Thursday, February 26, 2009

A review of "The Genesis Code: A Thriller"

by John Case

The Genesis Code is a book in the same vein as Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. Both involve the conflict between science and religion, and a huge religious conspiracy.

Difference is, Genesis Code is less “fantastic” and rather more believable (up until the ridiculous twist ending). The focus is not so much on the mystery itself, but more on the action as we follow our hero, a private investigator, in his search for his sister’s murderer. I find this book better written – better character development and style. But being less fantastical, it’s also less gripping.

True, the book has plot holes – how on earth did Lassiter manage to leave a vital document untranslated for so long? And the plot line involving a reclusive celebrity was rather far-fetched. Still, it was entertaining enough that I’d be willing to try something else by John Case.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tank seventy-three

Total miles: 26240. Trip miles: 245.5. Gallons: 5.38. Price per gallon: $1.799.

Screen mileage: 42.2 mpg. Tank mileage: 45.6 mpg.

Mostly short commutes. Two trips of about 1 hour each.

smith walton

smith walton
Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

I started out skiing Ralph's Run, a green trail. After regaining my "ski legs," I tried the blue Challenger a few times.

While riding the lift up to Challenger, I asked a perfect stranger on the lift how bad the black diamonds were. He assured me that I'd have no trouble with them whatsoever! (Funny how people can be perfectly confident in this kind of snap judgment). He told me I could take Mass Pike on over to where the black diamonds were, and if necessary I could always come down a blue trail. That was true, as I verified it on my trail map before trying it.

Anyway, it turned out he was correct, sort of. I actually took Mass Pike over to Salamander Cutoff, which I thought was a blue trail, and skied down that. I thought it was a little difficult.... When I reached the bottom, I saw that on the trail map it is listed as a black diamond, although when I turned onto the trail I thought the sign was blue.

I decided that having taken a black diamond unknowingly, and survived, I would try all the rest. So I did Smith Walton a couple of times, and then tried 10th Mountain. Both were very reasonable. They were about the same difficulty as some of the more difficult blue trails that I've taken in the Alps, but were by no means the most difficult trails I've ever skied.

I also did some practice runs down Indian Summer, which is a short green trail. To get there, you take the Monadnock Triple Chairlift, which is very leisurely. And I interspersed my black diamond runs with some skiing down the blue Conifer Connection to Lower Conifer, meandering through some of the smaller trails, like Lower Balanced Rock.

It was a great day! I only spent about 3-4 hours skiing, because I got tired. I wish I'd gone skiing earlier in the season. I'll be bummed if I only get to go once this year. Everyone I talked to seemed to think that the "end is near." I'm hoping for a few more giant snow storms, though.

It's especially fun skiing where you know that you've been hiking over the summer. Although I honestly didn't recognize a thing!

my skis

my skis
Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

I always get rentals. Usually they don't fit my feet very well. I should probably get a pair of ski boots custom made. It just seems like too much expense for something that I don't do all that often.

If you zoom in on the snow, in this photo, you'll see the corduroy-like tracks made by the groomers.

Usually after I've been skiing for a while, my feet start to freeze. Especially my toes. But today the weather was perfect. I didn't get too cold at any point. I'm not sure exactly what the temperature was, something like 30 °F at the base. It was slightly windy, too, but nothing that I really noticed.


Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

This is the view down Challenger, a blue trail at Wachusett Mountain. I took this a few times today. Wonderful skiing conditions!

view over look out mom park

view over look out mom park
Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

This is the view going up the Minuteman High Speed Quad at Wachusett. First you pass over "Look Out Mom Park", where, if you're lucky, you'll get to see snowboarders doing some pretty cool tricks.

From this lift, you can take the green Ralph's Run, head down the blue Look Mom into blue Challenger, or head over to the other side of the mountain (south?) via Mass Pike. Mass Pike is so green you've got to skate to get anywhere.

Wachusett Mountain

Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

I went skiing at Wachusett Mountain today. It was my first time at Wachusett. My expectations were rather low, because Wachusett is a smaller ski area, not very high up, and I was afraid there might be a lot of ice. In fact, conditions were excellent - nice packed powder.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

buttermilk blueberry pancakes

buttermilk blueberry pancakes
Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

These are the best pancakes ever, made totally from scratch. Pancakes are not worth eating unless they are made with buttermilk.

Unfortunately, they are making me drowsy.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A review of "He's Just Not That Into You"

He’s Just Not That Into You is a montage of relationship stories, perfect for the month containing Valentine’s Day:
  1. a perky, desperate, cute chick throws herself at every man who crosses her path,
  2. a woman secretly, desperately wants to marry her long-term partner, an incredible guy who is philosophically opposed to marriage
  3. a desperate husband, who never really wanted to get married in the first place, falls in lust with a voluptuous yoga instructor.

What’s the key word here? Desperation. Is it the biological imperative, or something else? I don’t know, but it’s both funny and sad.

There’s a metaphorical game of musical chairs, and in the end some of the characters are left standing, while others have managed to snag a partner. Do we really believe that any of these relationships are going to survive? Hm, not me. As is typical with movie romances, we know very little about these people, and it seems like they have no reason to be attracted to each other, other than their obvious virility and good looks.

The movie does have a few things going for it. Reasonably good acting, dialogue, nice sets. Mildy entertaining, I never checked my watch. It confirms your vague feelings that you’re probably better of being single, so it’s probably not a great date movie.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A story about "Free to Choose: A Personal Statement"

by Milton Friedman

I’m up to p. 66, where Friedman is bemoaning our “restrictive” government:

We are not free to buy an automobile without seat belts, though, for the time being, we are still free to choose whether or not to buckle up…

...Today you are not free to offer your services as a lawyer, a physician, a dentist, a plumber… without first getting a permit or license from a government official.

rolleyes! This book is both boring and irritating. Will I ever get through it?


So, I saw there's a new show out called Dollhouse, starring Eliza Dushku, who played "Faith" on Buffy. I thought to myself, gotta catch that. And tonight I did (because who needs a broadcast signal when you've got an internet connection?).

After watching for a few minutes, I was thinking "Is it my imagination? This show really has the flavor of a Buffy episode. Something about the way the scenes are shot, the dialogue... Am I just kidding myself?" And then the opening credits roll.

Dollhouse was created by Joss Whedon! Mentally, I am clapping my hands with glee! How did I not hear about this?! And look at all the Buffsters: aside from Eliza Dushku, there's Amy Acker amongst the cast. Tim Minear who wrote for Angel and Firefly, is producing and writing. David Solomon who co-produced and directed on Buffy, is producing and directing. I also see Kelly A. Manners, who produced Angel and Buffy, in the credits. Whee! All's right with the world!

[Check out this interview with mega-genius Joss Whedon. He is so cool!!!]

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

excellent chocolate! (rated 5 stars)

From BuddhaMouse Blog

by Theo Confections

Theo is an expensive brand of chocolate, but they are worth every penny, being fair trade, organic, and delicious! These caramels are fantastic. They taste incredibly fresh, as if I had just picked them from the case at a hand dipped chocolate store.

I will be going back for more!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A review of "The International [Theatrical Release]"

The International drew me in completely. There’s a conspiracy with giant corporate villains, intriguing characters (how about that Consultant – they managed to make me root for an assassin), beautiful international settings, and of course violence and mayhem.

Even though the scene at the Guggenheim was impossible in reality, it didn’t strike me as unreal while I was in the world of the movie. Highly recommended!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tank seventy-two

Total miles: 25994. Trip miles: 236.2. Gallons: 6.655. Price per gallon: $1.899.

Screen mileage: 38.9 mpg. Tank mileage: 35.5 mpg.

Still mostly below freezing. All short commutes.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I've been watching Fringe during my workouts lately. When the show premiered, I gave it a try, because I've enjoyed some other stuff from J.J. Abrams. However, I couldn't even make it through the first episode.

When I ran out of anything remotely interesting to watch during the Holiday Challenge, I tried Fringe a few more times. It has improved. I found the acting and the characters kind of stiff in the first few episodes. I'm getting kind of hooked, although it's still not the same quality as later episodes of the X-Files.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Why I want to consume "Free to Choose: A Personal Statement"

by Milton Friedman

Being a liberal, I don’t expect to enjoy reading Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose.” But I think it’s a good idea to see what the other side has to say. I read the Introduction this morning while at the laundromat, and already found it irritating:
  • He starts out quoting Adam Smith, but doesn’t bring up the tragedy of the commons.
  • He marvels at the agricultural productivity of the US, and about how the US is “the largest single exporter of food in the world” without considering the eventual penalty we might pay for this overproduction and exactly what was done to get to this state (admittedly the book was written in 1980).
  • “The millions of immigrants from all over the world were free to work for themselves, as independent farmers or businessmen, or to work for others, at terms mutually agreed.” Now it sounds like we’re really living on a different planet.

I like his idea that “government’s role is to serve as an umpire to prevent individuals from coercing one another,” but I suspect that we have different ideas of what that means. Anyway, I’ll continue wading through this, with a stiff upper lip.

Why I gave up consuming "The Experiment"

by John Darnton

Lately, I have been somewhat randomly pulling fiction books from the library shelf for my reading material. I say “somewhat” random because I’m selecting for suspense fiction with a little science fiction/supernatural twist.

John Darnton’s “The Experiment” was the most recent book I picked up. I got about 10 pages into it, when I thought, “hey, haven’t I already seen this as a movie?” I did a little hunting, and it seems that The Island, which was a terrible movie, is not based on “The Experiment”. However, it sounds close enough that I don’t want to read any further. I’m heading back to the library for something else.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

not long enough to be boring (rated 3 stars)

by Bernardo Atxaga

The Lone Woman, by Bernardo Atxaga, is a short novel detailing the first few hours of freedom of a “reformed Spanish terrorist” after she is released from jail. I put that in quotes because it’s never made clear what this woman did. She’s not at all likeable; as one of the cops in the story points out, it seems like she’s stuck in some eternal adolescent rebellion, despite being 37 years old.

Reading about an annoying character is not exactly entertaining unless there’s something else going on – an interesting style, intriguing characters, or whatever. Nothing of that sort redeems this book. Frequently I find translated novels are stylistically stiff, and that is the case here. The book is dotted with awkward metaphors. Example (p 72): “He could open or close that smile with the precision of an expert accordionist.” Yeesh.

The book is a bit surreal, which helps. I wouldn’t recommend it, though. It’s the type of book that you might be assigned to read in a Lit class. Bearable to read, but not something I’d eagerly dive into.

another home run (rated 5 stars)

by Clint Eastwood

I've been hooked on Clint Eastwood since I first saw The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Gran Torino is another home run from this talented actor and director. It manages to be funny, heart-warming, and heart-breaking. Highly recommended!

I hear that Eastwood is retiring from acting, and I'm sorry to hear that, although I understand his reasons. Thank you, Mr. Eastwood, for making so many high-impact, gut-wrenching movies!