What are your favorite types of books and beverages when you're in an autumnal mood?

What are your favorite types of books and beverages when you're in an autumnal mood?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Zippy


Amazon recently sent to me, as part of its "Amazon Vine" program, a bottle of free taco sauce. As with all Amazon Vine samples, all that was expected in return was a fair and honest review. Now, I know that a few paragraphs about taco sauce is probably a strange thing to include in this blog, but what the heck, right? The review has been written and filed at Amazon, so I might as well include it here, too, don't you think?

Who knows, my comments might even prompt you to buy and (one hopes) enjoy the stuff. Anyway, here it is...


Taco Bell's Bold & Creamy, Spicy Ranchero Sauce is really good, and I haven't even used it on a taco yet! It has just enough zip to give a little kick to your omelette, sandwich, or salad, but it's not so spicy that you'll have to warn family members who are averse to overly spicy foods.

I actually do make tacos at home sometimes, using those convenient taco kits available in the supermarket (there's even a kit made by Taco Bell), so I'm sure I'll try this sauce in conjunction with actual tacos at some point. But for now, this zippy, tasty, and nicely creamy sauce is regularly performing satisfying condiment duties in our kitchen.

So, yeah, stop making your mustard, mayo, ketchup, and boilerplate salad dressings do all the work. Your favorite foods, as well as your taste buds, will appreciate the flavorful zing of Taco Bell Bold & Creamy, Spicy Ranchero Sauce. I'm definitely going to buy more when my Amazon Vine sample runs out!

Well, I hope you enjoyed the review, or at least got through it without too much pain. Really, I actually did like the product.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Something for everyone


Well, my advance post of yesterday was accurate, but decidedly incomplete. Not only did Amazon announce earlier today an impressive new color Kindle, the Kindle Fire, to compete in the growing tablet computer market, but it's also offering three (count 'em, three) new e-ink Kindles, as well.

Also impressive, across the board, are the price points. The sharp new Kindle Fire will go for a mere $199, and the most economical of the new e-ink Kindles will sell for the bargain-basement price of $79.00. And most of the other Kindle models will be priced only a little higher than that, especially if you choose the ad-sponsored versions of each new Kindle.

Needless to say, I'll be writing more on today's announcement by Amazon, but for now do yourself a favor and acquaint yourself with these sharp new products by visiting Amazon's web site. The product descriptions and demo videos are already up and ready for you to absorb.

Amazon's new slew of Kindle products will go on sale in November, with the exception of the $79.00 Kindle, which is available immediately (and will cost a little more than $79.00 if you decline the "special offers" ad-sponsored version of the device).

Finally, the various versions of the Kindle 3 (until yesterday, the latest model Kindle, and the one I only got around to reviewing on this site a couple of weeks ago), is not being discontinued. Re-dubbed the Kindle Keyboard and the Kindle Keyboard 3G, these Kindles will still be available for those stubborn souls who still like a physical keyboard on their Kindles. Who says that Amazon isn't full service?

Pictured with this post is the new $199 Kindle Fire. Cute, huh?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Heads up

Amazon will hold a press conference tomorrow (Wednesday, September 28), and rumor has it that the reason for the event will be to announce the coming of the Kindle Fire, the new backlit, color Kindle that will go on sale in November.

Like Barnes & Noble's color e-book reader, the Nook Color, the Kindle Fire will be able to perform a wide array of functions either not doable or easily performed by the regular e-ink Kindle, functions such as web surfing, playing videos, etc. Despite these added functions, however, the Kindle Fire will still be heavily oriented toward buying and reading e-books (again, like the Nook Color).

Also strongly suggested in the rumors is that the Kindle Fire will not replace the standard e-ink Kindle (the latest version of which is the popular Kindle 3), just be a new Kindle product offered to customers, specifically those customers who have been clamoring for a backlit, color e-book reader from Amazon.

Anyway, we'll know tomorrow how much of the above is correct. But for now, Kindle Taproom readers are at least aware of the buzz that's out there!

Friday, September 23, 2011

More silliness


Okay, it's time to move on to more adult concerns, but first, as promised, I'll quickly post a bit of silliness entitled, Jokes You Can Tell Your Kids, Part Two. And then we'll be done with it.

What do you give a seasick elephant?

Plenty of room.

* * *

What did the shy pebble say?

I wish I were a little boulder.

* * *

What do you get when you cross a lake with a leaky boat?

About halfway.

* * *

How do you keep a skunk from smelling?

Hold its nose.

* * *

Why did the lady blush when she walked past the chicken coop?

She heard fowl language.

* * *

That's it for now, honest. Still, you might want to try out a few of these on your kids. You'll probably give them a laugh or two.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Silliness


Let's put the sophistication and adult cynicism away for a while. For now, it's time for Jokes You Can Tell Your Kids, Part One. Let's take it away...

Why didn't the skeleton cross the road?

He didn't have the guts.

* * *

Why is the sand wet?

Because the sea weed.

* * *

How do you make antifreeze?

Hide her nightgown.

* * *

How do you make an elephant float?

Two scoops of ice cream, some root beer, and an elephant.

* * *

What do cannibals do at a wedding?

They toast the bride and groom.

* * *

More to come! But not many more, I promise.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Charming spot

Ocean City, New Jersey's Ocean Manor complex consists of several historic buildings bought up over the years by the Ocean Manor people and made into vacation accommodations for daily and weekly visitors to Ocean City. Alison and I stayed overnight at Ocean Manor Saturday night into Sunday, September 17 to 18. While some people would undoubtedly find the place to be a little tired and weathered, we enjoyed the "seashore of the past" feel to it. And besides, the staff was friendly, the place was clean, and our mini-suite, located only a block from the beach, was less than $100 total for the night.

The first photo shows the facility's 1920's-era main building, which was acquired in 1979. As summer is pretty much over, this building was recently closed up for the season.



We actually stayed in the building seen in the second photograph, which is located right across the street from the main building. More recently acquired by Ocean Manor, it's not quite as historic but definitely still has that old-time feel to it. This building will still be available to shore visitors for another week or two, before it, too, closes for the season.



In case you're interested, Ocean Manor is located at the intersection of Ocean Avenue and 11th Street in Ocean City. Just think of the movie Ocean's 11 to remember its location.

The seashore was quite nice this past weekend, by the way. It was cloudy and a little chilly, but that didn't overly impact a few enjoyable walks on the boardwalk. There was even an exciting airshow, utilizing bi-planes and other historic craft, held in the skies over the beach and boardwalk on Sunday afternoon, September 18. It was a nice little bonus to an already pleasant mini-getaway.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Heroes and fans


The Kindle Single, Comic-Con Strikes Again!, drops readers right in the midst of the biggest comic book and multi-media convention in the world, letting us enjoy through the author's eyes all the rabid fandom, costumed craziness, relentless (and more sophisticated than I thought) efforts on the part of producers and publishers to create or expand interest in their intellectual properties, and- most of all- the heady mixture of intensity, fun, and weariness that comprises the San Diego Comic-Con experience.

Reminding me of the kind of long, meaty article to be found in my Sunday newspaper's magazine section, Comic-Con Strikes Again! is well worth its modest price for both readers already familiar with the whole convention-going thing, or curious outsiders. Douglas Wolk wrote a fun, informative article, and I look forward to his future writings about the entertainment industry and its fans.

Comic-Con Strikes Again! is available on Kindle for 99 cents.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hard traveling


Without ever becoming self-consciously dreamlike, Cormac McCarthy's fine post-apocalyptic novel The Road, nevertheless effectively delivers a virtually unrelenting nightmare, as it tells the story of a beaten-down father and son making their way over a burned-out, blighted landscape in a probably vain attempt to improve their grim lot.

The book will probably reach you on one or more levels: as a survivalist tale; a post-disaster science fiction story (a kind of literary, more serious Mad Max), or simply as a drama about a family and how a huge outside force affects its internal politics. At various points, the book engaged me on each of these levels. Also, if you want to look for it, I suspect there's a lot of metaphor and religious imagery in The Road, too, though I pretty much focused on the book's primary (to me, anyway) facet: that of being a plain but strong story, simply told.

And for those of you who hate preachiness in their novels, don't worry: there's no obvious, clunky message, either from the left or right political spectrum, concerning how the Earth of the book got into its grim predicament, or what could have prevented it. The book is more subtle than that, and the characters have more immediate concerns to worry about than how things got the way they did.

However, though I was fascinated and engaged by the novel from beginning to end, it's nearly unbroken stretch of grim, grey scenes, the frequent discoveries of an increasingly horrible nature by the two main characters, and just seeing the Earth so ruined by an unnamed global disaster, made me glad that The Road wasn't a terribly long book. I'm glad I got in and out of it fairly quickly.

A movie adaptation of The Road now exists, too, and many fine, talented individuals took part in its creation. But I think I'll take a little break before experiencing this memorably grim, sad story a second time.

The Road is available on Kindle for $11.99.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Just for the record


Needless to say, this review is incredibly late. It's just that I wrote, way back when, a long rave about the Kindle 1, then a year or two later wrote a long rave about the Kindle 2. So, when I (predictably) bought a Kindle 3, I was bored with the whole long rave review thing, and just sat back and started enjoying my latest Kindle. And that was almost seven months ago.

But I'm thinking I should really put something on the record, especially considering that the Kindle 4 is probably not all that far off! So, how about this: With no notable improvements needed over the previous model, the Kindle 3 wisely concentrates on making minor tweaks to improve the Kindle experience. Most notably, I'm enjoying the thinner, smaller size of the device, which reduces the dimensions in all areas except screen size. So we now have a smaller, lighter, easier-to-carry Kindle, with no sacrifice at all in the area we care most about: the reading surface.

Second, the screen contrast on that reading surface, which was always perfectly fine, is now even better. Words are now notably crisper and darker, and the background behind the words is notably lighter. The Kindle reading experience is now easier and more comfortable than ever.

Finally, with the Kindle 3, I loved that I was given the ability to choose between the usual white Kindle and the new graphite-colored model. I chose the latter. There's just something about the dark grey, textured case that's really classy. Now more than ever, my Kindle looks really great sitting on a bar next to my glass of Chardonnay (as readers of the web version of Kindle Taproom can tell by the photo I positioned at the top of my blog). Of course, you may prefer the white model, but isn't it great having a choice?

Anyway, as I said before, I'm not going to go on and on this time, just briefly noting for the record that my newest Kindle (3G and Wi-Fi equipped, by the way), improves on the already excellent previous models. So, if you're thinking of taking the plunge and either buying your first Kindle or upgrading from an older model, I say go for it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Don't touch that car!


Kindle Singles are short pieces of writing, including many fiction and non-fiction offerings, that are available for a song on your Kindle. I recently picked up Stephen King's new short story, Mile 81, in this new, popular format. What did I think of it? Glad you asked.

For a longish short story, Mile 81 manages to cram in some decent characterizations (even among the several victims who are only briefly seen) and many scares. The scares, not so incidentally, are generated by a pretty well-crafted piece of imagination: essentially a monster from space who (at least currently) is shaped like a mud-spattered station wagon that's sitting alongside an abandoned rest stop like a Venus Fly Trap, just waiting for curiosity seekers to check it out.

The story reminded me of those small gems that the author would routinely include in his periodic telephone book-sized anthologies of decades past: an efficient little story that gets the job done quickly but not by cheaping out on the richness or drama or that all-important creepiness. In this case, you'll never look at a moldy old station wagon again.

A cool bonus (and possibly the main reason this Kindle Single exists in the first place) is also included with one's purchase: a meaty little promotional excerpt from 11/22/63, Mr. King's novel about the JFK assassination and the time traveler who tries to prevent it. As rich and imaginative as Mr. King's short stories can be, it's his long, ambitious novels where those qualities will most often really shine. And from this excerpt, 11/22/63 doesn't look to be an exception to the rule.

So, if you're at all a fan of Stephen King, you can do worse than spend a few bucks for an early look at both a polished little short story (that will undoubtedly be a highlight of a future King anthology) and a late-career novel that just might be- judging by the subtle, intriguing, and nuanced excerpt seen here- right up there with The Stand in its creativity and memorability. Heck, I'll be more than satisfied if 11/22/63 is as least as good as Mr. King's decent, perfectly satisfying Under the Dome of a couple of years past.

Anyway, Mile 81 is fun, cheap, includes a meaty glimpse of a possibly great novel, and is only a click away on your Kindle. What's stopping you?

Mile 81 is available on your Kindle for $2.99.

Light pun-ishment


Have the Monday blues? Here are a few silly yet somewhat amusing puns, courtesy of the "Pun of the Day" web site.

I tried to record an album in a reptile shop, but there was a terrible gecko.

I finally found a spotter at the gym. It's like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

He kept an alarm clock in the back window of his car. He was always ahead of his time.

Dissatisfied with the lack of thoroughness in the demolition of the old tavern, he got into the bulldozer himself and razed the bar to a new level.

An elevator makes ghosts happy because it lifts the spirits.

You can see more puns at www.punoftheday.com. Most of the puns are submitted by readers. I must say, you readers are a clever bunch.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Summer days

Well, summer is just about over, but we managed to get away a fair amount of times, both to the New Jersey seashore and Pennsylvania's Pocono mountains. Actually we visited a number of nice spots in each of these destinations. Here are a couple of photos recently taken in Ocean City, New Jersey, a favorite place of ours for a quick day trip or a last-minute overnighter.

The first photograph shows Ocean City's famed boardwalk on the morning of Wednesday, August 31. Bikeriders are allowed on the boardwalk until about noon or so. That morning, we had a nice breakfast on the boards and shopped for a bit.



The second shot, also taken on August 31, shows a salt water taffy machine in one of the fudge and salt water taffy stores on the boardwalk, viewed through a window in the back of the store that separates the retail floor from the employees-only production area. The machine dates back many decades and is regularly maintained to assure its continued operation.



We may get one or two more shore trips under our belt before the weather gets cold. In fact, we may even get back there once or twice in the winter, because the off-season deals are so good. We'll just have to concentrate more on the nice hotel rooms and the handful of restaurants that will still be open, and not so much on the freezing boardwalk with its mostly-closed stores. Still, a brisk winter walk on the boardwalk is never completely out of the question!

Small grins

Here are a few amusing bumper stickers I've recently seen in my travels...

I have the body of a God. Trouble is, his name is Buddha.

I intend to live forever. So far, so good.

I just filled my car up with gas. Now it's worth $50.00.

More to come!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Danger, death, and Dewar's


Jeff Abbott's Adrenaline is a bang-up thriller centering around up-and-coming CIA agent Sam Capra, who goes undercover with various unsavory criminal types in an effort to find his kidnapped and very pregnant wife, Lucy. Complicating Sam's unsanctioned operation is the fact that Sam's office was bombed on the same day as Lucy's kidnapping, and Sam is soon blamed for the many deaths the bombing caused.

Taking on murderous thugs on the one hand and evading his former colleagues on the other, Sam has his work cut out for him. A military espionage operation, complex yet always fascinating, soon comes into play, but Mr. Abbott wisely never drifts far from the emotional core of the story: Sam's unbridled drive to find his wife and unborn child.

Fast-paced yet never letting its slickness overcome its smarts, Adrenaline is a terrific read, and apparently the start of an intriguing new series. Oh, and without telling you too much, aside from the book's other attributes, Adrenaline sets up a unique family dynamic that I suspect will be quite a challenge for Sam to navigate in future adventures.

The book also has one final heartwarming attribute that made it a winner for me: an unending affection for bars, whether they be stylish piano bars, neighborhood watering holes, or cozy European bars located in historic buildings. Despite Sam's many intense trials and tribulations, at least he gets to enjoy several quality drinks in several nice places during the course of the story, even accepting a bartender job at one point during his rogue operation!

Adrenaline is available on Kindle for $12.99, with Amazon also offering an "enhanced" version of the book for viewing on tablet computers and other mobile devices, for the same price. I didn't read the enhanced version, so I'm not sure what the enhancements entail. Instructional mixology videos, maybe?

A thoughtful story


The state of celibacy, often viewed as a special gift that can bring about a calm, meditative lifestyle, can be a conscious choice one makes, or a condition gently suggested by circumstances. Let us take a moment to look at one particular case...

While attending a church-sponsored Marriage Encounter Weekend, Frank and his wife Anne listened to their session's moderator declare, "It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to one another."

The moderator paused, then addressed the men in the audience. "For example, gentlemen," he said, "Can you name your wife's favorite flower?"

Frank, pleased that he knew the answer, leaned over, gently touched Anne's arm, and said, "Gold Medal All-Purpose, isn't it?"

And thus began Frank's life of celibacy.