Friday, January 28, 2011

RetroReview: Flyover America (US Travel)





BLOG DESCRIPTION: We are two writers in love with America. Every diner and prairie and highway of it. The places that many people consider flyover territory—Lincoln, Nebraska; Lubbock Texas; Bayonne, New Jersey, and the like—grab hold of us. Flyover America is as much a state of mind as a place. Flyover America is packed with stories, discoveries and soul. And it’s got some great malls, too.

MY REVIEW: This is a fun blog, and a very informative one. The author(s) write well, in an informal, friendly style. In addition to reviews of travel spots, they talk about movies ("Maine Does Not Sound Like Queens" in which the author comments on the movie Welcome to Mooseport.
The premise is that an outgoing United States president (Hackman) moves to small-town Maine and runs for mayor against a local hardware store owner (Romano).

Fine and dandy, it’s a film of no consequence, but I must ask the filmmakers: Why on Earth would you set a film in Maine and cast no one with a New England accent? Maine!–which has an accent as thick and distinctive as Georgia! And yet , in a lead role we get the distinctively Queens, New York honk of Ray Romano. At least Maura Tierney was born in Boston, so her flatter intonations are not glaringly inappropriate. Most disappointing were the bit characters, the quirky old guys and gals who looked like all sorts of flat vowels and dropped R’s would come out of their mouths. But no, they sounded Midwestern, at best. This did not stop bothering me through the entire film.

Just ‘cause there’s moose in the movie doesn’t mean you’ve captured Maine.

(Sounds like the movie makers could have taken a lesson from the Coen brothers, who did Fargo using several local Minneapolis actors in bit-parts. (On the other hand, the movie took place in Minnesota, and Fargo is, y'know, located in North Dakota... And one of the locations they used for the movie, a small diner right near where I lived, never re-opened after the movie finished filming there. I guess they must have paid its owners so much money to use it, that they closed up shop and headed off to retirement land in less-snowier climes!)

But back to the blog under review. I enjoyed the writing, enjoyed the eclectic types of posts - but all travel related in some way, and I think you'll enjoy this blog as well.

Write a blog for long enough and, at some point, your patterns will start to emerge. You’ll notice the themes you return to time and again, the grooves of the record that are worn deep. I have a thing for the abandoned and the dying: American ruins, Rolley-Hole Marbles, Presbyterians. Psychologists, really, hold your tongues. I don’t care what it means.

So, while doing a bit of web wandering the other day, I got lost in It’s a not-necessarily-beautiful-but-pretty-damned-fun travel blog written (and shot) by Daniel and Ligian Ter-Nedden, a couple who live in Zurich, Switzerland. They’ve visited more than 200 ghost towns in nine U.S. states. (Yes, I’m also keen on people who get mildly-to-completely obsessed with…whatever.)

--What’s Left Behind, Again
--Road-trip Rituals
--That’s One Swell Silver Screen
--Cadillac Ranch: You Should Go
--A U.S. Library I Love (or, Sigh, Loved and Lost)

RetroReview: Homecooks (Cooking)





BLOG'S DESCRIPTION: Get answers to the "What's for dinner?" question with these simple but healthy recipes from a group of cooking friends (real people with busy lives) who share what's cooking in their kitchens.

OUR REVIEW: An excellent recipe blog. No fuss, just a quick narrative and description, list of ingredients and straight forward directions.

Previous recipes include Spaghettis Squash Breakfast Loaf, Sausage, Pepper Rigatoni, How to Roast a Thanksgiving Turkey, Tomato Soup, Home made Ice Cream, and Chicken Risotto. If I had one, slight, concern it would be the number of squash recipes posted. Given that there is only one recipe a post, and unfortunately, there is only one maybe two, posts a week you want as much diversity as possible. But everything I saw looked wonderful.

They also reviewed a Pairing knife, a Lodge Logic Wonder Skillet, and Le Creuset cookware.

--Salmon and Cranberry Salad
--Sea Bass Dinner for Two
--Seafood Stew Recipe
--Ropa Vieja with Mango Salsa
--Home Run Guacamole

Ann Currie publishes My Life a Bit South of
and also,
Silver Pieces: The Strange and

Thursday, January 27, 2011

RetroReview: Being Human (atheism)





BLOG'S DESCRIPTION: A personal introduction to the New Atheism.

OUR REVIEW: One must be bright and opened minded to read this blog, less they be sucked into the dungeons of Hell.

Not really, but most Baptists would want you to feel this way!

Ignorance keeps most religions alive and well, which is a point made in this blog. Let me make myself perfectly clear here, I am not an atheist, nor am I taking sides, but I would like to think I am open minded enough to look both ways before I cross a street.

Whether you agree or not, this blog is thought provoking and well written. The author brings some issues to the table that others would rather not deal with. Even my Daddy, a died-in-the-wool Scottish Presbyterian, loved a good argument and always told me, if you didn’t listen to both sides, you’d never learn a thing.

Note that the blog is only updated once a week or so. Once again, I’ll get on my soap box and remind everyone if you want people to read your blog, you need to post frequently, more than once a week. This is especially true if you expect them to pay for a subscription.

--Do religions really prevent crime?
--Is EU the most sucessful peace-iniative in human history?
--Is continuation of wars a law of nature?
--Why do we cry in the front seat of a BMW?

Ann Currie publishes My Life a Bit South of Normal and Silver Pieces: The Strange and Peculiar

RetroReview: Flash Free (women's health)





BLOG DESCRIPTION: An organic, fresh, informative, hip and humorous overview of evidence-based alternative approaches to menopause and the transition to midlife.

MY REVIEW: A blog that covers complimentary/interpretive medicine dealing with menopause. She has recently added a doctor as a guest contributor. Her posts cover new studies related to women's health, nutrition, interviews, and other topics - all geared toward that mid-life transition we all face. Her posts are thorough with many links to past posts and outside sources and a helpful review of all the posts at the end of each month. She posts often, several times a week.

It is well written, however, I didn't see the "hip or humorous" part but that may be up to each reader. It's an informative blog on an important subject. For those interested in this topic, this is a good blog.


Wednesday’s Bubble: easy does it with Chamomile

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

Osteoporosis: what’s the 411?

Wednesday’s Bubble: another nail in the coffin of HRT

West meets East, Guest Post Jonathan Black MD/MPH Student


Ann Currie publishes My Life a Bit South of
and also,
Silver Pieces: The Strange and

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

RetroReview: Tech Rockies (investing)


MY RECOMMENDATION: Yes, with reservations



BLOG DESCRIPTION: provides daily tracking of Rocky Mountain Region high tech news, including venture fundings, interviews, and breaking news items about high tech companies in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and beyond.

All this blog seems to do is write a paragraph of info on a variety of technical business companies. Truth to tell, this information conveys nothing to me - there doesn't seem to be enough of it to help a reader make any choice about whether to buy stock...

The actual blogsite does have many links to a variety of headlines, listed as:
Latest funding
Executive moves (execs switching companies)
Venture capital
Mergers and acquisitions
Life sciences

But this material does not feed over to the blog.

Sample post
Boulder, Colorado-based data storage firm Spectra Logic said today that the firm was ranked in the top ten percent of U.S., General Services Administration (GSA) information technology contractors in 2009. The firm said the rankings were based on annual revenues of GSA Schedule 70 It products and services. Spectra Logic said its Federal sales account for more than 20 percent of its overall revenues. Spectra Logic is a maker of disk and tape backup systems and backup libraries.

-Ping identity links into google apps
-Aegis analytical wins human genome sciences
-Spectra logic ranks in list of GSA contractors
-Markrt force information buys Ted Costas GRoup
-Confio hands reins back to founder

RetroReview: Fragments from Flloyd (photography)


MY RECOMMENDATION: Yes, with reservations



BLOG DESCRIPTION: Photoblog of Fred First, essayist-author, naturalist-teacher and photographer, from the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwest Virginia. The focus of Fred's verbal lens is wide-angle macro--a hyperlocal look at characters, events and issues with a much wider reach and significance. The tone is one of wry reverence for nature, life and the human condition.

MY REVIEW: The good news is that this blog is updated daily – the bad news is that it has a lot of links to podcasts and other articles, which of course can't be seen on the Kindle. I won't call it 'unsuitable' though, because there is a lot of other material there.

Personally, I really like this blog. The photos are wonderful and the writing is enjoyable. The writer covers a great deal of material, some prose, some political, you never what the day will bring. However, due to his use of podcasts and video links, as well as the quality of his art work, this blog loses so much on the Kindle. I do recommend you check it out on the Internet.

  • Small ships on the big ocean: festival of the books
  • Dead fish have no politics

  • li>

  • Dammanimals

  • January thaw: postponed til late February

    Ann Currie publishes
    My Life a Bit South of
    and also,
    Silver Pieces: The Strange and
  • Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    RetroReview: (Aviation in Canada)





    BLOG DESCRIPTION: Canadian Aviation News and Information.

    MY REVIEW: I enjoyed this blog, and I think all aviation enthusiasts will, regardless of whether they are based in the US or not. It seems to be more about commercial aviation rather than general aviation, however, but frankly, anything that affects Canada will sooner or later affect US aviation as well, so its as well to keep up with commercial aviation there, as well as here.

    This is another blog that is starting out at $1.99, but will go down in price as more and more people subscribe to it. (I repeat again, Kindle sure has a weird way of pricing blogs!)

    Some sample paragraphs:
    OTTAWA - "It's unacceptable that air travelers be asked to foot the bill for national security." This is how John McKenna, President and CEO of the Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) reacted to yesterday's announcement by Transport Minister John Baird on the increase in the Air Travelers' Security Charge (ATSC).

    The ATSC was a tax levied in late 2001 to fund the newly created Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. This tax was imposed on passengers departing from any one of the 89 designated airports in Canada. The increases announced amount to greater than 50% increases in the ATSC. The security charge for a round trip domestic flight was $9.80 and will jump to $14.96, or a 53% increase. The ATSC for one-way transborder flights (flights to the continental US) will go from $8.34 to $12.71 (or $25.42 for a round trip flight), a 52% increase, and the charge for an international flight will go from $17.00 to $25.91, a 52% increase. "This is totally unacceptable, especially at a time when the air transport industry and its consumers are still struggling with the sluggish economy," declared Mr. McKenna.

    According to a study conducted in 2008 by ATAC, Canada's ATSC was already the second highest in the world, only the Netherlands had higher security charges. "We are seriously beginning to doubt the efficiency of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) if it requires the highest security charge in the world in order to makes ends meet", continued Mr. McKenna.

    ATAC opposes the fact that the travelling public is asked to pay for national security. "No other mode of transport is shouldered with national security costs, why should air transport be different? We don't know how much the government collects with the ATSC and we demand more transparency on how this money is used. "We are certainly very interested in the efficiency review of CATSA to be launched by the Government of Canada," concluded John McKenna.

    -The (retired) first eye in the sky
    -ATAC opposes 50% increases in air Travelers' Security Charge
    -Airports Pledge to Participate in CATSA Review
    -Airlines eager for full review of aviation security
    -Discovery Air's Top Aces Type 2 Combat Support Standing Offers Option Year
    -Aeroplan Signs A Sweet Partnership With Nestle

    Retro Review: Hoystory (commentary)

    REVIEWED BY: Ms. Cairo


    AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION LINK: Hoystory, published by Hoystory.


    BLOG DESCRIPTION: Commentary and criticism on media, politics and society.

    MY REVIEW: This is a right-wing blog, which means that it's a conservative blog. I have no problem with that. Indeed, as I said a few weeks ago when I first started reviewing Democraft and Republican blogs, although I'm a Republican, I like reading blogs from "the other side" so as to get the complete story on any one issue before making up my mind. Perhaps I'm more of an independent than a Republican.

    In any event, posts are driven by what's happening in the world on that particular day. It's interesting. Give it a try.

    Some sample paragraphs:

    Have you ever wondered why your flood insurance doesn’t pay off when your house burns to the ground?


    Well, then you’re smarter than that guy in the White House.

    When I was young, just got out of college, I had to buy auto insurance. I had a beat-up old car. And I won’t name the name of the insurance company, but there was a company — let’s call it Acme Insurance in Illinois. And I was paying my premiums every month. After about six months I got rear-ended and I called up Acme and said, I’d like to see if I can get my car repaired, and they laughed at me over the phone because really this was set up not to actually provide insurance; what it was set up was to meet the legal requirements. But it really wasn’t serious insurance.

    Now, it’s one thing if you’ve got an old beat-up car that you can’t get fixed. It’s another thing if your kid is sick, or you’ve got breast cancer.

    This just in: the state insurance minimums, which is what Obama certainly had if he was driving “a beat-up old car,” cover liability. Not comprehensive. Not collision.

    I can see it now. Everyone is required to buy liability, comprehensive, collision, towing by the federal government because we don’t want stupid people to be confused. Yes, they’ll pay more, but they’re getting better insurance – whether they want it or not. Driving a 1978 Ford Pinto that requires you to park on a hill because the starter’s shot? Is the floor rusted almost clean through? Well, you definitely need collision coverage on that clunker.

    Was Obama paying attention in driver’s ed? They cover this stuff there.

    -Remember, He's Smart (pointing out Obama's errors on health care)
    -Health care reform (comments on the health care debate between Obama and the Dems and the Republicans
    -Don't bring a spork to a gun fight (Howard Friel and a book called The Lomborg Deception) on global warming) A post that necessitates you go to the web to download a PDF
    -The right to be paid for what you create (complaints about uncompensated journalism, and appropriate of stock photos without paying for them - done from "liberal sites" like Huffington Post) [as an aside, if people are willing to write for free, even if it does drive down fees for writers who like to be paid for what they's a free country. As for using stock photos - hey, that's what stock photo means! So many people use them on the web that eventually it's impossible to know who - if anybody - owns it. I'm willing to cut some slack on this.]
    -This used to get people fired (MSNBC regular Donny Deutsch calls Republican senate candidate Marco Rubio of Florida as a coconut.) Hoystory points out that its analgous to calling a black person an Oreo. A coconut is deragatory slang for a Latino attempting to appear white. Although this did create some controversy, apparenlty Deutsch is still employed (and you know that had he been a Republican leaning reporter saying that about a Democrat, he'd've been fired the next day!)

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    Retro Review: JGDS - the Junior Geography Detective Squad (geography education)

    REVIEWED BY: Ms. Cairo


    AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION LINK: JGDS - the Junior Geography Detective Squad , published by Elysabeth Eldering.


    BLOG DESCRIPTION: This is where information about the JGDS series will be posted. The books are about each of the fifty states, one state per book, and are written like a handheld game that gives the kids clues all leading up to the state. It is a cross between Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy, and if you watch Jeopardy, some of the categories of late have been about the states as well as final Jeopardy answers have been geared toward one state

    MY REVIEW: Given the sorry state of kid's knowledge of geography today (well, their knowledge of any topic today), a books series like this sounds like a lot of fun and hopefully will be successful.

    The blog itself doesn't talk about the writing of the books, but rather of their marketing. There are also talks with the authors of other children's books.

    It's a fun blog, and I would think that the parents of young kids, and prospective authors, would enjoy it. Give it a try.

    [As an aside, here's the actual website for the book series (as opposed to the blog): Should the author of these fun books visit this review, please, jazz up that website! At least put some clip art -of kids running around, perhaps - on it! That will catch people's eyes much more successfully than what's there now. [Also, this is a review of the blog, not of the books, so I won't comment on the stereotypical female characters, either! Except for a Grr.]

    Here's a few sample paragraphs from a blog entry:
    Wow. I just looked at my previous updates for newsletters and have not done any since the first part of August 2009. Updates are definitely needed.

    I found a cool site that lists homeschool conferences for Canada, Guam, and every state in the United States. I found four more in the four states closest to me, within a five-hour driving distance of me, in addition to the Love 2 Learn one in Charlotte. I will be an exhibitor at four, maybe a fifth (still awaiting updates as to when it actually will take place, where and an exhibitor application) this summer with a presenting workshop at each one ("Writing Roads" a combination of writing and geography games for the kids). See my Blog Tour page on the sidebar for the listed events.

    If anyone is interested in finding homeschool conferences in their area to either attend or exhibit at, here is the link for you to check out. Eventually, I'd like to attend conferences in every state but until I have some funding (either a sponsor or the books are supporting me), then traveling to more than a few states on the east coast is going to have to wait a while. I think these will be a good thing this year. Will definitely keep you posted how things go this summer.

    JGDS SERIES NEWS: State of Reservations is slated to be released February or March 2010; since Aidana has had the flu and her son has the piggy flu, I hope by the end of March this will be released. State of Altitude is slated to be released in April or May of this year; again, hopefully by the 1st week of June so I can have four titles to carry with me to the homeschool conferences. And we have a title for #5 - State of Secession which is about halfway completed (struggling to get it done due to work situations that have taken over me but I do promise to have it done soon). It is slated to be released August (if I remember correctly), which would be nice to have that book available for the conference in August. Book #6 is titled State of Nature and my son has picked the items to be on the cover which will be pretty cool looking (I think and if Aidana and Vivian agree). Book #7 is pending approval for a title, so will wait to let you all know what the title will be with that.

    In December I wrote to the Jeopardy!(R) folks asking them to sponsor my series. So far I haven't heard anything back yet, so I can only hope that the old adage "No news is good news" is true for this. As soon as I know something on this end, I will update my fans and readers.

    -SC Book Festival Day 1
    -Book festival bound
    -JGDS Newsletter - Feb 2010
    -Vote today
    -Want to find out how reading can be fun and educational at the same time?
    -Free book anyone? Your school could really use this book
    -Book trailer video on Books in Sync contest

    Retro Review: Run to Gold (investing)

    REVIEWED BY: Ms. Cairo


    AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION LINK: Run to Gold, published by Premeir Ark


    BLOG DESCRIPTION: Run To Gold is built to educate you on principles of monetary theory and science. Whether you should purchase gold is a completely different issue from whether you should use the monetary metals, gold and silver, to perform mental calculations of value or the pricing mechanism.

    MY REVIEW: In this day and age, knowing what to do with your money is paramount. And everything is so confusing. Is it safe to put your money back into stocks and bonds? Will the government take it all, or will the stockbrokers lose it all for you?

    It doesn't matter how much or how little money you make - and if you make a little money hopefully you are working on ways to - legally and ethically - make it more money, you must educate yourself on the process, and keep abreast of what our government plans to do with your money.

    This blog is a start.

    It's also a blog with an ugly, ugly website, which is why it makes sense to subscribe to it via the Kindle, so you can get the entries without tring to figure out where the heck they are on the website!

    Some sample paragraphs
    H.R. 627 The Credit Card Act of 2009 is a sweeping reform of credit card law. Many consumers are concerned over how this act will affect their spending capacity throughout the new year. The act is called into effect in February, meaning consumers will have very little time to determine how to use the act to their advantage.

    While there are advantages to the consumer in 2010, the act may also adversely affect the economy, according to some analysts. However, conclusions are anything but cut and dried. For those that need a little more information, here are some details about the way the first serious credit card reform in history may affect you—and the economy at large—in 2010 and beyond.


    H.R. 3639 The Expedited Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act of 2009, also known as H.R. 627 The Credit CARD Act of 2009, will dramatically affect regulations on credit cards beginning in 2010. The act aims to improve transparency between credit card companies and the American public, many of whom hold credit cards, under what the government calls an “open-end consumer credit plan.”

    The act requires first and foremost for credit card companies to give consumers a month and a half (45 days) of notice if any increases in interest rates are going to be enacted. It also gives card owners the right to cancel their credit cards and pay any outstanding balances once these hikes are enacted.

    Credit card companies are prohibited from retroactively increasing their interest rates for cardholders in good standing with the company, and the act does not allow credit card companies to arbitrarily change their agreement with cardholders. Finally, the act prevents companies from imposing unfair or excessive fees on cardholders, which will likely effect those with subprime and secured credit cards.

    In summary, the bipartisan measure is meant to protect cardholders from unfair or unclear actions on the part of credit card companies and the big banks like Bank of America (BAC), JP Morgan Chase (JPM), Citigroup (C), Wells Fargo (WFC), and etc. along with their nefarious cohort Visa (V).


    It is no secret that some credit card companies and big banks have been acting unfairly for years, like Monex, and that the fees they collect from the general public are not clear and reasonable. Unfair fees and interest adjustments have been banned, meaning that consumers will be given information on how credit card companies are changing their terms at least 45 days in advance.

    “Overdraft” coverage will also be opt-in instead of opt-out, which means that over limit charges may not be incurred automatically due to consumer unawareness, and that the card may be denied if you are over the limit and this may have a positive effect with credit cards and identification with potential credit report issues.

    The terminology of credit card companies must be made clear in advance, with promotions being disclosed in plain and simple language, and terms that do not change during the first year of a contract. Terms of credit cards marketed to youths and college students must be plainly stated by both the company and the university. Finally, fees may not be placed on store credit cards and gift cards which have not been used for a period of time.


    Unfortunately, as with any piece of legislation the CARD act is not without its drawbacks. The reason that companies are able to keep interest rates so low is that they are not accountable to a governing body for the terms of the contracts and promotions that they use to entice customers. Under the credit card act, it is likely that interest rates will rise substantially. This will make new credit cards unobtainable for many individuals with poor or no credit.

    No-fee credit cards will likely disappear as a result, and credit score checks, especially on the best credit cards, will probably become stricter, limiting the number of individuals who can apply for new cards. Although many Americans expect a freeze on interest rates until the act takes effect, most credit card companies will continue to raise rates until they are prohibited by law.

    Now, I'm not sure that I accept the politics behind some of the posts here. After all, if people would have just paid their credit card bills on time, and not maxed out their cards so they had no chance of repaying them, they wouldn't have had to worry about any "unreasonable fees" to begin with! Nevertheless, this blog contains monetary information you need to know, whether you agree or disagree with any political leanings that may be on display.
    -Is Goldman Sachs Thinking of Buying Silver
    -Net Neutrality Debate
    -Interview with John Rubino (author of The Collapse of the Dollar)
    -The Laboon Comes (The last days of Lehman Brothers)
    -How HR 627 The Credit Card Act Blunts the Vampire Squid's Beak

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    Retro Reviews All This Week

    Hello faithful readers.

    I'm behind on reviewing new blogs - so many blogs, so little time - so I'm going to post two retro reviews a day all this week, which will give me time to get several new reviews written in advance for publication later. This will enable me to get back on a regular schedule of at least 2 new blog reviews every Monday, Wednesday and Friday starting Feb 1, 2011.

    Meantime, these "Retro Reviews" are of blogs that I think are pretty good, so check them out! Remember you can subscribe for 2 free weeks in order to decide if you'd like to keep your subscription.

    And as for the Super Bowl... go Packers!

    Friday, January 21, 2011

    Typecast (parenting)

    REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle




    BLOG DESCRIPTION: Typecast is not your average parenting blog. In fact, the title is somewhat of an oxymoron. The author, Nickie, is a young grandparent with a a myriad of life experience and is trying to break the mould of typical parenting. With a grip on social networking and a honest approach to everything, each update on the Typecast blog will leave you wondering how Nickie manages to cram it all in.

    Nickie OHara is wife to one, Mum to three and Nana to two. She is trundling through life, coping with whatever is thrown at her. She works full time, is studying for a degree with the Open University and tap dances in her spare time.

    MY REVIEW: This is a fascinating parenting blog - not for young parents who have toddlers but even more difficult, parents who have teenage children! The author lives in England so, for American reades, it will take some getting used to (we speak American, they speak English!) but it is certainly a fascinating read.

    Sample post
    Too Accommodating?
    from Nickie @ Typecast
    Earlier today I had agreed that a friend of the youngest of my brood could have tea and stay the night. They had been to Halfords earlier in the afternoon, eyeing up some mag wheels for BMX bikes (aside: I love how his priorities have changed since going to high school. A few months ago he was happy with an hour on the park and an ice cream from the corner shop), called in at his friend's house to pick up a change of clothes and a toothbrush but rang me to say that they would be a little later than expected. I asked why. He explained that his friend was having his tea before coming to our house. So I asked if Jake was being invited to eat too as we were ordering take-out a little later but he said that he wasn't. He simply hadn't been asked if he wanted anything to eat. Am I alone in thinking that is unusual?

    When I was younger, being invited to a friend's house for tea was a rare occurrence and considered a treat. You planned for what seemed like ages, talked about it excitedly and usually went home after school with said friend rather than setting off on your usual route home. A sleep-over was even rarer, almost non-existent.

    There has always been a constant stream of stray and random children through our house. I've enjoyed having the children's friends over at our house, more so that I knew where they were and there was no excuse for wandering the streets aimlessly. I wasn't an Enid Blyton mum - there was no freshly squeezed lemonade made by Cook - but the contents of the biscuit tin usually took a bit of a beating. We had little tea parties for friends after school occasionally and birthday parties were always fairly traditional; at home, party food, games and a cake. I have no shame in admitting that it was because we could never have afforded soft play parties or magicians. A minimum of £100 before birthday presents? Plus, we were different by having these parties at home.

    Recently habits seem to have changed. I know my children are a bit older now (the two at home are 17 and 11) but at weekends it appears to be the norm to be asked if so-and-so can stop for tea or if Mate X can stay overnight. I know I have probably made a rod for my own back by saying "Yes" most of the time but it seems to be happening almost every weekend now. They don't want to be out hanging around on the local park in the dark or getting drunk on the bowling green- for that I should be grateful, I suppose. Maybe I am the unusual one for being so accommodating?

    --What is a QR Code?
    --Parenting 101? Not in this house.
    --To Have And To Hold, Until Death Do Us Part.
    --Cybermummy Sponsorship Required
    --Looking Back Over My Shoulder

    Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
    Check out the following blogs:
    Seaborn: Oceanography Blog
    Star Trek Report: Space Sciences
    Volcano Seven: Treasure and Treasure HuntersRush Limbaugh Report

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    Retro Review: Harry and Helen (Yoga)

    REVIEWED BY: Ann Currie




    BLOG DESCRIPTION: This blog presents poems and art which reflect the many years Harry and Helen Kottler have been practicing the path of Siddha Yoga.

    MY REVIEW: This is a blog that I could not help but find to have a calming effect on me. (And, I am unfamiliar with the practice of Siddha Yoga.) Each daily post has an interesting graphic or picture with a short description of the poem that follows. Some of the pictures are actually computer drawings by Harry himself. The poems are thoughtful and well written, each quietly speaking to the topic. For those unfamiliar, I did some research on the subject: Siddha Yoga is “a spiritual path of discipline, of mastering the mind and the senses with teachings and practices. . . a path imbued with grace.”

    I recommend this tranquil blog, but don’t let my review lull you, it is not dull and boring. The topics are interesting and Harry’s comments let you peak into events in his life.

    [A note from Ms Cairo: This is one of those blogs where it makes a lot more sense to subscribe to it via the Kindle then to try to read it on the web. I just went to the web URL and it is all cluttered and extremely difficult to find anything! The Kindle is definitely the way to go with this blog.]

    --When Bravery is Colored Blue
    --See Like an Eagle
    --Angels and Creatures of the Dark
    --The Mind's the Key to Everything

    Ann Currie publishes My Life a Bit South of Normal> and Silver Pieces: The Strange and Peculiar

    RetroReview: How To Boil an Egg

    REVIEWED BY: Ann Currie


    AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION PAGE: How to Boil an Egg, published by Chef Danielle Turner


    BLOG DESCRIPTION: Want to learn the right way to cook an egg? Frustrated by fennel? “How to Boil an Egg” is a tasty mix of food know-how and how-to written by personal chef and food writer Danielle Turner. Danielle shares her knowledge as a chef and cooking instructor to teach basic cooking techniques along with tips on entertaining with ease and simple and delicious recipes.

    MY REVIEW: This is a great blog about how to do the basic things no cook books ever tell you because they assume you know like: how to whip cream, choose the best wax paper, know what the temperature of your oven is, make your own buttermilk. I fancy myself as an accomplished cook and I was fascinated by the blog. It is well written, basically well done.

    The blog is updated once a week. (It went from being a daily blog until Christmas '09, then it skipped a month, then posts 3 days, then quiet for almost a month, but now in March seems to have picked up speed again.) So check it out!

    Sample post:
    How to Break Out of Your Culinary Comfort Zone
    Six ways to bring life back to your table

    It happens to the best of us. Despite the stacks of dog-eared cooking magazines piled high on our coffee tables, the eclectic cookbook collections that fill our bookshelves, or even our best intentions of whipping up delicious fare for our families, dinnertime can turn into an uninspiring rotation of the same handful of reliable recipes, week after week, month after month.

    As a personal chef, I make my living preparing meals for individuals and families alike, but professional experience aside; I’m still a busy working mom who’s often stymied by the age-old question – “What’s for dinner?”

    When I get caught in a dinnertime dead zone, I rely on six sure-fire tips that always help get my creative cooking juices flowing.

    1. Cabinet Foraging
    Remember the electric pasta machine you absolutely had to have? The meat grinder you picked up on a whim? Or the sorbet maker that was so on sale it would’ve been a sin not to buy? If you’re like me, many of these items are lucky to have been used once before assuming their position in the Cabinet of Forgotten Gadgetry, where instead of inspiring your culinary endeavors, they now sit gathering dust. There’s no better way to dig yourself out of a rut and make the most of money already spent than to find the dustiest piece of equipment in your kitchen and put it to use. Odds are the new gear will force you to pull out a new recipe or revisit an old, forgotten favorite.

    2. Travel the Globe
    No passports or long airport security lines required! Choose a city or country that you love or that you’re curious about and scour your cookbooks or the internet for a recipe or dish that flavorfully represents that locale. Take a stroll through your grocery store’s international food aisle for further inspiration. You’ll be doing double duty as you savor new ingredients and learn about foods from far way (or close at hand) lands.

    3. Buy Something You’ve Never Seen Before
    Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is simple. On your next visit to the produce section, spend a few extra minutes taking in the scene, keeping your eye out for your next great ingredient. You’ll know it when you see it, because you won’t know what it is when you see. Walk right up to that mystery vegetable or other-worldly-looking fruit and pop it right into your reusable shopping bag. Most produce sections have a kiosk or recipe rack featuring info and recipes on how to use various fruits and vegetables. Armed with a free recipe and your mystery produce, your plated adventure can’t be far behind.

    4. Face Your Biggest Food Fear
    Just the mere mention of the word soufflĂ© can cause fear in the hearts of many home cooks. For others, it’s roasting a whole chicken, making pie crust from scratch or deep-frying anything. I am deathly terrified at the prospect of making Turducken (a deboned turkey stuffed with a deboned duck that’s stuffed with a deboned chicken. Seriously.) However simple or complex, identify the one thing that makes you afraid to step into the kitchen, find a recipe for it and make it. That’s it. Just make it. You’ll likely conquer your food fear and add a new recipe to your repertoire to boot.

    5. Take a Cooking Class
    One quick internet search or browse of the phone book (remember those?) and no matter where you live, you’re likely to find several places where you can learn to chop, braise and sautĂ© from a pro. Taking a recreational cooking class will give you an opportunity to learn a new skill or two and you’ll go home with several new recipes in hand. Besides the recipes, you’ll also have a chance to bounce your cooking questions off a trained professional. Most cooking schools offer a choice of classes that are hands-on, where you’ll actually get to cook; or demonstration, where you get to sit back and watch the instructor in action. Either way, you’ll leave with some level of familiarity with the recipes, making it more likely that you’ll give them a go at home.

    6. Become a Locavore for a Day
    Jumpstart your cooking and help save the environment by becoming a locavore for a day. You’ll only be eating foods that are grown or harvested within a 100-mile radius of your hometown, but not to worry, you’ll still have plenty to choose from at your local farmers’ markets and at some higher end grocery stores that make a point of offering locally grown foods. These different, fresher selections may give you a new pool of foods to choose from and fresher food can only breed fresh ideas for how to prepare them.

    Keep these tips handy and you’ll be ready to face your next dinner dilemma with ease.

    --Secrets of a Skinny Chef
    --How to Break Out of Your Culinary Comfort Zone
    --Blood Oranges
    --How to Clean Leeks
    --How to Make Mayonnaise

    Ann Currie publishes My Life a Bit South of Normal> and Silver Pieces: The Strange and Peculiar

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    Retro Review: Girl Scout Guide

    REVIEWED BY: Ms. Cairo

    MY RECOMMENDATION: Yes, with reservations



    BLOG DESCRIPTION: Girl Scout Guide is a resource for girl scouts, troop leaders, and camp counselors. Resources offered are crafts, badge work tips, songs, and other assorted resources for volunteers.

    MY REVIEW: I've subscribed to this blog via Kindle, and at first blush I'd have to say it was unsuitable for the Kindle, since all I see are the entry title, a paragraph, and an ellipsis that is not hotlinked, so I have no way to get to the rest of the article!

    However, in checking the blog's Amazon page, I see it's ranked at about #60,000, which means that it has several subscribers. I find it difficult to believe that these subscribers would continue to subscribe to a blog that they can't read.

    My Kindle, relatively new, is running operation system 2.3. The latest version is apparenlty 2.3.3, and I'm wondering if that system allows people to see this blog completely. Unfortunately, I can't download the system - whatever USB cable they sent me doesn't allow me to connect my Kindle to my computer! Until I can get the appropriate cable, I will just provide a caveat here - if you're running operating system 2.3 you might not be able to see these entries.

    The second question of course is, do you even want to?

    I can remember as a kid, my sister and I joined the Girl Scouts. At least, I think I was a Brownie, my sister, two years older, was a Girl Scout. And we both quit because we never did anything fun. No camping, no biking, no hiking, no whittling...instead all we did was sit around and sing songs and make crafts. Boring!

    And apparently, that's what Girl Scouts still do today, if this blog is to be believed. (FYI, if you're a Girl Scout who wants to get her Aerospace badge, check out the program at the International Women's Air and Space Museum in Cleveland, Ohio.

    In any event, the blog hasn't been updated since March 17. That doesn't necessarily mean its inactive, but I'll keep an eye on it.

    --Paper-Embellished Luminaire
    --JGoode St. Patrick’s Day Coloring Page
    --Girl Scouts to Take Action on Energy Awareness and Conservation through Trane Grant Project
    --Girl Scout Birthday March 12th!
    --Nationwide Study Finds That Teenage Girls Have Mixed Feelings about the Fashion Industry
    --Princess Pat (song lyrics)

    Retro Review: The Portlander

    REVIEWED BY: Ms. Cairo




    BLOG DESCRIPTION: ThePortlander is a new kind of news organization built for people to discover and share news from anywhere in Oregon.

    How do we do this? Everything on ThePortlander - from news to videos to images - is submitted by fellow Oregonians (that would be you).

    And it doesn’t stop there. Because ThePortlander is all about sharing and learning, there’s a conversation that happens around the content. We’re here to promote that conversation and provide tools for Oregonians to discuss the topics that they’re passionate about. By looking at information through the lens of the collective community on ThePortlander, you’ll always find something interesting and unique. We’re committed to giving every voice on ThePortlander an equal shot.

    MY REVIEW: This blog is an excellent resource for anyone living in the Portland, Oregon area. It has all the news that's fit to print, from local news, politics, living green, business, sports and so on.

    The website itself is very cluttered, with about a dozen headlines, a paragraph underneath it, and the necessity to click on a "Read more" button to see the whole article. With the Kindle, the info feeds over in its entirety. All you see are headlines, and you can choose to read what you want based on the headline. (Or, of course, once you click on one article to read, you can then page from article to article, without having to go back to the headline list.)

    Highly recommended.

    Sample post
    WWII Era Navy Aircraft Wreckage Found on Oregon Coast
    A World War II-era U.S. Navy aircraft was discovered by a logging company near Rockaway Beach, Ore., March 18. After Tillamook County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO) and Oregon State Police (OSP) learned about the discovery, the Navy was notified for response. Initial responders believe there is a possibility of human remains at the site.

    A team of U.S. Navy personnel are working on-scene in coordination with TCSO and OSP to investigate and share information with Joint Prisoner of War / Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC) in Honolulu and Navy Region Northwest for further determination.

    Navy personnel and local officials are working together to ensure best possible security and safety measures are taken at the private-property location. Safety and integrity of the aircraft site is paramount to this response. It is important that the Navy team on-scene be allowed to make a thorough, undisturbed investigation at this time.

    OSP Bomb Technicians checked the site Wednesday afternoon and found no obvious signs of unexploded ordnance.

    Initial responders reported seeing a wing, tail section, landing gear and other debris. The site is in a heavily wooded area where aircraft debris is spread out over an approximately 200 yard area which remains under investigation.

    The aircraft’s identity is confirmed as a Curtiss SB2C Helldiver. Naval Air Station Tillamook, decommissioned in 1948, was located within 20 miles southeast of the crash site, but the air station of origin has not been determined.

    -Upcoming Oregon Health Plan Drawing will add 8,000 to state to state insurance
    -Wilsonville Oregon Again Named "Tree City USA" by Arbor Day Foundation
    -Portland Swing Band is a Tribute to Japanese Americans who spent time in internment camps
    -Nissan Altima 3.5SR Coupe: An update for a shrinking segment
    -Portland wants to be known for volunteerism
    -Beaverton to hose "Living Greener" summit on April 10

    Monday, January 17, 2011

    Dev Manny, Information Technology Private Investigator (serial fiction)

    REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle


    AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION LINK: Dev Manny, Information Technology Private Investigator, by Andy Kaiser


    BLOG DESCRIPTION: Information Technology Private Investigator. The full title doesn’t fit well on a business card, and no one’s heard of the acronym. Even walking someone through the pronunciation tends to glaze them over.

    But that’s me. That’s what I do. I investigate mysteries and problems, all of which revolve around information technology. Networks and computers, data and systems, gadgets and gizmos, tools and toys.

    I’m not the best information technology private investigator. There are others better than me, others more experienced, others with better stories to tell.

    But I haven’t met them yet.

    MY REVIEW: If you like mystery fiction, and if you're a computer-junkie, chances are you'll enjoy Dev Manny. Each post is a complete short story, and there's one a month or so. The story is told in first-person by Dev Manny, "Information Technology Private Investigator" and the stories are pretty relevant today!

    Check out this blog!

    A few sample paragraphs from Chapter 5
    Red tail lights swarmed in front of me. They’d be far away, if I’d been walking. But I wasn’t. My car was chattering down the expressway 25 times faster than my usual saunter. The traffic jam up ahead guaranteed I’d come to a fast and painful stop.

    Just to make sure, I slammed on the brake again and my stomach lurched to a stop while my car did not.

    I’d seen the evidence but my brain didn’t want to believe. So it told my foot to try one more time. And once more, just in case reality would permit me to cheat. Unsurprisingly, I continued hurtling ahead, foot pumping mechanically while my hands clenched white on the steering wheel.

    It’s an emergency, I thought. Better use the emergency brake.

    Then I realized… I was right. The emergency brake wasn’t connected to my now-flaccid hydraulic brake system. The emergency brake was cable-connected to the rear brakes. If I was lucky I might live through this, assuming the ancient cable was still good. And that it hadn’t been cut.

    I grabbed the brake handle with one hand and heaved up as hard as I could. I heard the click-click-click-click-click of the ratchet as the cable tightened and strained against the brake drums. Friction engaged. Physics, as it had done ever since the Big Bang, continued to work.

    I slowed, but not enough. I was still flying plenty fast enough to get a speeding ticket from any police officer with bifocals or better. The emergency brake was designed to keep the car from rolling while parked. It wasn’t meant to be used while flying at highway speed.

    Desperate, I let go of the steering wheel with my other hand and ignored the sudden, violent back-and-forth shimmy. I twisted sideways in the seat and used both hands to heave up on the emergency brake. I managed to get two more clicks from the ratchet.

    The traffic jam was just a few dozen feet ahead of me. I was seconds away from hitting cars that were exponentially more expensive than mine. Their insurance was probably paid up, too.

    Thanks to my rarely-adjusted wheel alignment, my car had drifted left after I’d stopped steering. I grabbed the wheel and wrenched it even further left.

    I heard a squeal followed by a gravelly crunching as my car whipped to the side and passed the traffic jam on the median.

    -Superliminal chapter 1: The captured keys
    -Superliminal chapter 2: Constructed destruction
    -Superliminal chapter 3: Showing the case fantastic
    -Superliminal chapter 4: The plot slickens
    -Superliminal chapter 5: Line noise

    New Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
    Check out the following blogs:
    Seaborn: Oceanography Blog
    Star Trek Report: Space Sciences
    Volcano Seven: Treasure and Treasure Hunters
    Rush Limbaugh Report

    Ally's Toy Box (book reviews for kids)

    REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle



    BLOG DESCRIPTION: This web site was created to give parents and caregivers detailed reviews of toys, games, books and other kids’ stuff from a real mom’s perspective. I’m a stay-at-home mom and have a young daughter, Ally. All the products reviewed on this site are ones my family has lived with and played with on a regular basis.

    The Mom Tips, which are also featured on the site, are ideas that I have tried and tested myself. Some of the tips are my own and some were passed on to me by my friends, who are also moms.

    MY REVIEW: Despite its title, this blog has, to date, concentrated more on reviewing books than on toys, movies or other stuff. Nevertheless, there's plenty of good books here, so moms with young kids will enjoy reading this blog and discovering new books to read with their little ones. There's a post every five days.

    Sample review:
    Book recommendation: Lulu and the Brontosaurus

    Lulu and the Brontosaurus (By Judith Viorst) – Lulu always gets what she wants. So when she asks her parents for a brontosaurus for her birthday, she throws a major fit when they say “no. ” Lulu packs a suitcase and heads out into the forest to find her own brontosaurus. And she actually finds one. But unfortunately, the brontosaurus doesn’t want to be Lulu’s pet, he wants Lulu to be HIS pet. Lulu decides she doesn’t like the idea of being a pet, outsmarts the brontosaurus and escapes. And later when she and the brontosaurus meet up again, they realize that neither one of them wants to be a pet but that they can be friends. During the story, Lulu realizes also that being polite and sweet is much better than being selfish and throwing tantrums. This is a chapter book, but the chapters are short and funny, and feature interesting black and white illustrations. I would recommend it for kids ages 5 to 8.

    The book recommendations included on this website are books that my daughter Ally, now age 5, and I have read and enjoyed together. I recommend the books that stand out to me as excellent children’s books for writing, illustrations, originality, story and characters. Ally and I hope you enjoy them too!

    --Book recommendation: Lulu and the Brontosaurus
    --Book recommendation: Children Make Terrible Pets
    --Book recommendation: Fly Guy Meets Fly Girl
    --Book recommendation: Snow Day
    --Book recommendation: The Nutcracker: A Magical Pop-up Adventure
    New Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
    Check out the following blogs:
    Seaborn: Oceanography Blog
    Star Trek Report: Space Sciences
    Volcano Seven: Treasure and Treasure Hunters
    Rush Limbaugh Report

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    It's hard to get good help these days...

    In my last couple of reviews my brain has taken a slight vacance when it comes time to insert "blog name" and Amazon subscription number into the appropriate slots of the template.

    Apologies to my readers - the reviews for Digital Bits Skeptic and The Backyard Arthropod Project have now been fixed.

    So check them out!

    Digital Bits Skeptic (arts & entertainment, culture)

    REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle

    MY RECOMMENDATION: YES, with reservations

    AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION LINK: Digital Bits Skeptic


    BLOG DESCRIPTION: Digital Bits Skeptic is about promoting critical thinking and skepticism. This site was created as a response to the frustratingly large amount of credulity and scientific ignorance in today’s society.

    A skeptical outlook in life is healthy. At the very least, it prevents you from wasting your time or money. At its best, it can save lives. Much of what we see reported in today’s media is overly credulous. Impressive claims are often accepted as fact, without question. Those that are questioned are often not tested scientifically to prove the claim.

    From New Age mysticism to organized religion, from aromatherapy to Bigfoot, Digital Bits Skeptic is a collection of articles critically examining these kinds of topics.

    MY REVIEW: The entries in Digital Skeptic are very thorough - the topic under discussion is looked at thoroughly...and the topics vary - from Biblical prophcies to parenting to how to conduct research. Fascinating reading.

    The only problem is that this blog only gets one post a month. Understandable enough because of the thoroughness of each post, and since it only costs 99 cents a month to subscribe...check it out.

    --Bible prophecies and myth
    --Getting dirty with bacteria panic and unjustified sterilization
    --Skeptical parenting: Critical thinking around the family dinner table
    --The Veil of Ignorance: Don’t confuse tools with the buildings they create

    Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
    Check out the following blogs:
    Seaborn: Oceanography Blog
    Star Trek Report: Space Sciences
    Volcano Seven: Treasure and Treasure Hunters
    Rush Limbaugh Report

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    The Backyard Arthropod Project (science, bugs!)

    REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle


    AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION LINK: The Backyard Arthropod Project


    BLOG DESCRIPTION: This site was created initially to identify the arthropods (bugs!) living in and around the author's house in upper Michigan. In addition, the following points are made:

    (1) Even in areas with “low diversity”, like the northern half of North America or the inside of the average house, there are more kinds of little crawly things than you might imagine.
    (2) Just because an arthropod isn’t big and showy doesn’t mean that it doesn’t deserve attention too.
    (3) It is possible to find interesting things wherever you happen to be if you look at sufficiently high magnification.

    MY REVIEW: As you walk around your home - lawn with grass, gardens, trees - or your neighboring surroundings - chances are that you're walking past bugs of alll kinds. You perhaps ignore them - the owner of this blog positively revels in them!

    Do the leaves of your plants look funny? They might be infested by some microscopic creature. See a strange growth on a tree? It might be the remains of a certain kind of Wasp nest.

    If you have curiousity about your surroundings, this blog is definitely for you. The author writes knowledgeably and well, and takes macro-photographs that reveal every tiny detail of these tiny creatures.

    Highly recommended.

    Sample post:
    Aspen Leaf Blotch Miner Moth
    2011 January 8
    We have a number of aspen trees growing around our yard, and this summer they were heavily infested with a type of “leaf miner”. These are insect larvae that tunnel in between the top and bottom membranes of plant leaves, and just eat out the green, nutritious part in the middle. The leaf damage that these caused looked like this:
    [Photo not included]
    The discolored blotches that they made were most visible from the bottom of the leaves. These were picked on July 24, which was just about the time the caterpillars inside were mature.
    [Photos of the caterillars not included]
    The caterpillars were pretty minute, only maybe 4 mm long.
    Some of them had, in fact, started to pupate already, making these elongated black pupae.
    Sometime in the next month, some tiny moths had emerged from the pupae. We unfortunately didn’t notice they had emerged while they were alive, so we had to make do with photographing a dead one.

    One normally identifies leaf miners based on the kind of plant they were on, and the kind of damage they do. Since these were making blotchy damage to the underside of aspen leaves, that makes them most likely the Aspen Leaf Blotch Miner Moth[1], Phyllonorycter apparella. While they cause a lot of visible damage, they evidently usually aren’t that much of a threat to the tree because they don’t destroy the whole leaf, just parts of it. Although, in sufficient numbers, they can pretty much defoliate a tree. Of course, trees generally have enough resources to survive being defoliated once in a while, so it takes a large infestation several years running to actually kill the trees. And, since these moths have no real defense against predators other than being tiny, their eruptions in numbers tend to get eaten up fairly quickly.

    An interesting thing about the hindwings, is that they don’t look like the hindwings in larger insects. Instead of being a thin membrane, the hindwing looks more like a feather – a solid midrib, with fringes on both sides.

    This type of wing is seen on a number of other very small insects, like the unrelated Thrips. They can get away with these very simple wings because, as you get smaller, the fluid dynamics of air become very different from the way fluid flows at larger scales. Flying through the air when you are about the size of a piece of lint is very different from doing the same thing when you are the size of, say, a bird – at small scales you are dominated by the viscosity of the air, and your weight and the effects of turbulence are much reduced. So rather than having wings that air flows over to create lift, at small scales one is better off with something more like paddles that can be used to row through the air by brute force.

    [1] A trick to use when you are called on to identify an insect and you have only a vague idea what it is: look it over for a bit to see if any traits strike you, string together a bunch of applicable adjectives, stick them onto a broad class of insect, and voila! A common name is generated! And, it has pretty good odds of being the same common name that other people have generated. Like with this one – presented with an aspen leaf, and caterpillars making blotchy mines in the leaf, and that turned out to be a moth, I could generate “Aspen leaf blotch miner moth” off the top of my head. Which then turned out to be the exact common name that BugGuide had them filed under.

    --Aspen Leaf Blotch Miner Moth
    --Engorged Deer Tick
    --Reconstructed Viceroy Butterfly
    --Purplish-Brown Looper
    --Oak Apple Gall

    Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
    Check out the following blogs:
    Seaborn: Oceanography Blog
    Star Trek Report: Space Sciences
    Volcano Seven: Treasure and Treasure Hunters
    Rush Limbaugh Report

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Retro Review: The Happiness Project

    REVIEWED BY: Ms. Cairo


    AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION PAGE: The Happiness Project, published by Gretchen Rubin


    BLOG'S DESCRIPTION: I'm working on a book, THE HAPPINESS PROJECT--a memoir about the year I spent test-driving every principle, tip, theory, and scientific study I could find, whether from Aristotle or Martin Seligman or Oprah. On this daily blog, I recount some of my adventures and insights as I grapple with the challenge of being happier.

    OUR REVIEW: There's not a lot of happiness in the world today, unfortunately. Of course, with all the Haiti and Chile, the lousy economy, the conundrum of global warming (is it or isn't it man-made?), everyone is just a bit tense, if they're paying any attention at all to what's going on in the world. But even those who aren't - teenagers who spend all their time playing violent video games, or even just practicing their skateboarding skills... are they happy?

    Then there's girls...hard to be happy when you're going to be teased at school for being overweight, or for not having a boyfriend, or any of a hundred things some clique finds it necessary to tease you about. Then there's the fact that girls start obsessing over their weight at the age of six, and this new government "anti-obesity" project is just going to exacerbate matters.

    Oh...there's lots of things to feel tense about, which is why The Happiness Project is so important, and why I recommend it highly.

    Here's a few sample paragraphs:

    I’ve always been a bit of a humbug when it comes to “personal development”, happiness fluff and life-changing inspirational yaddayadda…

    That’s because I’ve known for a long time that all these damn lists, personal improvement systems and anti-systems, productivity tips, self-righteous self-help gurus and on and on are mostly just more noise added to the online eco-system of “average” — more stuff to read and follow, more stuff to “TRY” when really you should be out there cutting your teeth and “DOING.” I’ll talk a bit more on my own experience with this, but first let’s get to the point:

    There ARE a number of exceptions to the rule of general mediocrity and fluff online…
    One of the true stand-outs is Seth Godin. It’s been remarkable for me to watch Seth in recent years, as he dives deeper and deeper into his own real natural genius. His short, brilliant, and to the point 14-page manifesto, Brainwashed: Seven Ways to Reinvent Yourself is indispensable for anyone who’s struggling to change the world, grasp their own genius, and stand in their greatest personal power...

    I highly, highly, recommend this blog.

    -We needs must love the highest when we see it
    -Finish the projects you've started. Or call an end to them.
    -Nice paradoxes to contemplate as you consider happiness
    -Happiness and the visits of a gazelle
    -The extraordinary happiness of completing a project: "Four to Llewelyn's Edge"

    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    Retro Review: The Magnificent Frigate Bird

    REVIEWED BY: Ms. CAiro


    AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION LINK: Magnificent Frigatebird


    BLOG DESCRIPTION: ABOUT ME - My name is Amy and I'm a newer birder living in the Chicago area with my husband, Arthur. Besides birding I love to travel. I was fortunate enough to live in Arthur's native Holland for nearly 10 years. We spent a lot of that time traveling around Europe and beyond - birding, scuba diving and having a great time generally exploring our world. On this blog I'll write about my own birding & backyard birding experiences, interesting bird news, and a bit about the birding-themed gifts for sale in our shop here and at Birdorable.

    MY REVIEW: This is another enjoyable birding blog. Well, most birding/bird watching blogs are. There are a lot of photos, and that's the only drawback, they are in greyscale, so you don't get the full impact you would at the actual site. Nevertheless, for a quick daily fix of birdwatching, this one, along with Two-fisted Birdwatcher, fit the bill.

    Here's a sample post:
    As spring migration starts picking up, so do the spring bird club field trips. Lake-Cook Audubon kicked off their 2010 field trip season with today’s Loons of Lake County lead by Fred and Cheri Thompson. We had 33 total species for the day, with nine FOY (First Of Year) birds, including Common Loon and Double-crested Cormorant. We also had our FOS (First of Season) big group of birders.

    (With several photos)

    --T-Shirt Tuesday: I See Birds (posted 3 days ago)
    This week's highlighted shirt design looks like an eyechart you ...
    --Leucistic Robin (posted 4 days ago)
    I saw my first leucistic American Robin on Sunday afternoon ...
    --FOY joy (posted 5 days ago)
    As spring migration starts picking up, so do the spring ...
    --Raptor Internship Week 11 (posted 5 days ago)
    My Raptor Internship at Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation is winding...
    --R&R in Chicago (posted 7 days ago)
    On Thursday Arthur and I are volunteering for Flint Creek ...
    --T-Shirt Tuesday: Ride a Birder (posted 10 days ago)
    This week's highlighted t-shirt design spoofs the popular "Save a ...
    --(Really Old) Book Review: Birding Babylon (posted 12 days ago)
    Birding Babylon: A Soldier's Journal from Iraq by Jonathan ...
    --Three lifers in two days (posted 13 days ago)
    We don't often chase rare bird alerts. When we do, ...

    Retro Review: The Two Fisted Birdwatcher

    REVIEWED BY: Ms. Cairo


    AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION LINK: Two-Fisted Birdwatcher


    BLOG DESCRIPTION: The web's only online birding magazine with grit, humor and attitude. Articles and photos about birds, wildlife, and life in general. Short fiction, essays, bird detective tales, book recommendations and more. An international hit. One reader writes: Not your mamas bird blog!

    MY REVIEW: I have often regretted that I never spent any time as a kid learning the names of birds, and the sounds of their calls. Oh - I know the easy ones, of course, the robin, the cardinal, blue jay (their names, not their calls!) but no more than that. Now that I ride my bike everywhere, I - very occasionally - see a new bird, which I can never identify.

    So I found the two-fisted birdwatcher quite enjoyable. Fun stories, well-written, with a sense of humor. Written by a guy trying to break the stereotype of birdwatchers as nerdy men and myopic ladies. (And it is a stereotype, by the way!)

    There are a few photos. Not as many as I would have expected, but a few. They are of good quality, so even though they are in greyscale andyou can't appreciate the colors, you still get much of the impact of the pictures.

    Sample post
    The Chicago Sun Times reported yesterday that cougars are moving into the Chicago area. This could make bird watching a bit more exciting. It could make the places that we’ve been calling wilderness into something better: Real wilderness.

    Modern day mountain man and author Doug Peacock is said to have said, “It ain’t wilderness unless there’s something in it that can eat you.”

    Well, if we get cougars, our wilderness gets more interesting. And I know the feeling. I hiked mountain trails in Colorado and saw warning signs about mountain lions. The signs were confusing. They said contradictory things like, “don’t threaten,” and at the same time, “wave your arms and look big.”

    No matter. I was glad the signs were there. I was glad the mountain lions were there. It made the hike exciting. There was a little buzz at the back of my neck. I felt I was being watched. I felt I was in the wild.

    And I saw a Clark’s Nutcracker, Gray Jays, Black-billed Magpies, a Golden Eagle far above it all; a Western Tanager that posed for a pretty good picture, Mountain Bluebirds. And others. The birding was good. And there was that buzz throughout. Two-fisted bird watching.

    So if cougars are spreading into our area, I say, okay. And I’m not surprised. A year or so ago, there was a big male cougar sighted by awe-struck citizens as he worked his way toward us from Wisconsin, then through Chicago’s north suburbs, and finally to the north side near Cubs Park in a busy neighborhood where cops gunned him down. You can see this on You Tube.

    My theory is that the lion was heading to Lincoln Park Zoo, which isn’t far from where he was shot. This in-city zoo has open-air lion cages, and maybe the scent carried. Only a lion would know for sure.

    So if cougars are coming in significant numbers to our area, well, let ‘em come. We’ve got enough deer to go around. And it’ll make bird watching in the forests and fields around here have a bit more of a buzz to it.

    Just remember, wave your arms. No, that wasn’t it, look small. No that wasn’t it, look big. Ah, forget it. You’ll probably never see a cougar. But don’t let that stop you from looking for a Pileated Woodpecker, Bald Eagle or Summer Tanager. You really could see one of those.

    --A big, breathing calendar.
    --Name that bird. (photoshopped birds/animal heads essay)
    --Lions are coming to birdland
    --An alternate universe for U.S. bird watchers.
    --Drinking and birding and writing

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011 (business, entrepreneurship)

    REVIEWED BY: Marguerite Zelle




    BLOG DESCRIPTION: Business, health, technology, relationships and family, food, style, travel tips, opinion, reviews, and news for intelligent women everywhere.

    MY REVIEW: This is an excellent blog for women who run businesses, although truth to tell all the bloggers seem to run solely businesses for women - clothing and such like, as opposed to high-powered businesses like accounting, banking, inventing, whatever.

    There are plenty of tips on running business, as well as just life in general, so check it out.

    Sample post:
    Website Review:
    Could you imagine your perfect pair of jeans? What color would they be? What leg style? Would they be high-waist or low? At that’s all up to you. It’s an e-commerce site providing jeans just the way you like them.

    Tons excited and a bit overwhelmed? No need to be, they make it super easy with their simple instructions and step-by-step style choices.

    Visit the How it Works page, and you will see that your only four steps away from a custom pair of jeans. First, pick your fit. Choose from slim, relaxed, trouser, or plus size fit (all the major trends.) These fits vary in width of the thigh and leg area. Next, choose your wash. Choices are: light, medium, dark and rinse; if ever in doubt go with dark denim.

    Third, design the style of your jeans. Now, this is where it gets fun! Here are some of the options you get to choose from: stretch, rise, leg, zipper, and pockets. They have a multitude of choices, some you probably weren’t even aware of. Last, is to type in your exact measurements of your inseam, height, waist, and other measurements. Then its up to Indi to make their magic.

    Men can also benefit from this service. While currently women only get the option of custom jeans, men also get to create button-down shirts. And, when you’re ready for another pair, re-ordering is easy since they save your design and let you make changes as you wish.

    All in all, I’m impressed by all the style choices you get to make. Prices start at $155 which is what you would normally pay for designer denim (that is not custom-made.) So start creating fledgling designers and, “Make it Work!”
    --5 Reasons to Smile in 2011
    2011 is here. Another year passed, and we're alive to experience another year ahead. Just take a …
    --Upcoming Event: Parasol Creations World Domination Tour 2011 (Twitter)
    --Biz Chicks! Check out @EngageMeTweets Twitter party, "Parasol Creations World Domination Tour …
    --Website Review:
    --Could you imagine your perfect pair of jeans? What color would they be? What leg style? Would they …
    --Blog for Digs | My Childhood Bedroom Was…
    This post is part of the Blog for Digs charity event, where interior design bloggers have come …
    --New Diet? New Wardrobe!
    Many of you New Year hopefuls have made a resolution to get into better shape. One of the main …

    Reviews published every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

    Check out the following blogs:
    Seaborn: Oceanography Blog
    Star Trek Report: Space Sciences
    Volcano Seven: Treasure and Treasure Hunters
    Rush Limbaugh Report