Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Vinyl Me Please - November 2014: Perfume Genius

The sleeve, white vinyl, and artwork

The November selection from Vinyl Me Please was Too Bright from Perfume Genus.  Perfume Genius is the moniker of Seattle solo-artist Mike Hadreas.  The pressing for  VMP was on white vinyl, the shipment also included a drink recipe, and an exclusive 12″ x 12″ art print by Young & Sick.

This is probably one of my favorite albums of the year.  I had originally heard about it on NPR's All Songs Considered.  Hadreas takes you on a bit of a roller coaster throughout this record.  You've got haunting vocals, erratic sounds, gritty guitars/electronics, and ballads.  A real beautiful album, I wish him many more.

Some of my favorite songs are Queen, Don't Let Them In,  and Too Bright

Tracklist
A1 I Decline
A2 Queen
A3 Fool
A4 No Good
A5 My Body
A6 Don't Let Them In
B1 Grid
B2 Longpig
B3 I'm A Mother
B4 Too Bright

B5 All Along

On The YouTubes

Perfume Genius - Grid


Perfume Genius - Fool

 

Perfume Genius - Queen

 

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Secret History - A Book Review

The Secret HistoryThe Secret History by Donna Tartt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this inverted detective story we follow Richard Papen, a California transplant, as he lands in Vermont and settles into Hampden College. Richard wants to study Ancient Greek, but he must convince the eccentric professor Julian Morrow to allow him to study under him. Morrow accepts him with the condition that Richard drop most of his classes to exclusively study with him. He joins a small group of others already under Morrow's study, twins Charles and Camilla, Francis, Henry, and Bunny.

This is no secret, but the book explores the reason and story behind Bunny's murder. Donna Tart does a wonderful job with this story. There is so much going on between the characters before Richard become involved with the group. She explores their dark secrets from incest, alcoholism, controlling nature, homosexuality, and murder. It also looks at the relationships, trust, fear, and allegiances between them as Richard integrates in the group. I like how someone else explained this story, it's not really a who done it, but a why done it.

This is not necessarily the happiest thing I've read, but that doesn't matter. It reads like a Greek tragedy and didn't disappoint, it was beautifully written. I hope to read some of her other works, including the The Gold Finch soon.

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Shakey Graves - And The War Came - Vinyl Review

Since I've joined Vinyl Me Please I've had the chance to pick up additional records that have been curated by the VMP staff.  I decided to snag the Shakey Graves - And The War Came along with the October pick.

I listened to a few minutes of the songs online before I decided on this particular album.  I didn't want to get it and immediately regret my decision.

Shakey Graves is from Austin, TX.  He has a unique gravely voice.  This album incorporates a few different sounds, you get touches of Alternative, Country, and Rock.  They all fuse together very nicely.  There are three songs on the album that feature Esme Patterson on harmony vocals and it's a really nice sound.  The whole album is solid, but my favorite songs are Family and Genus, Pansy Waltz, and If Not For You.

Grade: B+

Tracklist
A1 This Is The Beginning
A2 Only Son
A3 Dearly Departed*
A4 The Perfect Parts
A5 Hard Wired
A6 Family And Genus
B1 Big Time Nashville Star*
B2 Pansy Waltz
B3 House Of Winston
B4 If Not For You
B5 Call It Heaven*
*Featuring Esme Patterson

Videos!

Dearly Departed

Live at KEXP


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Fire Seekers - A Book Review

The Fire SeekersThe Fire Seekers by Richard Farr
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm an Amazon Prime member so I picked up The Fire Seekers as a part of the Kindle First program. This story is published by Skyscape which is Amazon's imprint for young adults and teen fiction.

This tale features Daniel Calder, a globetrotting teenager, who's a master chef, diver, emergency helicopter pilot, climber. Actually there really isn't anything this kid can't do, at least according to him. His father is the head of linguistics at University of Washington and his mother is the billionaire inventor of DNA based encryption. Daniel and his sudo sister Morag try to crack a mystery involving the Seraphim, a potential higher power how may or may not be out to doom us.

I like the description for two stars, It was ok, which is spot on. Daniel, the protagonist, is too good and too cool, he doesn't seem foul-able at all. [author: Richard Farr['s writing was fine, I just had issue with the characters, their perfection, and the ending. I guess this is going to be a trilogy, but I'll pass.

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Monday, December 1, 2014

2014 Black Friday Record Store Day

Some people scout for deals on Black Friday where as I scout for records.

I was able to look at the list of releases on Record Store Day's website.  I made a rather long list not knowing what I'd be able to find once I stepped foot into the stores I wanted to visit.  I first made my way to Indy CD and Vinyl and waited in line about 30 minutes.  I picked up Chvrches - Under the Tide which was pressed on yellow vinyl.  I also picked up TV On The Radio - Seed, which wasn't a RSD release.

Next, I made my way to Irvington Vinyl where I was able to walk in and get everything else I wanted.  Miles Davis - Blue XMax 7" on blue vinyl, Decemberists - Make You Better 7", Miles Davis - Enigma 10" Dave Matthews Band - Recently 10" and Billy Holiday - At Storyville.  The only non-RSD purchase I made at Irvington Vinyl was Ryan Adams - Ryan Adams.

I'm happy, I made out with a lot of good music and look forward to Record Store Day in the spring!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

There's An Art To Shaving

The safety razor
I haven't enjoyed shaving for quite some time or if ever.  At this point it feels like a chore, especially since I shave my head.  I've been wanting to stop in the Art of Shaving (AoS) for a while.  They have a location close to home, however I decided to stop in the store in Charleston, SC where we were vacationing.

The staff at the AoS were great, they walked me through all the shaving products and gave demonstrations on how to use them.  I was sold on the shaving products quickly, I got a full kit that included a badger hair brush, pre-shave oil, shaving cream, and post-shave balm.  I got a small travel kit for free as well.  What is overpriced?  Probably, but it's gotten me to enjoy shaving.  I now prep right by using hot towels or showering first, I'm saving money but using a safety razor and double edge razor blades.  I bought an Edwin Jagger DE89LBL safety razor, it came with Derby Extra razor blades which I've found I prefer over the Persona blades I purchased.
The products

I'm still learning how to properly use the safety razor and get quicker, it's quite different.  It takes a little longer to shave my face and head, but my skin is feeling better because of it.  I'm pretty happy that I've made this switch, maybe one day I'll try my hand with a straight razor.



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Paper Magician - A Book Review

The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician Trilogy, #1)The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

One more Amazon First Read to write about, this one's also from Amazon's Science-Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror imprint 47North.

This story is the first in a planed trilogy, Ceony Twill is finished with magic school and is off to meet Emery Thane at his home. Ceony isn't happy about this as she wanted to work with metal, but instead will be working with paper. In this world once you're bound to a material you can't work with others. As Thane begins to teach her paper magic she learns that it has much more to offer than she could imagine. As you can guess something bad has to happen, an Excisioner, a practicer of blood magic, invades Thane's cottage and pull his still-beating heart from his chest. Ceony must thing fast in order to save her teacher while she chases after very dangerous Excisioner.

This was a quick read, simply because it was very short. It seemed like it could have developed more, but I"m assuming that's what will be happening in the rest of the trilogy. I enjoyed the paper dog, but that's just the kind of guy I am. She talked some about the magic school, but didn't get to crazy detailed about it which I liked. We've all had to many Harry Potter like books out there, no need for another. This student of Brandon Sanderson wrote a good story, though I'm not a huge fan of the end.

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

My First Marathon, A Recap

Months ago I talked myself into running a full marathon.  I scoured the interwebs and Runners World to find the perfect race, I narrowed it down the Atlanta Marathon and Niagara Falls International Marathon.  Both of these races were the same weekend but I learned just before making a decisions that the Atlanta race was cancelled so they could focus on a 10 mile race named the Atlanta 10 Miler instead.  That made the choice easy.

The marathon course
The Niagara Falls International Marathon (NFIM) starts in Buffalo, NY at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and travels through Buffalo before the cross the Peace Bridge into Canada and head along the Niagara Parkway where we finished just south of the Horseshoe Falls.  

My wife and I made it to Buffalo, NY on Friday October  24th and picked up our bags and rental car and headed to Niagara Falls, Ontario Canada.  We quickly made our way to the Expo and picked up bibs, shirts, and other random wares.  Once that was out of the way we checked out the Falls for a few moments before getting dinner and relaxing.
Being tourists
Niagara Falls is quite touristy if you've not been there, so we indulged our inner tourist on Saturday the 25th and walked as little as possible while checking out the views.  We had nice carb filled dinner at the Sandstone Grillhouse, which was off the beaten path and perfect.

After a good nights rest my wife and I had to get up and get to the buses a few blocks from our hotel.  We said our goodbyes until we'd see each other at the finish line, she ran the half-marathon and was on a different set of buses since they started at a different location.  We had to go through customs, so picture buses with 1500 or so runners going through US customs in running gear.  They had us moving through quickly, so it went fast.  Once that was out of the way we got dropped off at the gallery to wait and try to avoid the wind and cool conditions.

Just before the race started, I had a couple of issues to deal with.  First I somehow lost one of the thin Nike running gloves I had to keep my hands somewhat warm and one full Clif Shot package.  I had to quickly rethink my nourishment routine on the fly.  After the American and Canadian national anthems we made our way through Buffalo, it went by quickly.  Once we hit the Peace bridge, the wind hit us.  It didn't seem to bad at the time, but we trudged through to Canada.  We headed south and out of the wind for a few miles and then headed north straight up the Niagara Parkway.  It was then that I realized that the last eighteen miles of the race were going to be directly into the wind.

That guy needs to shave
Running along the Niagara River was nice, but after a while it all looked the same.  The day was gray and cool, around 45-50 degrees.  By mile 20 my neck and back were tight from bracing against the wind gusts constantly buffeting me.  Miles 22 to 26.2 were torturous, but I knew the end was so close.  Then the finish line came and I was throughly exhausted from the run and fighting the wind.  It was a level tired I'd never experienced before.  I met my wife we hugged and we quickly made it to the shuttle to get back to the hotel, we both didn't want to stand around after dealing with the wind and cold all morning.  The shower I took after the race was probably the best feeling shower ever.

So fresh and clean
One thing I did tell myself to motivate myself along the run was "finish and you can shave", I had grown a beard during my entire training period and by race day I hated it.

I did enjoy the race, I was proud to finish even through the adversity of wind and lack of nourishment.  Luckily they had some Honey Maxx at the aid stations and that was a huge help.  I plan to run another marathon down the road, luckily I learned quite a bit a long the way and will be better prepared for next time.  My official chip time was 4 hours 41 minutes and 12 secs, I was actually hoping to get under 4 hours 30 minutes, but the wind and the fatigue it caused slowed me down.

Next time though, I'm sure the conditions will be perfect :)


Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Last American Vampire - A Book Review

The Last American VampireThe Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I should it be known that I won an advanced reader copy of this book from a Goodreads First Read contest. I won one of the twenty-five copies offered in the contest and had it delivered very quickly after I was notified that I was of the winners.

First things first, if you're looking for a direct Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter sequel you will not find one within this book. This tale focuses on Henry Sturges, the vampire who taught Abraham Lincoln how to hunt. It's chronicles Henrys experiences from when he was made into a vampire, to almost present day 500 years later. It covers the highs and lows of his life highlighting his relationships, his inclusion in wars and dealings with the United States government throughout. He meets and befriends several historical figures from John Smith of Pocahontas fame, Bram Stoker, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, Tesla, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Teddy Roosevelt to name a few.

This book was fun and full of pulp, just like ALVH. Grahame-Smith took a more expansive approach to this novel, it covered so much time and space. The amount of world events and historical figures he weaved into the story made it evolve constantly, it also moved the story along quickly. I enjoyed this as much as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. While the book doesn't focus on Abe, it does feature him and give you a bit of closure.

If you're looking for a book, that moves fast and doesn't take itself too seriously, check this one out.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Artful - A Book Review

ArtfulArtful by Peter David
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Artful is the second Amazons First Reads books I tackled on my recent vacation. It's also published by 47North, Amazon's Sci-Fi imprint.

This tale picks up after the end of Charles Dickens Oliver Twist and features Jack Dawkins, otherwise known as the Artful Dodger. He's pulled into the world of vampires when he happens upon a young women on a street corner who's arguing with a lady of the night. The young woman is obviously out of place, he befriends her and takes her in off the street. This story features Mr. Fang and Fagin from the Twist novel and gives us a look a vampire power grab that threatens England's royal line. We briefly see Oliver Twist, if only momentarily.

It was a quick read, something I was able to knock out in a couple of hours. It had some action, pesky vampires, and that dirty old London feel to it. It was one of the better Amazon First Read books I've read. To be honest, I wouldn't have paid for it from store be it digital or otherwise, but it sure is hard to pass up free.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

How to Eat a Bird

The Bird EaterThe Bird Eater by Ania Ahlborn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted shorter books to read while traveling to and from Niagara Falls where I was going to be running a marathon. This was the ideal time to actually read some of the Amazon First Read books my wife and I had chosen since it's a perk of being Amazon Prime members. These books all appear to be from one of Amazon's own imprints, this one was published by 47North which deals specifically with fantasy, sci-fi, and horror titles.

Ania Ahlborn brings us The Bird Eater, a story that falls squarely in the horror genre. It starts dark and that darkness continues throughout. We follow Aaron Holbrook, who's trying to piece his life back together after his son is killed in a car accident, he slips into the quagmire of drinking and drugs while his marriage falling apart. Aaron is straight up flawed, he's been through much even before these events, his mother and his aunt both died tragically and mysteriously.

The house Aaron was raised in, the same house his Aunt died in needs to be sold. He moves back to a town he was taken from by child protective services after his Aunt died. He returns a haunted man cover in ink, which happened to be various birds. Soon after he arrives he's menaced by a creepy kid, the menacing later turns into terrorizing. Aaron rekindles relationships with a past love interest who's now married, which can only end badly and a long lost friend who now run his fathers grocery store. He also has a video recorder, something his therapist suggested as a form of therapy by keeping what is essentially a video journal. He learns the house he's living in has a name, The Devil's Den, and is supposedly haunted.

Bad choices are made and the situation spirals to a dangerous place, shadows, nightmares that seem too real. The house and creepy kid are attached, evil permeates through them and feeds off each other drawing others in. Bad things happen and a cycle starts over.

I gave this book a pretty low rating, two stars which when you hover on them says it best: it was ok. I didn't love the story, especially how it ended. The ending was rushed and cheesy, there were a lot of stereotypical bump in the night "scary" things happening in the book. The story felt like it was missing something, like certain parts just needed to be tweaked to make it better. I applaud the program Amazon has put together and will be happy to keep reading these books in the future.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Joys of Home Ownership

I love owning a house, yet I hate owning a house at the same time.

We've found a few issues along the way that look to be issues with the construction of the house.  One of those issues was the construction of the bay window in the front of our house, they cut a few corners along the way.  It has a copper roof and it just wasn't sealed or attached to the brick face very well.  Between that and the caulk seal on the windows on the second floor above the bay window we became the proud owners of some water damage.

I fixed the caulk on the second floor windows and repainted, but I had a contractor take care of the copper roof and trim issue on the bay window.  With that out of the way it was time to focus on the interior damage, which was than I expected it to be.  This is generally how these kind of things go for me.  I was hoping to patch some soft spots, but I decided to tear all the dry wall around the windows and the adjoining small patch of ceiling once finding a small bit of mold.

I replaced the standard dry wall with mold resistant dry wall and commenced taping and mudding the joints.  It took me some time, but I moved on to sanding.  To say it was dusty would be obvious and really doesn't describe the amount of dust it produced.  Painting went well, but I had some frustration with the moulding and millwork.  Angles that shouldn't be completed, were.  I got through it and caulked it throughly.  I painted the trim and seat with counter top would should be more resistant to the dogs, time will tell.

I learned a lot and it's not perfect, but it's complete, dry, and mold free.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Vinyl Me Please - October 2014: R.L. Burnside

The record and it's Vinyl Me Please sleeve

The featured cocktail recipe and custom art print
I had been looking for an easy way to bolster my record collection so I ventured out on the good old world wide web and looked around.  I came upon a few services, but the one that struck me was Vinyl Me Please.

For the sake of keeping it simple I'll call it VMP.  VMP has a pretty straight forward system, pay 23 dollars a month (shipping not included) and they'll ship you a record they've curated, a cocktail pairing (recipe), an art print inspired by the record, and a weekly digest with interviews, album reviews, and free downloads.  You can pay monthly, every six, or yearly.  For the sake of trying it out I'm going with the monthly option for now.

The October 2014 pick was R.L. Burnside's Too Bad Jim.  I got record 417 out of the limited edition set of 4500.  It's a fun foot stomping blues record that was recorded in the 1990s.  Inside the record sleeve was a card with a digital download code, which I might add is something I was wondering if they would include.  I wouldn't have been upset if it didn't have a digital download, but it sure makes the deal sweeter for me that they do.  The cocktail pairing is something called the Bloody Motha, a simple take on a Bloody Mary that's pretty much bourbon and tomato juice.  The art print based on the record is gorgeous, you'll see it pictured above.

I'm not sure if this happens every month, but VMP also sold one-off copies of other records.  I decided to picked up the Shakey Graves' "And The War Came" after previewing a few of the tracks on Spotify.  This is a nice album, I'm going to listen a few more times and probably review it later this week.


Book Review: World of Trouble

World of Trouble (The Last Policeman, #3)World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the final book of the Last Policeman trilogy, Hank Palace sets out from Massachusetts in search of his sister Nico who’s believed to be in Ohio. He's accompanied by Cortez, an interesting character introduced in Countdown City, and Houdini, his dog. Nico has joined up with what amounts to an extremist group, led by someone with the code name of Astronaut, who’re trying to find a way to avert the coming asteroid 2011GV1, named Maia. The asteroid would be hitting earth and decimating civilization in the coming days.

Along the way Hank, meets a local Amish community, an entertaining hedonistic couple partying up the end of days in their RV eating chicken and getting drunk on home brew. Gangs of survivors have taken over stores like Target looking for trade in the midst of anarchy. The world deals with the end while Hank tries to find his sister.

Ben Winters writes a finite end, but it doesn't answer every question. In this case, it's completely acceptable, it makes for good thought. I've enjoyed this series start to finish, I was able to plow through this story in an evening, about 3 to 4 hours with a few breaks here and there. Good writing leads to easy reading.

I will be keeping my eye open for future works from this Indianapolis based author, I'll actually be looking to pick up the trilogy for my personal library since I borrowed these to read from my local library.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Cloud Atlas

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas by David Mitchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not going to try and detail the differences and similarities between the six similar yet different narratives that encompass the Cloud Atlas. David Mitchell must have had a crazy map of how all of the interactions and mentions between the stories. The overlapping conscientiousnesses between characters, the shared birthmark and the sometimes remembered memories from a past life.

The stories are unique and they each have their own time frame and dialect. The major characters were Adam Ewing, Robert Frobisher, Luisa Rey, Timothy Cavendish, Sonmi, and Zachary. The story that followed Zachary in the far future was the hardest for me to read. I probably enjoyed the stories of Robert Frobisher and Luisa Rey the most, Timothy Cavendish and Sonmi followed closely behind. I liked the stories arrangements, you went form the furthest in the past to the furthest and future and back again. You end where you began.

It was lovely written and complex, just what I needed.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

1Q84

1Q84 (1Q84, #1-3)1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Japan 1984, down the rabbit hole Aomame goes when she leaves a taxi and highway through an emergency exit to make an important appointment. With the help from an elderly woman and her body guard Aomame hands out permanent retribution to domestic abusers. Her childhood friend Tengo is approached to rewrite a story called Air Chrysalis. The real author is the seventeen year old Fuka-Eri, who escaped from the Sakigake cult. Aomame and Tengo are both pursued by Ushikawa, the disgusting yet effective man ordered by Sakigake to find them. These three characters stories intertwine and drive the story.

This is a complex and intricate work, it was originally published in three volumes in Japan. We're talking about a parallel world with two moons and mythical creatures known as Little People. Throw in a something like a love story and a well connected cult and you get a lot of stuff to think about. It was good, maybe a little too dense to read when you're needing an easy read, but it hit the spot. I'll be reading some of Murakami's other translated works down the road.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Organized Mind

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information OverloadThe Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an e-mail from an online retailer about this book, the blurb about it cause my eye and I decided to borrow it from the library. Who wouldn't want to think straight while in the vast ocean of information overload?

First and foremost, this book hold a lot of scientific information and if you can't hand that, then don't even try. The content is really interesting, he goes over all types of subjects related to the mind. My two favorites were the sections about multi-tasking, specifically how harmful it is, and why we can't keep track of things like if we've taken our daily medicine.

The book was interesting, but got dull after the half-way point. It was so fact driven that portions of the flow sagged. I was looking for something earth shattering to help me with my mental organization, when all I really got was some neat things to think about.

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Step : Trim and touch up #thejoysofhomeownership Can't wait to get our new windows



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Monday, October 13, 2014

Assembled miniatures, first core set #shadowsofbrimstone



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The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1)The Maze Runner by James Dashner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My wife had read this and wanted to see the movie, so I picked up our copy, before we put it in the "Half Price Books" pile and made my way through it quickly. Me meet Thomas, who's disoriented, has he's raised up in a cage that's essentially in a hole. Once he reaches the top he doesn't know where or who he is. He quickly learns he's in the "Glade" with several other young men. Thomas is a catalyst for change and once he arrived things start changing, and not for the best.

The book was ok, not my favorite, but I didn't hate it. It read fast, as most young adult fiction does. I probably won't read the remaining books in the series, but I'll probably see the movies, if they're made. I'd would have been ok not reading the book and seeing the movie, I probably would have enjoyed the movie more if I didn't pick out the differences between the two.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

LG G3: I Broke Up With My iPhone


Sorry Apple, but it was time to break up with my iPhone.

I had been an iPhone guy for a while.  I think I started with the iPhone 3 and just three weeks ago I put my iPhone 4S out to pasture.  My wife and I made the decision to check out new phones the weekend that the iPhone 6 and 6+ were released.  We wanted see it before me made any decisions.  The first thing I learned is that you should avoid cell phone stores the weekend a new iPhone comes out ... it was madness.

Beyond the wall of people and the hype we saw the new iPhones and were very underwhelmed.  It was the same phone, with a bigger screen and body with features that other phones had a while ago.  I had completed some research on the current flagship phones and had an idea I wanted to check out the iPhone, Samsung S5, and the LG G3.  I instantly gravitated toward the LG G3, the Quad HD screen really got my attention.  One of the biggest things I like about the LG G3 is that even though it has a 5.5" diagonal sized screen it doesn't feel huge.  The 13.1 MP rear camera and laser auto-focus are great, it's a huge upgrade over what I was used to.  I get the built in LG Health app, Tap Knock, a cool way to lock and unlock the screen, all the apps I'm used to from my iPhone, a universal USB charger, instead of that proprietary Apple one, and a huge battery life improvement.  The icing on top of this cake the free battery and phone stand/charger I'm getting through a LG promotion, the ability to add Micro SD cards for cheeper than buying a phone with more capacity, a $1 LG tablet, and actual usable widgets, not just some after thought in my notification center.

I'm extremely happy with my new LG G3.  I've got compatibility with my Mac and iTunes by using JRT Studio's ISyncr and Cheetah Sync, which was a huge concern for me.  The learning curve was low and path to switch from an iPhone was easy.  The outright cost of the G3 is cheaper than the iPhone and honestly, I think it looks nicer.  I'm glad I switched.

Shadows of Brimstone arrived! #kickstarter #flyfrogproductions



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Step 4: Paint #thejoysofhomeownership



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Step 3: Drywall compound set and sanded #thejoysofhomeownership



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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Perdido Street Station

Perdido Street Station (Bas-Lag, #1)Perdido Street Station by China Miéville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

New Crobuzon certainly was an interesting place. The Namesake of the book, Perdido Street Station, is the city's transportation hub. It also houses the embassy building and the Spike, the headquarters for the dreaded Militia. The city is ran by Mayor Ruttgutter, he's the epitome of corruption and he has bad eyes that need to be replaced regularly. New Crobuzon also has its fair share of bad guys like Mr. Motley, a gangster who's used the weird art of "remaking" to alter his body by adding additional parts twisting his appearance into something grotesque. The city is also broken into other sections, including slums and affluent areas. Most of the first half of the book took part in Brock Marsh, the scientific district.

The main protagonist of the book, Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin a human, lives in the Brock Marsh and is love with Lin. This is a dicey subject in the book since Lin is a Khepri, which is an insect-like race. The females have more humanistic bodies than the males, but insect heads. The two keep their romance a secret as it's not normal in their society.

The story picks up the pace when Issac is approached by Yagharek, a garuda which is a bird like race who have upright human-like bodies, wings, beaks, and feathers. Yagharek has asked Issac to help him fly again, Yagharek has been de-winged and cannot fly. He has committed something called choice theft and as been exiled from his nomadic people. Issac takes on the challenge and in his research acquires a multicolored caterpillar, which turns out to be very bad. It sets into motion all manner of bad stuff, so bad that the ambassador of Hell doesn't even want to be involved. This isn't a terrible thing though, it allows us to meet the Weaver and the Construct Council, who's avatar is mighty creepy.

I enjoyed this story, the process of reading it wasn't a chore like some I've read. I liked that it was Steampunk, but not too Steampunk. What I mean is that it wasn't over the top like a bunch of geeked out cos-playing nerds at a convention with top hats, googles, vests, monocles, and gears affixed to everything. Yes, I'm totally judging the vendors at conventions like GenCon who sell all that crap. I would have rated the book a five, but the ending threw that out the door. It wasn't a bad ending, it just wasn't what I expected and it sort of let me down. Sometime in the not too distance future, I will finish out the series and read The Scar and The Iron Council.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Magician's Land

The Magician's Land (The Magicians, #3)The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quentin is still kicked out of Fillory, a Narnia like world made famous in a series of children's books, and he's still dysfunctional. Like a lost puppy he makes his way back to Brakebills, the hidden school of magic which he graduated from, where he finally figures out his magical specialty, rebuilding things. We meet back up with those left in Fillory, Eliot, Janet, Poppy, and Josh, who discover that things in their world are slightly off and quickly sliding towards apocalypse. Along the way we meet up with a new face, Plum, and some old faces from the previous novels, while learning about Rupert Chatwin, the older brother of Martin.

Lev Grossman wraps up The Magicians series in a neat little package. No loose ends, no questions outstanding. I felt like this novel was a little more well rounded than the first two. The others were fantastic, and this one is no different. Grossman took a genre, magic, magic schools, and magicians, which has been stretched thin in the Young Adult arena and made it fresh with an adult twist.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Grossman writes about next. I like his tone and style and hope to keep reading his work in the future.

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Moved

I made the move to Blogger last week.

I was using 1and1 as my web host and on top of that I was using the self-install of Wordpress.  I feel out of love with the setup and wasn't using it.  I was throwing money monthly at something that I didn't use, so I transferred my domains, www.mwcarlton.com and www.siderbox.com to Gandi.  Gandi is a well reviewed registrar and web host that suited my needs, the main reason I like them is that they have really nice DNS tools.  1and1's DNS tools were laughable and didn't allow for much customization.  Once the transfer was complete I killed my hosting package with 1and1 and configured my site address to redirect to Blogger.

Along the way I found a nice service, IFTTT (if this then that), that will share my posts out the interwebs without a lot of effort.  With IFTTT you can setup all sorts of recipes to help you along, like if you leave your house turn off the wifi on  your phone, or if you want to be sent an e-mail if there will be rain in the morning.

So both Siderbox and MWCarlton are now hosted there.  It's simple and clean and I don't have to keep updating software on my web host.  The learning curve was small and it's helping me to enjoy this platform.  Now I just have to catch up on my book reviews that I've neglected and all the other nonsense I want to write about.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Benediction

BenedictionBenediction by Kent Haruf
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kent Haruf takes us back to Holt Colorado in Benediction. We follow Dad Lewis' lasts weeks and days of life, as his friends and family draws close we take a somber look at his life and others connected to him. The story takes place after Plainsong and Eventide, a few of the characters from those characters are mentioned by not seen.

I really enjoyed this book, I was fortunate enough to receive this through a First Read giveaway. Haruf's writing style especially the way he writes dialogue between two characters is top notch. It's one of the reasons he's becoming one of my favorite authors.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Catch 22

Catch 22Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm catching up on my simple reviews I've read in recent history.

I couldn't find a reason to like this book, it was far too schizophrenic. It took me quite a while to read this book, I would pick it up and put it down quickly after reading a few pages. I couldn't get into the story, it didn't feel fluid it actually felt like it was a series jumbled thoughts broken into fragments and stretched over several hundred pages. At least I made it through this beast, it was a struggle but Its done.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Memory of Light

A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time, #14)A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Like a fine chocolate, I finally wrapped up this series.

I've saved my reviews of many of the books because it was getting redundant. Robert Jordan over wrote and expounded upon everything and nothing all at once while letting the plot languish. Due to Jordan's death, Brandon Sanderson was brought in to wrap up the last book. That final three books ended up tying up so many plot points that it was too large to fit into one volume and it was split into, not two, but three books. I was worried that this was going to be dragged out and worn out, but Sanderson did a wonderful job taking Jordan's notes and finishing the series.

With everything resolving in the end like it did, it makes me wonder if Jordan himself could have finished this series if he had edited the unneeded bits from the previous books.

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Monday, April 7, 2014

A Hologram for the King

A Hologram for the KingA Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn't hate this book, nor did I love it. It was kind of short at a little over 300 pages. It read quickly because all the separate thoughts and plot points were broken up by a double space. The story was kind of quirky and sometimes funny, I thought some of the best bits were between Alan and the doctor.

Anyway, I wouldn't normally keep this book, but it was signed by Dave Eggers so I feel like I should hang onto it.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Captain's Fury

Captain's Fury (Codex Alera, #4)Captain's Fury by Jim Butcher

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where to start? Tavi finds out who he really is as his fury's develop further. He also learns that he's no longer safe because of his true identity, he should be used to that considering he's never been far from danger. The puppet Senator Arnos is frankly a douche and does his best to displace Tavi as the captain of the First Aleran Legion. To save lives Tavi makes difficult decisions including a Juris Macto, in turn his trusted advisor Valiar Marcus must decide who he'll truly follow. During all of this Amara, Bernard, and First Lord Sextus confront Kalare.

Quite a lot is packed into the forth book of this series. I read this one very quickly, that's what happens when you've got too much free time on a flight. The book was filled with treachery, but in the society Jim Butcher has created, that's to be expected. Again I love the writing style Butcher's been using throughout this series. I can't wait to move on to the Princep's Fury.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Endymion

Endymion (Hyperion, #3)Endymion by Dan Simmons

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s been almost 300 years since the end of The Fall of Hyperion. The Hegemony has collapsed and the Catholic Church has come into power during the collapses’ vacuum. The One Who Teaches is soon to appear and the Church wants her captured at all costs.

The continuation of the Hyperion Cantos in book three of the series, was pretty awesome. We learned the motivation of the Church and the truth about the cruciform. A handful of characters were introduced, Aenea (The One Who Teaches), Raul Endymion (her protector), A. Bettik (their android companion), and Father De Soya (their pursuer). The story was really good, we have a fanatical Catholic Church, artificial intelligence, Earth’s and the universes future state, the deadly Shrike, Time Tombs, and a handful of other things.

I’m looking forward to The Rise of Endymion, the fourth and last book in the series. I hope the architect that’s alluded to in this book is who I think it is. Time will tell.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Saga, Volume 2

Saga, Volume 2Saga, Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I borrowed Saga Volume 1 from my local library. I decided to buy copies of Volumes 1 and 2 while I was in a comic shop of sorts over the weekend. Volume 2 was just as good as Volume 1, it picked up essentially where Volume 1 left off.

The story is narrated by Hazel, Marco and Alana's daughter. She's only a baby in the story, but her narration is full of smart humor and sarcasm. Marco and his mother leave the ship to find their disembodied baby-sitter, while Alana and Marco's dad get to know each other. Gwendolyn, Marco's ex-fiancee meets up with The Will and Lying Cat all the while Prince Robot IV lurks in the background tracking the couple.

I'm looking forward to volume 3, I will be picking it up so soon as it’s available on Amazon.

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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Fool Moon

Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, #2)Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In this second book of the Dresden Files series, Murphy brings Harry in to consult on a series of brutal murders. Craziness ensues when he realizes that the killings are the work of werewolves, add the FBI and mob connections and you get a roller coaster of a ride.

The book was nice and quick, I’m looking forward to see how Harry, Karrin, and Marcone’s relationships progress. It should offer a lot of entertainment in future books.

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Citrix Smart Check Setup on XenDesktop/XenApp Video Walk-through

In this video walk-thro ugh  we setup Smart Check, one of Citrix's Smart Tools.  We used Citrix Cloud and XenDesktop. Here's a ...