About Duffbert...

Duffbert's Random Musings is a blog where I talk about whatever happens to be running through my head at any given moment... I'm Thomas Duff, and you can find out more about me here...

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Co-author of the book IBM Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User's Guide

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Co-author of the book IBM Sametime 8.5.2 Administration Guide

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As we close out the weekend, we MUST have some book reviews!

Category Book Reviews

This has been a very geeky weekend...  I got a new laptop at work, and I spent some time getting it loaded up with the necessary software.  I also was able to get the first Java article for Advisor done and sent off to the editing crew for their "corrections".  It feels good getting that first one out the door.

And of course, there were a couple of books that got finished this weekend, so here we go on those...

The first one was a book called
The Richest Man In Babylon by George S. Clason.  This is an classic old "self-help" book centered on how to conduct your financial affairs.  All the principles are centered around stories set in ancient Babylonian times, and are very well-written.  It's the type of book you'd like your kids to read in order to get ahead of the game as they start their financial lives.  Of course, the chance of GETTING your kids to read an "old" book like this are probably not good...  And just so you don't think I flew through this one...  It's short (less than 160 pages), but I've been reading it on and off for the last three weeks.

The second book I finished was Jeffery Deaver's latest novel
The Vanished Man.  The lead characters in this series are Lincoln Rhyme (a quadriplegic detective who is a master at sifting through evidence) and Amelia Sachs (his protege).  In this story, a series of murders are committed that appear to be staged as magic acts.  As Rhyme and Sachs start hunting down the killer, they realize they are up against a master illusionist who is very skilled at physiological and psychological misdirection.  Many, many unusual plot turns here.  While I liked the story a lot, the plot shifts at the end seemed to cross the line from plausible to "give me a break".  Worth reading, but I do wish the end had been a bit more reasonable...


Blogging as a networking tool...

Category Blogging

An email I received today has started me thinking more and more about how blogging has become a personal networking tool for me...

As you've read, I'm very high on the Head First Java book by Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates.  Well, today I saw that I had a Google hit for that book title on my blog.  I also received an email from Ms. Sierra thanking me for the blog entry and saying I had make her's and Bert's week.  I returned the email, and it would be great to see this become an ongoing exchange with some very talented writers.  I was also able to hook up some other Notes bloggers with copies of the book based on the feedback via the blog.  My contact at O'Reilly is interested to see how this type of publicity might work out.

There have been a number of other things that have happened lately that I attribute to the blog.  After meeting Ed Brill at Lotusphere and reading his blog, I was able to have a part of his coming out to Portland to speak to our user group and to some of our clients.  After meeting Rocky Oliver at Lotusphere and through blog interactions, I've started to write some articles for Advisor.  This could also lead to speaking at conferences...  who knows?

Chatting with Rocky this morning, he mentioned that he views his blog as part of his marketing efforts now.  I'm sure Ed would view things the same way.

When you mention that you have a blog, you get a variety of responses.  Some people are very excited to read it and become regular visitors.  Some people look at you with that look that says "like YOU have anything to say that people would care about".  Regardless, I'm starting to see this as a vital part of my efforts to network in professional circles.  I've had a number of emails and personal meetings where people have introduced themselves and related that they follow my blog.  That means I'm connected with a number of people in ways I don't currently know, but that may become important down the road.  As a consultant, that is a very important thing.  Between Lotusphere 2003 and this blog, I have improved my networking skills by an order of magnitude.  

For people like Rocky, Rob, Ben, Richard, and others, this is very important.  It's yet another way to promote their business and expertise.  And in today's sluggish economy, every little bit helps.  While I'm not a sole proprietor like they are, I still need to be out there "beating the bushes", so to speak.  Working for a small consulting company means that you have an impact on the bottom line when it comes to meeting with others and recruiting new business.

Just curious to hear how others view their blogs and how the blogs relate to their professional/personal networking efforts...


Here's your chance to show off your graphic talents!

Category Blogging

I have decided that this blog will change names to "Duffbert's Random Musings".  As a result, I need a new logo to have at the top of the blog.

Alas, I have the graphical talent of a slug.  If it's more than two straight lines and three colors, I'm toast.  Therefore, I would LOVE to have someone who is good at that kind of stuff design a new title logo for the page.  I was thinking of something similar to the Dilbert font style (http://www.dilbert.com), but am also open to anything else.  Just make sure it's not a 100K image so that it takes forever to load...

The winning entry (heck, it might be ANY entry) will somehow be forever honored in this blog...


I think I'm about to rename the blog...

Category Blogging

... to "Duffbert's Random Musings"...  :-)

When I was working at a job awhile back, I actually did pick up the nickname of Duffbert.  We had Dillbert, Catbert, Dogbert, and then me...  Duffbert.  And in some apps I did that had domain name information, I always used www.duffbert.com as my test example.

I noticed that Rocky has started to refer to me as Duffbert now, and jonvon is referring to me STRICTLY as Duffbert on the blog roll...

Perhaps the time has come to surrender to the inevitable...  :-)


This Shark Tank story was just too funny not to share...

Category Humor

I get a daily email from Computerworld called Shark Tank.  It normally has "Dilbert-esque" stories from the IT world sent in by readers.  The one today was just too funny not to share...

Shark Tank: The voice from beyond the, um, couch

The receptionist at this small accounting firm doubles as network administrator. And she's sharp, reports the consultant pilot fish who provides outside support: "She only called us when she had a really difficult problem.

"One day, she called to tell me she had a problem she didn't know how to approach. Apparently, one of the senior partners said her computer was talking to her."

Fish knows there's no speech software on any of the bean counters' PCs.  "Well, what is it saying to her?" he asks.

"I'll find out," receptionist says and hangs up. Next day she calls fish back to report that the computer, in a very faint voice, said, "Hey, I need your help, why won't you talk to me?" And this time, the receptionist has heard the voice herself.

"This warranted a service call, if for nothing more than a good mystery and a possible exorcism," fish says.

"I arrived and pulled the computer out from under the desk, untangled the cabling and noticed the phone line to the modem."

A modem? Then he remembers: This is the partner who took time off the year before to have a baby. "We had installed a modem and remote control software on her computer so she could telecommute for the first six months after the baby was born," fish says.

"The modem connection squeal bothered other people in the office, so we had turned down the volume on the modem speaker."

When the partner returned to work, the phone line was supposed to have been disconnected. But when fish borrows a phone and connects it to the line, he gets a dial tone.

And when the phone rings again, he finally learns the reason for the mysterious, pleading voice.

"Apparently, the phone number had belonged to a psychiatrist several years prior, and an old patient had started calling again," says fish.

"He heard the modem pick up and wait for a connection tone -- as if someone picked up the phone and just listened.

"I explained to the caller that this was no longer his psychiatrist's line. Then I unplugged the cable from the modem, and suggested the company REALLY disconnect the line this time."


Two book reviews (and BOTH are non-fiction!)...

Category Book Reviews

First off, we'll start with Head First Java by Kathy Sierra and Bert Bates.  This is, quite simply, the most unique learning guide to Java that is out on the market.  And the fact it's from O'Reilly will shock some people who are used to just getting "the facts" from their books.  It's written in a very informal, humorous, conversational style, with tons of offbeat graphics and examples.  There's actually a method to the madness, too.  They figure that if they can make the information interesting and "different", the brain will stay engaged in the learning process.  There are exercises and puzzles at the end of each chapter, and plenty of code examples to play with.  While I've gone through many Java tutorials (and maybe one will sink in some day...  A picture named M2), this is by far my favorite.  I even finally understood the why and hows of inner classes when we got done, and that was a part of the certification test that stymied me.  If you are looking for a book to start your Java learning experience, I highly recommend this book.

Now for something completely different...

I just finished the last of the main Enron expose books out on the market.  This one is
Power Failure by Mimi Swartz and Sherron Watkins.  Watkins, as you may know, is the "whistleblower" who wrote the anonymous memo to Ken Lay foretelling of the accounting nightmare that was about to happen if Enron didn't come clean.  They didn't, and the rest is history.  The book is well-written in my opinion, and tends to collaborate all the rotten, nasty things we've all heard about the Enron arrogance and greed at the highest levels of the company.  Having worked for Enron Broadband, I feel somewhat of a personal attachment to this story, and many different thoughts hit me during the reading of this book.  Here they are in no particular order...
  • I am SO glad I never worked in Houston (and in fact was one of the few Portland employees that never made it to the corporate offices).  When you read about the culture of Enron, it's always framed in terms of the Houston location.  The Portland location was so different than that.  Compared to what went on in Houston, Portland was like an oasis.  Now, it wasn't perfect by any stretch, but most people were not working 16 hour days and engaging in the vicious politics so prevalent in the South.  Politics were there, to be sure.  But it was a whole different world.  It's sometimes hard to reconcile what I read with where I worked...
  • Books like this tend to irritate me in a way.  Written after the fact, they can impose a sense of knowledge and wisdom that no one possessed in the middle of the event.  It's fair to read a book like this and ask "how could you be so stupid as to not see this coming?".  In reality, few employees at our low levels had access to the type of information that is now common knowledge.  We had the CEO telling us all was great and that this was a fantastic opportunity.  And being thrilled to be part of "something special", most of us bought into it.  I will admit to being more cynical and cautious now.  I still like to believe in the company I work for, and that's one of the benefits I get by working at Boom Vang Consulting.  But still, I take fewer things at face value now...
  • Sherron Watkins has been hailed as a hero for her role in all this.  She even made Time's Person Of The Year for 2002.  But reading this account, I have my doubts as to how I view her role here.  She claims to be looking out for the company's best interest by bringing all this to light, while deciding to stay put at the company because the cost of her lifestyle precluded her leaving.  Many of her job changes had an element of "where can I get the best bonus" in them.  She continued to go back and work for people like Andy Fastow, who she was convinced was engaging in unethical and illegal activities.  If all this was weighing on her conscious, why didn't she resign?  Well, it would mean losing the home in Southampton, losing the nanny, losing the expensive vacations, losing the private schooling for the child, etc., etc.  Sounds more like selling out to me.  In fact, at the end she complains about how Jeff McMahon was griping about the whining by employees concerning the measly severance amounts.  She realizes that he's lost touch with the way normal people (and even upper middle class people) live.  She states she couldn't keep her kid in a private school.  Like that's a RIGHT???

OK...  enough of my random musings here.  Interesting book, and it does shed light on what went down at Enron.  Just don't build Watkins up to be a hero until you read the book and judge her motives for yourself.


Well... that was a good read...

Category Book Reviews

Just finished the book The Face by Dean Koontz.  Other than the fact it is too long by about 200 pages (over 600 pages), I liked it.  The story revolves around the 10 year old son of a movie star who is growing up in this fortified mansion they call home.  The chief of security is charged with the actor's security, and makes sure that all the bases are covered when it comes to the safety of the family.  But when his best friend dies and the body goes missing in the morgue, things start to get strange.  And when he is apparently killed in a shooting but finds himself back alive again moments before the incident with a chance to relive it, he starts to get freaked out.  These elements combine together in a countdown to an attempt to kidnap the child, and the security guy has to prevent it without getting killed.

I'm finally getting to the point where I might  recommend Dean Koontz to readers without knowing their reading habits.  In Koontz' early work (and ones done under pen names), he comes across as one strange and disturbed individual.  All his books deal with the supernatural, but the early works are WAY  far out there.  Most of his newer work is more mainstream (or as mainstream as you can be in this genre), and you can read for the story without getting freaked out over the graphic nature of the violence.


The latest read...

Category Book Reviews

Just finished No Second Chance by Harlan Coben.  In this novel, a doctor is nearly killed when he and his wife are shot in their home, and their six month old daughter is missing.  His wife dies, but he barely survives.  The leads to his daughter start going cold until a ransom demand is finally received.  When the police get involved, the suspected kidnappers disappear with the money and no trace of the daughter is found.  The police start suspecting that the doctor might just be involved in all this activity, and he has to prove his innocence at the same time he's trying to find out if his daughter is still alive.

If I go much further, I'll start to give things away.  I can say that it's a good read and worth the time.

Next up...  A trip into the supernatural world of Dean Koontz with his latest...  The Face


Let's hear it for the "B" team!

Category Everything Else

I read an interesting article in Computerworld today.  It's titled
Nurture The B Team by Vineeta Vijayaraghavan.  The article talks about the vast number of IT staff that would be considered "B" team players in their organization.  The "A" team consists of the people who are the stars, the ones getting the huge bonuses and who seem to be the center of attention.  And of course, you have the "C" team which are the ones who probably shouldn't have gone into IT in the first place.  But the "B" team are the ones who quietly work behind the scenes and pull the organization's weight behind them.  They have a temperment that doesn't demand that they get their way or that they always be front and center.  Also, they tend to be very influential as they can get things done through indirect channels that others don't normally recognize.

As a consultant, I feel that talented "B" players are valuable.  Too often, the "A" player personality comes off as arrogant, that you can't tell them anything that they don't already know.  That's why they are a consultant, right?  But the temperment of a "B" player is what counts with the client.  Building up trust and long-term relationships...  Working WITH the client to solve the problems that they face...  Being willing to admit that you may not know all the answers right away, but you'll work hard to get those answers as needed.

So what are your views?  Do you consider yourself an "A", "B", or "C" player?  

(But if you were a "C" player, would you admit it to the 10 people who are reading this blog?  
A picture named M2  )


Great user group meeting today with Ed Brill...

Category IBM/Lotus

Boom Vang Consulting had the pleasure of hosting the Portland Domino/Notes User Group meeting with Ed Brill as the speaker.  He did the competitive analysis talk, an overview of the Lotus Workplace strategy, and a quick demo of Notes 6.5.  We had 50 people at the meeting, which is over double what we normally draw.  In fact, we had to hold it at a different location than normal...  The Oregon Zoo (in one of their conference rooms).  There's no truth to the rumor that Ed was mistaken for an 800 pound gorilla before the meeting...  :-)  He did a GREAT job and the meeting MORE than surpassed our expectations!

If you want to look at some of the photos, you can head over to
Ofoto.  The pics are a little fuzzy, as I was trying to shoot without flash as to avoid any distractions.  You'll also see a couple pictures of the dinner we had the night before at Jake's (with Bruce, Gayle, John Pontefract, and Lauren Williams (and of course Ed))...


Remembering the old Lotus Notes Support Forum Survival Guide...

Category IBM/Lotus

Looking at a post of
Robert Basic's this morning, I was reminded of the old Lotus Notes Support Forum and all the fun we used to have there.  Used to be, there were three online discussion forums that people used to ask questions.  There was always the Notes.net Gold forum.  LOTS of posts there, and seemingly the same questions over and over.  Then there was the Water Cooler forum.  A fair amount of activity, but also a lot of juvenile behavior (remember Mr. Potatohead?).  Then there was the Notes Support Forum, hosted by Lotus.  This was probably in the middle of the other two forums as far as activity goes, but the group there was passionate and committed to helping out.

There were a group of regulars commonly known as "The Inner Circle" who were able to answer an amazing volume of questions.  When I first started hanging out there, I was sure these people worked for Lotus!  It was only later that I realized these were people just like myself who believed in Notes and helped others because they felt it was the thing to do.  As I hung out there more and more, I started helping out others too.  Pretty soon, I too attained the ranks of Inner Circle-ness.  It's through that board that I met people that I still email on a daily basis (Ron Heller, Chris Miller, Scott and Chaz Russo, Bas, JoAnn (The Token), and others).

As part of my contribution, I started compiling the
Discussion Group Survival Guide which still lives on with a link today in the Gold Forum.  I also did the Search Survival Guide.  Those were my first (best?) contributions to the greater Notes community.  I took occasional heat as the "Etiquette Nazi" for it, but the majority of the group used it as the guide by which they lived on the boards.

Alas, the board eventually died off due to consolidation efforts by Lotus.  The Water Cooler died first, which was no great loss.  Our forum died next, hastened by a series of incidents with a rogue poster using common aliases of members out there to post derogatory stuff.  We had a hidden view (thanks, Ron!) that showed the IP address of posters, and we tracked him down and got him kicked off at least one ISP.  But that was the last hurrah for the board.  Valu.org offered to take over the forum, but due to many different reasons it didn't work out.  Here was my last
post out there...  In hindsight, probably not the most mature response to the issues we were having with Valu.org, but it felt good at the time...  


Pretty good book for a high-level view of the wireless web...

Category Book Reviews

Over the last week, I finished a book called Wireless Web: A Manager's Guide by Frank Coyle.  This is a relatively short book (core is less than 200 pages) that covers many wireless subjects at a high level.  It's meant for managers (duh!) and executives who want to understand what technologies are involved and basically how they work (without having a reference manual aimed towards techies).  Much of the info I either already knew or knew of (such as WAP), but I also learned more about some of the detail surrounding how they work.  For instance, I knew Bluetooth was a wireless networking technology to allow devices to talk to each other over a very short distance, but I really didn't know how it works.  This book explains it very well for someone who isn't going to be making it their next career...  :-)


I didn't know THAT was gonna happen...

Category Everything Else

There have been a couple of news stories of late that have made an impression on me.  They both have to do with the consequences of an action that at the time probably seemed like a pretty minor deal...

#1, as you may have guessed, is the Martha Stewart story.  She sold off stock in a company immediately before news was announced that caused the stock to plunge.  Since she was friends with the CEO, the allegation was that she was tipped off and practiced something known as "insider trading".  In the large scheme of things, the amount wasn't that large.  We're not talking millions here.  I believe we're talking tens of thousands.  So what was the ramification of placing a phone call with her broker?  She's hounded by the press for months, she is indicted by the FBI, she loses control of the company that bears her name, and she could likely serve jail time (not to mention some hefty monetary fine).

#2 is the Rick Neuheisel story.  He WAS the coach of a college football team in Washington State, and he recently lost his job over revelations that he participated in a betting pool involving college basketball.  Now, office pools on sports is a very common thing in the US.  Granted, most people are talking pretty low stakes.  If you win $100, you're flying high.  In Neuheisel's case, it was thousands of dollars.  In addition, it wasn't even the sport he coaches.  So what were the ramifications of signing up for that sports pool?  He's raked over the coals in the media, subjected to a great deal of personal embarrassment, and loses a multi-million dollar job.

Now, when you commit a serious crime, you expect consequences.  Shoot someone, you (should) go to jail.  Rob a bank, off you go.  But sometimes, you decide to take an action that on the surface seems to be pretty inconsequential.  Assuming Martha did what she did, she probably thought that selling a few thousand shares before she lost a few thousand dollars wasn't a big deal.  Little did she know that the illegality of a small action (a phone call) would lead to such dire consequences.  And for Rick, what was probably viewed as a recreational activity (participation in a pool) ended up costing him his reputation, his job, and a great deal more than he earned from winning the pool.  Granted, in Neuheisel's case, there were a lot of other prior actions that caused the university to can him over this one, so it's not like he had a stellar reputation going into this incident.  But still, the phrase "Sure, put my name down" has cost him dearly.

All too often, we tend to act first and think about it later (if at all).  But in this day and age, there is much more public scrutiny on actions.  Actions that may be borderline (or technically legal) at the time can come back to haunt one later.  Intentions may have been good (or morally neutral) when the decision was made, but a cynical public may not buy them in hindsight.  Stories such as these bring home the point...  Listen to that little voice in the background.  If there's that twinge of "wait a second...." when you start to do something, stop and think it through.  Could this be wrong?  Is there the chance that this could be viewed as a bad decision?  Is the short term gain for whatever I'm about to do worth the potential long term damage that could result?

OK...  enough for the bellybutton introspection...  Let's get out there and have fun...  Just be safe and look both ways before you cross the street (or sell stocks based on a hot tip, or bet than Aniheim will win the World Series, or...)


The last of my "reserve" paperbacks...

Category Book Reviews

I woke up this morning at 3 am, couldn't go back to sleep, so ended up finishing the book Thief Of Light by David Ramus.  By "reserve paperback", I mean books I pick up at the library in the paperback area, and then hang onto them until I run out of hardback fiction that I purposely put on hold there.  I took a number of paperbacks with me on vacation, and this was the last one.  Usually I'm not looking for excellence in these titles, just something to be mildly entertaining until something better comes along (no, I HAVE to have some book going at all times...)

This novel was a pleasant surprise.  The story is about an art dealer who is involved in a scheme to provide forgery paintings to a Japanese client who then distributes them overseas.  When his forger is murdered and a forged Monet is destroyed, he attempts to tell the client that he can't deliver.  But the client is part of a crime family, and insists on the delivery of a real Monet to replace it.  The dealer is already over-extended on credit, strung out on drugs, and isn't sure what he can do.  He decides to clean up his act and try to get out of this mess.  But of course, the client won't take no for an answer, and people close to him are in danger until he gets what he wants.

Very good pacing, involving plot, and good characters.  Reading the review on Amazon, it sounds like the author lived some of the plotline in his real life before he decided to start writing.  If you're into art and/or are looking for a good read, this one isn't bad...


What would you like to see in a Java article focused for Notes/Domino developers?

Category Software Development

Rocky Oliver contacted me last weekend and asked if I would like to write a series of articles for Advisor magazine.  These articles would focus on Java and how it relates to the average Notes/Domino developer.  Joe Litton and I are going to co-author this, and it should be a lot of fun...

The target for this series is the Notes/Domino developer who is competent in LotusScript, but isn't the type who writes their own LotusScript classes or anything esoteric like that.  They feel the need to learn Java because seemingly the whole world is going that way and IBM keeps telling them to get on the ball.  But rather than pick up a thousand page bookstop and turn to page 1 (or xvii), they need a quick jumpstart on the language, basic syntax, how it works with the Domino object model, and how they would use it in a Notes application.

I'd be interested in any feedback out there on what you'd be interested in for this series.  Joe and I are starting to list the subjects we want to cover and figure out how to break it up, and input at this point would be valuable to make sure we hit the mark...

The comment lines are now open for your use...


If you're looking for a book to learn Java, you have GOT to check this one out....

Category Book Reviews

Heck....  If you're already knowledgeable in Java, check it out anyway.  It's called Head First Java by O'Reilly Press....

I review O'Reilly books as part of their User Group program.  They send me review copies of books I request, I read them and write reviews, the reviews get posted to our user group web site (and potentially are used as "media reviews" by O'Reilly), and I get to keep the book.  Great deal if you're a book junkie like I am.  I've focused on books that revolve around technology used by IBM/Lotus, such as HTML, DHTML, Javascript, and particularly Java.  

Anyway...  I saw this new book called Head First Java and decided to give it a try.  A lot of the people in our user group are new to Java, and I thought it would be a good resource for them.  I'm just starting to read the book, but all I can say is WOW!  I tend to like humor thrown into my technology learning, and as a result I tend to like the Dummies series.  This (hopefully will be a) Head First series takes the approach that learning is enhanced by multiple involvements in the brain.  And boy, does this book deliver!

To quote from the back of the book:

"We know what you're thinking...  why is there a duck in the memory management section?  Can a girl in a bathtub illustrate the fine points of polymorphism?  Is this for real?

"If you want to be bored, go buy some other book.  Please.  (We'd tell you which book, but we'd probably be sued.)  But if you want to learn Java, get a high-paying job (right), and improve your social life at the same time, you need Head First Java."

I strongly suggest you get your hands on this book if you're getting into Java...  If they make the Head First concept into a series, I'll be forever spoiled in what I require from a learning resource...


If Volker can do it, so can I...

Category Everything Else

Way too much fun...

A picture named M2

OK...  So the link is to my
vacation photos, not to a site that would appeal to a particular gender...  A picture named M3


Time to catch up on the book postings...

Category Book Reviews

Over the last couple of weeks, I've finished off a few books that haven't made it to the blog yet.  So to rectify that, here we go...

Number 1 is an Ed McBain novel called Fat Ollie's Book.  It's an 87th Precinct novel with an amusing and twisted plot.  While investigating the murder of a mayorial candidate, someone breaks into Fat Ollie's car and steals a case containing a novel he just finished writing (all 38 pages).  The person who stole it believes it to be the details of a real crime, and starts following "clues" to figure out how to cash in on the crime.  McBain uses a "novel within a novel" concept to present the story, and it's a fun read, both on a story level and on a style level.

Next, we have Nobody Dies In A Casino, by Marlys Millhiser.  This is a story about a literary agent who goes to Las Vegas for a vacation, and ends up becoming the link between seven murders in a week.  Mix in Area 51 conspiracy and a casino robbery, and you have a very disjointed plot that seems to ramble way too much.  I generally like the female detective genre (think Janet Evanovich and Sue Grafton), but this one didn't do it for me.

Two down, three to go...  The third one is Psychic Warrior: Project Aura by Robert Doherty.  This is a sequel to a prior book using the same concept and characters (which I haven't read).  The concept is based on a group of soldiers who can leave their bodies and exist on the "virtual plane".  Once they are there, they can battle enemies both on the real and virtual planes.  This novel has the group battling two rather murky groups which seem to live in the virtual world, and there's a lot going on that must be based on what happened in the first book, as I never felt like I was plugged into the story here.  This was a book I could have skipped and been happy doing so...

Next, there's The Debt Collector by Lynn Hightower.  This is a crime novel involving the killing of a family for no apparent reason.  When the female detective starts looking at the crime scene, she discovers the dying mother under the bed holding her unharmed baby.  The mother says there were two killers and "an angel", and the detective has to figure out what this means.  A retired detective contacts her with a suggestion as to who the killers might be based on a crime he solved many years ago.  As she digs into the case, it appears that there truly were three people involved, but she is seemingly stonewalled from pursuing that angle by others in the police force.  She also finds a tie-in to a check loan company that is figuring into the plot.  A pretty good story, and one that would probably lead me to read some of her earlier works.

And finally, a book I actually was looking forward to!  It's Dirty Work by Stuart Woods.  He brings back the main character Stone Barrington, who is asked by his legal firm to get some photo evidence of an affair involving the husband of a client.  The guy he hires to get the pictures bungles the job and gets himself arrested for killing the husband when he falls through the skylight onto him.  But all is not as it seems as the husband was actually dead before the fall.  The killer is the woman he was with, and Barrington soon finds himself involved in a major international spy incident.  The woman is wanted by the British as she is killing people involved in the killing of her parents during a political assassination when she was young.  Barrington is involved in both sides of the matter, and the good guys and bad guys are not necessarily who you'd expect.  A very good read, and I recommend it.

OK...  one more "finally" paragraph, not for a book but for a movie.  While on vacation last week, my wife and I saw Finding Nemo by Pixar and Disney.  As with all the other Pixar films done with Disney, this is a movie well worth seeing.  The animation is great, the story line draws you in, the characters are memorable, and there are some great lines in the movie.  I don't think it's got the same impact as Toy Story, but it's right up there with Monsters, Inc.


I'm back, I'm rested, and I'm ready to go!

Category Everything Else

Hi, everyone!  We got back from our Disneyworld vacation last night, and it was great.  This is one of the few vacations where I don't feel like I need time off to recover from my time off!

We were down in Orlando at Walt Disney World for eight days, and it was the perfect amount of time (short of just staying down there permanently).  We've been down there numerous times, so it's not like we have to see everything for the first time.  We have our likes and dislikes, so we don't usually have to waste time on attractions we've done once (and thought that was one too many times).  In the past, I've always felt that we HAD to be at the parks when they open, we HAD to be there all day, and sleeping in was not an option.  This time, we slept in, hit the parks a little later, and generally just had a laid-back vacation.  It was plenty warm down there (around 90 degrees each day), and we didn't have major rain issues until the last couple of days.  The humidity was high as usual, but there are so many air-conditioned areas down there.  In fact, you can walk in front of storefronts about 30 feet out and still get blasted with cool air from the open doors.  I'd hate to see their electric bills.  My two kids will probably consider this the best family vacation ever, as they both figured out the WDW transportation system early.  We spent some family time together, but we also let them come and go as much as they wanted.  Let's see...  17 and 15, complete freedom, and not a lot of time with mom and dad...  I'm seeing a trend here...

Another thing that helped out was the medication for my dysthymia.  We're at the point where everyone in the family is aware of how much I've improved since I sought help.  I've been told that I've emotionally "sabotaged" many a vacation in the past (ok...  perhaps ALL of them!), and that this one was vastly different.  The few times I started getting tense during the vacation, the kids just kidded me that I should double my dosage for the day...
A picture named M2  The only real rough spot was traveling back and the short layover in Phoenix.  We were trying to get food for the kids (as the flights had no food service and Ian is diabetic), and there was some tension over who was doing what.  Other than that, it was emotionally a relaxing time.  Usually when we leave the Disney property, I get very depressed and melancholy.  I wasn't feeling it this time at all, and I actually wondered if perhaps I SHOULD be feeling more sad over leaving!  Guess I still need more time to adjust to this new feeling! A picture named M3

I'm also very excited to get back to work.  The time off was long enough to get refreshed, and I was able to step away from technology enough to allow me to see the forest a little better (instead of all the trees close up).  I took the laptop along on the trip, but the only thing I used it for was downloading the digital pics from the camera.  In fact, the kids used it more than I did for listening to CDs and doing a little homework due the final week of school.

And speaking of digital pictures...  In the past, we've taken a camcorder along, and I've always felt that I lived my vacation through a three inch screen.  I get back home, transfer the video to a regular VHS tape, and then we hardly ever watch it again.  This time I took my digital camera along to see if it would be any easier to capture memories.  I'm completely sold on digital cameras now!  I normally don't take too many pictures as I want "the perfect picture".  As a result, I end up taking very few.  With digital technology, you can take multiple pictures of the same scene with no "waste".  It's also far lighter to tote around than the camcorder, so I ended up carrying it with me nearly all the time.  As a result, we have a nice set of 400 or so pictures that I'll burn off to a CD, and of course we'll never watch again!
A picture named M4

I finished three books while I was down there, and I'll post on them tomorrow.  It's not as bad as it sounds...  The first was was nearly done before I left (and in fact I finished it before getting on the plane), and the third one was read during the flight back.  Limiting myself to a single book over an eight day period is actually quite an accomplishment, and it means I was actually DOING stuff on vacation instead of just sitting around...

OK...  the third period of the sixth game of the Stanley Cup playoffs is coming up, and the Ducks are ahead (GO DUCKS!).  I'll end this post with a few of the pictures and scenes I enjoyed during my vacation...  

A picture named M5A picture named M6A picture named M7A picture named M8A picture named M9A picture named M10A picture named M11
A picture named M12


Tom has stepped out for a short time

QuickImage Category Blogging

More than likely he looked like this at some point :-) So I heisted his blog for ransom and we shall see if he pays up when he returns.  But for your reading pleasure feel free to follow his blogroll list!!!!!

Chris Miller

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Thomas "Duffbert" Duff

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