Monday, March 31, 2008

March Reviews: 7 Books

The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Thriller Fiction)

Story Summary in about 30 words: The story is of a man and his son and their endless slow walk across the country. The world has been devastated by some unknown incident that killed most everyone. We follow this father and son as they wander starving, tired and scared with only each other for any hope or love.

Rate of Interest: 287 pages (41 pages per day)

Best Thing about the Book: The vivid and disturbing detail in the book. The ashes that they lived around, the absolute desolate landscape, the creepiness of an empty house, the haunting images of the walking dead. McCarthy put you there and you could feel the hopelessness. It is all in stark contrast to the father son relationship that is bound by survival and love.

Worst Thing about the Book: I am not sure if I really wanted it or if it is the worst thing about the book, but you never learn why the world is like it is. What happened? Was it a nuclear disaster, war, etc.? But, with that said, it also keeps you wondering though you quickly just start focusing on the father/son relationship.

Overall: This is a beautiful book. McCarthy creates a stunning and depressing world and how two people can get through it all. You know this book cannot end well, but you just hope that somehow these two can make it through. So far, probably the hardest yet best book that I have read so far this year.

False Impression by Jeffery Archer (Thriller Fiction)

Story Summary in about 30 words: The story ties 9/11 with art masterpiece thievery and intrigue as a famous Van Gogh's painting is taken all over the world as assasins, art lovers and business owners in heavy pursuit to get the painting. One woman attempts to keep it out of all of their hands and get it into the hands of the rightful owner.

Rate of Interest: 384 pages (32 pages per day)

Best Thing about the Book: The visual aftermath to the 9/11 scene is pretty terrific as is the terror of the woman who used to work for the business that is basically trying to 'steal' the Van Gogh painting. She knows she needs to be secret and disappear and try to make things right and it is interesting to see her anticipate the moves of the 'bad' guys.

Worst Thing about the Book: It was all a little too 'of course' that would happen. You could see things happen before it did as it just set itself up too much too often.

Overall: I liked it. The art angle was interesting in what people are looking for and what people are willing to pay for the best of art. Though Archer can be challenging to read at times, this was definitely an easy beach read type of book.

Mad River Road by Joy Fielding (Thriller Fiction)

Story Summary in about 30 words: A man was released from prison and he seeks revenge on his former wife who put him there. You see how lies and lives converge and bring strangers together in a bad way.

Rate of Interest: 512 pages (25.6 pages per day)

Best Thing about the Book: Pretty good narrative taking us from one house to another house to another house. There are 2-3 central characters and then another strong 2-3 characters and you can sense the train crash coming soon.

Worst Thing about the Book: There is a very disturbing scene in the book that I ended up skipping. It was too graphic and not needed in this book when the action could have been mentioned instead of described. That obviously detracted from the book quite a book.

Overall: It is pretty good. The manipulation from the prison guy is pretty powerful and you can sense how he could use people and keep people around him. The stories and the plot were actually rather well done.

Desperate Networks by Bill Carter (Entertainment NonFiction)

Story Summary in about 30 words: A rare glimpse into the decision making deals to bring shows and stars onto a network. You read of how CSI, Desperate Housewives, Survivor, the Apprentice, Friends, etc. all made it onto the air and how close they all were to never being made.

Rate of Interest: 384 pages (54.8 pages per day)

Best Thing about the Book: It was great to read how 'Survivor' almost did not make it on television. How it was turned down several times and only made it when the president of CBS said that he saw it being a summer show that wouldn't kill the network. It was fun reading how 'American Idol' first effort to get on American television was thru the UPN network and they were turned down. And FOX finally gave it a chance as long as American Idol had to get all of its funding by itself before FOX would show it. Also interesting to note the Simon Cowell only made $25,000 that first year. He now makes over $20 million a year doing the show.

Worst Thing about the Book: I just wanted more of was told interestingly and it would have been nice to see some examples of why some shows breeze thru it all and get on air when they are truly terrible shows.

Overall: Terrific. A good view behind the scenes of some of the tv hits on today and how they struggled to get on air. If you like little entertainment facts, this is a fun read.

Killer Smile by Lisa Scottoline (Thriller Fiction)

Story Summary in about 30 words: A man was released from prison and he seeks revenge on his former wife who put him there. You see how lies and lives converge and bring strangers together in a bad way.

Rate of Interest: 368 pages (26.2 pages per day)

Best Thing about the Book: Pretty good narrative taking us from one house to another house to another house. There are 2-3 central characters and then another strong 2-3 characters and you can sense the train crash coming soon.

Worst Thing about the Book: There is a very disturbing scene in the book that I ended up skipping. It was too graphic and not needed in this book when the action could have been mentioned instead of described. That obviously detracted from the book quite a book.

Overall: It is pretty good. The manipulation from the prison guy is pretty powerful and you can sense how he could use people and keep people around him. The stories and the plot were actually rather well done.

Barbados Heat by Don Bruns (Thriller Fiction)

Story Summary in about 30 words: A music reporter is caught up in a story of a congressman who was shot and killed. It takes us into the music industry and the crusade to get rid of offensive lyrics and the length some people would go to protect their career, lifestyle and themselves.

Rate of Interest: 320 pages (20 pages per day)

Best Thing about the Book: The discussion of whether or not a lyric is offensive simply because the phrase is uttered...should it be interpreted differently depending on who is saying the lyric, their upbringing, etc.

Worst Thing about the Book: Some of it seemed a bit farfetched with how a reporter ended up figuring it all out as well as being thrust into a action type role of people trying to kill him, etc. while we hear very little of or of anything the police are doing to try and figure out who killed a US congressman. That was a rather big hole.

Overall: Pretty good read. It is pretty standard though though interesting especially if you like the music industry...there are some tidbits in how that industry works. The main relationship in the book though was lacking.

The Power Broker by Stephen Frey (Thriller Fiction)

Story Summary in about 30 words: Christian Gillette is the CEO of Everest Capital that manages over 20 companies and over $10 billion. Several of Gillette's companies are struggling, he is being set up, and he has been asked to be a Vice President candidate to a leading politician. And, a secret group of men are causing trouble. And, they all collide. Gillette needs to figure out who to trust and who to run from.

Rate of Interest: 416 pages (27.7 pages)

Best Thing about the Book: I enjoy the business deals and the business side of things quite a bit from Frey.

Worst Thing about the Book: Too much of it seems farfetched. A couple of individuals in the book have unbelievable power with the key word being 'unbelievable.' There were so many different plots in this book that you could have filled out 20 books, but it is attempted to bring them all somehow together.

Overall: It just wasn't believable. From extortion, to sports franchises, to billion dollar companies to a 'hero' in Gillette that often seemed weak and confused. It was just a mess from an otherwise pretty good writer.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Diet Drinks, the tasty best of the best

Some of you probably just threw up a little in your mouth thinking about Diet drinks. But c'mon, they are a tasty treat with shockingly enough, zero calories. Over the past 15 years, I have had probably 10 sodas that were not diet. It has been years since I had my last one. I am a Diet soda drinker.

First off, I was shocked to see that Diet Sodas were not somewhere on the food pyramid. Yes, I know that every one of these diet drinks is probably cutting a day off of my life. Yes, I know that my stomach liner is probably in tatters due to drinking this stuff...but how can something so good be so bad? It can't be, so I ignore what people say and I sit back and enjoy the fake colored calorie free Diet Drinks.

I like some variety to my drinks. That is why you will find cases of diet drinks in my house of every variety and of every taste. Brodi on the other hand is all Diet Coke, all the time. It is rare for her to have some different diet drink. I like some spice in my life and I mix it up and Here is the top 10 rankings of the best diet drinks on the market.

10. Fresca--This barely made the top 10 just barely beating out another 'citris' type drink Sprite, 7-Up and Diet Mountain Dew. Good breakfast drink because it makes you feel like you are drinking something healthy even though carbonation is the main ingredient. This is also included for sentimental purposes as this was one of the original diet drinks from years ago.

9. Cherry Coke Zero--Coke got it right somehow moving to the Zero line. Diet Cherry Coke is not too good...but this Zero product of it is a much better option. In fact, the entire zero line from Coke is well done and it ends up being closer to the diet pepsi product line in taste of its drinks.

8. Diet Dr. Pepper-One of the originals. Pretty good taste. This is one of the real popular ones. People really like it and say that is the best of the diet drinks, but I have to say that they feel that way because their taste buds are not truly experienced. If these people had experienced tastebuds, then they would know that it only merits a #8 on a list.

7. Diet Pepsi Vanilla--A sweet taste that can be real good but often feels a bit too sweet. These are drinks that I love, but I can usually only have one of these during the day because of its sweetness.

6. Diet Coke--the old standby. This is the drink you have when you are exhausted and just taking it easy late at night. I imagine this drink being like a shot of whisky for someone needing the relaxation of alcohol. Diet Coke is the reliable drink to calm the nerves.

5. Diet Pepsi Lime--A sweet taste. This is one thing that Pepsi does well...its flavored drinks have a much sweeter taste than its Coke counterparts.

4. Coke Zero--Now Coke did something right. Its Cherry Diet Coke, its Diet Lemon Coke just don't cut it...but its 'Zero' line is terrific. A nice sweet taste and a good drink.

3. Pepsi Max--Seriously, what is not to love? First, it has a 'real' sweet taste unlike Pepsi One. Second, it has twice, TWICE the caffeine. The biggest drawback that I have noticed is that I can't drink two of these bad boys in a row or I start to get a headache. And I can't have three of these during the day or I start not feeling well. It reminds me of JOLT cola without the sugar.

2. Diet A&W Root Beer--this is a beautiful drink. It has a smooth taste and it is one of the few diet drinks that does not taste markedly different from its sugar non-diet brother. Drinking one of these bad boys following up just having a Pepsi Max is a good way to go.

1. Tab--We have already discussed my love of this drink. About 5-years ago, living in DC, is when I was re-introduced to Tab by my brother. Josh would keep a 12-pack in the backseat of his truck and he would pick me up from work in downtown DC. He would pop one of those Tabs open (and really, it would be 95 degrees outside, so the Tab sitting in his backseat would be warm to the touch) and start guzzling it down. I still can't do that, but my love was re-newed and the drinking begun. One note though--Tab takes a bit of time to get used to it. It took me about ten 12-packs before I actually liked the I can't get enough of it.

So, there you. Next week, I will post the worst Diet Drinks of all diet drinks. And trust me, if you think that the diet drinks that I have mentioned so far are bad, get ready to learn of some drinks that would make you sick just thinking of them.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Carter talk

So, we were driving in the car and Carter asked me to drive faster. Brodi and I explained to Carter that if we drove 'too fast' then a police car may pull us over and give us a ticket. Carter then told me that I drive 'One fast' and it would be OK. Obviously, he was a bit confused when hearing 'too' fast and thinking 'two' fast. He then said the police would also pull us over if we went 'three fast.' Later, he mentioned driving 'Four fast' but I had to tell him that 'Four fast was too fast' to which he explained, 'No daddy, four fast is four fast, not two fast.' You gotta love how a 5-year old brain works.

Carter was asked to give a prayer in church today. He practiced by giving a prayer for us at home on Saturday. In this prayer, he made sure to 'bless the monsters.' So, in church, Brodi was next to him because we didn't see the need to bless the monsters again in primary. He did a great job and he left the monsters out of this prayer.

A conversation with him:
Carter: Daddy, where are we going to go tomorrow?
Sam: Nowhere, we are going to be at home.
Carter: Try again Daddy!

Here is another quick conversation we had:
Sam: Guess who is coming over tomorrow to play with you?
Carter: What?
Sam: No, Carter, we say 'Who'
Carter: Hopie? (Hopie is his cousin) It would be fun to have Hopie come over tomorrow.
Sam: No, Carter, when you get asked a question about someone, we say 'Who' and Hopie can't come over tomorrow.
Carter: Ok, daddy
Sam: Guess who is coming over tomorrow to play with you?
Carter: What?
Sam: No, Carter, Who?
Carter: Huh?
Sam: We say: Who?
Carter: Who?
Sam: Lizzie (his cousin and nanny)
Carter: Oh, good, I love Lizzie.
Sam: Ok, so guess who is coming over tomorrow?
Carter: What?
Sam: OK, I give up.
I was about to ask him 'Who's on First' but I decided not to.

Carter saw Enchanted this weekend and mentioned to us after the movie that he 'loves princesses. (5-second pause)...and I love girls too." He gave the movie thumbs up...probably in large part because of the big dragon in it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

How is your awareness?

Brodi and I took this test and we did not get it right. It didn't seem too hard but we still did not get it.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Some weekend randomness

Some things from Carter: After putting a blanket on his back, he started running around declaring for all to hear and see, 'I am Super Carter...Suuuuppppeeerrrrr Carter!' I am not quite sure though what his super power is.

We drove home from my our friends house out in Bountiful, Spencer and Molly and their fabulous kids, in a wild snowstorm. As we drove along I-80, you could not see more than 20 feet in front of you. We were going 20 miles an hour. When we got home, we found out that about 10 minutes after we passed thru that stretch, there was a 20 car pileup that locked up the freeway. I would like to say that it was my skillful driving that got us home safely, but it is hard for me to say that since I had my eyes closed the whole time. Lucky us that when I opened them up, we were pulling in our driveway. Mid March and we get 3 inches of snow. Utah weather--Its fantastic!

For some reason, my Utes did not make the NCAA tourney...I guess it had something to do with their 17-14 record and about 13 of those losses being in the last minute or two. Depressing. I miss the 90s. As long as Head Coach Jim Boylen's head doesn't explode (he gets pretty excited on the sidelines), the Utes have a positive future. Hopefully, next year the improvements will be visible in the win column.

If you aren't watching Dexter on CBS on Sundays, check it out. Disturbing and fabulous and gruesome.

I picked up a friend the other day on the side of the road. I yelled at him 'Hey hobo, need a ride.' That got a smile out of him and he ran over to my car and got in...he ran out of gas about a mile back. I took him to the gas station so that he get a container and get some gas. He then told me that he forgot his wallet which was in the car. I gave him my credit card and we headed back to his car. Trust me, my friend J, will never live this down. Not only did his car run out of gas on the freeway, but one of his best friends from High school just happened to be driving by, picked him up and paid for his gas to get home. Good times and thanks for the laugh J.

Beckham's hair is getting curlier. Carter always had the flowing curly locks but Beckham's wispy hair is now going in circles. Don't know what started it now, but he is competing in the 'Gurls Dig Curls' contest with Carter.

We have 4 phones in our house. All 4 are either dead or low in batteries. I know this every day and I still forget to charge them.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

If you love the tv show 'The Office'

For those that do not know who Ricky Gervais is, he is the creator and star of the original 'The Office.' The original british version of the Office came out in 2001. It lasted just a couple of years and ended because Gervais did not want his show to overstay its welcome. It actually won a Golden Globe as the best comedy even though it was a british show.

Gervais then presented the idea to 'americanize' it and now you have the american office. This clip is at their office Halloween party where they collect small donations for a charity. Gervais is the boss David Brent (Steve Carrell plays this character in the american one) and he wants to show the office his awesome dance moves. Suffice it to say, they are not terribly impressed and awkwardness ensues. If you haven't watched the original Office, rent it. It is more awkward and a little more naughty than the american one but it is fabulous.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Brodi--Really good on the slopes. Sam--Really not good on the slopes

As most of you know, I am not a skier. Never have been. When I was in High School, my basketball coach strongly recommended that we not going skiing and to be honest, I had no real desire to learn anyway. I had little interest in wearing sticks on my feet, being cold, going down a hill knowing full well that I would probably crash several times. So, I never did it.

Brodi, on the other hand, is a fabulous skier. She grew up skiing with guys. She went at night, she went on weekends. She went all the time. In fact, after we were married, she was even offered a job as a ski instructor up at Snowbird. I believe that one of her biggest disappointments in life was marrying someone that could not ski.

Years ago, I decided that I would give it a go. It was an unmitigated disaster. We went up to the resort and gave it a shot. It was not pretty. We decided to tackle the monster known as the 'Chickadee' hill or mound or bump...I like to think of it as a black diamond run, while Brodi has calmly informed me that this is the hill that 3-year olds learn to ski. Whatever. First time up, I got all the way down the hill. Yes, it took me 20 minutes. Yes, I fell countless times, but I still did it. Little did I know that my skills would be tested.

As we waited in line for the lift to take us up to the top of 'Chickadee', several teachers were taking a bunch of 6/7 year olds up to the top. They were asking adults waiting in line to go up the lift with a couple of the kids. A teacher grabbed me and asked if I could help. With a look of horror on Brodi's face, I said sure. Let me tell you, I was a bit freaked out but I figured that we were just going up the lift together, I could probably manage. As the lift took us up, Brodi was in front of us with 2 kids and she kept looking back at me, giggling as to how I was going to handle this. I calmly reassured the little boy and girl about how fun it was going to be for them to ski, never letting on that they were undoubtedly better skiers than I was. As the lift reached its destination, you basically just hop off and gently ski down a 10 feet little hill before you go down the bigger hill. I kept trying to figure out how to do this gracefully and not hurt or scar these two kids who had put their little lives in my hands. So, I took the easiest way out that I could. As we go the top, I put a gentle, yet firm hand on their backs, pushed them both to the sides as I went straight forward crashing to a halt at the bottom of the little 10 foot hill. Both kids did fine and did not fall. I gave them a thumbsup, told them I tripped and wished them the best. Brodi got a kick out of it.

My last ski experience was waiting at the lift with Brodi, and then slowly sliding backwards. Before we both realized what was going on, I was skiing slowly down the hill backwards including somehow going under an out of bounds rope. I skied backwards about 30 feet and wasn't able to stop myself until I just tipped myself over. Brodi laughed, everyone in the line laughed including about 20 kids under the age of 6 that couldn't believe that 25-year old guy was so clueless on the slopes.

I am going to give it another go during the winter of 2008/09. It may only be one time as Carter is now a better skier than I am. The one nice thing is that I know that I can't really hurt myself on the 'chickadee' slopes at least physically. The only thing that will hurt is my pride. That, I can deal with.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Learning to Cook from a 2-Year old

As most of you know, Brodi and I are very talented at numerous things (ok, one or two things), but cooking is not one of them. If it is not grilling meat/vegetables or making up soup, then little food is cooked up in our house. Beckham is looking to change that. A nice quiet afternoon ended up leaving our kitchen dirty as Beckham was determined to help his mother cook up some muffins.

First off, we found some eggs that were only 2 weeks old. But we wisely determined that rotten eggs never taste too good in a good muffin, so we scoured the streets trying to find eggs. After our neighbors were of little help (Amy and Renan's response was simply, "nope, no eggs for you), we finally found some eggs. Next big step was to 'Pam' the muffin tin and Beckham was up to the task.

Next came the batter-dripping job. He showed us how to do it.

Next came the expected wailing and gnashing of teeth as Beckham could not understand why the muffins were not done and ready to eat. Call me crazy, but 20 minutes of a 2-year old yelling at the oven to hurry up, does not make a pleasant afternoon.

But the party truly got started when the muffins were done. Congrats to Beckham for being a big helper. And congrats to us for putting up with the mayhem. I think it may just be easier to give them pop tarts.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Chia Pets--The wonderful tradition continues

When I was a kid, I loved Chia Pets. If you remember those things, they are the ridiculous little ceramic thingies that you spread some seeds on it, fill it full of water and it grows. The original Chia Pets were ceramic animals like sheep or deer. I always wanted one of these growing in my house. It probably drove my mom nuts as we had one of those things sitting in our window sill for probably 10 years of my life growing up.

Seriously, now try and get that song out of your head. I have had that stinkin' Cha-Cha-Cha-Chia song in my head now for over 20 years. Now its your turn.

Anyway, for Christmas, my darling sister bought me a ChiaPet as kind of a joke. I could not have been happier. I also got Carter a Scooby Doo ChiaPet for Christmas. The cool thing about these is that the company has branched out and is now offering them in different styles besides the old fashioned ones like a you get them in Little Orphan Annie, Smurfs, George W. Bush and just about anything else you can think of.

After it sat in the box for a couple of months, we finally submerged it in water for a day, lathered on the seeds and have watched Scooby Doo get one creepy looking afro of plant coming out of his head. Carter was very pleased. And I have a feeling that we will have these things in our window sill for the next 20 years.