The Jester (The Riyria Chronicles #2.5) – Review

The Jester (The Riyria Chronicles #2.5)The Jester by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once again Michael J. Sullivan, delivers an excellent story.
This, story falls between the first two major series and features Royce and Hadrian. It is exactly what you have come to expect from the pair.
This is a great short story and wonderful diversion.

I got the audiobook copy Narrated by Tim Gerard Reynolds, and he did a wonderful job.

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Timelines in Star Trek

I have many thoughts about the various timelines in Star Trek. Really, if you know me, I have many thoughts about Star Trek in general but let’s stick to the topic at hand.

There is a lot to be said for the new timeline that was created by J. J. Abrams. It is a fresh new look at Star Trek that allows new actors to play the parts of our beloved characters. And that can be a really good thing. Not only that, but the new, young actors, and fresh stories allows a new younger generation of viewers to enjoy Star Trek without having to watch the hundreds and hundreds of hours of shows, and 10 previous movies, just know what is going on.

Having said that, I think one of the problems with this new timeline and the new movies, thus far, is that they live in a universe where great things have happened. In another timeline. For other people. With other histories. So while there are a lot things that are similar and there probably is a rich history behind it. We don’t really know what it is.

In a very similar way to the sets in TOS (The Original Series) the new movies feel like a movie set. Everything looks great, it looks all futuristic and fancy, so fancy that it hurts your eyes to look at it. But you know that if you look behind that rock, If you lift up that PADD, or open that door, what you are going to find is an empty parking lot, a painted cereal box, or the outside of the set. TOS_2x10_MirrorMirror0002-Trekpulse[1]

While when we watched TOS, we were willing to forgive the sets and props, these new stories feel artificial. Yes, I have seen the articles that say, if you are going to complain about the new movies, go watch TOS and then come back. And I hear that. I understand what they are saying. I really do. There were many episodes of TOS / TNG / DS9 / Voyager and Enterprise that were very rough. That is true of pretty much any series. I want to make it clear that I am not saying that the new movies were terrible, or that they should not be watched, or even that they were not really Star Trek. (I have other comments about their of story telling choices but that is another discussion) What I am saying is simply this. Right now they feel hollow.

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They feel hollow because, while there are in the Star Trek universe, they also aren’t in Star Trek Universe, and because of that, they don’t have all the history built through the previous series. The fans who have spent the time watching all the original timeline series and movies are expecting that fullness, that history and it isn’t there. Right now, that makes them feel hollow.

There is hope for the future. The new Star Trek series is supposed to be set in this, new timeline, and that should help with some of the hollowness. The hope is, just like every successive Star Trek series and movie looked and felt more put together, more full and ultimately more like a full universe, that as this new series and the new movie come out, they will add the the richness of this new time line. That once that have started to fill in this new timeline with new stories, we won’t all be looking for the timeline restoration device. AT least not as much any more.

images from Trekcore.com and Memory Alpha

Shooting Stars: A Teenage Vampire Love Story from a Boy’s Perspective – A Review

Shooting Stars: A Teenage Vampire Love Story from a Boy's PerspectiveShooting Stars: A Teenage Vampire Love Story from a Boy’s Perspective by Philip Carroll
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Philip Carroll Does it again. In Shooting Stars he takes a genre that I don’t normally like or even read, and made me really enjoy this story. And now on with the review.

Being a teenager is hard, really hard. Add to that, moving to a new school, and joining a sports team. Jocks and Cliques that you don’t have a chance of understanding unless you have lived in a place all your life. And don’t get me started on the girls. Chuck has all of these problems and more when he moves to his new school from Washington State. He discovers that not only does he have to deal with all the normal problems of moving to a new school but he has accidentally stepped into the middle of a battle ground on a higher plain.

When his new girl friend Kelsey, turns out to be more than he excepted he finds him self in the middle of a battle that nothing he has ever experienced can prepare him for. He will need everything he has and more if he hopes to get out of this one live.

Part of me wonders if I like this book so much because I was Chuck growing up. I moved to a new school in high school, joined the Cross Country team, did well, and met the girl of my dreams only to have her turn out to be so much more than I thought she was. My girl friend (and now wife) didn’t end up having magical powers or anything but still she was special. But I think that it is more that Chuck’s story is one that a lot of teen aged guys can relate to.

In Shooting Stars : A Teenage Vampire Love Story from a Boy’s Perspective Mr. Carroll gives us an engaging story. More than that, he gives us real characters who you can relate to. They have hopes and dreams, and he drags you down, some times kicking and screaming, into their lives. At one point I found myself yelling at the book, “Oh no Chuck that is such a bad idea!” I really cared about these people, and when the book ended I was really sad that I could not continue to be friends with them.

Mr Carroll does not glorify the demonic forces that are vampires but instead exposes their true ugly nature, and the forces required to do battle with them. This to me was a huge deal, and for a teen aged romance involving vampires it was a breath of fresh air.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have known Philip Carroll for some time, I follow him on social media and I consider him a friend. I was given a Beta copy of an early version of this book and an advanced readers copy (ARC) of the book and enjoyed both immensely. While I probably would not have picked up this book normally because as I said I don’t normally read this genre, Philip has opened my eyes. If you have any doubt, I am going to buy copies for each of my teen aged boys so that they can read it.

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My 5 Favorite Escape Artists Episodes

By now you have likely heard that Escape Artists, (Escape Pod, Pod Castle and Pseudo Pod) are in financial dire straights. If by some chance you are hiding under a rock or something and don’t know about it, go take a few minutes and listen to their plea.

I could likely talk until I was blue in the face about how wonderful Escape Artists is, and how great their stories are, but until you understand what it is they provide you can’t really grasp how important it is that you help them out.

Folks, they have done for the short story what no other market has been able to do ever! Something like 40,000 listeners! That means that if your story is published, it is likely going to get upwards of 20,000 sets of ears hearing it. I am sorry, but that is better than any money they could pay an author. That is more circulation than most short stories get ever, and it is just one market.

Alright, enough of my rambling. The title says my five favorites, so here they are. They are not in any order really and don’t include Pseudo Pod because I don’t typically do horror. These are my top 5 picks. Stories that stuck with me long after the closing song had faded out in my ear buds.

1. Conversations With and About my Electric Toothbrush Escape Pod

This is one of those silly light hearted stories that you listen to once and might even forget, if it weren’t for the fact that it was about a talking tooth brush, and the fact that on reflection it was really about so much more. This story is what sci/fi is really about, showing you a glimpse of the future while forcing you to look around and wonder about your own life without being preachy about it.

2. A Gun For Dinosaur Escape Pod

A time travel story. No wait, this is a good time travel story, where the technology makes sense and… heck what am I saying. This story is about hunting Dinosaur. Do you really need a reason to listen to it other than that? And it is ready by and incredible narrator Ayoub Khote. That is really a good enough reason to listen.

3. Goblin Lullaby Pod Castle

I love epic fantasy. I cut my teeth on C.S. Lewis and the Hobbit. Later I ready The Lord of the Rings and many others, but you have to admit there are some tropes in there that well they are good, can sometimes make you wonder. What if the tables were turned. This is one of those stories, and really gives you a view of what all the “normal” people are thinking while these high minded folks are running around on their quests to save the world. Sometimes you just need some quiet. Maybe I have just changed enough diapers to find this one so entertaining.

4. Rescue Party Escape Pod

This was episode 400 for Escape Pod, and the story is written by Arthur C. Clarke. That alone makes it special. But this is still a really great example of classic Sci/fi.

5. What Dragons Prefer Pod Castle

As I write this, I realized that the two stories I picked for Pod Castle were kind of trope busters. You should not assume by this that that is all that they do. far from it, but these are the ones that stuck out in my mind this morning as I was thinking of my favorite episodes.

So have you ever wondered why it was that Dragons were baited with virgins? Do they even really like virgins? What about those dragon hunters? Are they for real or what? This story is another one of the light hearted ones that in the end has some real depth to it.

So that is it. These are my top five stories from Escape Artists. Go out and take a listen, and then decide for yourself. But really, toss them a few bucks, even if all you do is listen to these 5 stories, you have already gotten your money’s worth.

Christmas Markets in Vienna eBook – A Review

Christmas Markets in Vienna

By Katharina and Mick Bordet

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Five out of Five Stars

If you are like me, you might be a little sentimental for the “old days.” Especially around the holidays. For me a lot of what the “old days” means is remembering growing up in Germany. What can I say, I am a sentimental sap. But when it comes to things that I remember best about living there, Christmas time is high on the list. Meeting my wife-to-be and skiing are also high on the list, but Christmas time is pretty darn close to the top.

Some of my favorite, sights, smells, experiences, and of course tastes came from the Christmas Markets that you can find pretty much in every town and village throughout Western Europe. So when I was given the chance to get a peek into the new book Christmas Markets in Vienna By Katharina and Mick Bordet, I jumped at the chance.

WARNING: If you like mulled wine (Gluhwein) you might want to cook up a batch of it before you start reading this book, because if not by the time you get to the end you are going to wish you had.

This book is part guide book, part map, and part beautiful picture book. Each Christmas Market in the Vienna area is given it’s own section, with descriptions of when it is open, if there is a cost to get in, what kinds of things that you might find there, and even links to maps that will help you get there. Believe me there was a serious case of, how come there is not a bridge from the states to Europe going on while I was reading and using the maps. You can also find the links to each of the Market’s official websites. For us “state side” that is likely not all that helpful, but if you happen to be in Vienna during Christmas time next year, you know where to go. Even if you have never been to one of the Christmas markets you have likely seen them on TV or have heard about them. But in case you haven’t this book will solve that problem. For the rest of us. This book will make you “homesick” if anything will, and in the best possible way.

Both Katharina and Mick wrote about their experiences in each of the markets, and it was great to get their opinions, what they were looking for and what they found. I really appreciated the fact that they told you which ones had the most tourists and when you might be able to visit to avoid the biggest crowds.

Then there were the pictures. Pictures of the stalls and the wears, pictures of the market itself, and pictures of the locations. This was particularly breath taking where some of the markets are in castles and monasteries.

The book is relatively short, and I have to say that is probably the only downfall. I read the whole thing, in about an hour, and I was sad when I got to the end and realized If I wanted to get more Christmas market experience I would likely have to buy a plane ticket. The only thing missing from the book were the actual smells and tastes, but then there is a goal for the next book they put out.

The book is available in both English and German, so you can take your pick on what version you want. My German is a little (a lot) rusty so I stuck with the English version. It is only available in ebook formats so you can’t get a hard copy of this book, but it is available for all your favorite ebook formats from all your favorite ebook markets so no matter what device you have you can get a copy of it. Christmas Markets in Vienna

From the “dust jacket”

Vienna is a city that embraces the celebration of Christmas, nowhere more so than in the sheer number and variety of Christmas markets to be found nestled in front of its stunning architecture and along its cobbled streets.

Whether you want to enjoy a mulled wine in front of the spectacular city hall or find a hand-crafted Christmas decoration in the grounds of the imperial palace, taste traditional Austrian gingerbread or cuddle an alpaca, the information you need is right here. This guide takes a tour of these traditional markets, full of crafts, gifts and the flavours of Christmas.

Mick and Katharina provide reviews for all the markets in the city, as well as several more must-see locations outside Vienna, illustrated with photographs and including opening hours, locations and links to some of the things you’ll see at each one.

Essential reading for anyone visiting Vienna in the winter.

Our new Christmas Market guide is now available in English and German!

*****
In the interest of full disclosure, I was given a copy of this book free of charge as a preview copy. Having said that I would have gladly paid the meager price of $3.99 to get a copy of it. Nostalgia or no, it is a beautiful book and fully worth the price.
Christmas Markets in Vienna

CycleProGo – An App Review

CycleProGo

3.5 of 5 Stars

CycleProGo is the new online and app based charting program from Couple to Couple League International (CCLI.) This is an updated version of the charting software called CyclePro, and it offers some new features and of course the ability to use it online and via a mobile device. This application is based on the Sympto-thermal rules developed and taught by the Couple to Couple League.

I will say right up front that I do work for (Volunteer) CCLI as part of a teaching couple, so as a teaching couple the app costs me nothing other than my time as a volunteer teacher. However, I do hope to offer an honest and fair review of this application.

Warning!

I can’t say this strongly enough. I don’t care what method you use, or what application you like, If you are going to use NFP in any form be that a app like this one, or just basic Charting, please, please, please take a course or at least get the books from a course.

If Money is the problem (because some of the courses are expensive) there are free courses out there, and they are pretty darn good.

Reach out to a teaching couple or provider in your area they might be able to help you find resources that will help you.

It is worth your time to take a course. If you don’t NFP probably won’t work for you as well as you had hoped.

As I noted the app costs me nothing. And you can download it from the Itunes store, or Amazon for your Android Device for free. While It is free to download and get a look at, you can’t actually do anything without paying for it. The price is pretty high at $5 a month or $12 a year. I will refer you to their site as to what you can do with the paid verses the free version I think the app would be much more accessible if the price were not to steep.

One of the best things about this app is the ability to share with other devices. My wife uses a kindle, I have an iPod touch, and we both are in front of a computer quite a bit. For me having the most accurate and up to date information is the key to his application working at all. And I really like being able to check or enter the temperature or whatever else from where ever I am at the moment.

Once inside the app it does offer you a lot of very nice features. If you are a CCLI member or have ever taken one of these courses much of the charts that you are used to seeing will be presented right up front for you. Entering your data is very easy and straight forward.

I have an ipod touch Gen 3 and I do seem to sit at this opening screen for a long time. I Don’t know if it is trying to sync or just that my device is a little old and slow.
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I do like that the first screen after the loading screen gives you a daily tip, shows off new features and just give yous general information about the application. Most of of this information is available in the help screen, but who ever reads those right? It also gives you a place to give feed back about the application.
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Once in the app itself, you are presented with the current month, that gives you a quick view of where you are in the cycle with color coding at the bottom to tell you what phase you are in. Click on or touching any of the days including the current one will allow you to enter or update your information for that day.
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Choosing the Charts button at the bottom of the screen brings up a menu that allows you choose your current chart to add information to, choose another chart to review, change your phase date based on the rules you want to follow, or look at a general overview of your cycle history.

I have to say that the ability to change your phase based on other rules is probably one of the best features of this app over other ones that I have used, especially since CCLI does teach multiple rules that you can use based on your needs.
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The charts screen presents you with what you are probably used to if you have every used the sympto-thermal method. (I have cleared all the data out of this chart since the only way to get a screen shot was to show you our chart, and yeah not so much.)

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Clicking on the connect option at the bottom of the screen probably one of the biggest disappointments with CycleProGo in general. First in the mobile app, the connect button brings you to the screen below, which is not all that helpful.

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Updated As is the nature of software, there has been an update and they have made a change to one of the biggest problems I had with this app. As noted in the comments, there is now an option to share your charts with anyone via a URL that you can send to people. This is a huge improvement as far as I am concerned.

    Attach Chart

  • choose the chart you want
  • scroll until you can see the bottom of the chart
  • click on “Attach Chart to Public Message Board Post”
  • In the middle of the next screen there is a button that says “Create a Public URL.”

This will generate a url you can send our chart to someone.

If you use the web based version if does allow you to set and use some sharing options. Here is were this falls down. It does not allow you to share with any one outside of CCLI members or teachers. You might be asking yourself why you would want to share this with anyone else. (I am sure there is a joke in there somewhere about sharing too much with a bunch of teaching couples, but we will leave that your imagination)

However, let’s say you wanted to share your chart with your doctor, and they were not ccli members? There is a lot of information on this chart that a doctor can use to help you diagnose problems or even just help you determine a due date. In its current form there is no way to share that information with any one outside of CCLI beyond getting screen shots and e-mailing them. Just an example of this, our primary care physician is a Creighton method trained physician, she was interested in looking at my wife’s charts, and we were unable to send our charts to her, or allow her access to our charts so she could monitor the information through out the month without her becoming a member.

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The settings screens and the sync screen don’t have a lot to offer beyond what a standard app would have. The Settings screen allows you to do things like change your password change from Fahrenheit to Celsius and how often to polls data from other sources.

The settings screen also allows to add “events” to the list of things that you can note quickly on your charts. These are broken down into categories that include emotional, Physical, Medical, Pregnancy and custom. If you have ever tried to type a note about anything with a mobile device you know that having drop down lists of things that you use frequently is a good thing. Also being able to control the things on that list is good thing so that you are not scrolling forever.

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The Sync button does just that, it forces a sync with all other devices that you might be using.

As I said at the beginning I give this App a 3.5 out of 5. I think that it has come a long way since the old cyclepro version, and it does have some pretty nice features. But I think there are some definite drawbacks, like not being able to share with people outside of CCLI. There are also seem to be some issues with the web based version and changing the rules you want to use. You are able to select some of the rules sets in the mobile version that although they are options in the web version they are not select-able.

Laudate – A Tech Review

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Updated

Laudate

Developed by Ayckasoft

Is a Free Mobile App for Android Devices and iPhone / iPod Touch

This is not really a new application, but I wanted to share it and give you a quick review.

Before I found this app, I had a half dozen other apps on my iPod that did various different things including gave me all the common prayers, readings for the day, the Catechism, and reflections from various sources on the gospel readings. This App bring them all together into one place. This is even more so the case now.  They have added a lot of new prayers, and other helpful things.  One of my new favorites has been the Latin prayers and the Search for prayers.  That was is really useful if only know a few words of the prayer and don’t know the name. The other new feature is the ability to bookmark. (I think this is new, or maybe It is just that I didn’t know about it before) this is invaluable when you are working with some of the longer works like, the three versions of the bible that are included, the Catechism or the Code of Cannon Law.

It is a great little app that I use more and more as I get into it. It seems to have just about everything that I need as far as resources on the go. The prayers, the readings, the reflections, as well as things like a guide for confession and a full copy of the New American Bible are in there.

since I originally wrote this post, they have fixed the one problem that I had with it. The close button for the prayers was way up high next to the start over button for the Rosary. They have moved it down and made it bigger, so you can easily hit it while praying, and don’t have to stop praying to move to the next prayer.
If there is one thing that I rather dislike about the app, and a reason that I would give it less that 5 stars, it is the rosary feature.

When I found that this has a virtual rosary I was pretty excited. I am terrible about carrying a rosary with me. I almost always have a lot in my pockets and with a Rosary in there it tends to get destroyed (which I always feel really bad about,) or it will get tangled up in everything else in my pocket. The Rosary feature, (as shown below) shows you a picture of the rosary and each bead changes color as you click on it. When you click on the beads, the screen changes and shows you the prayer. That is all well and good but to get back to the screen with the beads you have to click the little X. The problem is that the little X and restart Rosary button are so close that very frequently I have clicked on the wrong one in the middle and had to find my way back to where I was to continue. It is annoying enough that I don’t use that feature unless I really have to. If I forget the words to one of the prayers withing the Rosary I go to the prayers section and look it up and just count the Rosary on my fingers. But I have to say this is about the only feature that I don’t like.

I will say this again, I am really happy with this app. It is free app but I would honestly be willing to pay for it. (Which considering hoe cheap I am normally, that is saying a lot.) The App is not prefect but it is pretty incredible. I really like having all my resources in one place and being able to get to things quickly, Laudate certainly fits the bill for that.

As these screen shots show everything you need is on one easy to use menu. The sub menus and small apps within are easy to follow and allow you easy access to the resources.

Bible

cannon law

daily readings

mainpage

rosary

stations of the cross

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Download For:

Iphone – Ipod touch

Android device

From Amazon

Screenshots are from the the Google Play Shop