Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Death of a Hero

I've been meaning to post this for some time, but have been too riddled with grief and confusion to put it down in words. After a few months of healing, I've finally gotten it out.

It was a slow death. One that's finally here and, while sad, somewhat a welcome relief. After years of a persistent illness, I regret to inform you that R. A. "Bob" Salvatore is no longer my favorite author. I weep with sadness at our departing, but know that we will both continue on in our lives and do great things.

I was introduced to Bob back in the mid 1980s. As a young boy, my aunt would take me to the bookstore in Williamsburg to buy me books or comics. On that particular day I chose a G. I. Joe comic. As I was reading it that night, again, I noticed I was continually entranced by the ad on the back cover. There was something haunting and compelling about it. Something that made me want to buy the book.

So I did. And with introductions to Drizzt, Wulfgar, Regis, Bruenor, and Catti-brie, my relationship with Bob grew. Other introductions were made over the years from Gary Leger to Elbryan and from Luthien to Nom Anor. All great people to meet, read about, and ride next to on their adventures.

But every adventure must come to an end, every McGuffin must be found. And to that end, when the story The Ancient began, I realized that our relationship had died. There was no longer a spark there. Bob's words no longer held any magic.

Over the years I've followed Bob across the country, through his life and mine. I cut my "fantasy" and "sci-fi" teeth on his books. I started following message boards back in the mid 1990s in the first incarnation of his website. I met great fans along the way and made great friends. I followed Bob to book signings. Traded emails. Even shared a drink once.

But each friendship evolves over time.

And to that end Bob, I'm sorry to say you have officially been replaced as my favorite author. Who has replaced you? Who now holds the coveted spot in my heart and in my mind? I don't know.

My favoritism is now adrift. I may have grown up reading Hardy Boy books, but I'm now looking for the new kid on the block. Man or woman, young or old, established or rookie. Nothing matters but my favoritism. There are some front runners with Patrick Rothfuss, Joe Abercrombie, Anton Strout, and others.

But who will finally arrive at the much desired spot of the trump-all author? Who will spur me on to read more of their work? Who can manage to turn my life so upside down I'm willing to spend more money just to get it spinning faster? Is it you Pat? Joe? Karen? Anton? Who can measure up in the end?

And that is where I will leave my faithful, yet small, group of readers. Salvatore is dead to me. His work doesn't measure up. I'll continue to follow his stories but only from afar. I can only hope someone will live up to the challenge.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Small update

- Just finished reading Before They Are Hanged. Great read. A "MUST" read (review link is in the Reading Log on the left).
- Working on a comic for you-know-what (yes, a comic, well, actually two of them).
- Hope to take some photos of the art in our house at some point (since somebody asked about it).
- Start school today (probably will wait until tonight).

And that's it for now.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Monday Moanday*

I lost my keys this morning. Looked around and around and couldn't find them. Then, like that magical pocket that rarely produces money, I found them in my shorts. I apparently decided to wear the same pair I wore on Saturday.

I also forgot to add that I'm like Monk in two other ways. First, the volume on the TV needs to be on a base ten number. Like "10" or "20." Maybe "15" if I'm feeling dangerous. Second, I color-code the clothes in my closet. My nice shirts are on white hangers. My dingy, bum around the house ones are on green hangers. I'm sure there are more ways that I resemble Monk, but that'll be it for now.

This weekend was rather productive. I was able to cut the grass, help Dad with the shed some, weed eat, wash the mower, wash the mini-van, wash the front and back porch, and various other minor tasks. Much more than I expected. Sunday was slower, with more indoor chores, but a lot still got done (I mean, heh, I actually mopped the kitchen floor!).

Finally, in reading news, if you enjoy fantasy, spec-fic, or whatever you want to call it, you must, absolutely must, read Joe Abercrombie's books. I can honestly say Before They Are Hanged is the best book I've read this year (and I'm not even done with it yet)! Even better than his first book, The Blade Itself. How can you beat the violence, the humor (or humour as he spells it), and the sex?! It's awesome!

* For those that noticed, no, I didn't spell it wrong.

Friday, April 25, 2008

How much like Monk are you?

A lot. And here's why. Partial list of Monk's phobia's and fear from this wiki:

Needles - I hate needles. A lot.
Death - I think we're all afraid of death.
Snakes - The only place I like them is under the mower deck.
Enclosed spaces/Caves - I need room to breath. Too much confinement and I get edgy.
Spiders - I'm no fan of them and can kill them without too much cringing. It's the big ones and the fast ones I don't like.
Public speaking - I'm much better at this than I once was, but it's still not a favorite thing of mine.
Chicken - Only if I eat it.
Frogs - Not afraid of them, just don't expect me to touch one.
Drowning - Even though I used to be a lifeguard, this is my most feared way of dying.
Food on my plate touching - This used to be a big issue when I was younger, but I've gotten much better. I even eat my food out of order now.
Sidewalk cracks - I actually avoid these when I can, but don't obsess about it.

And on a side note, if you watch me walk anywhere, you'll see me touch things as I walk around. Corners. Tags. Things that jut out. Kind of like Monk does with car antennae. And parking meters.

Audio Book Exchange

So I've thought about an audio book exchange for some time now and after looking at Audible and Borders, I've not been terribly happy with what I've found. In short, not a lot of options for audio book listeners. Audible does look like the best option for the future, download your mp3 version of the book and have a nice day. But until I get a fancy Zune like my wife, I'm stuck listening to them on CD in my car.

And since I'm sick of paying full price for a book that can cost as little as $8 in paperback, I cringe when my audio book queue starts to run dry. It means another expensive trip to the book store.

So I broached the idea of an audio book exchange. So far, only one nibble.

And to that end, I'm welcoming any and all takers. There will be an application process for those I don't know (i.e. stranger danger). But for the moment, it's open for business.

Behold the spreadsheet!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Just another update

I'm currently reading (listening to) I Am Legend and it's, well, creepy. That "Come out Neville" just gets to me every time. Creepy voice. The movie (which I watched the other night on PPV) was expectantly different than the book. And, also expectantly, not as good. I'm certainly glad I only paid $3.99 for it and that I'll be getting that back thanks to a coupon.

Speaking of DirecTV, we recently upgraded to an HD DVR in the living room. I had no plans to make the HD switch anytime soon until I realized we were paying for it anyway. So we'll be getting a new dish this weekend. Free. And Showtime for three months. Free. And a discounted bill for three months. Free.

And speaking of getting things for free, I'm slowly chugging through A Magic of Twilight. The war is on and nowhere near as exciting as the war in Before They Are Hanged. I like Ninefingers but I love Glotka. Best good/bad guy out there. Best good/bad guy since Keaton's Batman.

Finally, we have the allergy test. Major allergies have been confirmed, minor ones clarified, and treatment plan in place. Fortunately no major changes.

PS - Let me know if you know of or want to participate in an audio book exchange. My wallet is running on empty and I need some new material.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Peanut Gallery

Tomorrow I get to feel like I spent the night in a sleeping bag with a dozen rabid hedgehogs. And I hope to come out of the experience wiser than before. I'm hoping the preliminary results of tomorrow's allergy tests will at least put some of my food related woes to rest. A definitive answer to what I'm allergic to and what I'm not allergic to. At least it's not like I'm allergic to peanuts but still like to eat them. They smell and look nasty. And chicken isn't far behind.

But I did happen to read a rather interesting article in the paper the other day about manufacturers and how much they are in the dark. And it reminded me of my Mom's spoon theory about how much you need to plan out your day and be careful with what you do. Maybe having the allergy for so long has made me immune to the effects of caution, but I've learned that certain foods are safe and anything new needs to be checked.

And having a daughter that shares some of the same allergies makes you take notice a bit more than normal too.

And having friends with even worse combinations of allergies makes you a bit more thankful that your life isn't as bad.

And knowing the top eight ingredients that must be labeled on all foods makes you feel like a bit of a nut.

No pun intended.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Taking the Funding Out of Fundamental

So sayeth the "leader" of the free world. Yep, Bushy Baby stops RIF (Reading is Fundamental) funding.

And the same link will provide you with news about Borders reorganization and the rise in Graphic Novel sales. If I didn't read a few graphic novels, I'd be prone to suggest that cartoons and comics are the wave of the future since they have no words. (That was a vague reference to Fahrenheit 451 where reading and books are banned and all the news is in comic format, as in if RIF dies, will we all be reading comics in the future? Never mind, I lost myself in that one.)

And best of all, e-books and the Navy make a deal. It will certainly make things roomier on board that sub, but I'm sure the sailors will still like their real books in their real hands.

The Kessell Run

How many parsecs does that thing get to the gallon?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunday Mobile

At the Richmond Children's Museum proving dino's rock.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Free E-Books

While not a staunch supporter of e-books, I've slowly been collecting them. And with my recent email from TOR, I was able to add another to the collection.

And my thoughts began to churn on ways to get more. You call it greed, I call it curiosity.

So, use this search to find all the PDF files on the TOR site. Most are excerpts and reading guides, but there are a few nuggets of reading to be had. Like Sherrilyn Kenyon's Fear The Darkness.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Star Wars Redux

A very talented artist by the name of Sillof has done wonders with Star Wars characters. Check out his Steampunk version and WWII version. Pretty freaking cool.

Oh, and Stargate Continuum comes out in July.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Situation Mistborn

I asked. You spoke.

Three and a half votes for Mistborn, half a vote for The Situation, and half a vote for Deadstock. I know, my math doesn't add up, but that's beside the point. It looks like Mistborn is on the list to be read next. Not to worry, I've already read The Situation and posted a review via my Reading Log. I already had thoughts of reading this first since it was a short story. VanderMeer is, well, VanderMeer. Nuff said.

Thanks to all who voted. I'll keep you posted on Mistborn.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

You decide who lives or dies

Well, not really, but you get the drift. Taking my queues from other review blogs, I need you to tell me what to read next. Why? Because you-know-what is slowing down and I should have some free time.

Okay, okay, let me back up a bit. I can't talk about you-know-what so don't ask. No, seriously. Don't ask. Even if you already know or have guessed, I'm not going to talk about it. But I can tell you that you-know-what is going to be slower very soon. And with that in mind, I'd like to do something during some of that free time.

Add to the mix, free e-books (aka my queue/pile o' shame). I know some of you hate them (e-books I mean), but I have a plethora of them at the moment. And I don't know where to start. So, free time + free books = you choose what I read next. No need to tell me why I should read it, just tell me what to read.

Here are your choices:

Lord of the Isles by David Drake
Through Wolf's Eyes by Jane Lindskold
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Deadstock by Thomas Jeffrey
The Outstretched Shadow by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory
The Situation by Jeff VanderMeer

Thanks for helping!

PS - Yes, I narrowed down my e-book collection based on cover art. So sue me.

Movies and Books, An Update

At Hamburger man Paul's prompting, and to get it off my chest, I will now regale you with tales of recent movies and books and how I feel about them.

(AKA - Tattoo'd Killers)
I watched this movie on PPV and was glad I didn't spend the money on the DVD. I love Deadwood and love Timothy Olyphant in it. He did a good job portraying a hit-man, but without prior knowledge of the game, I was a bit lost on the back story. With that in mind, it was a decent action movie with enough splattering heads to make you think twice about getting close to bald guys with bar-codes on the back of the heads.

American Gangster
(AKA - Heroin Anti-Hero Hero)
Yet another tie-in with Deadwood. This time John Hawkes has a supporting role. While another violent movie, the most striking part of this movie to me was the sheer brutal and business-like attitude Denzel's character uses to go about his day job. He was a bit of a hero and a bit of a demon. He took care of his own but didn't care about the end result of his heroin empire. All in all, a good movie, just longish. Maybe a DVD to buy on sale.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
(AKA - Hedwig? Dead. Dobby? Dead. Who's next? Your choice.)
I'm nearing the end of this one and thankfully so. I have no clue how it turns out but it's progressing nicely so far. I have my theories but won't share them because, well, I don't want you commenting on it and ruining the ending for me. A few more CDs and I'll let you know.

A Magic of Twillight
(AKA - Mrs. R. D. Vandertramp Goes Mad)
I'm still plugging away at this book. It's a bit thickish (546 pages) and has not one map, not two, but four maps. Quite nice. The plot is, well, political and religious and magical, with all sorts of twists and turns. Some predictable, some not. Oddest of all to me is the author's use of perspective. The POV is clearly labeled and tells the story, but takes away from the overall story by jumping around and by being in your face so much. I mean, it's labeled twice. Do we really need that? The worst part, the language. If this were written in French and translated to English, I would be a bit more forgiving. But the ci, ca, cu, ce stuff is a bit out of hand. I know it's part of the social hierarchy, but there could have been an easier way around it. Bottom line, it's good enough that I'm still reading it. But I'm only keeping it because it was free and it's signed.

Before They Are Hanged
(AKA - Torturer Joins Comedy Club)
I'm only a little way into this book, but I have to say, I actually laughed out loud yesterday. Why? Because the much hated Tortured Torturer cut off a man's nipple. Gross I know, but I've come to love Glotka. Very much. So much, if Mr. Joe Abercrombie kills him off, well, I'll just have to tell the prat he's a horse's arse and needs to suffer for it. My dry wit will flay him worse than Glotka. Well, I'll at least try, but likely lose.

So, there you are.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Latest Book News

They've been slumping in the stock market and sales compared Barnes and Noble, but here's another blow to their bottom line.

Borders Group has finalized its new financing agreement with Pershing Square Capital Management under terms more favorable than the original deal. One change is the lowering of the interest rate, from 12.5% to 9.8%, that Borders will pay on the $42.5-million loan from Pershing. Pershing has also upped its offer to acquire Borders's international subsidiaries, from $125 million to $135 million. Pershing will acquire the operations if Borders cannot find another buyer.
Movie Tie-Ins
Expect some books in the near future to tie-in with these:

- Iron Man
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
- Journey to the Center of the Earth 3-D
- The Dark Knight
- Untitled X-Files Sequel
- The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
- The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: Part 2

TV Shows
- The Backyardigans
- Care Bears
- Dora the Explorer
- Go Diego Go!
- Max & Ruby
- Monk
- Wonder Pets
- Wow Wow Wubbzy!

Yes, I only included those that would interest me or other readers out there (I'm no big fan of Wow Wow Wubbzy!, but I do enjoy The Backyardigans (you can find the rest here).

Comic Memoirs
For all you aspiring artists that draw comics, you may find Persepolis interesting (assuming you've not heard of it yet).

Kindle vs. Sony Reader vs. E-Books
This really isn't news as much as a poll. Do you prefer any of the above? Why? I know e-books are beginning to mass again for an attack on print, but I don't see them winning. Physical books are here to stay for a long while I think. I'm just curious who prefers what and why.

And for the record, I prefer straight e-books. They're free and I don't need any special hardware to view them.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday Mobile

She started on the bed and finished on the floor.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Beach Bum

Having fun in the sun.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

One of those Meme things

I'm not a big fan of Memes, but I liked the 80's theme to this one.

1. How old were you in 1980? 4
2. How old were you in 1989? 13
3. Were you a Toys R Us kid? No, shopped at KayBee
4. Did you watch Transformers? No
5. Did you see E.T. on the big screen? Yes
6. Did you own a Lite Bright? No, but my grandparents did
7. When someone says ' Who you gonna call? ' You think? Ghostbusters of course.
8. What was your favorite toy? GI Joes.
9. Did you have a Pogo Ball? No
10. Did you listen to New Kids on the Block? Hell NO!
11. Which New Kid did you have a crush on? Let’s not go there…
12. Did you play M.A.S.H? Of course. My Dad looks just like Radar. My 4 year old daughter hums the theme song now.
13. Did you watch The Care Bears? Yes, but I’m not proud of it
14. Did you have Jelly bracelets? Nope
15. Did you have a charm necklace and/or bracelet? I had a necklace my girlfriend gave me with my name in gold wire (all swirly and cursive)
16. Did you own a glo-worm? No, but I wanted one
17. Did you ever own a slap bracelet? Several
18. The Breakfast Club or Sixteen Candles? Rambo
19. Did you have a crazy hair style? I was ahead of my time and had a flattop
20. What was your first bike? A generic BMX bike with no pegs
21. Name one thing you still own from your childhood? Readily available…the kangaroo I made of clay in third grade
22. Did you have a Cabbage Patch Kid? Yes (and my daughter does too)
23. Did you dress like Madonna? Thankfully no
24. Did you watch Miami Vice? Loved it. Even had a blue sport coat that I rolled up the sleeves on.
25. Did you own a pair of Jelly Shoes? No
26. Did you own a Trapper Keeper? Several, they never lasted long enough for me
27. Atari or Nintendo? Texas Instruments that hooked up to the back of the TV
28. Did you play Pac-Man? Only at the arcades
29. He-Man or She-Ra? He-Man (but I liked Orko better)
30.What movie scared you the most? I was forced to watch Nightmare on Elm Street and have never enjoyed scary movies since
31. Did you try to dance like Michael Jackson? I still try to Moon Walk when nobody’s looking
32. What Is The First Thing That Comes To Mind When You Hear ‘flux capacitor?’ I slipped on the toilet seat and saw this…
33. What other colors did Pepsi come in? I don’t know, I was a Coke drinker
34. Roger Rabbit Or Howard The Duck? Howard and his PlayDuck magazine
35. Did you ever beg your parents to have your school picture taken with the LASER background? Nope
36. Do you know what the Ninja Rap is? Vaguely
37. Favorite slang word(s)? Awesome, cool (now repeated by my daughter), and book (as in run really fast – but I don’t use that in public)
38. Can you name the family members from National Lampoons Vacation movies? Rusty, Sparky, Uncle Eddie, Aunt Katherine, and I forget the rest
39. Did you have pump sneakers? Yes, but the pumps always broke
40. Did you own HYPER COLOR shirts? One
41. Did you watch Smurfs? Absolutely. Still do.
42. What is the most annoying 80s style? Pegged pants. So hard to get them even and looking juuuust right.

Thanks to urban princess for the idea.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

More Book News

Attention all personnel:

I've talked to several people before about e-books and the future war between print and virtual publishing. To that end, I found this article interesting. I knew Baen had a ton of books online, but never knew they were considered pioneers in the field. A few mentions of Star Wars here (but a less interesting article). And this article on the Alternate History genre, one of my closet addictions, fails to mention Giambastiani. What a shame. But with the press the Yiddish Policeman book is getting, maybe I should check it out.

That is all.

The Weight of the World-edited-

Sometimes life decides to shift extra weight onto your shoulders. Weight that isn't needed or wanted, but does allow you to grow as a person. A few of the life-shifting moments were the birth of my son and daughter, getting married, graduating from college, you get the idea.

Note that those are the good moments in life that truly grow you as a person. For those single, childless, high school graduates out there, you may find it harder to relate.

Anywho, the world has shifted twice in the past few months. The IRS decided to recompute my 2006 return and tell me I owed them roughly $1,700. -edited- We didn't report the stock sale correctly. Talk about a faux pas. The net result of my amended return was they owed me $8 (and they were even nice enough to add 54 cents interest).

Shifting again because Karma sucks worse than a Hoover, the IRS then wanted to examine my Schedule C from 2005. That's right, 2005. Emphasis on the five there folks. That's ancient history to me. Not to them. So I shifted some weight back to them by kindly replying with my documentation.

I somehow feel that Karma will come back at me like a Boomerang from Oz when they don't get what they want.

Dear God. This is Neil. Is tax season over yet? Can you speed this next week up a little? Thanks.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Book News

First, I finished Sacrifice by Karen Traviss (very short review is here).

Second, Publisher's Weekly reports that:

Holt editor Sarah Knight preempted North American rights to Christian Moerk's Darling Jim; Joakim Hansson of the Nordin Agency made the six-figure sale. A bestseller in the author's native Denmark (Moerk writes in English and does his own Danish translation), the novel is a gothic tale of suspense, drawing on elements from classic mythology. Narrated largely through the diaries of two murdered sisters who had become involved with a handsome stranger, the story unfolds as a local postman reading the diaries attempts to find the mysterious survivor of the fate that claimed the sisters' lives. Moerk is a former New York Times film writer. Pub date is spring 2009.

And finally, FBS reports there's a free download (in installments) of Wasp Factory available, but alas, it's only for those on the other side of the pond. Damn.

New Video

A little late, but here's some video from Elizabeth's birthday.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sunday Mobile

The Queen's menagerie.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Epic Saga Continues-edited-


And I'll sneak some more personal news in here, last night was, well, hard and fun at the same time. Elizabeth opened her presents (pictures will be later) and had a fun day with Grammy and Bapa Dave. But this morning is better, and I finally found out what my father-in-law's book is going to be about (and I'm not telling - so THERE!).

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Elizabeth Turns 4 Today

In celebration, she'll be spending the day with Yvonne's parents. I have no idea what they're doing or where they're going, but that's the plan.

And here is the artwork she created from yesterday.

PS - She appears to be a compulsive counter like her Dad. She's counting seats in the house, glasses on the table, etc.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The last -edited-


And in the not-so-April-Fools category, William just seems to be a magnet for bad luck. Nice to see I've passed something on to my son besides my love of eating. Yesterday he took a trip to the doctor who nearly sent him to the hospital. He's been wheezing and coughing for a few days and it was worse yesterday. Bad enough that he went right in and the doc said to call 911 if it got worse at home. In the mean time he's building up some fighting skills while we try to give him his nebulizer treatment (he was diagnosed with bronchiolitis). On a more positive note, the in-laws arrived safely with baby food and a bed frame in tow.

And now I'm off to the UFO site to put the next photo up.