Friday, May 28, 2010

Kitty Put Through the Washer

Thu, 27 May 11:32 AM EDT
SYDNEY (Reuters) - A Persian kitten gave her owners the shock of their lives when she emerged from the washing machine, dizzy and bedraggled after surviving a full cycle.

Brendon Rogers, from Manly Vale, Sydney, said four-month-old Kimba, a white, fluffy kitten, must have climbed into the front-loader machine when the door was open and curled up on the dirty clothes -- unbeknownst to his father Lyndsay who turned the machine on for a cold wash.

They were both amazed when the cycle -- including a high level spin -- finished and they opened the door to pull out the clothes to find Kimba in the machine.

"We could hardly believe our eyes when she emerged, looking like a drowned rat," he told Reuters.

Although Kimba was alive she clearly needed help so they rushed her to the vet where she was put on an intravenous drip and treated for shock and hypothermia.

Her eyes were also badly affected by the detergent and needed treatment.

"It is just amazing that she survived but we reckon she's used all of her nine lives," said Rogers.

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Miral Fahmy)

original article

...that's one clean..ok I'll stop there.

Comcast Outage: Open Letter

Dear Comcast,

You suck.


*looks like at least 5 square miles around my house is out. No TV or internet last night or this morning at my house and at my restaurant the next town over. Yes I did pay my bill, and I'm currently on the net at work for you smart asses :)*

***UPDATE*** Apparently a train has smashed through comcast's main fiber to Indianapolis...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Book Review: WWW: Watch by Robert J. Sawyer (Audio Book)

Note: This review is slightly spoilerish; some of the themes I discuss are important to the overall story, but no actual plot points are revealed. Sawyer delivers his message through dialog between characters, so some of the ideas I mention do not get discussed till later in the book. If you had mixed feelings about book 1, you should read this review before deciding to read book 2.

The story of Caitlin and the emergent entity WebMind continues in Watch. The story picks up directly following the events of Wake. WebMind has awoken from the darkness of pre-conscious existence, and has started to grow his abilities. It doesn’t take long for various government agencies to notice his presence and take the only action governments take in these kinds of situations: find a way to kill it. Watch steps away from the sense of discovery and enlightenment that Wake had, and follows a more traditional story format. You now have good guys (Caitlin and her family) and bad guys (various government agencies). Robert J. Sawyer’s characters do not fail to pontificate on the various ideologies that the story brings up, it’s just that the pontificating and sense of wonder that were the whole point of Wake take a bit of a backseat in Watch. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since Watch introduces the overall conflict.

The feeling Wake left you with would be impossible to recreate in a sequel, and I’m glad Sawyer didn’t try. He instead gives the reader different feelings, and a different message. Watch tackles the theme of “Big Brother” and the pros and cons of having a benevolent protector watching over all of humanity. He talks about the selfishness of genes and the ability of consciousness to overcome those primitive genetic programs to be something better than nature intended. In other words, Watch gets into territory just as deep as that explored in Wake, but in other ways. Watch does feel a little preachy at times. There are whole sections of dialog that feel a little forced in their message. It felt like Sawyer had these sweet ideas, but had a hard time finding a good place to put them. So, did I like Watch? Yes, a great deal. Did I like it more than Wake? No.

Like Wake, I listened to this book in the CD audio version released by Brilliance Audio. It was narrated by the same team of four voice actors (Jessica Almasy, Jennifer Van Dyck, A.C. Fellner, and Marc Vietor), and an intro by Robert J. Sawyer. Having a team of voice actors really adds a lot. Kudos goes to the actors for delivering some rather difficult dialog. I’m looking forward to listening to Wonder, which will feature the same cast.

You can also learn more about Sawyer’s books at the Fantasyliterature Robert J. Sawyer page

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Book Review: WWW: Wake by Robert J. Sawyer (Audio Book)

It's been a long time since I read Calculating God, and I'd forgotten how good Robert J. Sawyer was. As I was reading Wake, the wonderful, smooth rhythm of Sawyer’s writing came back to me, and I wondered why I ever stopped reading his stuff. I loved Wake, but defining exactly why I loved it will be somewhat difficult.

Caitlin is a 15 year old math genius who was born blind. She's the perfect candidate for an experimental implant that helps her brain interpret the signal her eyes receive. The only problem is that the device does not exactly work as it should: instead of seeing the world around her, she is able to visualize the internet. However, it’s not just the web she sees: there is something else lurking in the background, something alive and growing smarter.

Robert J. Sawyer spends a great deal of time explaining the world as Caitlin perceives it. It’s important to understand her perspective on things, because it’s used as a parallel for everything in the story. Sawyer does this so well that I was simply left in awe. I know he spent a lot of time researching for this book, and it shows. Reading the blurb on the back of the book doesn’t quite do the story justice, as it nearly tells the book’s story in its entirety in just a few paragraphs. Wake has no villains, no action sequences, no nail biting moments; it’s just a heart-warming story about an amazing girl who discovers something unbelievable. There are also side plots that, in their current form, seem unrelated, but I just know that the author will be bringing them all together in some huge way in the later books.

The ins and outs of human perception, and the idea of who we are and what our purpose on this earth is, are just some of the big ideas at play in this novel. The ideological dilemmas presented in this book literally kept me up at night contemplating them. On the outset it seems to be such a simple story, but in reality it is a complex manifesto on humanity from the perspective of Robert J. Sawyer. If there is a reason for someone not to like Wake, it would be that their world view is so philosophically different from Sawyer’s that they simply can’t accept the underlying themes in the story.

I listened to this book in the CD audio version released by Brilliance Audio, narrated by a team of four voice actors (Jessica Almasy, Jennifer Van Dyck, A.C. Fellner, and Marc Vietor), and even a little by Robert J. Sawyer himself. Having different voice actors for each main character was really nice, and I think it may have slightly spoiled me for further audiobooks. The voice of Caitlin (Jessica Almasy) was so bubbly and charming; she was just as I imagined Caitlin would be. Each actor offered something unique to their characters, and made this audio version something special.

You can also learn more about Sawyer’s books at the Fantasyliterature Robert J. Sawyer page

Friday, May 7, 2010

Why I Won't Review Self Published Books

I got to thinking the other day about why I started to review the books I read. I started reviewing because I wanted to participate in the business of books, and learn from it. I eventually would like to write something of my own, but I realized my skills were far below the needed level. What better way to learn what good writing is, than by analyzing other writers? I also needed to find a good excuse to the Asian Overlord for why I needed to buy yet another book when I hadn't yet read all the ones I currently had on my shelf. "Sweety, it's the new Jim Butcher...I have to review it while it's still new" here I am, reviewing books.

It wasn't long into my reviewing career (HAHAHAHA!) that I was propositioned by some eager "author to be" to review their newest release. I was flattered that somebody would want my opinion on something they've worked so hard on. Since writing for I always research the author and the publisher before reviewing anything. They have a policy of no self published books, and no presses where the author has to contribute anything monetarily to be published. After searching around I did find that the book was indeed self published. That meant I wouldn't review for Fanlit, but it didn't necessarily mean I wouldn't review it personally to publish here.

Then I began to think about why a person who paid for their book to be published would want me to review it. Obviously they would hope I liked it and in doing so I would promote the book. What if I didn't like it? What if it was completely terrible? As a reviewer I have an obligation to my readers to be honest in my reviews and share any flaws I feel were in a particular book I just read. This person has paid MONEY to get their book in a published format. They obviously think it's good. What good could come from me giving it a negative review? It's not like I'm warning people away from a book that is sitting on the shelves at Barnes and Nobles. No, whether I liked it or not, anything I said about the book would be taken personal. So I chose not to review it.

I did offer to read the book and give him a critique via e-mail, but I would not publish the review regardless of whether I liked it or not. I was also not willing to read an EBook version, which was basically a word copy that he had typed up on his own computer. To say the least he wasn't willing to send a copy he paid for to me with no chance of promotion. I tried to explain why I wouldn't post a review, that the publicity could go both ways. If I loved the book then great, you might sell a few copies. If I hated the book then the fact that your life's work is a stinker will be forever stamped on the internet. Not to mention you would now hate me as much as I hated your book.

So that's it, I don't review self-published books. They have way too much baggage attached to them. I will however read them and offer as much constructive criticism as I can. I'm not mean, and not overly negative, but if your story has serious issues I will point them out. I assume any self published book to be a work in progress, since if it was truly great, somebody besides yourself would have already paid for the privileged to print it (however small that payment might be).

Monday, May 3, 2010

Transgenre Fiction: I pick my top 5 genre mixing reads

Lev Grossman discusses the growing trend of authors incorporating fantasy into their works. I tend to enjoy stories that mix genres more than any other, and have also noticed the growing trend. I found the article to be interesting enough to share.

(Re)Name This Nerdy Literary Movement

I also thought I would list a top 5 of my recent favorite books/series that make a flavor of genre stew that I like.



Shadows of the Apt series by Adrian Tchaikovsky: Just recently read Empire in Black and Gold and it's sequel DragonFly Falling. It's an odd mix of classic epic fantasy and steampunk. You have a wide variety of races that use magic as well as various machines and steampunk technology.

Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher: I consider this a genre mixer too and one of my all time favorite series. Butcher mixes typical fantasy elements like wizards and fairies with the hard bitten private eye noir. It's like what would happen if Dashiell Hammett was a member of the Inklings.

Sigma Force series by James Rollins: James Rollins you ask? This action/adventure series wears many coats. It's got 1 cup of Scifi/Fantasy, one cup Tom Clancy, two cups of Indiana Jones, and it's all mixed well for a perfect genre gumbo. If you are a fan of any of the above genres, you should give Sandstorm a try.

American Gods
Everything Neil Gaiman has ever written by...Neil Gaiman: That's it, that is all you need to know. Ok ok...I'll pick about American Gods? go read it or be shunned.

Way Of The Wolf
Vampire Earth series by E.E. Knight: At it's core it's post-apocalyptic fiction, but it has vampires and a touch of magic. These books are chock full of whoop-ass. A very fun read, and also quite enjoyable in audiobook.

I know there are tons more out there, but these are just 5 of some of the ones I've read recently and enjoyed a great deal. Follow the links to learn more about each one. Let me know if you try one, or if you have some suggestions of your own.

Geeks On Fire! stops smoking: Chantix Review Final (3 weeks in)

Just a quick update for those who want to know. After week one, I quit. I slipped up once, and as I explained it gave me no satisfaction at all. I continued to take the 2 x 1mg pills, one in the morning and one in the evening. It seemed to me the one in the evening left me with a sour stomach in the morning, so I started just taking one a day for week 3, and have not felt and increased desire to smoke. So that's it...I'm done. Been three weeks since I had a cigarette, not counting the one I slipped with. I will continue to take Chantix for about another week and then I'll quit that too. i will miss the messed up dreams, but that's it. For me Chantix may have actually made quitting too easy...we'll see how that plays a role when life rears its ugly head sometime in the future.