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Dandy   Friday, 2/3/2017 7:18 AM
Older rants
Feb 2, 2017   Disneyland, The Prince of Outcasts, the Whistler, and a Magicians non-update.
Jan 21, 2017   An update to my nerd wall at work, Found out about Richard Thompson (Cul De Sac) being gone, A list of all the stuff (or most, anyway) I've given up to new homes, A review of Dave! and Warp, and a couple of new doodles.
Dec 23, 2016   My final visit to Potterland and a couple of doodles
Dec 11, 2016   Books and related comics, and free/cheap stuff. Not taco Bell Material, President Me, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, The Hedge Knight (comic), The Sworn Sword (comic) Ooma, Ringplus, Amazon prime and other money-saving stuff.
Dec 4, 2016   I'm sharing my sad doodles with the world again. They're not very good, but I'll bet they're better than your scribbles!
Nov 12, 2016   Yet another trip to The Wonderful World of Harry Potter!
Nov 7, 2016   Blathering on about a few of the books I've read recently - Spire, The Check, and Dangercide, Pirate Detective
Oct 7, 2016   Yet another Visit to Harry Potterland. Oh, and my lease-mileage calculator.
July 25, 2016   Another Visit to Harry Potterland, a new car, a new shirt, a new dog, and a whole lot of the same old complaining
May 17, 2016   Email spoofers, Phishing emails, and scammers galore!
Apr 30, 2016   Winter's Edge and a Management zombie attack
Apr 23, 2016   Harry Potter land re-visited
Apr 9, 2016   Xenia...again
Apr 2, 2016   Sing Street, Batman vs Superman, Craigslist griping
Mar 1, 2016   The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Hollywood preview, fun at work, Xenia's new song, A Vanishing Glow, Our Fair Eden, Race Wars, The Force Awakens
Jan 27, 2016   Text Wars, Books I've read... Yup, that's pretty much it
Jul 30, 2015   Xenia Martinez news Still selling stuff on eBay, Hyperbole and a Half (the book), The Path Between the Seas, Trigger Warning, In Fifty years We'll all Be Chicks
Mar 17, 2015   Selling my treasures on eBay, Hyperbole and a Half, the Long Mars, Gray Mountain, Anathem, The Golden Princess, The Given Sacrifice
Mar 12, 2015   You'll be sorely missed, Sir Terry
Jan 21, 2015   More BBC 4 radio dramatizations by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett: The Amazing Maurice, Guards! Guards!, Neverwhere, Night Watch, Small Gods, Wyrd Sisters
Jan 10, 2015   JabberWocky, Neil Gaiman style!
Dec 24, 2014   The Good Omens BBC treatment
Aug 03, 2014   Every hobby has to end eventually, right?
Oct 8, 2013   Warning: Extreme Geekness ahead!
Oct 1, 2013   The Bloody Crown of iGoogle
Aug 26, 2013   Headphones at work
Aug 22, 2013   The guvmint is gonna getcha
June 25, 2013   Dweebs vs Big Bang vs IT Crowd
Jul 3, 2012   Xenia Martinez & Dia Frampton concert
Feb 24, 2012   Reading...just not much
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Being an idiot with Lev Grossman
Jan 7, 2012   If it ain't broke...
Aug 22, 2011   non-ComicCon report 2011
A Thousand Splendid Suns
An Act of Self Defense
May 5, 2011   On Stranger Tides
On Stranger Tides
March 2, 2011   I'm a gigantic slacker...
Wild Guns
Lord of Ultima
Metin 2
Lord of the Rings Online
Dec 15, 2010   Bring out your dead!
Aug 17, 2010   San DiegoComicCon 2010
August 11, 2010   I'm not dead yet...
May 3, 2010   Hero Comics
Liberty Comics
Dr Horrible
Neil Gaiman & Sam Keith in Batman
The Guild, Felicia Day
April 27, 2010   Mean Gene Wilder! Grrr!!!
April 24, 2010   If it's not one Jihad, it's another...
April 20, 2010   The Satanic Verses
March 15, 2010   Unseen Academicals
Feblueberry 8, 2010   The un-reading shelf (from most of 2009)
Feblueberry 2, 2010   Emily the Strange, the Lost Days...a novel
Nov 25, 2009   Happy Halloween, Mom!
Nov 18, 2009   Summer Vacation in Idaho
Aug 20, 2009   San Diego ComicCon 2009
Aug 12, 2009   I'm a big, fat slacker
June 05, 2009   The networks are helping me cut back on my TV viewing
June 04, 2009   Mandy Moore's Amanda Leigh,
Chris Isaak's Mr Lucky
My name is Bruce?
and Emmy Rossum? Where am I going with this?
May 21, 2009   Randy would have really liked Fanboys...sigh
May 3, 2009   The Spring reading shelf
Apr 21, 2009   Holidays On Ice (a little late for Christmas)
Apr 18, 2009   Leviticus Cross and other Hector Sevilla comic book stuff
Apr 16, 2009   The fantastically amazing and banal Badbartopia RSS Feed
Mar 31, 2009   Neil Gaiman's Blueberry Girl
Mar 30, 2009   My Amazon mis-order turns out to be not so annoying as previously expected...
(AKA the Dr Horrible soundtrack)
Mar 23, 2009   Stephan Pastis & Richard Thompson have me looking forward to the 2009 SD ComicCon
Mar 19, 2009   Dr Horrible's Sing-Along Blog,
The Guild
Mar 08, 2009   The Wonderful Wizard of Oz comic adaptation,
Neil Gaiman's Sandman: The Dream Hunters
Mar 04, 2009   Little Brother
Mar 1, 2009   Pete & Pickles
Feb 11, 2009   She & Him
Pushing Daisies
Jan 26, 2009   The Scourge of God,
When You are Engulfed in Flames
Jan 14, 2009   On the Road = hippy nonsense
Jan 12, 2009   One-by-one, my fish have met their maker
Dec 26, 2008   My Azeroth-avoidance continues
Dec 23, 2008   Nothing to see...move along
Dec 15, 2008   New scribbles
Dec 10, 2008   The Oct-Nov-Dec reading shelf
Dec 1, 2008   Shalimar the Clown
the economic impact of the events in Mumbai
Nov 21, 2008   Star Wars: Allegiance
Nov 20, 2008   Daredevil Black Widow: Abattoir
Nov 17, 2008   Travel Team
Nov 16, 2008   A new comic adaptation of The Wizard of Oz
Nov 14, 2008   Berke's Books:
The Last Basselope
Edward Fudwupper Fibbed Big
Mars Needs Moms
Opus: 25 years
Nov 13, 2008   Return to Azeroth?
Nov 12, 2008   Goodbye, Opus
Oct 29, 2008   Halloween costumes of 2008
Project Superpowers
Oct 23, 2008   The Graveyard Book
Oct 16, 2008   Nation
Oct 10, 2008   The Joy of Programming
My foray into Ajax
Oct 9, 2008   My Saturn Scare
Opus ends
Terry Pratchett's condition
Oct 3, 2008   The Hitchhiker's Guide, Book Eoin Colfer?
Oct 2, 2008   Media master - music online
Sony builds a "better" camera
Sept 24, 2008   The September reading shelf
Sept 17, 2008   Still missing Randall
The Fish tank...again
The Graveyard Book
Sept 15, 2008 usual
The Sasquatch Dumpling Gang
Sept 9, 2008   The dearth of Opus strips
yes, I meant to say "dearth"
Sept 8, 2008   A new monitor goes bad...but it all ends happily
Sept 3, 2008   A Boy and His Dog,
Richard Corben,
H.P. Lovecraft's Haunt of Horror
Sept 2, 2008   A slightly newish look
(aka "why I will never be a graphic designer")
Aug 11, 2008   Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in all its incarnations Mike Kunkel's re-imagining of Shazam
July 29, 2008   San Diego Comiccon 2008
July 24, 2008   Neil Gaiman
July 17, 2008   Chris Isaak!
June 30, 2008   The Woman Who Wouldn't
Legends II
Mouse Guard Fall 1152
the Jetta's latest round of repairs
fishtank overpopulation
June 10, 2008   The Reading Shelf
Fish tank jungle
Attack of the bees
June 3, 2008   Missing Randall
May 9, 2008   My French Whore
Apr 28, 2008   Fish tank fatality
Flight of the Conchords
The Dangerous Alphabet
Mar 5, 2008   Gene Wilder book signing at Borders
new fish tank
Jan 11, 2008   The Jetta Strikes back!
The Plucker
The Anubis Gates
National Treasure II
Nov 8, 2007   San Diego on Fire,
A clean break from WoW,
UCSD Extension Java I graduation (kinda)
Making Money
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Oct 2, 2007   Back to school, Java class at UCSD
AT&T's Uverse
new sketches
Blockbuster movie pass
August 28, 2007   Mandy Moore concert!
Aug 19, 2007   ComicCon 2007 - Neil Gaiman, Iron Man and all the usual suspects
May 22, 2007   World of Spamcraft (and other spamalicious topics), forum fun...gus, the woes of being a contractor and PIRATES!!
Apr 5, 2007   I'm a conservative - bite me!
Timbaland? Dumb!
Marie Antoinette - snaggle teeth and teasing glimpes. Sweet!
John Q - a lesson about fatherhood or a liberal-propoganda film?
Mar 30, 2007   Things that make me grumpy-er,
employed again at last,
Finn and assorted other ramblings
Feb 8, 2007   The search for employment continues..and the unemployment benefits are NOT pouring in!
Jan, 22, 2007   Freed from the bondage of employment, a very brief review of a few books and films
Dec 17, 2006   Sad excuses, The Innocent Man, 1776, THe Man in High Castle, Absolute Sandman, Wintersmith, garage sale treasures: Ghost in the Machine
Aug 20, 2006   Writers of the Future XXII/Tim Powers, more movie reivews
July 20, 2006   San Diego ComicCon 2006
July 15, 2006   Superman Returns, inconsiderate morons, Peewee's Playhouse returns, my plea for more pirate movies
July 8, 2006   Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Wild Animal Park critters, site remodeling
Jun 27, 2006   The good, the bad and the mediocre (a bunch of movie reviews in the new forum).
June 15, 2006   Because of Romek - A Holocaust Survivor's Memoir
May 21, 2006   The DaVinci Code, Aeon Flux, Everything You Want
May 12, 2006   World of Warcrack, the Office, Coraline, my apologies...
Jan 24, 2006   Christmas Vacation 2006, Syriana, Traveling Pants, Wish You Were Here
Dec 19, 2005   Festive Neighbors, the death of Olivia, Media Misinformation surrounding Brent Wilkes/ADCS, Make Love the bruce campbell way
Nov 15, 2005   Microsoft Technet 2005 launch party, Lexmark printer problem, a bad, bad day, changing dentists.
Oct 22, 2005   Thud!, Anansi Boys, Where's my cow
Oct 18, 2005   Terry Pratchet Thud! signing, Neil Gaiman Anansi Boys signing
Oct 15, 2005   A very, very late Comiccon 2005 report.
Jun 23, 2005   The black hole of Warcraft, The Years of Rice and Salt, After the Sunset, Madagascar, Mr and Mrs Smith, Taxi.
Jun 3, 2005   All is quiet on the PM Front, War of the Worlds (the novel), Kingdom of Heaven, Sahara, Star Wars Episode III, Flight of the Phoenix
May 9, 2005   The program managers strike again, More of my horrendous sketches, Spanglish, A Lot Like Love, Elektra, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the film)
Apr 9, 2005   Stuck in Corporate Hell, a few of my recent sketches, Miss Congeniality 2, Collateral
Mar 21, 2005   Revenge of the Jetta (car problems), a Newegg purchase, a few new drawings, more Opus
Feb 13, 2005   The Mail mystery solved, more of my crappy sketches, A few new photos of the girls, bill-bert (introducing the new Project Manager), sweet phone skills, Opus, Dungeons and Dragons, In Good Company
Jan 27, 2005   Mystery mail, new photos of my beautiful kids, some new sketches, an Episode 3 spoiler, Opus, Going Postal, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Ubik, Remember the Titans, Lemony Snicket`s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Dodgeball
Jan 7, 2005   Christmas 2004, Update to the site, Elf & King Arthur revisited, National Treasure, Opus, Blade Runner
Dec 18, 2004   A new Stephanie sketch, another Target web page goof, the SD Union Tribune confirms Greg Bear`s research for Vitals, Miramar VW proves my dealer service assertions wrong, neighborhood Christmas fun, Opus
Nov 24, 2004   More of my mediocre drawings, nw russian mail-order coins, Star Wars toys, a big green spider comes to visit, Opus, Dies the Fire, Digital fortress, The Incredibles, Twisted, Van Helsing
Nov 03, 2004   Some thoughts regarding the 2004 election, rants about the environment, a memory rebate update, new computer issues, Opus, The Lone Drow, Deception Point, Roswell season 2 on DVD
Oct 12, 2004   An interesting quiz, mal-in rebates, a parrot joke, my new computer, thoughts on frame removal, web logs, Opus, Vitals, Star Wars trilogy on DVD, Ladykillers
Sep 23, 2004   My "Heath" sketch for Mark Oakley, an update on my a PNY rebate check, the fictitious AWNA Act, Browser Issues with the site, Opus/Pickles, The DaVinci Code, Garden State (Natalie Portman), Man on Fire
Sep 11, 2004   A new drawing: "Stephanie", redneck wisdom, my salary to hourly reclassification, funny video: news from iraq, an update on my mail-in pny rebate, a new rebate through Costco, Ella Enchanted, Highlander Endgame, Princess of Thieves, The Whole Ten Yards
Aug 27, 2004   Fun with my VW Warranty, Opus, Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix, The Land of SokMunster, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Wedding, Napoleon Dynamite, Hidalgo, Chasing Liberty, Out of Time
Jul 23, 2004   San Diego ComicCon 2004, the family summer vacation, Bruce Campbell, Opus, Nanny Ogg`s Cookbook, Angels & Demons, Folk of the fringe, Bourne Supremacy, i robot, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Cody Banks 2, Hellboy
Jul 19, 2004   *** PNY Rebate fun, IE Patch, Linux and socialism, liberal scum, Opus, BIM, timeline, master and commander, tad hamilton, stuck on you,cold mountain, 50 first dates, the terminal, spiderman 2, king arthur, a hat full of sky, the thousand orcs, meditations on middle earth
Jun 20, 2004   Memorial day pictures, Duplex, Mark Oakley/Heroes, Wild Animal Park Dinosaurs, B-52s concertman, Say After Tomorrow, Big Fish, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Eragon, A Hat Full of Sky, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
May 08, 2004   Pat Tillman, LOTR Toys, 13 Going on 30, Mean Girls, Tolkien Miscellany, Last Juror, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Pork Tornado
Apr 06, 2004   Roswell season 1 DVD and a some other mindless drivel
Feb 19, 2004   Highlander site contest results, new downloads, princess gallery updates, lord of the rings toys, harry potter, underworld. lost in translation, the hunted, a tolkien miscellany...
Feb 09, 2004   Murder at 1600, Radio, Cheaper by the Dozen, King Arthur, Spiderman 2, Van Helsing, Harry Potter, Tolkien Miscellany, Mark Oakley, massive snow in Idaho...
Jan 28, 2004   Swat, Uptown Girls, Somethings Gotta Give, Along Came Polly, Seabiscuit, Ashley Judd Marathon, Van Helsing, Harry Potter, Science Fiction Bok Club, Nanny Ogg`s Cookbook, RA Salvatore, Mythology (Alex Ross), Fastner & Larson, Best page in the universe, etc, etc...
Jan 07, 2004   Clint`s rules, X-Men 2, Holes, Pirates, Two Towers, Freaky Friday (Haley Hudson), new drawings, Thieves` World, Playskool Star Wars, new Interest section
Jan 02, 2004   nothing all that interesting...
Dec 21, 2003   Nemo, Highlander page, Christmas vacation 2003, star wars kid
Dec 12, 2003   E.T. (Erika Eleniak), new drawings, Opus, Santa Claus 2 (Elizabeth Mitchell), Legolas toy/pics, How to Deal (Mandy Moore), Myth update, Last Samurai
Nov 27, 2003   Another Fine Myth, Elf
Nov 22, 2003   Dude, Where`s Bill & Ted
Nov 18, 2003   Not much to say
Nov 15, 2003   Disneyland, Astronaut`s Wife, Dumer and Dumber-er, Monstrous Regiment
Nov 10, 2003   Terry Pratchett, Matrix Revolutions
110103   School of Rock, Terry Pratchett signing, Darth Vader MBNA bust, San Diego fires
Aug 17, 2003   Johnny English, San Diego Comic-Con
Jun 17, 2003   Assorted ramblings
May 28, 2003   Not much to say
May 24, 2003   Almost nothing of note
May 17, 2003   Matrix Reloaded, Pirates
Mar 23, 2003   The Police, Pirates, Lord of the Rings grievances part II
Mar 16, 2003   Lord of the Rings grievances part 1
Super auld stuff   A big list of old submissions with boat loads of broken links

The Not-So-Magical Kingdom

Since our Harry Potterland annual passes expired in December, I guess it's only natural that we would return to the land of Disney, right? Over-priced tickets, super-expensive food, and massive crowds...what's not to like?

I did at least use the Disneyland Crowd Forecast to pick the best date to attend. And it proved to be about as useful as a consulting a Magic 8 Ball. The calendar promised Ghost Town crowds on our Wednesday in January, and maybe compared to a non-Ghost Town day, but it didn't feel all that Ghost Townish.

Disneyland again met all my expectations (none of which were optimistic). Most of the rides had lines of 30-45 minutes, but at least the lines weren't extended beyond the end of their normal stopping point as they were the last time I went to Disneyland. Luckily, the restaurants were pretty empty the couple of times we stopped for food. As we were eating, we did watch the lines grow and grow and grow so I guess we just had good timing. And, to be honest, the food we had in California Adventure (at Flo's in Cars Land) was actually pretty affordable. There wasn't a ton of it, but it was really tasty and relatively-reasonably priced for an amusement park (around $12 for a smallish adult meal). We also ate at the Pizza Port in Tomorrowland and I had a pretty good slice of buffalo chicken pizza. It was probably around the same price as the sandwich I had at Flo's and not nearly as satisfying.

But enough complaining about the stuff I didn't like (don't get too excited, I'm not going to stop blathering just yet) - on to my observations about the rides that I haven't been on since the end of 2015. My observations on updates may or may not have been actual updates. I could just be mis-remembering what it was like before. Who knows?

The first ride of the day: Space Mountain...or as it's known now: Hyperspace Mountain. The first thing I noticed, other than the name change, was the missing escalator to the upper level where the line generally began. The line now snakes up around the front of Captain EO (which is some other Star Wars related thing now) and over to where it used to pretty much start. Luckily, at least half of this winding outside line was empty so I was hurrying up to where it actually started near where the escalator used to be. The video screen near the entrance to the inside-part of the line is now Star Wars related stuff. The huge video screen in the final room now shows Star Wars stuff instead of the generic space stuff it used to show, but the huge spaceship suspended from the ceiling is still a non-Star Wars ship. And the audio playing while waiting in line is all Star Wars related now. Inside the ride, they added a few Star Wars ships/battles projected on the walls, and one tie fighter canopy (that's what it looked like to me) swooping down over the track. But it's really still pretty much the old Space Mountain with a few minor changes.

And then we were off to Pirates. On the way, since we were walking past it anyway, we picked up fast passes for Indiana Jones. I love Pirates of the Caribbean. It's my favorite ride (and area of the park inside Disneyland) by far. It's the only part of Disneyland I prefer to Harry Potterland. All that said, there wasn't anything visually different inside the ride as far as I could tell. I thought I heard some updated audio in the pirate skeletons in the pirate bar section of the ride (laughter that I don't remember being there in years past). And Jack Sparrow at the ride's end seems to be breaking down a little. His mouth was barely moving - but that's more of a non-update to the ride. Also semi-pirate-related, I saw some pirate skull key chains at the ride's end (I always pop into the pirate shop after riding POC) that I don't think I'd seen before. I wanted one, but wasn't ready to pony up $7.00 for it. There was a bunch of other stuff I hadn't seen before in the shop, too, but nothing in the super-tightwad price range.

After Pirates, we checked on Indiana Jones and saw that it was now broken down. So we would have to wait to see if it was repaired later. Instead, we headed over to The Haunted Mansion. I didn't see a single update to that ride, but it's such a classic ride that I think any "improvements" they make are just a waste. One non-update: the projected face of the murderous bride near the exit of that room looked less clear and a little messed up, so I don't know what was going on there.

After The Haunted Mansion, we checked on Indiana Jones again (still broken), and then headed over to The Matterhorn. Along the way, we passed by by Peter Pan (another favorite ride, second only to Pirates) and saw it was as super-crowded as ever. The rest of Fantasyland had pretty much normal lines, but Peter Pan is always insanely busy. So we skipped it. The Matterhorn seemed to be pretty much the same ride I remembered. There could have been some new Yetis (there are so many now I can't keep track of them all) or wreckage/debris. Or maybe even new Yeti noises, but it has never been a ride I loved, so I don't have fond memories of what it once was to compare it against.

After the excitement of The Matterhorn, we needed to keep that adrenaline rush going, so we headed to...see Animatronic Abraham Lincoln. What? Not exciting? Maybe not. But we needed to justify our visit as a "field trip" for Emeli, so an educational stop was in order (not to say the Pirates ride isn't educational, but since Disney Jack Sparrowed it up, it's a lot more fictional). It's the same ol' Honest Abe show it's always been. Nothing new to report there.

We headed over to California Adventure after seeing Robot Abe. CarsLand is pretty much the best part of this park (we'll see how I feel after the remodel of The Tower of Terror into Guardians-of-the-Galaxyland), so we headed to the Cars ride (it was closed due to technical difficulties) and then ate a late lunch/early dinner at Flo's. It was very tasty and not too expensive.

We popped into a couple of shops on the way out of California Adventure, but didn't try the only other ride I enjoy in California Adventure - Soarin' Over California (I don't even know if it's still open, it might be closed for conversion to Soarin' Over the World).

Back in Disneyland, we tried Indiana Jones again. Fortunately, this time, it was open so we jumped in the Fast Pass line. I don't remember seeing anything new on this ride either, but it's not a classic ride from my childhood that has burned itself into my memory, so I don't know for sure that nothing has changed.

Since we were right there, we decided to also ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. We didn't have a fast pass, so we had to wait in a crazy-long line that snaked back in front of the Mexican restaurant dining area. It was dark by this time, so I didn't really see much of the ride. There could have been updates that went unseen. The one update I thought I did see was something that stands out more at night anyway, so that could be a misconception, too. It looked like they added a lot of lit/burning fuses and dynamite to the Dynamite tunnel. It was pretty cool. And may have been cooler than last time, but who knows?

By now, we were creeping up on the 8:00 closing time, so we headed over to Tomorrowland for our last ride of the day: Star Tours. I didn't expect anything new so I was surprised by a bunch of updated videos on the huge video screen in the first room (showing all the interesting planets Star Tours can take you to, weather on the different worlds, etc) and what I thought was updated C3PO dialogue and new dialogue for the luggage scanning droid (that may not be true, though). The ride itself was to a planet that I don't remember ever having been to on Star Tours: Kashyyyk (the wookie world) and Coruscant (I think that was the end-point). Oh, and there were the usual close calls with Imperial ships and Darth Vader of course. Fun stuff.

After Star Tours, we made a shocking discovery: the Buzz Lightyear ride had a five minute wait time. And we were walking right past it, so we rushed to the front of the line for our actual last ride of the day. This was only my second time on this ride, so I have no idea if it was any different than it was from the day it opened. I did shoot a lot of targets with a gun in each hand (my weak hand, the left, scored higher than my right, which was weird).

On the way out, we were trapped behind the wall of parade watchers as the Electric parade wound it's way down Main Street. We should have escaped on the monorail, but I wasn't thinking. So instead, we were squeezed into a crowd of people as we waited to escape. It's a good thing no terrorists decided to target Disneyland that day We would have been sitting ducks.

So that's my Disneyland report. Exciting stuff.

The Whistler, John Grisham

Before I get started, yes, I know John Grisham's novels are essentially the same story rehashed with different characters/settings/legal issues, etc. I know this...and I don't care. John Grisham can tell a story that draws you in and makes you hungry to find out what happens on the next page. He makes the characters in the books feel real and interesting. Or real and loathsome, if they're supposed to be loathed1.

I actually stopped reading Grisham's novels for a couple of years because he was really letting his politics show and it was making the same well-written and engaging fiction...less enjoyable. But I've read the last several novels and even though there is definitely a bias to the left, they're much more politically neutral - much as they were in the beginning (or at least how I remember them being - my memory is far from perfect).

The Whistler is John Grisham's latest legal thriller. And despite the implications of the title, the primary character in the book is not a whistle-blower. She is, of course, a lawyer. An attractive lawyer, as are pretty much all of Grisham's protagonists. Young, idealistic, honest - very much the typical Grisham protagonist. There is a whistle-blower in the background of most of the story, but the reader is sheltered from the identity of this person for most of the book. The FBI also figures pretty heavy in the story, as they have in many other John Grisham stories. And, as usual, the FBI agents are perfect boy scouts2. And, in a Game of Thrones-y move, one of the main characters is killed of fairly early in the story.

I considered finding an interesting passage from the book to share, but nothing really stands out any more than anything else in my mind. It's all good. I could spoil the book by going more deeply into the story and characters, but I'll just leave it at this - if you read and enjoyed The Firm, I'm pretty sure you will enjoy The Whistler. If you require completely original plots in everything you read, this may not be the book for you.

1 I suppose it's possible that the same people who root for the Empire in Star Wars could read John Grisham's books and root for the shadowy, nefarious thugs to to win. Or at least to admire their clever criminality/viciousness. But I'm not one of those people, so I can only speculate.

2 Having dealt directly with the FBI in the past (in real life), I find that depiction to be a little bit of a stretch, but it makes for a more enjoyable story, so we'll overlook it.

Prince of Outcasts, S.M. Sterling

Here's an interesting note about this novel and its predecessor - The Change, an anthology3 written mainly by guest authors set in the same universe, was published between The Golden Princess and The Desert and the Blade (briefly mentioned in previous posts). I mentioned The Change briefly here. Several of the characters/settings created by other authors in The Change were then incorporated into the The Desert and the Blade and Prince of Outcasts (and will likely continue to be principal players in the story going forward). One of my favorites from the anthology, the Tarzan character, hasn't made an appearance, but the books don't spend much time on the east coast of the U.S., so he could still make his way into the stories. The latest books are giving us glimpses into more of post-change California, the South Pacific, Japan, and Korea, so that's been interesting.

Now, thoughts on Prince of Outcasts specifically...

I briefly mentioned Prince of Outcasts predecessors (The Golden Princess and The Desert and the Blade), but gave little more than a generic recommendation for both. Honestly, these three books all blend together in my mind at this point (though Prince of Outcasts is still pretty fresh), so from an overall perspective, here's the scoop: it's been a long time since technology ceased to function as it once did when the world reverted to a medieval playground. We've moved on to the third generation of survivors who think of the world their grandparents knew (airplanes, automobiles, etc) as little more than myths and legends. The big baddies from the earlier novels have been defeated, but other incarnations of the baddies are going strong elsewhere in the world so there's no time to rest and enjoy a little peace. The children of King Rudi (the son of Mike Havel and Juniper Mackenzie of the original novels) are now having adventures of their own and seeing the world.

Stirling's books are well-written and do inspire a hunger to find out what's going to happen next, but it's hard to explain why. Maybe it's because Stirling does so much research and writes with authority on nearly every topic. But he's also just a skilled, descriptive writer. If you enjoy post-apocalyptic stories and alternative history stories, you'll probably enjoy this series. But it's a weird blend of alt-history and fantasy, so if you're committed to alt-history rooted in fact, this may not be the series for you. And there's no end in sight for the series, so you can keep falling deeper and deeper into this weird universe.

3 Speaking of anthologies, Thieves' World is one of the best. If you can still find a copy (it's really old and likely out-of-print) of the original, I'd recommend it highly. I have an ancient copy in my book collection (as well as a non-comprehensive graphic novel adaptation).

Since every recent post needs to have some kind of reference to The Magicians for Dan, here's my obligatory Magicians-related comment: I still haven't watched the first episode of the new season of The Magicians. And the second episode just aired, but I haven't seen that one either. They're both queued up and ready to go, I just need to find a little time.

I started re-reading the novel again, but I had started to forget what had come before in the previous forty pages, so I started over. And on a non-Magicians tangent, I'm also currently reading the Joel McHale mostly-factual autobiography, Thanks for the Money: How to Use My Life Story to Become the Best Joel McHale You Can Be. It has been pretty amusing (I'm almost halfway through it now). I've literally laughed out loud a few times. The Joel McHale book is a physical book (I've been reading an eBook version of The Magicians), so it gets priority when I read. Maybe I'll have to go pull The Magicians out of whatever box it's in so I actually spend a few minutes reading it.

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Nerd! Nerd! Nerd!

I decided it was time to change up the comics on my cubicle wall so I put up the first 7 issues of Dark Horse's Conan. The Joe Linsner covers are awesome. I actually had to skip issue #2 because the Frost Giant's Daughter cover is a little too risque for the office. So I have #1, #0, then #3-#7 on the wall

Speaking of things nerdly, nobody has been buying my comics or toys on eBay for the past few months, but here's a tribute to the many treasures that I have said goodbye to over the past couple of years...

Cul De Sac / Richard Thompson

While looking for a new calendar and hoping for a Cul De Sac desk calendar to adorn my cubicle (like the one I had several years ago), I discovered that Richard Thompson, the artist of Cul de Sac (that has sadly never been published in a local newspaper), died in July of last year. Richard Thompson was a guest at ComicCon many years ago, which is where I discovered and fell in love with his wacky world. I'm part Petey.

While I'm not feeling a Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams level of loss, I am sad. And confused. The Cul De Sac comic strips have continued appearing online since he stopped creating them on September 23, 2012 (it had a five-year run). You would probably think I would have noticed the repeats, but maybe that's part of this strip's greatness. The humor is so well-crafted that it's always funny, even if it does feel familiar. The strip linked above was posted on December 29, but when I recently looked more closely at the date in the comic itself and realized it was from 2008.

Dave!, Marc Richard

I was contacted by another author trying to generate some positive feedback for one of his books. The author in this case was Marc Richard, and the book was Dave! (the first trilogy). I was told that my review of one of Terry Pratchett's books brought me to his attention. The book was described by the author thus: "It has aliens, politics, and lots of humor. It has been called Douglas Adams meets South Park, or If Christopher Moore had a job at the Cartoon Network writing for Adult Swim."

The back cover of the book provides this glimpse into the book's plot:

Can a horde of nobodies save the world?
Starlet Richter is your typical transgender woman living in the good ol' U.S of A.
The country is in ruins after President Gibson enshrouds it in his wall, and seals it off from the outside world.
After years of watching the place fall apart, she decides it's time to do something about it. She's going to help tear down that wall!

Eric Tisdsale is Starlet's long-lost love.
He's making a pretty mundane living as a pool shark, until one phone call changes everything.
He's asked to join the Invaders, a secret society led by a charismatic and flawlessly handsome dude named Dave.
Their mission: destroy the forces in D.C. and take the country back.

Both have their plans.
Both are in danger.
Will they save each other? Themselves? The country?
How about when they discover the president is not actually human, and there may be more of his kind hiding among us?

DAVE! is a science fiction comedy that features fast-paced action, pie-throwing clowns, nudists, and lots and lots of aliens.
Equal parts Hitchhiker's Guide and Coen Brothers, this series will have you laughing your way through the apocalypse!

The Douglas Adams/Hitchhiker's Guide comparison immediately piqued my interest. I thought the book's summary on Amazon sounded more like Billy Pilgrim's misadventures in Slaughterhouse Five than Arthur Dent's romp through the Galaxy, but I went through a Vonnegut phase many moons ago and read everything by Vonnegut I could find, so that didn't dampen my enthusiasm.

Sadly, the book wasn't all that I'd hoped it might be. It started out a little bit weird (email correspondence between many of the book's characters - including the author himself, who thought it would be fun to plug himself several times in the book) before becoming less weird, yet no more well-written. It didn't help that the story is a liberal's vision of the absolute worst-case scenario for the United States of 'Merica. I don't know if he came up with the story when Donald Trump ran for president in 2012 or if the Trump-then-Mel-Gibson presidency idea was inspired from the Donald's second, more successful, attempt to become president in 2016, or if he's just a little bit psychic and dreamed the story up well before the Donald ever expressed any interest in the Presidency. Prescience aside, there's not much here. Maybe I'm just not the demographic the book is shooting for (old heterosexual white guy), but I found few redeeming qualities in the book.

I'm not one to turn my nose up at a good story with aliens, conspiracy theories, underground rebellions against a tyrannical government, and just a little bit of dystopian mayhem thrown in for good measure. And this book did include all of the above. Plus an overabundance of profanity. And I do mean overabundance. Man, there were a lot of words starting with the letter "F" in this book. And they were pretty much all the same word. With four letters. In addition to the profanity, it also excluded anything resembling a well-told story. The author seemed to be much more interested in trying to shock the reader with left-wing stereotypes than trying to paint a picture with his words. If this is what the future holds from millennial authors, I'm glad I already have a full library of classics to choose from.

On the positive side, the book was pretty well-edited. There were only a few errors that crept into the text.

In summary, while I'm not telling you not to read this book, I'm definitely not suggesting you should.

Warp, Lev Grossman

Immediately after finishing Dave!, I quickly started Warp to cleanse my mental palate. Warp is one of the few non-Magicians books I'm aware of by Lev Grossman (the only other one I've read/know of is Codex). It's as well-written as one would expect from the author of The Magicians. A quick, enjoyable read.

If you were fond of The Catcher in the Rye in High School (as I was), I have some good news for you. Holden Caulfield is back....kinda. This story takes place 50 years later, the protagonist's name is Hollis, and he's an unemployed college graduate with too much time on his hands. Hollis will not only seem familiar to those of us who grew up with Holden Caulfield, but also to those of us who have a affinity for Albert Camus's Mersault. And there's maybe just a little bit of Quentin Coldwater in Hollis, too. The story takes place in Boston and as someone who has spent no time in either New York City or Boston, Boston feels pretty much interchangeable with New York to me. I was considering blathering on about Hollis's characteristics that resemble Holden's, Mersault's, and Quentin's, but I figure nobody will care and even I'm beginning to lose interest in that topic...

One thing about the book that's both interesting and just a little bit distracting is the barrage of book/TV/movie quotes and flashbacks (I think) interspersed in the text. One of the chapters ends with a whole scene from Star Trek The Next Generation, complete with dialogue from Data, Picard, Crusher, and Troi. I'm not sure if these are glimpses into a slightly schizophrenic brain that won't stay anchored in reality, or if this was just Hollis's way of relating the world around him to the fictional worlds he lived in (very Quentin-like, if that's the case), or if maybe this was just a literary device used by the author to stretch out and liven up the prose. I guess that's left for the reader to decide.

Here is an example of what I'm referring to (the gray text is the book quote/TV quote/movie quote/flashback).

    The bell rang, and the doors opened directly onto the office anteroom: apparently the company owned the whole floor. It was decorated like an old-fashioned cloakroom, with wood paneling and an umbrella stand. He walked through it into a reception area, which was painted a stylish, soothing rose color. The receptionist, a young woman with brown hair, looked up when he came in.

I am an android. Doctor. I am incapable of experiencing fear.

    She was sitting on an uncomfortable-looking orthopedic chair with no back, wearing a headset phone. "Can I help you?" she said.

Why, Mr. Kessler is one of our most valuable clients.

    Hollis cleared his throat.
    "I'm looking for Eileen Cavanaugh."
    "I'll see if she's free," said the woman,
    She switched to an intercom and politely lowered her voice.
    "Darcy? ls Eileen there? There's someone out here to see her."
    She listened for an answer, then looked back up at Hollis.
    "Your name?" she said.

Call me Ishmael.

    He cleared his throat.
    She waited For a moment for Hollis to give a last name, but when he didn't she just said "Scotty" into the headset, then stopped and listened again, tapping her pen.

And another.
in a tuxedo was doing tricks with ropes and knots in the middle of a ring of spectators. The peripheral highway that ran along the docks came up suddenly, only a block past the market. There was nowhere to cross it legally, but he waited on the shoulder for a while for a break in traffic, surrounded by broken glass and black, charred-looking blowout pads.

"You can't ride back in the rain, Hollis. Wait a few minutes."
"l can't exactly stay here. can I?" he said bitterly. "Anyway. it's not raining anymore."
"Yes, it is."
"No, it isn't."
Eileen went over to the window and pulled up the blinds. They looked out through the black bars of the fire escape. Night was falling.
"Is it?" said Hollis. "I can't really tell."
"l guess I can't tell either."
They listened for the sound of rain.
Anyway," she said. "Take an umbrella."

    The road cleared for a minute. He jogged across a few lanes of black asphalt worn shiny with age, jumped over a guardrail, and suddenly he was at the docks. Two enormous splintery gray timber wharfs jutted out into the harbor in front of him. The New England Aquarium stood at the end of them, on a double row of massive concrete pilings.
    A scum of Foam and floating trash bobbed around the base of the pilings, but farther out in the main harbor the water was blue and clean. The air was chilly. Seagulls wheeled and cried overhead. Hollis could see as far as Logan Airport on the far side of the bay, where every couple of minutes another plane took off or landed, weirdly out of sync with the roar of its engine because of the time...

The story ended a little more abruptly than I would have liked. Xanthe is still an enigma to me, the repercussions of Peters's peer pressure were left unexplored (sending the barely-ever-there Mersault to prison was the point of The Stranger, after all), and I wanted to know more about Eileen. But maybe that's all coming in Warp II: The Wrath of Caulfield.

One last thing before I go - a couple more doodles. They're not great, but they're pretty good. As always, the originals looked much cooler than these scans. But whatcha gonna do?

I still haven't finished re-reading The Magicians, but season 2 of The Magicians starts on SyFy in a few days so I guess I better get back to it so I can compare the original to the TV version with more authority. So far, everything I remember as being wrong when watching the TV version has been pretty-much spot on, though.

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Farewell to Potterland

This will probably be my last mention of the Happy-Happy Fun World of Harry Potter. So no more Pottertopia logo after this post. Back to boring old Badbartopia...

The wife and I took our final trip to Harry Potterland the first week of December, expecting to see Potterville all decked out in Christmas trees, holly, lights, and all manners of Christmassy goodness. Universal Studios itself was pretty well decorated (the Dr. Seuss tree was really cool), but there wasn't a single Christmas decoration in Hogsmeade. Not a sausage. Speaking of sausages, we also didn't bother eating at the Three Broomsticks on this visit. I think the lack-of-Christmas-disappointment ruined our appetites. So any temptation we may have had to return the next week (the final week that our passes were active) or to renew our passes for 2017 was removed. We didn't even bother with Butterbeer on this visit, though I did finally get a chocolate frog (they come in milk chocolate only...yuck) with a wizard card before we left. It was Helga Hufflepuff, sadly. I was hoping for Dumbledore. On the way out of the park, I also picked up some bottled butterbeer from the gigantic - and way-overpriced - Sugar store in the Downtown Universal Studios. I've had the bottled stuff before and found it pretty mediocre, but I think they must have adjusted their recipe because it tasted a lot more like the real thing than I remembered.

We also rode the Flight of the Hippogriff mini-coaster for the first time since our initial visit before Harry Potterville was officially opened to the pubic, and the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride inside Hogwarts. And now, the big news for those of you who didn't have a chance to visit Pottertland before the end of 2016 - the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride inside Hogwarts has been modified from a very cool 3D ride to the same ride minus the 3D. The physical characteristics of the ride remain unchanged...but there's a lot more blank space visible inside the ride now (it's the same space, you just didn't see it before) and it feels less "real" than it did with the sweet 3D quidditch goggles that had to be worn when the ride's video interaction was all 3D.

Here are a few photos (a couple are things I hadn't taken a photo of previously, but most are the same old buildings, crowds, etc). There are also a few photos of Christmas decorations around the non-Potter parts of Universal Studios. And a couple of the Jurassic Park area - the ride was closed for renovations, so we didn't go on the ride in 2016 even though I remember it fondly from years ago. And we stuck around after dark for the first time with these passes. So some of the photos are from after dark, which adds a whole new perspective (especially in Potterland).

Also, the crowd-forecast calendar was reasonably accurate for the day we attended. It was supposed to be a ghost town, and generally was. Lines were all super short, anyway, even if there were quite a few people there. We actually stayed until after dark and saw the lights turn on inside Hogwarts and around Hogsmeade, which was pretty sweet.

Here are a couple of recent doodles. Enjoy.

I had also planned to mention a couple of other things, but all this Harry Potter stuff has taken the wind out of my sails. So next time...

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