Friday, April 27, 2007

Slayers: the Ruby Eye

Slayers: the Ruby Eye by Hajime Kanzaka, 2004, Tokyopop

I picked up this book because I found the anime series based upon the novel series to be very entertaining. I will admit that I wasn't sure if the goofy humor in the TV show came from the books themselves, or if it was added by the director. It turns out that the goofy humor came from the books themselves, which is both good and bad.

It is good, in that the book is humorous, and humorous books are usually much easier for me to read than heavy, pondering books. It is bad in that the humor isn't very good. One example of the humor in the book revolves around one of the bad guys, a werewolf named Dilgear. The lead character, Lina, takes to referring to the werewolf in her internal monologues as "Dildork." This is done a lot. Other humor revolves around making fun of the lead character's physical underdevelopment, and the fact that her sidekick, Gourry, is dumb as a box of rocks. So, rather juvenile humor, and I would expect a more developed sense of humor from a good fantasy novel. You know, something intelligent.

The other thing that I didn't like about the book involved Lina's internal monologues. There are a lot of these, and they wouldn't be annoying except that a lot of them deal with Lina's "color commentary" on what is going on around her. This also wouldn't be a problem, except that Lina thinks everyone is an idiot, so this generally devolves into Lina giving everybody stupid nicknames to describe how dumb they are. I should also mention that this book is short, slightly under 200 pages, also they use double-spaced lines, so you really have about a 110-page book here, which they charge $7.99 for. You might find that to be a good value, but I do not.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

New Comic Reviews

Yet some more new comic review are up at my website. The loose theme this time is women kicking butt and taking names! Fun!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Candyfreak by Steve Almond, 2005, Harcourt

As a person with a serious sweet tooth, I knew that I had to read this book, which recounts the author's journey into the joys and pains of small-time candy makers in America. Living in the shadow of the giants (Hershey, Nestle, and Mars), these entrepreneurs strive to bring the best chocolate they can to people. In fact, I should note that while the book is called "Candyfreak," it is really all about chocolate bars. Gumdrops and jelly beans are mentioned in passing, but it is chocolate that is the author's passion, and it shows.

Overall, the book is an absolute riot. The way that the book is written is rather different than what you are probably used to. This is because you are probably not used to the author admitting right up front that he is an absolute freak and in need of serious help. This man absolutely loathes his own existence on this planet. He loathes his government, he loathes is city, he loathes the air he breathes. He loathes everything, in fact, but chocolate. Chocolate is his escape, his way to bring some relief into his life. Thus, when a favorite chocolate bar is taken out of circulation, it is felt as a punch to the stomach. I must admit, I really can't relate to this.

Overall, the book is quite good, and it was a very enjoyable read. There are unfortunate detours into political polemics about how bad George Bush is. This is all well and good in a political book, but this is supposed to be a book about candy. it was really out of place. I will also note that while this is a book about candy, it is not for children, as the author talks about "the ways of a man with a woman" at times, and mentions how he inspects himself for testicular cancer, which I wouldn't necessarily want to have to explain to my 10 year old. Overall, this was a great book, but with some very oddball (nee, freakish) digressions.


Over the last few days, I have been on my first vacation of the year. My friend Brian flew into town from NYC and we saw some of the local sites, and played lots of games. Playing the games wasn't really the plan, but it was what Brian wanted to do, so there you go. We played one game of Memoir '44, but Brian didn't like it, so then we moved on to Samurai Swords, at which I beat him due to his strategic blunder at the end. We then played some Zombies!!! (always a favorite), and then he wanted me to whip up a quick RPG for him. He flew all the way from NYC to St. Louis to play role-playing games. It boggles the mind. Anyway, we had a good time.

Brian was here through Sunday, and then over the last couple days I have been hanging out at home, goofing off and relaxing. Oh, and trying to get grass to grow in my backyard. It looks like my hard work may just pay off, as I am seeing some small grass shoots coming out of the ground where I had put seed. Hopefully it will actually live for a while before the summer heat kills it all off.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I couldn't make this stuff up

Check out this headline at earlier today: "Dow hits new record as stocks struggle"

Does that even make sense? How can you be hitting a record (which implies success) while struggling? See, they aren't referring to some kind of herculean struggle against impossible odds, or even struggling against an implacable foe. The struggle is against amorphous "market forces" which don't seem to be putting up much of a fight, since the Dow is hitting new highs. This would be defined as "success" in my book. I wonder what the media's definition of success is?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Basic Medicine

This is a perfect write-up of why I am leery of full government monopoly control over healthcare. I could get behind a two-tier system, where the government provides some level of basic coverage to all citizens and then you can buy extra care from private insurers that would reside on top of the basic coverage. Full government control? Fuggedaboutit. My brain cries out in pain just pondering the power of that bureaucracy. And get ready to double your taxes to pay for it.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

His Majesty's Dragon

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik, 2006, Del Rey

I first heard about this book when it was published last year in the United States. Even though the author lives in New York, the series was first published in the U.K. by a separate publisher. Finding success on the other side of the pond, a U.S. publisher decided to give it a shot over here, and I am glad that they did, for this is a very enjoyable book.

The basic plot is this: the Napoleanic wars of the early Nineteenth century, but all sides have dragons to make a rudimentary air force. With this as a backdrop, we are introduced to our hero, a British naval captain who has the good fortune (or mis-fortune, as some of his comrades think) to capture a French ship transporting a dragon egg. The egg hatches before the ships can return to port, and our hero captain ends up bonding with the dragon, leaving the navy, and joining the dragon aerial corps. The majority of the book deals with everyone's adjustment to this new situation, and the training that both the human and the dragon do through. The only real action is at the end of the book, but that was very well written and quite exciting.

The real reason this book is so enjoyable is the characters. The hero, Captain Will Laurence, is a fine, upstanding gentleman of good breeding, but his dragon, Temeraire, is wonderful. Sometimes in dragon stories the dragons actually get to play second fiddle, but Temeraire's personality gets just as much attention was Captain Laurence's, and you can really follow the dragon's growth as he matures and grows into his full powers. If you don't like dragon stories than you probably won't enjoy this book that much, but dragon and alternate history fans should find a lot to like here.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ironically, He Looks Cold

This post is one of the more brilliant uses of statistics and algebra that I have encountered in a long time. Of course the whole thing is silly, but I love it when people use lots of serious statistical power to be silly, assuming they can keep a straight face. Link originally found at Seth Godin's marvelous site.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

New Comic Reviews

New comic reviews are up on my website. A small update this time, catching up on some older stuff.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Busy Weekend

Now that was a busy weekend. On Friday, I had most of the guys from my small group at church over for the evening. We ate burgers, and played lots of poker with Monopoly money. As it turns out, I am not as good at poker as I like to think I am. I think everyone finally left at 11:45, which is about two hours past my bed time. Unfortunately, due to the fact that I am a morning person, I got up at 7:15 on Saturday morning. When the birds are singing and the sun is shining, it is hard for me to stay asleep.

So Saturday was really busy, even with the early start. I did my standard casual breakfast, and then I went to the theater to finally see the movie 300. Overall, I liked it quite a bit. I had too many nude scenes, but that was somewhat expected. The bulk of the movie, though, is glorious, even if the overuse of slow-motion special effects threatened to derail it. It is not glorious for its plot, of course, but for the "ballet of blood" as the Spartans kill hundreds and hundreds of their foes. It is one of those movies that makes you feel wonderful to be a man.

After that I spent a couple hours prepping for, and then the rest of the day running, the RPG that I am playing with a few friends down in Jefferson County. If you have never run a game, you don't know how draining that can be. I think I got to bed at 12:15 or 12:30. Of course, I was up at 7:30 next morning to get ready for church. Oh, and the sun was shining and the birds were singing and the whole bit.

Sunday was this little thing called "Opening Day." You know, when the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals started their season against the pond-scum Mets. You know, that team that made us look bad as they pounded us for six runs. I went to the game with coworkers, in our company's luxury box. We had a lot of people in and out of the box all game, and I couldn't even keep track of who had tickets for the luxury box and who got smuggled in at some point during the game. Overall, it was fun, but I had to leave in the seventh inning if I was to have any hope of making it to the gym by 5:10 the next morning. I didn't miss anything other than the Mets scoring their final run. As I said, I didn't really miss anything.