28 September 2008

Gov. Palin via SNL

Books: Playing For Pizza

Leaving the courtroom for the football field, John Grisham gives us Playing for Pizza, where we meet Cleveland Browns third-string quarterback Rick Dockery, who is lying in his hospital bed unconscious from a severe concussion. Rick, it seems, took the field at the end of an all-but-sewn-up game that would have propelled the long-suffering Browns into the Super Bowl. With Cleveland about to go bonkers, Rick throws three interceptions in the final quarter – the last resulting in the massive hit that sends him to the hospital and gives the game-winning touchdown to the Denver Broncos.

With his career at the crossroads, his agent decides a year out of the country may help Dockery. He sets him up in Italy, as the quarterback for the Parma Panthers -thus the novel already a football story, becomes a fish-out-of-water tale as well.

I had some huge problems with this book, as the many hallmarks of his - the tightly written, page turning scenes - where dropped for an almost parody take on those a Silhouette romance novels. It's that light and airy.

Plus, while this is suppose to be a football book, it resembles more part Tuscan Under the Sun style look at Italy, plus a culinary dictionary from the Food Network, and Frommer's travel guide to the country.

I'm unsure what Grisham was trying to do here, after all, I did enjoy is non-thriller novel The Painted House. I finished because I had too, but find it lacking in every regard.


Books: The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman

Since H.G. Well's The Time Machine, we've been fascinated by the idea of being able to travel into our past or even our own future. And for decades, science fiction authors have speculated on how this could be done, despite having Einstein throw a wet blanket over the whole theory.

One of the biggest hurdles of time travel is The Paradox. That traveling, especially to your past, would cause too many paradox's, thus causing a possible unwinding of the universe, ala Back to the Future.

One theory is that if time travel was feasible, we could only go forwards, never back.

That's the premise of Joe Haldeman's The Accidental Time Machine, a whimsical comic tale of Grad-school dropout Matt Fuller, who while toiling as a lowly MIT assistant researcher, accidentally creates, through no fault of his own, a time machine while studying the quantum relationship between gravity and light. When he hits its reset button, the box disappears, only to reappear a second later. Soon Matt discovers every time he hits the reset buttom, the machince goes missing twelve times longer.

After a few expeirments, he discovers he can attach a metal box to it and then send objects -like a store bought turtle - into the future. This leads to the idea of taking himself into the future. Borrowing an old car from a friend, Matt sends himself into the near future, only to discover he is a wanted man in the murder of the friend he borrowed the car from (he dropped dead of a heart attack when he saw Matt vanish before his eyes). Bailed out by a man -apparently - who could pass for an older version of himself, Matt decides to beat the rap by traveling further into the future, in hope of finding a safe haven.

The Accidental Time Machine is a swift read, a hallmark of Haldeman's sf style. He can create such a vivid world full of bright and wonderful ideas, yet present them in prose that need not go on forever. However, at times, you would've hoped he stayed in some the future worlds of Earth, like a society ruled by religion, with a strange blend of high and low technology, or the one where bartering is an artform and AI commonplace.

There is a deus ex machina towards the end which could be off putting, but its a small issue. Plus, while sort of saw the ending, you always knew that the time travel was one way -despite the broadly suggested idea that somewhere in the future, Matt did travel back.

27 September 2008

Norwegian Recycling - How Six Songs Collide

This is pretty cool.

Thanks Marc for telling me about this.

26 September 2008

25 September 2008

Traveling during Ike

I had gone to bed on Friday, September 12 worried about my flight to Chicago on the 13th. I was suppose to leave at 7:50 am out of Ontario (Ca) with a stopover at Dallas/Ft Worth. Of course, just a few hundred miles away, Hurricane Ike was trashing Galveston and Houston. I had kept an eye to see if the flight was going to be delayed.

Even when I got up Saturday, I checked. But just the Travelocity site. So, mistake number one. Mistake number two was not checking my mobile.

Anyways, I was dropped off at the airport by my house mate (who does not do mornings) and proceed to check-in. Suddenly I discovered my departure time had been moved to 9:25. Puzzled, and still a bit tired, I proceed through the process, and then headed through security. After that, I sat down and looked at my e-ticket and discovered I had been booked on another plane in both California and Texas. I popped open my mobile to discover I got a VM from the airlines at 2:30 am, notifying me of the change. I glanced at the clock, and realized I would be sitting here for 2 hours.

So, after calling the family and telling them of the change, I settled in and started reading the Accidental Time Machine. Once off the ground, things went smooth. As I read my book the flight went on, with the pilot giving us updates about the Hurricane.

We landed in Dallas at 2pm local time. Now, according to my new flight plan, I was suppose to leave there at 3:15. As soon as I got off, I saw that flight had already been delayed to 4:15. On the phone again, I discovered that not only was Ike causing problems for flights, it was pouring in Chicago, causing the whole system to be effected. Now, I’ve seen news reports of folks stuck at airports -especially in Chicago- during winter storms. I just never dreamed I could be one of them.

Once again I was on the phone calling home. I even told them they may laugh at me living here in California, but rain is never a problem.

As I continued to read, I realized that 3:45 had come and gone -as they load the plane a half-hour before take-off. When other people noticed this too, they finally announced that they were delaying this flight to 4:45, as the pilots due to take this flight were delayed on other flights. Well, 4:45 became 5:15 when the pilots finally arrived and said there was something mechanically wrong with the plane, and thus we needed another plane.

After about 15 minutes or so, another plane was found and all of us raced over to that gate. They started loading us a little bit after 5. When the plane finally taxied away from the gate, the pilot informed us that they were still a bit of planes in front of us waiting to take off. I estimated we finally took off at 6pm -4 hours after my arrival in water logged Dallas.

The problem was, I was heading straight into the remnants of Ike that was heading straight for Chicago.

So, yea.

Finished the book and started next on John Grisham’s Playing for Pizza. We did make up a few minutes, I guess, and arrived to circle Chicago for about 20 minutes due to the fact that rain was stacking everything up -and I would later hear that O’Hare broke a record of receiving 6.64" of rain in a 24 hour period.

Finally on the ground at 8pm, I went to get my one bag and wait for my brother and sister-in-law to pick me up -which then took another hour, as both them and my older sister and her husband (whom I would be staying with) live way up in the northern counties of Illinois.

It’s amazing how a 8 hour trip turned to 12.

The Art of Being Fabulous #1

One can never get enough of Julie Brown.

24 September 2008

So, I'm back

Just a quick note to all my peeps to say after an 11 day visit to Chicago, I've returned, more or less, alive.

I have the next few days off to ruminate, so come back soon!

12 September 2008

11 September 2008

Books I'm bringing to Chicago

Not sure I'll read them all, during my 11 day visit home, but at least I'm prepared.

You know?

Book: An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England

In this dark satire on literary fiction, Sam Pulsifer is man who, at the age of 18, accidentally burns down the home of Emily Dickinson, in the process killing a couple who were making love in her bed. After serving ten years, he returns home where his parents show him all the letters -fan mail - from people who want him burn down other famous literary homes, such as those of Mark Twain and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Ten years after that, now living with his wife and two children, Sam’s past begins to catch up with him, when the son of the couple killed shows up wanting something, but Sam is unsure what. And then, someone begins burning the homes of other famous writers.

Clarke lampoons literature, taking on women's book clubs, literary critics, Harry Potter fans, bookstores, English professors, memoir writers and librarians. It’s a delightfully funny, often dark in tone, but never really mean. Sam Pulsifer is a sad sack, who through no fault of his own, discovers just what happens when your life spins out of control.

The real mystery for Sam, beyond clearing his name, is what happened to his parents during the last 30 years of their lives.

A brilliant novel.

That Horrible Day

I had been with USG for little over a month when world changed for the United States. One of the team leaders from a different department came into work at 8:30. It was he who mentioned that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. Of course, by then, both Towers were already a flame.

Trying to get onto the internet, all of us at the customer service center tried to find out what was going on. The internet was running slow, and trying to get to news sites like CNN became difficult. But eventually, I was able to discover that what first was thought as an accident was actually a terrorist attack on America.

In a small window on the CNN web site, I saw the video footage of the second Tower being hit. I remember commenting to my fellow employees, as I watched the video over and over again, that I felt we were watching a movie.

I called my parents, who had yet to turn on the TV. As a matter of fact, they were just getting out of bed. As you would think, my mom gasped at what she saw.

From there on, things got weird. Since most of my customers were based on the east coast, the phones into the CSR fell silent, with the west coast feeds barely even going. Work became a second thought as we all started to wonder what was going on, and the mood of the center became very subdue.

At about 11 am, a decision was made to close the CSC and send employee’s home. It has been said many times how clear and crisp that September day was in New York. But the same could be said of that day in Schiller Park, where the USG center was located. The sky was blue, the air was warm and the day was gorgeous.

By now, the FAA had grounded all flights, and it was the first thing you noticed while leaving. Of course, the CSC was located right next to O’Hare, but still you could sense the stillness that had descended like a blanket.

I drove home, briefly talking to my parents who wanted me to come their house. I declined, as I just wanted to get home and see for myself what had happened in New York on September 11, 2001.

I spent the rest of the day watching the news. Finally, at about 12:30 am, I switched off the TV and went to bed.

10 September 2008

Quote of the day

John Feehery, a Republican strategist, said the campaign is entering a stage in which skirmishes over the facts are less important than the dominant themes that are forming voters' opinions of the candidates.

"The more the New York Times and The Washington Post go after Sarah Palin, the better off she is, because there's a bigger truth out there and the bigger truths are she's new, she's popular in Alaska and she is an insurgent," Feehery said. "As long as those are out there, these little facts don't really matter."

Jebus on a crutch, when did the word insurgent start becoming a good thing to say?

It appears lying is a good thing when trying to run for office. I'm not saying the opposite party does not do the same thing, but come on.

Ronald Reagan is to blame for this. His philosophy was tell a lie three times and eventually it becomes the truth. That's what Palin is all about now, trying to convince the dumb and the small minded that while she lies like a rug, she should not be held accountable for it.

Fall TV Season, the conclusion

Thursday has Ugly Betty, while I tend to record My Name is Earl and will probably catch Kath and Kim. Smallville is just dull and predictable. I’ve moved on from it. The Office and 30 Rock are two of the smartest shows on TV. And they’re damned funny, especially 30 Rock. Life on Mars might be the only show at 10 I might want to watch -or record.

The only thing Friday has going for it is the severely underrated Everybody Hates Chris. After that, I’m generally watching Sci Fi or reading or doing naughty things with the internet.

Sunday has, as always, The Simpsons. Desperate Housewives is still laborious for me, as I think everyone of those characters are loathsome. Still, with the five year jump that will dominate the series, maybe I’ll return. Finally, Brothers & Sisters is a way soap operay even for a soap opera, but its got a married gay couple, so it gets a thumbs up for me.

The Fall TV Season, Part III

Wednesday starts with the best show of last year, the beguiling Pushing Daisies. The multi-talented Bryan Fuller (Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls) created series charmed and surprised me through its 9 episode first season. With hopes that there is no actors strike, I’m looking forward to a full 22 episode season. Daises gets the DVR treatment, while I’ll record Bones on the old VCR (and much like NCIS, this procedural show focus is more on characters, even though the crimes are pretty gruesome. Plus the chemistry between stars David Boreanaz and Emily Deschancel is great). After that, the next two hours on the three major networks and the one left on the CW seems lame.

07 September 2008

The Fall TV Season, Part II

Tuesday starts with NCIS. While not a huge fan of these procedural type shows, NCIS is a bit different. The show is more character based than its cousin, the CSI franchise, and the cast works well together. It also does not take itself too serious.

Beyond that, there is nothing much for the rest of the night that I really care to watch. With Reaper not coming back until January or so, I can't get to excited about 90210, if only because I never watched the original series. Besides, it just just looks dull. Meanwhile, I’ve never cared for House, so I won't watch it. Privileged just seems dumb and proves that mean girls are a dime a dozen these days. Fringe might be the only show I’ll watch, if only because it comes from J.J. Abrams, and not because of Joshua Jackson. Like the rest of the week, most of the shows that air at 10 I miss because I’m old and need to be in bed early.

I also don't care for them either.

06 September 2008

Oh, the wacky things those conservatives think

San Bernardino County has many conservative areas, including Rancho Cucamunga where I work. One of the odder things I’ve had to deal with since moving to this Borders 3 years ago, was dealing with a customer base that is hard to nail down. Borders in Oak Park, Illinois was pretty predictable.

When it came to politics, Oak Park was -and is - a liberal town. During presidential election years, any book released about either party did well, particularly liberal books. However, this tended to cause some problems with a few of the conservative people who lived within Oak Par,k Forest Park, River Forest and Cicero. If a bestseller or two happened to be a liberal book, we often got accused of being bias towards liberals. Then there was the conservatives that came in and turned the liberal books around so the cover was hidden.

I guess there thought should be that no matter if it’s a bestseller, we needed to display a conservative volume along side it. The problem was, there was never usually one that we could.

So, recently at my store, a customer complained about our political display with Obama and McCain. Now Obama has two memoirs which have been selling well for over two years, and McCain has put out one memoir which mostly covers his life and was published in the early 2000's. He recently put out a slim, mass market book on what he plans to do as president.

This lady complained -like I’ve heard in years past - that we’re putting more Obama titles out than McCain, more liberal titles than conservative, thus showing our bias. Though, to be honest, book stores are pretty well open to anything, but they're also quick to display the flavor of the week titles in the front.

Of course, in her desire to feel that conservatives are under attack from “liberal” books stores, she failed to notice that two other books with Obama on the cover are ones that attack him.

The Fall TV Season- 2008, Part 1

While the potential threat of an actors strike still looms -even though it seems less now - I'm glad the TV season is back. If I see one more reality/game show I'm going to puke. Like I just did now. A little bit, in my mouth, when I passed the Janice Dickenson thingy on Oxygen. Pretty people, but that woman annoys me more than Paula Abdul and the rest at American Idol.

Anyhoo, lets take a look at what I want to watch this year.

Chuck leads off my Monday. Perhaps the quirkiest show of last year, this spy show, with the lovable and down right adorable Zachary Levi as nerdy Buy More clerk Chuck, will add Tony Hale from Arrested Development to the cast as his store manager. The whole set up of the show is a bit of stretch, but the cast, including Adam Baldwin and Yvonne Strahovski, make the premise work. Plus you got the hot looking Ryan McPartlin playing Captain Awesome. Enough said.

Since the housemate likes Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, that gets picked up on the DVR, along with Heroes.

The rest of Monday seems a bit of blah for me. While I can't figure out the success of either Two and Half Men or The Big Bang Theory, I don't watch them. I like How I Met Your Mother, but since I'm watching Chuck, I don't usually catch it until winter reruns. I've heard Samatha Who is good, but I miss that also. I've missed most of Boston Legal, though I've tried to catch it from time-to-time, but I get bored with its over-the-topness alot of the times. CSI: Miami is just dumb, so I don't care to watch it. My Own Worst Enemy looks interesting, but like all shows that air after 10pm here on the West coast, I usually miss.

Mostly because I'm tired.

04 September 2008

Cheney Waits Until Last Minute Again To Buy Sept. 11 Gifts

It's totally mean, but it's still funny. Got to love The Onion.

Book: Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff

There is a saying one should not judge a book by its cover.

But I have to admit, I was drawn to Matt Ruff’s novel Bad Monkeys by its bright yellow cover and its images of four monkeys looking like some bizarre Rorschach test.

The novel opens with a certain Jane Charlotte, who has been arrested for murder. After telling the police that she is a member of a secret organization devoted to fighting evil it earns her a trip to the jail’s psychiatric wing, where a doctor attempts to determine whether she is lying, crazy—or playing a different game altogether.

Like all secret organizations, there is nothing to substantiate her claims because, of course, there is no records of such a company, especially one that works outside of any government. She tells Dr. Vale that her division is called The Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons or Bad Monkeys for short.

So, you can see the doctor’s dilemma.

Bad Monkeys is a well paced thriller/science fiction-ish novel with a huge dash of wicked humor. The verbal sparring between Jane and Vale is delightful, and the action never falls. It’s slim volume means and easy to read prose means you can read it fast, as Ruff never lets up. You are almost forced to continue to read if only to find out whether Jane is crazy, or really telling the truth.

02 September 2008

Borders woes continues...

So, Borders.

Last week, it posted its 2nd quarter results, and even though they were able to trim its net loss, couldn’t counter the soft retail environment and posted a decline in revenue in the period.

And while the company sold its Australia/New Zealand/Singapore business, it applied the proceeds to help cut its debt, which was reduced to $465.7 million compared to $738.4 million a year ago. Total sales, however, fell 6.9%, to $749.2 million.

There is not much hope that the Christmas season will help, as our economy continues to suffer. With high gas prices (though down) and the mortgage mess still on the lips of news casts, this shopping season could be worse than last year's.

While the company has operating capital to get them through the fourth quarter, which ends in February 2009, I expect the company to file bankruptcy protection. Which could be a good thing, really, as it would enable them to excise certain under performing stores which are stuck in terrible leases. It could renegotiate its debt and come out a small, yet leaner company.

Plus, I expect a change of CEO.

With its debt, don't expect Barnes & Noble to buy them, though they could obtain stores that Borders abandons after the bankruptcy.

Love this quote

"I'm a fuckin' redneck.

But I live to play hockey. I like to go camping and hang out with the boys, do some fishing, shoot some shit and just fuckin' chillin' I guess.

Ya fuck with me I'll kick {your} ass."

Levi Johnston — the boy who knocked up Sara Palin's daughter Bristol — from his MySpace page before it went private.

01 September 2008

Cover art for Fool by Christopher Moore (due 2/09)

I cannot wait until February 10, 2009.

I love me some Christopher Moore.

The richer Sean Combs gets, the more proof he shows what a jackass he is

There are times when certain Hollywood stars -actors or musicians - prove that think they're better than everyone else and that they're living in another world, one far from reality.

Take Sean Combs for example. The hip-hop mogul, who still thinks its cute that everyone calls him "Diddy," has complained that fuel prices are "...too high" and is pleading to his "Saudi Arabia brothers and sisters" for some free oil. Yep, in a YouTube video posted Wednesday he goes on about "flying commercial" because for him to use his private jet, it would cost him $200,000 for a roundtrip between Los Angeles and New York.

"I'm actually flying commercial," Diddy says, sitting in a first-class seat and flashing his boarding pass to the camera. "That's how high gas prices are. This is really happening, proof gas prices are too high. Tell whoever the next president is we need to bring gas prices down."

What a jackass, really.

There are folks out there who cannot afford gas for their car or even fly coach, and he's bitching about having to fly commercial. Talk about someone out of step with reality.