Friday, November 30, 2007

E-BOOK: The Mouse in the Mountain by Norbert Davis

Since the demise of Black Mask, an on-line pulp fiction site, seems to be picking up the slack and is sporting a growing pulp section. They have been featuring more of these titles on the homepage, and it's there I found The Mouse in the Mountain and was introduced to Doan and Carstairs. I found this introduction to the works of Norbert Davis which gives some valuable context into the pulp fiction market at the time (warning: sad ending!) It's too bad he wasn't born fifty years later, because hard-boiled humour in in these days. Doan is an affable is fairly laid back PI, and his partner, Carstairs, is a judgmental, irascible, pony-sized dog. Carstairs is right up there with the best animal companions in fiction, and his scenes are amusing. The memorable bits in this first installment involve Doan playing director to Carstairs to help a father control his unruly son.

The plot, such as it is, involves a bus trip in Mexico that ends in murder. There are some fairly stereotypical heiresses, colourful locals, obnoxious Americans and such, but the real star is Doan and his companion. Additionally, there is a bus driver who speaks delightful "school" English (correctly but in an over-the-top fashion) who steals his scenes, and the occasional period glimpses (Carstairs helps train army dogs for the 'war effort') add colour and character. I suppose the one drawback would be that mystery fans these days expect to be able to solve the case along with the detective. The ending, when it does come, comes out of nowhere in the "Actually, it was Professor Plumb! In the Library! With a candlestick!" type of vein.

I did love the dog though. The three novels in this series are definitely worth a read.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

MISC: My Freeware Palm Device

I recently bought a used Alphasmart Dana on ebay, and have started playing around with freeware Palm applications. The main mecca on-line seems to be Freeware Palm, and most of the goodies I found were from that site. So, what have I been using? Program-wise, these are my pics:

  • dsScribbler (for freehand sketches/notes when needed)
  • Exercise (a rep timer/counter for the gym)
  • Metro (a subway map, info available for many cities)

And for games:

  • Blackjack (very basic version)
  • Checkers (still looking for a good version, the on I found is a little slow)
  • Gin Rummy (a wonderful implementation of te card game classic)
  • Grouper (quick-playing puzzle game)
  • Hearts (a very basic but serviceable implementation of another classic)
  • Marbles2 (like SameGame, this was the best version I found for BW screens)
  • Patience (many solitaire games in a collection)
  • Rally100 (Fun card game)
  • Star Mahjong (Rules not explained well on site, but a fun game once I figured it out)
  • Vexed (puzzle game, a bit frustrating sometimes!)
  • Word Wiggle (Boggle clone)
If you are interested in reading my review of the Dana, check out the Teleread Blog, where I have just started contributing. And leave me a comment if you think of any can't-miss Palm freeware I haven't mentioned!


Sunday, November 18, 2007

RECIPE: Five Great Lunchbox Favs

I ave begun posting some of my favourite recipes to Recipe Zaar, a popular recipe sharing website. You can add your own recipes, browse and save other people's recipes, search and filter the large database to your criteria and in general just pick up new cooking ideas. It's my favourite of the recipe sharing websites, and I have found many neat recipes in its depths.

It does have its limitations. Advanced features such as multiple cookbooks come with a fee, the forum is not as active as I would like in the areas which interest me, and it takes only very specific recipe formats (so, many of my mix-and-match recipes would not be shareable). But it is overall a great cooking resource. I have shared about a dozen of my own most-used recipes, most of them lunch ones: I have food allergies, so packing my own lunch is necessary, and I like to take good food and make it feel special.

Here are my top five so far:
  • Red Lentil Thermos Soup: Grated vegetables add bulk, but minimal calories. Pre-grate the night before, and this soup can be ready to pack in your thermos within five minutes.
  • Couscous Onigiri: Do you like those fun shaped sushi balls, but lack the patience to make real sticky rice? Use couscous, and some cookie cutters, for the same effect.
  • Choco-Nut Banana Spread: A cookbook find, suitable as a dip for fruit or crackers, or as a filling for a wrap or tortilla.
  • Single-Serve Cookies: Adapted from a cookbook called "Small-Batch Baking." Mine makes only two cookies (no tempting leftovers!) and uses only one bowl and 2 spoons.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

PODCAST: Quirks and Quarks

Quirks and Quarks is a a weekly science show appearing on CBC Radio. It is concise, well-produced and very accessible to the average listener. It has long been one of my favourite podcasts, and there is an extensive downloadable archive of past shows available at their website. I highly recommend this one!

Here are some of my favourite past episodes:

The Perils of Preemies

Exorcizing Myths About Exercise

Milking the Benefits

The Autism Diaries

The Decline of the Autopsy

The Placebo Effect

Cure for Aging

Documenting the Dinosaur’s Demise

The Science of Dreaming

Why Athletes Choke

Recipe for a Mummy

Melting the Iceman

Chris Craft: My Life in Mission Control

The Red-Headed Gene

The Return of Thalidomide

The Limits to a Longer Life


ADMIN: Exciting announcement!

Hi everyone! Sorry again for the long hiatus. I had to move very suddenly, and between that asnd the start of Nanowrimo, it threw me a little. Anyway, I have some exciting news for you. This blog will be expanding its scope a little in the coming weeks. I continue to find great Creative Commons and public domain materials on the net, and will post those as I find them. But there is a ton of other great, and free, information available out there on social sharing sites and other public platforms. A number of you also said you wanted more editorial-type content from me. So, the blog will be expanding it's coverage to include not just the CC-and-free, but the cool-and-free as well: podcasts, cool websites, interesting blogs and items from social sharing sites on a variety of topics, such as youtube (video), recipezaar (recipes) and scribd (documents).

All psts will be tagged, as they are now, so you can quickly and easily filter the posts and find the material you are looking for. As always, I take suggestions for links and items worth posting, or blog carnivals and/or commuties I should get involved with. Ready for some great freebies? Stay tuned for my first podcast post...