Spring into action

NortonAs one of my Works in Progress is a text on motorcycling, for spring I am sharing a cool updated article on getting started in motorcycling.  This list is an effort to name some current bikes that should appeal to new riders. Quite honestly, I think some of the “beginner bikes” in this list are too heavy, powerful, and/or expensive, but it is a good place to begin, should any readers want to try two-wheeled transportation.

Thanks to the editors of Ride Apart for this nifty list.

See the WIP Ride to Eat tab for more about my riding book to be.

Righting the Roof

Architectural-Shingles-For-East-Coast-HomesHere in the south roofing tends to fail long before the “thirty…fifty” year supposed lifespan of the shingles. Our house has developed some leaks, so it is time for a new roof. And, as roofing is expensive, and the house is big, I talked with some friends and family about the roof before calling the first roofer. Everyone we talked to said that prices vary widely, so we should get multiple quotes, and we settled on trying to get three. That has been difficult.

Last fall,  hubby asked around and one of his co-workers recommended a roofer who lives close by, and he offered to come by and take a look. This guy was a no-show, but the house isn’t in horrible shape, so we just let it go through the winter. In February, we noticed some new damage, and got a recommendation from a friend who works in construction, and that company did send a representative, who crawled on our roof and through our attic for over an hour. He was supposed to send in a quote via email, but we didn’t get it. Hubby emailed them, asking again for a quote and we got no response. I called a company with billboards all over the area, and they sent a sales rep who offered me an instant quote, but it was so high that I got the impression that we would be funding billboards as well as getting a new roof. So, I called another company who is highly ranked on Yelp, and they sent a representative who toured the attic and did a walk around, and he was supposed to send in an email quote, but we got nothing from him either. Meanwhile, I sent an email to a contractor who has helped us in the past, and he wasn’t happy that we asked for a written quote, but he did provide one.

So, despite contacting four actual roofing companies and one general contractor, we only have two quotes (at 27K and 14K.) That’s a big spread. Fortunately, the lower one is from the general contractor, who is a nice guy, and I believe he will do a good job. I would have liked a company that offered a transferable warranty for when we sell the house, which he does not offer, but the high price quote doesn’t offer that either….

Honestly, the most confusing aspect of this is why would two sales guys spend the time to come out to our home, walk the attic and the perimeter and then not even offer a quote. Weird, huh?

Printing in the digital age

For ages, I have used a couple of older HP printers. Back when computers were a “new” thing, hubby loved (and I do mean loved) his dot matrix printer. I finally convinced him that we needed a printer that would keep up with our ever growing computer power, and we bought our first HP ink jet. New found love….

Many printers down the road, we were making do with our oldies but goodies until the cartridges got crazy expensive. After doing quite a bit of research, I took a leap of faith into a newer Epson “Eco Tank” printer with wireless. Of course, after having to be tethered to a USB cord, we are loving the convenience of wifi printing. But, in the long run, I hope to love the ink tank more. The Epson ET 3750 has the “workforce” label attached, primarily due to an upgraded print head and a document feeder. I hope we like those features, but I am replacing a color laser that we used for volume printing and an ink jet all in one that I used for pictures, scanning, and single copies. The cost per page is supposed to rival the laser, and as this model has auto duplexing, it should cut down a bit on paper use as well. The warranty is 2 years with product registration, and I hope it lasts longer than that, of course.

Set up was longer than the 20-30 minutes that some reviewers reported, but not bad. Filling the ink tank, charging the print head, and completing the ink fill was a chore that took longer than anything. Print quality is pretty good with text and only so so for pictures. (I usually use Walmart or some other photo finisher for pics that I put in frames, however.) The speed is better than our old ink jet and rivals our older laser.

If you don’t print often, then a printer like this will be a waste of money, but I was spending $20 per ink jet cartridge (for a total of $80) for the old ink jet, plus about $85 per toner cartridge (for a total of $340) for the laser. As the Epson ET 3750 is supposed to replace both printers, this looks to be a good deal. Wireless is just a perk!

Star Trek Poetry

ritadoveA friend who knows of my love of science fiction in general, and Star Trek in particular, mentioned hearing a show called “Ask Me Another” on NPR where a poet (Rita Dove) was challenged to identify characters based upon reworking of famous poems with Star Trek: the Next Generation in mind. Those of you who like Star Trek will no doubt be intrigued by the puzzles presented to the poet. Anyone who likes poetry and Trek should truly enjoy this show. I certainly did!

Signs of Spring?

strawberries1This is a bit of wishful thinking, actually. Here in northeastern Georgia, we are going to have some “normal” weekend weather after having a couple of days of school closings and tricky driving due to an inch or two of snow. But, I saw a local farm’s Facebook post stating that they were 100 days away from harvesting strawberries, hence the picture of some luscious berries. Yep, according to our local producers, in just about three months, we can once again delight in that most delicate of all tastes fresh strawberries!

In the meantime, I will keep reading, sometimes writing, and teaching. As for food, winter is a good time to eat chili and lentil soup, which is on the menu tonight. Here’s a link to my favorite recipe for lentil soup. If you like heat, add a tiny bit of red pepper!

By Pamela/Pilar Posted in writing

Dust World— review and commentary

Dust World, by B.V. Larson, is the second book in a series he calls “Undying Mercenaries” because of some nifty alien technology that allows dead soldiers to be reborn via genetic encoding of a clone body. While I enjoyed this story, I didn’t find it nearly as dramatic as the first book in the series, Steel World. Basically, this is the continuing adventures of James McGill, a young man who joins up with Legion Varus in the first book. As this entry in the series opens, McGill is at home on leave, and is rather bored with his earthly existence. After having faced fierce adversaries and been born again a few times, lounging around the house is bound to get old, I guess.

Anyway, before long, McGill is recalled by his Legion Varus leadership, and his training and adventures continue. The book has plenty of action, but some of the characters remain a bit flat. Military fiction tends to suffer from stereotypes, and this novel is no different. The brass is bad, the guys in the trenches are good: yada, yada.

(spoilers beyond)

Basically, the action in this novel pits the legion against fellow humans, as they are members of a lost colony. This colony is a big problem for Earth, as colonization is against Galactic Law. Now that Earth has forcibly joined the Galactic Union, and the mercenaries of Legion Varus are sent to deal with this long lost colony. The frontier planet is inhabited by colonists who have adapted to the harsh environment. The colonists seem to have perfected some particularly damaging nanites, which they use to enhance their primitive weapons. Every time one of the legion is knifed, he or she dies a dramatically painful death. Of course, the legion is supposed to bring back these troops, but there is a problem.

These colonists have enough sense to attack not only the legion but the machine that spits out regenerated soldiers. As the action on this planet proceeds, the machine is damaged and all of its techs are dead. Therefore, if the remaining troops can’t revive the machine, those who die on this planet will be permanently dead. McGill has his hands full as he tries to fight these fellow humans, but not kill them, and he needs to get that machine back to work. Negotiations do take place, but there is treachery on both sides. McGill does make things happen, but it is never easy.

All in all, this is an entertaining entry in the series, and I recommend the series to fans of military fiction, science fiction, and (especially) space opera.

Not with a Whimper: Producers

D. A. Boulter was one of the first authors I read when I first downloaded the Kindle app for my (now passed on to a grandchild) iPad2. Gosh, I loved the app, the book, and that iPad. Fast forward a few years, and I have quite a few Kindle books in my virtual library, a newer iPad, and Amazon Prime, which allows me to read a lot of stuff for free. However, I recently purchased Not With A Whimper: Producers. Despite the odd title, this novel fits into the “universe” that I first explored when I read Courtesan by Boulter.

I was prepared to love this book, as I have generally liked most of the books I’ve read by the author, and the description seemed interesting. However, as I slogged through the early parts, I wasn’t so sure. Somewhere around the 50% read portion I got seriously interested, but in the interest of not spoiling it, I won’t say why. The rest of the book was a quick read.

The main character of this story is a not quite 19 year old Larry Clement, and in many ways this story reminds me of the coming of age yarns that were the foundation of Robert Heinlein’s science fiction writing. Larry is a very unhappy young man, but a fundamentally good person, as the story opens. His girl, Sandra, and his fellow students are not fleshed out too well, but the relationship with his father is a main focus, so dear old dad, aka Robert Clement, is also a well thought out character. While I think that Courtesan is among this author’s best works, it isn’t necessary that readers read it first, as this novel stands alone quite well. However, the stories do share some characters, so I enjoyed the connections.

When I last reviewed a story by Boulter, I commented that his works don’t have many reviews and seem to have few readers. That’s a shame, because this guy has plenty of stories in him, good ones, and in a time when there is such a dearth of new material for readers, he deserves more reviews and the readers that write them. Indeed, anyone who likes science fiction or simply a good story should check out D. A. Boulter’s $2.99 Kindle books. Honestly, that’s cheap reading— less than a decent hamburger!

Dirty Dancing— commentary

Dirty DancingSome of y’all are going to laugh, but I watched this 80s heartthrob flick for the first time this week. A local theatre is featuring the touring version of Dirty Dancing next month, so I did a bit of research on the story and was intrigued enough to look for the original film (free with my Amazon Prime account, and if your friends and family don’t have an account, now is good time to Give the Gift of Amazon Prime.)

As for Dirty Dancing, the movie, it is a period piece anyway, as it is set in the early 60s, but the cast (and Jennifer Grey’s hair) made me think 80s, regardless. The Dirty Dancing soundtrack works great, regardless of the era, especially the Oscar winning finale, [This is the] Time of Your Life. Although the story is supposed to take place in the Catskills, the movie was actually filmed near Lake Lure, North Carolina and in Mountain Lake, Virginia. Having vacationed in North Carolina and Virginia, I enjoyed the visual feast, too, but the lack of high def photography reinforced the retro feel of the film. Another facet is the “please the crowd” ending, which is entirely unrealistic, but oh, so Hollywood, at least, as it was when their business was entertainment.

Patrick Swayze is very convincing as the working class dance instructor, and Jennifer Grey gives an amazing performance as “Baby,” alternating between the shy upper class school girl and a young woman with grit and enough determination to learn the complex dance routine. The dancing is, of course, quite good, as are some of the performances by the supporting cast. While I won’t be joining those who view this as a see it over and over again cult classic, I really did enjoy it.

I haven’t decided to buy tickets to the live action version (not yet, anyway) but I am glad I spent an evening seeing this now iconic film. And, gosh I love the music.

Trading for a Dream— review of book 2 in the Yrden Chronicles

TradingDreamcoverSince I first began reading eBooks on my iPad, I’ve used Amazon’s Kindle more than any other app, because it works well and the content is both plentiful and inexpensive. An early favorite author was D.A. Boulter, whose novel Courtesan impressed me quite a lot. I’ve revisited his work from time to time, and recently I read the latest entry in the series that began with CourtesanTrading For A Dream (The Yrden Chronicles Book 2).

Boulter’s Yrden books are based upon the idea that somewhere in the future, Trading Families will own fleets of cargo ships that not only carry paid cargo, but that there would be trade representatives on board who scout for local merchandise at each port of call, buying and selling or bartering, providing new goods for their customers as well as adding profit to the Family. Of course, the Yrden Family is the core group, but Courtesan is a stand alone book which occurs some generations before the events in the two available Yrden Chronicles novels. Trading For The Stars (The Yrden Chronicles Book 1) recounts the story of Clay Yrden and Colleen Newborn who meet on a primitive planet, Erin.

Trading for a Dream continues their story, but the main point of view character is not one of the Family; instead, as the novel opens, the reader meets Adrian Telford, who is engaged in arranging an accident (i.e. he’s a hit man.) However, when the victim’s wife and son witness the “accident” Telford loses his taste for a life of crime. In an effort to clean up his act, Telford rides a shuttle to Liberty Station, a space station which is on the trade route of Blue Powder, a Yrden Family ship.

(spoiler alert)

When Blue Powder docks, Clay and Colleen soon meet Mr. Telford. Clay sees him as too risky due to his past association with criminals, but Colleen sees a desperate man in need of a hand up. Needless to say, the interactions between the Yrdens and Telford make up the rest of the novel. The yarn is suspenseful due to the efforts of the baddies to make Telford go back to his former profession, as well as an attempt to relieve the Yrdens of some of their goods.
While there are some mostly stereotypical characters, the author does a reasonable job of creating engaging characters, including the folks on the ship, the bad guys who used to be Telford’s business associates, and other folks who get involved, so there are quite a few of them for the reader to keep straight. Having read the other novels in the series helped me a bit in that regard.

I’ve enjoyed Doug Boulter’s stories, and I really liked this one, too. The only caveat I have in recommending these is if you want sex scenes, you’ll be disappointed, as these stories are remarkably clean without being intended for a young adult audience. These stories are reasonably priced on Amazon, and I encourage readers to discover this relatively unknown author. I am so glad I did.

Son of Justice— a quick review

Son of JusticeEli Jayson is a recruit, struggling to get through basic training, just like many others. But, he has knowledge of military matters far beyond his fellow recruits, because his real name is not Jayson, it is Justice, which is the name of the supreme commander of Allied Forces, and Eli’s father. Having grown up in his father’s shadow, Eli may be the perfect soldier, or not. But he must succeed or fail on his own, for as Eli Jayson, he isn’t getting any special treatment.

That’s just a summary of the opening of this novel, Son of Justice, which is the beginning of a trilogy by Steven Hawk. I’m a fan of military fiction, and the “recruit grows up fast” plot line is hardly a new one, but Hawk does a reasonably good job of blending traditional story elements with fresh insights into both how the military mind thinks, as well as building his sci fi universe. As this is the opening of a series, he must also lay the groundwork for the rest of his trilogy as well as keeping the action flowing to entertain his readers. I rather liked this book, as the author manages all those tasks fairly well.

Often, such beginning of a trilogy books suffer from the cliffhanger ending, but this yarn stands alone quite well, so readers who want to sample Hawk’s writing can read this one without being roped into other purchases.