Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Chi Running, The Shallows and Fr. Elijah


Two reviews, no waiting as I slowly hone my critical style. The Shallows could be an absolutely life-changing book if I can focus long enough to remember the contents.

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I haven't mentioned running in a good long while. 2018 marks the third year in a row of easy 3x a week runs after my knee surgeon pronounced me benched for good back in '09. I credit the Chi Running program as it taught me how to land with minimum impact on my weak knee. Despite the exercise, I've noticed a tendency to put on weight, starting around Halloween when I eat most of the Trick or Treat candy. Then Thanksgiving and Christmas arrive with gastronomical goodies, then I start losing weight in January by giving up sweets and carbs. Disney would call such a pattern the Cycle of Life. I would call it the Cycle of an Ill-Disciplined Fattie.

Oddly enough, I've discovered I can walk at a faster sustained pace than I can run. So, for now, I"m walking briskly around a local golf course, pausing only to pick up the odd golf ball sliced onto the bridal trail by form-challenged duffers. A pleasant mid-week to all.



  The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our BrainsThe Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Skim more, ponder less as "the transformative power of new communication technologies alters our neural pathways." Using studies to bolster his point, the author holds that our minds are changing as they adapt to an ocean of easily-accessible information streaming over our phones and computers. This alteration threatens users' ability to think deeply or analyze because the "Web has scattered attention, parched their memory or turned them into compulsive nibblers of info snacks."

Neither luddite nor scold, Carr reasons calmly that our technologies are changing us to better adapt to their nature. According to research, both young and old Web surfers find their neurons and synapses effected by heavy Web interaction, resulting in "shrinking vocabulary [that becomes] hackneyed and formulaic with less flexible syntax."

Carr feels we are seduced by Internet "benefits of speed, efficiency and desirability." Losing the knack of deep thinking "the tumultuous advance of technology could . . . drown the refined perceptions, thoughts, and emotions that arise only through contemplation and reflection."

Having experienced the drawbacks of prolonged Web usage, Carr explains what actions he took to focus enough to write this book, and offers hope that a more aware approach to the Internet may be on the horizon.

Written seven years ago, this book is accessible to the general reader, and remains increasingly relevant today.


View all my reviews Elijah in JerusalemElijah in Jerusalem by Michael D. O'Brien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Carmelite Father Elijah once again attempts to unmask a rising world leader who may well be the antichrist. Picking up where "Father Elijah: An Apocalypse" ended, the hunted priest enters Jerusalem as a fugitive, wanted for a murder he didn't commit. Accompanied by fellow Carmelite Brother Enoch, Father Elijah finds himself pitted against spiritual and temporal forces, his own doubt, and the depressing knowledge that his mission may end in failure and a gruesome death.

With intriguing glimpses into the play of good and evil in human souls, the book often digresses into the backstories of seemingly incidental characters. And while these encounters propel Father Elijah forward to his destiny, they often slow the narrative in what is a fairly short book.

Still, this sequel is a fascinating, compelling window into Catholic eschatology as well as the power of faith, obedience and prayer in the face of hostility and disbelief.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Foundation Features My Prostate Cancer Story


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Written by award-winning science writer Janet Farrar Worthington, this article addresses the incontinence problem many men face post-op from prostate cancer surgery. I'd say the story was a pisser, but why overdo matters?

Here's an excerpt of the article from the website of the Prostate Cancer Foundation:

"Incontinence after Radical Prostatectomy sucks. But for nearly all men, it goes away. For the very small percentage in whom it doesn't, there is help.

JP Mac (John P. McCann) is an Emmy-award winning animation writer who worked for Warner Bros. and Disney, and a novelist. he is also very funny. 

So, when he wrote a short ebook about his experience with prostate cancer — including his diagnosis in 2014 at age 61, the rush to find the right treatment and get it done before his health insurance was going to expire, his laparoscopic-robotic Prostatectomy and the complications afterward, and his five-month battle to recover urinary continence after the surgery — he could legitimately have written a soap opera, or maybe even a tear-jerker; but he didn't.

Instead, his ebook has a title that sounds like 1950s pulp fiction: They Took My Prostate: Cancer, Loss Hope. It's not "Prostate Cancer Lite." and it doesn't minimize what he or anyone else has gone through to get back to normal after radical prostatectomy. Far from it; in fact, his 'short, hopeful essay' is a testament to what it takes to recover from this difficult but life-saving surgery: a balanced perspective, a good sense of humor, a great support system, and plain old hard work and persistence."

Read the rest here.

No Star Like a Ghost Star


Ghost Star (Ghost Star Adventures)Ghost Star by Roger Eschbacher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Young Galen Bray faces trouble by the gross. Pursued by the murderous alien Mohk, he pilots his space craft down an interstellar rabbit hole only to discover a lost civilization, his past and his destiny.

This book seemed designed for younger readers, with some of the characters a tad thin. Also, the familiar archetypes peopling this thriller might've been tweaked to separate them out from the usual space opera tropes of warrior women, clever robots, and evil-for-evil's-sake villians.

Nevertheless, the story's alien characters and locations are well-handled by the author who keeps his world accessible to the reader. In addition, there's action aplenty, a likable protagonist, droll humor and enough twists to keep the narrative speeding along. A fun, enjoyable read.

View all my reviews

Friday, January 12, 2018

Fast-Food Robots to Write Animaniacs


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Studios Confident in Controversial Decision


Robots originally designed for a hot dog chain will be reprogrammed to write new episodes of Animaniacs. "Officially, this is unofficial," said industry insider Tony Hurl. "But the studios are really amped over this perfect synergy of technology and creativity."

According to sources, the Osprey Meat Company ("We Make Hot Dogs from Birds") decided against expanding their brand into California due to high taxes. That left the firm saddled with nine Golem-5 Public Interface Units. Popular in Ecuador and parts of the Rocky Mountains, the Golem-5s interact with the public, taking customer orders and upselling specials of the day.

Said Hurl, "Certain Hollywood big shots heard the 'bots were available and snatched them away from Burger King. I mean, these are sophisticated machines with a pretty fair vocabulary. Studio tech staff were confident they could reprogram a Golem-5 from saying, 'Would you care for additional onion rings?' to 'Faboo,' or 'Of course I'm cute,' or 'That'll leave a mark.'"

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Reports indicate that Osprey Meat Company is negotiating to partner with Warner Bros. and Amblin. Hurl thought such a move likely, citing marketing potential. "Imagine the end of a Pinky and the Brain episode:
Pinky: What'll we do tomorrow night, Brain?
Brain: The same thing we do every night, Pinky: enjoy a fine Osprey Hot Dog with additional onion rings."

While the Golem-5s are a substantial upfront cost, Hurl believes the studios can amortize the outlay over several years via the elimination of writing staff salaries. "It's in the cards," said Hurl, "Eventually, robots will replace the entire crew of an animated show except for executives, junior executives, and executive assistants. Maybe the receptionist, but don't count on it."

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Friday, January 05, 2018

Boyle Book Broaches Environmental Issues


When the Killing's DoneWhen the Killing's Done by T.C. Boyle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who owns the animals? Is it possible to restore an island to a pre-human state? Such as are a few of the questions raised in this story of Park Services employee Alma Takesue and activist businessman David Lajoy as they battle one another over the eradication of rats and pigs from the Channel Islands off the California coast.

Boyle's work is multi-generational, layered, well-researched. This provides a depth to the narrative that often diminishes the characters' concerns and squabbles in comparison to the unrelenting power of nature dominating the world of the story.

Plenty of twists and turns enliven a rapidly moving plot. Boyle's sense of the absurd lightens the mood at key moments. This is a powerful book, underscoring life and the will to live.

View all my reviews

Unhappy New Year

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A Perfect Storm of Maladies Mars 2018 Start


Not that expectations were all that high for me in the coming year, but he who controls the fonts controls blog emotions, or some such matter. In any case, remember that flu I mentioned at the end of my last post? (Probably not.) The bastard virus lingers like distant relatives with no other place to go. Dogging me in non-flu-like ways.

If you've read, They Took My Prostate, you'll know that my sleep apnea requires flowing air through my nostrils for me to sleep. Not so easy when the nose is clogged. Plus I'm coughing up phlegm and need to roll over and spit it out into a styrofoam cup. (Never look inside.) And since I have no prostate, a deep racking cough results in a fun urine squirt. I'm getting hammered top and bottom.

But the worst is no sustained sleep. Who do I lash out against?

If it's not on the upswing by Monday, I'll see the doctor. Until then, it's just me and the Circus Channel in the quiet hours before dawn.