I have found 2 new websites that are a lot of fun. Each and every day they have a new piece of software or a new game...free.
before you ask...no i don't get any points to refer you or any compensation from the site there is no catch...just a lot of fun and cool stuff.
click on the images below to check it out.
posted by Gil T. @ 2:58 AM
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
"The village of Holcomb stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call "out there." Until one morning in mid-November of 1959, few Americans--in fact, few Kansans--had ever heard of Holcomb. With these lines of the book the reader is introduced to middle America in a classic book about a true crime. This book serves many purposes as a classic. First it gives the reader a great glimpse of midwestern life in the late 1950s. The process Mr. Capote uses to tell this story creates a whole atmosphere of the era and not just, what I would call, a Jack Webb, "Just the facts, ma'am" reading.
Another purpose served with the writing of this book is that Truman Capote invented a new genre--journalism written with the language and structure of literature--this "nonfiction novel" about the brutal slaying of the Clutter family by two would-be robbers would be remembered as "something new" that has influenced countless writers and created what is now an entire genre called "True Crime."
During the first section of the book the life of the Clutter family and the life of Dick Hickock and Perry Smith (the murderers) is unrolled to create a great feeling of who these characters are. Not only do you get to know the good guys in the story but the bad guys are understood as well. If you saw the movie "Capote" (the movie was based on the section of Truman Capote's life that was spent on writing this book) you may remember a saying that the story explores the underbelly of society in which Hickock and Smith are a product of and that any normal citizen is not that far from touching. It is haunting how guys like Hickock and Smith can be that close to you in normal life and even more so in today's times.
Most of the second section of this book is spent on trying to track down the killers (identity's unknown at this point) by the KBI and other authorities. Also the reader is taken on the road with Dick and Perry, this is a very dark version of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road." But it is similar.
This is a classic that should be read by all...but be warned, even if you live in a small town, you may start locking all your doors and windows after reading this one.
posted by Gil T. @ 10:10 PM
The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic that Shaped Our History by Molly Caldwell Crosby
I've never considered myself a fan of history, at least not in so far as sitting down and reading a history book for pleasure. Let alone a medical history book. Anytime I read anything about diseases or injuries, I get these weird squeamish feelings. This book, however, intrigued me and I'm glad it did.
"The American Plague" does not cover the full history of Yellow Fever but does cover what seems to be the most important time period of this fatal disease that could still be a threat today. The time period covered is from 1878 when tens of thousands of people in Memphis, TN died and destroyed the city of Memphis as it once was, through to the turn of the century (18th to 19th) when Walter Reed and many others became martyrs in order to understand the cause of Yellow Fever, and finally to the late 1920's when a vaccine was created.
So why would I torment myself with a medical history book? Because this one is so well written. From page 1 the author leads the reader through life during the epidemic, quarantine, treatment, deaths and discovery of the yellow fever virus. At times I forgot I was reading non-fiction. Now this isn't to say that the facts seemed stretched but just that the prose used in this storytelling captivated me so much I was in the middle of the book before I realized that I hadn't put it down.
Not only is the storytelling great, but the cast of characters just jump out of the book in full life. This is not only due to Ms. Crosby's great writing but to her in depth research. In fact, most of the times when I read a non-fiction book that has appendices and such, I don't bother reading the notes sections. But for this book I stuck around for the notes section and loved discovering how the author uncovered her facts. It's like sticking around for the credits of a movie to find out who did that song that was so awesome.
So do yourself a little favor and read some history. It was fun for me to learn this stuff. By the way, this makes me glad I was vaccinated in the U.S. Navy for Yellow Fever...whew!
posted by Gil T. @ 10:50 PM
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
I'm on one of my "read-the-classics" kicks again. So I have decided to read a couple of novels that have been classified as some as classics. My catch is that when I read more than one book at a time they have to cover completely different subject matter. I have achieved that with the latest books: "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" by Milan Kundera and "In Cold Blood" by Truman Capote. I have not yet finished "In Cold Blood," but now you know what to expect as my next review.
"The Unbearable Lightness of Being" is a political/social/philosophical novel that at first seems like it's going to be a romance novel / erotica, but in fact turns out to be a great summary of the Russian invasion of Checzoslovakia in 1968 an goes on to cover some philosophical issues including the great question; "What is the meaning of life?"
The first section of the book introduces the 3 "main" characters, Tomas, Tereza and Sabina. Tomas is a surgeon that has just gone through a terrible divorce in which his wife refuses to let him see his son so he decides to wash his hands of them. In doing so his parents wash their hands of Tomas. Tomas pretty much then sees women not as objects to love but as sexual beings. He maintains a relationship with artist Sabina while what could be called falling in love with Tereza. Tereza is from a small town outside of Prague and wants to be the sole receiver of attention of Tomas.
Tomas attempts to practice a philosophy of lightness. He considers sex and love two separate and unrelated entities; he sleeps with many women, and loves one woman (Tereza), and sees no problem with the simultaneous existence of these two activities. Accepting the lightness of being means accepting a certain lack of ultimate meaning in life, and living for momentary beauty. Those who accept lightness, for example, are not likely to ally themselves to political parties, either the Communist regime or the diehard dissidents.
Tereza worships books, culture, and kindness. Identifying Tomas as a kindred spirit and outsider, she falls in love instantly and permanently. In Prague, Tomas's womanizing drives Tereza to the brink of insanity. Although she attempts to understand her husband and his lifestyle and cannot argue with him logically, Tereza is unable to be "light" about her love or sexuality. She finds some fulfillment in her work as photographer, especially during the Soviet tank occupation; she does dangerous and politically dissident work as a photojournalist.
Sabina betrays, successively, her father's home, her art school, her lovers, and ultimately her country. Sabina is as beautiful and original as her artwork; early in life, she identified kitsch, or bad, sentimental, insistently sunny propaganda art, and lives her life as an attack on kitsch. She cares deeply for both Tomas and Tereza, even if she cannot understand why Tomas would trade his freedom for domesticity. Ultimately her desire for freedom leads Sabina to leave her love, Franz, and lose all contact with her past. Sabina is the "lightest" character in the novel, although none of the characters ever achieve the extreme lightness.
Toward the end of the novel the writer steps out of the story and discusses thoughts such as kitsch, communism and love. At these moments the book becomes less of a novel and more like an essay on life.
If you are a person who likes a good thought provoking novel mixed with some philosophy this one is for you. This is not a light read, but well worth the time.
If you're interested in reading the book I'll be posting it at Paperback Swap.
Swap Your Paperback Books - PaperBackSwap.com
Or you can purchase it by clicking here:
posted by Gil T. @ 8:00 PM
Forever Odd by Dean Koontz
In this second of three (so far) books following the exploits/adventures of Odd Thomas, Dean Koontz left some holes in his plot but through some great character development gives us a great horror-gripped suspenseful ride in the world of the paranormal.
Odd Thomas sees dead people. They don't talk, but they want him to help solve the puzzles of their. untimely deaths. Assisted by the Chief of Police of Pico Mundo, California, an overweight eccentric novelist and the ghost of Elvis, Odd can face anything, and he does so with attitude.
The adventure this time begins with the ghost of one of Odd's few friend's step-father, Dr Jessup, waking him up in the middle of the night. Dr. Jessup, being a ghost, cannot speak but through his face and simply his presence in Odd's bedroom tells Odd something is awry. Quickly Odd heads to Dr. Jessup's house, in his mind he's wondering how his friend Danny is doing. Danny's step-father, Dr. Jessup, is found dead by odd. Dr. Jessup has been brutally beaten. Danny suffers from Osteogenesis imperfecta, otherwise known as brittle bone disease. Being frail has never been anything Danny has let bother him and that is what keeps him and Odd friends. But the slightest movement can fracture any and possibly all of Danny's bones. After discovering the body, Odd calls the Pico Mundo Chief of Police, Wyatt Porter, one of the few who know of Odd's "talents."
Though advised not to, Odd goes out to track down Danny and find what has happened. Wyatt hints that Danny's real father has recently been released from prison and may have kidnapped him.
As it turns out (spoiler alert) it is not Danny's real father but rather Odd learns that Danny's captors are the insane beauty Datura and her two henchmen. Datura, a phone-sex operator and practitioner of a twisted version of Voodoo, has taken Danny to lure Odd to her. She has learned of his gifts and demands that he show her some ghosts.
Reading this book before reading the intro to the series, "Odd Thomas," may leave some readers in the dark, there are a lot of references to his girlfriend, Stormy and the events that happend in that book. Also the twisted form of voodoo practiced by Datura seems to create more questions than answers and seems at times as an after thought in the whole story.
However, Dean Koontz does such a great job with character development and his description of the scenery and action keep you glued to the book. The character of Odd Thomas, is so believeable that you may find yourself using GoogleEarth to find Pico Mundo, California, but I can tell you for sure....Dean Koontz made it up.
posted by Gil T. @ 1:08 PM
Dear Mr. President: Send Even MORE Troops (and you go, too!) ...from Michael Moore 1/10/2007
If you haven't yet read Michael Moore's letter to the president I'm including it below. After the letter I would like to discuss a few Items.
But First the letter:
Dear Mr. President,
Thanks for your address to the nation. It's good to know you still want to talk to us after how we behaved in November.
Listen, can I be frank? Sending in 20,000 more troops just ain't gonna do the job. That will only bring the troop level back up to what it was last year. And we were losing the war last year! We've already had over a million troops serve some time in Iraq since 2003. Another few thousand is simply not enough to find those weapons of mass destruction! Er, I mean... bringing those responsible for 9/11 to justice! Um, scratch that. Try this -- BRING DEMOCRACY TO THE MIDDLE EAST! YES!!!
You've got to show some courage, dude! You've got to win this one! C'mon, you got Saddam! You hung 'im high! I loved watching the video of that -- just like the old wild west! The bad guy wore black! The hangmen were as crazy as the hangee! Lynch mobs rule!!!
Look, I have to admit I feel very sorry for the predicament you're in. As Ricky Bobby said, "If you're not first, you're last." And you being humiliated in front of the whole world does NONE of us Americans any good.
Sir, listen to me. You have to send in MILLIONS of troops to Iraq, not thousands! The only way to lick this thing now is to flood Iraq with millions of us! I know that you're out of combat-ready soldiers -- so you have to look elsewhere! The only way you are going to beat a nation of 27 million -- Iraq -- is to send in at least 28 million! Here's how it would work:
The first 27 million Americans go in and kill one Iraqi each. That will quickly take care of any insurgency. The other one million of us will stay and rebuild the country. Simple.
Now, I know you're saying, where will I find 28 million Americans to go to Iraq? Here are some suggestions:
1. More than 62,000,000 Americans voted for you in the last election (the one that took place a year and half into a war we already knew we were losing). I am confident that at least a third of them would want to put their body where there vote was and sign up to volunteer. I know many of these people and, while we may disagree politically, I know that they don't believe someone else should have to go and fight their fight for them -- while they hide here in America.
2. Start a "Kill an Iraqi" Meet-Up group in cities across the country. I know this idea is so early-21st century, but I once went to a Lou Dobbs Meet-Up and, I swear, some of the best ideas happen after the third mojito. I'm sure you'll get another five million or so enlistees from this effort.
3. Send over all members of the mainstream media. After all, they were your collaborators in bringing us this war -- and many of them are already trained from having been "embedded!" If that doesn't bring the total to 28 million, then draft all viewers of the FOX News channel.
Mr. Bush, do not give up! Now is not the time to pull your punch! Don't be a weenie by sending in a few over-tired troops. Get your people behind you and YOU lead them in like a true commander in chief! Leave no conservative behind! Full speed ahead!
We promise to write. Go get 'em W!
Okay let's look at this from the different points. First of all you have to remember that everything Mr. Moore does always has that tongue-in-cheek seriousness. He uses a little bit of humor to start the audience on the thinking track. This Is one of the reasons people hate or love him. Because the humor makes it more palatable, some folks don't think he's serious, for that same reason some think he's too serious.
Now, I have always considered myself an Independent thinker leaning more to the liberal. And it's probably because of this that I support Michael Moore's views. He always seems to piss people off but in my opinion, it starts people to talking.
One of the first thing Michael Moore does in this letter is to question the reason we are in Iraq in the first place. I know it's not just him and me that wonder why the hell we are there. After all, we HAVE been given several reasons why. But none are concrete enough. I'm gonna tackle the reason "Weapons of Mass Destruction" later, first let's look at the other 2.
Bringing those responsible for 9/11 to justice. hmmm... everytime this thought/justification/reasoning enters my brain for some reason sparks cross through the synapsis in a logic/non-logic overload. It really hurts to try to think around that one. I mean really didn't we determine that Bin Laden was responsible? And didn't we bomb the crap out of Afghanistan for a while? Just over a year ago after several U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq, Dubya had this to say, "The only way to avenge the death of these soldiers is to keep fighting in Iraq."
Now, is it just me or is there some sort of odd conflict of data/logic here? I mean really upon hearing this my positronic brain has locked up. The only way to avenge the death is to send more to die? I don't get it, really...where is the logic? My poor relays in my positronic brain have been convulsing ever since we went to Iraq to get Saddam and get back at the terrorists led by Bin Laden who live in Afghanistan. Where is Bin Laden? oh yeah...he's on dialysis somewhere planning bombings all around the globe. Hey did you hear about London getting bombed twice?
Okay enough about that.
Let's talk about the "WMD" aspect. If the current regime, er I mean presidency, had said, "We know he has WMDs because we sold them to him, It would have made things easier to persue. After all we trained him and we gave/sold him the "stuff." Of course then we'd come across as junkies turning in our dealers because they sold us bad heroin.
What about bringing Democracy to the Middle East? Do they want it? Is this the Crusades? Why are we responsible? Isn't Democracy about Choice?
As for the rest of Michael Moore's letter, I just see it as his humorous venting, that grabs your attention and moves along the thought of just getting someone to say stop...this doesn't make sense...why are we still there?
Okay now before I get anyone telling me I'm un-American for voicing my opinion, I want you to know I served 6 years in the U.S. Navy as an Operations Specialist (staring at radars and directing aircraft) The thing is though, when I was in Iran was the bad guys (soon to be again) and Iraq was the good guys. Before Desert Storm in the Early '90s, we worked together with them so the battlegroup I was with could bomb the crap out of Iranian ships, oil platforms and land targets to retaliate the mining of the Persian Gulf. So again I'm confused....the year my enlistment (actually 2nd enlistment) was up we went to war against Iraq. (Desert Storm)
As always I SUPPORT OUR TROOPS, I'm just not so sure about the reason.
What do you think?
posted by Gil T. @ 1:31 AM
One Billion Dollars at Stake
If we don't take action, all of the poverty-fighting funding increases that were made in 2006 might be lost!
2006 was an incredible year for the ONE Campaign -- but now all our hard work is in jeopardy. $1 billion in funding promised to fight poverty has been eliminated from the budget.
This is a catastrophic u-turn in the fight against extreme poverty.
You can prevent this loss by contacting our representatives now and urging them to take action. Click Here
One billion dollars represents so much more than the time that you and other ONE members spent calling and e-mailing Congress. To countless people living in extreme poverty, those billion dollars are the difference between life and death. It is the promise of a better tomorrow, with bed nets to fight malaria, life saving medications, and schools for children.
Right now, the new Congress is set to pass a year long Continuing Resolution (CR) which will keep government funding at 2006 levels through 2007. This means that any gains we made in 2006 would be lost.
Thankfully there are members of Congress working hard to see that our progress is not rolled back. Dick Durbin and Sam Brownback in the Senate and Barbara Lee and Chris Shays in the House of Representatives have written letters to the Congressional Leadership urging them to fund some of the crucial poverty-fighting assistance that were passed in 2006.
Ask your Members of Congress to sign on the Durbin-Brownback and Lee-Shays letters. Click Here
To make sure that Congress understands the importance of this issue, we will be faxing your letters directly to your elected leaders. Then, to ensure that Congress gets the message, ONE volunteers will be visiting Congressional Leadership offices next week to deliver the letters by hand.
Send a letter to your representatives and urge them to co-sign the Durbin-Brownback and Lee-Shays letters. Click Here
Congressional Leadership is deciding right now how to allocate a very limited amount of funding, and it is up to you to make sure that they fund poverty-focused development assistance. As a constituent you have your representatives' ears, and it is up to you to let them know that extreme poverty is a priority for you, now and in the future. Sending a letter to now will let them know that you care deeply about ending extreme poverty.
We have a chance to save hundreds of thousands of lives, but only if we let Congress hear this urgent call. We can?t let one more year go by where the scale of our response is outpaced by the emergency of global AIDS and extreme poverty.
Please take a moment to send a letter to your representatives and urge them to co-sign the Brownback-Durbin and Lee-Shays letters. Click Here
posted by Gil T. @ 12:49 PM
Battlestar Galactica by Glen A. Larson and Robert Thurston
Here's where the fun begins. I can't find anywhere that states whether this book came first or the 1978 TV series. But I can tell you the book is a lot better. I'm pretty sure the book was written after the TV series was launched but the book did have a couple of interesting points that were left out of the campy series.
This book I found on paperback swap and just had to read it since becoming a die-hard Battlestar Galactica fan. As a child I was a fan of the older series, but the new re-imagined series on Sci-Fi has just gone above and beyond where the old one could have gone. Anyway, I found this book and just had to read it, in the hardback edition it only has 215 pages so it would be a quick read.
Okay it was a quick read and basically the book summarizes the first 3 episodes of the '78 TV series. After thousands of years of war the Cylons want peace, at least that's what they say. To celebrate the peace treaty the Cylons tell the Colonists the coordinates to bring all the battlestars. Everyone, except for Commander Adama, are eager to sign the treaty and ready for peace. Commander Adama, commander of the finest battlestar in the fleet, is suspicious and is proven to be right.
The Cylons attack the Colonies and the fleet destroying all of the fleet except for the Galactica, and about 200 "rag-tag" ships. In order to keep the human species alive, the fleet must head for the lost Colony of Earth. This book launches that adventure.
While the book was okay to read it was not really the best writing of most science fiction book series. I do need to point out that it is not as campy as the TV series. I don't know why they had to make the series, laughable, but that was the '70s.
Don't make an effort to go out and buy this book, but if you run across it for free and you are a dedicated Galactica fan don't let it slip buy.
They also have hardback books.
Or you can find it here Battlestar Galactica Classic: The Saga of A Star World (Battlestar Galactica (Paperback))
posted by Gil T. @ 7:50 PM
Tell Australia to Stop Mutilating Sheep!
Sheep need your help! Each year, millions of sheep in
Australia--the leading exporter of wool in the world--are
mutilated and killed for their wool, not just sheared, as many
Please click on this link to send a message to Australia's prime
minister asking him to put an end to mulesing and live exports
once and for all.
posted by Gil T. @ 6:38 PM
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Joystick bloopers? and Dirk Benedict's clothes, Battlestar Galactica '78
As I said in a previous post, I've been watching the original Battlestar Galactica series due to no new episodes on Sci-Fi. Oh my gawd, it is campy. But there are some good possibilities that were just ruined by '70s American Television.
First of all there's the character of Starbuck, portrayed by Dirk Benedict, (who later was "the Face-Man" on the A-Team). Starbuck is like the Galactica's answer to the Enterprise's Captain Kirk. Not in the command seat but in the swinging singles scene. On every episode he seems to always get to kiss the girl and on some episodes he gets 2 or more. Also he seems to always be changing clothes. (His locker onboard the Galactica must be full of varied fashions.) It seems every episode someone has to adopt the local fashion and it always involves Starbuck. So, with Starbuck you've got the cigar smoking, lady-schmoozing, always ready to gamble bad boy.
Another thing with this original series is that they land on planets more often than the "re-imagined" series currently running on Sci-Fi, and these planets have lifeforms other than human. Some of the aliens are pretty cheesy, like the fly-people that run the casino. But at least it's something different.
This next paragraph I need an answer for. I know that for the original series they had to re-use filmed scenes to keep the special effects budget down, but it seems as though one of the re-used scenes is a constant blooper. Sometimes when showing the viper pilots fire the weapons or use the turbo on the joystick, instead of the normal "Fire/Turbo/IM" labels, it says "Stores/Camera Audio/Camera Pulse," anyone know why this is?
Well That's my update...or ramble or whatever. Thanks.
Remember you can always check out our group:>galactica.gather.com
posted by Gil T. @ 3:12 PM
Battlestar Galactica 1978 series revisited.
In the hiatus of the holiday season, there are no new episodes of Battlestar Galactica on Sci-Fi until January 21st which will be moved to the new day & time 10pm (9CST) on Sundays. This new time may cut into some of my Adult Swim viewing time..but lately adult swim has gotten lame.
Anyway, during this time I decided to re-visit the Classic 1978 Battlestar Galactica Series. While It was a bit campy at times the series did have it's merits. I'm writing this just to point out some interesting tidbits. after the 1978 series I will watch the 1980 brief series in which they found Earth.
Many of the political views of the time are hidden away in the episodes. For example, during the year 1978 the world was still going through the "Cold War" In which Communists were thought to hate us simply because we had freedom. Well same goes with the Cylons. They hate humans simply because we have free will and are not pre-programmed.
An Interesting thing about the classic series is that the Cylons were said to have been created by a race of reptilians (the original Cylons) but the reptiles died out and the programmed assassins of the Cylons are now called by their maker's names. In the new "re-imagined" series humans created Cylons and the Cylons evolved and rebelled.
Some fun stars to watch for if you also go and re-visit the classic series are: Rick Springfield, he plays Zack Adama, son of Captain Adama and brother of Apollo and Athena, Ed Begley Jr. as Green bean, Jane Seymor as Serina, Loyd Bridges as Admiral Cain, Patrick Macnee (yep from the Avengers), Jonathan Harris (yep, Dr. Smith from Lost in Space), Fred Astaire as Starbuck's father (yes the dancer), and of course Dirk Benedict, Richard Hatch and Lorne Greene.
It's odd how in the classic series Captain Adama had a living son AND daughter. The daughter, Athena, is brought back in a sense in the re-imagined series as the 2nd Cylon Sharon taking on the name. The Cylon Athena is married to Helo (human) and their daughter is half human - half cylon and so far is in the possession of the Cylons.
Well I need to stop writing and start watching the next episode ("Lost Planet of the Gods").
For those of you wanting to read more visit my gather group. galactica.gather.com
posted by Gil T. @ 3:00 AM
The End (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 13) by Lemony Snicket
I am saddened to report that this is the final book in the Series of Unfortunate Events, at least for the Baudelaires. Maybe we could hear more from the other members of V.F.D. or maybe a history of Count Olaf. But Lemony Snicket says this is it.
When we last saw the Baudelaires they were escaping from the high court due to the lack of justice, and they had just helped Count Olaf to burn down the Hotel Deneument and escape in a boat out to sea. Well the orphans and the villain are at sea running out of food and water and all Count Olaf can do is try to boss the children around.
They are all in the same boat but Olaf seems to think the orphans are in his clutches or that they will be his henchmen. But, a storm changes that and the boat is swept away and nearly destroyed before it washes up on a coastal shelf. The coastal shelf is near an Island wher the orphans learn more secrets of their past but first must endure the strange customs of the Island.
The locals on the island are all castaways that have given up on the outside world and want to live in peace. Here they drink a strange drink, a coconut cordial, that is a form of an opiate and keeps them all docile. They also all wear long white robes and eat bland meals. The island's facilitator, Ishmail, uses peer pressure to keep the castaways "happy" and keep the outside world away. But Ishmail has his own secrets, in fact he's got clay feet. hmmm....let that one soak in...or better yet read the book and find out what I mean.
I can tell you that at the end of this book a child is born into the world, a villian dies, a volunteer dies and the Baudelaires learn the history of their parents. I have heard some fans of the books say that this book leaves you with more questions than answers, but In my opinion, I think that these books could have only ended this way. While the answers to some secrets are revealed, more are made even more mysterious.
I'm gonna miss Count Olaf. But I'm glad the kids got motivated to read.
Labels: a series of unfortunate events, book review, lemony snicket, the baudelaire orphans, the end
posted by Gil T. @ 10:51 PM