Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Book Review: In the Hand of Dante by Nick Tosches

A few hundred years ago, Dante Alighieri wrote a few books that have survived through hundreds of years. Today, Dante’s Divine Comedy is studied by school children and hailed as one of the greatest works of all time. There are no known copies of anything that the poet himself actually wrote with his own hand, everything that has survived were completed books copied out by scribes and elaborately decorated in the tradition of the times.

Now a copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy has been found – or should I say, the original has been found. This is a copy written alternately on parchment and paper with editing marks made throughout, and the known words of these works written out through all the scratching. If it turns out to be authentic, it is a treasure worth more than any other in the world. What price can be put on Dante’s own words, in his own handwriting, and on the original words of the Comedy before it was forced into the rigid structure of poetry?

The story centers around Nick, the author-turned-literary-character, who is aging and dying of age and the complications of diabetes. As he reminisces about his life, he also pursues the Dante document, along with the trigger-happy Louis, and works toward authenticating it. The story line jumps around from chapter to chapter, alternately following Nick, some associate in crime or other (such as Louis and Joe Black), various Vatican personnel, and Dante himself.

The blurb on the inside of the cover of this book hooked me. It spoke of a story of suspense, mystery, thrills, and ties to the distant past. I have always loved history, and books based on history – however loosely – have always gotten my attention. Unfortunately, the difference between what the inside cover promised and what the book actually held were like night and day.

Sure, the story the inside cover tells about is in there…the events surrounding the Dante manuscript…but it is a very bare-bones story line that has been stretched out over nearly 400 pages. How did they stretch it out, you ask? By interminable stretches of musings on life, philosophy, and all manner of other things that are neither interesting nor terribly relevant to the story. Every once in a while these stretches of pretty-sounding nothing are broken up by bits of the story itself, or interesting little side lines such as a three-page letter to the author’s publisher.

It’s really a pity that the story ended up being such a dud, because the writing style itself ended up being fairly intriguing. Before I knew just how bad the story would be, the style kept me reading; it has a strange cadence to it that was a bit annoying at first, but slowly pulled me in with its rhythm. As a writer, this intriguing writing style was the only redeeming aspect of the book for me because it gave me exposure to a style of writing completely different from anything I’d thus far been exposed to.

Overall, this book was extremely over-burdensome and boring. The author did spend a bit of time criticizing Dante’s works, as well as the works of other well-known authors, so maybe he was trying to make a point about pretty words not making a book? More likely this book is a victim of the lack of an editor. The author goes on at length about how the best editors are the ones who don’t edit at all…which might explain how an editor would allow this book to make it to the publishing stage. In my own opinion, the best editors are those who can find writers that do not need to be edited, a quality our dear Mr. Tosches obviously does not possess as his book would have benefitted greatly from an unbiased look at the book. No doubt such an editor would have informed Mr. Tosches that his 20-page short story simply can’t be expanded to 400 pages, and any attempt to do so would be utter folly and would result in a completely bored audience who will never give a second look to any of his works.

If you’re looking for a good book for a weekend read or with which to kick back and relax, definitely look elsewhere. Writers may find some interest in the writing style, though I found no value in the substance of the book itself except possibly as evening reading, because it will do wonders in helping someone go to sleep.

Labels: A Book Review: In the Hand of Dante by Nick Tosches

A Retro Cafe Racer Motorcycle Review of the 2009 Triumph Thruxton

Cool. That’s the first word that will invariably come to your lips the first time you set your eyes on the 2009 Triumph Thruxton. Like the Bonneville, the 2009 Triumph Thruxton harkens back to a time when motorcycles were simpler, unpretentious, and not worried about anything but riding. The engine isn’t a colossal beast, and by all accounts, the 2009 Triumph Thruxton isn’t a large bike, but it is big on personality, and carries with it a heritage that just can’t be matched by other motorcycle manufacturers. What really stands out about the 2009 Triumph Thruxton, and perhaps the thing that will throw you first of all, is how much this motorcycle looks like a 1960’s era café racer. Triumph planned it that way- from the spoked wheels to the low-rise handle bars, you are meant not to be able to tell on first glance what year this bike comes from. You’re just as likely to see a well-restored bike sitting beside it on any given day, and perhaps the sharp eyes will pick out the differences- brake systems and updated controls. That’s about the end of it. The 2009 Triumph Thruxton, more than simply a marvel of retro engineering, it is an homage to an earlier age, to a day when it isn’t so easy to find an unmolested early Triumph motorcycle, free of the chopper influence that came out of the 1970’s and late 60’s.

The 2009 Triumph Thruxton features an air-cooled Dual overhead cam parallel twin engine with 360 degree firing interval that displaces 865cc. While you’ll think you’re looking at a Triumph with a carburetor, the truth is that Triumph engineers designed a Multiport sequential electronic fuel injection system to fool your eyes. They’ve cleverly disguised the EFI system as an old-style carb setup, and only close inspection will reveal the truth of the 2009 Triumph Thruxton’s next-generation electronics. Everything that could be hidden was hidden. This engine is rated at 69 horsepower, and has 52 ft/lbs of torque, more than enough to scoot this 451lb motorcycle around corners at a sporty clip, and with a 4.2 gallon fuel tank, you’ll be able to take on many, many of those curves before you’ll need to stop off at a gas station.

A tubular steel cradle frame is sufficiently strong and retro-looking, performing flawlessly around curves and through straights, offering stability and bump-soaking comfort. Assisting with the comfort of the 2009 Triumph Thruxton are 41mm forks with adjustable preload for the front suspension, and chromed spring dual rear shocks also with adjustable preload. Braking is handled by a single 320mm floating front disc with dual piston caliper, and a single 255mm rear disc, also with a dual piston caliper.

The 2009 Triumph Thruxton is available in two colors, Jet Black with a gold sport stripe right up the middle, or Tornado red with a white stripe, and carries an MSRP of $8599. When restoring an original Triumph Café racer can run close to fifteen grand, that’s not too bad for a retro-style racer that comes with a warranty.

Labels: A Retro Cafe Racer Motorcycle Review of the 2009 Triumph Thruxton

'Animaniacs' Makes a Christmas Eve Arrival on the Hub

Some animated characters never go out of style, most notably a trio of siblings named Yakko, Wakko, and Dot. The stars of the hit 1990’s series “Animaniacs” will soon be calling the Hub Network home, beginning with a four-hour Christmas Eve marathon.

Locked away for 50 years in a water tower

Often referred to as the Warner Brothers and the Warner Sister, these characters brought an inspired lunacy to television. According to the series, the animated siblings had been popular characters during the 1930’s, but their antics prompted executives to lock them inside the iconic water tower on the Burbank studio lot.

Fifty years later, Yakko, Wakko, and Dot broke free, bringing their zany humor to television. Though the show contained educational segments for children, the pop culture references and sly humor attracted adult fans as well.

Inspired by the Marx Brothers

To celebrate the show’s addition to the Hub lineup, the three main voice actors from “Animaniacs” reunited for a special recording session. During an email interview, Jess Harnell, the voice of Wakko, said the Marx Brothers served as the original inspiration for the Warner siblings.

“Wakko was ipso facto Harpo, but [the producers] knew they wanted him to speak. I think when I came in and did the miniature Beatle voice, I think they were like that’s cool because it’s weird enough ‘because it makes no sense that Wakko’s British and the other two are American. So the inspiration was a cross between Harpo Marx and the Beatles,” Harnell said.

The actor went on to say he was immediately drawn to Wakko because he was pure joy, craziness and impulsive. “[Wakko] did whatever he wanted all the time, and that’s kind of like me. He wanted to have fun at all cost, which is indicative of me and my lifestyle, too,” he said.

Life as the Warner Sister

During the original run of the show, actress Tress MacNeille gave voice to 20 characters, but Dot was her favorite. “She’s the star, the cute one, and the Warner sister. I loved all my characters from the show,” MacNeille said via email.

Though “Animaniacs” has been off the pop culture radar for some time, the actress thinks any time is the perfect time to see the show: “It was beautifully done, orchestrated, and was such a joy to do. We all love each other so much that it would be nice to introduce the show to a new set of kids because there’s nothing wrong with the show.”

Outrageous moments in “Animaniacs”

Like his co-stars, Rob Paulsen gave voice to various characters in the series. When asked about his favorite character, he responded that the simple answer would be Yakko, the tall leader of the trio.

But then Pinky was a pretty nice character and I won an Emmy for voicing Pinky. I also did Dr. Scratchansniff. He was also a lot of fun but was a complete rip off of my hero Peter Sellers,” Paulsen added via email.

Sly humor was the norm for this 1990’s show. When asked about the show via email, Paulsen recalled a memorable joke that wasn’t censored.

If you go online to search for popular, outrageous “Animaniacs” moments there’s a joke about fingerprints that I’m surprised wasn’t censored. We were doing a knock-off of Agatha Christie where the characters are looking for fingerprints and one of them says “finger prince” and then Prince comes out and says something about it. So depending on how you put the emphasis on it you might hear “fingerprints” or “finger prince.” People still remember that today,” he wrote.

A Yakko, Wakko, and Dot reunion

Paulsen, Harnell, and MacNeille recently reunited in the studio to record this special Hub promo. Though it seemed like old times, MacNeille said she sees her co-stars on a regular basis, so it’s not like they are strangers.

“Anytime I get to see Jess or Tress, it’s great. They are dear friends. I’ve known Tress since 1979. Tress is the single most talented actress I know and is very gifted. Jess is a life-force with his talent and that hair of his,” Paulsen added.

“Animaniacs” joins the Hub lineup with a four-hour Christmas Eve marathon (4-8 p.m. ET) followed by “Animaniacs: Wakko’s Wish” (8-10 p.m. ET). The show starts its regular 7 p.m. ET timeslot on Monday, January 7.

Labels: 'Animaniacs' Makes a Christmas Eve Arrival on the Hub

A Review of Dingo Munchy Stix

Dog owners know that providing treats is an essential part of the training process as well as a tasty way to reward our beloved pets for all the joy and love they bring into our lives. I recently began offering Cody and Maggie Dingo Munchy Stix as a snack treat to reward them for their continued excellent behavior and as a tasty supplement to their daily food. Dingo Munchy Stix are available at Walgreens for only one dollar for a three ounce package.

Dingo Munchy Stix contains eighty percent Crude Protein, one percent Crude Fat, two percent Crude Fiber and fourteen percent Moisture. Each stick contains a rawhide flavor with chicken bits in the middle. The sticks are thin and are therefore easy to soften and chew for even the smallest dogs. If you frequently give your dog rawhide products to enjoy and are often left with scraps of wet and soggy rawhide around the house that your dog became bored with before finishing, this product solves that problem.

Rawhide chews help to clean dog’s teeth and gums while also offering a tasty snack. Although conflicting reports about the safety and benefits of offering rawhide to dogs have been circulating for quite some time, the general consensus is that rawhide is completely digestible and safe for dogs to enjoy. Dog owners who are still concerned about the possible dangers of offering rawhide should only give small portions and keep a close eye on their pets while consuming. Dingo Munchy Stix are thin enough to eliminate any dangers while still providing the benefits.

Dingo Munchy Stix are a wonderful treat to encourage positive behavior. Whether your issue is house training, walking properly on a leash or showing good manners when visitors to come to call, this tasty treat can go a long way towards reinforcing positive behavior. Cody and Maggie simply love their Dingo Munchy Stix which allows me to write this review using the words “tasty” and “delicious.” I have spent more money on other dog treats in the past and did not receive the same positive feedback as I have when offering this one. They both recognize the easy to open package with the bold red and yellow colors and dance around the kitchen while I dole out one to each. They then retreat to separate corners to enjoy this snack.

I highly recommend Dingo Munchy Stix for dog owners. The slim size makes this rawhide treat very safe while offering the benefits of helping to keep teeth and gums clean. The inexpensive price is makes purchasing these treats very budget friendly. Treat your dog to Dingo Munchy Stix for a healthful, delicious treat that will make behavior training easier and give them a little enjoyment during the day.

Labels: A Review of Dingo Munchy Stix

Advantages of Owning a Toyota Prius Hybrid

Three months ago I decided to take the leap and purchase a 2009 Toyota Prius hybrid. With gas prices on the rise, and low financing rates it seemed the right time. Since making the switch from a traditional vehicle to a hybrid, I’ve come to a few conclusions about what I love about owning my Prius.

1. Fuel Economy
When you buy a hybrid vehicle, fuel economy must be in the forefront of your mind. Although most of my week is spent commuting a few miles back and forth each day, on the weekends I would typically drive a couple hundred miles and wanted a way to save money on the price of gas. The Toyota Prius has been a top performer in the fuel economy arena and the 48 -43 miles per gallon I would be achieving, it was the best move. This would double my fuel economy and save me money. Those are hard statistics to walk away from.

2. Technology
Even though hybrid technology is new to most car owners, the Prius has existed for over 10 years. Working in a computer-related field, I’m used to change, and used to new technology. Having test drove and ridden with other Prius owners in the past, I liked the center console computerized panel that allows you to control the radio, climate controls, and panels that display your fuel economy. I really like the feeling of being in control of my own fuel economy and knowing I can view statistics of how well I’m doing, really keeps me entertained in my driving.

3. Design
Although the Prius appears to be a small car, every inch of the vehicle is well thought out. The car is much roomier in feel than it appears. Using the car, I can tell that the designers really thought things out. They made very sleek cup holders, with a lighted mirror built in to the visor. The speedometer is computerized and state of the art. Passengers that ride with me for the first time, wonder where my gages are. They are stunned by the gages being computerized. I’ve received comments about how the car feels like it is the car of the future.

4. Unique Qualities
To start my car I use a power button. There is no key that needs to be inserted into my car, but a button that starts my car. This key needs to be inside my car, but it typically resides in my purse and the car can detect it’s presence so it lets me start it. When I put my car in reverse, a rear-camera displays on my monitor panel and I can see behind me, through the monitor to make sure there are no cars or small children. When I roll to a stop at a stop light, my car shuts off. You can’t even hear it running. These are all unique qualities that I love about my car!

5. Financing
When I purchased my Prius, Toyota was hosting a promotion for 0 percent financing. Knowing that I was already saving on fuel economy, and then paying no extra fees for 60 months of financing, made me jump out of my seat. It was the time for me to buy. Typically car manufacturers will run special promotions to clearance out the last year’s model to make room for the new model. By watching these trends, you can come away with a great deal. However, when gas prices skyrocket, it’s normal to have waiting lists to purchase hybrids, so it’s best to do your homework on when you are ready to buy.

I haven’t regretted my decision of owning a Prius and can’t imagine owning anything different. I live in a very cold climate, and the car even does well in these harsh conditions. Are you concerned about the environment? This car will save the amount of gas you are using as well as the amount of emissions you are putting into the atmosphere. This car is your “green” alternative. I do not work for Toyota or have any background in cars. I’m just a career woman who likes to shop and has a baby and feels as though saving a penny here and there while still being stylish adds up to a great buy.

Labels: Advantages of Owning a Toyota Prius Hybrid

5 Reasons the LG 60PZ850 is One of the Most Advanced HDTVs on the Market

When it comes to choosing an HDTV, there are lots of options out there, but if you’re looking for an advanced HDTV that promises brilliant quality, 3D, a large display and innovative Pentouch technology, check out the LG 60PZ850 Pentouch Plasma TV.

Pentouch Technology

The main feature that makes the LG 60PZ850 Pentouch Plasma TV stand out from the other HDTVs that you’re likely to find at an electronics store is its innovative Pentouch technology. The LG 60PZ850 comes bundled with a touch sensitive stylus that allows users to interact with LG 60PZ850 as though it were a large mobile tablet or smartphone.

Full HD 1080p 60″ Display

While the added bonus of Pentouch technology is enough to have lots of consumers sold on the LG 60PZ850, one of the first features that you’re likely to notice on this advanced plasma HDTV its large and vibrant full HD 1080p 60 inch display. The large and vibrant display of this innovative plasma HDTV is perfect for watching movies, playing games, and more.

3D Ready TV

If you thought the LG 60PZ850 maxed out with its Full HD display, you’ll be relieved to find out that it not only does 2D video brilliantly, but that it also takes advantage of the latest HDTV technology and is completely 3D ready. The LG 60PZ850 is THX 3D Display certified and has passed several rigorous tests – making it one of the most advanced 3DTVs on the market.

Intelligent Light Sensor

Not only will the LG 60PZ850 Pentouch Plasma TV display vibrant 2D and 3D videos and take advantage of LGs proprietary Pentouch technology, but it also has an intelligent light sensor that automatically adjusts to the light settings in the room to ensure that the LG 60PZ850 is displaying the best picture quality based on the room’s light setting.

Apps FTW

What good is Pentouch technology without apps? The LG 60PZ850 Pentouch Plasma TV comes with a suite of apps like photo editing apps, calendar apps, internet browsing, and even Angry Birds. This smart HDTV not only has great apps, but also allows users to access files from their PC and manage documents on a large 60″ display.

Labels: 5 Reasons the LG 60PZ850 is One of the Most Advanced HDTVs on the Market

A Guide for Children's Birthday Parties in the Bay Area

There are many different places to have your child’s birthday party. Some parents like to have it at their homes, and some prefer to have it at a venue that will clean the mess for them when the event is done. My son is turning 8 in a few weeks, and this research had perfect timing. I am all for having it somewhere other than my house!

The following venues are for just about any tastes, ages and price ranges, too.

Local Parks

To have a picnic style birthday party, all you need is a local park. Most places have tables that don’t need reservations, so there is no reservation cost to think of. The only problem is the ‘first come first serve’ issue. You will need to stake out your tables early in the morning and flag them with balloons in order to stave off any one from taking your prime location. Believe me; this is important if you are going to do the non-reservation!

Most local and city parks do have reservations available. They do cost, though. For my daughter’s party, we chose a large picnic area and paid $65. If you have a bounce house, you will be required to have a permit, and you can get one through the same reservation office. Out here, bounce houses run about $100 or so for the day. They make nice additions to the parties, and help the kids burn off the sugar.

One thing about having the party at a local or a city park: clean up your mess. Please leave the park the same way it was when you got there. Napkins and cups seem to sprout legs, so have the kids write their names on their cups and tell them they have to keep an eye on it!

Cloverleaf Family Bowl in Fremont, CA

If you or your kids are into bowling like my family is, then this is the place to have your child’s party. This is a great place and is family orientated.

They offer:

1 hour and 15 minutes of bowling
45 minutes for the party
Bowling balls and shoes
Soft drinks, pepperoni or cheese pizza
Plates, cups, table cloths, and napkins
Party invitations
One free bowling pass for each child
Souvenir bowling pin for the birthday child (this is really cool because the guests can sign it!)
There is an 8 person minimum for this, and it is $18.00 per child.

To plan your child’s party, go to or call (510) 656-4411.

Malibu Gran Prix in Redwood City, CA

Malibu Gran Prix is a cool place to take your older kids for a birthday party. I would not recommend this place for toddlers. This is definitely for grammar school age and above. (It is a minimum of 8 people.)

The Basic birthday package runs $13.99/person plus tax.
1 hour for a reserved table
Birthday party set up and a party host during table time
One soda and 2 slices of pepperoni or cheese pizza
Unlimited popcorn
1 round of Mini golf and 10 tokens

The Deluxe Package is $17.99/person plus tax.
You get all of the above plus one attraction ticket for the Bumper Boats. (Those are fun!!)

The Ultimate is $22.00/person plus tax.
This one includes the Basic package plus 3 laps on the Turbo Go Karts and 1 Bumper Boat session. Expensive, but cool!!

I remember going there as a kid and absolutely loving it. It is a rather expensive party package, but the memories would be worth it! They offer batting cages and an arcade, too.

There are many add-ons to the party packages, but that just adds to the amount due. To see more, log on to or call (650) 367-1765.

Pump It Up in Sunnyvale, CA

Pump It Up is a great place for kids of all ages. It is an indoor jump house jamboree of sorts. They have many jumpers set up for the kids to play on. I didn’t think it was much of a big deal until I went there for a party, and wow, it was awesome! You forget how old you are (mid thirties) and you just want to jump and play on everything! There are two rooms, and you have a set time in each.

The Jr Classic “Weekend” party is $255.00 and includes:
Up to 16 friends
A private party room
Invitations, party set up and clean up
Cups, plates, napkins

The Jr Classic “Weekday” party is $205.00 and that is for Monday through Thursday.
You can bring your own pizza and cake for this venue. Some are particular and only serve their food. This place you can bring your own. To see more, visit

Golfland- Milpitas, CA

This is the classic of all birthday party venues for me. I love Golfland! Since it is an outdoors event, the biggest factor is the weather.
They have a 10 person minimum for their parties.

Golf Birthday Party Package: $12.99/person
1 18 hole game of mini golf
10 arcade tokens
2 slices of thin crust pizza
Limited soft drinks
Cups, napkins, tablecloth, and plates
2 hour party room
No outside food. Cake and ice cream are allowed in only.

Arcade Birthday Package: $12.99/person
Same as “Golf” but with no golf and 35 tokens instead of 10.

Playground Birthday Party: $12.99/person
Same as “Golf”, but with no actual golf and 1 hour in the playground.

NOTE: A non-refundable $65.95 deposit required for every 10 people in the party.

There are many other places to have your child’s birthday party, too. The San Francisco Zoo offers birthday party packages starting at $380 for up to 12 people. They offer many different options and can be found at:

I would recommend researching fully the place you are thinking of having your party. Think about how many people will be attending, not just the kids. Some places charge for the adults, too, even if they are just standing around watching! Also read the fine print and see if there are any hidden fees or non-refundable deposits. Most places will give you free invitations and thank you cards, so that saves you the hassle of getting them yourself. Most of all, relax and enjoy watching your kid(s) being kids!

Labels: A Guide for Children's Birthday Parties in the Bay Area

An Unsavored Life

I close my eyes

And think I see

Into the very

Deepest heart of me.

I feel my faults.

They’re on display.

I can’t escape them.

They are here to stay.

I hear my heart.

Skip out of tune.

I came too quickly

And I left too soon.

I smell my fear.

I know I’ll lose.

My death won’t make

Anybody’s news.

I taste nothing

Bitter or sweet.

It’s just the blandness

Of utter defeat.

Labels: An Unsavored Life

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