PeteyDaddy's Journal
20 most recent entries
March 13th, 2009

08:35 pm
I love BBC America

Graham Norton is friggin hilarious, and even the commercials are good.

There was a commercial for some medicine for incontinence, which was immediately followed by a commercial for a vibrator.

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January 2nd, 2009

08:26 pm
The Boy - he rocks

The Girl's last birthday party had a dog theme, so as one of the party games we asked the kids trivia questions about dogs. Whilst researching this game, we happened upon the fact that Zach is one of the top five popular names for dogs. Now I have never ever known anyone with a dog named Zach, but it was on the internet, so it must be true, right?

The Boy thought that this was hilarious.

Fast forward to about three weeks after the party. We're in a little boutique in NJ (Hoboken!), and we start chatting with the nice store owner. She turns to the kids and asks them what their names are.

The Boy: My name is Zach. It's a popular dog's name.

You should have seen the look on the woman's face.

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December 31st, 2008

08:51 pm
2008 in Books

Time for the 2008 book round-up...

Actual, tangible, luggable books:

My journey through the Aubreyiad continued:
- The Far Side of the World - Patrick O'Brian
- The Reverse of the Medal - Patrick O'Brian
- The Letter of Marque - Patrick O'Brian
- The Thirteen Gun Salute - Patrick O'Brian
- The Nutmeg of Consolation - Patrick O'Brian
- The Truelove - Patrick O'Brian
- The Wine-Dark Sea - Patrick O'Brian

I also had a Doctorow phase:
- Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom - Cory Doctorow
- Eastern Standard Tribe - Cory Doctorow
- Overclocked - Cory Doctorow
- Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town - Cory Doctorow

The rest:
- Carry on, Mr. Bowditch - Jean Lee Latham
- Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett
- The Celestine Prophesy - James Redfield
- Managing Humans - Michael Lopp
- The Creative License - Danny Gregory
- Another Fine Myth - Robert Asprin
- Myth Conceptions - Robert Asprin
- The Mysterious Benedict Society - Trenton Lee Stewart

Digitally delicious Kindle books:
Yes, this was the year of the Kindle for me. I still read more physical, tangible books than Kindle books, but I have a feeling that will change in 2009. 

- The Year of Living Biblically - AJ Jacobs
- Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
- All the Sad Young Literary Men - Keith Gessen
- The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho
- The Alchemist's Apprentice - Dave Duncan
- Storm Front - Jim Butcher
- Fool Moon - Jim Butcher
- Here Comes Everybody - Clay Shirky
- An Abundance of Katherines - John Green
- Looking for Alaska - John Green
- The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging - Arianna Huffington et al.
- 1984 - George Orwell
- Animal Farm - George Orwell
- Cup of Gold - John Steinbeck
- The Red Pony - John Steinbeck

Partially Read
- Anathem - Neal Stephenson - This book was too cumbersome for me. I couldn't get into it, so I put it down.
- Moby Dick - Herman Melville - I really enjoyed the few several chapters of this book, but he lost me when he started describing in detail every kind of whale that ever lived. Boooorrring.

Grand Total of Books Finished in 2008:  34

I wish you pleasurable reading in 2009.  Happy New Year!

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December 27th, 2008

01:30 pm
Backseat conversation overheard whilst driving

 I nearly drove off the road, I was laughing so hard.

Girl: You know, I still have 85 cents on my Cold Stone gift card.

Boy: I want a Cold Stone gift card. How did you get one?

Girl: Remember? The tooth fairy brought it when I lost my tooth.

Boy: I want to lose a tooth! I wish I had a loose tooth.

Girl: You know what? I bet if I hit you in the mouth really hard, you would get a loose tooth.

Boy: Yeah!

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December 14th, 2008

09:00 pm

Somehow, the wife and I found ourselves out of DVR-ed programming, and so had to watch TV the old way. Y'know, with those... commercial... things.

Anyways, so we saw this Arby's ad, and I nearly fell out of my chair.  I actually rewound the DVR so that I could watch this one again.

If commercials are now this entertaining, I may have to start watching them again.

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October 17th, 2008

07:08 pm
Reading Update

Holy crapoly it's been a while. Not blogging so much these days.

Here's a quick list of the books that I have read since my last post:

The Alchemist's Apprentice by Dave Duncan - an interesting premise and a good read.

Storm Front by Jim Butcher
Fool Moon by Jim Butcher - both these books feature Harry Dresden, a wizard-for-hire in Chicago. Harry's a compelling character, and I enjoyed both these stories. I plan to read more Dresden books in the future.

Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky - non-fiction about social networking, and harnessing the power of the crowd. Very interesting read. 

The Truelove by Patrick O'Brian
The Wine-Dark Sea by Patrick O'Brian - what can I say. O'Brian is awesome.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green - yes, I am well-aware that I am not a teenage girl, but I enjoyed this book all the same.

All of these have been read on my Kindle, except for the two O'Brian books. I figured that I had already purchased the first 14 books, so why not just finish the series that way. Only 5 books to go!

I tried to read Anathem by Neal Stephenson, but just couldn't get into it for some reason. I will try again someday.

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July 19th, 2008

07:22 pm
Three more books read on my Kindle - rapid fire reviews

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
This book was written in 1932 and describes a "utopian" world of the future that is anything but. Part cautionary tale, part parable, part satire, this book is a classic.

All the Sad Young Literary Men by Keith Gessen
A new book by a new writer. It's an interesting glimpse into three young men's lives during their early twenties, as they finish college and try to figure out who they are. This book is quite funny at times, and depressing at others. It's a good read.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
As i was reading this, it reminded me of The Celestine Prophesy in that certain life truths are conveyed via a fictional tale. Both stories also use crutches to move the plot along. With TCP it was all the annoying coincidences. With The Alchemist it's a series of omens. Written in 1988, this book came before TCP - I wonder if James Redfield used this as inspiration.

Still loving the Kindle.

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July 12th, 2008

02:18 pm
The threat that the Kindle poses to my bank account

Here's a brief session at my computer this morning:

I decided to have a little background music playing, so I launched iTunes. I noticed that in the iTunes store that they were offering a free download of the audiobook version ofThe Alchemist. I've heard a lot about this book, but have never been a big fan of audiobooks - I'd rather read it.

So I open a browser window and surf over to Amazon. I search the Kindle store for "Alchemist" and up pops the title I want. One-click and BAM! It's mine. Then another one of the search results catches my eye. I click on the link to read about it and decide that it sounds like an interesting read. Another click and BAM! It's mine.

Both books are delivered to my Kindle automatically, and I'm out about $15. BAM!

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July 8th, 2008

09:47 pm
The Amazon Kindle

Ok - so I've had my Kindle for a couple of weeks now, and have read two books on it so far. Time for a review.

I've wanted a digital reading device for years now. I remember reading about e-ink technology years ago in Wired magazine, and I eagerly awaited the day that I would be able to own a device that used it. When I saw the Sony eReader about a year ago, I very nearly bought one. What stopped me? Well, the price was fairly expensive at $200, but that's not too bad for a new gadget. There were two things that stopped me. 1. The Sony eReader's management software only works with Windows. 2. The Sony store doesn't have nearly the number of titles that I would want, and the prices for eBooks just wasn't that great. So I was able to restrain myself from purchasing one.

When the Kindle debuted last November, I drooled over the descriptions of the device. I would have bought one back then except for one thing - they were expensive. At $400, it was just too expensive for me to commit to. Add to this the supply-chain issues that Amazon had with it and my decision was made for me - to hold off.

Amazon fixed its supply-chain woes this spring, and was finally able to deliver the Kindle two days after an order was placed. They also dropped the price by 10%. Yes, it's still expensive, but the lower price coupled with my birthday led me to finally take the plunge. And thus far, I'm pretty happy that I did.

The Kindle gets it totally right with respect to the two sticking points I had with the Sony eReader. The Kindle has got built-in wireless - so there is no need to ever connect it to a computer, and therefore no chance for software incompatibility. The wireless is awesome - there's no need to be near an access point, because it uses the same network that cell phones use, so it will work pretty much whereever your cell phone does. Actually, my Kindle seems to get a better signal than my cell phone. Best of all, the wireless service is free, although I have to believe that part of the large price tag goes towards providing that "free" service.

The wireless delivery of content is a killer feature though. You can browse the Amazon store right from the Kindle, and if you buy something it is downloaded to the device in about a minute. If you browse the site from your regular computer and buy something from the Kindle store, it will be sent to your Kindle immediately. Awesome. Simply awesome. And dangerous, for people like me. Amazon makes it exceedingly easy to spend your money.

Amazon solved the eReader's other problem as well: available content at a decent price. As far as new releases go, they seem to have a Kindle version of everything, and most of the stuff is $9.99. Compared to the price of a modern-day hardcover, that's an excellent savings. They've got a decent amount of older stuff available as well, but I have had some trouble finding things that I would've liked to buy. For example, the Aubreyiad by Patrick O'Brian isn't available, and there were a few other titles that I looked for and couldn't find. I think that it could just be a matter of time though - I think Amazon is set on offering Kindle versions of pretty much everything in print, but it will take some time.

Besides books, Amazon offers subscriptions to popular newspapers, magazines, and even blogs. This is another killer feature, because Kindle owners will often receive the content before the print subscribers do. All the updates happen automatically - they're simply pushed to your device. I haven't tried any of the subscription services yet, but I might soon. We'll see.

OK, so we've covered the good points. What about the bad? Well, I have to say that for a first edition, the Kindle is pretty solid. The biggest problem that I have with it is that the buttons on the sides of the device take up so much space that it's hard to handle the device without inadvertantly hitting one of them. In fact, it's nearly impossible to pick up the device without accidentally clicking one of the buttons. I'm not sure why the designers decided that they needed such big buttons, but I will bet good money that Kindle 2.0 will have smaller buttons.

The case is nice, but I had some problems for the first few days getting the Kindle to stay in it. There's a little tab sewn into the case that sort of hooks on to the back of the Kindle. Then I read a tip on a website that said to bend the tab up a little bit. I tried that and it worked like a charm. The Kindle seems to be firmly seated in the case now.

The text on the Kindle is very readable - I enjoy reading the font that they have chosen. Images on the other hand... ehhh. Not so good. And the Kindle takes much longer to show images than it does to show text. Books with lots of pictures or diagrams are probably best read in paper-form.

Erm... I can't really think of any more negatives about the Kindle. Oh, well, I guess there's the price of the thing. $359 is pretty steep, considering that you can get an eeePC for $299. And the Sony eReader, with similar technology (barring the wireless) is nearly half the price. Ah well, such is the price of living on the bleeding edge, gadget-wise.

I think that when the price comes down, say in the $150-$200 range, the Kindle is going to be to reading what the iPod is to listening. It's a game-changer, that's for sure.

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July 1st, 2008

08:30 pm
The Year of Living Biblically - on MY KINDLE

That's right - my Kindle. Oh yeah. It was my birthday present to myself. It's still effing expensive, but the sad fact of the matter is that I am simply out of space in my house for more books. Plus, it's a new gadget, so I must have it.

I purchased The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A. J. Jacobs. I saw this one in the bookstore a while back, and was waiting for it to come out in paperback, but with my Kindle, the wait is over. It's $9.99 for the Kindle edition, and the book downloads in about a minute - really really cool.

I read Jacobs's first book, The Know-it-All a year or two ago. In that book, he chronicled his efforts to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from start to finish - an ambitious undertaking. In his second book, he tries something equally ambitious: he follows the bible as literally as possible for an entire year.

After reading the bible and noting all the rules it contains, he has a list of about 700 rules, ranging from the practical to the utterly ridiculous. It's interesting to read about his struggle to interpret some of the rules, and then to follow those interpretations. He assembles a team of biblical mentors to help him on his way.

As the year progresses, he travels to Israel, to Amish country, to Tennessee. He meets quite the cast of characters, as you might imagine.

The results of his experiment are interesting, and perhaps a bit enlightening. It's a bold undertaking. He's lucky to have a very supportive family, because some of the things he must do in order to follow the bible literally are quite archaic. It's also interesting to see the reactions that he gets from random people on the streets of New York.

Jacobs has a knack for writing such memoirs. He admits that he's turned it into a career, so I'm interested to see what trials he puts himself through next.

Reading the book on the Kindle was great. It's very readable - I like the font set that they have. Having the built-in dictionary is also quite handy, and I ended up annotating some of the pages as well. Great stuff.

I'll talk more about the Kindle in a forthcoming post.

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June 8th, 2008

08:31 pm
Things I've read recently

Yes, no time to post real entries anymore. New job, busy job, busy life, taking a breather from blog.

I do want to do an update with the books I've read over the past few (holy crap, has it really been) months:

Two more books in the Aubreyiad: The Thirteen Gun Salute and The Nutmeg of Consolation. O'Brian has really hit his stride - I loved these.

Managing Humans - by Michael Lopp. Since the new job involves more management than the old job, I thought I'd read up on the subject. Lopp's book is a humorous and insightful look at managing software engineers and technical people.

A bunch of Cory Doctorow:
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom - re-read this one. I love this book.
Eastern Standard Tribe - re-read this one. Not as good as Down and Out, but it's still a great read.
Overclocked - a collection of short stories set in the near future. Some good, some... eh.
Someone comes to town, someone leaves town - more fantastic than science-fictiony. I didn't really care for it. It was a bit too out-there for me. I mean, come on - the protagonist is the offspring of a mountain and a washing machine? wtf?!?

So yeah, I've been a busy reader. And I imagine that the trend will continue or even increase in pace, since my Kindle arrives on Wednesday! Boo-yeah!!! You know you're jealous.

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March 28th, 2008

07:35 pm
The Celestine Prophesy

This book by James Redfield was all the rage in the 90s. I read it a few years ago, and decided to read it again as I work up to re-starting work on my novel. Since my book will deal with fad religions, I thought that it would be helpful to re-read this "enlightening" book.

The success of this book only lends credence to the basic premise of my novel. Redfield has done nothing more than take nine spiritual concepts that have been around forever and wrap a crappy story around them. The story itself tries to be interesting, but it's really just a convenient delivery system for his nine "insights". The writing itself makes Dan Brown look like Hemingway: the characters are one-dimensional, and the plot is held together by a series of coincidences. The amusing part is that Redfield builds these coincidences into one of his insights, trying to make us believe that the story is the way it is on purpose.

Redfield's no dummy though. Not by a long shot. Explaining away his lack of storytelling with a plot device is pure genius! And the nine insights are well within the realm of believability, which makes them very compelling to those that yearn to believe in something. The result? Well, this book was a phenomenal success in the 90s, and Redfield went on to publish several more. He also had (still has?) a lucrative speaking tour, and the book was made into a movie.

The Celestine Prophesy was to the 90s what The Secret is to the 00s. And that means that Redfield is a friggin genius. Since his first book has come out, he's written other books on the 10th and 11th insights, which have allowed him to adapt his beliefs to be in line with popular spirituality and keep the money rolling in. The 11th insight has some similarities to the power of attraction. Oops! Did I just let out The Secret? Shame on me.

The writing is bad, the plot is bad, the insights are nothing new, but the book is brilliant. This gives me a lot of ideas, so it was worth the read for me.

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March 27th, 2008

08:49 pm
Taxes are DONE

I just e-filed my taxes. Where's my refund, BITCHES?!?!

"But sir, the government needs that money, so that we can bail out millionaire CEOs and the investment banks that they have run into the ground."

"Allow me to quote our VP.... So? Pay up, bitches."

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March 22nd, 2008

07:24 pm
Hello LJ my old friend

My poor neglected russian-owned old friend.

I dunno about the (fairly) new owners of LJ. I am vaguely uneasy about it for some reason. I've had the capacity to host my own blog for a long time now, and am wondering if it's finally time. I'm tired of my content being owned by a company. It's not just LJ, it's YouTube and Wordpress and Google too. It is really scary when you stop to think about how much information Google has. And now they are working on storing medical records as well? Thanks but no thanks.

Anyways, I just made an archive of my LJ from day one, using the excellent open-source ljdump script written in my favorite language - Python. It just finished running and it worked flawlessly.

I haven't thought about it for a while, but I started this blog back in 2002. That was quite a while ago. And since then I've written 883 entries. That's a lot of snapshots of my life that I didn't want to lose. Having them backed up now gives me a bit more piece of mind.

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March 7th, 2008

06:07 pm
Pillars of the Earth - Part 2

After being laid low for a couple days with a nasty cold, I finished the book yesterday.

I really liked the last few hundred pages. I'm not sure if the writing gets better as the story goes on, or if I was simply enjoying the story too much to care. It's probably a combination of both.

If you are interested in cathedrals or medieval society, or are just looking for an excellent epic story, do yourself a favor and read this book. My friend Oprah agrees wholeheartedly.

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March 1st, 2008

07:29 pm
Pillars of the Earth - Part 1

This book by Ken Follett is massive, weighing in at over 900 pages, so I thought I would jot down a few remarks whilst still reading it.

I first read the book when I was a senior in high school. My creative writing teacher had us read the opening pages, since he considered them an excellent way to open a novel. I have to agree. After all these years, I still remember the first line: "The small boys came early to the hanging." It draws you in and sets the tone of the book. Reading the first few pages in class whet my appetite, and so I bought and read the book.

When I saw that Oprah had chosen it as a book club selection, I remembered how much I had liked it, and decided to read it again. I'm over 600 pages in right now, and the re-read is surprising me.

The story is excellent. Its scale is grandiose and the plotting is solid. But I really have a problem with the writing.

When I read it in high school, I didn't realize how dumbed-down the writing is. Follett repeats plot details at several times, as if he thinks the reader won't be able to remember something that happened a few pages or chapters earlier. He also over-explains things. Not things that need explaining, like the construction of a medieval cathedral, but things like character actions. He doesn't trust the reader to figure out that a character is behaving deceptively, he flat out tells us.

He tells us lots of things. One of the things that every aspiring writer hears is "Show, don't tell." It's like Writing 101. There's an awful lot of telling in Pillars of the Earth.

Now not all the writing is bad. I've already said that the first few pages are excellent, and there are other places where it is very good. It's inconsistent. What this book illustrates unequivocally is that story is king. If you have got a cracking good story to tell, people will read it, no matter how badly you tell it. Sort of like the Da Vinci Code - excellent story, horrible writing.

A couple hundred pages in, I was disappointed and ready to set the book aside. Then the story grabbed hold of me and wouldn't let go. It's still got me in its grip, with no signs of letting up. I've got about 300 pages to go, which a my current pace should have me wrapping up this book tomorrow or the day after.

Story is king.

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February 29th, 2008

08:37 pm
The Letter of Marque

I finished the 12th book of the Aubreyiad by Patrick O'Brian a couple of weeks ago. Lucky for me it's a leap year, so I have a bit of extra time to write it up in my LJ here.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I tore through the book in a few days, but savored every minute. It picks up right where book 11 left off. Aubrey has been booted out of the Royal Navy, which basically takes the life out of him. His friend Dr. Maturin, having come into quite an inheritance, purchases the Surprise as it is sold out of the navy, and obtains a letter of marque, turning the ship into a privateer. He convinces Jack to captain the ship.

Maturin is still a valuable intelligence agent, so he is sent on missions in various places. The privateer gives him some cover for his travels.

It's interesting to learn the differences between privateers and navy ships. Privateers were much more democratic, and Jack must adjust his captaining somewhat to fit the situation. He does bring a bit of the navy to the ship though, and commands a well-disciplined vessel.

The action towards the end of the book is excellent. O'Brian really builds the tension as we watch Aubrey train his men for the difficult mission, and it is exciting to watch the plan executed.

There's also quite a bit of humor in this book. Most of it is rather dry humor, but I really enjoyed it.

This book is one of the best in the series, in my opinion. It seems that O'Brian is really hitting his stride.

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February 10th, 2008

09:24 am
The Reverse of the Medal

I tore through book 11 of the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian. Most of the action in this book takes place on land, and it was kind refreshing to see Aubrey and Maturin back in England after having been gone for so long to far off places.

The ending of this book wasn't so much an ending as it was a pause until the next book. The ending gives you a good impression as to where things are heading, but that's about it. Since I didn't have book 12 on my nightstand, ready and waiting, I was a bit bummed. So yesterday I purchased books 12 and 13, so I won't have to stop the action in the near-future. I'm already 100 pages into book 12, and loving it.

I'm still thoroughly enjoying this fascinating series.

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February 6th, 2008

09:31 pm
Carry on, Mr. Bowditch

I saw this book by Jean Lee Latham while at the library with my daughter. We were looking at the chapter books, and there was a shelf of Newberry Award-winning books. It caught my eye because it had a square-rigged ship on the cover. I figured that reading it would be good research for the Newberry Award-winning book I plan to write. :)

The story is about Nathaniel Bowditch, a real person who lived in the waning years of the American Revolution and afterwards. He revolutionized nautical navigation, and published an invaluable book for navigators and sailors. He helped improve American sailing immeasurably.

The book is a fictional account of his life. It's based on fact, but liberties are certainly taken by the author for the sake of story. Since the book covers basically his entire life, the story moves quickly. Sometimes a bit too quickly. For example, the love interests (he was married twice) in Nat's life are established fairly quickly, and the pace makes the love almost unbelievable. One page, Nat and the girl are just friends. The next page, they're friends that can't stop thinking about each other, and then wham! - he says "I love you" and the couple goes off to tell people they are getting married.

Also, people drop dead left and right. I realize that this was pretty much how life was back then, but the pace of the story and the matter-of-fact way that it is written prevented me from really empathizing with any of the characters.

That said, Nat's story is an amazingly interesting one, and I didn't want to put the book down. After spending so much time reading about life in the Royal Navy, it was interesting to see things from the American side.

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09:03 pm
The Far Side of the World

I finished this book by Patrick O'Brian a couple weeks ago, and am just getting to reviewing it now because, well, that's the way things have been lately.

The tenth book in the series shares its name with the movie starring Russell Crowe, so I was interested to see how much of the story was in the movie. And the answer is... not much. The novel provides the basic premise of the movie, and a few story points, but that's about it. Actually, the movie borrows more from previous books, and then there is some stuff in the movie that isn't in any of the books I've read thus far.

So I was really surprised to see how the book turned out. I won't ruin it for you, but I will say that Jack and Stephen are put into a situation that they almost don't escape from. Of course, you can already guess that they do escape because there are still ten books to go in the series. Woo! Half way!

The book is an enjoyable read. I have not yet grown weary of these characters. Not by a long shot.

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