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23 July 2014

The Emperor's Blades

I finished Brian Staveley's debut novel, The Emperor's Blades, which is the first book in The Unhewn Throne series.  It was a great book, I could barely put it down.  There was fighting, betrayals, complex politics, deaths, gods, ancient powers, and giant birds.  What is there not to like?

The story is about the three children of the recently assassinated Emperor.  Kaden is the heir, but he is off learning from Shin monks.  They are trying to teach him to tap into the ancient power of the creators of humans (the Csestriim), who were defeated in some kind of war.  They could be back though and Kaden's father wanted his son to be prepared.

Kaden's younger brother, Valyn, is on an island training to become a Kettral.  These are the elite of the elitist soldiers in this world.  They train for like eight years before they take a brutal test.  The work in teams that fly on giant hawks called, Kettrals.  The majority of the book focuses on Valyn, who not only has to prepare for his test, but learns of his father's death and discovers that the assassination was part of a larger plot and he (and his brother) could be in danger.

Kaden and Valyn have a sister, Adare, who is back home as one of the ministers in the government.  I think of Finance.  She is the only woman in the position and so she has to deal with that, as well as finding her father's killer.  I hope we see more of her story in the next book.  I especially enjoyed how the different religions affect the society and the empire.  Very fascinating.

These three children are the Emperor's Blades.  He must have had a purpose for sending two of them away to train and keeping one close.  By the end of the book, we learn that their plots are very closely tied together. 

If you like fantasy and want to get in on a new series, this is one I would definitely recommend.  And now, here are some of the things I enjoyed, which will contain spoilers.

-Balendin is a Leech, and when we learn that he draws his power from human emotions, I knew that Kaden would finally tap into the vaniate and be the one to defeat him.

-I definitely did not see the ending coming that way.  It was cool having Valyn and Kaden reunite, but did not think Kaden would want to leave and go with Tan to discover more about the Csestriim.  I guess what I expected was for everyone to go to the capital and then we get the whole Kaden adjusting to being the emperor (which I am sure will happen).

-I wonder if the gods that people are descended from, like Kaden, are actually the first children of the Csestriim? 

-I also did not see the General being a bad guy.  It seemed like an obvious choice at first, but then I dismissed it because I figured Staveley was going with the love interest for Adare, you know someone who would help loosen her up (pun intended).  I guess he decided to make him both...

For those of you that read it, what did you think? 

One Year Ago

Last year on this day I was nervous about asking Lindsey to marry.  I was pretty sure she would say yes, but it was still nerve wracking.  You can read the entire story here.

It is funny how when we told people that we would be getting married in 2015, that seemed like so far away.  Now it is almost one year away.  I guess there is not really all that much left to do.  I am excited for it.

How couldn't I be excited?  I get to spend the rest of my life with the woman I love.  Happy engagement anniversary Lindsey! Thank you for saying yes and making me the luckiest guy on the planet.

21 July 2014

2014 Fantasy Baseball Week Fifteen

Damn, nothing like getting your ass kicked by Ryan.  That is always the worst feeling in the world.  I also hate the stupid All-Star Week.  We had a full week, then you get to add the rest of that short week.  Ryan had such a commanding lead that even though my team played very well the last three days, it did not really matter.

Eric Hosmer was my best hitter for the week (8/2/7/0/.436/.500).  He blew up during the second half last year, so it would be very nice if that happened again.  Obviously Jose Altuve (8/1/5/3/.325/.333) was fantastic, he has been fantastic all season.  Yasiel Puig had a decent week as well, but nothing spectacular.  The rest of my guys were pretty crappy.

My pitching was pretty good, but Ryan's managed to be just a bit better.  We traded off on Holds and Saves and I beat him on the Wins, but he destroyed me on Strikeouts.  Also, his ERA and WHIP were phenomenal.  For me, Corey Kluber was great:  two wins, fifteen strikeouts, 3.68/1.23.  Pat Neshek showed why he was an all-star, two wins and two holds.  Jason Grilli also picked up a win and two holds, nice to see him having a good week.

I am now in third place with a 96-75-9 record.  Ryan is back in first place with Gideon technically tied with him, but I am guessing division record comes into play.  Gideon beat Lindsey 8-3-1, which keeps her in 8th place.  I take her on this week, so it should be a tense week at our place.  Hopefully I can survive and defeat her enough to make up the 7.5 games I am behind those two...

20 July 2014

The Future is Here

Sometimes I think we take for granted how this world is now so futuristic.  We have unlimited information at our fingertips, hell, we can just speak into a little box and learn about any subject we want.  That is amazing!

What got me thinking about this was making coffee today.  I remember watching sci-fi movies and the characters would hit a button and a drink would just magically appear.  As I made a cup of coffee today with our Keurig, I realized this is the future.  I hit a button and boom, I have a coffee.

Granted, making coffee is not a very time consuming, difficult thing, but if you wanted to make one cup, it was usually a bit of a pain.  Now you just pop in a little cup and then a few seconds later, you have a cup.

So what are some of your favorite technological achievements that make you feel like you live in a science fiction movie?

17 July 2014

Under the Dome: Episode 203

There is always so much of this show that annoys the crap out of me and then there is usually like one part that intrigues me enough to watch next week.  This week it was the mystery of Melanie.  How did she come from 1988 and end up in the lake?  Hmmm....

Aside from that, crap crap crap.

-Joe has no problem going to the school.  You know, the school where his sister was murdered like two days ago.

-Great product placement by Microsoft.  I am pretty sure they used the same footage of someone using the built-in stand for the commercial.

-At least they can get the internet inside the Dome.  If only for a few minutes.  I love that they immediately check email and Twitter.  I did enjoy Joe having a breakdown about whether or not to tell his parents about Angie.  I would think you would want to get some information to the outside world about what you know about the Dome.

-The whole Norrie (is that girl's name, I can never remember) versus Melanie thing is pretty annoying.  Also, which was a bigger magical plot device:  the sword on a Russian boat in 24 or the list of everyone who ever had a locker.  What school keeps a ledger like that?  And wouldn't it make more sense to just have lists by year instead of a page for each locker?

-I am not even going to dignify this blog with any of the crap with Big Jim/Lyle/Science Teacher.  The whole science versus faith thing pissed me off. 

-And it looks like we will be seeing more of Lyle, since he is the only one who can give Junior some answers.  Has Junior's mom been planning for the Dome to come down for awhile?  I guess that makes her a bit of a bitch, since she did not try to warn or save anyone.

-Julia is not cool with the Science Teacher's plan to kill 25% of the population so the rest can survive.  In fact, she is soooooo against it that she gets pissed when Barbie wants to stay to listen.  You would think that sticking around to hear the plan out would be the best way to know how to stop it.  Granted, Barbie does not say "hey, I just want to gather intel", nope, instead he just says "we need a strong leader and should hear out all ideas."  It looks like they are about to break up.  They are as bad as Elaine and Puddy...



-It looks like Sam is a bad guy.  Or at least that is what Junior's mom tried to say before the internet was cut off.  She said that he should only trust Lyle and then it was something like "Do not.....my broth...."  I took it to be "Do not trust my brother", but I suppose it could be "Do not eat my broth" or "Do not kill my brother" or maybe "Do not trust my brother with cooking dinner, he always burns everything."  We have no clue how long she rambled on after the internet stopped.


15 July 2014

Elantris

I recently finished Brandon Sanderson's first book, Elantris.  I liked his Wheel of Time and Stormlight books.  Plus I heard that all of his books are connected inside a sort of shared universe.  I figured that would be interesting and worth checking out.

Unfortunately, this book did not really do it for me.  I enjoyed some of it.  I liked the characters.  I thought the magic system was pretty cool.  I guess you could really tell that Sanderson was not as polished a writer as he has become.

I also thought the book was very simplistic.  I guess since he was writing a single novel, he did not have the pages to expand many of his ideas.  For example, the world sounds like there are only five countries.  Is it a small planet or are there a bunch of places not explored?

The biggest thing that bothered me though was the religiosity of the book.  I felt like there was some preaching going on.  The one group (one religion, two sects I suppose) is converting people and one of their leaders has very little faith.  Also, they dabble in a dark form of magic.   The other group is more righteous and yet also more persecuted.  They are becoming a dying sect.  Is this supposed to be Islam and Judaism?  Or maybe the normal Christian church versus the Mormon church (since Sanderson is a Mormon).  Not really sure, but I could not get past it.

Even though I did not enjoy this book, it will not deter me from reading some more of Sanderson's works.

A Busy Weekend...

This past weekend was pretty busy for Lindsey and I. Here is the timeline of our days:

Saturday
0730:  Lindsey wakes up and goes for a run.  I stay in bed because running is lame.
0800:  Lindsey returns, starts to get a shower and get ready for the day.
0830:  Lindsey comes over and yells at me to wake up.  I get up and grumble about being tired.  I put in my contacts, trim my beard, then hop in the shower.
0900:  I pack my bag.  I think Lindsey is already packed or something.
0930:  She continues to get ready.  I think she is still naked at this point.  She swears she will be ready by 10:00.  I highly doubt it.
0940:  I take out the trash and fold the laundry.  Lindsey yells at me to put my clothes away.  Ugh, who wants to put their clothes away?  That is never fun.  I grumble some more about it and begrudgingly do it.  Lindsey is still naked.  Why is she not getting dressed?
1000:  She is now dressed!  Oh my god, we may leave soon.  I am really hungry. 
1010:  She comes downstairs and freaks out that I did not put her clothes away.  I never put her clothes away.  She rushes around like a maniac putting them away. 
1020:  We are about to leave.  I load up the car and she gets in.  We start to back out when she realizes she forgot something.  I pull back in and she runs into the house.
1024:  We are finally on the road.  GPS always tells us to go to Altoona, but we never do that.  We go through Johnstown.
1041:  Arrive at Perkins.  Eat breakfast.  I had the smokehouse breakfast thing.  It was okay.  The brisket was very dry (why would I trust Perkins to do brisket well?).
1146:  Leave Perkins, stop at Sheetz for gas and windshield wiper fluid.  I clean my windshield as well.  I bet you are glad to be reading all of these fun details!
1158:  The trip has begun.
1343:  Stop at a rest stop in Maryland.  Lindsey had to pee.  I get a drink. 
1541:  Lindsey has to go to the restroom again.  This time it is not to pee.  She does not think she can make it 15 more minutes until we hit the hotel.  We find a tiny gas station and she runs inside.   Crisis averted.
1600:  Arrive at the Best Western
1610:  I iron my clothes.  I plan on wearing linen pants and a polo.  They are very wrinkled from being in a suitcase.  Lindsey changes into her dress.
1645:  We are ready to leave the hotel and head to her friend, Laura's house.  She is having a party to celebrate her wedding.  They had a small wedding and this was like a small get together for friends and family.
1700:  We arrive at the house.  It is a very nice house.  They have a tiki bar set up and Lindsey immediately starts hammering back Mojitos.
1845:  We sit down to eat.  They had a pig roast and the food was awesome.
1930:   The party continues, we meet all sorts of nice people.  It was a bit weird since Lindsey was one of the friends from IUP and most of the other people were from a bunch of different places.  We knew no one, but after a few drinks, that started to change. 
This is the huge corn hole setup they had.  We watched a few games, but never got a chance to play.  I guess this was a swimming pool that they took out.  I have no clue what they use it for when they are not hosting parties.
2200:  We are both tired and we have to get up early.  I realized I was starting to get a little drunk, so I stopped drinking.  We make our way back to the Best Western.  Fortunately the hotel is very close and the road to it is definitely a country road.  I was fine to drive, but would not want to be pulled over or try to drive on I-95.
2230:  We are both sound asleep.

Sunday
0650:  The alarm goes off.  Lindsey gets up and gets a shower.
0714:  She yells at me to wake up.  I roll out of bed and hop in the shower.
0723:  I am dressed and completely packed.  Just waiting for her to get moving.
0736:  Lindsey is mostly packed.  We leave the room and check out.
0745:  We are on our way.  Maybe Lindsey should have to leave early in the morning, she seems to move much faster.
1003:  Stop at Sheetz outside of Harrisburg.  Not enough time for breakfast, but figured it would be plenty of time for a coffee and donut.  Sadly, this is the slowest Sheetz ever.  It takes 23 minutes to get my caramel latte (yeah, I like them better than Sheetz coffee, sue me!).
1027:  We leave Sheetz, now we are in a time crunch.  Lindsey freaks out for little things.  Apparently she is getting stressed.
1029:  Lindsey is trying to change her nail polish.  Yells at me repeatedly for hitting bumps. 
1149:  Enter State College.  Lindsey and I have a nice discussion about the Champs fiasco and how it was ridiculous.  I guess we are done being mad at each other.
1221:  We arrive at my mom's house.  I have to use the restroom.  A similar situation to Lindsey's the day before.  I help them load the gifts into my mom's car.  I then run inside and relieve myself if you know what I mean.
1245:  I call my brother and decide to head up to his house.
1325:  We go up to the Elks.  That is where mom and Lindsey are at.  Today is Lora's bridal shower.  It also happens to be Adam's birthday.  We drink a few beers and talk about some stuff.
1500:  The shower is over.  Adam and I get to load up the car.  They seem to like the gift that we made for them.  It is 12 dates, one for each month of their first year of marriage.  They get to open a new one on the first of every month.  I know, I am very creative.
1553:  We go back outside and drink some more beers and have some nice family time.
 1741:  We leave the Elks.  I have only had four beers in the six hours of hanging out so I am quite alright to drive.  Although, as we start driving, we realize that we are hungry.
1821:  Stop at Panera Bread in Altoona.  I have a tuna sandwich and some corn chowder.  I love that soup.
1930:  Finally arrive at our place.  I am pretty much exhausted.  We unload the car and unpack some of the stuff.  Watch a little television and just relax on the couch.
2330:  We are passed out in bed.

We had a very fun weekend, it was great seeing people.  It was also nice being out of the area.  I almost made it to Delaware.  We were not that far away, but sadly we did not have enough time to make a detour into the first state.  I know, I dream big.



24: 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 a.m.

This season has been absolutely fantastic.  I said hundreds of times that this show would work better if they cut down the number of episodes.  They listened to me and it worked out quite well.  There were still some silly things this season and even during the finale, but the great moments trumped them.  Speaking of all those moments, here are the best and worst from last night's conclusion.

-Jack's assault of the boat was incredible.  That was probably the best attack we have seen.  First he has the support of Chloe with a little help from Bellcheck.  They take out the guards like it is nothing.  Then they split up and Chloe is blocked.  These things do not slow Jack Bauer down.

The only thing that can slow him down is the news about Audrey.  He does not take it well.  He collapses to the ground and pulls out his pistol.  It seriously looks like he is about to shoot himself.  Then he hears the guards coming and he snaps.  He goes on full Jack rampage mode.  It is amazing.  He kills one guy with a meat cleaver.  He then beats the crap out of Cheng and stops WWIII. 

Oh and once he is done recording Cheng, he takes a sword and cuts his head off.  Why was there a sword just sitting on a Russian boat?  Not a clue, but I am glad it was there.  I believe that was Jack's first sword kill.  It was worth the wait.

-Speaking of Audrey.  She died.  Not by the sniper though.  Agent Kate is able to save her and as they are escaping, Audrey is shot by a second shooter.  It seemed a little weak in my opinion.  I mean, the end result of Jack going bezerk was worth it, but the way the Chinese shooter just comes out of nowhere and then a car picks him up was so bizarre.

-Her death definitely had the effect it was meant to have on other characters though.  The President collapses upon hearing it and then gives a weird speech to the Prime Minister.  He basically says that since he is losing his memory, that he will soon forget about Audrey and how she died.

-The Russians nab Chloe and force Jack to give himself up in exchange for her.  Earlier in the episode when Jack brings her back into the fold, she says that she is Jack's only friend.  As they pass, Jack grabs her hand and says that she is his best friend.

I was very afraid that Chloe might die at the end of the episode, especially since she needed to atone for her sins, but this was a much better ending for her.  Also, seeing Jack on that helicopter, almost smiling that he is about to go to Russia and tortured to death was a very nice way to end the show.  Or at least leave it open enough for another season.

So now the season is over.  Life is back to being fairly dull. 

10 July 2014

Memories...

I went through some stuff that was up at my Dad's house and found what was going to be my fly-fishing diary.  I only wrote a few things, but here is one that made me laugh:

 For those of you that cannot read my handwriting, it says:
"It rained and it rained, actually it poured.  Bill and I went to the swing and Bill fell in up to his neck.  We then went to the Pittsburgh hole and Bill fell in again..."  The rest is not really important.  I do remember my cousin falling in twice and making fun of him for a few days afterward.

Also, look at that artwork.  Some of you might be guessing that I was a little kid when I wrote this, but if you look at the date, it was April 19, 1998.  I was 17 years old.  My art skills have not improved since then either.

09 July 2014

Under the Dome: Episode 202

"I don't understand anything that's happening."--Julia

For some reason that made me laugh when she said it.  I realize that most characters have no clue what is happening, but Julia seems like she should be in the know, since she is the monarch or whatever.  Yet for some reason, she is more clueless than any of them.

What awesome stuff happened this week?  Well Angie is dead and it turns into a chance for everyone to prove that they watched an episode of CSI before.  First we have Phil, who just a few days ago was the town's DJ and now is a sheriff.  Excellent qualifications.  "Hey, I found a shoe print, obviously this is the killer's foot." 

Then to make it better, since Sam and Julia prove that they are full medical examiners.  They practically identified the killer just by the bruising on Angie's arm.  Everyone assumes it was the weird girl, but Julia is not convinced and she will not rest until she finds some vague evidence proving weird girls innocence.  Although, it is only vague evidence that is linking weird girl to the crime.

Did you know that Barbie can fly a plane?  Yeah, who knew that he is basically Jack Bauer Lite.  He flies the plane in order to kill the Monarch Butterfly caterpillars, which are eating all the crops.  Barbie runs into the Dome, well a piece of the wing does and then he runs out of gas.  Lucky for him, Big Jim remembers that there is a reserve tank, which came in handy when Big Jim was making drug runs.

Then some stuff happened where Joe is going to shoot the girl, but Julia shows up in time to stop him from pulling the trigger.  We got to see angry Joe, which was kind of funny since it was pretty pathetic.  He should not try to be tough, it does not work.

Does anyone really think that Junior killed Angie?  To me it seems pretty obvious that it was Sam.  The guy shows up, has some weird mystery about him and then a murder happens?  And he seemed to have some connection with the weird girl. 

Oh and I totally called it that there would be a love triangle between Julia/Sam/Barbie.  You know, Julia and Barbie bang all night, wake up in each others arms, then by the end of the day she thinks they are drifting apart.  That is a solid relationship...