Thursday, September 30, 2004

No Ad

Some of you may have noticed ads on the side of this weblog recently. I signed up with Google AdSense to put ads on the side of the page. When people clicked on the ads, I would get a commission. When my total reached $100, I would get paid. I decided to see what rate I was earning money, and judge how soon I'd get the first check. If it was in the far, far future, I would give up. If not, I'd hang in there and wait to collect the money.

I should mention that one of the terms of signing up is that you're not allowed to publicize how much money you're making. I'm going to break that condition right now. Why? According to their stats, nobody ever clicked on an ad. That's right, I earned $0.00. At this rate, it would take an infinite amount of time to earn $1, let alone $100.

So I'm taking the ads off. It was amusing to see what it thought was related, but I'm declaring this experiment a failure and moving on. The ads will gradually disappear as I get around to re-publishing pages without them.

How Few Remain

How Few Remain Book Cover

I recently started listening to books on CD in my car. The second one I worked through is How Few Remain, which is an alternate history novel based on the assumption that the South won the Civil War. First of all, I have a problem with the plausibility of the premise. I don't think one minor event (as in the book) could have changed the course of the war -- I think the industrial might of the North pre-determined the outcome. I was glad to see an essay in the book Alternate Gettysburgs from a professional historian which supported this point of view. Still, it's interesting to think "What If?" (Warning, spoilers follow.)

This book is set in 1881, just after the USA has finally elected another Republican president. The Confederate States of America decide to purchase two Mexican provinces from the "Empire of Mexico." (Lack of a strong USA has let French interference in Mexico persist.) The USA, fearful of a stronger CSA stretching to the Pacific, declares war. The book is the story of the war told by looks at various famous people (Abraham Lincoln, George Custer, Samuel Clemens, Stonewall Jackson, Jeb Stuart, Teddy Roosevelt and a few more).

It was definitely well-researched, and I found it all very plausible, except for the whole idea that the North wouldn't wipe the floor with the South. Then again, with the CSA having English and French allies, the balance is tipped against the USA. One thing I noticed is that the author takes a lot of care only to include things that would follow from the premise --- nothing too unexpected ever happens. This is good for the believability, but takes something away from the excitement in the novel. Also, some of the details can be a little bit mind-numbing. Yes, Germans would be puzzled by American idioms. No, that doesn't need to be mentioned every time it happens. These flaws, however, are less of an issue for a book-on-CD, when I also have my fellow motorists to entertain me.

In my view, the major flaw was the sex scenes. Having a guy affecting a 19th century way of talking read you descriptions of Sam Clemens, George Custer and Teddy Roosevelt doing the wild thing is not an experience I recommend to you. Thankfully, that only occurred three times in the entire 21-CD book.

I did worry a little bit about potential pro-South bias in the book. (They were the ones with slaves, which in my mind makes them the bad guys.) I don't think there was any --- the author (also, I must admit, a professional historian) was following the original idea to its logical conclusion. The book did end with the CSA "winning" --- they got to keep part of Mexico, and the Brits annexed part of Maine. But that just made me want to read the next book so I could hear the USA get revenge (I hope). "Remember...Maine!"

Opening Day

Well, hopefully this week of vacation will allow me to catch up on my weblog, including posting pictures I took earlier.

Here are some pictures from the Redskins' opening day victory over the Buccaneers. We had a good time getting ready, tailgating, and watching the game before I headed off to England.

We managed to find an open seat next to us for Ben, who couldn't find anybody to take his other ticket. What happened to the traditional demand for Redskins tickets?

This picture gives you a good idea of the view from our seats.

Casa Grande Again

Greetings from Arizona. We flew in last night and stayed with my Aunt Pam. Today, Christina and I drove to my parents, passing by Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. I had visited there in 2001, but Christina had never been there, so we stopped and looked around.

With my new digital camera, I can now upload pictures wherever I am (yeah, I know, welcome to the 21st century). So here's our visit in pictures.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Sheffield Marriott

After my stay at the Hilton Puckrup Hall, I headed north to Sheffield, to visit my cousin and her husband. (They got married last month.) More on that later. Here are a couple of pictures of the hotel.

As you can see, it's another converted manor. The walk down the hallway was even longer. At one point, I had to drag my suitcase up the stairs and push past an oblivious wedding guest. The hotel was hosting two weddings that night, and I believe the next night, too. My cousin and her husband looked at this place, but it wasn't really the sort of intimate setting they were looking for.

My gold status with Marriott did me some good, as it got me upgraded to this "executive room" which was nice and big.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

John's Adventures

My friend, John "George" Grayson, now has a weblog of his own.

Having a Blast

My father and his golfing partner took "low gross" at the MountainView Men’s Golf Association "5th Annual Member-Member Blast". Congratulations!

Monday, September 20, 2004

Hilton Puckrup Hall

The first hotel I stayed in last week was the Hilton Puckrup Hall in, or, well, near, Tewksbury. It's on a golf course, which would be nicer for me if I played golf. Still, it got me up to 34 Hilton nights for the year (36=gold). And it was a nice place to stay, though I still haven't found the ultimate place to stay in the area.

My room was towards the end of a very, very long corridor. A colleague who was even closer to the end would hum the "Get Smart" theme on the way to his room. I guess that's what you get when you build a hotel out of an old manor.

I used my new digital camera to take pictures of the view from the room.

This is a neat window:

And this is the golf hole I could see from the window:

And this is the room:

Friday, September 10, 2004

Mailing list.

I'm conducting an experiment. There are web pages that I check often to see if they're updated. It would be easier if those pages let me know when they were updated.

I suspect some of my readers are in the same situation. So I have created a Google Group that is supposed to e-mail you when I have a new posting. You are welcome to go there and try to sign up. I'd be interested to know if this works!

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Wine Update: Less Heavy Wines Under $8

Since my last wine update we've tried five wines. Looking over the list, I've noticed all five are in the $7-$8 range, and all five are light or medium bodied. I've been making an attempt to identify enjoyable wines that can be paired with lighter foods. Also, I paid less for some of these wines -- I've been taking advantage of coupons.

2000 George Duboeuf Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is supposed to be the wine that goes with everything. It's a little tricky to find one in a budget price range. Duboeuf is a well-known mass-market brand, so this seemed like a safe choice.

It was a decent, if not memorable, wine.

2002 Buffalo Grove Pinot Noir

This is the first wine I've bought off a tasting at Corridor Wine. I think usually they're pushing wines that they have some particular interest in selling. The week I bought this wine, the store managers hadn't received direction about which wines for tasting, so they picked out some of their favorites. I thought this was an enjoyable Pinot Noir. Christina was less impressed; I think she ranks this on par with the Duboeuf Pinot Noir.

2001 Don Sebastiani & Sons Smoking Loon Pinot Noir

We got this one since we liked the Syrah from the same winery. I think it ranks near the other Pinots -- enjoyable, but not a "must buy".

2001 George Duboeuf Chateau de Buffavent Beaujolais

Beaujolais is a well-known lighter, fruity wine, so I thought we'd give it a whirl. I had a nice half-bottle when I was in La Jolla. Duboeuf is primarily known for its Beaujolais. I think we'll try other Beaujolais, but not necessarily this variety.

2000 Montecillo Rioja Crianza

We had this tonight -- it was our first Spanish wine. We both enjoyed it; I think I'll pick up another Rioja soon.