Thursday March 7, 2013


Between, by Kerry Schafer. © 2013. Published by Ace books. ISBN-13: 978-0425261149

It's a recognized fact among lovers of books that good characters come alive. They become friends; you miss them when you close the book.

Many a reader has experienced the feeling of falling in love with a character. But, how often can you say you've fallen in love with a penguin?

I have. ...
       Continue reading "Between"

Between - posted at Thu, 07 Mar, 19:15 Pacific | Comments (0)

Monday September 21, 2009


I've been reading "Summerland" by Michael Chabon. It's a good book, in one of my favorite genres, "juvenile fantasy".

Continue reading "Summerland"

Summerland - posted at Mon, 21 Sep, 00:06 Pacific | Comments (0)

Tuesday April 15, 2008

Made To Stick

13720484 Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Random House Publishing Group, 2007

Urban legends, conspiracy theories, and bogus public-health scares circulate effortlessly. Meanwhile, people with important ideas–business people, teachers, politicians, journalists, and others–struggle to make their ideas “stick."

Why do some ideas thrive while others die? And how do we improve the chances of worthy ideas? In Made to Stick, accomplished educators and idea collectors Chip and Dan Heath tackle head-on these vexing questions. Inside, the brothers Heath reveal the anatomy of ideas that stick and explain ways to make ideas stickier, such as applying the “human scale principle,” using the “Velcro Theory of Memory,” and creating “curiosity gaps.”

       Continue reading "Made To Stick"

Made To Stick - posted at Tue, 15 Apr, 20:10 Pacific | Comments (0)

Tuesday April 8, 2008

The Legend of Beka Cooper

I've just finished reading Terrier: The Legend of Beka Cooper by Tamora Pierce. This is the first Beka book; the second is coming soon in hardcover.

Beka Cooper is a "puppy", a first-year rookie with the law-enforcing Provost’s Guard, more commonly known as the Provost’s Dogs. Beka lives in Tortall, scene of many of Tamora Pierce's books, but set three hundred years before the stories of Alanna, "The Lioness", take place. ...
       Continue reading "The Legend of Beka Cooper"

The Legend of Beka Cooper - posted at Tue, 08 Apr, 22:14 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday January 24, 2008

The Cosmic Clues

Most of the mass-market paperback mystery fiction shelved in our bookstores was written by American authors. Their characters live in the United States because the authors do. After all, there are a lot of authors in the US.

Of those not set in one of the 50 United States, I'd say a majority of the remainder are set in England. England is unarguably the traditional home of the "cozy mystery".

So The Cosmic Clues comes as a surprise and a treat — both the author, Manjiri Prabhu, and her protagonist, Sonia Samarth, live in Pune, India. ...
       Continue reading "The Cosmic Clues"

The Cosmic Clues - posted at Thu, 24 Jan, 19:19 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday December 6, 2007

Jelled Teams

The excerpt below is from Peopleware, by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister. Peopleware is one of my favorite, must-read, oft-recommended books. (I'm not alone in this recommendation; see Joel Spolsy's Book Reviews.)

I've had the pleasure and satisfaction of working in a Jelled Team. They're special. They're rare. They're endangered...

We tend to use the word team fairly loosely in the business world, calling any group of people assigned to work together a “team”. But many of these groups just don’t seem like teams. They don’t have a common definition of success or any identifiable team spirit. Something is missing. What is missing is a phenomenon we call jell.
       Continue reading "Jelled Teams"

Jelled Teams - posted at Thu, 06 Dec, 09:31 Pacific | Comments (0)

Wednesday October 24, 2007

Purple House Press

I discovered Purple House Press in late 2000 while doing a used book search for a copy of The Space Child's Mother Goose by Frederick Winsor. First published by Simon and Schuster 1958, this book had been out of print for decades.

In 2000, Jill Morgan started Purple House Press, with the mission of reviving long lost, but well loved children's books. One of the first books she brought back to life was The Space Child's Mother Goose. I ordered several copies. ...
       Continue reading "Purple House Press"

Purple House Press - posted at Wed, 24 Oct, 20:59 Pacific | Comments (1)

Thursday October 4, 2007

Harry Dresden


Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations.
Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates.
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties or Other Entertainment

We've been fans of Harry Dresden for a long time. Harry, the only practicing wizard in Chicago, is the protagonist of Jim Butcher's fantasy series, The Dresden Files. ...
       Continue reading "Harry Dresden"

Harry Dresden - posted at Thu, 04 Oct, 19:38 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday September 27, 2007

Amanda Quick

Amanda Quick is a pseudonym of Jayne Anne Krentz, under which name she writes historical romance novels. Most of the stories are set in Regency-period England, although at least one is set in Medieval times.

I'm actually quite fond of romance novels, both contemporary and historical; however, I'm very picky about the authors I read. I like the characters to be real and interesting, people I would invite to dinner or tea, people I would like to know as friends. ...
       Continue reading "Amanda Quick"

Amanda Quick - posted at Thu, 27 Sep, 18:24 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday September 20, 2007

Losses: Phil Frank, Robert Jordan

In September, the world lost two well-loved story tellers: Phil Frank and Robert Jordan.

Phil Frank, whose cartoons graced the pages of The Chronicle and other newspapers for more than 30 years, died Wednesday night only a few days after he announced his retirement because of illness.

Phil Frank dies - cartoonist who captured spirit of Bay Area - SF Chronicle, Sept 14, 2007

Author Robert Jordan, whose "Wheel of Time" series of fantasy novels sold millions of copies, died Sunday of a rare blood disease.

Author Robert Jordan Dies - SF Chronicle, Sept 17, 2007

Both will be missed. ...
       Continue reading "Losses: Phil Frank, Robert Jordan"

Losses: Phil Frank, Robert Jordan - posted at Thu, 20 Sep, 10:28 Pacific | Comments (0)

Friday September 7, 2007

Dick Francis

We've started reading Dick Francis' books. He's an excellent writer.

I had always been under the impression that Francis wrote about horse racing. This is true, to some extent — every book has a tie-in to horses and horse racing.

But the center of the plot is often something else. In Shattered, for example, the protagonist is a glass blower by trade, trying to unravel the mystery of a video tape he was given, a tape that was stolen before he could view it. Now, several people are after the tape, and they're not afraid to use violence to find it.

It's classic mystery fiction, with the Dick Francis twist. The person who gave our hero the tape was a jockey, killed in a fall on the day the tape changed hands. Many (but not all) of the villains in the piece are related to horse racing. Still, there's a lot of glass involved, among other things.

The situations are interesting. The writing is tight. The heroes are people you want to win (and the villains are people you're happy to see carted off to gaol).

And, if you like horses, there are always a few to be found.

Dick Francis - posted at Fri, 07 Sep, 20:12 Pacific | Comments (0)

Tuesday July 24, 2007

The Magic of Harry Potter

I realized that one of the things I like best about Harry Potter is that he appeals to adults. Fans of Harry Potter are not limited to the 8-10 set

I was first introduced to Harry Potter, back when the first book came out, by a co-worker. My parents (who obviously have children, but whose children are, literally, my age :-) have read Harry Potter and seen the movies. . I've been talking about the latest movie with friends at work. They're all adults; many of them have no children.

Rich and I have all of the books. In fact, we own two sets of Harry Potter books - the standard US hardcover editions, and the UK hardcover "adult editions". That there is an "adult" edition speaks, er... volumes.

The Magic of Harry Potter - posted at Tue, 24 Jul, 07:27 Pacific | Comments (0)

Saturday April 21, 2007



What is the Sound of One Cat Napping?

I bought a delightful little book called Catku.

The origins of the ancient Japanese poetic form known as Haiku are shrouded in mystery and legend. Among these legends are — well, frankly, no mention of cats at all. But if a cat had a spiritual discipline, it seems that it would inevitably be Zen. And if a cat were to express himself in poetry, it seems equally inevitable that his preferred form would be the compact, often inscrutable, sometime abrupt, always provocative seventeen syllables of Haiku...

From the front (cat) flap of Catku, by Pat Welch.

Printed in brown and sepia tones on parchment-look paper, illustrated with woodcuts and Kanji characters, Catku expresses the essence of the feline in one hundred paw-sized verses.

You seek fulfillment
Through love, wealth, travel, career.
Have you tried kittens?

Catku - posted at Sat, 21 Apr, 20:56 Pacific | Comments (0)

Saturday January 27, 2007

It's an Inside Joke

I enjoy "sight gags" and inside jokes.. Examples may be subtle and you can miss the joke entirely if you're not paying attention, or don't have the right context. Some excellent examples can be found in in comic strips and books.

The Foxtrot strip includes frequent sight gags (watch closely!) as well as references to cartoons and cartoonist. ...
       Continue reading "It's an Inside Joke"

It's an Inside Joke - posted at Sat, 27 Jan, 14:52 Pacific | Comments (0)

Monday August 14, 2006

Where Do You Prefer to Work?

In today's commentary, I discuss telecommuting and the results of the recent National Technology Readiness Survey.

Read my commentary...

Where Do You Prefer to Work? - posted at Mon, 14 Aug, 00:01 Pacific

Wednesday June 14, 2006

Disappearing Nightly

"A paranormal screwball comedy adventure. Light, happy, fantastically funny!" —Jennifer Crusie, author of Bet Me

Disappearing Nightly is a delightful, fast-paced, light-hearted urban fantasy by Laura Resnick. It has a sharp, likable cast of characters and plenty of snappy repartee. ...
       Continue reading "Disappearing Nightly"

Disappearing Nightly - posted at Wed, 14 Jun, 21:50 Pacific | Comments (0)

Tuesday June 6, 2006

Thames Valley Mysteries

If you enjoy a finely-crafted and well-plotted mystery, I heartily recommend Clare Curzon's "Thames Valley" series featuring CID Superintendant Mike Yeadings and his ertswhile team. The books are extremely well written, with plenty of detail to make the stories come to life. The protagonists are sympathetic, well-characterized, and vivid. ...
       Continue reading "Thames Valley Mysteries"

Thames Valley Mysteries - posted at Tue, 06 Jun, 15:05 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday May 7, 2006

A 6-Letter Word For Murder

Murder Can Be Puzzling

At least two "cozy" mystery series use crossword puzzles as a unifying theme. ...
       Continue reading "A 6-Letter Word For Murder"

A 6-Letter Word For Murder - posted at Sun, 07 May, 18:30 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday March 19, 2006

Dropping the Pink Elephant

15 Ways to Say What You Mean...and Mean What You Say

Close your eyes and don't think of a Pink Elephant

According to author Bill McFarlan, the mind instantly ignores the "don't" and concentrates on the rest of the sentence. He's named these unnecessary (and futile) negatives in speech "pink elephants". When we add "pink elephants" to our conversations, we are often denying something we haven't been accused of! Yet, as a result, we receive the reaction we were trying so hard to avoid. ...
       Continue reading "Dropping the Pink Elephant"

Dropping the Pink Elephant - posted at Sun, 19 Mar, 09:17 Pacific | Comments (0)

Monday February 27, 2006


Freakonomics is always engaging, often intriguing, and frequently funny. If they taught economics this way in school, more people would take the course. ...
       Continue reading "Freakonomics"

Freakonomics - posted at Mon, 27 Feb, 08:00 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday February 23, 2006

Virtual Bookstores

For at least a decade, we have been bemoaning the loss of small, independent booksellers. These neighborhood stores have fallen victim to the behemoths: Borders, Barnes & Noble, and, to some extent, Amazon. (For a while, Crown Books was a big player too, but then it vanished from the scene).

I am hopeful, however, that this trend has not affected used bookstores. If anything, I think the rise of the Internet may be bringing them more business than ever before. From services such as and Alibris, to the Used & Out of Print booksellers networks run by Amazon and Barnes & Noble, I have instant access to hundreds (if not thousands) of used book shops from my desk. ...
       Continue reading "Virtual Bookstores"

Virtual Bookstores - posted at Thu, 23 Feb, 08:00 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday February 19, 2006

Recommending Lawrence Block

Is This Supposed to be A Positive Recommendation?

The following review quote was on the back cover of a book we recently purchased:
Die-hard Block fans who have read every title in his Matthew Scudder and Bernie Rhodenbarr series will cheer the return of Evan Tanner, the globe-trotting, adventurous insomniac... readers will enjoy Block's trademark humor and comic characters".

— Library Journal

This seems a bit offputting to me. ...
       Continue reading "Recommending Lawrence Block"

Recommending Lawrence Block - posted at Sun, 19 Feb, 08:00 Pacific | Comments (0)

Tuesday January 24, 2006

Short Stories

The Most Dangerous Game. Leiningen versus the Ants. The Open Window. Lamb to the Slaughter. The Gift of the Magi. The Tell-tale Heart.

Short stories. More than that, excellent short stories. I remember each of these well. I read some of them in school, others before or since. Each left a clear memory.

It takes a special gift to write a good short story — to include characterization, plot, conflict, and resolution in such a small space and to do it well. Some authors, such as O. Henry, specialized in this format.

Fewer and fewer people these days read short stories. This is unfortunate--so few will ever experience the joy that reading such fine work can give. The goal of this site is to give a nice cross section of short stories in the hope that these short stories will excite these people into rediscovering this excellent source of entertainment.


       Continue reading "Short Stories"

Short Stories - posted at Tue, 24 Jan, 20:19 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday January 22, 2006

Animusic 2

Although perhaps not as entrancing as its predecessor, Animusic 2 (available on DVD) is still worth watching. ...
       Continue reading "Animusic 2"

Animusic 2 - posted at Sun, 22 Jan, 21:12 Pacific | Comments (0)

Friday January 20, 2006

Turing Hopper

Turing Hopper is the somewhat unusual protagonist in Donna Andrew's "techno-cozy" mystery series (three books currently in paperback; one in hardcover). Named after Alan Turing and Grace Hopper, Turing is an Artificial Intelligence Personality (AIP), one of many created for the Universal Library (a knowledge corporation that is digitizing the world's libraries). Turing, however, differs from the other AIPs. She is the first of her kind to achieve sentience. At least, she thinks she has. ...
       Continue reading "Turing Hopper"

Turing Hopper - posted at Fri, 20 Jan, 07:35 Pacific | Comments (0)

Tuesday January 17, 2006

Daisy Dalrymple

Turn back the clock to January, 1923...

The Hon. Daisy Dalyrymple, daughter of a viscount, is a working girl, living in London's bohemian Chelsea district (much to her mother's expressed chagrin). Her father perished in the 'flu epidemic; her brother was killed in the trenches during the war. A distant cousin has inherited the title and the estate. Daisy is on her own, living frugally, just making ends meet thanks to a small inheritance and her new writing job. ...
       Continue reading "Daisy Dalrymple"

Daisy Dalrymple - posted at Tue, 17 Jan, 00:48 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday January 5, 2006

A real page-turner

I really have seldom enjoyed a book so much ...
I couldn't turn the pages fast enough.

[back-cover recommendation quote for a book I'm currently reading]

I've often heard good books described as "real page-turners". I don't feel that way at all. ...
       Continue reading "A real page-turner"

A real page-turner - posted at Thu, 05 Jan, 09:21 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday December 15, 2005

Keeping the Stories Straight

Has nobody ever told some authors about the Suspension of Disbelief? That is, the willingness of the reader to believe, for the duration of a novel or play, that the story and characters are real. It usually works, unless something goes wrong. For example, something as simple as a name. ...
       Continue reading "Keeping the Stories Straight"

Keeping the Stories Straight - posted at Thu, 15 Dec, 16:52 Pacific | Comments (1)

Sunday December 11, 2005

After Dark, After Glow

Romance author Jayne Ann Krentz (writing as Jayne Castle) has created a pair of delightful future-fantasy mystery romance novels: After Dark and its sequel, After Glow. Set on the far-away planet of Harmony, the books feature Lydia Smith, para-archaeologist, Emmet London (Lydia's first consulting client and a man of some mystery), and Fuzz, a dust-bunny (a small, intelligent, predatory animal, native to Harmony). ...
       Continue reading "After Dark, After Glow"

After Dark, After Glow - posted at Sun, 11 Dec, 12:15 Pacific | Comments (0)

Sunday November 6, 2005

The Tipping Point

What caused Hush Puppies shoes to go from all but dead (30,000 pairs sold per year by early 1994) to a "best seller" (over a million pairs in 1996)? What caused New York City's crime rate to drop by two-thirds in five years? What made Sesame Street such a success with teaching pre-schoolers? And why was Blue's Clues even more successful?

"The Tipping Point is the biography of an idea, and the idea os very simple. It is that the best way to understand the emergence of fashion trends, the ebb and flow of crime waves, or, for that matter, the transformation of unknown books into bestsellers, or the rise of teenage smoking, or the phenomena of word of mouth, or any number of the other mysterious changes that mark everyday life is to think of them as epidemics. Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do."

[from the Introduction to The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, 2002]

       Continue reading "The Tipping Point"

The Tipping Point - posted at Sun, 06 Nov, 12:23 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday September 8, 2005

Two By Kasey Michaels

There are many books on the shelves. Many writers create plots and fictional characters to enact those plots.

There are fewer true Stories. In the hands of the best Authors, you have a sense of being in a another, very real, world. The characters come alive; you feel that you know them. The dialog sparkles. These events happened. You hate to see the end.

Kasey Michaels is such an author.

We have recently finished two of Kasey's latest Regency-period romances. If you enjoy historical fiction, romantic comedy, warm and wonderful characters, snappy dialog, and lots of laughter, try these. (Warning: Each book contains two or three pages of "obligatory soft-core" descriptive passages, not suitable for minors. Feel free to skip these if they're not your cup of tea.) ...
       Continue reading "Two By Kasey Michaels"

Two By Kasey Michaels - posted at Thu, 08 Sep, 22:13 Pacific | Comments (0)

Thursday June 9, 2005

Getting Things Done

I've been recommending Getting Things Done�The Art of Stress-Free Productivity to friends, co-workers, and techie mailing lists [see my review].

June 16, 2005

Q & A

I also posted a followup discussion with are some of the conversations my recommendation engendered.
Getting Things Done - posted at Thu, 09 Jun, 18:51 Pacific

Saturday January 1, 2005

On Intelligence

Are you interested in how the mind works? So is Jeff Hawkins (of Palm OS fame) and he's written a very interesting book about it. Read my review and followup essay.

On Intelligence - posted at Sat, 01 Jan, 19:47 Pacific | Comments (0)

Monday November 1, 2004

50 thousand words in only 30 days?

Did you ever think you wanted to write a novel? Has it always sounded like something that would take too much time? How about 175 pages in one month?

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.
       Continue reading "50 thousand words in only 30 days?"

50 thousand words in only 30 days? - posted at Mon, 01 Nov, 21:48 Pacific

Sunday September 5, 2004

Bet Me

Jennifer Crusie has done it again. Bet Me is as fun to read as Faking It (although I think I'm slightly more fond of Davey Dempsey). Once again, the dialogue sparkles, the descriptions are snappy and well-put, and the people are real. You'd recognize everyone if you met them.

Minerva Dobbs (her mother wanted a goddess) is an actuary. She knows all the odds. Calvin Morrissey also knows the odds. He's a betting man but not a gambler (gamblers loses 50% of the time). Cal never loses a bet.

When Min's ex-boyfriend bets Cal he can't "get her out of that gray checked suit in a month" and Min overhears just enough to be dangerous (but not quite enough to know the full story), the plot gets rolling. Over the ensuing weeks, we meet Cal's 8-year old nephew, Harrison (Harry), Min's soon-to-be-married sister Diana, Min's and Cal's scheming exes, and an assortment of family and friends on both sides. On the way to the happy ending, Fate takes a hand, tossing in a stray cat, Krispy Kreme donuts, kid's baseball, Chicken Marsala, and lot of carbs.

This was a book I hated to see end. Spouse and self both enjoyed it immensely. If you like snappy writing, great characters, and a fun plot in the setting of a contemporary "romantic comedy" — read this book.

Bet Me - posted at Sun, 05 Sep, 23:50 Pacific

Thursday July 15, 2004

Murder Off Mike

Murder Off Mike is a first novel by Joyce Krieg. I hope it will be only the first in a long series.

The mystery, set in Sacramento, CA, introduces Shauna J. Bogart, the on-air pseudonym of Sacramento Talk Radio's first full-time female talk-show host. Shauna loves her job, adores her boss, and enjoys her co-workers at the station, including "Dr. Hipster", her mentor and long-time friend. When Dr. Hipster is killed, she's naturally upset. The police say suicide but one of Shauna J's callers says it was murder and he was an eyewitness. Now it's up to Shauna J. to uncover the truth.

Murder Off Mike won the 2002 St. Martin's Press/Malice Domestic contest for Best First Traditional Mystery. The characters are well drawn; the plot line held my interest.

I was especially pleased that Shauna J. was, if anything, a little over-cautious. Unlike so many murder mystery heroines, she doesn't trust anyone easily once she realizes something fishy is going on. Her suspicions include her co-workers, the boss's son, the candidates for governor, her apartment complex's security guards and even the local police department (Sac Pee Dee). In a murder mystery, that sort of caution can save your life.

I'm looking forward to the next book in the series, Slip Cue, coming "soon" from St. Martin's Press.

Murder Off Mike - posted at Thu, 15 Jul, 18:29 Pacific

Tuesday July 13, 2004

Eat Cake

Ruth Hopson is the star and first-person narrator of Eat Cake, a novel by Jeanne Ray. Ever since she was five years old, Ruth has had a special relationship with cake. At this point in her life, with husband, teenage daughter, and mother all living in the house (her 20-year-old son is off at college), Ruth bakes a cake whenever the stresses of life begin to get to her. When life gets difficult, Ruth loses herself in cake. ...
       Continue reading "Eat Cake"

Eat Cake - posted at Tue, 13 Jul, 00:10 Pacific

Saturday June 26, 2004



Animusic is for anyone who appreciates rich, beautifully rendered, 3-D computer graphics.

Animusic is for anyone who has ever played in a band or orchestra.

Animusic is for anyone who appreciates music and who enjoys watching music being played.

If you generally listen to music with your eyes closed, open them for Animusic or you'll miss most of what makes this album special. ...
       Continue reading "Animusic"

Animusic - posted at Sat, 26 Jun, 19:13 Pacific

Saturday June 12, 2004

Here's to "Down with Love"

Are you a fan of Rock Hudson & Doris Day? Do you miss the romantic comedies from the sixties? The ones with Tony Randall as the "best friend"? Do you think "They just don't make movies like that anymore"?

Well, they made one. ...
       Continue reading "Here's to "Down with Love""

Here's to "Down with Love" - posted at Sat, 12 Jun, 22:16 Pacific

Friday June 11, 2004

Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion

I watched "The Haunted Mansion" tonight. As a friend of ours might say, it's charming. The plot is a little thin but the movie makes up for that in set, costumes, effects, and set.

The movie is based (very loosely) on the Haunted Mansion, one of my favorite rides at Disneyland. It contains many of the elements from the ride - the hitchhiking ghosts are there as is the masked ball, the singing statuary, pictures that move, long dark hallways, a medium inside a glowing crystal ball...

Eddie Murphy stars, but it's really a team effort. The two children have major parts and were likeable. Wallace Shawn (Vizzini in The Princess Bride) has a small part that's perfect for him.

Did I mention the set? The set is gorgeous. The special effects are mild compared to a lot of recent movies, but quite good, especially the disappearing/reappearing ghost effects.

It's worth the rental fee.

Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion - posted at Fri, 11 Jun, 23:24 Pacific

Wednesday June 9, 2004

Bulletproof Monk

If you like fast-paced action movies, especially if you like fast-paced martial arts action movies where Good triumphs over Evil, you should like Bulletproof Monk. The movies stars Yun-Fat Chow (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) as the likeable "Monk without a name" (and this time the hero survives the movie!). ...
       Continue reading "Bulletproof Monk"

Bulletproof Monk - posted at Wed, 09 Jun, 21:48 Pacific

Wednesday June 2, 2004

Shaolin Soccer

Having purchased the DVD a couple of months ago, we finally watched Shaolin Soccer last night. It was a good night for mindless entertainment.

This is one of those fun, must-see, good bad movies. It's silly, it's inane, it's very funny. The subtitling is pretty bad (which adds to the fun). ...
       Continue reading "Shaolin Soccer"

Shaolin Soccer - posted at Wed, 02 Jun, 20:54 Pacific

Friday May 14, 2004

Discovering Loreena McKennitt

I have been listening to during the day. They play a lot of orchestral pieces, occasional opera bits (Der Felgenfische :-( and, with some regularity, Loreena McKennitt.

The first time I heard one, I thought the piece was lovely. I checked the artist and title and made a note. The second time, I did the same thing and discovered that, again, it was Loreena McKennitt. I've begun to recognize her voice and style in the first few bars. It's Celtic Rennaissance. Her website calls it celtic ecletic. Whatever you call it, I think it's lovely.

Ms McKennitt has her own record label, Quinlan Road, and her music is available for purchase through the website (as well as through other shopping venues). I've ordered most of her CDs. :-)

Try some!

Discovering Loreena McKennitt - posted at Fri, 14 May, 23:15 Pacific

Friday April 30, 2004

Little Duck with Big Feet

DaisyQuack_75 I've fallen in love with Daisy, the Little Duck with Big Feet, and her little brother, Pip. Daisy, Pip, and their friends and relatives appear in a series of books for younger children and adults with a love of whimsy and delicious illustration.

Every page of Daisy's adventures is richly painted. I feel like I should be able to reach into the book and smooth Daisy's feathers or skritch Pip on his small feathered head. "Coo!" says Daisy.

Look for Daisy's books in the children's section of a bookstore near you! My favorites: Come Along, Daisy; Daisy and the Egg; Quack, Daisy, Quack; Daisy and the Beastie.

Little Duck with Big Feet - posted at Fri, 30 Apr, 17:11 Pacific

Friday April 9, 2004

Fast Women

Fast Women is another "must read" book by contemporary romance author Jennifer Crusie. You'll feel that the characters are people you know well; you won't like all of them, but then, that's to be expected. The dialog is brisk and fun to read. Riley McKenna, in particular, exhibits a dry sense of humor I really liked. I like Riley a lot. I also like his cousin Gabe and the sisters-in-law: Nell, Suze, and Margie. I don't much like the women's (ex)husbands, but then, I'm not really supposed to. As cads, however, they are expertly well-drawn.

Fast Women is about relationships, embezzlement, dog-napping, adultery, blackmail, "finding" yourself, starting over, ugly business cards, a 20-year-old suicide, 63-year-old office furniture, murder, and sex. Try it. I really liked it. ...
       Continue reading "Fast Women"

Fast Women - posted at Fri, 09 Apr, 14:31 Pacific

Friday April 2, 2004

Faking It

Faking It, by Jennifer Crusie, combines elements of art forgery, burglary, con artistry, and contemporary romance in a very enjoyable plot. The story line is interesting, the dialog is brisk and funny, and the characters are delightfully loony.

These are the sort of people I like best to meet in books; they're people that I feel like I've gotten to know! When the book ends, I miss them.

The only downside to the book is that it isn't entirely suitable for minors or those with "delicate sensibilites". It does include a small number of sex scenes. If you don't like that sort of thing, you can skip over them; however, I advise you not to. They aren't that explicit (this is not erotica) and they actually do seem to add a bit to the plot (including a few bits of dialog that might not be readily understood if you skip the previous scenes).

Aside from that one, possible, flaw, I loved this book. I was sorry to see it end. If you like smart, interesting, slightly warped characters and fresh, snappy dialog, pick up a copy of Faking It the next time you're in a bookstore. I'm going to pick up a few more of Jennifer Crusie's books. I hope they'll be as much fun to read.

Faking It - posted at Fri, 02 Apr, 11:36 Pacific

Sunday March 7, 2004

Classical Guitar

Spouse and self enjoy classical guitar music (that means music where the guitar plays the melody, not just a few chords). Some favorite artists include Leona Boyd, Sharon Isbin, Chritopher Parkening, Celadonio Romero, Andrés Segovia, and John Williams. They play Bach, Beethovan, Mozart, and much more, with and without orchestral accompaniment.

For more novel interpretations, there are others to choose from. For example, Gary Van Duser has a splendid recording of "The Stars and Stripes Forever" on his album, "American Finger-Style Guitar". The Los Angeles Guitar Quartet plays J. S. Bach and other Baroque masters on their disc, "For Thy Pleasure". I think this is the first recording of Pachelbel's Canon I have heard for guitar (in this case, the interpretation gets a little "out there" and is entitled "Pachelbel's (Loose) Canon".

The California Guitar Trio plays a wonderful rendition of "Apache", as well as a surprising interpretation of the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, on their disc, "invitation". Remember the introductory piece from Fantasia? The one with the orchestra and the colors? That's the Toccata and Fugue in D minor.

Speaking of Fantasia (my all-time favorite movie :-), find yourself a copy of Stevan Pasero's Nutcracker Suite for Guitar. It's surprisingly different and great fun.

Classical Guitar - posted at Sun, 07 Mar, 00:26 Pacific

Tuesday February 3, 2004

Catch and Release - for Books

The goal of is to "make the whole world a library", says founder Ron Hornbaker (a partner in Humankind Systems, a software and internet development company). "When people read something they like, their first impulse is to share it".

Sharing books (anonymously and freely) is the whole point of BookCrossing.

What is BookCrossing, you ask? It's a global book club that crosses time and space. It's a reading group that knows no geographical boundaries. Do you like free books? How about free book clubs?. Well, the books our members leave in the wild are free ... but it's the act of freeing books that points to the heart of BookCrossing.

But BookCrossing isn't just about leaving a book on a park bench for someone else to pick up and read (although it is about that, too!). At you'll also find book reviews, recommendations, and reader ratings. Each time a book changes hands, BookCrossing members can leave journal entries telling the world of their experiences. gives you "a simple way to share books with the world, and follow their paths forevermore!" ...
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Catch and Release - for Books - posted at Tue, 03 Feb, 23:30 Pacific

Wednesday January 21, 2004

Childhood Memories, Childhood Books

A friend of mine wrote to me
... Clare Turlay Newberry - one of my all time favorite authors of children's books/illustrator of cats. She wrote and illustrated Pandora, the book from my childhood. ... I finally, after many years, have purchased Pandora and am looking forward to receiving the book. As a child, I wanted Pandora as my cat so much.

From my friend's glowing description, I hunted up a copy of Pandora for myself and am now also a fan of the drawings of Clare Turlay Newberry. Her cats are so real; how could I resist them?

A few days later my friend wrote

[My copy of Pandora] arrived today too. I almost cried when I opened it - like seeing an old friend. I don't remember there being color on the cover! Does yours have the paper cover? This one does. It shows its age - geez almost as old as I am (I was two when it was published)! Let's just say it shows much less wear than I do...

But as I reread Pandora's story...well, you know. Finally getting this book is a small treasure to the little girl that lies within...yes, still there even after 60 years...isn't that amazing?

       Continue reading "Childhood Memories, Childhood Books"

Childhood Memories, Childhood Books - posted at Wed, 21 Jan, 17:50 Pacific

Friday January 9, 2004


It was September and the colors along the curve of Lake Michigan were ripening. Autumn is metallic here, chrome yellows on the locust trees, planted along the Outer Drive because they can stand the automobile-scented air, bronze oaks on the campus lawns, and brassy yellow maples near the administration buildings. The few trees that stayed green until the leaves fall take on the verdigris color of aged copper. I sometimes think even the concrete paths change color in the fall. They lose the sandy summer look of warmth and become a chilly brushed platinum, sueded but cold.
Can you see it?

I enjoy Mystery and Fantasy short-fiction collections and I've become a fan of Barbara D'Amato through these. I finally decided to try her novels and visited quite a few used bookstores (all on the web), to build a complete collection of the Cat Marsala mysteries. The paragraph above is the first paragraph from Hardball (1991).

Wow. That woman can write.

Imagery - posted at Fri, 09 Jan, 12:16 Pacific

Monday December 29, 2003

So Many Books, So Little Time

I probably wouldn't like all of the books that author Sara Nelson likes to read; we appear to have very different tastes. But that doesn't stop me from agreeing with, understanding, and liking much of what she has to say in So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading. I was especially tickled to see one chapter address the dreaded dilemma of not finishing a book, and that the last chapter discussed "skipping around", something many readers do (but few admit to). ...
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So Many Books, So Little Time - posted at Mon, 29 Dec, 11:30 Pacific

Thursday December 18, 2003

What Are You Reading?

I just finished the fourth book in S. J. Rozan's Bill Smith and Lydia Chin series. The stories are told in the first person with the perspective alternating from Lydia to Bill and back from book to book. Book #4 (No Colder Place) is written from Bill's perspective and I'm happy to say I liked it much more than the second book (Concourse). This is good, as I find myself liking Bill when Lydia talks about him in "her" books. I guess my problem with Concourse was the setting and the story then, not with Bill's cases in general. Wheew! ...
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What Are You Reading? - posted at Thu, 18 Dec, 11:04 Pacific

Thursday December 11, 2003

To read... or not to read?

Do you feel funny if you start a book but don't finish it? If you don't want to finish it? If you don't like it? How about if the book is by an author you usually enjoy reading? ...
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To read... or not to read? - posted at Thu, 11 Dec, 23:54 Pacific

Tuesday October 7, 2003

Under the Tuscan Sun

Rich and I recently finished reading Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. It's quite a good read if you enjoy this sort of book; you'll find it shelved under travel memoirs.

We're both fans of Peter Mayle (A Year in Provence) and similar sorts of books. This is very much in the same vein. I could almost feel the sunshine and taste the food. I was quite happy, however, to be reading about all the heavy work, rather than helping to haul stones! ...
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Under the Tuscan Sun - posted at Tue, 07 Oct, 11:07 Pacific

Sunday September 28, 2003

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Welcome to Sherwood!

One of my favorite movies, The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938, with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland), is now available on DVD.

The Adventures of Robin Hood - posted at Sun, 28 Sep, 18:22 Pacific

Friday September 26, 2003

Friday but no Five

The Friday Five is taking this week off, so in its place we bring you.,.. a book report.

If you like the sorts of questions the Friday Five provides, look for these books: The Little Book of Stupid Questions (David Borenicht; publ. Barnes & Noble Books; 1999) and The Big Book of If... (Questions for the Game of Life and Love) (Evelyn McFarlane & James Saywell; publ. Villard; 1995-1997). The latter is a combo volume comprised of three previous books, If, If2, and If3. ...
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Friday but no Five - posted at Fri, 26 Sep, 22:20 Pacific

Friday September 5, 2003

Maggie Needs an Alibi

Do you like mystery fiction? Try this one: Maggie Needs an Alibi by Kasey Michaels.

Maggie Kelly is a writer. Six years ago she wrote Historical Romances (with 15 books to date); then her publisher hired a new accountant who fired most of the "mid-list" authors (including Maggie).

Unable to afford a long vacation, Maggie reinvented herself as a Historical Murder Mystery writer and slipped a new pen name past the accountant (with her editor's assistance). She created a dashing series hero, Alexandre Blake, the Viscount Saint Just, along with his stalwart friend and sometime partner, Sterling Balder. Her new books soon hit the New York Times bestseller list and everyone was (reasonably) happy... until several weeks ago. ...
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Maggie Needs an Alibi - posted at Fri, 05 Sep, 11:01 Pacific

Monday July 14, 2003

Recommended Reading

We've read some good books lately; I thought I'd share. Instead of an entry for each, I'll just put them together.

We recommend:

  • Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next novels (The Eyre Affair...)

  • Lee Harris's Murder in Hell's Kitchen

  • Kathy Reich's Forensic Procedurals (Deja Dead...)
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Recommended Reading - posted at Mon, 14 Jul, 13:26 Pacific

Wednesday July 9, 2003

Growing up reading

The Friday 5 for July 4, 2003
  1. What were your favorite childhood stories?
  2. What books from your childhood would you like to share with [your] children?
  3. Have you re-read any of those childhood stories and been surprised by anything?
  4. How old were you when you first learned to read?
  5. Do you remember the first 'grown-up' book you read? How old were you?
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Growing up reading - posted at Wed, 09 Jul, 09:55 Pacific

Wednesday June 11, 2003

Finding Nemo

We saw Finding Nemo last night. The movie is fun and intensely colorful (I felt like I was inside a screen saver :-).

There are some darker parts than previous Pixar films (especially the introduction, which evokes memories of Bambi and Dumbo). Although it was important to understand why the main characters were a single fishfather and his son, and to understand the personalities of both, it was still something of a downer beginning.

Nevertheless, the movie perked up after that and moved along, ahem, swimmingly. All the the characters are well actualized and believable. Dorie is fun. Everything seems very real. I thought the seagulls were particularly well defined and very very funny.

Overall a fun movie and worth seeing. Take the kids but see it for yourself too. See it in a theatre; it's worth the large screen experience. Stay through the credits; they're entertaining.

Finding Nemo - posted at Wed, 11 Jun, 11:16 Pacific

Tuesday June 3, 2003

Romeo and Juliet

We watched West Side Story last night. Well, Rich watched the whole movie; I stopped about 3/4 through. I just couldn't stay with it. I've never been a big fan of Romeo and Juliet or of tragedy in general, at least when it involves innocent people and inexorable events. Sigh.

Nice dancing though. Very balletic. Fancy edition of the DVD complete with screenplay and photographs.

Romeo and Juliet - posted at Tue, 03 Jun, 17:52 Pacific

Saturday May 31, 2003

Movie Review: Widows

Interesting "heist" action film; kept me guessing
Violence: Especially at the beginning, mostly implied
Rating: PG-13 (I'm not sure how it missed R, though)
I rented this on DVD and rather liked it. It starts out with a bang (and an explosion) as four men, planning to rob a gallery for a $300million Vermeer are killed in a staged traffic accident (with requisite explosion). But one escapes alive... ...
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Movie Review: Widows - posted at Sat, 31 May, 22:54 Pacific

Thursday May 29, 2003

Movie review: Who is Cletis Tout?

Gently bent....
cletistout.jpeg Violence: Mostly to those who deserve it
Humor: subtle
Rated R
This was a fun movie; strange, but likeable. It's a little confusing at the beginning. Stay with it; all will be explained in a little time. Most of the story is told through flashbacks. ...
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Movie review: Who is Cletis Tout? - posted at Thu, 29 May, 10:34 Pacific

Monday May 26, 2003

Movie Review: Ballistic

Lights! Camera! Action!

BallisticDVD.jpeg Violence: Only to those who really deserve it
Rated R

If you like action movies and have not seen Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever - do so. It's quite good. Lots of car chases (but no upset vegetable carts). Set in Vancouver. Lucy Liu is lots of fun to watch. ...
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Movie Review: Ballistic - posted at Mon, 26 May, 09:28 Pacific

Tuesday April 8, 2003

Booklovers' Mysteries

I have recently been reading, and enjoying, Julie Kaewert's series of "booklovers' mysteries". The protagonist, Alex Plumtree, is a publisher, collector and bibliophile, owner of a 100 year old small publishing house in London. I envy Alex his library, as well as the libraries of many of his friends and acquaintances. I think of an "old" book as one printed before 1900. Many of Alex's "old" books pre-date the printing press!

I don't envy Alex his life, however; it contains far too much danger and intrigue! As is so often the case in stories like this, the protagonist keeps getting into trouble with politics, enemies, danger, and dead bodies all around :) A bit unusual, however, for this style of "cozy" mystery series, is that Alex is frequently the initial target of the trouble (usually the "detective" trips over a mystery or a body and is gradually snared).

The books are interesting as well as informative; the characters are real and likable. The series so far, in order: Unsolicited, followed by Unbound, Unprintable, Untitled, Unsigned, and Uncatalogued.

A small chuckle of interest especially to computer people: I looked up the series on Barnes&Noble online (to recommend to a friend) and was interested, then amused, to discover that the 4th book was mis-"shelved" in their online data base, under the "title" A Booklover's Mystery. Given that actual title is, erm, Untitled, I think B&N has a small bug in their database design :-)

Booklovers' Mysteries - posted at Tue, 08 Apr, 14:25 Pacific

Tuesday May 21, 2002

Daniel Pinkwater

Rich and I are fans of Daniel Pinkwater. Recently, I discovered some excerpts are available at: If you haven't yet discovered Daniel Pinkwater, here's your chance. Find his books; read his essays. Listen to his commentaries on National Public Radio.

Eat Pudding.

Daniel Pinkwater - posted at Tue, 21 May, 14:13 Pacific