Saturday, March 31, 2012


Betty Crocker Baco's Bacon Flavor Bits: Bacos are a two edge-sword.  By which I don't mean that they can cut you on multiple sides.  Instead I mean that they are wonderful tiny fake bacon pieces meant for you to put on a salad*.  Because while it is true that everything is better with bacon**, sometimes you just don't have the time to cook it.  And thus were Bacos created. Don't get me wrong, Bacos are not bacon.  They neither look, smell nor taste at all like bacon.  However they do look, smell and taste more like bacon than anything else in the world (except bacon) and thus they are our bacon substitute.  Bacos contain no actual bacon.  The first ingredient in Bacos is "defatted soy flour".  I don't know what any of the other ingredients are because after that first ingredient I stopped reading for fear of what I might find.  Defatted Soy Flour?!  I didn't think soy had or way flour and even if it somehow was how did it get fat?  Anyway back to Bacos and their two edge-swordiness***.  So when you find yourself in a sad (very sad) state of non-bacon affairs, you can rely on Bacos.  They never go bad, so buy the biggest bottle of them you can find and they can hang out in your fridge indefinitely.  Waiting to instantly come to your aid whenever you might need.  Then apply to your salad as needed.  And thus you have your bacon fix.  And thus you also have breath that could kill a donkey at 30 paces.  And thus you will be burping up fake bacon flavor for the next twelve hours.  Ah Bacos, you cruel mistress, you.

Bacos: C+

* - Or any where else you might want bacony goodness


***- Technical Term

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Flaming Hot Funyuns

Funyun's Flamin' Hot Onion Flavored Rings: A few years ago I encountered a package of Hot Cheese Curls (or something like that), it was a package of 'almost name-brand but actually no-name puffed Cheetos-like snack' that was bright red and, according to the package, exceedingly hot.  When I read the ingredients label, I was stunned to find not one ingredient that even came close to sounding vaguely like something that might be misconstrued as food.  Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at the back of a package of Flaming Hot Funyuns and found they were mostly made of things that might be misconstrued as food.  I'm pretty sure all they are is a standard Funyun coated in bright red 'flaming hot' powder.  I like Funyuns.  They're not my snack of choice or anything, but from time to time I will divert to them.  And I generally like hot foods: wings, jalapenos, spicy Doritos, etc.  So, I was keen to give these a try.  Ultimately they were kind of lacking.  When you eat one, you can still taste the underlying 'Funyun' which is fine, then there is a slight vinegary taste and then there's hot.  For the record, hot is not a taste.  There are five different types of tastes your tongue can discern.  They are: sweet, salty, bitter, sour and savory*.  Note how 'hot' isn't in that list.  So really what you have are some Funyuns sprinkled in vinegar, which tastes neither pleasant nor unpleasant and then you have hot.  Not so hot that you're guzzling water or anything, but hot enough that any pleasant flavor sensations you might be experiencing are gone.  You can then either repeat this process until your portion is gone or you can move on to something better.  I'd suggest the latter.

Flaming Hot Funyuns: C

* If you were under the impression there were only four, you're a bit behind on the times.  The Japanese found a fifth one.  They called it Umami.  We of course immediately renamed it to Savory.


Morning: Uggh.  Hrrrmph.  Urg.  Blah.*

Morning: D+

* - The above will be translated into English at a later date.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Bedtime: What is it about bedtime that causes my son to become a complete idiot?  Normally he is a very good and well behaved boy, but as soon as it is bedtime he turns into someone else.  (Someone else that is a complete pain in the patoot.) Don't get me wrong, I can sympathize.   While it may have a been a few years, I can remember not wanting to go to bed.  Yes, it is dark outside.  Yes, we have to get up early in the morning.  Yes, going to bed late means a cranky poo-head tomorrow.  But sorry mom and dad, my day isn't done yet.  I still have things to do.  I mean, we haven't even played Candy Land yet!  When I got to high high school it got even worse.  I watched Late Night with David Letterman most nights when I was in high school and this back in the day, so he didn't come on at 11:30.  Late Night started at 12:30 and while I don't really remember the exact time I got up in the morning, I do remember it was early.  Don't ask me how I got the grades I did, because I must have been asleep at the time.  Bed time was an inconvenience, an interruption and an annoyance.  Sure I was tired, but I was busy.  And then somewhere in between my college years and now something changed.  Going to bed still means that my day is over and perhaps even what feels like prematurely, but I don't really mind as much.  The sweet siren song of my pillow calls to me and I'm off to bed.  And usually with little fuss or trouble, I'm asleep in no time.* As I write this, it is 8:10.  If you asked me in high school or college about the possibility of me happily going to bed at 8:10, I would have laughed myself silly.  But as they say, time changes all things.  So, if you'll pardon me, I think I'm going to bed.**

Bedtime: B+

* - Of course nobody beats my wife at going to sleep.  She literally can be asleep before her head hits the pillow.  Here's and actual conversation.  Her: Goodnight.  Me: Goodnight.  Her: ZZZZZZZZZZ.  Announcer: Total elapsed time: 1.2 seconds.  A new Olympic record!!!!!!!!

** - For the record, I'll probably read until 9:30 or so.  Yeah, I know what you're thinking.  Stay up reading until 9:30!  He's a crazy man!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: by Michael Chabon. I actually finished reading this about a month before I started grading things, so seems like it's still timely to me.  This is actually the fourth book by Chabon that I have read and I was nigh unto giddy with excitement* when I started it.  Ultimately, I did thoroughly enjoy the book, but to me it was not as good as I'd hoped.  Granted given all the hype about the book and given that the other things I'd read by him had been so good, perhaps I was setting the bar to high.  The Yiddish Policemen's Union was the first thing I read by Chabon and it was amazingly good.  (I probably will never get to reviewing it, but if I did, it would get an A+).  Both books start out slow and appear to be wandering around aimlessly, but the pace does pick up. (Actually, the pace probably stay the same, but you start making mental connections that make things more meaningful.)  In the Yiddish Policemen's Union once things got going I was thoroughly engaged and practically couldn't put the book down.  For Kavalier and Clay that just didn't happen.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the book, but I didn't find myself going to bed early so that I could spend more time reading.  Chabon is a master at presenting the book's setting.  It is set in before, during and after World War II and you'd be hard pressed to find any detail lacking (be it surrounding, society, attitudes or anything else for that matter).  If it turned out Chabon had some sort of time machine in his office, I wouldn't be surprised.  For anyone who hasn't read Chabon, his books tend to be densely written (as in he packs a lot of words and meaning into a page) and he isn't afraid to use $20 words, but don't let that put you off.  I will undoubtedly seek out more of his books in the future and hope they continue to be as good.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay: A

* - People who know me will realize this is a complete lie as I'm not one to do 'giddy'.

** - As I probably will also never get around to rereading and grading the other books of his I've read, I'll list them here.  Gentlemen of the Road (A-) was an early story of his and Manhood for Amateurs (A) is a nonfiction behind the scenes look at Chabon, his life and his thoughts.

The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper

Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper: by John D. MacDonald. Another Travis McGee novel.  This one was originally published in 1968.  Despite its years it holds up well and could easily be told in the modern era (with a few changes surrounding telephones).  The book has an interesting side arc between McGee and the black maids who work at the hotel he is staying at.  It's used as a mode for McGee to uncover some information, but at the same time it's used to highlight the racial tensions of the time.  In particular the way in which blacks and whites interacted when they are strangers to each other.  (The maids all initially act dumb and subservient, but once it becomes clear that McGee is not trying to hurt or abuse them in any way an uneasy friendship develops and then the maids turn out to be bright ladies using the mask of expected ignorance to avoid conflicts.)  The book doesn't really have the usual danger that most McGee novels have.  He gets into a couple of scrapes but both lack any real danger.  Nevertheless, I really enjoyed this one and think it's probably one of my favorites so far.*

The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper: A-

* - For the record this one is the 10th in a series of 20 or so.  I started reviewing them with the previous book Pale Gray for Guilt, the 9th.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Oatmeal: My original thought when creating this blog was that I wouldn't rate something until after I had recently experienced it.  Thus, if I wanted to rate a food, I would wait until I had some of it.  However, it has occurred to me that under those rules there are some foods that I will never rate and thus there needs to be an exception to the rule.  Today is one of them.  What is there that I can say that is positive about oatmeal?  Not much.  The stuff is hideous.  In fact, I'm pretty sure it has no redeeming features at all.  But wait you say, it's great because you can add whatever toppings you want to it and make it taste however you want.  Sure, but that's also true of book paste, dirt and gruel.  (Oh wait, oatmeal is gruel.)   Also if the main thing a food has going for it is that I can make it taste like something else, then why aren't I just eating the something else?  My mother used to make us eat oatmeal for breakfast before school in the winters.  This was doubly offensive.  First, I wasn't allowed to eat cereal (see previous post for why this was a problem).  Secondly, I had to eat oatmeal.  My strategy was to make it as thick as possible and still be able to consume it.  I would put as large a spoonful in my mouth as I could conceivably swallow without actually chewing it.  (Not that chewing it would serve much purpose.)  That way I could avoid actually tasting it (much) and get done as fast as possible.  My brother (and now my wife who btw loves oatmeal), would eat his so runny that it was more like a bowl of milk with blobs of mush floating in it.  What a way to ruin some milk.  It practically gives me the wigguns.*  I vowed then and there that when I got older I'd never eat oatmeal again and that's a vow that I plan to keep.  It has occurred to me that that oatmeal does have two redeeming features.  One is that it makes a nice cookie.  The other is that I once knew a girl that really really really really really loved oatmeal and she was nice, but then that actually doesn't have much to do with the oatmeal.

Oatmeal: F

* - technical term.  Look it up.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Words With Friends

Words With Friends: WWF is just Scrabble on your phone, iPad or other electronic device.  And when I say "just Scrabble" what I mean is that it's all of the awesomeness of Scrabble but with the added bonus of being: portable; you can play multiple games at a time and you can play against people all over the world (or just against the same four people you see every day).  It is slightly different from Scrabble in that the bonus squares are arranged differently and I assume (though I haven't checked) that the letter distribution is different as well.  Also the list of two letter words is slightly expanded (or one might argue updated).  The different arrangement of bonus squares seems to increase the amount of points you earn on average, but once you realize that the scores are just going to be higher in general, that's no issue.  Perhaps the biggest issue I have with it is that there's nothing to stop you from trying out words until you hit on something good.  If you put down a bad word the game says "Sorry _______ is not an acceptable word" and then you get to try again.  No loss of turn.  No loss of points.  This means that you do tend to have games where you see pretty obscure words.  Which means either the person you're playing against is a much better wordsmith that you gave them credit for or they were just putting down letters that seemed good until they struck gold.*  Like most apps there's a free version with ads or a pay version without.  I paid $1 for the download and it was money well spent.

Words With Friends: A

* - Technically I guess there are two other options.  They could be flat out cheating.  I mean the Internet is also available on the machine they are playing on.  Or they could be really bad spellers and they got lucky.  (Paw: Hey Maw, how you spell 'faker'?  Maw: Wha's that?  Paw: Yunno, Johnboy says he's too sick to do chores an' I says, quit bein' such a faker.  Maw: It's spelt just like it sound, "F  A  K  I  R"  Paw: Yep, that's it.  I got 28 points fer that 'un".)

Draw Something

Draw Something: This is a game you can get on your cell phone and possibly other platforms.  It's basically a version of Pictionary in which you pick a word from three choices (supposedly one easy choice, one medium and one hard).  You then draw something on your phone and your teammate then attempts to guess what you've drawn.  Sounds like fun and is mildly entertaining but it has several problems.  First of all, it isn't much of  a game as far as games go.  It's too easy.  There really isn't anyone you are competing against and there don't seem to be any rules.  When you guess a word, it gives you a selection of letter tiles to choose from and it tells you how many letters are in the answer.  You can then guess as many times as you'd like with those letters.  I find that often I can guess the word before my co-player even begins drawing.  There's no penalty for guessing wrong and there's no time limit.  There is a 'hint' button that will remove some of the extra letter tiles to narrow down your choices, but I've never had to use it.  (Though I've accidentally used it several times as the button for it is right next to the letters and it's easy to mishit it.) Getting correct answers earns you coins (1 coin for an easy word, 2 for medium, 3 for hard), but there isn't much you can do with the coins.  You start out with a limited number of color choices to draw with and you can buy new colors with your coins.  However, once you've bought two of the packs of colors you now have every color you'd ever need.  So gaining further coins doesn't help or gain you anything.  Because there is nobody you are competing against, there's also nobody to keep you from cheating.  You can draw pictures, but you can also write words.  (Which would seem to be against the spirit of "drawing something" but there's nobody to stop you.) I've seen others playing rounds in which they've all but written out the word to be guessed.  To give an example (which I'm making up on the spot but is pretty accurate to what I've seen), if the word was "Santa" I've seen people write, "Chris Kringle".  The words you get to pick from are pretty decent, though often the hard word isn't hard at all and the medium words are often laughably easy.  Sometimes the hard words are people's names and unless you are really up on current pop culture you may find you don't even know who some of them are.  But no worries you can just pick one of the other two words.  If you want to play for free you can download a version with ads in between turns.  The pay version is only a dollar and gives you 400 coins for free.  Which serves the purpose of making the collection of coins pointless that much quicker.  The pay version is also supposed to give you 1000+ more words than the free version, but either that's a lie or the game's algorithm for choosing words is very poor.  I've had the same word appear in multiple games and I've even had the same words appear in the same game. Finally the game also has issues with updating.  My phone will alert me that it's my turn in a game but then when you open the game or click on the notice to that it opens the game, nothing happens.  So, you know that it's your turn, but the game won't let you take it and there is no button you can push to force it to update.  If the game sounds like something you might like, I would suggest playing the free version for as long as it takes for you to get tired of it.  Also, I would suggest you avoid writing words and actually draw something.

Draw Something: C-

Addendum: Talking today with some friends I was reminded of a thought I'd had previously.  Draw Something is like hangman with pictures.  But instead of just six wrong guesses you get 26.

Second Addendum: In Draw Something's defense, there have been several updates and the game now seems to run and update smoothly.  The general problems with game play still exist.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Home Depot

Home Depot: Home Depot is pretty awesome.  It's chock full of stuff that you may or may not actually be able to do, but it's okay they're keen for you to give it a try.  Need an arc welder?  They've got that and they'll sell it to you too.  What's that you say?  You've never used an arc welder before and have no idea what your doing?  No problem.  They take cash or credit cards.  Actually I'm pretty handy myself.  Not in a Cliff Huxtable-think I'm handy but I'm actually not way, but actually handy.  I'm pretty sure it's genetic.  My dad is an honest-to-God handy-man.  If it's in Home Depot, he's either used it before or would have no problem using it now.  When something goes kaflooey in our house and I've no idea how to fix it, I just call dad and he tells me what to do.  There's something very empowering about fixing stuff yourself.  For example, today I installed a ceiling fan, a shelf in a closet and some curtains.  Most of it was bought at HD.  And here's the best part, doing it yourself is cheaper.  Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay cheaper.  We had a light installed a few months ago and I could have done it myself except for the fact that it was at the top of our foyer which is two stories tall.  I don't own a ladder that big, so we had to hire an electrician.  It took him 20 minutes tops to set up his ladder, take out the old light and put in the new.  It cost me around $300 (and that's not counting the cost of the light).  Today I installed the ceiling fan I mentioned earlier.  That cost me about an hour of time.  I don't know about you, but I don't get paid $300 an hour, so that's a pretty good deal in my book.  In the end, I should have installed that light myself.  The ladder would have cost less than $300 and I could have bought it at Home Depot.

Home Depot: A


Cereal: I love cereal.  I mean I really love cereal.  I love all kinds of cereal.  I like the sugary bad for you kind and I like the healthy good for you kind.  I like the kinds that turn your milk chocolaty and the kinds that turn to mush if you don't eat it fast enough.  It's a rare and despicable box of cereal that I don't like.  I'm sure I'll rate a lot of cereals individually later on, so right now Ill just talk about cereal in general.  And my love for it.  I would eat cereal every day of my life if I had the time.  Most days in the morning I am too nonfunctional and too rushed to sit down and eat cereal.  So instead I eat Pop-Tarts (I'll rate those later.  But as a preview, yum!).  Thus I usually get my cereal fix on the weekend or perhaps for dinner if I'm lazy (and lucky).  I can remember when I was growing up we would wake up at stupid-o'clock on Saturday morning.  My brother and I would grab bowls, spoons, milk and cereal and gorge ourselves while watching cartoons.  That was the high life.  If there is any downside to cereal, it's that no matter how much you eat, two hours later you use the bathroom and you're hungry again.  Of course, then you can just eat more cereal.  I tend to buy whatever cereal is on sale.  It's fine with me since I like it all.  Sometimes I buy too much.  When my wife and I first got married, we had an island in the center of our kitchen that we used for storage.  If something good was on sale, I would buy two boxes and put the extra one in the island.  When we moved into our house, there were over twenty boxes of cereal in there.  Some of them dating back for years.  Now I just stack it on the top self of the pantry.  It's the "tower of cereal power".  If the tower starts getting too short, times are sad.  Things are great when there is so much cereal the top box just barely slides in above the ceiling. That's living.

Cereal: A+

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mowing the Lawn

Mowing the Lawn: When I was a kid, I hated mowing the lawn.  Partly because I had bad allergies when I was younger and mowing the lawn meant spending several hours (if not a day) sneezing and wheezing.  But also because it was a big giant waste of time.  The grass was only going to grow back and you would be back there the next weekend mowing again.  Fortunately, my brothers and father picked up my slack (thanks for that).  When you are young, older folks tell you things like, "when you get your own place you'll like mowing and taking care of the yard."  When they say things like this, they are clearly deranged because this is clearly impossible.  I hate yard work.  Why should purchasing a house suddenly cause me to become stupid and like mowing?  When I first moved out on my own, I rented a house with two friends of mine.  And while renting a house had many perks, it had some negatives.  One of which was we had to mow.  I can't say that I really ever enjoyed it, but I tolerated it.  Then after I got engaged and then got married my wife and I started thinking about buying a house.  We talked about what we would want in a house and we talked about how we both hated yard work and because of this we both wanted a house with a tiny yard.  Well, time passed as it always does and we eventually got a house and somewhere in there my wife betrayed me and joined the other side.  We found the area we wanted to live in and there were lots of houses with tiny yards, but my wife picked out a house that has one of the largest yards in the subdivision.  Instead of a tiny yard, we got a medium large yard.  If that betrayal wasn't enough, then came the ultimate betrayal.  I betrayed myself!  Turns out I like mowing the yard.  It's time I get to spend by myself (with my iPod).  Sometimes I sing along to the tunes, other times I just contemplate whatever's on my mind.  But also it gives you a sense of satisfaction that just doesn't make sense.  I mean this is the same job I was doing before (at my parents house, at the two houses I rented with friends and the house we first rented after getting married), but for some reason it's significantly different.  Go figure.

Mowing the Yard (then): D+
Mowing the Yard (now): B+

Friday, March 16, 2012

John Carter

John Carter: Do you remember the first time you saw Flash Gordon?  If it was the 80's movie that you saw, do you remember how horrendously bad it was?  If it was the 30's serial that you saw, do you remember how incredibly campy it was?*  Either way, do you remember how when you saw them you thought to yourself that it was really a shame because the concept had such great potential?  I distinctly remember watching Flash Gordon the movie for the first time and how sad I was because this wonderful treasure chest full of ideas was being wasted on a really bad movie.  Well, John Carter is everything that you wanted Flash Gordon to be but wasn't. Yes, you have to suspend your disbelief enough to accept that there is stuff on Mars that we clearly know today isn't there, but then that's true of lots of sci-fi/fantasy movies (the suspension of disbelief, not necessarily about Mars).  Once you accept that, this movie is great.  It does get off to a rocky start.  The initial parts on Earth are fine (if a bit hurried (understandably hurried, but hurried)) and the initial parts on Mars are fine but then it gets a bit slow for a while.  Not movie ruining slow, but noticeably slow.  But then things start moving again.  Unfortunately, I also left this movie thinking it was a shame, but this time for opposite reasons.  Disney evidently sank a huge sum of money into the movie hoping to start a new franchise and it did not do that well at the box office.  So, in all likelihood that will be the first and last of the John Carter movies.  Which is a shame because I would gladly buy a ticket for more.  The Edgar Rice Burroughs books that this and future movies would be based are are a wonderful treasure chest full of ideas and we only got to explore the first couple layers.  So do me (and yourself) a favor and go see it in the theater.

John Carter: B+

* - Unless you were actually watching it in the 30's in which case I have no idea what you thought.  Also, congratulation on living so long.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

3 Year Check Ups

3 Year Check Ups: As I was not the actual person getting their 3 Year Check-up, I can only make my report via what I witnessed, assumptions and guesses.  I know that prior to going to the doctor, the participating toddler's initial responses seemed to indicate this wouldn't be a good time.  He made comments like, "But I don't wanna go to the doctor" and "Daddy, I'm not sick".  However, he was a brave little man when the time came.  And despite being forewarned by his previous visits and by his father's dark revelation that this would probably involve getting a shot, there were no tears.  More like a grim resolution to get it done.  He did not resist in any way as the nurse weighed and measured him (32lbs, 37.25").  He stoically underwent the new experience of having his blood pressure taken and while I didn't actually see or hear it, I have to assume there was a sigh of relief when the nurse told us that his shots were up to date and he wouldn't need one.  The doctor was all smiles and cheer and he actually had a little bit of a conversation with her on his own.  Once she left the room there was but two things left to be done.  First he needed to get his clothes back on.  Second, and more importantly, somebody needed to bring him a lollipop.

3 Year Check Ups: B+

Monday, March 12, 2012

Whistle Stop Cafe

Whistle Stop Cafe: (in Kennesaw, GA) A standard meat and two type of cafe, but the food is really great.  Their gimmick is that everything in the place is railroad themed.  They even have a large scale train that circles the restaurant on a track above the diners' heads.  (As far as I know they've never had any derailments that have landed in your food.)  The last two times I've been I've had the fried chicken and the fried clams.  Both were excellent.  Yeah, I know what you're thinking, perhaps I should lay off of the fried foods.  Well, just to calm your mind, both times I also had fried green tomatoes as a side dish.  They were excellent too.  Our service wasn't great the last time, but in the restaurant's defense, the place was packed and the waitresses were running around like maniacs trying to keep up.  (Okay, perhaps there's a bit of exaggeration there.  They actually weren't 'running' at all.  But then saying "they were walking quickly like maniacs" just doesn't carry the same weight.)  At any rate, this time (on a Monday) the place was nearly empty and the service was fantastic.  The prices are good too, so you really can't miss.  (Unless of course you don't like anything that they serve, in which case you are just a picky high maintenance dooberhead and you probably shouldn't be eating out anyway.)  As for me, I'll definitely be back and I'll probably eat something fried.

Whistle Stop Cafe: A

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pale Gray for Guilt

Pale Gray for Guilt: by John D. MacDonald.  One of the many Travis McGee novels by MacDonald.  I've been (slowly) working my way through them.  (Slowly not because of the quality of the book, but because I always seem to get sidetracked onto something else and then forget about them.)  I like these books a lot and not the least in part because they are a little dated in setting.  Again, don't think I'm talking poorly of them.  Even though they were originally written in the late 60's, they could just as easily have been written yesterday by somebody setting the story in the 60's.  (Only if somebody had written them yesterday, they wouldn't have gotten all of the tiny details exactly right.)  This entry into the series is typical of the tales.  McGee (a sort of societal drop out who drops back in again when he needs money) is helping out the widow of an old friend in a story that starts out slowly and like most of the books picks up steam slowly, but quick enough and well told so that you are hooked into the tale before you realize it.  There is the usual McGee/MacDonald bash on society and the modernization of the world, but I always take that as something that lets you understand McGee's philosophy of life more than a glimpse at MacDonald's.  The story gives a good lesson on the confidence scam called the 'pigeon drop' and perhaps there's a bit more stock market, money and business talk than the ordinary reader would want out of a suspense novel, but there's plenty of the usual McGee action as well (fists and girls).  Overall not the best in this series that I have read, but still a good book.

Pale Gray for Guilt: B+


Dick Francis's Gamble:  by Felix Francis and Dick Francis.  I believe this is the fifth book written by Felix Francis in the style created by his father.  (I think he wrote the first one or two when his father was alive, but now his father has passed.  (Yes, I know I have the Internet in front of me, but I'm too lazy to fact check). In the first of them (Dead Heat) it was obvious that while he may have had a pack of his father's notes, tons of help and loads of previous stories for guidance, he just wasn't the story teller that his father was.  But that has definitely changed.  Any lack in quality or tone is completely gone and this one fits nicely in with the dozens produced by his father.  Which isn't to say that you can't find differences.  For instance, there is definitely a more modern feel to Gamble than the older stories.  This is evidenced in small ways like the references and comparisons made by the main character.  But this doesn't harm the Francis feel, instead just bumps it up to the twenty-first century.  Also, if you haven't figured it out already, I guess I should state (relatively) up front, that I love Dick Francis books.  I've read them all multiple times and will (hopefully) read them all multiple times again.  The story, which (despite this being a review) I won't go into any specifics of now, twists and moves in the predictably unpredictable Francis style and ends as Francis stories often do, leaving you wanting to know more.  In fact, if I have any criticism about the book (and Francis books in general) it's that I do so often end the book wishing there was a more specific wrapping up of what happens to the characters.  But perhaps that is also why I like them so well.  Hard to say.

Gamble: A

Daylight Savings Time

Daylight Savings Time: I could probably have summed this up in one word, but that would have been a very short post.  So instead I'll ramble on a bit.  Daylight Savings Time [DST] did have a purpose at one point.  Partly it was about trying to save money by minimizing the time the lights are on.  (Sun up = less lights needed = less money spent.) It was also about maximizing daylight in the evening so that sports and other activities had the light they needed.  But at this point, I think society has pretty much moved past that.  Since, regardless of what time it is or how many people are actually up, our cities are now always lit up and are rarely (if ever) asleep.  So, instead now DST is more about totally messing up people's lives twice a year and making you feel crappy for a week after.  (Also providing people with an excuse to miss early Sunday activities. (You always hear about people missing church or whatever because they forgot to set their clocks, but you never hear about people showing up to church an hour early.  I'm just saying.)  Anyway, back to my first statement, DST = meh.

Daylight Savings Time: C

Oreo and Double Stuf

Oreo Chocolate Sandwich Cookie:
Oreo Double Stuff Chocolate Sandwich Cookie.

Oreos are awesome.  You'd be hard pressed to find another cookie that comes close to the goodness of an Oreo on a day-in day-out basis.  They are universally awesome and though I have no proof of it, are probably responsible for the end of the Cold War.  Reagan: Get rid of your nukes!  Gorbachev: NO! Reagan: We'll give you as many Oreos as you'd like.  Gorbachev: Hey, what do I care from nukes.  Send over the cookies and that chocolate making milk rabbit.  Having said that I do have one problem with them.  Why is it that Oreos that come in small packs (like out of a vending machine) taste different than those that come out of a large pack (like you get at the grocery store).  Whatever the reason, the difference is noticeable and not appreciated.  Given that Double Stuf cookies are the same thing as an Oreo, simply with more creamy goodness, you'd think that they would then rate equally well or even better.  You'd be wrong.  This is especially perplexing as the way I eat an Oreo every time (and I do mean EVERY time), is to twist one of the cookie sides off of two Oreos and then put the two halves together.  Which effectively makes a Double Stuf.  Only it doesn't.  Don't ask me why, but I suspect they have a team of scientists trying to figure this out even as we speak.  But the fact remains two Oreos smooshed together = awesome.  One Double Stuf = lacking.  Further making me like the Double Stuf less is how they are stealth packaged to look exactly like regular Oreos.  It's like the people at Nabisco know the Double Stufs don't sell as well, so they hope you'll accidentally pick up a pack thinking it's regular Oreos and then once you get home are slightly saddened as the truth is revealed.  This has happened to me on two separate occasions.  (Not cool Nabisco.)

Oreo: A
Double Stuf: B