Sunday, September 30, 2012

September Reading

After my whole big "Hitting 300" extravaganza, I decided it would be nice for me to keep up more on my reading here on the blog. So, without further ado, here is a quick overview of the books I've read since last time:

Disclosure, by Michael Crichton (3 stars)
The Strain Trilogy, by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan
   #1, The Strain (3 stars)
   #2, The Fall (3 stars)
   #3, The Night Eternal (4 stars)
Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell (4 stars)
The Shining, by Stephen King (4 stars)
The Brotherhood of the Rose, by David Morrell (4 stars)
Mozart's Last Aria, by Matt Rees (2 stars)

Also, there was one book I started but gave up on: The Iron Duke, by Meljean Brook. The idea sounded interesting, but I got 100 pages in and it just hadn't grabbed me at all. The murders, the hints of romance, the alternate history . . . I didn't care about any of it. So I gave it up.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Late-Night Hodge-Podge

So, I haven't been sleeping well lately. Sometimes the sleep I have is fine, it just takes me a long time to get there. And sometimes, after I eventually get there, the sleep is filled with bizarre dreams or interrupted by random wake-ups or just otherwise not very restful. But mostly I've been having issues falling asleep, because of the (not-so-)random thoughts that keep rushing through my head that just WILL NOT STOP!!! You know the ones. It happens to all of us. I mean, I know I tend to over-think things, but I'm sure that even non-over-thinkers have been kept from sleep by those thoughts.

Sometimes they're completely random, like your brain has ADD. More often they're nagging worries of some sort. Mine aren't worries, exactly. Just . . . thoughts. Mostly centered around a particular subject that I'm not going into right now. I should be able to talk about it soon. Not that I CAN'T talk about it now, I haven't signed a non-disclosure agreement or anything. I just don't feel like getting into it while things are still up in the air.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Replacement Refs

There's been a lot of controversy around the league regarding the replacement refs in the NFL. Some have been grumbling about every play, some say the replacements aren't any worse than the regular refs. Some are blaming them for wins or losses of their favorite team. Some don't care as long as their team isn't too badly affected. A lot of people don't know what to think. I think the best way to illustrate the confusion the situation has brought was what happened to me yesterday. I was in the office and the hot topic of the morning was the previous night's game. I shared my opinion on the poor officiating and then someone asked me a question I don't think I've ever been asked...

Chicago Bears: Week 3

Opponent: Rams
Location: Home
Outcome: Win
Record: 2-1

What can I say about the defense? They were amazing. As I said last week, if there were any doubts as to how effective the D could be, they've been entirely put to rest. Not only is the core of the defense showing up true to form, but the rest have stepped up as well. The secondary is performing beautifully with a pick-6 and another interception to seal up the game.

One player of the defense that I thought really shined Sunday was Julius Peppers. Now, some of you may be thinking, "Isn't that normal for him?", but there was series that truly showcased the caliber of player he is. The Bears had just tackled the Rams for a big loss on 3rd down when Peppers shoved the runner down after the play was over drawing a personal foul and an automatic 1st. It was a horrible time for the penalty as it continued a drive and got the Rams out from being deep near their own goal line. What happened on the next 3 plays? Peppers happened. He was largely involved in stonewalling the Rams on 2 big plays and put a decisive end to their drive. After the game, he was asked about the penalty. His response was that he didn't hear the whistle, and the runner was still trying for forward progress (he was) so Peppers finished the play. Personally, I believe him. Julius Peppers isn't one to draw many penalties, and I think he's been around long enough not to be drawn in or aggravated by chippy play or trash talk. But whether it was deliberate or not, my favorite part is that he didn't throw a fit, or cause any other penalties. He simply took it as it was and did his best to make sure that the Rams didn't get any more yards from his mistake. That's a real pro.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Courtesy of the Insatiable Booksluts

Okay, so I know that Pat's Bears post is coming later today (probably) but I just can't NOT share this.

So, there's this pretty sweet book blog, The Insatiable Booksluts. How do you know it's pretty sweet? They review primarily literary fiction. I read primarily . . . well, as I mentioned last time, I read a lot of various things, but literary fiction is definitely toward the bottom of the list. And yet, I still love this blog. Their tagline is, "Voracious readers tell you if that book is going to suck." I mean, come on, how do you not want to read a blog like that?

Anyway, in honor of Stephen King's 65th birthday, all last week was Stephen King week over there. I never read Stephen King until a couple years ago, while I was working at Borders when Under the Dome came out, and got curious. For the record, Under the Dome is NOT the book to start with. (What should you start with? That's coming up . . .) But, while it didn't blow me away, it wasn't terrible, which is good. Otherwise my Stephen King experience might have been over before it started.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Books I Grew Up With

So, I don't usually pay a ton of attention to trending topics on Twitter, but every once in a while one will catch my eye. Today, it was #BooksIGrewUpWith.

I read a TON as a kid, but these are the series that really jump out at me, that I know I spent a lot of time with. And I realized . . . even when I was younger, I was cultivating my eclectic tastes.

Little House - historical fiction
Chronicles of Narnia - fantasy
Nancy Drew - mystery
Fear Street - horror

The Babysitters Club is the one that is most defying definition for me, but I guess you could consider it a precursor to chick lit.

I just never realized it before. I know that now I read a little of everything . . . but I guess that's always been the case.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Last Year in New York

This trip was absolutely amazing, and even considering that neither of us were blogging regularly back then, I still can't believe it was never even MENTIONED. Seriously, it was a couple months later when I realized that, not only did we never post a recap about our trip -- that's not so unusual -- but we never even mentioned ahead of time that we were going! And we'd been planning it for months.

Anyway, since it was exactly a year ago that we were there, I figured what better time to write all about it. So here it is, the long-awaited New York post.

We flew out early on Thursday morning. It actually wasn't super early; our flight was at 7-something. But with the whole getting to the airport early, and us getting to the airport SUPER early since neither of us are regular flyers so we actually listen when they say "get there 2 hours before your flight," it ended up being a much earlier morning than either of us realized when we bought our tickets. But, whatever. I'd rather get to New York tired than get there late and have to pay extra fees on top of it all because we missed our flight because we didn't know what we were doing or where we were supposed to go.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

New Windows

I've had my new laptop for about a week now. It's pretty sweet. It's so new and shiny -- actually it's from 2009, I think -- and I feel about as excited about it as I did my original laptop, which was a graduation gift right before I went off to college. (Of course, this was 2001, so in retrospect it was a pretty crummy laptop, but it was good for the time, and it was mine!)

And what makes this computer feel even newer and more shiny is that it has Windows 7. I was a little wary about it, from the little I'd used it on my MIL's laptop, because it was so different. I'd never experienced Windows Vista, so I've been using XP for a good ten years now.

While I'm still getting used to the different menu setup for the Office 2007 programs (Excel is the one I use most often), Windows itself I like. I like the new taskbar. I like the new start menu. Everything is very streamlined and, as I get used to it, very intuitive and user friendly. And I'm sure Office is the same way, it's just taking longer to adjust because I use a lot more functions in these individual programs than I do in Windows, and I'm still trying to do things "the old way."

Of course, now Windows 8 is being released in October, so says Wikipedia, and I'll be behind again. But at this point I'm pretty much used to it.

One other fun thing is that my new laptop has a built in webcam. So . . . I may try my hand at vlogging in the near future. Unfortunately the internal microphone doesn't work, or at least I can't seem to figure it out. This is a second-hand laptop (it used to belong to my FIL, and he got it through his job I think), so I don't know for sure, but unless it was something custom, this model is definitely supposed to have one. I do have a microphone I can plug into the jack, so it's not a huge deal, just a little annoying. I'm used to laptops being fully self-sufficient.

Anyway . . . still playing around and learning, but I'm definitely happy with it.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Chicago Bears: Week 2

Opponent: Packers
Location: Away
Outcome: Loss
Record: 1-1

Well, that was tough to watch. About half way through the 3rd quarter of the game, I knew how I was going to structure my blog post. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Let's start with the good. The bears defense. I think even Packers fans would have to admit that it's a pretty impressive thing to hold Aaron Rodgers to nothing but field goals until the 4th quarter. Anyone who had any questions about the level of play they could expect out of the "aging" defense this year has been thoroughly answered. They're still the Bears Monsters of the Midway defense. Even when the Bears were down by 20 points in the 4th, the defense kept doing their best to put us into a position to come back and win with several great 3 and out stops, 5 sacks, and 2 turnovers.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Where Did It Go?

So, I've been looking for my motivation for a while. Last year I had an abundance of it. I don't know where it came from, or where it went, but I miss it. It was the first time in my life that I really had the drive to do something that I cared about. I guess you could say school was like that, but school was just something I had always known, something I was good at, something that wasn't nearly as much of an effort for me as it seemed to be for others (and something else that I sorely miss . . . but that's a topic for another day).

If there's one thing I've learned in these past two years, it's that motivation has to come from within. Right now, I have two pretty big reasons to get serious about losing weight again. One is health-related (possible surgery coming up . . . again, more on that later), and one is completely superficial (high school reunion next month), but neither is giving me the motivation I need to make me make the right decisions. Whatever it was I had last year came from somewhere inside me that had nothing to do with the outside world.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chicago Bears: Week 1

Opponent: Colts
Location: Home
Outcome: Win
Record: 1-0

This week the Chicago Bears hosted the Indianapolis Colts. They weren't very hospitable, handing out a 41-21 butt-kicking. It was a terrific way to start the season as a Bear fan!

Unfortunately this game also has a lot of "but"s to it.

We were playing the Indianapolis Colts. Yes, we lost in the Superbowl to them 6 years ago, but that was an entirely different team. The team we played this week was a rebuilding team that only won 2 games last year. In fact, it's why they have the number one draft pick, Andrew Luck as their quarterback. They were the worst team in the entire league last year. The Colts also lost one of their best pass rushers to an injury early in the first quarter. The final thing was that our defense looked amazing, BUT they were playing against a rookie quarterback.

So, keeping all of that in mind, here's my take.

Friday, September 7, 2012


I was going to write this this morning . . . and then I discovered that my A key decided to spontaneously stop working.

This isn't the first time this has happened, but luckily a computer restart usually does the trick. But, since I got caught up in other things instead of just restarting and writing it right away, that means I don't have nearly the time I meant to do this. So, very quickly . . .

My laptop conked out several weeks ago. Pat and I have been sharing the desktop. Which is a little annoying, but not a huge deal. But with football season upon us, and season premieres starting soon -- all of which we used to watch by hooking the laptop up to the television -- having just a desktop has been a growing concern.

Just a quick note: I'm not nearly the football fan that some of my friends and family are, but I have gotten into it a lot more in recent years. If we had the laptop, I probably would have watched the Wednesday night opener along with Pat, not because I particularly care about the Giants or the Cowboys, but because it's exciting that football is back! But, my enthusiasm stops short of sitting awkwardly in a desk chair for three hours.

Anyway, so I'm excited that this weekend I'll be getting a new (used) laptop. I'll be back to having computer access whenever I want, and we'll be back to watching our jerry-rigged TV in a more comfortable setting.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pet Peeve

Like most people, I have several pet peeves when it comes to driving. Several of them are simply related to where I learned to drive, some have a very personal history to them, but then there are some that don't seem to bother many people but drive me absolutely nuts. I'll be talking about one of the ones in that 3rd category today.

I'll set the scene. Pea-soup fog. I'll estimate visibility at about 5-6 car lengths. There were about 8 cars in the pack I was driving along with on the way to work. 3 of them didn't have their lights on. I would estimate that roughly 1/3 of the cars in the oncoming direction (assuming I saw them) didn't have their lights on. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. People driving without their lights on in situations where they should be. When will people realize that the point of having your lights on in most situations is not to help you see, but to HELP OTHERS SEE YOU?!?! Or is it that people realize this, but don't care since they don't see it as a personal benefit?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hitting 300: Saving the Best for Last

As I've mentioned, I read for entertainment. Literary merit, cultural significance -- the qualities that turn a book into a classic -- don't really concern me. The books that I rate 5 stars, I'm not saying these are the greatest books ever written, just like all of my 1-star books aren't trash. My ratings answer one simple question: how much did I enjoy reading this? And no one should infer any conclusions about these books other than that.

Last time, I said that the occasional 1-star book is the price I pay for taking chances in my reading. Today, we look at the other side, the happy accidents. A lot of the 5-star books listed below aren't exactly surprises. But there are several that I wasn't expecting. This is what keeps me willing to explore, despite the occasional dud. It's knowing that I may never have read some of my favorite books if I hadn't taken a chance.