book about financial planning. For me, however, there wasn't anything really new to learn here. I can see how it would be good for a person who was feeling intimidated by the magnitude of the financial planning task, but I really didn't have a lot of takeaways here.

He starts with goal setting concepts, and builds on a very simple framework of just doing the right things a piece at at time to accomplish those goals. What he really tries to do is to make a scary process seem folksy and conversational. You might buy this book for one of your kids who is just getting through college. 

Nothing bad to say about the book, but it didn't really float my boat.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Black Widow by Jennifer Estep

At least in this installment of the Spider's story, we get to return to a more deadly villain, as Gin finally gets the confrontation she's been expecting ever since Mab Monroe's daughter, Madeline M Monroe, arrived in Ashland. Madeline uses all of her connections around the city to launch a simultaneous group of attacks on Gin's friends and family. Finn is served with a lawsuit, Rosalyn gets cut off by her liquor distributor, one of Owen's big contracts falls through, while his sister Eva is suspended from college for cheating, and Jo-Jo's salon may be designated a historical landmark and deemed unsuitable to operate a business.

Then, horror of horrors, the health inspector arrives at the Pork Pit!

Accompanied by a posse of crooked cops, the barbecue joint is judged wanting and will be shut down. When Sophia trips the head cop, she is arrested for assault, and when Gin and her lawyer, Silvio, try to bail her out, Gin gets arrested, which was M. M.'s point all along. They immediately lock her away in "the Bull Pen", where prisoners get to fight each other to the death for the amusement of the crooked police force. Faced with five deadly opponents at once, Gin uses her mad fighting skills and elemental magic to not only defeat the thugs but to escape custody and take it on the lam.

Run to ground at the Pork Pit, the villainess surrounds the building with cops, then tosses Molatov cocktails inside, making sure that Gin cannot escape the flames.

Gin dies, her funeral is held and life in Ashland goes back to business as usual.

No? Well, you'll have to read the book to find out.

My only nitpick about this book was that it seemed a little rushed. The situations facing Gin's friends weren't really allowed enough time to become serious threats and concern us. A really good evil opponent would have allowed some time for despair to set in before the final blow falls.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Stonewalled by Sheryl Attkisson

After reading Sheryl Attkisson's book, I think I feel a great deal as does she, frustrated by my inability to get to the root truths of a number of recent political scandals of the Obama administration. Some of what she wrote filled in details about Fast & Furious, Benghazi, the (Un)Affordable Care Act, and the horrible waste of taxpayer dollars given to "Green" companies whose owners were donors. But the key questions still remain unanswered. How high in the administration are the people responsible, and are these stories all simply the result of incompetence or something more sinister? I knew before, and Attkission confirms, that the media is in deep with progressive interests as well as big business, and for the most part cannot be trusted to do old-fashioned investigative reporting which speaks truth to power.

"What did we really tell America on this night that they didn't already know?
My own network is passing up stories on the crumbling Affordable Care Act; an exclusive investigation I offered about a significant military controversy; an investigation uncovering a history of troubles surrounding Boeing's beleauguered Dreamliner; and massive government waste, fraud, and abuse. Largely untouched are countless stories about pharmaceutical dangers affecting millions of Americans, privacy infringement, the debate over President Obama's use of executive orders, the FDA monitoring of employee email, the steady expansion of terrorism, the student loan crisis, the confounding explosion in entitlements, the heartbreaking fallout from the Haiti earthquake, continuing disaster for government-subsidized green energy initiatives, the terrorist influences behind 'Arab Spring', various congressional ethics investigations and violations, the governments' infringement of and restrictions on the press, escalating violence on the Mexican border, the debt crisis, the Fed's role and its secrecy, to name just a few."

After the election, President Obama issued orders to all Federal agency heads, directing them he was "commited to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government."

But what was the reality?

"But barely into his second term, the Obama administration finds itself making history instead for its secrecy and assaults on the press. I, and other investigative reporters who are fully experienced in the indelicate art of prying public information from the tight grip of the government's hands, have now begun comparing notes about the daunting challenges this administration poses. There's delay, denial, obstruction, intimidation, retaliation, bullying, surveillance, and the possible threat of criminal prosecution. In my view, and that of other national reporters, this is proving to be the least transparent administration we've covered."

No time to go into an in depth description of all of the problems with the current administration, the bureaucracy and the incestuous relationship between big business and government today. Just go read the book.