As a science fiction and fantasy fan, I would be remiss if I didn't dive into the expanded Star Wars universe now and then. My local library has a pretty decent selection of SF/F books and access to the collection of every public library in the Capital District. I started reading this series, Fate of the Jedi, from book 2, but got quickly caught up.
Backlash is the fourth book in the series and is well-written and well-paced. The story revolves mostly around Luke Skywalker and his son, Ben, as they track down a Sith girl on the run. I feel the author has a good understanding of the Expanded Universe and doesn't write a lot of unnecessary description intended for the initiate.
There is plenty of plotting, intrigue, rancors and light saber battles along with Force techniques. The Sith girl isn't entirely evil which is nice because morality is a spectrum. Sith mostly means self-interest rather than true evilness.
I recommend this book to those interested in Star Wars.
This book is the third of the second series mentioned in the previous review about Bearers of the Black Staff. This book is tougher to describe without spoilers, but the main plot is man's race to a safe haven while being chased by the demons who manipulated man into starting the Great War in the first place. Again, it is much more complex than the standard quest story and feels less formulaic than the more well-known Shannara books.
There are some annoying characters in this book, but they are balanced out by some of the discussion of morality - are some people/beings purely evil? Brooks argues yes, that there are those out there, demons, who are driven to sow chaos wherever they can. He argues that the bad guys are not inherently evil, but are tipped in that direction by these demons.
The series is wrapped up fairly neatly, but perhaps with too much of a happy ending for my tastes.
I recommend this book to those who enjoy the genre.
Terry Brooks is best known for his Shannara books which tell fantasy tales about life after a cataclysm. His first books occurred quite a long time after the so-called Great War and were fairly standard adventure fantasy books modeled after Lord of the Rings. He then started three series about events which led up to the Great War. This book is the first of the third series. The Races are learning that the protection around their valley is failing.
It's too hard to describe the story further without spoilers, but suffice it to say this book has the same elements of magic as in the other Shannara books, but with a more interesting plot. It feels much less linear than the chronologically-later ones and feels like a further departure from the Tolkien style. Fantasy books are now much grittier (see Abercrombie, Lynch, Martin and Rothfuss) and it's a welcome change from the elves and dwarves stories.
I'm also more a fan of post-apocalyptic stories than post-post-apocalyptic ones. I like stories about what happens right after the big event - how do people cope with the ensuing anarchy? Who steps up?
Anyhow, I recommend this series for those who like the genre.
Tonight I watched 50/50, a comedy starring Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The movie is about JGL learning he has cancer and how he deals with his treatment. I'm kind of on the fence about Rogen. In some movies, he's hilarious, but he's often over-the-top. I would say he's both in this movie, but I guess it's better to say he's a little more understated.
I generally don't like movies about death, but this one was good and is thus recommended. You can even see a little side boob from Anna Kendrick who was in Up in the Air. Bryce Dallas Howard is in the movie as JGL's girlfriend. She's hot so it's weird to find out she's Ron Howard's daughter.
I saw some ads for Wrath of the Titans and figured I should watch the first one, Clash of the Titans, in case I want to catch the new one in the theater. The odds are small, but non-zero. Holy moly. Clash of the Titans is stupid. It's cheesy, but not in a good way like the original. The characters are wooden, the plot is weak and the special effects aren't really all that special. There is too much wire work and the hero goes off on a week-long trip without packing a goddamned bag of supplies.
Readers know I have trouble suspending my disbelief, but I think this movie requires you to turn off your brain completely in order to get through it. It's not the worst movie I've seen, but I do not recommend it.
Tonight I watched The Bank Job, a film from 2008 about a bank robbery to get back some incriminating photos of the one of the royals gettin' plowed in the Caribbean. It stars Jason Statham and a bunch of British actors I didn't recognize. It has a nice mix of titties, violence, intrigue and history since it was based on a true story.
I found it engaging and well-paced and I recommend it.
Question #11: You're having lunch with three people you respect and admire. They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend. The criticism is distasteful and unjustified. What do you do?
I'd tell them she's a friend of mine and they're welcome to continue to bash her if they want me to bring the ruckus. I'm definitely not going to sit there idly. Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but that doesn't mean I'm going to let a friend get trashed.
Question #10: Are you more worried about doing things right or doing the right things?
I'd say I'm more worried about doing things right since I can be a perfectionist. That's not to say that it shouldn't be done if it can't be done perfectly, but rather, you should always try your best in whatever you do. What's the point otherwise? I guess I'm saying my "good enough" threshold is higher than most people's.
As for the doing the right things, I try to, but I don't know if my moral compass is aligned in the same direction as most people's. I'm not evil by any stretch and I like to think of myself as a nice guy, but I definitely need to work on being less selfish and on being more empathetic.
I watched Drive last night and I don't get what the fuss was all about. The first hour was really slow and I couldn't figure out if Gosling's character is autistic or not. He had maybe 200 words of dialogue in the whole movie and spent most of the time drooling off in space.
There were some welcome moments of graphic violence, but they were few and far between. The plot was also pretty stupid so I couldn't get involved. I didn't really care what happened to the characters and spent the last half an hour checking to see how much of the movie remained.
Last fall, my housemate-at-the-time and I planted some bulbs in the yard near my deck. I forgot what kind of flowers they are, but they're supposed to bloom in the spring. Well, it's something like 85 degrees out today so there is some bloomin' going on:
The weather isn't too bad so I thought I'd get out on my bike to get out and about. I put some air in the tires and took off for a reasonably short route. I ended up cutting it shorter than planned, but still biked 9.62 miles in about 45 minutes. It felt good to be out riding, but it's a lot colder out than expected. My legs aren't too sore, but my butt is a little bit (that's what she said, heh).
Here is a plot of speed and heart rate as a function of distance:
The peaks in the heart rate are probably some hills. I was able to get in a decent heart rate zone and maintained around 14mph.
Here is the route I took as seen in Google Earth:
The South Albany Airport is in the lower left hand corner. Next time, I'll add a few more miles by continuing on Creble until it runs into 32 rather than cutting over on Elm. I didn't want to overdo it on my first ride of the season.
I think my bike is due for a tune-up as well, but I need to get a bike rack firstly. Anyone have one they like that might fit my Mazda 3 sedan?
Blogger has made some changes I don't like. The site seems less smooth and the list widget is now a little buggy. I had read they have lost a lot of folks to Wordpress and I'm thinking about doing the same.
Anyone out there have an opinion one way or the other?
The US' health care system is pretty effed up. We and our employers shell out a lot of money, most of which seems to go to the insurance companies. I know a few doctors and they say they aren't getting all that rich because the insurance companies cap how much they'll shell out for the various procedures. I guess the really lucrative doctoring is plastic surgery since the insurance companies aren't all that involved.
The real issue is most of us aren't getting squat for our money. You make an appointment, you show up early, you fill out a bunch of paperwork by hand (why can't we just have a medical card with all of our relevant information and medical history? Because companies are making money storing your data so why should you get it for free?) and then you wait and wait. You finally get seen and the doctor spends about five minutes with you asking basic questions, pokes you a bit and then orders up a battery of tests or prescribes something. When I was a kid, I remember longer doctor visits where he asked a lot of questions and spent time figuring out what was going on. Are people getting sicker these days?
Another problem is malpractice. Doctors are afraid of getting sued for missing something so they order up the aforementioned battery of tests. Do I really need a chest x-ray just because I have a cough? Maybe if I've had a cough for six months or something, but sometimes we cough. The other issue is an over-prescription of antibiotics. They're less effective now because the doctors will prescribe them for nearly everything. I was sick for a couple of weeks with a possible sinus infection. People kept telling me to go to the doctor to get antibiotics. Guess what? The NIH recommends doing nothing for a couple of weeks and seeing if you get better. If you don't, then you go get it checked out. Besides, antibiotics all have nasty side effects which are worse than the sinus infection. The last time I did a course, I had nightmares every night. The previous time I felt like I was going to crap my pants since the antibiotics kill the bad and good bacteria.
I'm not really sure what the solution is. A lot of Europe seems to be doing ok with socialized medicine, but Americans are pretty reluctant to embrace that system. They fear the waits will be longer (is that possible?) and that health care will be rationed. Guess what, Sparky? That's already done except now it's done by the insurance companies (we won't pay for that procedure) rather than the government. The end result is still the same.
I just know that no one should die just because they're broke and that the system needs a major overhaul.
I had to leave work early this afternoon to come home because I got sick to my stomach suddenly. I was lazy today and bought lunch at the cafe in our building. I guess the chicken salad wrap I had did not agree with me or something. I still feel pretty funky which sucks because it's going to be nice this weekend.
I need to regain my health again so I'm going to be vigilant with my diet and exercise. I need to beef up my constitution for sure because it seems like more and more people are getting sick every year. I'll go back to drinking just water and I'll probably give up alcohol once I finish off what I've got in the beer fridge.
Someone once told me her goal was to have a "clean body, but a dirty mind." I can get behind that life philosophy.
This morning I did a pullup test and was able to bang out 7 which means I can start Phase I of the 50 Pullup program. I did P90X and wasn't able to do more than 3 or so pullups and couldn't even manage that many with my initial test, but I did the five week prep program.
I'm feeling pretty strong these days and have some nice definition going on everywhere except around my middle. It'll be the last chunk to come off, but come off it will.
This morning I was able to do 200 consecutive bodyweight squats which allows me to cross off another item from my challenge list. My legs are sore, but I still feel really strong. I'm not close to knockin' off my pushup challenge so I'll continue my challenges. I'll start up a 100 consecutive one-legged squat challenge. It's aggressive for sure, but fitness goals should be.
Ahhhhh... it feels good to be back on the exercise wagon. I've been sick the past couple of weeks and this morning was the first I've felt back to myself. I did my exercise routine and I'm glad I did because I've got a fair amount of endorphins in my system now. I'm not quite feeling unstoppable, but I feel good. I'm definitely feeling motivated and that's always a good thing.
It's supposed to be warm out tomorrow so maybe I'll go for a bike ride.
This morning I had an epiphany that I should pay more close attention to the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. No, I'm not converting to Buddhism, but I do agree suffering is caused by craving or attachment to desire. I realize many of the things I don't like about my life are not real, but are a reflection of how I think things ought to be. I need to let go of attachment - to things, to people and to desire. I need to convert must-haves into nice-to-haves. There is nothing wrong with saying, "Wow, I think it would be cool to have an iPad 3," but it's not healthy to say, "Wow, my life is incomplete without an iPad 3." I need to strongly divest myself of my worldly possessions or they'll start to own me.
When I say I need to let go of attachment to people I mean I need to let go of what I think they should do for me and focus on what I can do for them.
I need to let go of what I want and allow life to happen. It's not fatalism, but rather an acceptance that my power to effect gross change is small as I am just one small part of the grander universe.
I'm not sure why I'm feeling philosophical today, but I think I'm ready for an attitude adjustment as whatever I've been doing so far hasn't exactly worked for me.
I hadn't bowled in two weeks and I'm still not completely healthy, but somehow I put together a solid series tonight. I started with a 130, then a 138 and finished up with a 142. I left some spares out there, but it's ok. I think I was able to be more consistent though my form deserted me a few times.
I spent Friday night convalescing and rallied enough on Saturday to hang out with my friend who came up for a visit. We hit Dinosaur BBQ in Troy for a late lunch. He had been to every Dinosaur BBQ except this one and this visit was my first. I had a half rack of ribs, greens and coleslaw. The parking lot was packed and it was really busy for 3PM. Apparently, the wait can be one to two hours sometimes even though the place is huge. I thought my food was good, but it isn't anything I'd wait two hours for.
We then hit the Times Union Center to watch the Albany Devils lose in OT to the Adirondack Phantoms. I got us tickets at center ice in the first row. I thought we would be up against the glass, but we were behind the benches separated by a concrete walkway. Visibility was poorer than expected so I'd get seats maybe 7 or 8 rows off the ice next time. I tried to get a Devils shirt before the game, but their selection and was crap and they don't really sell what I want. The game was pretty exciting and a lot of the dudes have played in the NHL. We got there fairly early so we got a "premium collectable" (it said so right on the box) Devil Dawgs coin bank as shown below.
I put mine on the mantel next to my Hulk mug.
Our row also scored free popcorn because some dude answered two trivia questions correctly.
After the game, we went to the Merry Monk for a drink and some fries. I got whisky on the rocks and my friend tried a couple of beers on tap. The fries were ok, but they were just fries. The place seemed a little pretentious so I'm not sure I'd go back there again. They had the fireplace cranking so it was too warm as well.
We were there about an hour and then came back. My friend hit the hay and I watched a little basketball online.
Today I did a couple of loads of laundry, hit the grocery store and then the library to get some reading material. I grabbed three Star Wars books. They aren't heavy reading, but are still pretty enjoyable. I'm trying to read all of them, but I haven't been able to read them in chronological order.
I made pesto pasta with einkorn wheat for dinner. I added in some tuna for protein and it was pretty tasty. Afterwards I watched the Source Code which is terrible so I do not recommend it.
I'm still feeling crummy, but I'll go to work tomorrow. I haven't slept well in nearly a week, but I'm hoping tonight is the night which breaks the streak. I'll take some melatonin in about half an hour to send me to dreamytime. Somehow I have this feeling that I'll feel much better if I can just sleep eight hours, but I'm sure I'll wake myself up coughing again. Super weak.
Yep, today is my 36th birthday and I certainly spent it in style. I woke up still feeling like crap, I slogged through work, but came home early and took a nap. I then ate dinner and watched four episodes of Justified on Bluray. I also talked to my brother and my sister-in-law over the phone and I'll give my parents a call in a minute here. It's not really how I anticipated spending the evening, but my body and, specifically, my sinuses are not cooperating. It's ok because it's just another day as far as I'm concerned.
A friend of mine is coming over tomorrow and we'll go see an Albany Devils hockey game. I'm hoping to lose the sinus and headache and cough by then, but we'll see. It's possible I have a sinus infection, but I don't see any reason to see a doctor because antibiotics may not reduce the duration. I'll just tough it out and see how it goes.
I suppose I should reflect on the past year or something, but I don't really see the point. I don't feel my chronological age and I think most people would peg me for early 30's. I haven't accomplished hardly any of my goals, but there is still time.
I do feel good about sharing a birthday with Dr. Seuss so maybe that's why I'm a weird dude. Heh.
I guess I'll have a piece of chocolate to celebrate.