Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dante's Disciples

I recently finished the 600-page anthology from 1998 entitled Dante's Disciples. It was billed as an anthology of writing inspired by Dante's Inferno. While most of the stories were hell-related, I was a little puzzled by the relation between some of them with the Inferno.

I think what troubled me about it was that the stories in the book, at least many of them, were quite pessimistic. I know, I know... what do you expect when reading about hell? But it isn't that. The thing is, I don't think the Inferno is pessimistic. In fact, it is from the Inferno that we get the notion of "poetic justice." Dante's work doesn't just wallow in pessimism. Instead, it seems to assign physical punishments precisely fitting to the infractions. That's half the fun of the tale there.

These stories, though, missed that distinction, for the most part. Not all, but some.

One thing going for them, though, is that many focused on hell as an earthly state. I do think that this idea is easily gotten out of the Inferno — that seems to be the point of "poetic justice," after all. We choose to live in a state here and now, and Dante's hell seems to be the eternal extension of the specific states we have chosen.

I didn't mind the anthology, actually, as far as stories go. But I did rather mind that the stories were supposed to be inspired by the Inferno, and yet many had very little connection with Dante at all. That was, for me, disappointing.

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Insurance Hassles

It's a coincidence that I received an assignment to write about insurance quoting services today, when I myself have just finished settling the bills for both my health and auto insurance. It is a headache every year at this time, with all of my insurance bills waiting to be paid, and none of them getting any cheaper.

I don't think I am the only person always eager to save money on insurance. That has to be a near universal desire. Fortunately, at Advantage, you can lower your insurance premium. And everything is available to you online, helping you avoid the running about I've had to do to get my things settled these past few days.

Check out Advantage, and prepare to seriously take Advantage of their competitive offers.

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Saturday, December 01, 2007


I read a friend's little write up on what makes her a good friend, and decided to play along too (it's fun!)

Here's what I was told after answering a few questions:

You Are a Good Friend Because You're Supportive

You are almost like a life coach for your best friends.

You give them help when they need it... but you also know when to give them a push.

People tend to rely on you for moral support and advice.

You've probably always been mature for your age, so this is a role that's you're comfortable with.

A friend like you is one of the rarest kinds.

You are both a good mentor and companion.

Your friends need you most when: They are confused or worried

You really can't be friends with: Someone who only wants to complain

Your friendship quote: "The only way to have a friend is to be one."

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I just finished reading Elfking by Susan Price. It was a rather odd book. While in some ways (language) it was easy to read, there was something about it that made it go rather slow for me. It was heavily steeped in Norse mythology. I liked that, but also found it a bit convoluted.

The characters of Elfgift and Unwin didn't strike me the way I felt they were "supposed" to. Somehow, neither was quite sympathetic or dispicable enough. There was something a little too cardboard about Unwin, and a little too glittery about Elfgift. The thing I suppose I ended up enjoying most in the novel was the Norse mythology at its center. But the characters and story, in their own right, didn't do a whole lot for me.

Even so, I did finish the book, and even read the last 150 pages or so in one sitting. It was readable, but the early parts didn't really capture my attention.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

The Golden Queen

I posted this on another of my blog sites, but I thought it would be appropriate for it to appear here as well:

David Wolverton's The Golden Queen is the book that I most recently finished.  I ended up finding it a pleasant enough read, though it isn't something I am particularly interested in revisting.

In my reading of the novel, I found myself growing in sympathy for Gallen, Orick, and Maggie, and feeling a mix of sympathy and disguist for Veriasse and Everynne.  It seems to me that this is by design.  In addition, I found the dronons to be a pretty disgusting evil race for our friends to face, which made the overall story pretty effective.

I came across a copy of  a later book that continues this story when I recently visited a library book sale.  I had another 150 or so pages to read, meaning I'd read over 2/3 of it.  That seems like about the spot in my reading where I'll have a pretty good idea if it is a story I want to continue to pursue when I finish my reading.  Well, I didn't buy the book, even though it would cost me less than $1.  I am not really interested in investing the time in continuing along with the story.  

That said, the last little bit did make me smile, and I would count The Golden Queen as an enjoyable enough read in itself.

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Monday, October 29, 2007


I'm on the road right now, and not keeping up with blogging as much as I'd like. But I have to get a quick post in on this one.

I saw 1408 on the plane, and I have to say that it is a fairly weird movie. I watched it mostly because I am a John Cusack fan. I love Max, Being John Malkovich, Identity, whatever. It usually doesn't matter how weird it gets — I'll enjoy it. Cusack just chooses good roles, and acts in good films.

But 1408 was a miss for me. Maybe it is because I was on the plane, and you know how it is watching a film on those little screens. I don't think it was just because the plot is convoluted (though it is). Whatever the reason, it just didn't seem to work for me. It was a little too much like Identity, but without the clencher that leaves you saying, "Yeah... that was well done."

I might give it another shot eventually, if I can borrow the DVD from someone. But it isn't something I am aiming to do in the near future. For me, this is the very rare John Cusack film that just missed the mark for me.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Death of Science Fiction?

I was just reading a very interesting discussion over at The World in the Satin Bag addressing the question of whether the death of science fiction is a sure thing, even if not quite imminent.

I think the post offers an intersting perspective — namely, that science fiction "has to" die eventually, just because the things that make up science fiction today will eventually be the reality, and therefore will be merely fiction, and not science fiction.

I understand the logic, but I have to say there seems to be a flaw there somewhere. I think it is in the fact that this view seems to mean that science will fail to find new horizons to conquer. For me, I think that this is not at all the case. When interstellar travel is a reality, does that mean there are no more amazing possiblities to be explored? Surely not. Surely there are still areas of science to be explored, manipulated, and dreamed over. These, I would say, are the things science fiction is made of. While space travel may form the bulk of material for science fiction today, it becoming a reality doesn't negate the possibility for science fiction. It merely changes its face.

The post argues that this change in the landscape of the genre would amount to it becoming a different animal altogether. I would agree with that, if it were a discussion about "the space novel" rather than an arguement about science fiction. Can't 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, for instance, also be classified as science fiction, even though it isn't about space travel? That there tells us that science fiction is about more than just life amongst the stars.

I don't know what will provide new material for the science fiction novel of the future. But I do think there is room for its continuation of the genre, even if space travel becomes the norm, just as the airplane hasn't negated myths in the mold of Icarus.

But I do certainly agree that the genre might morph in ways that today we can't imagine.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Rush: 2112

Call me old-fashioned, but in many ways I am still much more tied to the music of my growing-up years than I feel I can ever be to the things you find coming out today. Perhaps that is true for everyone. Maybe we are just put together in such a way that the music of our formative years will continue to resonate with us as we grow up in a way that nothing else quite can. I have a friend who refers to this as “the soundtrack of a life,” because the music we grow up with becomes so intertwined with the experiences of growth. Perhaps there is something to that.

So, that said, I suppose it would not be surprising that I would call a more-than-30-year old piece “Music of the Future.” My labeling it thus has nothing to do with when the piece was written, obviously, but has more to do with the piece’s connection with the sort of books and movies that speculate about possible futures for humanity, and explore those possibilities in artistic form. For me, Rush’s “concept album” 2112 is a nice fit into this genre of speculative fiction.

You can read the rest of this article, with some thoughts about the lyrics of Neil Peart, on my main blog. Admittedly, though, there's not near enough space in a single post to do justice to the band (or the man's) genius. Perhaps it is an issue I will revisit from time to time.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Speculative Fiction

I recently visited a place that keeps a bookshelf set aside for bookcrossing. I first heard about from another blogger, and have had a good time “setting books free” after registering them at the site. I’ve had an equally good time “catching” books released by other bookcrossers. On my recent “hunting trip,” I came across a find that could not have been any better, as far as I am concerned -- John Costello’s Science Fiction Films. I have been having a great time reading through the little volume at a very leisurely pace over the past couple of weeks.

I am quite a fan of science fiction, but am a much bigger fan of the more general category of writing that I’d term “speculative fiction,” encompassing not only science fiction, but fantasy, imaginative tales about possible parallel worlds or possible futures for our world. It’s an area of fiction that can really captivate me, whether talking about 1001 Arabian Nights, Star Wars, The Matrix, or Diana Wynne Jones’s Chrestomanci. I pretty much love it all.

Continue reading this article at my new blog

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mulholland Drive

I couple of weeks ago I saw the film Mulholland Drive, the first David Lynch film I've seen. I know... I am so behind the times.

The film was, to me, rather staggering. It captured my mind, and has pretty much taken up permanent residence there. I found the ideas captivating. I have probably never seen a segment of film more moving to me than the portion set inside the Silencio. The show there, the ideas it portrayed so beautifully, was just so powerfully done. The perfect tying together of the notions of illusion and performance was absolutely astounding. And, as if the the singing of "Crying" was not moving enough, the collapse of the singer brings home the point about the disconnect between reality and illusion in brilliant fashion.

From there, the movie begins to break down... I don't mean that it falls apart, exactly. Instead, it breaks down the illusions its been building up for us. We see how Betty has bought into the illusion, and sucked us into it with her. (But honestly, didn't we feel there was something fishy about her all along? A little too perky? Too good to be true? It had to be an illusion, a construct, didn't it?)

I won't pretend I get Mulholland Drive in all its nuances yet. That's probably why it has settled into its new home so nicely -- my mind that has been so utterly captivated by it. It's weird. It's not for everyone, I suspect. But it sure will make you think.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

How to Find Your Name on the New York Times Best Seller List

If you visit Open Horizons, you can find some tips for how to turn that manuscript now sitting in the bottom of your desk drawer into a best seller.

Here's what you'll get from Open Horizons:

1. Taped reproductions of both teleseminar phone calls, allowing you to listen to the entire system more than once.
Value: $497.00.

2. A step-by-step document outlining everything you have to do.
Value: $997.00.

3. A downloadable audio of John Kramer's talk on How to Out-Sell the New York Times Bestsellers Without Breaking the Bank.
Value: $30.00.

4. Top 700 Independent Bookstores Data Files
Data file download value: $40.00.

5. Book Marketing 101
Ebook download value: $30.00.

6. Book Marketing 105
Ebook download value: $30.00.

Don't worry, you don't need to get your calculator out and start adding those numbers -- it won't cost you near that much! The whole system, in fact, costs less than $500. You can take a look at the website today to see how you can see your name climb up the New York Times Best Seller List.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Joining the Serkis Circus

I enjoyed watching Andy Serkis play Gollum (one of my favorite characters ever), just as I enjoyed watching him in a special production of Aphra Behn's The Rover. I think it will be fun to see what he comes up with in this next one too.

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Friday, August 31, 2007

Peregrine Online

I am migrating my travel blog to a site called Peregrine Online. I know, ironic, huh? Well, it seemed like the thing to do, putting it on its own domain.

I will be writing about the same sorts of things I always have, travel around Singapore, China, and other parts of Asia, as well as other spots I've been around the globe.

I'm adding in another section to the blog, which is more on life in Singapore and Shanghai, especially with tips for foreigners staying in one place or the other (I split my time between the two, though I was brought up in the US).

Hope you'll stop by to see me there.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Value of a Blog

I've just come across this fun website, thanks to my friend silken, and I thought I'd give it a look to see how much my blogs are worth. I'll be posting the answer to that on each individual blog.

This one:

My blog is worth $9,032.64.
How much is your blog worth?

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

where the silken adventure began...

I've been talking a lot about my blogging pal, silken. But let me take you back to where it all began for silken and me... sort of.

Silken used to blog with me under another name, skouba, at a site called Writing Up. She learned the ins and outs of blogging there, like I did. And she really maintained a fantastic blog there.

Sadly, the site is more or less defunct now (though you can find it popping up every now and then). I miss the place there and the fun conversations we used to have. I am glad, though, skouba/silken (or is it silken/skouba? this always confuses me...) is now blogging elsewhere. It would be sad to lose her insights in an online setting. Interacting with her at the site is what I most miss about losing it.

I am, though, one of the lucky ones. I know skouba/silken in real life, and have known her all my life. So, for me, at least I won't lose touch with her, even if the whole internet falls apart!

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Wedding Website

Are those bells I hear ringing?

Is that a big rock I see on your finger?

When's the big day????

Before it arrives, you've got to visit this Wedding Website. I've been in on the planning for a whole lot of weddings, and I can tell you that it is really a very big job. can help make the whole thing much easier on you. At the site, you'll find free, interactive planning tools, expert advice, inspiration photos, a local vendor guide, a patented online registry system, and much more. There are so many tools and resources there to help you plan the perfect wedding that it is really incredible. And, more amazing, it is all just a click away. Log on today and have a look.

And, before I say goodbye, let me say congratulations to you too. I hope you and your partner have a long and happy life together!

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Silken, part of the Communati

I am continuing on my journey through a series of blogs, writing a short entry introducing each of the blogs of one of my blogging friends, silken. Her newest one (to my knowledge) is at a new site called communati, which is a community-style blogging site. I like how silken's personality really comes out in this casual setting, where commenting is as important as posting. I haven't gotten into that site yet as much as I would like, due to a busy schedule since the site opened. That means I haven't gotten to read all of silken's entriesat the new site -- not yet -- but I have enjoyed the ones I've read.

Take a look at this post on reading keys, where she shares some ideas about a tool she plans to use as she starts homeschooling her 2 young nephews. I like how she shares there about her own philosophy of focusing on phonics rather than sight words. It's the sort of discussion she often posts there, and is great for anyone who teaches kids (whether parents or teachers).

Stop by and visit silken there. And while you are there, go ahead and sign up and join the conversation. But let me warn you, you might get addicted. ;-)

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Each New Day

Silken, the blogger I am presently spotlighting here, keeps another very high quality blog at, Each New Day. I love the optimism and sense of hope reflected in that title. It likewise shows up throughout the blog's entries.

Like her other blogs, silken here shares little tidbits of things she finds here and there. I like her post on the Schlitterbahn in Galveston. Her enthusiasm for the fun one can find in life is shown up in this post. She's not going to be scared off by long lines at a summer outing. Instead, she focuses on the fun her family has when they all go out together.

The whole site is pretty much like that, and it makes for a really pleasant read. And, on top of that, you'll probably find out about a lot of things you never heard of before. That's one of the best parts about all of silken's blogs. She has a curious mind, and a willingness to share the things she's picked up here and there. That makes for very fun reading.

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Simmons Jannace and Stagg

When you talk about Simmons, Jannace, and Stagg, LLP, you are talking about the best. The track record of the firm is one to be admired. Operating in ew York, Connecticut and New Jersey, they have represented major players, such as Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., Bank of America Corp., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Kmart Holding Corp., Best Buy Co. Inc., Washington Mutual Bank FA, Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc., Staples Inc., Marsh & McLennan Cos. Inc., General Motors Acceptance Corporation, GMAC Insurance Holdings, Inc., Circuit City Stores, Inc., and Foot Locker Inc., and of course many, many others. They have received many awards too, including the highest peer review rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which rates legal ability and ethical standards.

But simmons jannace & stagg isn't only worried about the big boys. No, they take care of the small-timers like you and me too. They will always listen to the clients' needs, and act in the clients' best interests. So, while they do plenty of work with the big players, they are equally good when it comes to representing small companies, municipalities and individuals, many of whom turn to us for quality representation at a reasonable cost.

When you deal with Thomas E Stagg and Simmons, Jannace & Stagg, LLP, you can be sure that you have reliable, hard-working, competent counsel on your side.

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Sowing Seeds

I am continuing to show off the good work of my blogging friend, silken, and I have reached one of my favorites of her blogs. It's not at blogspot, but at a different blog site (, and I like how she's kept this one very thematic. She calls this blog Sowing Seeds, and she focuses on raising kids, using the growth of a plant or seed as the metaphor that shapes the paradigm she is focusing.

One of her recent entries, Mutation is a great example of what I like about this blog. Look at the insights she draws from the simple definition offered when she applies it to teenage kids. It's simple, and that's where the beauty of this blog lies.

A lot of times at this blog I will learn of phrases I hadn't heard of before, not being much of a gardener myself, like dethatching. It's great how silken is able to define terms like this and make them understandable, and then apply them to her role as a parent.

I really love the approach she has taken here. This is, in my estimation, just the right way to cultivate a blog.

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Silken's Rhyme Time

I am continuing to turn the spotlight on my blogging buddy, silken, and the great work she does in keeping up her little blogging kingdom that she has built up. I've reached one of her spaces where she seems to just be having a good time. At her Rhyme Time, she enters cute rhymes, and they are often very entertaining. I find myself getting a little laugh out of them all the time.

I keep 3 different blogs filled with rhymed poetry myself, as well as another full of acrostics, so I know that maintaining a fun, lighthearted poetry blog is not as easy as it sounds. But silken does it very well. Whether writing about Fish Camp or about rainy days, you can see that silken is having a good time doing it.

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Choosing Credit Cards

When applying for a credit card, it seems to me that there have almost become too many options these days. I get credit cards in the mail all the time, and all I have to do is call a number and activate it. Sometimes, I only have to use it once, and that activates it. And, besides this, there are credit card applications in the mail, on the 'Net, and just everywhere. It is hard for me to choose. I might be looking for a card that offers me good Balance Transfer Credit Cards , or one that has no annual fee, or maybe one that has a low interest rate.

More likely, I might be looking for a combination of all three, and perhaps many other considerations as well. So, how do I know which card offers me the best total package?

The Credit Card Search Engine will help you choose between a multitude of different cards. While you are deciding, you can compare the perks that one card offers over against those of another. By putting the information for two different cards up on your screen side by side, you'll be able to better see the different benefits of each.

Before you choose a credit card, sort through all the options and make a wise decision. Visit

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Family Night

I am still highlighting one of my favorite bloggers, silken. She keeps lots of useful and interesting blogs. One of the really nice resources she has is Family Night, where she shares lots of great ideas for things that the whole family can do together.

Just look at this entry on treasure hunts. She includes some great photos there, and gives a good explanation of the activity she writes about. This is not something just thrown together. Rather, you can tell it comes from a parent who has lots of ideas and is eager to share them. Her quality of writing is of the highest, and I think you will enjoy the activities you see listed there.

The family fun runs sound like lots of fun to me. And take a look at what she says about letterboxing. Doesn't that sound like a great time? Check out silken's family night blog, and you'll find loads of ideas like that.

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As I continue highlighting the work of one of my favorite bloggers, silken, I've come to one of the most fun blogs you'll find. Silken's daughter keeps this one, and it is called kidbits. If you've read the mother's blogs, I think you will see lots of the mother in the daughter's work too.

A lot (but not all) of the entries are in 10-point format (like one of her mom's blogs), and all have interesting ideas and info (again, like at mom's blogs). I enjoyed reading what the girl had learned about 9/11 and the World Trade Center, and equally enjoyed her list of ideas for Mother's Day.

This blog, like her big brother's, is apparently on holiday at the moment. With the school year picking up and the kids being back to work (does that mean they remember how to read and write again???), I suspect it will pick up. At any rate, I do hope it will pick back up. I miss her posts!

Stop by to visit, and tell her I sent you!

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Florida Villa

I mentioned in an earlier entry on this blog how much fun it is to travel to the Orlando area to enjoy all the great attractions there. Places like Disney World, Sea World, Epcot Center, Universal Studios, and all of the rest of the fun places there will always attract guests. I highly recommend a trip to the area, especially for anyone who's never been.

There are a whole lot of hotels in the area. Like any other region that has lot of tourists every year, the area has a whole lot of accommodations available for travelers. It can be a daunting task to choose one, when you see just how many are available.

For me, I think a Florida Villa is the perfect choice. The accommodations are comfortable and affordable, and there is something there to entertain every member of the family. It is a roomy and comfortable place, so you won't feel as exhausted as you would if you were to choose some cramped little hotel room.

Make your trip to Florida the best it can be. Choose accommodations that will let you be comfortable and really enjoy the surrounding fun.

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Places to Go

Continuing the spotlight on my blogging friend, silken, I'd like to turn to her blog called Places to Go. This is a unique sort of travel blog because silken doesn't just talk about places she's been, but also about places she hasn't been, but would like to go. I think that's pretty clever, really!

Just look here what she says about Vienna, or here about Avebury. You'll find out about all sorts of places when you read through this blog. I mean, I never even heard of the Museum of Hoaxes till I read about it on her blog.

Here, you can also find out about movies that talk about specific places, like what you see in her entry on an arctic tale. (Do I see a theme here? What's all this about icebergs????)

Silken has a curious mind, one that would like to see and know more about this big world. In this blog, that really shines through.

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