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If “all men are pigs,” why is a pig’s life worth more than a man’s?

Monday, November 21st, 2011 - by Helen Smith

It’s interesting that a woman is facing 50 years in prison for decapitating her boyfriend’s piglet but if she killed him, she would probably face a lot less, with an average prison sentence of about six years. When a man’s life is worth less than a pig’s, it tells you something pretty sinister about our society.

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Review: 2012 Jaguar XJ Portfolio

Sunday, November 20th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Photo location: John Dodge mansion, Detroit

When Jaguar of North America informed me that I’d be getting a 2012 XJ Portfolio for review, my first reaction was to engage in some mental bench racing. How would the new XJ compare to the smaller but more powerful XF Supercharged that I tested just about a year ago, and how would it compare to my dearly departed Series III XJ, considered by many Jaguar enthusiasts to be the finest of the traditional XJs. On both counts the 2012 XJ comes out favorably in the comparison.

The XJ Portfolio is the fully equipped normally aspirated version of the XJ. Other than a small handful of options like back seat entertainment and the two available supercharged engines, the test model had just about every luxury, convenience and safety feature that Jaguar offers. With transportation charges, as tested it comes in at just a tick over $82K.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

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So You Think You Hate Punk Rock: The Five Bands That Will Change Your Mind

Sunday, November 20th, 2011 - by Jonathan Sanders
Punk Rock

There's a lot more to Punk Rock than what meets the eye

Punk Rock in its truest form developed in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, each region independent of knowledge of the other due to the difficulty at the time of following distant scenes in the era prior to global radio and the Internet. Each Punk scene at the time developed its own take on the concept, though for the most part there was a shared distaste for the “excesses” of ’70s mainstream rock.

For that reason, bands began speeding up their music, cutting down songs to their barest essence. Short songs, stripped-down arrangements, and often political lyrics gave Punk Rock its traditional sound. But it was a short-lived development, as Punk Rock gave way to harder-edged music in the ’80s including hardcore, while diverging to provide room for post-Punk, alternative rock, and eventually the grunge movement of the ’90s.

If you’re looking for an entry-point as a listener to discover what set Punk Rock apart from the rest, and why the music of a four-year period has managed to remain distinctive in itself while managing to influence artists as disparate as Nirvana, the Pixies, and Green Day, this is the article for you. This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, and I’m not looking to focus on the most obscure bands. This is for those of you who think you hate Punk Rock without ever having actually had a chance to dig into it. These five bands made their impact on the Punk scene during its most active period, paving the way for countless others even as the scene eventually self-destructed.

#5 — RADIO BIRDMAN

Radio Birdman

Radio Birdman formed in Sydney, Australia, in 1974, and influenced the work of many of Australia’s best-known bands of the ’80s and beyond, making them one of the more critical bands leading to the eventual development of a rock scene in Australia. Their early music didn’t fit at all with what was being played in the pub scene at the time, so the band found a pub in Taylor Square, Sydney, took over its management, and renamed it the Oxford Fun House. Opening the club up to bands of similar ilk to themselves, Radio Birdman singlehandedly built up a Punk Rock scene with a unique aesthetic. The band’s debut EP Burn My Eye got to the attention of music critics well outside the Australian purview, twisting the sounds of Detroit bands like MC5 and The Stooges into what would eventually be described as Punk Rock. Though they’re not particularly well-known outside Australia, their early work features numerous examples of what made ’70s era Punk Rock great.

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Next: How punk reinvented “Leader of the Pack”…

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Hands on Fire…Kindle Fire

Saturday, November 19th, 2011 - by Tania Gail

Hands on Fire

After weeks of waiting, I finally got my hands on Fire…Kindle Fire.

Kindle Fire represents Amazon’s initial foray into the Tablet market. Retailing at US$199.00 the Kindle Fire is a 7 inch tablet that seamlessly integrates Amazon’s ecosystem of books, music, video and magazine services. Included in the cost of the tablet is a free month of Amazon Prime.  Prime allows the Kindle Fire user to access movies, read bestselling books and it includes free two day shipping directly from the Kindle Fire.

Kindle Fire has Arrived

What  comes in the box? One Kindle Fire, one U.S. power adapter, and a quick start guide – a very brief quick start guide. I’d like to start this review with a look at the design and features of this tablet. The quick start guide leads you to the Kindle Fire home screen where you can access a user guide with more detailed information on the device. 

Getting to Know your Kindle Fire

Handling the device, I found it to be solidly constructed with a soft rubberized backing that allows for a good grip on the device.  Thin and sleek, the design is interrupted by a power button, USB 2.0 (micro-b) and stereo audio jack (pictured below).

Sleek Design

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John Nampion Vs. Begunga Mike’s Dating Guide for Neanderthals

Saturday, November 19th, 2011 - by John Nampion

 

Most women aren’t very smart. In fact many of them aren’t fully formed human beings. They delude themselves into believing that they want this or that in a relationship, when in reality what they want — and need — is exactly the opposite. If I were you I would ignore their words and just lead them to whatever destination you have in mind. They will be grateful for the help — and will thank you every time.

- Begunga Mike.

***

Begunga Mike had been a little upset with me of late. He was almost becoming an ass about it. He didn’t like that I hadn’t stuck with his yoga directive, and he just couldn’t understand my illogical and piecemeal approach to dating. He had this plan for me, you see, and I wasn’t being cooperative.

He planted his sandaled feet on the edge of my desk. He had been growing his hair out a bit, and the newly developed, light-brown patch added to his slightly demented air — he looked like an Eastern bloc parachutist dropped into an enemy forest, or an escapee from one of Marshal Tito’s prisons.

Sometimes I wonder how you’ve made it so far, John. Like how did you even get this old without totally self-destructing? You remind me of a bowling ball shaped like an egg — somehow you make it down the alley, but it’s sheer torture watching you get there!

He shrieked with delight at his mighty wit and clapped his large hands together.

And the problem is, because you’re so wobbly, you can’t duplicate your results! You might get a strike every ten frames or so, but it’s nothing but pure luck! So you get the two- and three-pin knockdowns — and you tell yourself you’re happy with that — but we know that’s simply not the truth.

“I’m going to give you one last chance to be successful, John,” he told me, forming a steeple with his index fingers under his chin. “If you follow my instructions, and don’t question them, I will have you dating the right women in no time. And you will wonder why you ever settled for so many open frames.”

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New Porsche Design Highrise Condo Lets You Park At Your Front Door

Friday, November 18th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

For those who like to be able to admire their automotive possessions even when they aren’t driving, the Porsche Design Group is working with a Miami developer on a high rise condominium development where you will park your car right at your front door. You’ll pull in at the ground floor and an automated system will place your car in a glass elevator. As you ride up the 57 story tower, you’ll have a spectacular view of the Miami skyline and oceanfront. Once you reach your floor, still behind the wheel, another automated system removes your car and places it at your front door. Developer Gil Dezer is himself a big Porsche fan and he’s not unfamiliar with storing his car in his apartment. His 1950s vintage 550 Spyder is mounted on the wall of his current 8,000 sq ft condo.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

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Occupy the Eurodam, Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

There reaches a point in a cruise when you enter… the Cruise Zone.  This is a stage where you remember you used to be quite intelligent and active, and you’d wonder about where that person went, but you just don’t care enough.  But if you’re not sure whether you’ve reached the Cruise Zone, here are the Ten Top Signs you’re getting into the cruise state of mind.

10. You  think that cruise and mind shouldn’t be used in the same sentence

9. You think your dog has a really tough life

8. You were never good at doing nothing but you’re now an expert

7. You can’t figure out what day it is until you get in the elevator and look at the handy “day carpet”

6. You think that “pool or hot tub” is a complicated decision

5. You haven’t seen a watch or clock and yet you somehow find yourself at the ice cream counter at 2pm every afternoon.

4. You take a nap during the afternoon for the first time since either your last cruise or kindergarten

3. ” You hear “don’t worry, be happy” on this Lido deck’s speakers and think “what a nice song, and such brilliant lyrics”

2. You don’t care if your Top Ten list only has 9 items on it- don’t worry, be happy.

 

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Hands-On With The Kindle Fire

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 - by Glenn Reynolds

So I’ve now spent over an hour playing with the new Kindle Fire, and here are some preliminary thoughts.

First, the look-and-feel is better than I expected. It’s plastic, not metal like the iPad, but it’s surprisingly solid-feeling and the screen is super-glossy. At considerably less than half the price of an iPad, it doesn’t come across as cheap.

As soon as I turned it on and hooked it up to wifi, it knew it was mine and downloaded my Kindle library. I didn’t have to enter my account or password at all; Amazon obviously took care of that before shipping. A nice touch.

I can’t explain why, but I don’t like the Android operating system quite as much as the iPad’s. It’s not really that different, and it’s reasonably intuitive, but it just doesn’t feel as slick somehow.

Kindle books popped up and were easy to read. Display is nice and clear. I prefer the double-page display on the iPad, I think, but that only works because the iPad screen is twice as big.

Video played fine. As an Amazon Prime member (and everyone who buys a Fire gets 30 days of Prime free, if you’re not already a member) you get a lot of free streaming video. I watched part of a Firefly episode — The Train Job — and it played flawlessly; no pausing to rebuffer, no stuttering or freezing. Sound was good through the little speakers, though not terribly loud. But loud enough in my not-very-noisy environment. Otherwise you’d want earphones, which aren’t included.

There’s no camera. On the other hand, I hardly ever use the one in the iPad. After a bit over 60 minutes of run time, it shows 81% of battery left, suggesting that it should be good for around 5 hours of use. That would probably be longer if you weren’t streaming video, switching applications, etc., or if you dimmed the screen a bit. It shows 6.15 GB available out of the nominal 8 GB of memory.

The web browser is OK. Amazon claims it’s cloud-accelerated, but if it’s any faster than the browser on the iPad it’s not enough to tell. It crashed on me twice while loading pages; both times it recovered fine, but that’s a bit troubling. You can blog from it (see below) but — as with a keyboard Kindle, or an iPad for that matter — it’s not much of a blogging tool, except in extremis.

The Facebook App is okay; about like the iPhone app. Overall, natch, the supply of apps is a lot smaller than the iPads. It’ll go up, but I doubt the Kindle Fire will ever catch up in the Apps department. There’s no GPS.

The size factor is about what I expected. I miss the bigger iPad screen, but this will fit in a jacket pocket, even in its Marware case. The iPad is too big for pretty much any kind of pocket.

Best thing about the Kindle Fire — did I mention it’s less than half the price of an iPad? Like the iPad, it’s primarily a media-consumption device; you can do other things on it, but it’s not as well-suited for that. As with cheap digital cameras, the low price is an added feature in a way, as it means you’d be willing to take the Kindle Fire on places or trips where you might be loath to risk a more-expensive iPad. Like the iPad, of course, but unlike the regular Kindles, it’s probably not great for reading in the sun. (I didn’t actually test that, since there wasn’t any sun here today. . . .) Overall, it’s not as good as the iPad, but it’s probably nearly as good for all the things I actually use the iPad for. And it’s a lot cheaper. Not bad.

Meanwhile, InstaPundit readers have been reporting their own experiences. Reader Jerry Hogan writes: “Got mine this afternoon..it’s everything I expected. No manual or instructions in the box. Plugged in the AC adapter and turned it on and voila, everything was there. Accessing the web via my house wifi was quick, downloaded a free ebook, surfed the web, even the non-geek wife was impressed.”

Another reader, who asks that I not use his name, is less impressed:

The device looks good but I don’t like the inability to get to Google’s Market since I have a lot of apps from that app store that aren’t offered by Amazon. I can’t even get the Gmail app.

Even stranger was that I couldn’t find Netflix by searching in the Amazon App Store. However, when I went to Netflix’s website, I was able to find a link to an Android app that took me back to Amazon’s App Store where I was able to download it. I’m sure Netflix will calling them to find out why their app is “hidden” in the app store. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to do the same for the Google apps and other apps that I want.

And I will miss the side page buttons if I use the Kindle Fire to read books while standing in a subway car. Not an issue for most people but I see a lot of Kindle’s on the New York subway. I’ll be curious to see how many Kindle Fires I’ll see.

I assume the app stuff will catch up, but yeah. I’m not much for watching movies on portable devices, but the Netflix App is important. As for gmail, I just accessed mine via the browser and that was fine, though it took me a minute to find the “sign out” button when I was done. (It’s down in the bottom left corner). Anyway, there you go — my first impressions. For the price, I’d say it’s a good deal.

UPDATE: How to get the Nook App on the Kindle Fire.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Louis Abbott writes:

I have several Kindle Fires on the way for my family as Christmas gifts and am glad to see reviews on your blog. The lack of a GMail app is a bit disconcerting, but the email I received today from amazon has a link directly to the Netflix app.

I look forward to seeing how well Evernote works on the Kindle Fire as well.

The Netflix link is there with a lot of other icons. Or just go directly here.

(Crossposted from Instapundit).

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Who Killed The Hybrid Electric Car?

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Note: A previous version of this post was published here on PJMedia.

Victor Wouk with his hybrid car, EPA lab, Ann Arbor, Michigan circa 1973

It’s the kind of story Hollywood normally loves: An independent genius’ invention ends up being suppressed by powerful interests. In Tucker: A Man and His Dream, political agents of the Big 3 automakers maneuver to put Preston Tucker out of business; intermittent windshield wiper inventor Robert Kearns is ripped off by the Ford Motor Company in Flash of Genius; The documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car? accused General Motors of suppressing the development of electric vehicles by crushing them.

The truth is that GM and other Detroit automakers have been doing research on EVs for decades and that perhaps a better question would be “Who Killed (or at least delayed) The Hybrid Electric Car?” In the early 1970s, 25 years before Toyota started selling the Prius hybrid car in Japan, Dr. Victor Wouk, an independent American inventor, with encouragement from GM, developed a practical hybrid car that cut down on pollution and saved gasoline, but a conspiracy killed it.

Today’s Hollywood would never make that movie. Too many elements of Wouk’s story run counter to the preferred Hollywood narrative of evil businessmen or faceless corporations despoiling the environment. In this case, car companies aren’t the villains. To the contrary, corporations encouraged and helped Wouk in his research. The villain in this story was a government bureaucrat, working, ironically, at the Environmental Protection Agency, as part of a program designed to improve air quality.
Continue reading the complete post here.

 

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

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Volt Battery Fire Has NHTSA Mulling New Rules

Monday, November 14th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

After a crash tested Chevy Volt burned in a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration storage facility three weeks following the crash test, that agency is now working with automakers to possibly come up with rules to protect people that handle electric vehicles after a wreck.

The Detroit Free Press has reported that NHTSA is looking into issuing new safety rules for handling EVs with lithium-ion batteries after collisions. The electrolyte used in today’s Li-Ion batteries are is flammable. During the test, crashing the Volt sideways into a telephone pole at 20 mph, a piece of metal perforated the battery pack possibly causing a leak of those flammable materials. Then the car sat on the storage lot for three weeks without the battery being discharged and it’s possible that a spark ignited the electrolyte. Internally, GM protocols call for discharging the battery in the event of a serious collision. Every Volt has GM’s On-Star service and in the event of a collision serious enough to activate the airbags, Chevy is notified and dispatches a team to investigate the wrecked Volt and discharge the battery.

The Volt response team is one reason why information about discharging was not shared with NHTSA. GM’s procedures were in place for real world cars, not cars at testing facilities. Apparently, nobody at GM thought to tell NHTSA and nobody at NHTSA thought to ask GM about special procedures for their extended range EV.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery at Autothreads Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

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Some More Thoughts on Boxing and Smokin’ Joe

Monday, November 14th, 2011 - by Robert Wargas

To the uninitiated, boxing looks easy—just a couple of palookas hitting each other for a paycheck. Hey, most of them can barely speak English, right? Check out the diction and syntax on Larry Holmes or James Toney. It is easy to dismiss what is traditionally known as “the sweet science” as, at best, a barbaric experiment.

That’s what I thought until 2004, when I started taking boxing lessons from a 60-year-old man at a local gym. A couple months in, he suggested that we spar for the first time. Why not? This is the first test of a young fighter’s prowess and, by extension, a young man’s pride. During practice, my combinations were sharp; my defense was quick (“impregnable,” as Mike Tyson would say). More important, I was 19; he was 60 and had an artificial hip. I didn’t think it would be easy, but I thought I could at least walk away with some sense of masculinity left intact.

I barely lasted two rounds. I’ll resort to cliche and say it was like fighting a ghost. My punches missed by a foot. I had no timing. I got hit with even the slowest jab. Before I knew it was a jab, I was hit with another one. I moved my head too late. My feet and legs felt heavy, as if wrapped in wet towels. I was out of breath after one minute. I couldn’t land anything. The old man was too quick for a teenager. Eventually, after another year of training, I was able to go eight or nine rounds with a younger sparring partner, but those first few experiences were like nothing I had ever felt before. No workout can compare to boxing—real boxing, not that aerobic postiche that middle-aged women do. You can’t breathe; you can’t see; your shoulders hurt so much you can barely hold your arms up; you’re getting popped in the nose, the solar plexus, the liver; and, worst of all, you have to fight back.

Try doing that for fifteen rounds, which was how long championship bouts used to be (it was changed to twelve during the 1980s). There’s a certain nostalgia among boxing historians for the fifteen-rounder. It is supposed to represent a titanic age, when no fighter lifted weights and when the rings were free of advertisements. Smokin’ Joe Frazier was a member of that generation, and part of the sadness over his death is not only that we lost one of America’s best gentlemen, but that we lost one of the last living symbols of boxing’s glorious past.

I once fought a grandfather and lost. I can only dream, or have nightmares, about what it felt like to fight Joe Frazier in his prime. He could, with his left hook, put most men in either the hospital or the morgue. Again, to the uninitiated, Frazier’s style looks sloppy and reckless: he seems to charge into his opponents with no concern for strategy. When he bobs and weaves, he leans forward a bit too much and looks down at the canvas. That’s what most people see. What they miss are the subtle shifts in weight and the slick and relentless head movements that prevented his opponents from hitting him as he moved inside. Every good infighter, from Tyson to Toney, has learned from watching Joe Frazier close the gap on an opponent.

Unfortunately, there’s a substantial but often overlooked political angle to the whole story. Regarding Frazier’s feud with Muhammad Ali, Daniel Foster of National Review Online has aptly observed:

The Frazier–Ali split is supposed to be a conservative–liberal thing, and according to some, preferring the former to the latter is supposed to be vaguely racist, to boot.

This is because Frazier was calm, modest, respectful, and disdainful of empty rhetoric. Ali, to the guardians of respectable opinion, was the “real” black man, the radical who ditched his “slave name” Cassius Clay and who refused to fight in Vietnam. But with time, it became clear that Ali’s persona was designed to evade as well as to provoke. Though a brilliant fighter, he always relied more on speed than on perfect boxing technique. As he got older and slower, his showmanship became more crass, as if he was desperate to cover up his eroding skill with profanity. Ali’s lowest point was when he, borrowing racialist tactics from the Nation of Islam, referred to Frazier as a “gorilla.” The subtext to Ali’s taunting was that Frazier was nothing more than an Uncle Tom, the white man’s black hope.

As usual, the subject of race keeps us from seeing what is most salient. Smokin’ Joe was never anybody’s tool. He devoted the rest of his life to teaching kids his own version of the sweet science in order to keep them off the streets. Most older boxing fans lament the degeneration of the sport into the Don King world of glitzy corruption, with loud-mouthed punks in shiny trunks. They are Ali’s legacy, to be sure. And though Frazier was forever haunted by Ali’s larger shadow, its Frazier’s persona—that of the quiet warrior, a la Joe Louis—that true fans are nostalgic for. His legacy is therefore much greater.

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Frank Miller is Will Kane

Monday, November 14th, 2011 - by Bosch Fawstin

In the film, High Noon, the bad guy was named Frank Miller and the good guy was named Will Kane. In real life, Frank Miller’s the good guy taking on real life bad guys through his work as a cartoonist. He’s taken on Jihad with HOLY TERROR and he just wrote a piece against the “occupiers” called ANARCHY that has made leftists crazier than usual. To Americans who are sick and tired of the enemy and his leftist enablers, show some support for a man who’s essentially standing alone as Will Kane did in High Noon.

To see my own cartooning work against Jihad and the Occupiers, please visit my blog.

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Occupy the Good Ship Eurodam

Sunday, November 13th, 2011 - by Nina Yablok

Greetings from occupy the Eurodam.  No not Europe, damn.  I’m here with over 500 conservatives on the National Review cruise on Holland America’s Eurodam.  So far the natives (the other 1500 or so passengers) seem mostly oblivious to our cause.  Of course our cause is pretty similar to theirs – have a great time and relax while cruising the Eastern Caribbean.

Well maybe the Nation Review group does have a  political cause too, but I’ll leave that to others to discuss. I’m reporting on the cruise part.

Non-cruisers know they won’t like a cruise because:

  • There’s not  a lot to do, I’ll get bored
  • There’s too much to do, I won’t be able to relax.
  • I’ll be claustrophobic.
  • Those ships are so large I’ll feel  lost.
  • If the weather’s bad, well I don’t know what will happen but it wont be good.

Bah, I say! Balderdash!  This morning my husband Ed (you know him, he’s the editor of Lifestyle Blog) slept in because he stayed up till 1am solving the world’s problems with James Lileks, Johan Goldberg, Michael Walsh, and Kathryn-Jean Lopez, while I went to meet some folks from a cruising website.

Today is a sea day – no port stops.  So there were probably 50 things going on, NOT including the National Review sessions.  You could learn Tai Chi, attend an art lecture, take a tour of the ship’s kitchen, play games, work out at the gym. O you could sit around in any of hundreds of nooks and crannies and read a book, or do what we’re doing now, hang out on the Lido Deck around the pool.

Did I mention it’s cloudy and might rain.  No problem. This pool deck has a retractable roof like the new Cowboys stadium.

Ed and I rented a “Lido Deck Cabana” this trip, as we did on the last one.  It gives us a little bit more privacy and luxury. In addition to our own table and chairs, and lounge island thing, we have Renan and Ian to cater to our needs, so unlike the 99% on the cruise, we don’t have to walk 50 steps to the Lido Deck Grill, we have our burgers delivered.

Yesterday we asked for a power cord so could plug in our laptops, kindles, tablet – and this morning, there it was.  We have a never ending basket of fruit, water bottles in ice, iced tea delivered in a pitcher not by the glass, and chocolate dipped strawberries and champagne delivered in the afternoon.

But just sitting by the pool without the cabana isn’t too shabby either. Instead of Renen and Ian they have 20 or so other pool servers, happy to bring them drinks; and of courses they have the entire Lido Buffet to choose from a mere 50 or so steps away.

The point is not merely that there’s luxury to be had, but that cruising is about choices.  Some people pay the base price and not a drop more, and have a terrific vacation with what’s included at a cheap price.  Some people are here for the shore excursions, and wake up each morning (except on sea days) with a new port delivered to them.  They spend their money on zip line adventures through the rain forest, snorkeling, ATV rides, sightseeing tours and the like.

And Ed and I choose to indulge in the Cabana .

Last night was the “Welcome Reception” where the whole NR crowd could meet & greet, mix and mingle. Dinner is always with the NR gang, and each speaker has a table over which they preside each night. Us peasants are assigned tables, and 2,3 or 4 nights we sit at a speaker table.  Our dinner companions last night were intelligent and interesting and we sat and talked until the waiters taking away the flowers and peppermill lead us to the conclusion they were trying to close down. But it was 10:15 so I guess that’s fair.

And then Ed went up to the bar to schmooze and I want to the cabin, finished some work and watched the original Producers, laughing myself to sleep.

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How to Sell Your Novel, Part 1: Finding an Agent

Sunday, November 13th, 2011 - by Hannah Sternberg

Since my first novel was released last month, a lot of friends have asked me how it’s done. When you see a book in the bookstore and then think about the manuscript sitting on your hard drive, the road between the two can seem rather vague.

So how does a book go from sock drawer to bookstore? Here’s the Cliffnotes version:

  • Author queries agents.
  • Author signs contract with agent whose job is to market and sell manuscripts to publishers, and agent submits manuscript to editors at publishing houses.
  • Publisher purchases rights to manuscript, and agent negotiates the contract.
  • Publisher then edits, prints and distributes book.

I’ll write periodically in this column with more “From Sock Drawer to Bookstores” writing advice. This week, I’ll focus on getting an agent. Getting an agent is the first step toward publication. Publishers really don’t accept “unsolicited manuscripts,” which simply means those submitted directly by authors. (Full disclosure: my journey from sock drawer to bookshelf actually breaks many of these rules, but we’ll get to that at the end.) Agents work for authors, who are their clients, to sell their work to publishers. But before you can send your cover letter to agents to entice them with your story (a process called “querying”), you have to find out which agents would be best for you.

I owe pretty much everything I know about writing and publishing to my mom, author Libby Malin Sternberg, who in addition to being the writer of many highly entertaining novels also keeps a blog about her observations on writing, publishing, and life in general here.

First: Finding your agent…

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Some Perspective on Burning Chevy Volts

Sunday, November 13th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Obviously, a very high profile vehicle like the Chevy Volt is going to be under the microscope. So it’s understandable that people would be interested in the recent fires that involve the new extended range electric vehicle. A handful of fires in early production Tata Nanos in India were publicized around the world, because of interest in the cheapest car in the world. However, that attention doesn’t mean that the Nano or Volt are necessarily fire hazards. A number of people have reacted to the news of the Volt related fires by saying that the Volt is dangerous or that EVs in general are not safe. Some sites that have linked to Cars In Depth posts about those fires have grossly misrepresented the situation, blaming the Volt when investigations have barely been started. Before you say that the Chevy Volt is a fire hazard, let’s look at how hazardous conventional internal combustion powered automobiles actually are.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery, Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

 

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Is “Forever Lazy” the Future of Adult Americans?

Sunday, November 13th, 2011 - by Helen Smith

Has anyone out there seen this ridiculous commercial for “Forever Lazy” that advertises adult fleece pajamas made to keep you warm while you loaf in the house or even outside? I saw it this afternoon and really wondered about the future of Americans. Yeah, I know we already have the Snuggie but this just goes one step further and it is the ad and the way that people are portrayed that brings home the message that resting on your laurels and living the “lazy” way is the best method to dealing with the economy as it is today: by just throwing on your fleece PJs and tuning out the world.

The ad says that you can wear these pajamas rather than turn up the heat to save money. There are also clips of dad “doing what he does best,” sleeping on the couch. The fleece “one piece” looks like something a baby would wear, complete with a flap to go to the bathroom. Is this the future of adults in this country? A future where the populace spends their time sleeping and loafing at home rather than working, being infantalized by a nanny state government and wearing this contraption because they are too broke to afford heat and too lazy to fight back? That’s a depressing thought. Or maybe it is an ingenious way of “going John Galt?” Or maybe people are just cold. What do you think?

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I Saved $230 A Month at the Grocery Store with Extreme Cooking

Sunday, November 13th, 2011 - by Megan Fox

In case you haven’t noticed, grocery prices are climbing fast. Two weeks ago, I could buy a gallon of milk for under $3. Today it’s $3.48 at the cheapest store in town. Extreme times call for extreme measures and so, a few months ago when prices started to rise I tried my hand at couponing. Not the kind where crazy people buy 80 bottles of mustard for a dollar, but using coupons to purchase things I would normally buy and use. And while there were some good deals to be had (I once got 6 bottles of Spray’n Wash for $4), if you happen to live in a state without double-coupon deals, it’s a lot of work for a few dollars off. However, those dollars add up and there were times I saved close to 30% off my grocery bill. But I knew I could do better. I was still spending $400 or more a month to feed my family.

When I heard about Once-A-Month Cooking, I was attracted to the idea to save my time. I had no idea that it would cut my grocery bill in half. The book itself merely sparked an idea. I’m sure it has wonderful recipes but I didn’t try any of them (except a fall pork roast that was very good). My kids are picky so I knew if I tried this I would have to use tried recipes they’ll eat. Once-A-Month Cooking suggests you shop on one day and then rest. Then the next day cook for 8 hours and fill your freezer with food for the whole month. I’m a homeschooling mom of two very needy little girls. The idea of trying to cook for 8 hours gave me an instant migraine. To spare me a possible nervous breakdown, I decided to try cooking for just two weeks first.

My Autumn Pork Roast in the crockpot with dried cranberries, fresh apple preserves and apple juice

I shopped for 10 days’ worth of dinners and spent $170. I went home, put the baby to bed and set the older one up with a craft and poured myself a big glass of red wine. The iPod was set on shuffle and I started cooking. I chopped up chicken into bite sized pieces and put them in freezer bags, I started spaghetti sauce, browned 6 pork chops, sauteed vegetables for lasagna and chopped up 6 sets of veggies to make stir-fries. Three hours went by and I was done! There was a lot of clean-up to do, but the food was all prepared or semi-prepared and ready for freezing for later use. I had two lasagnas, six stir-fries, a pork roast, six pork chops, three bags of spaghetti, two chicken potpies, and more. What I thought would last 10 days lasted 22. I got through almost an entire month on $170. The only trips to the grocery store I made over the next few weeks were for butter, milk and eggs.

Next: The other benefits of cooking ahead…

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Love Me Some Auto Correct

Saturday, November 12th, 2011 - by Patrick Richardson

Some of these are far from safe for work, but Damn You Auto Correct has to be one of the funniest websites out there.

For example:

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Seven Reasons Life Is Hard For Everyone

Saturday, November 12th, 2011 - by John Hawkins

Is life hard for you? Do you struggle all the time? Do you wish things were easier? If so, that puts you in exactly the same boat as EVERYONE ELSE on the entire planet.

Many people don’t realize this because we trick ourselves. We think, “If I had ‘X,’ everything would be fantastic! If I could just achieve ‘Y,’ then everything would be wonderful!”

Thing is, this isn’t true. Do you know what happens when you get your heart’s desire? You walk on air for a few weeks and then, you adjust. You think, “Gosh, if I were rich, life would be easy! If I were famous, life would be grand! Wow, if I could just be that good looking, I’d never have anything to complain about.”

Except the thing is, I’ve met rich people, famous people, successful people, extraordinarily beautiful people — and guess what? They have just as many problems as everyone else. It’s just a different set of problems.

******

1) Don’t we love to talk about love? Love is simultaneously the most wonderful and horrible thing in the world. It’s wonderful in that it can bond you to a soulmate with whom you will spend a significant chunk of the rest of your life, if all goes well. But under the best of circumstances, love is a LOT of work that will last, ideally, from the time it begins UNTIL YOU DIE.

Love is also horrible in that it can blind you to a partner’s faults, make you irrational almost beyond belief, or get you to commit to a soul-crushing bad marriage. Have you ever seen one of those movies where aliens are about to destroy the human race, then they finally realize what love is and change their minds? Truthfully, if the aliens understood how completely nuts love makes us, they’d probably be more likely to exterminate our species.

…… And all of that describes people who are still in love. When love ends badly, it ends in decimation.

Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life….You give them a piece of you. They didn’t ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like “maybe we should be just friends” turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It’s a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love. — Neil Gaiman

Then there’s the worst option of all: sitting around wondering what’s wrong with you because you haven’t been in love in a long time and there’s no love on the horizon. That’s enough to make even a Kim Kardashian-style wedding look good in comparison.

C'mon, love wouldn't lie to you 6 times in a row, would it?

Next: Are friends overrated?

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Two Great POW Movies You Might Have Missed

Friday, November 11th, 2011 - by Jehuda

I have a very nasty head cold.  My laptop refuses to work (it’s time to dump it); and I’m blogging on an Android tablet with considerable difficulty.  But it’s Veterans Day (duly noted at my own blog, with deepest respect); and I wanted to comment for PJ Lifestyle on some favorite movies of mine that focus on servicemen.

For the life of me, only two POW movies come to mind.  I know the breadth of the veteran experience cannot possibly be reflected through POW stories alone, but such stories are rife with emotions in conflict; and that can make for some very good movies.  And assuming that you’ve already seen The Great Escape and The Bridge on the River Kwai, I thought I’d suggest a couple of titles with which you may not be as familiar – including a 1953 classic.  Strangely enough, neither movie was directed by an American, but the lead characters in both movies are American.  Both directors are legends in their own right, too.

The older movie is – well – a dramedy of sorts set in a WWII POW camp: Stalag 17, starring the inimitable William Holden with a very young Peter Graves (the original Jim Phelps from Mission: Impossible) - and even a young Donald Pleasance, (better known as Dr. Loomis on the original Halloween) William Holden went on to win an Oscar for his work on Stalag 17.  And it was well-deserved.

Stalag’s plot is very much about an escape plan and keeping that plan secret; but it does have several light moments and silly characters, plus incidental comedy resulting from the Allied prisoners plotting to fool their German captors (you’ll find more than one parallel with the 60′s TV series Hogan’s Heroes).  Director Billy Wilder, who was behind some of the most iconic American movies to come out of Hollywood despite hailing from an Austro-Hungarian town that now lies within Polish borders, co-wrote and produced.  You might have already seen several titles by Wilder.  Some Like It Hot, Sabrina, and even darker fare like Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard (also starring Holden) were all directed and written by Wilder.  The film is in black and white, but don’t let that deter you.  There’s not a thing about the movie that feels old.  And you’ll love the dialogue.  They don’t write them like they used to – and few people had an ear for American dialect like the immigrant Mr. Wilder.

The other POW movie I’d like to recommend is a more recent title by a director with a long career: Rescue Dawn, directed by German filmmaker Werner Herzog.  I must confess this is the only movie by Herzog I’ve ever seen, even though I’ve been reading about his production exploits for years.  But with films such as Fitzcarraldo (a true story about perhaps the most determined Irish entrepreneur in history) and the documentary Grizzly Man under his belt, I can only conclude that Herzog likes to make movies about people of great passion and commitment who are not easily deterred.  Rescue Dawn is precisely that kind of movie.  And it’s also based on a true story: the true adventures of German-American Vietnam vet and POW Dieter Dengler, who was shot down over Vietnam while flying a mission for the U.S. Navy in 1966.

Dengler is portrayed by Christian Bale with a humanity that blends the character’s vulnerability and love of freedom in a brilliant fashion.  You know that Dengler refuses to be a mere captive from the moment he gets shot down.  And you know he will do something about his capitivity, even if everyone around him dismisses his plans as impossible.  Will he succeed?  Even if he escapes, can he survive the jungle and be located by his U.S. Navy buddies?  Steve Zahn co-stars.  No Chuck Norris-led team of commandos shows up to help on this one.  These guys are on their own.

You might be wondering if you can trust a German director to tell an American POW tale, but Herzog knows the material.  He directed a documentary about Dieter Dengler about a decade before this movie was finally released in the states.

UPDATE: A couple of corrections: Donald Pleasance did not co-star in Stalag 17.  He was – however – part of the ensemble cast of The Great Escape.  Also, in my prior post on Blade Runner, I stated that the movie was based on the short story Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick.  The source material is actually a novel.  Thanks to the commenters who brought these inaccuracies to my attention.

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The Week in Blogs

Friday, November 11th, 2011 - by PJ Lifestyle

You give Stephen Green, your friendly neighborhood Vodkapundit five minutes, and he’ll give you the entire Blogosphere — every Website boiled down, the boring bits chopped out, and then reconstituted…in video form. And now with a zesty twist of lemon!

YouTube Preview Image

Here are the links to the items that Steve mentioned:
http://www.mediaite.com/tv/awesome-jeopardy-contestant-has-threesomes-on-her-mind/

http://p.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/nov/6/whats-so-funny-comedians-say-gop/

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2011/11/09/david_gregory_no_grand_wizard_in_gop_right_now_to_force_cain_to_go_away.html

http://bigjournalism.com/jjmnolte/2011/10/28/occupywallstreet-the-rap-sheet-so-far/

http://perezhilton.com/2011-11-06-michelle-obama-on-icarly-preview#.TrvliGDmq4A

http://www.stripes.com/blogs/the-rumor-doctor/the-rumor-doctor-1.104348/does-chuck-norris-offer-hope-to-iraq-1.160441

http://mrctv.org/videos/occupy-protest-california-who-pooped-bank

http://weaselzippers.us/2011/11/10/define-ironic-occupy-oakland-opens-wells-fargo-account/

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2011/11/national-emergency-alert-test-total-failure/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4uAxjf4XEI&feature=youtu.be

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Mental Health Cuts in the News

Friday, November 11th, 2011 - by Helen Smith

Today, I have seen several news stories about cuts in mental health. On CBS news, there is a slide show with the top 15 states that have cut services from 2009 to 2012. The states range from Missouri and Idaho to Virginia, Massachusetts and Washington D.C. (I know, it’s not a state but it’s listed).

Then, I saw that our local mental health hospital, Lakeshore Mental Health Institute will shut down in June of 2012. One of the reasons? Patients do better in the community. Sure they do.

Finally, I saw that no psychologists or psychiatrists want to take Tricare, the insurance for military personnel and many soldiers and their families are having trouble getting services:

TRICARE’s psychological health benefit is “hindered by fragmented rules and policies, inadequate oversight and insufficient reimbursement,” the Defense Department’s mental health task force said last month after reviewing the military’s psychological care system.

Just wait until Obamacare kicks in, then no one will be able to get services. But at least people will feel good about themselves. I also want to point out that many times, people think that it was the Republicans closing the mental hospitals and putting people onto the streets. Nope, that trend started with Jack Kennedy:

Numerous social forces have led to a move for deinstitutionalisation. However, researchers generally speak of six main factors: criticisms of public mental hospitals, incorporation of mind-altering drugs in treatment, support from President Kennedy for federal policy changes in the treatment for those with mental illnesses, shifts to community based care, changes in public opinion of those with mental disabilities, and individual state’s desire to reduce cost of mental hospitals.[1]

Now, many of those people who were in hospitals are in our jails and prisons. Is that an improvement?

Nicholas Cummings in the book Destructive Trends in Mental Health: The Well Intentioned Path to Harm discusses the problems that mental health professionals have had over the years. One is that they are too political and because of that (in my opinion), there is no respect for my field any longer. It could be that the public sees us as a bunch of quacks. However, throwing the baby out with the bathwater isn’t the answer. There are many people out there who are hurting and many of them do get help. Indeed, in my career, I saw people in mental institutes who saw the place as their home and did not want to leave.

Anyway, I guess when times are tough, mental health is the first to go. What do you think? Is this good, bad or are you neutral on this trend?

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Feds Investigating Additional Fire Involving Chevy Volt

Friday, November 11th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

As Duke Energy, GM, Siemens, USDOT and local fire officials continue to investigate a North Carolina house fire that started in a garage housing a Chevy Volt and Siemens charging station, word comes from Bloomberg that NHTSA, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, is looking into the safety of lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars after a crash tested Chevy Volt ignited and burned while sitting in a NHTSA storage lot.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery, Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

 

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Investigation Continues in Home Fire That Burned Siemens Charger, Chevy Volt

Friday, November 11th, 2011 - by Ronnie Schreiber

Chevy Volt burned in an earlier Connecticut fire. The Volt was determined to not be the cause of that fire.

Fire officials continue to pore over the site of a house fire in suburban Mooresville, NC to determine if the blaze, which started in the garage, was caused by an electric vehicle charging station, the electric car that it was charging, or some other source of ignition. Duke Energy, the utility which installed the Siemens built charger, tried to reassure customers about the safety of that unit, as fire officials made it clear that the fire might have had nothing to do with the EV, a Chevy Volt, or the charging station.

Continue reading the complete post here.

When he’s not busy doing custom machine embroidery, Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth and contributes to The Truth About Cars and Left Lane News

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