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Sunday, October 26, 2014

26.2! Niagara Falls International Marathon #ismellawful



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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 MiƩville
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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