Thursday, December 31, 2009

Books That I Read in 2009

This year I read 93 books. Yes, some of them were children's books, and some were for young adults, but I didn't count the hundreds of comic books that I read, or the webpages or webcomics. Maybe I'll see if I can break 100 books in 2010.

Shades of Grey: A Novel - Jasper Fforde - ****

Under the Dome: A Novel - Stephen King - ***

Who Can Save Us Now?: Brand-New Superheroes and Their Amazing (Short) Stories - ed. Owen King and John McNally - ****

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - Alan Moore - *****

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed - Brian Cronin - **

On the Edge - Ilona Andrews - ****

First Lord's Fury - Jim Butcher - *****

Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity: Get Out the Shovel - Why Everything You Know is Wrong - John Stossel - ***

Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger - ****

The Gathering Storm - Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson - ****

Dracula the Un-Dead - Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt - ****

Genesis - Bernard Beckett - ***

Unseen Academicals - Terry Pratchett - ****

The Manual of Detection - Jedediah Berry - ****

Warbreaker - Brandon Sanderson - ****

The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffennegger - *****

The Bromeliad - Terry Pratchett - ****

The Carpet People - Terry Pratchett - ****

Strata - Terry Pratchett - *****

Dark Side of the Sun - Terry Pratchett - *****

Enemies & Allies - Kevin J. Anderson - ****

The Empress of Mars - Kager Baker - ****

Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World - David Koenig - ****

Mars Life - Ben Bova - ***

101 Things You Never Knew About Disneyland: An Unauthorized Look At The Little Touches And Inside Jokes - Kevin Yee and Jason Schultz - **

Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation and Theme Parks - David Koenig - ****

Playboy: 50 Years: The Cartoons - ed. Hugh M. Hefner - ****

The PowerBook - Jeanetter Winterson - ****

More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland - David Koenig - ****

Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland - David Koenig - ****

Sabotage in the American Workplace - ed. Martin Sprouse - ****

Villains by Necessity - Eve Forward - ****

Life of Pi - Yann Martel - ***

Fool - Christopher Moore - *****

The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives - Leonard Mlodinow - **

The Thief Lord - Cornelia Caroline Funke - ***

The Daughter of Time - Josphine Tey - ***

Enchantment - Orson Scott Card - ****

Secrets of the Wee Free Men and Discworld - Carrie Pyykkonen and Linda Washington - *

Magic Strikes - Ilona Andrews - ****

Bone Crossed - Patricia Briggs - ****

The Stars My Destination - Alfred Bester - ***

Turn Coat - Jim Butcher - *****

The Steampunk Trilogy - Paul Di Filippo - ***

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip K. Dick - ***

Written on the Body - Jeanette Winterson - ****

Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction - Sue Townsend - **

Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years - Sue Townsend - ***

Adrian Mole: The Lost Years - Sue Townsend - ***

Mean Streets ("The Warror") - Jim Butcher - *****

My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding - ed. P.N. Elrod - ****

Mathematicians in Love - Rudy Rucker - ***

Candy Freak - Steve Almond - ***

The Adrian Mole Diaries - Sue Townsend - ***

Many Bloody Returns - ed. Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner - ****

Blood Lite - ed. Kevin J. Anderson - ****

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen - ****

My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon - ed. P. N. Elrod - ****

Backup - Jim Butcher - ****

Tales of Beedle the Bard - J. K. Rowling - ***

Princeps Fury - Jim Butcher - *****

The Invention of Hugo Cabret - Brian Selznick - ****

White Witch, Black Curse - Kim Harrison - ****

Coils - Roger Zelazny and Fred Saberhagen - ****

Deus Irae - Roger Zelazny and Philip K. Dick - *

Jack of Shadows - Roger Zelazny - ***

A Night in the Lonesome October - Roger Zelazny - *****

Roadmarks - Roger Zelazny - ****

A Dark Traveling - Roger Zelazny - ***

Creatures of Light and Darkness - Roger Zelazny - ****

Doorways in the Sand - Roger Zelazny - ****

Madwand - Roger Zelazny - ***

Changeling - Roger Zelazny - ***

The Changing Land - Roger Zelazny - ****

Dilvish the Damned - Roger Zelazny - ****

Lord of Light - Roger Zelazny - ****

High Voltage Tattoo - Kat von D - ***

Empress - Karen Miller - **

Pete & Pickles - Berkeley Breathed - ***

Inside Inside - James Lipton - **

Living with the Dead - Kelley Armstrong - ***

Jumper - Steven Gould - *****

The Involuntary Human - David Gerrold - ***

The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman - *****

Counting Up, Counting Down - Harry Turtledove - ***

Mars Needs Moms! - Berkeley Breathed - ***

Alternate Gerrolds - David Gerrold - ****

Bad Astronomy - Philip C. Plait - ****

The Dangerous Alphabet - Neil Gaiman and Gris Grimly - ****

Opus - Berkeley Breathed - ****

Flawed Dogs - Berkeley Breathed - ***

Edwurd Fudwupper Fibbed Big - Berkeley Breathed - ***

Serenity Found - ed. Jane Espenson - ***

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reading and More Reading

For most of the trip to Las Vegas, I was reading Stephen King's Under the Dome. As I've said before, it's a Llong book coming in at 1,074 pages.

Now I like Stephen King. I enjoyed Night Shift long ago, have read and liked The Shining and Salem's Lot, and Firestarter is a great book of secret psionics.

Under the Dome is a great concept with things anyone can relate to; not just someone from a small town. I'm not from a small town, but I can see how something like what happens in an isolated town could. And most of the story had me riveted, but when I learned the force behind the Dome...

It was like I was in a car with a flat on the Oakland Bay Bridge. I had to keep going because I wasn't able to stop, but I knew I was going to enjoy the journey as much as I had hoped.

Now I can't say that I could come up with a better source for the MacGuffin, but i just didn't like this one.

***

In contrast (and this is only a pun that come to mind after having read a book full of color references), is Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey. I burned through this book starting the night before we left Las Vegas, and got much read in Long Beach, and finished it tonight.

The Thursday Next books are fun with their literary references, and the Nursery Crime series has grown on me, but this new series (intended to be a trilogy as revealed at the end of the book) kept me focused the entire time.

I can remember reading about Utopias in high school (freshman or sophomore year), and even creating one as a project for the class. We had read Jonathon Swift's Gulliver's Travels, and I had also read Aldous Huxley's Brave New World on my own. This book is reminiscent of those creations.

It takes place in a world where Something Had Happened. The capitals are Fforde's. And in the changed world, people cannot see in the dark, and have limited color receptors. You are graded by the amount of color you see. Commonly you see in one color, some see in two, and (as yet) no one sees with any strength in all three. And around this is a strongly restrictive society built.

It's really a fascinating concept, and I look forward to the next two books in the series.

The Return from Las Vegas

Jennifer and I quickly decided we were done with the surreality of Las Vegas yesterday, and eagerly got our taxi to the airport.

Once there we were ready to wait, but the ticket agent said that we could fly standby on an earlier flight, and then connect at Long Beach and get home earlier as well.

We gratefully accepted (even more so when we found how slow the wi-fi was in the airport), and got to Long Beach two hours before originally planned.

And discovered there was only only flight to Oakland. The one we were originally scheduled for.

There was a flight to SFO available an hour before our scheduled flight to Oakland, but flying into SFO was out of the question. So we sat at Long Beach for three hours.

I got a lot of reading done though. And a bit of surfing, but mostly I read.

Today i got caught up on work, and tomorrow will be brief, and then it's another three day weekend. We'll do our New Year's celebration together, and then on new Year's day we've got a farewell party for a coworker, and then on the second, a party with the Sorrellians.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Las Vegas - Days Eight and Nine

Yesterday, Jennifer and I took the tram from Mandalay Bay to the Excalibur. Then we walked over to the MGM Grand, and took the monorail along the backside of the strip to the Sahara. And yes, I was singing the song from the Simpsons the whole trip. In my head.

Then we walked the Strip.

We did a little shopping, and a little eating. We got to the Monte Carlo, and had snacks and drinks in a bar and watched Monday Night Football.

Then we went to see Frank Caliendo. That was a great show. It was one that Jennifer and I had seen on DVD, but the live was so much better with lots of new material.

Then we walked on back to Mandalay Bay, and can say we've walked the Strip in one day.

Today we're packing up, and will hit some final shops, and then fly back home this afternoon.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Reading

One advantage of being down yesterday was that I finally finished all 1,074 pages of Stephen King's Under the Dome.

One thing you can say about King is that the bad guys always get it in the end. It's just that it usually takes so long for their comeuppance that many of the good guys are gone by then.

It was pretty good closure, I just didn't like the mechanism behind the dome itself.

Las Vegas - Days Four (more), Five, Six, and Seven

The past few days have been a lot of a up with a little down.

Christmas Eve, Jennifer and I wandered more of the strip. We went to Paris, and the Bellagio and watched the dancing water fountains outside of the Bellagio. Inside the Bellagio, we saw their conservatory that had snowmen and polar bears made out of carnations, and a Santa sleigh with the reindeer made out of unshelled pecans.

Christmas day, we mostly stayed in. We watched "Surrogates", made our phone calls, and then had afternoon meal at the Verandah in the Four Seasons. It was a wonderful meal, and then we went back to the room, changed and wandered some more. From Mandalay Bay, you can walk through a mall to the Luxor, and then through a series of walkways to the Excalibur. So we never had to go outside.

The day after Christmas we went to see Penn & Teller at the Rio. That was a very fun show, and Jennifer was even able to get herself to stand with Penn after the show for a picture. She was in heels and he was still taller than her. He's 6'7".

Yesterday, we stayed in because we weren't feeling well. Coughing and congestion. Probably the only thing saving us is that the air is so dry it's like natural antihistamine.

We're feeling better today, and will be seeing Frank Caliendo's show tonight at the Monte Carlo.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Las Vegas - Day Three and Four [UPDATED]

It's been a couple of full days.

Wednesday, Jennifer and I had another spa treatment; I got a sugar scrub. Then we relaxed around the spa for a while, then got ready to go out.

Wednesday night we ate at AquaKnox in the Venetian, and saw The Blue Man Group.

The music is great; I have both of their albums, but the show is amazing. It defies description.

Today, we slept in since we did not make it back to to our room until after 2:00 AM. we didn't sleep in much, but it was a slow start.

Today we went to see Popovich's Comedy Pet show. it was fun and light, but done in a very classic clown style.

Then we wandered back to the apartment, and caught the fountain show outside of the Bellagio.

Tomorrow is Christmas, so we'll probably be making phone calls in the morning, but the town is open all day, so we'll see where we go from there.

We have dinner reservations at 4:00, and then after that, who knows.

***

I know I haven't been linking these things, and I'll either go back and make edits, or make a list of links at the end. It's just hard without a mouse. I should have brought it but... [Links have now been added through all posts from Las Vegas.]

The Stephen King book I'm reading (Under the Dome)is 1,074 pages long and took up way too much room. And in no way does it need to be. Sure it's a big book, but it's like the hardback was typeset only to save time for paperback typesetting. all they'll need to do is print it on smaller paper, and maybe bring the page numbers up a bit. I'm enjoying it, but the size is a bit... Off-putting

(Yes, honey, just like your hair in high school. I love you.)

I'm closing in on half way. My favorite section heading so far is "The Is Not As Bad As It Gets".

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Las Vegas - Day Two

And so ends day two.

Jennifer and I were up not incredibly late, and explored the Luxor and Mandalay Bay.

At the Luxor we did the buffet thing, and then tonight we ate at The Burger Bar, and I had buffalo again, and a Sin City amber.

I also got a little spa treatment with a manicure, and then enjoyed sitting around the indoor pool reading.

Tonight, I'm a little down from feeling almost sick. I'm hoping it's just the dry air messing with my mucous membranes.

Tomorrow I've got another spa treatment, and then we're off to see Blue Man Group in the evening. Reviews to follow.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Las Vegas - Day One

An early start (10:10 flight) got us checked into our room by 3:30 this afternoon.

We're staying in Mandalay Bay. And we're on the 34th floor. With a view of the strip. And the peak of the Luxor is hidden by the other wing of the hotel.

Today we walked to New York New York, and ate at the Irish pub there called the Nine Fine Irishmen.

Then we walked up and down the strip and window shopped, and gambled all of $3 in various and assorted slot machines.

We bought our tickets to the shows we want to see, and we've got them spread out nicely over the week.

I'll get some pictures up soon. But now it's time for more relaxation.

Ah, Sunday

And so the final day before vacation passes.

Jennifer ranted at the football games, and I did my comics run.

Plus, I did some reading.

I finished the collection of short stories about people with special abilities. They weren't really superheroes, although some of them were. Some were learning their powers. Others didn't have powers, and interacted with those that did. And some were about heroism in it's more common form. It was a good collection of tales.

Now I've got several books from the library I'll be taking with me on my trip.

I have a new Kage Baker, a new Jasper Fforde, the Star Wars zombie book, and the latest Stephen King.

Once I decide which one I'm reading I'll update the sidebar.

More news from the hotel when i get there.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Meh... and Lights

Last night was unspectacular.

It was good to see mom and dad, and the food was good, but things remain strained. There is tension between them and Jennifer that they won't address without attacking or being overly defensive. They came over afterwards for hot chocolate and chat time. Lots of small talk and not much else.

Typical as I think there has only ever been small talk or big confrontations.

Today was lighter and much more pleasant. Jennifer and I slept in, she ran some errands, and I read. Then we did the Christmas gift opening with her parents over the phone.

And then we had dinner at BJ's and went out in search of Christmas lights.

We found several good ones, but the depressing thing was the over the to one from several years was not on this year. they actually had a sign out apologizing saying that there had been a family emergency that had prevented them setting up the lights.

Tomorrow we watch football, and pack for our trip.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Early Christmas

Tonight Jennifer and I are going to dinner with my parents since we'll be in Las Vegas for Christmas.

Then we're having them over for hot chocolate and presents.

More later.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Of Course You Realize, This Means Wor...

I've been having a craving for wor won ton soup for a couple weeks now. However, when I would try to get others to go to the specific restaurant I like for won ton soup, no one wanted to go.

I can understand this as the only thing really good about this specific restaurant is their wor won ton soup.

The dumplings are the best, and the soup is full of shrimp and slices of pork and chicken. It's great.

So today, I went by myself.

I walked in and sat down, and when the waitress brought me the menu, I just asked for a large wor won ton soup. She asked if I wouldn't prefer a medium, because the large is so big, but I said I knew how big it was, and wanted the large. I finished it too alogn with a compelte pot of tea. And it was so good.

I think I'm satisfied for at least the rest of this year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

In Sickness and In Health...

This time it was my turn to care for Jennifer. Neither of us have been really sick in a while, and she finally drew the short straw.

Friday she came home with a very sore ear. We think it got plugged while the barometer dropped, and so she wasn't able to get it equalized. Our temporary fix was a hydrogen peroxide cleaning followed by rubbing alcohol. We did that about 5 times before she got some relief. Then we went to Target and got some drugs for her.

We both slept a lot this weekend, but I mostly remained near her in case she needed anything. I made a lot of tea, and some simple meals that would go down a semi-sore throat easily.

The good part is that one week from today we'll be on our way to Las Vegas for Christmas.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Biggest Movie Ever

This little cut together trailer would be the biggest movie ever made.

It's like the trailer for the most insanely convoluted fan fiction film ever created. The only things missing from it are Star Wars clips.

My Sentiments Exactly

The comic strip below comes from today's Sinfest:
And it pretty much sums up my feelings about "live" (or as I heard yesterday "formerly living, but now dead") Christmas trees. I've been to Oregon in November, and I've seen the trucks with the trees netted and ready to come south. By the time we see them here, they've been cut for over a month.

I grew up with an artificial tree, and it looked good. And they have only improved over the years. The best part are the pre-lit ones. They open almost like a series of umbrellas.

Anyway, it's a great strip.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cool Birds

Outside of the office break room is a pyracantha bush. Today it was swarming with birds eating the berries.

Robins. Sparrows. And cedar waxwings.

Cedar Waxwings are some amazing looking birds.
They're about 75% the size of a robin, and their colors and texture fascinate me.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Vacation Countdown

It is now about a week and a half before Jennifer and I head out for vacation in Las Vegas.

Not for gambling, but for fun and relaxation. We're looking to do some shows, do some spas, and basically enjoy each other's company.

Christmas in the City of Sin.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Videos

This video is from the movie Serenity, but I'd never noticed a lot of the imagery before.



For example the rising Blue Sun in the beginning is very cool.

However the strawberry bukake at the end is a bit disturbing.

***

This one is more of a catharsis.

Growing up, I was subjected to three kinds of music: oldies, Kenny Rogers, and ABBA.

Lots and lots of ABBA. It was/is one of Dad's favorites. And he was a bit confused at to my preferences because when "Mama Mia!" came around before going really big and having a movie made of it, he got tickets for Jennifer and me too. I went and suffered because Jennifer was interested, but... oh the pain.

Anyway, I detest ABBA music. This cover is awesome.



It makes up for quite a bit.

A friend of mine has a friend who is in Spain for a couple years, and he's looking for an album that Ygnwie Malmsteen supposedly made that is all ABBA covers. If it exists, that would be pretty cool.

Fortune Favors...

Me.

It was looking like I was going to be doing a week of night work in Santa Clara next week.

The site is an active station with a car wash, and the owner was refusing to let us work there during the day claiming it would be too much of a disruption of his business. So he said we could work there at night.

The drillers were willing to do the work, but the cost was almost double standard rate.

Our Exxon project manager nixed the plan today, saying it would be too expensive.

So now we have to tel the regulator what's going on, and we'll see what the next step is.

Will the station owner be forced to let us work during the day? Will Exxon be forced to pay for the night work?

Stay tuned.

Monday, December 07, 2009

It's Time for Another Good Idea-Bad Idea

Good Idea: Staying up late to finish First Lord's Fury by Jim Butcher.

Bad Idea: Staying up until 1:30 AM to finish First Lord's Fury by Jim Butcher when you have to get up an hour early for a your company's safety meeting.

The End

Friday, December 04, 2009

It's That Time Again...

Yes, I do mean the end of the year, and not time to consult the Wheel of Morality.

Wheel of Morality,
Turn, Turn, Turn.
Tel us the lesson
That we should learn.

Actually, it's time for training refreshers...

yay.

So today started with a two hour refresher on the Smith Driver Training. This is all about awareness of your surroundings. Then we supervisors had a two and a half hour training on Sexual Harassment...

Awareness!

Sorry, Sexual Harassment Awareness. And it was as bad as it sounds. it could have been an hour, but the phrases were boringly repeated over and over.

It's actually more than sexual harassment awareness, but the other "protected classes" are simply listed while all of the examples are based around sexual harassment.

I started to ponder if "protected classes" included clerics and druids, but no one was around me who would have gotten the joke, so i didn't even get to say it. There is a disturbing lack of table-top RPG geeks in my office.

And then after a brief respite back in my office (isn't that a horrible thing to say?), we returned to the conference room for the monthly staff meeting.

The good part is tomorrow is the company Christmas/Holiday party. Reviews to follow.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

A Bit of Randomness... Or Not

At present, my "Rock" playlist has 6,276 songs in it. I call it "Rock" for simplicity sake, but it does have the occasional instrumental (like the soundtrack to Batman Beyond) and one or two Enya. But otherwise it's a pretty good classification.

And so I've tried various ways of sorting it. Sorting my albums groups too much, and alphabetical sorting gives too many repeats of covers and such. For example I probably have four versions of "Across the Universe".

So I play it on Shuffle.

One must remember that Shuffle does not necessarily mean Random.

Now I'm sure that if it truly randomly selected songs that there is an approximately 1:6000 chance that I would get repeated artists, but there are days it seems to happen way too much. Perhaps there's an algorithm I don't know about, but it still seems odd.

***

And as an aside, may I just say once again how crappy the dictionary is for the Blogger spellcheck?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Hard Labor Flashback

Today I went home for lunch, and saw a house that was getting some landscape work done. They had a dump truck that had been full of aggregate-base, and they were moving it by filling a wheelbarrow one load at a time.

It reminded me of my time after college before heading off to grad-school, when I helped my dad prepare the pad for the incoming hot tub. Dad had a little Toyota pick-up, and I would go to Navlet's and get a half-yard of pea gravel. I would drive home with the truck nearly fish-tailing it was so loaded down, and park in the driveway. Then I would fill the wheelbarrow with gravel. Then I would the wheelbarrow through the backyard to the bottom of the steps of the two level back yard. Then I would fill 5-gallon buckets with pea gravel and carry them to the upper level and dump them in the compound for the hot tub.

I used to remember how many buckets were in a wheelbarrow, how many wheelbarrows in a truck bed, and how many truck loads it took me to do it.

Needless to say, I don't envy those guys. And today's weather is much nicer than what I was working in.

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