What Makes This Book Worth Reading: Prospero’s Children

May 6th, 2020

I just finished reading Prospero Regained by L. Jagi Lamplighter. Prospero Regained is the third and final book in Lamplighter’s “Prospero’s Children” series. The series consists of Prospero Lost, Prospero in Hell, and Prospero Regained. This post covers all three books.

Prospero’s Children is about the long-lived, magical Prospero family. The head of the family is the mysterious magician Prospero from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” The main character of the series is Prospero’s oldest child, his fair daughter Miranda.

For the last 500 years the family has been working to maintain order in a chaotic world by using their magic staffs to restrain various spirit forces from running amok. Miranda is the CEO of the global company that is the public face of the Prospero family.

The first book opens with the disappearance of Prospero at a time when many of his children are estranged from each other. The series is about Miranda’s efforts to unite her half brothers and sisters in an effort to first find their father and then to rescue their father from hell.

Lamplighter is quite creative. She nicely weaves together different mythologies and world history and original ideas. My favorite of Lamplighter’s original creatures is the Cheer Weasel. (A smack in the face from the Cheer Weasel is guaranteed to make anyone laugh.) One of Prospero’s sons was the Pope (twice, actually) so Lamplighter has mythologized some Roman Catholic history and made it an important part of the story.

The plot is interesting and everything is nicely wrapped up in the end.

For me, the main deficiency in the series is in the dialog. Miranda Prospero’s inner voice is almost painful to to read at times. On the plus side, the book is quite tame sexually by modern standards. Although there is no explicit sex, one rape occurs. I hate rape as a plot device, but I have to say that Lamplighter handled it well and it was not gratuitous.

For those of you with impressionable teens who might read the series, be aware that the idea that redemption after death is possible is central to the story.

Some reviewers have compared the Prospero’s Children series to Roger Zelazny’s Amber books. The only real similarity is that both series feature long-lived families, some of whom are magicians. Lamplighter’s writing is definitely not up Zelazny’s standards. But then again Roger Zelazny is one the best science fiction writers of all time and the Amber books are one of my favorite series. If you haven’t read the Amber series, find a used copy of the Omnibus edition that contains all nine of the original books and enjoy.

The three volumes in the Prospero’s Children series have good reviews (averaging 4 stars) on Amazon. I give it 3 out 5 stars. If the dialog was better, I’d give it 4 stars. The series is entertaining but not compelling.

What Makes This Book Worth Reading: “The Scar”

April 12th, 2020

The Scar by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko
ISBN 9780765329936

What makes The Scar worth reading?

Sergey and Marina Dyachenko are award winning Russian authors who were honored as the European Science Fiction Society’s Best Writers of Europe at Eurocon 2005.

I bought The Scar at a library book sale because of the awards that the authors had won and because the description of the plot interested me. The Scar is about Egbert, a egotistical philanderer with an overabundance of courage and self-esteem and no respect for anyone else. Egbert is transformed into a coward after he is cursed by the mysterious “Wanderer” for killing an innocent student in a duel that Egbert arranged so he could have the student’s fiancee.

The first part of the book establishes Egbert’s abilities and un-likability. The rest of the book describes Egbert’s life as a tormented coward and his struggles for redemption.

The Scar is well written, interesting, and unusual in its character development. I would read it again.

Amazon has used copies for reasonable prices.

I Won’t Buy Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto

October 29th, 2011

I own all of Coldplay’s CDs except Mylo Xyloto (and I mean I own the actual physical CDs, not MP3 versions).

I look forward to hearing Mylo Xyloto, but, I won’t purchase it in any form until Coldplay makes it available on Spotify. Coldplay has refused to release Mylo Xyloto to any streaming music sites reportedly saying that they want Mylo Xyloto to be heard as “one cohesive work” and not split up into songs.

Really? How stupid do they think we are?

  1. Is Coldplay not going to release any singles from the album? Oh, wait; they’ve already released three singles from the album.
  2. Do they think that people who buy the CD aren’t going to rip their favorite songs and ignore the rest?
  3. Do they not realize that many of us who listen to music on streaming web sites listen to the entire album?

There are lots of bands releasing great music that aren’t working against their fans’ interests. I think I’ll buy their music instead of Coldplay’s.

A Welcome Addition to the Family

July 24th, 2011

I’m excited to announce a new member of the family.  After a five-month wait, my Hill Country Rifles custom rifle arrived on Thursday.

Hill Country Rifles Custom Rifle

Here’s a closer look at the action and scope:

Hill Country Rifles Custom Rifle Action and Scope

Why am I excited?  Consider these features:

  1. Stainless steel left-hand Stiller Predator action (a high quality Remington 700 clone).
  2. 20″ stainless steel Hart #3 match barrel in .308 Winchester.
  3. Timney match trigger.
  4. McMillan Edge Technology stock with Pachmayr Decelerator recoil pad.
  5. Talley Light Weight Rings.
  6. Weight without scope: 6.5 pounds
  7. Leica ER 2.5-10x42mm riflescope with AquaDura lens coating.
  8. Weight with scope: 7 pounds 9 ounces.
  9. Guaranteed 0.5″ three-shot groups with Federal Premium Vital-Shok 165 grain Sierra Game King ammo.

One of the great things about this rifle is its ability to shoot small groups.  Below you can see signed test targets from Hill Country Rifles showing that the rifle will shoot 0.4″ groups with Federal Vital-Shok ammo loaded with Sierra Game Kings, and 0.17″ groups with Federal Gold Medal 168 grain Match King ammo!

I’m waiting on some Federal Gold Medal and Vital-Shok ammo to arrive, but during my first range session with the rifle I shot a 0.7″ group with some Federal Fusion 165 grain ammo that was in my gun cabinet.

One of the bad things about this rifle is its ability to reveal  the deficiencies in my shooting skills. I won’t post images of the rest of the three-shot groups that I got with the rifle that first time out, but they were fairly mediocre. They were:

  • 1.5″ – Nosler Custom 165gr Accubond
  • 1.9″ – Winchester Supreme 168gr Ballistic Tip.
  • 2.0″ – Federal 150gr Fusion

This will be the first time I’ll be able to hunt with a left-hand rifle in many years. I can’t wait for deer and antelope season!

Here are the targets that came with the rifle demonstrating that it more than meets the Hill Country Rifles guarantee. (There really are three shots in that first target. )Three-shot 0.463″ group with Federal Premium 165 gr Game Kings

Three-shot 0.175″ group with Federal Gold Match 168 gr Match Kings

Three-shot 0.7″ group with Fusion 165 grain ammo

My Experiences With Streaming Video from Netflix

February 3rd, 2011

If you’re considering buying a device that will allow you to watch Netflix movies and tv shows on your TV, you might be interested in this article.

A few months ago my wife and I started thinking about signing up for Netflix so we could watch television shows and movies over the internet. We have a pretty good internet connection through our cable provider, Mediacom, but I wasn’t sure I’d be satisfied with the video quality provided by Netflix since we tend to watch only High Def programs these days. I hesitated to purchase a device to stream Netflix shows until I could check out the video quality for myself.

Well, my youngest son got a Apple TV box for Christmas and while he was home over the holidays he hooked it up to my entertainment system, connected to his Netflix account, and streamed some TV shows and movies. The video quality was good enough to totally eliminate my concerns.

After that, it was just a matter of deciding which of the many Netflix-capable device on the market to buy.

Over the years I’ve learned it’s wise to do careful research before buying new equipment of any kind. By doing so I’ve avoided buying the wrong stuff on many occasions.

So, over the last few weeks, I spent many hours researching options for using Netflix over the internet. I considered the pros and cons of Blu-Ray players with Netflix support, Media Players with Netflix support like the Seagate FreeAgent® GoFlex, and set top boxes like the Apple TV and various Roku models. A few weeks ago I was all set to buy a Roku XD|S. The Roku XD|S is reasonably priced at around $100, supports dual band 802.11n Wifi (the fastest wireless protocol currently available), and outputs 1080P video.

My Roku XDS order was all ready to submit at Amazon and then a little voice told me I needed to do a bit more research into the Sony PS3. (Another important lesson I’ve learned over the years is to listen to that voice.)

So I did a little more research into the Sony PS3 on the AVS Forum web site and sure enough, what I learned made a compelling case for getting the Sony PS3 instead of Roku XD|S.

What changed my mind? The PS3 is the only device to which Netflix will steam 1080P video and Dolby 5.1 audio! Netflix limits all other devices to 720P video and stereo audio.  That’s a huge difference to anyone who cares about video quality and audio experience. Although 720P looks okay on some HDTV’s in some viewing environments, it is visibly less sharp on many large, quality TVs. And stereo just doesn’t compare to Dolby 5.1 audio for modern movies and TV shows.

True, Netflix will probably provide 1080P & Dolby 5.1 to other devices someday, but for now, in my opinion, the PS3 is the clear choice as the best device to use with Netflix.

Unfortunately, the PS3 is also one of the most expensive options for using Netflix, with an entry level cost of $300.  Still, the PS3’s greater cost may be reasonable when you factor together the PS3’s higher quality video and movie-quality sound with Netflix, its ability to play games, the fact that it is a top quality Blu-Ray player, and it has the ability to stream music from a home PC to your entertainment system. The latter feature may not be important to most people but it was important to me because it allowed me to move my D-Link DSM520 Media Player from my main entertainment system to my upstairs stereo system.

Weighing against the PS3’s many good qualities, however, are the PS3’s lack of a dedicated remote control and its lack of wireless 802.11n (the PS3 has only wireless 802.11g). Note that the Apple TV and Roku XDS both feature 802.11n.

The lack of a dedicated remote control can be overcome by spending $20 on Sony’s Blu-ray disc remote control, but the lack of wireless 802.11n can be harder to overcome. Although wireless 802.11g speeds are theoretically capable of supporting hi-def video, real world performance can be marginal, causing video dropouts, buffering delays and reduction of video quality from Netflix.

My home network is a combination of wired and wireless connections but the entertainment system downstairs is not close to a wired outlet, so at first I tried using the PS3’s wireless capability.  I thought the 11g wireless might be sufficient for my purposes because the PS3 would be the only device using wireless most of the time. Unfortunately, although the wireless connection worked okay some of the time, it didn’t deliver consistent high quality results.  To confirm that it was the wireless connection and not my home network in general, I temporarily ran a 100 foot network cable between my router and the PS3.  Using the network cable, the PS3 consistently delivered top quality Hi-Def video from Netflix.

So, to achieve faster network speeds I either had to run network cable to my entertainment center (made difficult by the layout of my finished basement), purchase powerline network adapters (which work well in some homes, but not all homes), or add a 802.11n wireless bridge like the D-Link DAP-1522 Xtreme N Duo Wireless Bridge/Access Point  to the PS3.

Powerline adapters and wireless bridges would add $100 to $150 to the cost of the system. I already had network cable and jacks on hand, so running cable would only cost me time and ingenuity.  Given the $300 cost of the PS3, I decided to bite the bullet and spend an afternoon running network cable through the basement to the entertainment center.  The work went fairly well with only a modicum of wasted time. Now that the system is up and all the work is done, I’m very happy with Netflix and the PS3.

The Gerber Tempo Flashlight: Good idea, poor design. Not recommended

August 22nd, 2009

I got my Gerber Tempo in April 2009 and have carried it on my keychain until this week (August 2009) when it became too unreliable to trust.

Although there is much I like about the Tempo, I cannot recommend buying it because it is less durable than it should be due to a fundamental design flaw.

The Tempo’s design flaw is that the LED is too exposed. The tip of the LED is flush with the end of the flashlight which virtually guarantees that other items in a pocket or purse will push against the LED. This flaw caused my Tempo to break after four months of light use.  I have to wiggle the LED to get the light to come on. Sometimes a slight wiggle is enough, but often I have to play with the LED for 10-15 seconds to get it to come on and stay on.

Other users/reviewers have experienced the same problem with their Tempos.

If the LED were covered or recessed more deeply (like the LEDs in the excellent Infinity model) the Tempo would be a winner.

On the other hand, if you plan to store your light where there’s little chance of other objects
rubbing against the LED the Tempo might serve you well.  It puts out a decent amount of
light for its size, has a solid feel, and uses readily available AAA batteries.

For now, I’ve replaced the Tempo with a similar-in-size Dorcy flashlight. The Dorcy is cheaper, feels cheaper, has a lens cover and seems to be about as bright as the Tempo.

What About the Sabbath?

July 26th, 2009

Last year I listened to several radio sermons by Alistair Begg (truthforlife  minstries) concerning the Sabbath. Those sermons left me with many questions about the Sabbath, why we really worship on Sunday, and what kinds of activities are appropriate for Sundays.

To answer these questions I began searching the internet for information on the Sabbath and Sunday worship.

Like many topics on the internet, it’s easy to find information and opinions, but it’s been challenging to find authoritative information.  This week I finally found a well-documented article that was based on (1) the Bible and,  (2) church history. The article answered all of my primary questions. If you have similar questions about the Sabbath you should read Sabbath and Sunday in Early Christianity

Please don’t be turned off by the fact that the article is hosted on the web site of the organization that used to be known as the Worldwide Church of God.  The Worldwide Church of God renounced Herbert W. Armstrong’s teaching in the 1990’s and since then has embraced all of the tenants of the historic Christian faith. They now seem to be solidly evangelical. Note: in April 2009, they changed their denominational name to Grace Communion International.

For more information on how the Worldwide Church of God has changed from cultic to evangelical see the article The Worldwide Church of God: Resurrected into Orthodoxy  by the Christian Research Institute.

References for Conclusions on Biblical Giving

May 8th, 2009

Conclusions With Supporting References

The Bible teaches us that:

  • Christians should regard everything they have as coming from God and being owned by God. (Deuteronomy 10:14, Psalm 50:10-12, Deuteronomy 8:17-18)
  • Christians should give generously, sacrificially, cheerfully, and as God leads them to give.  (Second Corinthians 9:7; 1 Timothy 6:17)
  • The Old Testament tithe was of agricultural products only. (Those who made a living through commerce did not tithe on the portion of their income that came from commerce.)  (Deuteronomy 14:22, Deuteronomy 26:12-13)
    Or see http://www.setfreetogive.com/b31.htm#moses
  • In Old Testament times, the largest portion of an individual’s tithe was not given to the priests or the temple. Instead, the largest portion of the tithe was consumed by the person (and his family) giving the tithe and/or was given to the poor and needy.  (Deuteronomy 14:22-29, Deuteronomy 26:12-13)   Or see http://www.setfreetogive.com/b31.htm#moses

Historical writings teach us that:

  • The Pharisees taught a form of the tithe that went far beyond the tithe set forth in the Scriptures, including tithing on all forms of income, not just agricultural income. (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus, The Messiah, Book III page 312;
  • The tithe was not a practice of the early church.
    See Set Free To Give page 110 http://www.setfreetogive.com/b107.htm
  • The tithe was ordained by the church hundreds of years after Christ to support the church’s infrastructure and building programs.
  • See Set Free To Give page 110 http://www.setfreetogive.com/b107.htm
    or The Catholic Encyclopedia at http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Tithes or  http://oce.catholic.com/index.php?title=Tithes

How to Remove Mildew From Hunting Boots

May 5th, 2009

Last October I hunted the early West River deer season in South Dakota and had a great time.  The only thing that marred the experience was that on the last day of the hunt it rained heavily and my almost-new Irish Setter hunting boots with 600-gram Thinsulate and Gore-tex linings got soaked inside because I neglected to wear waterproof pants which allowed my long underwear and the insides of the boots to get very wet.

When I got home I made the mistake of setting the boots aside and promptly forgot about them until mid-November when I got them out for another hunting trip. To my dismay the boots had an overpowering smell of mildew. I didn’t have time to deal with the mildew before I left on another hunting trip so I just put up with the smell until hunting season was over.

After hunting season ended, I emailed W.L. Gore and asked them for recommendations on ways to get remove the mildew without damaging the gore-tex.  Gore’s customer service department recommended soaking the boots in a solution of Lysol. I just couldn’t bring myself to do that so I spent a hour or so with Google, searching for other solutions.

Google turned up several recommendations for a product called Mirazyme. I ordered two bottles and gave it a try.

Mirazyme by itself didn’t eliminate all of the mildew odor, but it helped a great deal.  What the Mirazyme didn’t get rid of was removed with Silver Scent Eliminator with Colloidal Silver.

Here’s the process that I followed that eventually got rid of the smell of mildew.

1. I soaked the boots twice for 10 minutes in a Mirazyme solution consisting  of about 1/2 oz of Mirazyme to 8 gallons of water.  Each time I dried the boots over a heater vent. The first soaking rid the boots of about 50% of the mildew smell. The second soaking got rid of only a little more of the smell.

2. Next I followed the advice on the McNett web site for dealing with very stubborn odors.  I soaked the boots twice for five minutes in a Mirazyme solution consisting of about 2 oz  of Mirazyme to two gallons of water. Again, after each soaking I dried the boots over a heater vent. After the first soaking in the stronger solution the boots smelled much better.  After the second soaking, most, but not all of the smell of mildew was gone.

Unfortunately, there was just enough smell of mildew left to still bother me.

3. Finally, I sprayed the inside of the boots until they were wet to the touch with Primos Hunting Calls Silver Scent Eliminator with Colloidal Silver (Model No. 58001).  Then I set the boots outside in the sun to dry.

I’m pleased to report that the Silver Scent Eliminator removed the last vestige of the odor of mildew!

I Am Not the Man I Want To Be

May 4th, 2009

Our adult Sunday School class is studying Romans and this week we are in Romans chapter 5.  Romans chapter 5 is very rich in doctrine, but verse 17 seems particularly relevant to me at this time.  Romans 5:17 says

17For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

William R. Newell, in his excellent commentary on Romans “Romans Verse by Verse” wrote: Let us refuse to be content with a Christian existence that cannot finally be summed up as “He reigned in life through Jesus Christ,” — over sin, Satan, the world, difficulties, adverse surroundings and circumstances.

David Livingstone early wrote in his diary, “I have found that I have no unusual endowments of intellect, but I this day resolved that I would be an uncommon Christian.”

I think most of the time I’m a pretty common Christian.  I pray that from this day forward my life will be one of uncommon Christianity.