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Boys to Men

April 4, 2014

A Review of 9,000 Miles of Fatherhood, Surviving Crooked Cops,Teenage Angst, and Mexican Moonshines on a Journey to the End of the Road, by Kirk Millson

In 2002, a big shakeup at the Salt Lake Tribune proved disastrous for Kirk Millson, its 42-year-old Editorial Writer.  The doting husband and father of two was busted down to Copyeditor, a job he’d loathed when he held it years before.  It was a bitter pill to swallow, so he tried getting drunk instead of going to work.  This was not an appropriate solution, so after a few days, he did what any responsible, self-respecting family man would do.  He took a four-month unpaid leave of absence so he could drive around Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, and El Salvador.  And he decided to take his 13-year-old son, Peter along, because the trip would be good for the morose little bra – young teen.  And because Peter was his trump card, to get his wife to agree.

 With his wife’s blessing (!), Peter’s school assignments (really, what 13-year-old wouldn’t skip school for four months with his parents’ permission?), and nine thousand dollars, father and son packed up Kirk’s 1974 Dodge Dart, aka the tank.  For which I vouch, as a former owner of a 1966 Dart I dubbed my newspaper car, because it was black and white and red all over.  They set off on their long journey on a hot day with nothing but miles between them and Christmas, their return date.  The trouble started before they even hit the Mexican border.  With the Dart making twelve miles a gallon, Kirk knew the budget would be blown, but that didn’t stop him and Pete.  Wagons, ho!  He crafted a plan to eat and stay at the cheapest places he could find.  In Central America!  

Horrifyingly and hilariously, Kirk and Peter face cops, robbers, cops who are robbers, drunks looking for fights, hookers, car breakdowns, bus breakdowns, personal meltdowns, and, welcome to the jungle, get lost in the jungle.  Each also has to face his studies.  Kirk has to relearn Spanish, and Peter has to learn Spanish and bring up his D grades, or they’ll face doubly frightening consequences when they get home.  

They do meet fine people in their teachers and complete strangers who go out of their way to help when they’re in a bad spot.  And somehow, during this crazy journey, Peter learns the value and virtue of self-discipline, while Kirk learns how to be a truly good father.  Peter grows, and grows fit while acing his Algebra studies.  And Kirk learns he’s going to have to suck it up and work that copy desk, for the time being.  

After a rough but enlightening trip, Kirk and Peter returned home just in time for Christmas, and everyone lived happily ever after.  Except for Torie, their mastiff-mutt.  But even she hung in there far longer than expected.  

You’ll be shocked one minute and giggling uncontrollably the next.  Millson’s prose is vivid and salty.  He has a winning way with self-deprecation.  

The author provided an advance reading copy to me free of charge.  I can’t get over the fact that a newspaper man asked someone who owned a newspaper car to read and review his book, but there it is.  That bit of irony aside, I don’t know the guy from Adam.  But he wrote a great book.  Two wings up.  

Available at


January 19, 2013

My friend, Dr. Patel, blogged some excellent advice for staving off the winter blues.

Do you feel tired and lethargic as the cloudy days pile on and on during these cold winter months? Do you find it difficult to get going in the morning? Does your motivation, energy, and enthusiasm wane during the winter months?

Here are a few tips to help you live life to the fullest despite those cloudy days.

1. Stay physically active. Bundle up and take long walks during the daylight hours and get regular exercise. Get on your stationary bike as soon as the alarm goes off. This will also help improve your productivity in the morning.

2. Stay socially active. Call and keep in touch with your friends who are far away. Get together with your local friends for a drink or two. Argue with them, play with them, or even fight with them!

3. Look at the light. Consider light therapy using a special lamp with a very…

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Word Hero!

December 12, 2012

Word Hero

Word Hero!

I started a community on Google+ for Word Hero freaks.  Come one, come all, just be nice!

HP Envy dv7-7230us

November 19, 2012

Bottom line up front: The Windows 8 start screen is not truly integrated with the desktop. My laptop arrived with no product key for Windows 8. There is no software disk, and it is not affixed to the outside of the laptop, nor stored in a file on the hard drive.

The display, graphics, and sound are marvelous. Better than any I’ve seen or heard. I did play a game from the app store and was very impressed.

Speaking of the app store, as one might expect, at this time the selection of apps is limited. Windows 8 is brand new, after all. Some apps are impressive, others aren’t worth having.

I already own a HP Pavilion dv6 laptop, and I love it except for one thing: the touchpad. It is extremely sensitive, and flush with the area below the keyboard. On the dv6, I’ve disabled the touchpad because every time I use the keyboard, I brush the touchpad with an arm or finger, and my input is interrupted. Disabling the touchpad on the dv6 was a good workaround. I simply use a mouse instead of the touchpad.

Unfortunately, this is a poor workaround for the Envy 7230-us. Navigating the start screen with a mouse is difficult, at best. None of the apps have a back button, and the app screens fill the entire screen. To get out of an app, one must use either the Windows button on the keyboard, or hover the mouse in the general area of the charms and bring them forward in order to click on the start charm. For three weeks, I’ve tried to work out simple workarounds that make the interface less clunky to use to no avail.

I own Office 2010 Professional, and loaded it on this machine. I assumed if I pinned the icons to the start screen, they would behave as apps, and they almost do. Microsoft does not put them on the desktop. They are on the start screen, and you can start them there. But once you open one, you are on the desktop. If you want to use another piece of software, you have to press the Windows button to get back to the start screen.

If you’re planning to purchase a laptop primarily for gaming, streaming video, and/or gaming, you’ll be delighted. But if you want to use it to create or edit your own files and photos, you’ll find the start screen is a chronic obstacle.

And with no product key, if this happens to you, you won’t be able to purchase upgraded version of Windows 8 at discount prices.

I got this laptop free from Vine. I thought I’d be delighted. After all, thought it’s reasonably priced, it isn’t a cheap item. It’s something I’d shop around for. Personally, I don’t like it and I’m glad I didn’t pay for it. But because of the speakers and graphics, instead of two stars, I rate it three.

Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter without Me, 9th Edition, Paula Begoun

September 28, 2012

How can one trust reviews of cosmetics written by someone who has her own product line? Yes, it defies logic, but come closer and let me tell you what happened to me.

I don’t read women’s magazines; I don’t particularly like magazines. I don’t watch daytime television, either, because I’m working. And I don’t care for daytime television for the same reasons I don’t like magazines: From one issue or episode to the next, they offer conflicting information. You know it’s true, even if you do like the magazines and shows.

The library is my friend. Since I got my first library card, I have used the library to research anything I want to learn. In 2005 or 2006, I saw a copy of “Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter without Me” on the shelf and checked it out. I wasn’t expecting much, but it didn’t cost me anything. I’d never heard of Paula Begoun, but I do try to be an informed consumer. I figured that book couldn’t be any worse than other skin care books I’d read. I skipped over most of the beginning chapters and went straight for the reviews, and it hadn’t really sunk in there might be a conflict of interest until I was convinced I’d found a worthy source of information. Finally!

We have, in this edition, a brief overview of Paula’s rather checkered career and some chapters that discuss skin care and makeup industry claims, packaging, ingredients to avoid, ingredients to seek, and basic skin care regimes. These chapters are thorough but succinct. Then there is the good stuff: product reviews of many skin care and makeup lines. Not all of them, but a lot.

And it gets juicy. Paula doesn’t want you to waste your money. She doesn’t pan department store products altogether, nor gush over all drugstore products. In fact, whether you buy products from brick and mortar stores, or from television shopping networks, or that lady who rings your doorbell, you will find favorably and unfavorably reviewed products. And then it starts to make sense. You know that you have rarely or never liked every single product in a brand. You’ve purchased bad product thinking you were buying a good product because the other products were good. That’s the way it is with makeup and skin care products. I know it happened to you, because I don’t know anyone who hasn’t gone through this frustration. I will tell you this: This book is worth its price simply because you can dump those products you have right now that are irritating your skin, or just don’t do anything at all. You may become a bit irritated yourself, because like me, you think you are making informed decisions. Paula puts two indicators before each review. She uses smiley (or not) faces and rates products as BEST, GOOD, AVERAGE, and POOR. Make that three indicators because BEST products also get a check mark. There are about a gazillion reviews in this book. It’s a big book! But the reviews are short. The rating and a brief explanation are what you’ll find.

Paula and her team do not try every product personally. They are not human guinea pigs. Most of the reviews are based on ingredients lists. Paula has done her research, and continues to do so. She cites many sources that support her opinions. If she expounds on a topic, she doesn’t just say “clinical studies indicate” and leave it at that. She says what study, or what publication she found that supports the information she offers. You can check this yourself and read the material she actually uses to determine yourself whether she’s well-informed or off her rocker.

There is a condensed section at the end of the book that lists what Paula calls BEST products. Paula used to call the products she deemed most deserving “picks,” but that’s gone. You’ll find a categorized list of best products at the end of the book, and finally a brief explanation of why Paula is passionate about her do’s and don’ts.

The list of companies that use animal testing is absent from this edition, as is the cosmetics ingredient dictionary. You can consult her website for the ingredients dictionary. It would be a book on its own.

Now, let’s go back to that conflict of interest thing, shall we? Paula does review her own products, and of course, they’re BEST products. But you don’t have to buy them. In fact, if Paula is new to you, just skip the reviews of her products. You will find favorable reviews for products from many, many sources. I don’t think Paula’s reviews are perfect, but they’re pretty darn good. And I think providing consumers useful information about a wide range of products is still why she gets up in the morning. She could have stopped doing product reviews after she launched her own line, but she keeps pushing more and more information. In fact, you don’t even have to buy this book to read what she has to say. You can go to her websites for free. I realize this doesn’t seem rational, but that’s the crux of the issue when it comes to buying any product. Humans are irrational beings. It isn’t rational to sell cosmetics and review other lines and recommend someone else’s products, but Paula is a human being.

OK, now you know I’ve drunk the Paula kool-aid. This book isn’t my only source for product reviews because not all products are reviewed. There are also some excellent consumer reviews to be found on the internet. But DGTTCCWM is my reality check. It’s completely worth it to me, using the guidance found here. Not every product I buy is wonderful, but I’m not buying clunkers any more. I am ever the skeptic, and still, I give this book my highest recommendation.

You can purchase this book at Paula’s Choice or Amazon.

I Hate Prestige Delivery

October 4, 2011

I have Amazon Prime. Prestige does not know what that means. They don’t care if my packages arrive late. Amazon is paying them because they have a contract. Their tracking system is deplorable. The drivers do not wear uniforms, name tags, or any other kind of identification. They are forced to drive their own vehicles. There are no marked vehicles. The delivery staff try to force me to sign for every package they deliver. They are nearly always late, and choose one of two excuses: they have my package but no paperwork, or they have paperwork but no package.

In my latest experience, I ordered an in-stock Amazon Prime item that shipped on a Thursday from a fulfillment center in Kentucky. It was supposed to arrive Monday. Tuesday, it still isn’t here.  Amazon customer service set up a conference call between me and Prestige. Prestige said the item is on the truck for delivery today. I said there isn’t any truck and described the vehicles and drivers with the Amazon rep listening. Then Prestige asked for my phone number. They wanted to get me off the phone with Amazon listening. I didn’t do it. I gigged Prestige with every lie and excuse they came up with.

This carrier is very shady, and I wish to heaven Amazon didn’t have a contract with them.

I did rate them on Google Places.  You can do it, too.

John Carter Trailer

July 31, 2011