Monday, December 29, 2008
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Actually in our house growing up, these things lingered almost until Valentine's Day. By that time they were more like "peppermint taffy." Any chocolate-based candy usually didn't survive long after New Year's Day.
However, the peppermint in candy canes has medicinal properties, like settling an upset stomach. Another "medicinal treat" is peppermint patties (see 15 Dec post).
Here's the article discussing the latest holiday treat research:
Hmm. Chocolate has anti-oxidant properties, while peppermint kills bacteria and sooths an upset stomach. Who says holiday snacking is unhealthy?
In case you're courious about the origins of candy canes, here's another link:
Thursday, December 25, 2008
For your enjoyment, here's a video of a "Griswold House" lighting up to the tune of "Wizards in Winter" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra:
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
This is the backdrop for Robert Ferrigno's Prayers for the Assassin (Feb 2006): A near-future thriller set primarily in Seattle, the capital of the Islamic Republic, 25 years after the "Zionist Conspirators" attack. Events are set in motion when the niece of the Islamic Republic's State Security vanishes and he calls upon Rakkim, an ex-Fedayeen infiltrator--and her lover--to find the girl. Before her disappearance Sarah Dougan was working on a controversial book that casts doubt on the official history of the Zionist Conspiracy.
According to Amazon.com's Customer Reviews, 91 readers posted their comments about this book: 39 gave it a 5-star rating and 30 gave it 4-stars; while there were 13 x 3-stars, 4 x 2-stars and 5 x 1-star ratings.
There were three main complaints about the book: First nearly all the 1-3 star raters felt an Islamic take over of the US to be highly improbable. Second was the author's apparent lack of knowledge of Islam and Muslim society. While the final grievances were based on literary short falls: Shallow character development with a lukewarm plot and tepid action, etc.
Meanwhile the other 69 reviewers who loved the book felt the author accurately portrayed an Islamic society set in the not-too-distant future. Many of them said they traveled to the middle east and others seemed familiar with Islamic History.
For starters, I liked the book for the simple reason that such a story's been published. I remember the plethora of "Red Dawn" type of novels that flooded the book stores during the Cold War. Many of them were more far-fetched than Mr. Ferrigno's vision. Now in the wake of the Danish Cartoon Scandal and the Theo van Gogh murder, there's hardly a trickle of similar novels depicting a hypothetical Islamic conquest of America. Mr. Ferrigno deserves credit for at least broaching the subject.
This book will not incite hatred towards Muslims as claimed by one reviewer. On the contrary, I was quite drawn-in by, and sympathetic towards the hero and heroine--both them Muslim. I also thought the author's depiction of the average citizen's devotion to Islam to be very sensitive and deferential. It is the jihadi terrorists of the real world who crash airplanes into sky-scrapers, blow up buses and commuter trains,--rather than a piece of speculative fiction--that incites anger towards the religious-political ideology that spawn such acts.
I found the story itself to be well-written, straight-forward and entertaining: Can Rakkim and Sarah stay alive in order to discover the truth behind the attack that destroyed New York, DC and Mecca? There were several minor plot twists that kept the story from being too predictable. It was also fun to read a book set where I live. The author, a Pacific Northwest Native, struck a fine balance between detail and minutiae, giving the reader just enough detail to paint a vivid picture of the Puget Sound area.
Nor are all the characters cartoonish, "Koran thumpin' fundamentalists" either. The Islamic Republic is also populated by Jews, Catholics and moderate Muslims who maintain the country's deterioration infrastructure. This stratified society is more reminiscent of the Ottoman Empire than the dystopian settings of 1984 and Brave New World. The author lists several of his sources in the Acknowledgments, nearly all of them Islamic. So I'm assuming the "lack of understanding" of Islam is more in the form of splitting hairs on the details. (Islamic men don't wear silk shirts? Who knew?).
I did agree with some of the less-than 4 star ratings. These reviewers pointed out that Europe, with the demographic decline of non-Muslims, is more likely to evolve into "Eurabia" rather than the US--possibly within a generation. Also according to the novel's back story, as Israel was overrun Russia took in the Jewish refugees fleeing the Arab onslaught. I'm not sure it'd be possible for a country that authored The Protocols of the Elders of Zion hoax, would turn around and absorb a people they've spent centuries persecuting. But then again, humanitarian causes were never on the Kremlin's to-do list. Could it be the Russians have ulterior motives for taking in Israeli refugees?
For those who did enjoy the Mr. Ferrigno's work despite real or perceived flaws, you can look forward to two sequels:
Sins of the Assassin (Feb 2007) and the upcoming Heart of the Assassin (Aug 2009).
Overall I found the book entertaining to read and give it a 4-star rating, not 5, because I found the story more interesting rather than edge-of-your-seat exciting.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Well look no further! This holiday Season you can get him a couple of tanks for Christmas. No not the M-1 Abrams pictured here.
But these RC "Shock Tanks" courtesy of Edmund Scientific's On-Line:
I can only imagine what would have happened if my brother and I were given these for Christmas while growing up...
Monday, December 15, 2008
During my outing at the Victorian Country Christmas Festival, a young lady at "The Pampered Chef" display was handing out these recipe cards.
Pictured here are Peppermint Fudge Cookie Sandwiches. The recipe takes mini York Peppermint Patties, which contain 3 grams of fat and 140 calories per serving of 3, and turns them into yummy, Yuletide Cluster-Gut Bombs.
I tried finding the recipe on The Pampered Chef Recipe Search Page because the print on the back-side of this card was too small to read after I uploaded it. The Webmaster/Webmistress probably wasn't in the Holiday Mood because I kept receiving the: "No recipes meet your search criteria" message. Nor did I have any luck searching for "Yuletide Cluster-Gut Bombs" either.
However, I did find the recipe from another Blogspotter, giving it a rave review:
For more nutritional (or lack thereof) and historical information on some of your favorite candy check out the Hershey's website:
Sunday, December 14, 2008
1st Action at 0400 hrs, 12 August 1942:
One U-boat slipped passed the destroyers escorting HMS Furious, one of four aircraft carriers involved in this operation, and fired 2 torpedo spreads into her. During this engagement 1 torpedo from each spread struck Furious' port side. While the ship's torpedo belt saved her from a critical hit, HMS Furious is now crippled.
Two destroyers managed to detect the U-boat and sink it with depth charges.
The good news is: Despite the damage, HMS Furious is still faster than most of the freighters.
The bad news, however is: While crippled she can't launch or retrieve aircraft.
There are still 2 more submarine attacks to resolve in this encounter. And I already have 84 pictures! Since I'm at a good stopping point, I'll begin processing them and add the special effects for the first segment of this multi-part saga.
My debut YouTube movie, "The Road to Eggmuehl," contains 69 photos and is over 8.5 minutes long.
This is going to be a long campaign that will turn into a full-length motion picture by the time I'm finished.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
J. David Markham is a world-renown Napoleonic scholar and is the president of the International Napoleonic Society. His recent book, pictured here, is "Napoleon for Dummies." I have yet to read it, but all the Amazon.com reviewers give it a 5-star rating.
While I can't comment on David Markham's latest contribution to Napoleonic History at this time, I can discuss his lecture. First, if you discover Mr. Markham is scheduled to speak in your local area, then call-in sick that day and attend! Even though I was already familiar with Napoleon's Campaign in Egypt and Syria, I found him to be a dynamic and engaging speaker. He's the rare kind of historian that truly brings history alive. Unfortunately there are too few history teachers and professors like him, especially in the K-12 grades, where most kids get turned-off from studying "a bunch of dead guys."
The central theme of his lecture was this:
Most of what we know about Ancient Egypt was due to Napoleon's army traipsing around the sands of the Nile. Napoleon sailed to Egypt in 1798 with 25-30,000 troops with the hopes of threatening England's colonies in India. Militarily the campaign was a failure and ended in Aug 1801 when General Menou surrendered the remnants of the French Army-of-Egypt to the British. (Napoleon returned to France in 1799, while his second-in-command, Kleber, was assassinated by a Syrian in June 1800). However the Egyptian Expedition not only consisted of soldiers--and Pauline Foures, who eventually became Napoleon's mistress--but numerous scientists, artists and scholars as well. It was during this campaign that the Rossetta Stone, the key to understanding Egyptian Hieroglyphics, was discovered.
I bought a copy of "Napoleon for Dummies" in the museum's gift shop and had it autographed. During the book signing I spent a few minutes chatting with him about another Napoleonic scholar, the late David Chandler, who was a friend of Markham's. Unfortunately I couldn't stay much longer as I had to get back to my Christmas shopping...
You can find David Markham's web page by clicking on the "Napoleonic History" Link under my Historical Sites Section.
The Tacoma Art Museum
The Frye Art Museum
Note: According to this site, David Markham will be giving this lecture at the Frye Art Museum on 3 Jan 09 at 2:00 PM.
Dahesh Museum of Art
I love comic books and graphic novels. Despite the sensual artwork, as the different versions of Supergirl are pictured here, my wargaming hobby takes up most of my leisure time--and space (and money). So in order to get my graphic fix, I read on-line comics or, as the general public does; go to comic-based movies. However, not all comic book heroes make a successful transition to the big-screen. (Or the little screen for that matter).
Recently "Punisher: War Zone" opened in theaters on 5 Dec 08. Ray Stevenson, who did so well playing "Titus Pullo" in HBO's "Rome" mini-series, takes on the role of Frank Castle in this 3rd rendition of Marvel Comic's costumed vigilante. Unfortunately for Ray, the best review was a 3.3 out of 5 stars:
"Punisher: War Zone" isn't alone in getting punishing reviews from critics and general audiences. Here's the Top 10 List of Worst Comic Book-to-Movie Adaptations:
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Fortunately I had to work on "Black Friday." Even if I had the day off I make it a point to avoid the initial shopping feeding frenzy.
This past weekend we managed to make it to the "Victorian Country Christmas Festival" in Puyallup. (For you out-of-staters it's pronounced "Pew-ah-lup"). The crowd wasn't too bad and the place was full of vendors selling unique items. It's always worth a look-see.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Pictured here is the Eisenhower Jacket my dad wore during his stint in the Army. It was put on display during an opening ceremony at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum on 19 August 2006. My mom and two of my sisters were guests of honor that day. The curator could not get over the great condition the jacket and other memorabilia were in.
The irony is: My four siblings and I took turns wearing this as a Halloween costume. As one of us outgrew it, the jacket was passed down to the next sibling. We're all amazed the jacket not only survived the ravages of time, but well over a dozen years of sugar-crazed trick-or-treating. I think my mom put the curator into shock when she told him this.
So if you ever find yourself in Fayetteville, NC; check it out. (Oh, and check out the rest of the Airborne Museum too).
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
So in the eyes of these reviewers I still haven't read a horror novel--which is probably why I enjoyed this book. According to Amazon's Customer Reviews, 459 readers posted their opinions. Out of this total, 289 readers gave it a 5-star rating and 100 gave it a 4-star rating; while there were 29 x 3-star ratings, 24 x 2-star ratings and finally, the 17 x 1-star ratings mentioned above.
The book, published in 2006 reached #10 on the NYT Best Seller List in October of that year and is now out in paperback. Despite such popularity, not everyone is happy with the Mr. Brook's contribution to zombie lore. There are 3 main complaints against this book.
First, from hardcore zombie-lit fans is, there's no "oh-my-God-they're-breaking-down-the-door!" adrenaline rush these readers crave. True, but this isn't the point of the novel. The author paints a picture of a worldwide cataclysm in just 342 pages, so there's only room for broad strokes. Mankind's near-extinction is seen through the eyes of some of the survivors in an after action report (AAR). The book is like a short story anthology where individual vignettes of survival chart the course of the Zombie War from "Patient Zero" to the continuous mop-up operations.
While the story may lack the graphic intensity of zombie feeding frenzies, I found the unfolding events of this near-future catastrophe to be more fascinating than exciting. However, with over 20 interviews the second complaint is that the narrative is flat and each character speaks with the voice of the author. I didn't notice this while I was engrossed in the book. This may indeed be true, but I felt Mr. Brooks captured each subject's opinionated world-view well enough to make each interviewee seem like a separate character.
Together these interviews comprise an oral history of how the human race struggled to endure and reclaim a world overrun by carnivorous zombies. And here lies the third grievance against Mr. Brooks novel: His veiled criticisms of various nations, including our own, is an attempt to push his political views. Reviewers' opinions though, of Brooks' suspected philosophy ranges over the entire political spectrum.
My opinion is this: The governing bodies of the human race will do whatever it takes to weather such a crisis. In the story, surviving governments mobilize their societies to wage a total war against the living dead. In the US, surviving white-collar workers are either retrained, drafted into the military or become manual laborers. Their fate is based on the value a new agency places on their pre-war skills. Given the desperate nature of the war, I didn't find this offensive at all. I also felt Mr. Brook's criticism of world-wide governmental ineptitude, along with penchants for cover-ups, to be rather even-handed. According to the story, the initial outbreak occurs in China and the mishandling of the growing crisis is reminiscent of the government's mismanagement of the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak of '02-03.
I guess I derived my reading pleasure of "World War Z" from a professional standpoint. I'm a retired US military member and I'm now working in Emergency Management. So I was intrigued by the premise of this book and wondered how military forces and disaster response teams would react in the face of a zombie onslaught.
Despite my interest, this book wasn't always a page-turner. About half-way through the book I started feeling some "combat fatigue." That is, reading one life & death struggle after another was starting to wear thin. There are no comedy reliefs, no romantic interludes and no truly happy endings in a zombie ravaged world--just survival.
Yet this is what makes "World War Z" an excellent book, despite its real or perceived flaws. The reader truly FEELS the psychological and emotional trauma the Zombie War inflicted on all the survivors. Despite the sympathetic post traumatic stress I felt, the book is not entirely dark and dreary. Most interviews take place in areas undergoing reconstruction or by monuments and murals dedicated the the heroes of World War Z. So, in spite of the horror, loss and emotional scarring there is hope the human race will do more than just survive, but triumph.
I rate this book at a solid 4-stars, not 5, due to the book's apocalyptic nature.