13 September 2011

Books I read way back in 2008

As I continue on my reading challenge for 2011 it is beginning to look unlikely that I'll get anywhere near 100 books. Part of the problem is all the gaming and reference books I don't fully read cover-to-cover. Second is how busy work has been this summer, my reading time has been cut considerably. Finally are all the magazines and journals I read from month to month, lots of good reading time spent on periodicals which aren't counted for the challenge.

In any case I did find a list of many of the books I read in 2008. I thought I'd post it here. It helps show that while I'm not going to succeed with my current challenge, I at least am reading more full books than I did a few years ago.


1) Illusion of Victory: by Thomas Fleming. Actually I started reading it in 2007, but I'll be done soon. It's basically about American involvement in World War I and shows Wilson to be possibly the worst President we've ever had - except for LBJ.

2) Star Wars on Trial: by David Brin & Matthew Woodring Stover. This book wasn't all that good. David Brin had well thought out arguments but Stover would resort to personal attacks and brining up things that had nothing to do with Star Wars. It didn't help I went into the who thing on Brin's side, I wanted to see a good debate, but just had my original opinions confirmed.

3) The Superhero Handbook: by Michael Powell. A humorous look at getting into the superhero business.

4) Rising Sun Victorious: by Peter G. Tsouras. A collection of ten alternate histories for the Pacific War where the Japanese manage a victory.

5) Pale Blue Dot: by Carl Sagan. An interesting book on the future of humankind in space. There were points where I didn't like Sagan's writing style, but a good book overall.

6) King Leopold's Ghost: by Adam Hochschild. History book about the murder of approx. ten million people in the Belgian Congo.

7) MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers: by Joseph Gibaldi. I'm reading this one from cover-to-cover to make sure I'm up on the latest style rules for research writing.

8) From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain: by Minister Faust. This book is turning out to be better than I thought it would be. Dr. Brain, the leading therapist for super powered individuals has to help the world's most powerful, and dysfunctional, super group.

9) The Prisoner of Zenda: by Anthony Hope.

10) Rupert of Hentzau: by Anthony Hope. This is the sequel to Prisoner of Zenda. It has been great. You have to read Prisoner of Zendafirst, but this book was not what I expected it to be.

11) Paris 1919: by Margaret MacMillan. The victorious Allies from World War I setting things up for the second war as well as creating Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Palestine... I don't think they got anything right.

12) Sherlock Holmes: the Complete Novels and Stories volumes I & II: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I have to go back and read the stories I skipped over the first time through.

13) Write is a Verb: by Bill O'Hanlon. This is one of those books on writing a book. It is actually one of the better ones out there.

14) The Power-House: by John Buchan. A very interesting tale of a powerful world-wide conspiracy set in London.

15) The Wreck of the Titan: a.k.a. Futility. By Morgan Robertson. Similar in some ways to the story of the Titanic, but written years prior. In some ways better than I was expecting, in others it was as bad as some reviews I read.

16) Dracula: by Bram Stoker. Despite being a huge horror/monster fan as a kid I don't think I actually read this until now. I love the format of this novel.

17) The Thirty-Nine Steps: by John Buchan. Murder and espionage just prior to the outbreak of The Great War.

18) Master of the World: by Jules Verne.

19) The First Men in the Moon: by H.G. Wells. Proof that Wells does deserve his place on the list of great science fiction authors.

20) When Gravity Fails: by George Alec Effinger. I'm not much of a cyberpunk fan, but I did like this book.

21) Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint: by Nancy Kress. Just another one of those 'how to write' books.

22) Men's Adventure Magazines: A collection of hundreds of images from post WWII men's adventure magazines from the Rich Oberg Collection. Some cool stuff.

23) Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce: by Stanley Weintraub. The story of the spontaneous celebration of Christmas along some of the trenches during the Great War.

24) Churchill: Wanted Dead or Alive: by Celia Sandys. History of Winston Churchill in South Africa during the Boer War.

25) The Historian's Toolbox: by Robert C. Williams. All about the methods and craft of historical research.

26) Assignment: Eternity: by Greg Cox. A Star Trek novel. Not as good as I was hoping it would be.

27) MicroNations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Home-Made Nations. This book is interesting. There are a few real micronations in it and a large number of silly ones.

28) The Gladiator: By Harry Turtledove. The latest in his Crosstime Traffic series. This book was written much better than the last couple in the series. It was quite good.

29) Greenmantle: By John Buchan. Second in the series of Richard Hannay novels. Very interesting given the geo-political situation a century later.

30) Mr. Standfast: By John Buchan. Third in the Richard Hannay series. German agents are infiltrating a British pacifist group during the Great War.

31) The Eternal Lover (a.k.a. The Eternal Savage): by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

32) The Third World War August 1985: by General Sir John Hackett & Other Top-Ranking NATO Generals & Advisors. A very interesting book written in 1978 giving a detailed description of WWIII given the geo-political situation in '78 and where the authors thought it could lead.

33) Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72: by Hunter S. Thompson. I don't think I finished this one. I'll have to go back and do so at some point.

34) Ishmael: by Barbara Hambly. A Star Trek novel that crosses Trek over with the old TV show Here Come the Brides. Cameos from various characters from sci-fi and western sources. Much better than Assignment: Eternity.

35) 1984: by George Orwell.

10 September 2011

Victory at the Dome

Tonight two roller derby bouts were held at the Dome Arena. In the first the Rochester B-Sides took on the Albany All-Stars B Team and in the other the Roc Stars took on the Rideau Valley Vixens from Ottawa.

The first bout was an overwhelming victory for the B-Sides. They crushed the Albany B-Team 227 to 32. That 227 is the highest score I've seen to-date in a roller derby bout. The All-Stars didn't seem motivated at all, there were times their jammers seemed to have trouble passing their own teammates. There were only a handful of times that they managed to get the lead jammer spot, and many of the times they did a B-Sider jammer would be hot on their tail. In the second half their game did improve, but they were so far behind at that point it didn't matter.

The second bout was a much more active and physical game. The Vixens pulled to an early lead and kept it to half-time. Both the Vixens and Roc Stars were doing their part to keep the penalty box officials company. At half-time the Roc Stars were trailing by about 15 points and it seemed that the Vixens would eventually win. However in the second half the Roc Stars came back with a vengeance. They slowly began to dominate the track and eventually pulled off a victory, 160 to 103. A close and exciting game.

Two great bouts and a musical interlude between games. All-in-all a great and inexpensive way to spend an evening. Victory for the local teams in both bouts was a bonus!

06 September 2011

Car Shopping

One of these days I'd like to buy a car because I want to not because I need to. My current vehicle is on its last legs, but it has served me faithfully and with little trouble for nearly five and a half years.

However, since it has been paid off for a few months and the warranty expired everything is going wrong with it. Option one is to pay over $2,500 in repairs to get possibly another year out of it or to get a new vehicle. Looks like a new vehicle is going to win out.

Still in search & research mode but I've narrowed things down a bit. My natural paranoia and experiences should keep me from getting screwed over too bad.

Still, this added, unexpected expense is going to officially postpone my vacation for yet another year..... hopefully summer 2012 will be when I finally take it.... more realistically summer 2015.

05 September 2011

Spirits of the Dead

Here is some writing I did in March 2010 for a local writing contest. I didn't have too much time to write it at the time due to obligations at work so I decided to get a little experimental with it. Ended up getting first place.


By Sean Sherman

The 113th is escorting a squadron of bombers on their return form an attack across the German lines. A swarm of Hun fighters streak down at them from out of the afternoon sun. Bill Maddox watches the incoming enemy. This is going to be his first dogfight as they will have to try to keep the enemy away from the bombers.

The two squadrons clashed, machine guns blazing. Maddox tried to stay with “Mad Dog” Harris, his wingman. An Albatross D.V cut across him several of its bullets cutting into Bill’s craft.

Oil from the damaged engine sprayed into Maddox’s face, covering his goggles.

The sound of machine guns fills the air with a symphony of death.

Scarf up to clean goggles.

Smell of smoke from a nearby burning plane.

Can’t find “Mad Dog.”

Bullets whistle past in the frigid air.

Hun spotted.

Enter kill position.



Screams as burning German fighter spirals to the awaiting ground.

Shaken by the close passing of another plane.

More bullets fly past.

Movement at the left.


Albatross dead ahead.

Guns jam.

Begin hammering guns.

Strafed by German.

Warm. Blood flowing down arm.

Grazing hit.

Plane streaking past guns screaming after an unseen enemy.

Guns working again.

Circle around.

Enter the melee.

Target acquired.



Out of control plane on collision course.

Violent dive to the right.

Spinning out of control.

Warmth between legs.

Plane stabilizes.

Climb back up towards fight.

Sudden move from right.

Turn and shoot.

Direct hit.

Black smoke pours out of target.

First kill…

Time nearly stops for Bill. The battle now sounds a hundred miles away. He can almost see the individual bullets casually floating through the air. A puffy black trail being left by his crashing victim. That is when Maddox realizes that he has just found his wingman.

Shock and terror grip Bill as his brain comprehends what he has just done. He looses sight as his wingman goes down across enemy lines. His limbs feel like they weight tons. He can’t force himself to turn and follow Harris down.

As Bill drifted he began to loose too much altitude. Boche anti-aircraft guns open fire. The sounds rattle Bill out of his trance. Before he can climb away his plane is hit by enemy fire. He begins to go down. The engine is destroyed and the little remaining fuel begins to burn.

Maddox manages to pull up the nose and get the extra distance to the British lines. As he makes a rough landing in his burning aeroplane he voids the contents of his stomach onto his controls and legs. As Allied soldiers arrive to help he looses consciousness.

Five days later Bill Maddox was in his quarters near the aerodrome. No one had said anything about what had happened to “Mad Dog.” No one had seen that Bill was the one who shot him down.

His own wounds were superficial and he was due to fly in to-morrow’s dawn patrol. Unfortunately his new obsession with whiskey may cause him to be grounded.

As Bill gets started on the night’s drinking Major Thomas enters the room.

“Major.” Said Bill as he saluted.

“Maddox.” Said the Major as he returned the salute and then seated himself in a nearby chair.

“I know that getting shot down can be a traumatic experience, Bill. If you need a few more days you can have them.”

“Thank you, Sir.” Said Bill as he sipped from the bottle.

“However,” said the Major as he takes the bottle form Bill, “this is hardly going to make you better.”

“It makes the ghosts go away.”

“What ghosts? I wasn’t aware that you’d killed anyone.”

Maddox pulls the whiskey back away from the Major. He takes a long swig from the bottle. “I killed Mad Dog.”

After a along moment passes without any words.

“You didn’t kill him, Bill.”

“Yes I did. I was scarred, confused. I saw a plane and fired. It was Jack. I murdered him.”

“Even if he was dead that wouldn’t be murder. The Huns are responsible not you.”

“If he were dead?”

The Major pulls a telegram out of his pocket and hands it to Maddox. Bill begins to read.

“He’s alive! The Germans have him at a hospital…. They had to amputate his leg.” Maddox stands and begins to pace the room. “It’s all my fault.”

“Nonsense, Maddox. I told you it was the Hun’s fault. Do you think you are the first man to accidentally shoot a buddy?”

“I don’t care if I’m the first. It doesn’t change what I did.”

The Major now stands and places his hand on Bill’s shoulder. “If you want to make things up to Jack I’ll tell you what you can do.”

“Yes… yes, Sir.”

“You can go back up there and bring down two German planes. One to avenge Jack and the other to make up for the one you should have gotten last week.”

“I don’t know. What if I shoot another one of our planes?”

“You won’t. You’ve learned a very important lesson. Besides if you don’t go back up then Jack was shot down for nothing. You owe it to him to take his place in the squadron.”

“Alright. I’ll do it.”

“Do you want to go up with the dawn patrol to-morrow, or do you still need a couple of days?” asked Major Thomas.

“I’ll go with the patrol, sir.”

“Good man.” The Major walks to the door and then turns. “Just so you know it’s not going to be much easier to shoot down a German. Before this war is over you’ll have your fair share of ghosts. The spirits in a bottle can’t make the spirits of the dead go away. You have to take comfort in the fact that with each victory we have the war is that much closer to ending. And then we can put several million spirits to rest.”

01 September 2011

Third Sentence Thursday #10

Third Sentence Thursday

"But on Earth and on other planets of the pocket universes, the hills, mountains, valleys, plains, the rivers, lakes, and seas, seldom altered." (The Lavalite World" by Philip José Farmer)

Sounds like they are on a world with an evershifting landscape. Given that the book is called the Lavalite World it brings images of clumps of matter shifting, breaking off, and merging back with each other just like a lava lamp.

Here's how Third Sentence Thursday works:

1) Take the book you are reading now and post the third sentence
2) Review this sentence anyway you want (funny and silly reviews encouraged)
3) Post a link to your sentence to Sniffly Kitty's Third Sentence Post for this week.
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