AUG 9
2013
Oishinbo: Vol. 2, Sake **** : Another great installment of the Oishinbo series. This one focuses on wine and sake as they interact with Japanese cuisine.
tags: book-reviews japan food manga
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JUL 9
2013
Oishinbo: Vol.1 Japanese Cuisine **** : I love this Japanese foodie series.


tags: book-reviews japan food manga
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JUL 9
2013
Hyperion ***** : All four books in this serious are "big" science fiction: society, government, military, time and space travel, religion; it covers it all! (I read these last year but forgot to review them until now.)


tags: book-reviews science-fiction
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JUL 5
2013
Room **** : Touching and creatively-written story of a mother and son's love for each other in a horrible situation.
tags: book-reviews fiction
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APR 23
2013
Oishinbo: Fish, Sushi, & Sashimi ***** : Delightful story of Japanese food culture.
tags: book-reviews manga
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NOV 6
2012
Player of Games ***** : Culture series, book 2. Even better than the first! About a master player in a game that determines who becomes emperor.


tags: book-reviews science-fiction
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AUG 18
2012
Consider Phlebas **** : Great space opera with thorough backstory a la David Brin's Uplift series.
tags: book-reviews science-fiction
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AUG 17
2011
Manga Guide to Calculus **** : Even if you already know Calculus, this is still very enjoyable. The entire series looks appealing!
tags: book-reviews manga calculus
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AUG 14
2011
Under the Dome ***** : Stephen King at his best, describing small-town America with a full cast of interesting characters.


tags: book-reviews fiction
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OCT 12
2010
Born to Run *** Compelling story of how humans were made for jogging. Documents the Tarahumara, a tribe of Mexican Indians who run ultramarathons almost barefoot. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof and, unfortunately, this book completely fails in providing references or sources for any of its claims. I found at least one glaring factual error: the author claims that humans are the only animal whose principal method of heat dissipation is sweating. Not true--horses sweat profusely! Serious mistakes such as these beg the question of how many other errors there are.

(Thanks to some detective work from Beeman, here are pictures from the race and a conversation with Caballo Blanco in which he expresses his displeasure with the book.)

tags: book-reviews running non-fiction
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OCT 6
2010
Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook *** : The story is of questionable veracity, but it is quick and fun, albeit poorly written.
tags: book-reviews non-fiction facebook
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AUG 28
2010
Handmaid's Tale ***** Dystopian feminist novel in which fertile women become the property of the state. Dark premise that is brilliantly executed with clean, elegant prose.
tags: book-reviews everymans-library fiction
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JAN 24
2010
Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food *** : These are essentially the same theme, so I'm rating them together. A compelling history and exploration of the food industry that should convince most readers to change the way they eat. Unfortunately, it's preachy at times and maligns science unjustly, so I deducted one star from the rating.
tags: book-reviews
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DEC 1
2009
Ecotopia **** : Thought-provoking "politics fiction". In the author's words, the book tries to convey "that there are real alternatives to our present corporatist, militarist, ultracompetitive, oil-obsessed course." One reviewer wrote, "it looks obvious--like the wheel", a prescient remark given that the book was written 35 years ago yet confronts issues that we still face today. It does have many flaws, but the story stays with you and is worthwhile reading for everybody!
tags: book-reviews
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NOV 29
2009
Breaking Dawn *** : The last and best of the Twilight series.
tags: book-reviews
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NOV 19
2009
Borders of Infinity **** : Continuation of story line from Vor Game.
tags: book-reviews science-fiction
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NOV 16
2009
Watchmen **** : Great graphic novel, beautiful illustrations and color, engaging plot. Definitely one of the stranger super hero stories out there. Much better than the movie!
tags: book-reviews graphic-novels
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OCT 17
2009
Eclipse ** : Third Twilight book. The weakest and most poorly written of the series. But if you're reading the series, what choice do you have but to read this one as well?
tags: book-reviews
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SEP 2
2009
New Moon *** : Book 2 of Twilight Series. Enter the werewolf.
tags: book-reviews fiction
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AUG 23
2009
Love in the Time of Cholera **** : Probably the ultimate story of love in all its forms. A difficult read at times, but ultimately very rewarding.
tags: book-reviews vacation-reads
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AUG 2
2009
Anathem ***** : Science "monks" sequester themselves from the rest of the world for 1, 10, 100, or 1000 years at a time so that they can solve interesting problems in peace. Takes place on another planet with a whole new vocabulary to learn and enjoy. Based loosely on the Clock of the Long Now.
tags: book-reviews science-fiction
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JUN 14
2009
Sourcery *** : Another Discworld novel. 'Nuff said.
tags: book-reviews discworld
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MAY 31
2009
Gai-jin *** : Part of James Clavell's "Asian Saga". Unfortunately, not nearly as good as his epic novel "Shogun". But still worthwhile if you've read the rest of the series or like historical fiction about Japan in the 19th century.
tags: book-reviews
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MAR 15
2009
Sunshine *** : Makes me nostalgic for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Well filmed, but impossible physics and some ridiculous plot gyrations cost this movie a star.


tags: movie-reviews science-fiction
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FEB 28
2009
Das Leben der Anderen ***** : Must-see movie about East Germany's secret police. I was originally turned on to this movie by an article in Wired, Piecing Together the Dark Legacy of East Germany's Secret Police.
tags: movie-reviews
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FEB 21
2009
Mort *** : Personification of Death in Discworld.
tags: book-reviews fantasy discworld
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FEB 20
2009
King of Kong ***** : Donkey Kong documentary. Watch out for those barrels!
tags: movie-reviews documentaries
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FEB 14
2009
Cod ***** : The cod is responsible for everything! I'm a sucker for fish and economics books like this.
tags: book-reviews fishing
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FEB 1
2009
Equal Rites **** : Making my way through the Discworld novels. You gotta love Granny Weatherwax!
tags: book-reviews fantasy discworld
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JAN 15
2009
Light Fantastic **** : More Discworld goodness (second book in the series). Long live The Luggage!
tags: book-reviews fantasy discworld
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JAN 5
2009
We picked up an Evolve RoadRunner showerhead at Costco last weekend ($28). I love this product! You turn it on and it allows the cold water to run until the hot water starts to flow. Then it automatically shuts off the water flow until you pull the cord. Obviously this saves on energy costs by not running the hot water unnecessarily. But I also love that I can tell exactly when the shower is ready by listening for the water to stop.

I was a little skeptical about how well it would work. But after a week of use, I'm extremely satisfied with it. The ShowerStart feature works flawlessly. And it has a very strong pressure even though it's a low-flow showerhead. Highly recommended.

tags: product-reviews
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SEP 16
2008
Twilight *** : In the world of books-for-teenagers-that-adults-read-too, first there was Harry Potter, then the Golden Compass, now there's Twilight. To be sure, Twilight is not forged from the same rich lode as its predecessors, but it's a decent enough modern vampire novel.
tags: book-reviews vampire fiction
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SEP 12
2008
Pnin ***** : Wonderfully rich, sensuous, and complicated prose. Not the kind of book that can be read quickly, but the enjoyment is as much in the journey through the words as it is in unraveling the plot. My first Nabokov and definitely not my last.
tags: book-reviews everymans-library
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SEP 3
2008
4-Hour Work Week *** : I have a fundamental issue with this book's premise that you can simply farm out all of your labor, sit back, and profit. If everybody in the world had this approach, there wouldn't be anybody producing real work! Nevertheless, there are numerous productivity-enhancing recommendations offered that make this a worthwhile speed-read.


tags: book-reviews self-improvement productivity non-fiction
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AUG 29
2008
The Fountain **** : Awesomely inventive work with exquisite imagery. A bit hard to follow because of its three intertwined plot lines, but worth the hassle.
tags: movie-reviews
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AUG 28
2008
Warlock in Spite of Himself *** : More of the same from Escape Velocity author. Part of the Warlock series.
tags: book-reviews bookshelf-project science-fiction
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AUG 23
2008
Earth Abides ***** : Another classic sci-fi novel that I somehow never read until now. A disease kills almost everybody on Earth and the survivors live off the remains of civilization. Epic and thought-provoking!
tags: book-reviews science-fiction
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AUG 12
2008
Amber Spyglass ***** : Outstanding conclusion to the Golden Compass series.
tags: book-reviews fiction
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AUG 9
2008
Escape Velocity *** : Political sci-fi set in a medieval context. A little trite in spots, but better than I expected!
tags: science-fiction bookshelf-project book-reviews
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AUG 3
2008
Vor Game **** : Obviously part of a much larger series (which I haven't read), but good by itself. Socio-political emphasis.
tags: book-reviews bookshelf-project science-fiction
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AUG 3
2008
The "Read Everything on My Bookshelf" Project: I had a voracious appetite for science fiction and fantasy novels when I was a teenager. I would head to the bookstore and buy books all the time, most of which ended up on my bookshelf, unread. As I have moved throughout the years, I've dutifully packed up and transported all of these books with me.

Now, decades later, as I seek to de-clutter my life and get rid of unnecessary possessions, I feel obligated to read them before getting rid of them. For years, these books sat in silence. Now their stories will be heard...


tags: book-reviews bookshelf-project
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JUL 1
2008
The Illusionist **** : Is there room in the world for two prestidigitation movies that were released almost simultaneously? It appears so. While not as good as the Prestige, this movie is beautifully filmed, has great acting from Edward Norton, and is worthy in its own right.
tags: movie-reviews
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JUN 15
2008
Three Cups of Tea ***** Very important book that everybody needs to read. Guy gets lost after climbing K2. Pakistani village nurses him to health. He pledges to build them a school, starting life-long mission to build schools for girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. By the end of the book, I was convinced that this is the only long-term solution to stopping terrorism.
tags: book-reviews nonfiction
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JUN 1
2008
Anchorman ** : A little too zany for me.
tags: movie-reviews
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MAY 29
2008
I picked up a Navigon 2100 GPS for $120 off of bensbargains.net last month. This is the least expensive GPS that I know of that will read the street names to you. Other low-cost models just say "turn right", "turn left", etc. Some online reviews said that the Navigon has a slow user interface, but I didn't think it was bad at all.

Two unique Navigon features are lifetime free map updates and an awesome highway interchange mode that makes it easy to determine which lane you should be in. It also has an excellent three-dimensional "reality view" which is extremely intuitive.

This unit pretty much does everything that I would want a GPS to do. Some more points of interest would be nice, but at this price point, I really can't complain! Highly recommended if you are in the market for a GPS unit for your car.

Update: Oops, my bad. Turns out the Navigon doesn't have free map updates after all. It does have free software updates, but probably most of the other GPS manufacturers offer that also.

tags: product-reviews gps navigon
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MAY 26
2008
The Mexican *** : Better than I expected!
tags: movie-reviews
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MAY 21
2008
I was given a Trek Pro bicycle saddle bag as a gift about a year ago. This past weekend, the zipper on the bag broke. I emailed Trek customer support and was told that the warranty expires after a year and that I was out of luck!

Trek's bicycle warranties are great, but I'd recommend against buying any of their accessories due to this very poor warranty policy. Other companies (like SunLite Cycling Gear) have lifetime warranty on all of their products. Either that, or buy the Trek stuff at REI so you can return it when it breaks :)

tags: product-reviews bicycle
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MAY 12
2008
Subtle Knife **** Sequel to the Golden Compass. Quantum mechanics (many-worlds theory) in a children's novel!
tags: book-reviews fiction
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APR 25
2008
Color of Magic **** Quirky fun. First Discworld book. There are over 30 books in this series... eep!
tags: book-reviews fantasy discworld
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APR 20
2008
Good Earth **** Simple yet enticing story of rural life in pre-revolutionary China.
tags: book-reviews fiction
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APR 10
2008
Next *** : Great job by Nicholas Cage (as usual), fun action movie, strange ending.
tags: movie-reviews
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APR 7
2008
Lost World *** : Jurassic Park Part 2. Standard Chrichton, well written, nothing extraordinary, good read.
tags: book-reviews fiction
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MAR 15
2008
Stranger Than Fiction *** : Great concept, but something didn't quite connect for me in this love story.
tags: movie-reviews
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MAR 2
2008
Golden Compass ***** : Well written, inventive, engaging, and bound to annoy a lot of people!
tags: book-reviews fiction fantasy
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MAR 2
2008
Ultraviolet ** : Nicely filmed scifi but cardboard plot. See Equilibrium instead.
tags: movie-reviews
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FEB 20
2008
Sushi Economy ***** : Fascinating tale of Japan, sushi, economics, global trade, and one of the world's most expensive and shortest-shelf-lived commodities, bluefin tuna.
tags: book-reviews nonfiction economics japan fishing
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FEB 1
2008
A Thousand Splendid Suns ***** : Important book about the plight of women in Afghanistan before, during, and after the Taliban. Same excellent writing and style as the Kite Runner, but while that book had hope to balance its sadness, this book has much less and is thus that much grimmer.
tags: book-reviews
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FEB 1
2008
The Quiet Earth * : Man wakes up, discovers he is the last human on earth. Starts out cool, bombs out pretty fast. I can't believe all of the people on IMDB who gave it a 7.1 average rating!

The Prestige ***** : Highly confusing but ultimately very rewarding film. Told in reverse, Memento-style. A second viewing is revealing and enjoyable.

tags: movie-reviews
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JAN 21
2008
The Chamber ** : Reads fine, Grisham is a competent writer, but no fireworks. Flawed by too many 180 degree shifts in character personality throughout the story.
tags: book-reviews fiction vacation-reads
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JAN 20
2008
Better ***** : From one of my favorite New Yorker authors, Atul Gawande. Excellent essays on health care, including malpractice, cystic fibrosis, obstetrics, third world health care, and more.
tags: book-reviews nonfiction medicine
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JAN 12
2008
Stardust ***** : I loved the movie, and the book is even better! Beautiful, mellifluous writing and gorgeous accompanying illustrations. One of Neal Gaiman's best works.
tags: book-reviews fantasy fiction vacation-reads
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JAN 7
2008
Venus Prime 1 *** : Better than I expected and an enjoyable end to my sci-fi reading blitzkrieg while on vacation in Costa Rica.

To Sail Beyond the Sunset ** : Heinlein is either a genius provocateur or just a dirty old man. Either way, this book didn't take for me.

Revolt in 2100 *** : Classic Heinlein space opera pulp fiction. Overly simplistic and unrealistic solutions to social problems, but it's fun reading.


tags: book-reviews science-fiction vacation-reads
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JAN 4
2008
A Scanner Darkly ***** : Awesomely crazy movie. Could it have been filmed as anything but a cartoon?

Boondock Saints **** : Willem Dafoe shines in this zany retribution movie.

Man on Fire *** : Denzel does a nice job in this kidnap-thriller-whodunit based in Mexico City.

tags: movie-reviews
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DEC 9
2007
Children of Men ** : Though-provoking and good filmography but slow, lacking too many details, and, ultimately, disappointing.

Collateral *** : Decent enough movie, but it's no "Leon". I just can't see an assassin even accepting a job like this.

911 In Plane Site * : Wish I could give it a lower score, but one star is the lowest in my system. What's most scary about this movie is its incredibly high IMDB rating.

tags: movie-reviews
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NOV 9
2007
Mimic ** : Not Guillermo del Toro's best work.

8-Mile **** : Eminem's early days.

Derailed *** : Ransom movie with a twist, watchable if you can cope with highly unrealistic behavior.

tags: movie-reviews
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NOV 4
2007
The Good Shepherd ***** : Early history of the CIA. Complex, intense, thought provoking.
tags: movie-reviews
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OCT 31
2007
Butterfly Effect **** : Crazy movie, Donny Darko meets Memento.

The Holiday *** : Lots of big names in this light romance.

tags: movie-reviews
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OCT 22
2007
Constant Gardener **** : Corruption strikes in Africa once again. Stars guy from the English Patient.

Fast Food Nation **** : Fictionalized adaptation of the book. Lots of cameos. Good.

Borat ** : Disappointing. The original HBO series was so good!

tags: movie-reviews
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SEP 23
2007
Flowers for Algernon ***** : Another oldie-but-a-goodie that I had never read until now. Great soft scifi.
tags: book-reviews science-fiction
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SEP 10
2007
Harry Potter Book 7 *** : If you've made it this far in the series, then this is a must-read regardless of what any review says. But the joy was gone for me in this overly dark final installment. As one reviewer aptly put it, can you say "deus ex machina?"
tags: book-reviews
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SEP 10
2007
The Last Kiss **** : Garden State Part II.

Scoop **** : Quirky Woody Allen movie with Scarlett Johansson.

Pan's Labyrinth ***** : Muy bien! Best movie I've seen in a long time. A great metaphor for Spain under Franco.

Saw III **** : Still dark and twisted, still strangely entertaining.

Flags of Our Fathers *** : A little disjointed and hard to follow; not as good as its partner movie, "Letters From Iwo Jima".

tags: movie-reviews
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AUG 16
2007
A Random Walk Down Wall Street ***** : Let's face it, investing books are not exactly page turners and you definitely don't want to read one when you're sleepy. Nevertheless, this is a must-read for anybody interested in maximizing their investments over the long haul (20+ years). Which should be everybody!

The book pretty much fortifies the investing axioms that I have been following for the past several years, but presents a ton of data to back up the claims, which are:

  • The ability to consistently beat the market average is rare.
  • The only way to get higher returns is to take higher risks.
  • Diversification smooths out the volatility inherent in risky investments.
  • The semi-strong efficient market hypothesis is the most credible of all the market theories.
  • Your life stage defines your risk tolerance (with younger people able to handle more risk).

For persons under 40, the book recommends the following portfolio:

  • 5% cash. Or cash equivalent, interest bearing (of course).
  • 20% bonds. Three-quarters comprised of zero coupon treasury or no-load bond funds. The rest inflation-protected (TIPS). Put in tax exempt account if possible, otherwise try and use tax-exempt funds.
  • 65% stocks. Two-thirds comprised of total stock market (Wilshire 5000), the rest international and emerging markets.
  • 10% real estate. No-load REIT fund.

For persons between 40 and 50, it's basically the same as above, but move 10 percent from stocks to bonds.
tags: book-reviews investing nonfiction
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AUG 16
2007
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time **** Innovative first-person novel about an autistic 15-year-old who attempts to solve the mystery of the neighbor's dog's death. Provides great insight into the curse and the blessing that is autism.
tags: book-reviews fiction autism
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JUL 30
2007
Clowngirl **** : Very nicely written novel by a Portland author, although it tries too hard at developing some sort of philosophical undertone (existentialism? condemnation of religion?) which never quite gelled for me.
tags: book-reviews
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JUL 15
2007
On Dragonwings **** : This is actually three books bound into one: Dragonsdawn, Dragonseye, and Moreta. All part of the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. An interesting blend of scifi and fantasy crossing nearly 2000 years.
tags: book-reviews science-fiction fantasy
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JUN 20
2007
While visiting with my relatives in Canada last month, my aunt turned me onto a book from her investing club entitled Get Rich With Options. Despite the unfortunate used-car-salesman-esque title, it was a surprisingly good read.

Here are the book's take-aways so you can get rich and profit. Of course, the usual investing disclaimers apply. If you go broke following this advice, don't blame me. If, on the other hand, you get rich... you can buy me lunch.

Sell slightly out-of-the-money covered calls on your long stock positions. This is the one that most people already know about. The vast majority of calls expire without being assigned, so most likely you will get to pocket the premium. If your stock does get called away, then you at least got to sell your stock for a decent price.

Buy deep-in-the-money calls instead of buying a long position in a stock. The call will track the stock's market value, which translates into a higher ROI if the stock rises and less risk if the stock drops.


Sell slightly out-of-the-money naked puts on a stock that you want to own.
You don't care if the put gets executed (you were going to buy the stock anyway).  And you get to pocket the premium and get the stock at a slightly lower price.  Probably the only time it's safe to sell a naked put.  Unfortunately, many brokers (including mine) do not allow selling of puts.


Option credit spreads.  This one is not as straight forward as the other three.  It requires a lot more research.  With a bull put spread, you are assuming the stock will trend up, so you sell one put with a high strike price and buy another put with a lower strike price.  With a bear call spread, you are assuming the stock will trend down, so you sell a call with a low strike price and buy another call with a higher strike price.  In either case, the strategy is to limit your profit or loss and take advantage of the decay of time value.  Investopedia elaborates.



tags: investing book-reviews
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JUN 20
2007
Letters From Iwo Jima ***** : Beginning of the end of WWII from the Japanese point of view. An anti-war movie along the lines of "Das Boot"

Inside Man *** : Standard bank robbery flick.

Ginger Snaps *** : Teenage angst coming-of-age werewolf flick. Gritty.

Click *** : Adam Sandler does non-Christmas version of "A Christmas Carol".

tags: movie-reviews
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JUN 15
2007
My Super Ex-Girlfriend **** : This movie:Superman::Galaxy Quest:Star Trek.

Aeon Flux * : The original animated MTV series was delightful. This movie is an abomination.

Ginger Snaps 2 *** : Weird vampire/werewolf type movie!

Blood Diamond **** : Action packed, disturbing, and thought provoking. Great acting by DiCaprio. The implicit moral of the story: The Kimberly Process doesn't work and there's no way to prove that a diamond is conflict free. Better just not to buy diamonds at all!

Long Distance *** : Better than I expected. All the classic suspense tricks and an ending I didn't see coming!

Aladdin **** : Great voice acting and animation, solidly put together.

Adam and Eve * : Barely watchable, and even then only if you fast forward a lot.

Little Miss Sunshine *** : A road trip and beauty pageant heal a dysfunctional family. Crazy movie, fun, well acted.

United 93 **** : Tastefully filmed... and extremely sad.

Devil Wears Prada *** : Standard formula movie, but good acting and a nice soundtrack.


tags: movie-reviews
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JUN 14
2007
I have been buying up a storm lately, upgrading and retooling around the condo. It seems like FedEx or UPS is making almost daily stops over here! I thought I would share reviews for some of my more recent purchases:

Weber Q120 Grill: Uses LP. Perfect size for a condo deck. High quality grate, built-in starter. Can cook for up to four people.

Nintedo DS Lite: Aimee got me this for my birthday. I love it. Compact form factor, long battery life, fun games, touch screen, microphone, and a clamshell design that keeps everything protected when not in use. Favorite game so far: Big Brain Academy.

Antec P180B case: Great airflow, tons of space, well built. Expensive though; I would recommend the Sonata II instead (which I also own).

MSI GeForce 7600 video card: Fanless. Whisper quiet. Supports dual DVI monitors. Did I mention quiet? I'm never buying a graphics card with a fan again!

Brother HL2040 laser printer: Inexpensive, compact, fast. Vista and Linux support. Only downside is slight page curling.


tags: reviews
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MAY 12
2007
The Hiding Place ***** : Inspirational autobiography of faith and forgiveness in Nazi-occupied Holland.
tags: book-reviews autobiography
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APR 7
2007
Man Behind the Microchip **** : Known as the "Father of the Silicon Valley", I always knew Robert Noyce commanded respect, but I never knew why. This excellent biography lists the many accomplishments of this amazing man. Required reading for anybody in the high-tech industry.
tags: book-reviews biography nonfiction
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FEB 3
2007
The Number *** : How much money do you need before you can retire? According to this book, $2-20 million. Book starts out great, but gets tiresome about halfway through. Mandatory reading if you've never considered this subject before, otherwise there are probably better books out there.

Eon **** : Hard SF novel written during and heavily influenced by the Cold War. The politics seem dated now, and the writing is sometimes a little awkward, but overall thoroughly enjoyable.

Bridges at Toko-Ri **** : Short Michener novella about the Korean War. Doesn't delve into politics, but instead reads more like a "day in the life" of a naval aviator on a bombing run. Almost a little too short to be satisfying, but it's hard to complain given the minimal time investment to read it.

Elfstones of Shannara ** : Marginally better than "Sword of Shannara". Still mostly a LOTR clone. I suffered through this thing all the way to the end, hoping that it would magically redeem itself in the final pages, but it didn't. Maybe I'm just burned out on fantasy novels. If you really like fantasy and don't mind some storyline recycling, add another star.

tags: book-reviews
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DEC 9
2006
Trapped *** : Standard get-revenge-against-the-attackers-type plot.

Lake House *** : A fun movie, but don't get me started on all of the time travel paradox questions it raises!

tags: movie-reviews
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DEC 4
2006
Sword of Shannara * : Abandoned after 160 pages. I wanted to like this book, but couldn't get past the blatant Lord of the Rings rip-off. The bad writing also made it easy for my mind to wander. Read the reviews on Amazon, the one from Avant-Captain_Nemo pretty much sums it up!
tags: book-reviews fantasy
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NOV 24
2006
Confessions of an Economic Hit Man *** : I don't know what to think of this book. At times is reads like conspiracy theory fiction. Other times, it certainly does seem like it explains much about the current geopolitical state of the world. Fact or fiction, a thought provoking read.
tags: book-reviews
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NOV 24
2006
Superman Returns **** : Surprisingly good remake/extension.

The Break-Up ** : Good for passing some time, that's about it.

tags: movie-reviews
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NOV 5
2006
Space **** : Another worthy tome from Michener. Unlike his typical novels (which often span millennia), Space covers "only" 50 years :) I was impressed with the prescience displayed by the last 50 pages, in which Michener predicted almost 25 years ago the entire "intelligent design" morass our society faces today.
tags: book-reviews historical-fiction
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OCT 29
2006
Snakes on a Plane **** : Campy but good. Reminiscent of "Airplane!".
tags: movie-reviews
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OCT 28
2006
American Gods *** : Inventive and provoking... one of the more original books I've read recently, but not really a page-turner.
tags: book-reviews fiction
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SEP 30
2006
Thank You for Smoking ***** : A delightful satire and proof that creativity is not dead in Hollywood.
tags: movie-reviews
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SEP 23
2006
Day the Earth Stood Still ***** : One of the best scifi films ever made, over 55 years old and going strong! This is my third time watching it and I still love it.
tags: movie-reviews science-fiction
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SEP 19
2006
Akeelah and the Bee **** : Aimee says it's predictable and trite (which is true), but it's still a great feel-good movie. Plus it stars Morpheus and Booger!
tags: movie-reviews
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SEP 15
2006
Da Vinci Code *** : Loved the book, but didn't like the movie as much. The two leads were not well cast at all. I wavered on two stars... if you've read the book, it's probably worth seeing, otherwise feel free to pass.
tags: movie-reviews
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SEP 13
2006
Triad *** : Finally read this book after 15+ years on my bookshelf. First contact sci-fi novel with a linguistic twist. Not bad, but disappointing ending.
tags: book-reviews science-fiction
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SEP 9
2006
Lance Armstrong's War *****: Extremely well written novel about Lance and the Tour de France. A must-read for anybody into cycling, otherwise maybe knock a star or two off.
tags: book-reviews
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SEP 9
2006
X-Men 3 ****: Another great X-Men movie, lots of surprises (old favorites killed off, new mutants introduced), but sadly a very unfulfilling ending.
tags: movie-reviews
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SEP 9
2006
Prime ***: Decent comedy with several levels of interpretation, great acting by Meryl Streep.
tags: movie-reviews comedy
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AUG 14
2006
Alfie *: Starts ok but goes downhill fast. No climax, no denouement. Very unsatisfying film.
tags: movie-reviews
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AUG 9
2006
Left Hand of Darkness *****: Outstanding novel full of rich social commentary and complex character development. I can't believe I waited so long before reading it!
tags: book-reviews science-fiction
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JUL 30
2006
Broken Flowers ***: If you liked Lost in the Translation, you'll like this one.

Shrek 2 ***: Doesn't quite have the magic of the first one.

tags: movie-reviews
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JUL 29
2006
Ugly Americans ***: From the author of Bringing Down the House, another fast-paced page-turner, this time about hedge fund traders in Tokyo. The story is entertaining but seems largely fictionalized, and after a while, the lack of fact-checking undermines the book's credibility: For example, the book incorrectly states that the Tokyo Tower is smaller than the Eiffel Tower, when in fact it is larger--the Amazon.com reviews cite many more examples.
tags: book-reviews japan
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JUL 28
2006
China Study *** by Colin Campbell: Recommended by my friends Bruce and Karen, a thought provoking read that, in the end, fails to hold up to scientific scrutiny. I am giving it a three star rating because, despite its flawed conclusion, it is worth reading, if for no other reason than to fortify your knowledge of disease and nutrition.

The book's central premise is that diets with a large percentage of animal-based protein are conducive to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and many other diseases. The solution to avoid cancer and disease? Go vegan.

The author reaches this conclusion by using data from the China Study to compare the "affluent" diets of western countries (US and Europe) with those of poorer countries (China), which are primarily plant-based. The China Study was a large research effort conducted over twenty years in which the author was principally involved.

This is all well and good, but unfortunately, the book fails to establish causality between disease and diet. Epidemiology is a complex and difficult discipline, and if preventing disease were as easy as simply not eating animal protein, it stands to reason that medical science would have figured this out by now. Indeed, by his own admission, the author is an outcast from the conventional medical establishment, a fact that should raise alarms in the reader's head. Additionally, at times the book's tone takes on an almost religious fanaticism as the author rails against animal-based protein. By the final pages, it seems that Campbell's faith in the vegan lifestyle has tainted his view of the China Study data.

As some critical web sites detail, the China Study makes no statistically significant correlation whatsoever between diet and disease. (See Blog of Brad from an organic farmer, and Beyond Vegetarianism, a pro-vegetarian web site that disagrees with Campbell).

Clearly the author has found religion, but until his theories are tested through double blind clinical trials, the establishment is wise to remain skeptical of the claims in this book.

tags: book-reviews nonfiction health nutrition
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JUL 28
2006
Hawaii *****: Epic novel. When you finish a Michener novel, you feel like you've really accomplished something. A tremendous read for anyone interested in the Hawaiian islands. (Fittingly enough, I read this while on vacation in Maui.)
tags: book-reviews hawaii historical fiction
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JUL 16
2006
Marching Powder ****: True life story of an Englishman caught drug trafficking and sent to a Bovilian prison where inmates have to buy their own cells, have cable TV and kitchens, and make cocaine.
tags: book-reviews nonfiction autobiography
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JUL 9
2006
Cowboy del Amor (***): Interesting documentary about a man who finds Mexican wives for his gringo clients. A little bid sad.
tags: movie-reviews documentary
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JUL 9
2006
V for Vendetta (*****): Wonderful filmography and brilliant acting from Portman and "V" (who remains masked the entire movie).
tags: movie-reviews
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JUL 3
2006
Bringing Down the House **** : MIT students take Vegas for millions. Fast-paced with big money, action, adrenaline--just like Sin City. I read this in a single reading on a flight from Boston to Denver.


tags: book-reviews nonfiction
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JUL 3
2006
Freakonomics **** : A University of Chicago economics professor analyzes statistics to challenge popular beliefs. Co-written by a newspaper/magazine author, and thus a bit light on the math and watered down for mainstream acceptance, but a thought stimulating read.

Some of the interesting topics discussed/proven in this book:

  • How teachers cheat by altering their students' standardized test scores
  • How sumo wrestlers cheat by throwing matches when it doesn't affect their overall ranking and will help their opponent's ranking
  • How a children's radio show and free information flow mortally wounded the Ku Klux Klan
  • Why real estate agents don't have anything to gain by helping you get a better deal
  • How and why people lie about themselves on online dating services
  • How little drug dealers really make and why they still live with their moms
  • The effect that legalized abortion had on crime rates in the 1990s
  • How your child has a greater chance of dying if she plays at a friend's house where there is a swimming pool rather than playing at a friend's house where there is a gun present
  • How parents focus their energy on safer cribs and child car seats and how they are, at best, nominally helpful in preventing child deaths, along with child-resistant packaging, flame-retardant pajamas, car airbags, and safety drawstrings no clothes (the cumulative deaths from all of these causes is significantly less than swimming pool drownings for children).
  • How "good parenting actions" have very little effect on the educational success of children (the following had no correlation with academic success: having a stay-at-home parent; being read to them every day; going on museum trips or being enrolled in Head Start; not watching TV)
  • The socioeconomic effect of a person's name


tags: book-reviews nonfiction economics
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JUN 12
2006
Hostel (****): Thriller a la Saw, served up Quentin Tarantino style: Campy, but good.
tags: movie-reviews
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JUN 1
2006
Once and Future Spy **: Conviluted spy thriller, only read because I was trapped on an airplane.

Hawaii's Humpback Whales **** : Well illustrated overview of humpback anatomy and behavior. Very informative.

Design of Everyday Things ***** : A bit dated, but still an outstanding book on user-oriented design. You will never look at the world the same way again.

Out *** : Four women kill a man and deal with the consequences in this Japanese thriller.

tags: book-reviews
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MAY 14
2006
Murderball (***): Informative documentary about quadriplegic rugby. Better editing would have earned it another star.
tags: movie-reviews
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MAY 12
2006
Garden State (****): One of those movies where you can't say why--but you like it! Portman was good, Braff great. I was reminded of Donny Darko for some reason.
tags: movie-reviews
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APR 29
2006
King Kong (*****): Outstanding remake, seemingly endless and incredible special effects, a little on the long side.
tags: movie-reviews
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APR 11
2006
Boys of Baraka (***): Solid documentary about education reform. I think it was at Sundance. Would have been perfect if it had been able to follow the boys through multiple years.
tags: movie-reviews
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JAN 25
2006
Attracted by its integrated 4-port Ethernet hub and 802.11g support, I bought an Asus WL-530G recently. It's terrible. The web-based UI is amateurish and it doesn't just work out-of-the-box. Apparently it needs to have its WAN port hooked up for the LAN-side to work. Piece of junk. Avoid. The D-Link DWL-G730AP Pocket Router is still my favorite mini AP.
tags: product-reviews
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DEC 31
2005
Siddhartha ***** : May we all find the ferryman within to guide us across the river.

Cat Who Placed Post Office *** : Cat with a sixth-sense for mail helps solve an aging missing person case.

Corpse Had a Familiar Face *** : Newspaper reporter with a big head talks about murder in Miami.

Harry Potter 6 ***** : Best Potter in a long time, the joy of the first novel is back!

Why Men Earn More **** : Women are underpaid (for the same work), right? I thought so too until I read this book. Written by a former officer of NOW.

Cat Who Played Brahms ** : Another in the series. Add a star if you liked the first one, otherwise just more of the same. But I'll probably read at least one more.

Cat Who Ate Danish Modern ** : Murder mystery with an interior design twist and a cat.

Balancing Your Family, Faith & Work * : Way too religious for me, although the first chapter is an interesting mini-autobiography of the author's life.

Essential X-Men, Vol. 1 **** : Great background reading on X-Men history (graphic novel).

Blink *** : Interesting collection of psychological studies, but maybe only for Gladwell fans.

Cat Who Could Read Backwards *** : The first in a really long series, already formulaic, but a fun read.

Hungry Ocean ***** : Fascinating glimpse into commercial fishing and the life of a woman swordfish boat captain.

The Truth About the Drug Companies ***** : Drugs are expensive, but drug companies have to spend lots of money to develop them, right? Not true, as this book explains in great detail. New York Review of Books review.

Fencing Master **** : Neat period mystery/thriller based in Madrid in the 18th/19th century.

Imperial Hubris **** : Well written overview of the issues of US involvement in the Middle East.

tags: book-reviews fishing
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MAY 21
2005
I just finished Malcolm Gladwell's latest book, Blink, a book about the automatic, subconscious analyses that take place in the first few seconds of doing just about anything (things like meeting people, eating, playing sports, looking at art, avoiding obstacles while driving, etc.).

I have been a long time admirer of Malcom Gladwell from his numerous articles in New Yorker over the years, and I thoroughly enjoyed his book The Tipping Point, thus it should come as no surprise that I enjoyed this book as well. It certainly isn't comparable to "Tipping Point", and in particular it seems to lack a unifying theme to tie everything together, but it certainly is an enjoyable romp through assorted psychological studies that help to unravel our minds.

tags: book reviews
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MAY 9
2005
I used Movielink for the first time a while back. Overall, I give it a big "thumbs down". Here's why:
  • Doesn't work on Firefox
  • Lengthy registration process
  • Then had to download and install their MovieLink Manager
  • Time restrictions: 30 days to start watching once you download, 24 hours to finish once you start watching. I bought 3 movies, but one of them expired because I didn't watch it in time.
  • Video quality is not that good (xvid is better)
  • Defaults to their crappy player, but can view with WMP if you browse to the directoyr on the HD - c:\program flies\movielink\data\content\xxx\
  • SLOW downloads!!! Probably the worst part. Between 700k-1Mbps on average.
  • Andromeda Strain: $1.99, 4.5 hours to download!!!!
  • They flash annoying, flashing ads all over the place while you are downloading
  • Way too many steps to rent a movie -- need "one click"
  • No reviews, or a way to sort by reviews, or ways to sort by most popular (need merger with IMDB)
  • Leaves a freakin' process running in the background all the time, sucking up 7-10MB of RAM!!
  • They don't let you delete/cancel/close your account from the web!!

tags: reviews
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MAR 17
2005
I've had my Nokia 6820 cell phone for several months now. My first reaction to the phone was that cell phones haven't advanced very much in the 3+ years since I bought my last phone (a Nokia 8620). Sure, the 6820 has a color screen, low quality camera (which I never use), a cool fold out keyboard, Bluetooth support (which I use with a BT headset sometimes), and a speakerphone (which I use all the time). But the phone's OS and user interface are begininng to show their age. I think my next phone will be a Windows smart phone (like the AudioVox).

Some annoyances about the 6820:

  • The current call time isn't displayed while you are making a call.
  • You can't store your voice mail password in a write-only area of the phone, meaning that you either have to enter it in each time, or store it in plaintext as part of the voicemail quickdial key.
  • The center joystick is badly overloaded: If there is any text on the screen (say, after you've just entered your voicemail password), you can't change the volume because the changing the volume requires the center joystick, but when there's text on the screen, the center joystick moves the cursor around.
  • You can synchronize Outlook's calendar with the phone, but there is no way to silence the calendar alarms. This is very annoying, either during meetings, or in the middle of the night when you are trying to sleep. I have completely stopped using the calendar feature of the phone because of this. Probably the number one thing I dislike about the phone.
  • Upcoming calendar appointments should be displayed on the main screen. If I want to see them, I have to unlock the phone and hit right on the joystick, click again to select the day, and only then can I see the appointments. Annoyingly, the screen's view does not automatically advance to the next appointment, but starts with the first one of the day -- even if that time is long past.
  • Slow and convuluted menuing system.

Despite these shortcomings, I am overall pretty happy with the phone, but I am disappointed that Nokia dropped the ball on these minor points. The 6820 would be an incredible phone if not plagued by these nits.

tags: reviews
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MAR 16
2005
Finished my taxes this weekend. Discovered too late that several web sites (including turbotax.com) offer free federal filing (state costs extra, but those are usually pretty easy once the 1040 is done, so you can just do that one by hand).

This is the last year that I'm going to use regular TurboTax (the one that runs on Windows). Their interview process is way too cumbersome now (questions like "Did you own a farm?" or "Were you employed in the clergy?"). And it didn't transfer my data over from last year's return properly. Worse, TurboTax messed up my county income taxes and deducted them incorrectly from my state return, which would have cost me money (Multnomah County tax filers using TurboTax: Double check your Oregon Form 40... TurboTax probably messed it up if you itemize your deductions!).

Web-based services seem to be the way to go now. Or I may just use this awesome Excel-based 1040 form that I found. If you have pretty straightforward taxes (W2, 1099, itemized deductions, etc.), using this Excel spreadsheet lets you bypass all of those annoying interview questions and knock out your taxes quickly.

tags: taxes reviews
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DEC 31
2004
Kite Runner ***** : A dark coming of age story based in Afghanistan. Exceptional writing. Best book I read in 2004.

Winner, The ** : Good fiction for a trip or day at the beach... page turner, nothing too deep.

Who's Looking Out For You ** : Easy read, but O'Reilly's approach to complex issues is too simple.

Touching the Void **** : Great reading for any mountaineer. Perhaps the most outstanding survival story I have read.

Climbing Free by Lynn Hill **** : Good autobiography of the early days of Yosemite big wall climbing.

tags: book-reviews
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DEC 13
2004
FedEx has just earned my "Monkey Company" award: It seems that if you walk into one of their stores, they won't let you ship a package by ground internationally. They'll do it by air, but if you want to do it by ground, you have to get a FedEx account, go to their website, pay online, print off the shipping label at home, and then bring it into the store. Then they'll ship it. Makes no sense to me.

I just got off the phone with UPS and they said they were fine with taking international ground shipments from walk-in customers. Looks like FedEx just lost some business... which makes me sad, since I'm a shareholder :-(

tags: reviews
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