Thursday, March 31, 2011

Atlanta Braves begin 2011 regular season schedule today

The Atlanta Braves begin their regular season schedule today (Thursday) when they play the Washington Nationals in Washington, D.C. They’ll play their first home game on Fri., April 8, when they take on the Philadelphia Phillies in Atlanta.

The Braves announced their 25-man roster on Sunday, and it includes a lot of familiar names. While new manager Fredi Gonzalez could make a change before Thursday, as of Monday the roster included pitcher Brandon Beachy, infielder Brooks Conrad, first baseman Freddie Freeman, shortstop Alex Gonzalez, pitcher Tommy Hanson, outfielder Jason Heyward, infielder Brandon Hicks, outfielder Eric Hinske, pitcher Tim Hudson, third baseman Chipper Jones, pitcher Jair Jurrjens, relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel, relief pitcher Scott Linebrink, pitcher Derek Lowe, pitcher Cristhian Martinez, catcher Brian McCann, outfielder Nate McLouth, relief pitcher Peter Moylan, relief pitcher Eric O’Flaherty, outfielder Martin Prado, catcher David Ross, relief pitcher George Sherrill, relief pitcher Jonny Venters, second baseman Dan Uggla and outfielder Matt Young.

Looking at the Braves roster, makes me feel my age. When I was a kid, I used to put major league players up on a pedestal, and I remember how old they seemed. Now, at 35, I’m older than most of the guys on the Braves team, with a few exceptions.

The average age of this year’s team is 29-1/2 years old. The youngest players are 21-year-olds Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman. They were both born about a month apart in 1989, that is, when I was in junior high school.

The oldest player on the team is 39-year-old, left-handed pitcher Billy Wagner, who is a geezer compared to most players in the league today.

Those of you who enjoy listening to the Braves on the radio will have ample opportunity to do so again this year. The Braves have the largest radio affiliate network of any major league team, and more than a few of the stations that carry Braves games are in southwest Alabama.

Those stations include WKNU-FM 106.3 in Brewton, WHEP-FM 92.5 in Foley and WJDB-FM 95.5 in Thomasville. Two AM stations out of Montgomery also carry the Braves – WMSP-AM 740 and WNZZ-AM 950.

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March Madness is drawing to a close this week with just three more games left in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

The two semi-final round games will be played Saturday with Butler taking on Virginia Commonwealth at 5 p.m. and Connecticut playing Kentucky at7:45 p.m. The winners of those two games will play in the championship game Monday at 8 p.m. All three games will be televised on CBS.

Now that Ohio State has lost, Kentucky is the favorite to win it all. Of course, all bets are off, especially if VCU, a No. 11 seed, gets past Butler.

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I saw the following sports-related item in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! this week: Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia ran barefoot in the marathon at the 1960 Olympics in Rome and won the gold medal.

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Some of you may have seen an interesting, weird news story that ran in Friday’s edition of The Mobile Press-Register. Written by reporter David Helms, the story details the filming of a low-budget action film called “Night Claws.” The movie, about a Bigfoot-like creature, is being filmed near Theodore and is a production of screenwriter and director David Prior.

“Night Claws” is one of 19 movies that Prior has filmed in the Mobile area. Filming began Monday of last week with mostly local actors and is scheduled to end on April 9. The biggest name in the film is actor Frank Stallone, who is Sylvester Stallone’s younger brother.

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That story was followed by a Bigfoot-related story on Monday in The Vanguard, the University of South Alabama’s student newspaper.

Written by Patrick Senn, the story detailed a recent trip by a student club called USA PSI to the Honey Island Swamp near Slidell, La.

According to the story, club members spent three days in the area investigating numerous reports of a group of large creatures that resemble Bigfoot. They attempted to attract these creatures with raw meat and tobacco and also employed an expert tracker to look for other types of evidence.

In the end, they didn’t find anything, but they did manage to collect a few stories from local residents about the Bigfoot-type creatures.

Of course, when I think about Bigfoot, I can’t help but think about a reported sighting that occurred in Conecuh County in the early 1990s.

According to the Gulf Coast Bigfoot Research Organization, a Bigfoot sighting was reported in Conecuh County in 1992. The report said that a hunter spent the night in a tree stand because he was afraid to come down due to a “large and hairy” creature that appeared at the base of the tree.

“It was very large and hairy and made very strange noises,” the report said.

The witness was said to be an experienced outdoorsman and was not the sort of person to make up a story of this type.

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for March 31, 2011

FOUR YEARS AGO
MARCH 29, 2007

“Sparta Academy senior Michael Campbell has been named to the Alabama Sports Writers Association all-state basketball team.
“Campbell, a 6-4 forward/center, is a second team selection to the ASWA’s Alabama Independent School Association all-star team for all three classifications in the AISA.
“He helped lead Sparta to the AISA’s Final Four tournament this season, where the Warriors suffered a 49-44 loss to Lowndes Academy in the semifinals at Huntingdon College.
“Sparta also won the AISA, Class 2A regular season and tournament championships this season.
“Campbell led the Warriors in scoring and rebounding this season, finishing the season averaging 16 points and 12 rebounds per game.”

“Hillcrest High School’s baseball team has been snake bit again. This time the Jaguars had to choke down a 7-5 loss to Frisco City High School last Thursday in Evergreen.
“Hillcrest’s five runs came on eight hits with Neil Presley, Marc Barlow and Quin Lee picking up two hits each to pace the offense.”
Other players on Hillcrest’s team that year included Jarrod Thomas, Ryan Moore, Keon McCaskill, Jerrod Thomas and Quinton Simpson. Rick Badger was head coach.

19 YEARS AGO
MARCH 26, 1992

“Evergreen native Bob Meeks is considered by many to be in line for an early selection in the upcoming National Football League draft April 26 and 27. Meeks gained national attention for his dominant play as a member of the Auburn Tigers.”

“’Bob Meeks is preparing for professional football future’ by Artie Wright: Years of lifting weights and preparing his body and mind for ‘wars’ are paying off for Evergreen native Bob Meeks. The former Auburn University football standout is hoping to find out what direction his future will take him in the upcoming National Football League draft next month.
“Taking some time off during spring break from Auburn, Meeks is visiting his family in Evergreen this week. But even his time away from the Plains is taken by his future prospect as a professional football player.
“During a weight-lifting session at Hillcrest High School, Meeks talked with The Evergreen Courant about his years at Auburn, his hopes for the future and his feelings for his hometown.
“Meeks’ consistent play and domination on the offensive line caught the eyes of many while playing center for the Tigers. His play helped the university win two Southeastern Conference championships and threaten for a national title.”

34 YEARS AGO
MARCH 31, 1977

“The Evergreen High School baseball team opened the 1977 season Tues., March 22, with a 15-9 win over J.F. Shields at Beatrice. Righthander Darnell Spears was the winning pitcher, allowing one run on three hits in three innings of work.”
Other players on Evergreen’s team that year included Tony Hawsey, Turner Murphy, Jimmy Lambert, Phillip Harold, Leon McCall, Ernie Edeker, Wendall Parker, Wayne Malden and Thomas Rodgers. Rex Bynum was head coach.

“Jimmy Zellers, 12, killed his first wild turkey Saturday morning and it was a fine one. The Tom weighed 19-1/2 pounds and had a 10-inch beard. Jimmy’s father called the turkey up to him.”

“Clyde Gibson celebrated his fifth wedding anniversary Friday morning by killing this 19-1/2 turkey. The bird had a 19-1/2-inch beard. The editor trusts that Clyde didn’t forget to give his good wife, Maurice, an anniversary present other than the turkey.”

“These Big Bam All Americans, representing radio station WBAM of Montgomery, will play the Castleberry Community Club tonight at 7:15 in the Conecuh County High School Gymnasium. Admission will be $1.50 for adults and $1 for students with all proceeds going to the club’s scholarship fund.”

49 YEARS AGO
MARCH 29, 1962

“Alma Martin Post 50, The American Legion will have a special showing of the films of the Alabama-Arkansas game in the 1962 Sugar Bowl at the Post Home Friday night at 7:30. The showing is open to the public, according to Commander Howard Geck.”

“The Evergreen Aggies will play their annual Green and White intra-squad football game at 7:30 Saturday night at Brooks Stadium.
“Starters for the Greens are LE John Brock, LT John Pierce, LG James Ward, C Robert Rigsby, RG William Sessions, RT Stan Coker, RE Ronnie Jones, QB Sid Lambert, Halfback John Lowrey, Wingback Jimmy Warren and FB Leon Adams.
“The Whites will lead off with Winston Pugh, LT Pete Tharp, LG Ronnie Shaver or Bobby Hammonds, C Alvin Dees, RG Bobby Lynch, RT Donnie Jones, RE Jimmy Weaver, QB Mike Mininger, Halfback Mike Borders, Wingback Bob Ivey and FB Paul Deason.”
Other players included Scott Cook, Jerry Horton, Steve Baggett, Johnny Huggins, Robin Cox, Vann Davis, Scott Cox, Bob Tanner, Tommy Hartley, Billy Kendall, Mike Moorer, Charles Pierce, Calvin Smith, Billy Wilkins, Eddie Thornley, Rusty Price (manager), Wayne Tolbert, Jimmy Ellis, Daniel Kelley, Brent Thornley, Joe Glass, Rodney Mitchell, Mike Fields, Ronnie Hayes, Billy Lynch, Ronnie Barlow, Arlie Phillips, Marshall Dees and George Fontaine (manager). Coaches were John Law Robinson and Lewis Ramsey.

64 YEARS AGO
MARCH 27, 1947

“Auburn Trustees Vote To Renew Football Tilt: MONTGOMERY – At a regular meeting in Governor James E. Folsom’s office, the board of trustees of Alabama Polytechnic Institute vote unanimously in favor of renewing the 40-year dormant football schedule between Alabama’s two leading universities.
“The adopted resolution introduced by trustee, Dr. Joe Davis of Albertville, directed the president of Auburn to ‘make negotiations to resume athletic relations at the earliest possible date.’
“The Auburn board made it plain that the next move is up to the University of Alabama Crimson Tiders.”

“Coach Wendell Hart has been putting about 35 aspirants for football through their daily spring practice workouts.
“Several newcomers are giving last year’s returnees a scrap for the different positions. Glenn McIntyre, stellar halfback on last year’s squad, has been running from this position during spring practice. Mickey Logue has been operating from the quarterback slot and seems to be hitting the mark with his passes as good as ever.”
Other players participating in spring practice that year included Billy Carpenter, Hillmon Davis, John Law Robinson, James Ryan, Dean Shaver, S.L. Brooks, W.K. Salter, Arthur McCreary, Tommy White, Bobby Carter, Sammy Hanks, Harold Robison, Nick Stallworth, Shelton Craig, Benton Carpenter, Dickey Bozeman, Oliver Indindoli, Gillis Jones, Pete White and Billy Pierce.

Compiled by Sports Reporter Lee Peacock from past issues of The Evergreen Courant. To read The Courant’s weekly Sports Flashback feature online, visit leepeacock2010.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My movie picks this week are 'Insidious' and 'Black Swan'

It’s Wednesday, so today I give you my weekly list of movies that will open in theatres this week as well as a list of movies that will be released this week on DVD.

I hope this will serve as a useful guide as to what’s going on this week if you happen to be near a movie theatre or if you’re looking for something to drop into your NetFlix queue.

Movies that are scheduled to hit theatres this Friday include:

Cat Run (R, Action, Comedy): Directed by John Stockwell and starring Paz Vega, Janet McTeer, Christopher McDonald, Tony Curran and Scott Mechlowicz.

Hop (PG, Family, Animation, Comedy): Directed by Tim Hill and starring Russell Brand, Kaley Cuoco, Elizabeth Perkins and Chelsea Handler.

In a Better World (R, Drama): Directed by Susanne Bier and starring Mikael Persbrandt, Trine Dyrholm, Ulrich Thomsen, Camilla Gottlieb and Satu Helena Mikkelinen.

Insidious (PG-13, Horror, Thriller): Directed by James Wan and starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey, Lin Shaye and Ty Simpkins.

The Last Godfather (PG-13, Crime and Mystery, Thriller, Comedy): Directed by Shim Hyung-rae and starring Harvey Keitel, Jason Mewes, Blake Clark, Jon Polito and Michael Rispoli.

Queen to Play (Not Yet Rated, Drama): Directed by Caroline Bottaro and starring Sandrine Bonnaire, Kevin Kline, Valerie Lagrange, Francis Renaud and Alexandra Gentil.

Rubber (R, Comedy, Horror, Drama): Directed by Quentin Dupieux and starring Jack Plotnick, Wings Hauser, Stephen Sinella, Roxane Medquida and Ethan Cohn.

Source Code (PG-13, Science Fiction, Action, Thriller): Directed by Duncan Jones and starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, Jeffrey Wright and Russell Peters.

Super (Not Rated, Comedy): Directed by James Gunn and starring Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Nathan Fillion and Kevin Bacon.

Trust (R, Drama): Directed by David Schwimmer and starring Clive Owen, Catherine Keener, Liana Liberato, Viola Davis and Jason Clarke.

Wrecked (R, Horror, Suspense, Drama, Thriller): Directed by Michael Greenspan and starring Adrien Brody, Caroline Dhavernas, Ryan Robbins and Jacob Blair.

New DVD releases for the week of March 29 include:

All Good Things (R, Crime and Mystery, Drama, Suspense): Directed by Andrew Jarecki and starring Ryan Gosling, Kirsten Dunst, Frank Langella, Lily Rabe and Kristen Wiig.

Black Swan (R, Drama, Suspense): Directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Winona Ryder and Sebastian Stan.

Dead Awake (R, Horror, Thriller, Fantasy, Mystery): Directed by Omair Naim and starring Nick Stahl, Rose McGowan, Amy Smart and Ben Marten.

Fair Game (PG-13, Drama, Action): Directed by Doug Liman and starring Naomi Watts, Sean Penn, Ty Burrell, Michael Kelly and Brooke Smith.

Hubble (G, Documentary, Special Interest): Directed by Toni Myers and starring the voice of Leonardo DiCaprio.

Made In Dagenham (R, Drama): Directed by Nigel Cole and starring Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Rosamund Pike, Miranda Richardson and Richard Schiff.

Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 (R, Crime and Mystery, Thriller, Action): Directed by Jean-Francois Richet and starring Vincent Cassel, Ludivine Sagnier, Mathieu Amalric, Gerard Lanvin and Samuel Le Bihan.

The Resident (Drama, Thriller, Suspense): Directed by Antti J. Jokinen and starring Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Christopher Lee, Lee Pace and Kisha Sierra.

Tangled (PG, Animation, Comedy, Family): Directed by Byron Howard and Nathan Greno and starring the voices of Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy, Ron Perlman and M.C. Gainey.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “Insidious,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “Black Swan.”

In the end, let me know if you get a chance to watch any of the new movies in theatres this week or if you’ve already seen any of the movies that have just been released on DVD. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2011 Bancroft Prize-winning books announced


Book lovers in the reading audience will be interested to hear that this year’s slate of Bancroft Prize winners have been announced.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Bancroft Prize, it is given each by Columbia University to recognize outstanding books on American history or diplomacy. First awarded in 1948, the Bancroft Prize is generally considered to be one of the most prestigious awards in American history writing.

According to Columbia University’s website, “winners are judged in terms of the scope, significance, depth of research and richness of interpretation they present in the areas of American History and Diplomacy.

If you enjoy American history, you can bet that if a book has won the Bancroft Prize, it’s pretty good and worth reading.”

This year’s winners were “Ourselves Unborn: A History of the Fetus in Modern America” by Sara Dubow, “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery” by Eric Foner and “Freedom Bound: Law, Labor and Civic Identity in Colonizing English America” by Christopher Tomlins.

“The winning works, while disparate in subject matter, demonstrate the powerful impact intensive research has when wound with eloquent interpretation and fluent prose,” a press release about this year’s prize said.

Over 230 books published in 2010 were read and considered for the 2011 Bancroft Prize.

As you might imagine, a number of outstanding American History books have received the Bancroft Prize over the years. What follows is a complete list of the all-time winners.

1948:
“Ordeal of the Union” by Allan Nevins
“Across the Wide Missouri” by Bernard DeVoto

1949:
“Roosevelt and Hopkins” by Robert E. Sherwood
“The Rising Sun in the Pacific” by Samuel E. Morison

1950:
“The Great War for the Empire: Volume VII, The Victorious Year, 1758-1760” by Lawrence H. Gipson
“Coronado” by Herbert E. Bolton

1951:
“Our More Perfect Union” by Arthur N. Holcombe
“Virgin Land” by Henry N. Smith

1952:
“Charles Evans Hughes” by Merlo J. Pusey
“Origins of the New South, 1877-1913” by C. Vann Woodward

1953:
“The Era of Good Feelings” by George Dangerfield
“Rendezvous with Destiny” by Eric F. Goldman

1954:
“Seedtime of the Republic” by Clinton Rossiter
“The Undeclared War” by William L. Langer and S. Everett Gleason

1955:
“Great River, The Rio Grande” by Paul Horgan
“The Jacksonians” by Leonard D. White

1956:
“Henry Adams” by Elizabeth Stevenson
“Last Full Measure: Lincoln the President” by J.G. Randall and Richard N. Current

1957:
“Russia Leaves the War” by George F. Kennan
“Wilson: The New Freedom” by Arthur S. Link

1958:
“The Crisis of the Old Order” by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.
“The History of American Magazines, Vol. IV” by Frank Luther Mott

1959:
“Henry Adams, The Middle Years” by Ernest Samuels
“The Colonial Experience” by Daniel J. Boorstin

1960:
“The Age of the Democratic Revolution: A Political History of Europe and America, 1760-1800” by R.R. Palmer
“In the Days of McKinley” by Margaret Leech

1961:
“The Jefferson Image In the American Mind” by Merrill D. Peterson
“Wilson: The Struggle for Neutrality, 1914-1915” by Arthur S. Link

1962:
“The Transformation of the School” by Lawrence A. Cremin
“To the Farewell Address: Ideas of Early American Foreign Policy” by Felix Gilbert
“Charles Francis Adams, 1807-1866” by Martin B. Duberman

1963:
“John Adams” by Page Smith
“Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision” by Roberta Wohlstetter
“The Might of Nations: World Politics in Our Time” by John G. Stoessinger

1964:
“Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940” by William E. Leuchtenburg
“The Liberator: William Lloyd Garrison” by John L. Thomas
“Power, Freedom and Diplomacy: The Foreign Policy of the United States of America” by Paul Seabury

1965:
“Castlereagh and Adams: England and the United States, 1812-1823” by Bradford Perkins
“Portrait of a General: Sir Henry Clinton in the War of Independence” by William B. Willcox
“The United States and the Far Eastern Crisis of 1933-1938” by Dorothy Borg

1966:
“The Peacemakers: The Great Powers and American Independence” by Richard B. Morris
“Between Two Empires: The Ordeal of the Philippines, 1929-1946” by Theodore W. Friend III

1967:
“Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836, Vol. II” by Charles Sellers
“The Washington Community, 1800-1828” by James Sterling Young

1968:
“A History of Negro Education in the South from 1619 to the Present” by Henry Allen Bullock
“From Puritan to Yankee: Character and Social Order in Connecticut, 1690-1765” by Richard L. Bushman
“The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution” by Bernard Bailyn

1969:
“White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812” by Winthrop D. Jordan
“Woodrow Wilson and World Politics: America’s Response to War and Revolution” by N. Gordon Levin Jr.
“The Brains Trust” by Rexford Guy Tugwell

1970:
“Charles Wilson Peale” by Charles Coleman Sellers
“The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787” by Gordon S. Wood
“Scottsboro: A Tragedy of the American South” by Dan T. Carter

1971:
“The Image Empire: A History of Broadcasting in the United States, Vol. III – From 1953” by Erik Barnouw
“Birth Control in America: The Career of Margaret Sanger” by David M. Kennedy
“Andrew Carnegie” by Joseph Frazier Wall

1972:
“Neither Black Nor White” by Carl N. Degler
“The Mathers: Three Generations of Puritan Intellectuals, 1596-1728” by Robert Middlekauff
“The European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages” by Sameul Eliot Morison

1973:
“Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam” by Frances FitzGerald
“The United States and the Origins of the Cold War” by John Lewis Gaddis
“Booker T. Washington” by Louis R. Harlan

1974:
“Frederick Jackson Turner: Historian, Scholar, Teacher” by Ray Allen Billington
“The Devil and John Foster Dulles” by Townsend Hoopes
“The Other Bostonians: Poverty and Progress in the American Metropolis, 1880-1970” by Stephan Thernstrom

1975:
“Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery” and “Time On the Cross: Evidence and Methods – A Supplement” by Robert William Fogel
“Deterrence in American Foreign Policy: Theory and Practice” by Alexander L. George and Richard Smoke
“Roll, Jordan, Roll” by Eugene Genovese

1976:
“The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823” by David Rion Davis
“Edith Wharton: A Biography” by R.W.B. Lewis

1977:
“Class and Community: The Industrial Revolution in Lynn” by Alan Dawley
“The Minutemen and Their World” by Robert A. Gross
“Slave Population and Economy in Jamaica, 1807-1834” by Barry W. Higman

1978:
“The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business” by Alfred D. Chandler Jr.
“The Transformation of American Law, 1780-1860” by Morton J. Horwitz

1979:
“Allies of a Kind: The United States, Britain and the War Against Japan, 1941-1945” by Christopher Thorne
“Rockdale: The Growth of an American Village in the Early Industrial Revolution” by Anthony F.C. Wallace

1980:
Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945” by Robert Dallek
“Women at Work: The Transformation of Work and Community in Lowell, Massachusetts, 1826-1860” by Thomas Dublin
“Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s” by Donald Worster

1981:
“Walter Lipmann and the American Century” by Ronald Steel
“Alice James: A Biography” by Jean Strouse

1982:
“A People in Revolution: The American Revolution and Political Society in New York, 1760-1790” by Edward Countryman
“Cradle of the Middle Class: The Family in Oneida County, New York, 1790-1865” by Mary P. Ryan

1983:
“Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England” by John Putnam Demos
“Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist” by Nick Salvatore

1984:
“Booker T. Washington: The Wizard of Tuskegee, 1901-1915” by Louis R. Harlan
“The Social Transformation of American Medicine: The Rise of a Sovereign Profession and the Making of a Vast Industry” by Paul Starr

1985:
“The Free Woman of Petersburg: Status and Culture in a Southern Town, 1784-1860” by Suzanne Lebsock
“The Life and Times of Cotton Mather” by Kenneth Silverman

1986:
“Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States” by Kenneth T. Jackson
“Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Black Women, Work and the Family from Slavery to the Present” by Jacqueline Jones

1987:
“A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise: Merchants and Economic Development in Revolutionary Philadelphia” by Thomas Doerflinger
“Roots of Violence in Black Philadelphia, 1860-1900” by Roger Lane

1988:
“The Rise of American Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon” by Michael S. Sherry
“Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom” by Peter Kolchin

1989:
“Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877” by Eric Foner
“Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America” by Edmund S. Morgan

1990:
“The Indians’ New World: Catawbas and Their Neighbors from European Contact Through the Era of Removal” by James H. Merrell
“Dark Journey: Black Mississippians in the Age of Jim Crow” by Neil R. McMillen

1991:
“Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939” by Lizabeth Cohen
“A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812” by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

1992:
“Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West” by William Cronon
“The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson and the Americans” by Charles Royster

1993:
“Margaret Fuller: An American Romantic Life, Vol. I: The Private Years” by Charles Capper
“A Preponderance of Power: National Security, the Truman Administration and the Cold War” by Melvyn P. Leffler

1994:
“The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788-1800” by Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick
“Tumult and Silence at Second Creek: An Inquiry into a Civil War Slave Conspiracy” by Winthrop D. Jordan
“The Biography of a Race, 1868-1919” by David Levering Lewis

1995:
“The Refiner’s Fire: The Marking of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844” by John L. Brooke
“Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi” by John Dittmer

1996:
“William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic” by Alan Taylor
“Walt Whitman’s America: A Cultural Biography” by David S. Reynolds

1997:
“Explicit and Authentic Acts: Amending the U.S. Constitution, 1776-1995” by David E. Kyvig
“Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974” by James T. Patterson

1998:
“Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt” by Christine Leigh Heyrman
“The Clash: A History of U.S.-Japan Relations” by Walter LaFeber
“The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit” by Thomas J. Sugrue

1999:
“Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America” by Ira Berlin
“Black Culture in Eighteenth-Century Chesapeake and Low Country” by Philip D. Morgan
“The Name of War: King Philip’s War and the Origins of American Identity” by Jill Lepore

2000:
“Into the American Woods: Negotiators on the American Frontier” by James H. Merrell
“Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II” by John Dower
“The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction” by Linda Gordon

2001:
“Roaring Camp: The Social World of the California Gold Rush” by Susan Lee Johnson
“The Chief: The Life of William Randolph Hearst” by David Nasaw

2002:
“Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory” by David W. Blight
“In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th Century America” by Alice Kessler-Harris

2003:
“Captives and Cousins: Slavery, Kinship and Community in the Southwest Borderlands” by James F. Brooks
“The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South, 1670-1717” by Alan Gallay

2004:
“In the Presence of Mine Enemies: War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863” by Edward L. Ayers
“A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration” by Steven Hahn
“Jonathan Edwards: A Life” by George M. Marsden

2005:
“Israel on the Appomattox: A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s through the Civil War” by Melvin Patrick
“From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality” by Michael J. Klarman
“Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American South, 1810-1860” by Michael O’Brien

2006:
“Dwelling Place: A Plantation Epic” by Erskine Clarke
“The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times” by Odd Arne Westad
“The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln” by Sean Wilentz

2007:
“Mockingbird Song: Ecological Landscapes in the South” by Jack Temple Kirby
“William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism” by Robert D. Richardson

2008:
“The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall and Deadly Persistence of the Product that Defined America” by Allan M. Brandt
“The Populist Vision” by Charles Postel
“Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America” by Peter Silver

2009:
“Killing for Coal: America’s Deadliest Labor War” by Thomas G. Andrews
“This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War” by Drew Gilpin Faust
“The Comanche Empire” by Pekka Hamalainen

2010:
“Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits” by Linda Gordon
“Abigail Adams” by Woody Holton
“White Mother to a Dark Race: Settler Colonialism, Maternalism and the Removal of Indigenous Children in the American West and Australia, 1880-1940” by Margaret D. Jacobs

In the end, how many of these Bancroft Prize-winning books have you had a chance to read? Which did you like or dislike? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Backyard bug hunt yields rare Spotless 'Nine-spotted' Ladybug

This week’s featured insect, pictured at right, appears to be what’s called a Spotless “Nine-spotted” Ladybug (Coccinella novemnotata franciscana).

My son found this unusual species of ladybug during a recent “bug hunt” in our yard. As you can see, the bug was found clinging to the net of our backyard trampoline in southwest Alabama.

According to my “National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects and Spiders,” ladybugs of this type are about a quarter of an inch long and almost hemispherical. Their heads and thorax are black with yellow or white markings and their legs and underside are black. Their elytra, that is, the hard shell that covers their wings, are yellowish red with or without one black spot at the scutellum.

“Despite its nearly spotless elytra, structural details reveal that this beetle is a subspecies of the widespread Nine-Spotted Ladybug Beetle,” the field guide said.

These types of ladybugs are typically found in the edges of forests, and they eat aphids and other small, soft insects.

The most unusual thing about the description in my field guide regarding this ladybug is the fact that it said that it is rare to find this type of ladybug outside of California.

This makes me wonder if this lady bug is actually a Spotless “Nine-spotted” Ladybug or just a typical ladybug with unusual genetics. I also wonder if maybe we’d found this ladybug at a point in its life cycle in which its characteristic spots had yet to develop.

An online search led me to some information about a similar species of insect called the Blood-Red Lady Beetle. However, photos of this species did not seem to match the insect above, especially when compared with the closely matching photo in our field guide.

Again, this week’s insect provides us with another example of something that all too common for an amateur entomologist like myself, that is, there is often some degree of uncertainty about exactly what I might be looking at.

In the end, until someone can show me otherwise, I’m sticking with the Spotless “Nine-spotted” Ladybug theory. Have any of you out there ever seen an insect like the one pictured above? Do you know what it’s called? Have you ever heard anyone say what it’s called? If so, let us know in the comments section below.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Patterson's 'Toys' takes No. 1 hardcover fiction spot


It’s Sunday, so that means that it’s time for my weekly review of this week’s Publishers Weekly Best-Seller List. According to the list, we’ve got two new books at the top of the four major best-seller lists this week.

"Toys" by James Patterson and Neil McMahon replaced “Sing You Home: A Novel” by Jodi Picoult as the top book on the hardcover fiction best-sellers list.

"Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock" by Sammy Hagar replaced "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" by Laura Hillenbrand as the No. 1 book on the hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list.

“Water for Elephants” retained the No. 1 spots on the mass market paperback and trade paperbacks best-sellers list.

There are two books on this week’s hardcover fiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. Those books (and their place on the list) are "Toys" by James Patterson and Neil McMahon (1) and "The Informationist: A thriller" by Taylor Stevens (15).

There are seven books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock" by Sammy Hagar (1), "The 17 Day Diet: A Doctor's Plan Design for Rapid Results" by Dr. Mike Moreno (2), "Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived" by Rob Bell (4), "Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100" by Michio Kaku (9), "The Amen Solution: The Brain Healthy Way to Lose Weight and Keep It Off" by Danile G. Amen MD (11), "The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman" by Timothy Ferriss (12) and "Infinite Quest: Develop Your Psychic Intuition to Take Charge of Your Life" by John Edward (15).

There are two books on this week’s mass market paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on that list last week. They include "Harvest Moon" by Robyn Carr (14) and "A Dark Matter" by Peter Straub (15).

There are two books on this week’s trade paperbacks list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Heart of the Matter" by Emily Griffin (6) and "The Glass Castle: A Memoir" by Jeannette Walls (12).

As a reminder, I’m posting these lists each Sunday because they, as a whole, represent a great, contemporary recommended reading list. These lists are initially released each week on Thursday, and if you’re interested in reading them then, visit Publishers Weekly’s Web site at www.publishersweekly.com. Below you’ll find all four of this week’s best-seller lists.

HARDCOVER FICTION
1. "Toys" by James Patterson and Neil McMahon
2. "Sing You Home: A Novel" by Jodi Picoult
3. "The Jungle" by Clive Cussler and Jack Du Brul
4. "The Wise Man's Fear" by Patrick Rothfuss
5. "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson
6. "The Tiger's Wife: A Novel" by Tea Obreht
7. "A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah Harkness
8. "The Paris Wife: A Novel" by Paula McLain
9. "Minding Frankie" by Maeve Binchy
10. "Tick Tock" by James Patterson, Michael Ledwidge
11. "Love You More: A Novel" by Lisa Gardner
12. "River Marked" by Patricia Briggs
13. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
14. "Treachery in Death" by J.D. Robb
15. "The Informationist: A thriller" by Taylor Stevens

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock" by Sammy Hagar
2. "The 17 Day Diet: A Doctor's Plan Design for Rapid Results" by Dr. Mike Moreno
3. "Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand
4. "Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived" by Rob Bell
5. "The Money Class: Learn to Create Your New American Dream" by Suze Orman
6. "Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything" by Joshua Foer
7. "The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement" by David Brooks
8. "Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection" by Pope Benedict XVI
9. "Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100" by Michio Kaku
10. "Decision Points" by George W. Bush
11. "The Amen Solution: The Brain Healthy Way to Lose Weight and Keep It Off" by Danile G. Amen MD
12. "The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman" by Timothy Ferriss
13. "Cleopatra: A Life" by Stacy Schiff
14. "Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertant Education of a Reluctant Chef" by Gabrielle Hamilton
15. "Infinite Quest: Develop Your Psychic Intuition to Take Charge of Your Life" by John Edward

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "Water for Elephants: A Novel" by Sara Gruen
2. "The Lincoln Lawyer" by Michael Connelly
3. "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
4. "The Silent Sea" by Clive Cussler and Jack Du Brul
5. "Deception: An Alex Delaware Novel" by Jonathan Kellerman
6. "An Engagement in Seattle: Groom Wanted, Bride Wanted" by Debbie Macomber
7. "Without Mercy" by Lisa Jackson
8. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
9. "A Creed in Stone Creek" by Linda Lael Miller
10. "Last Snow" by Eric Van Lustbader
11. "Changes: A Novel of the Dresden Files" by Jim Butcher
12. "An Unlikely Countess: A Novel of the Malloren World" by Jo Beverley
13. "Swimsuit" by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
14. "Harvest Moon" by Robyn Carr
15. "A Dark Matter" by Peter Straub

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "Water for Elephants: A Novel" by Sara Gruen
2. "Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back" by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, Colton Burpo and Lynn Vincent
3. "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese
4. "Private" by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
5. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot
6. "Heart of the Matter" by Emily Griffin
7. "Inside of a Dog" by Alexandra Horowitz
8. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
9. "The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel" by Garth Stein
10. "The Big Short" by Michael Lewis
11. "The Postmistress" by Sarah Blake
12. "The Glass Castle: A Memoir" by Jeannette Walls
13. "The King's Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy' by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi
14. "Little Bee" by Chris Cleave
15. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson

In the end, let me know if you’ve had a chance to read any of these books. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Outstanding books from Amazon.com, the SFBC and Alabama Alumni Magazine

Today, I give you three book-related items all in one post.

Today’s post includes Amazon.com’s editors’ list of Best Books of March, the Top 20 books from the Science Fiction Book Club’s Spring bulletin and the featured books from the Spring issue of Alabama Alumni Magazine.

Just a few days ago, Amazon.com released its editors’ list of Best Books of March, which includes 10 books that I’m sure more than a few of you have heard about.

Books that made the list include the following titles:

1. “Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef” by Gabrielle Hamilton
2. “The Wise Man’s Fear” by Patrick Rothfuss
3. “My Korean Deli: Risking it All for a Convenience Store” by Ben Ryder Howe
4. “Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything” by Joshua Foer
5. “The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood” by James Gleick
6. “The Cardboard Valise” by Ben Katchor
7. “The Savage City: Race, Murder and a Generation on the Edge” by T.J. English
8. “I Am J” by Cris Beam
9. “Ant and Grasshopper” by Luli Gray and Giuliano Ferri
10. “A World Without Heroes” by Brandon Hull

“I Am J” (No. 8) was Amazon’s Best Book for Young Adults selection, and “Ant and Grasshopper” (9) was their Best Picture Book selection. “A World Without Heroes” (10) was Amazon’s Best Book for Middle-Grade Readers selection.

For more information about these books, visit www.amazon.com.

My copy of the Science Fiction Book Club’s Spring bulletin arrived in the mail a few days ago, and my favorite item in each of these bulletins is the SFBC’s Top 20.

Books that made the SFBC’s Top 20 list include the following titles:

1. “Catacombs” by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
2. “Cryoburn” by Lois McMaster Bujold
3. “Shadowheart” by Tad Williams
4. “Towers of Midnight” by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
5. “Echo” by Jack McDevitt
6. “Hull Zero Three” by Greg Bear
7. “The Bards of Bone Plain” by Patricia A. McKillip
8. “The Way of Kings” by Brandon Sanderson
9. “Against All Things Ending” by Stephen R. Donaldson
10. “I Shall Wear Midnight” by Terry Pratchett
11. “Blackest Night” by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Ivan Reis
12. “Full Dark, No Stars” by Stephen King
13. “The Human Blend” by Alan Dean Foster
14. “Intrigues” by Mercedes Lackey
15. “Bearers of the Black Staff” by Terry Brooks
16. “DC Comics Year by Year” by DC Comics
17. “Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn – The Deluxe Edition” by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Frank Quitely and Phillip Tan
18. “Star Trek: The Original Series 365” by Paula M. Block with Terry J. Erdmann
19. “Catalyst” by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
20. “Night of the Trekkies” by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall

For more information about these books and to view the SFBC’s Top 100 list, visit www.sfbc.com.

Also arriving in my mailbox this week was the Spring issue of Alabama Alumni Magazine. A regular feature in this outstanding magazine is its “Bookshelf” feature, which provides reviews and descriptions of new books with Alabama connections.

Books mentioned in the latest installment of “Bookshelf” include the following titles:

1. “Wings of Opportunity: The Wright Brothers in Montgomery, Alabama” by Julie Hedgepeth Williams
2. “Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family” by Condoleeza Rice
3. “Teddy’s Child” by Virginia Van Der Veer Hamilton
4. “Heart of a Small Town” by Robin McDonald
5. “Bottle Tree” by Jennifer Horne
6. “The Crimson Tide, National Championship Edition” by Winston Groom
7. “If These Stones Could Talk” by Calvin G. Lyons
8. “The Healer’s Apprentice” by Melanie Dickerson
9. “Attached at the Heart” by Lysa Parker and Barbara Nicholson
10. “Encyclopedia of Death and the Human Experience,” edited by Dr. Clifton D. Bryant and Dr. Dennis L. Peck

For more information about Alabama Alumni Magazine, visit alumni.ua.edu/publications/alabama-alumni-magazine.

In the end, how many of the books mentioned above have you had a chance to read? Which did you like or dislike? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Check out the USMC's professional reading list - Oorah!

On Monday, I posted a review of the classic sci-fi novel, “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card. In that post, I made mention of the fact that “Ender’s Game” is so highly regarded that the United States Marine Corps has included the book on the U.S. Marine Corps Professional Reading List.

Of course, this got me to thinking about what other books were on this recommended reading list for “The Few and The Proud.”

I found the entire list online and learned that it was compiled in 2008 by Marine Corps Community Services Office as part of their Lifelong Learning Program. Their goal is to foster “an environment where lifelong learning is contagious and knowledge is achieved through educational resources for the Marine Corps community.”

The list is divided into categories, accoring to Marine Corps rank. The list contains scores of great books, and you will notice some repitition on the list. One book appears again and again on the list – “First to Fight: An Inside View of the U.S. Marine Corps” by Lt. Gen. Krulak. This book is required reading for every Marine from private to general.

Without further ado, here’s the list:

Private to Lance Corporal:
• First to Fight: An Inside View of the US Marine Corps by Lt. Gen. Krulak
• MCDP 1 Warfighting
• A Message to Garcia by E. Hubbard
• Rifleman Dodd by C.S. Forester
• The Soldier’s Load by S.L.A. Marshall
• The Ugly American by W. Burdick
• Ender’s Game by O.S. Card

Corporal:
• First to Fight: An Inside View of the US Marine Corps by Lt. Gen. Krulak
• MCWP 6-11 Leading Marines
• Battle Leadership by A. Von Schell
• Flags of Our Fathers by J. Bradley
• Gates of Fire by S. Pressfield
• Imperial Grunts by R. D. Kaplan
• Small Unit Leaders Guide to Counterinsurgency

Sergeant:
• First to Fight: An Inside View of the US Marine Corps by Lt. Gen. Krulak
• MCDP 1-3 Tactics
• The Art of War by Sun Tzu
• Tip of the Spear by G.J. Michaels
• Attacks! by E. Rommel
• With the Old Breed by E.B. Sledge
• The Village by B. West

Staff Sergeant:
• First to Fight: An Inside View of the US Marine Corps by Lt. Gen. Krulak
• MCDP 1-2 Campaigning
• This Kind of War by T.R. Fehrenbach
• Band of Brothers by S.E. Ambrose
• The Face of Battle by J. Keegan
• A Bell for Adano by J. Hersey
• Utmost Savagery by J. Alexander

Gunnery Sergeant:
• First to Fight: An Inside View of the US Marine Corps by Lt. Gen. Krulak
• MCDP 5 Planning
• The Savage Wars of Peace by M. Boot
• We Were Soldiers by H. Moore
• On Combat by D. Grossman
• Breakout by M. Russ
• Victory at High Tide by R.D. Heinl

Master Sergeant/First Sergeant:
• First to Fight: An Inside View of the US Marine Corps by Lt. Gen. Krulak
• MCDP 1-1 Strategy
• Reminiscences of a Marine by J.A. Lejeune
• Fields of Battle by J. Keegan
• Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence
• On Killing by D. Grossman
• Battle Cry of Freedom by J.M. McPherson

Master Gunnery Sergeant/Sergeant Major:
• First to Fight: An Inside View of the US Marine Corps by Lt. Gen. Krulak
• The General by C.S. Forester
• No Bended Knee by M.B. Twining
• Achilles in Vietnam by J. Shay
• The Mask of Command by J. Keegan
• The Arab Mind by R. Patai

Officer Candidate/Midshipman:
• First to Fight: An Inside View of the US Marine Corps by Lt. Gen. Krulak
• MCDP 1 Warfighting
• The Armed Forces Officer, DoD 2006
• A Message to Garcia by E. Hubbard
• Rifleman Dodd by C.S. Forester
• The Soldier’s Load by S.L.A. Marshall
• Ender’s Game by O.S. Card

2d Lieutenant/Warrant Officer:
• First to Fight: An Inside View of the US Marine Corps by Lt. Gen. Krulak
• MCWP 6-11 Leading Marines
• Fields of Fire by J. Webb
• The Art of War by Sun Tzu
• The Anatomy of Courage by L. Moran
• On Infantry by J.A. English
• Small Unit Leaders Guide to Counterinsurgency
• The Soldier’s Load by S.L.A. Marshall

1st Lieutenant/Chief Warrant Officer 2:
• First to Fight: An Inside View of the US Marine Corps by Lt. Gen. Krulak
• The Bridge at Dong Ha by J.G. Miller
• The Face of Battle by J. Keegan
• Reminiscences of a Marine by J.A. Lejeune
• Counterinsurgency Warfare by D. Galula
• Battle Cry of Freedom by J.M. McPherson

Captain/Chief Warrant Officer 3:
• First to Fight: An Inside View of the US Marine Corps by Lt. Gen. Krulak
• For The Common Defense by A.R. Millet
• The Mask of Command by J. Keegan
• Savage Wars of Peace by M. Boot
• On Combat by D. Grossman
• The Arab Mind by R. Patai

Major/Chief Warrant Officer 4:
• First to Fight: An Inside View of the US Marine Corps by Lt. Gen. Krulak
• Once an Eagle by A. Myrer
• The Guns of August by B.W. Tuchman
• History of Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
• The Lexus and the Olive Tree by T.L. Friedman
• Grant Takes Command by B. Catton

Lieutenant Colonel/Chief Warrant Officer 5:
• First to Fight: An Inside View of the US Marine Corps by Lt. Gen. Krulak
• Masters of War by M. Handel
• Supplying War by M. Van Creveld
• Carnage and Culture by V. Hanson
• Defeat into Victory by W. Slim
• Triumph Forsaken by M. Moyar

Colonel to General:
• First to Fight: An Inside View of the US Marine Corps by Lt. Gen. Krulak
• Dereliction of Duty by H.R. McMaster
• Supreme Command by E.A. Cohen
• Diplomacy by H. Kissinger
• Feeding Mars by J.A. Lynn
• The Crisis of Islam by B. Lewis

In the end, how many of these books have you had a chance to read? Which did you like or dislike? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wendell Hart deserves spot in Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame

This week's Evergreen Courant included a story about former Hillcrest head football coach Doug Barfield being inducted into the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame.

That’s a great honor, and it’s nice to see someone with Conecuh County connections being recognized for their accomplishments.

I’ve always thought that the late Wendell Hart would make a fine addition to the Alabama High School Sports Hall of Fame. The selection committee always recognizes someone each year for the Hall’s “oldtimer” category. This year’s oldtimer selectee was former Baldwin County High School football coach, Lyle “Bull” Underwood.

Hart’s sports life in Conecuh County spanned decades. Anyone who’s read our regular sports flashback feature over the past several years will have seen that Hart was not only a successful football, basketball and baseball coach, but he also excelled in those sports as a player.

Hart touched many lives, and there are still many of Hart’s former players and teammates in the community and elsewhere who have fond memories of Hart.

With that said, I am also sure that we also have a future hall of famer in our midst as well – current Hillcrest High School athletics director and head football coach, Larry Boykin.

Boykin came to Hillcrest last year already as one of the most successful prep football coaches in the state’s history, and his impact on Hillcrest’s football program was immediate. His resume features a long list of noteworthy and outstanding accomplishments, and he’ll be a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame when his time comes.

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The first two rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament are over, and 16 teams are left to battle it out for the national championship.

Teams left to compete in the third round today (Thursday) and tomorrow (Friday) include Ohio State, Kentucky, Marquette, North Carolina, Duke, Arizona, Connecticut, San Diego State, Kansas, Richmond, VCU, Florida State, Butler, Wisconsin, BYU and Florida.

I look for Ohio State, North Carolina, Duke, San Diego State, Kansas, Florida State, Wisconsin and Florida to play their way into the Elite Eight.

Teams that I expect to see in the Final Four include Ohio State, Duke, Kansas and Florida. I look for Ohio State to edge by Duke and for Kansas to beat Florida, setting up a showdown between Ohio State and Kansas for the national title.

Ohio State has arguably been the best team in the nation all season, and I look for them to beat Kansas in the finals barring something unexpected, like an injury.

Of course, we’ll have to wait nearly two weeks to find out because the national title game won’t be played until Mon., April 4, which will leave us plenty of time to debate the outcome.

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I read this week in Ripley’s Believe It or Not! that Oscar Swahn, a Swedish shooter, was 60 years old when he won his first Olympic gold medal in 1908, and he later became the oldest competing Olympian ever at age 72, winning a silver medal.

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for March 24, 2011

SIX YEARS AGO
MARCH 24, 2005

“County mourns loss of ‘Coach’ Keith Nettles: William Keith Nettles Sr., age 41, of Evergreen died Sun., March 20, 2005 when he apparently lost control of the sport utility vehicle he was driving.
“Nettles started his career with the Conecuh County Board of Education teaching at Lyeffion Junior High School, then he moved to Hillcrest where he was head basketball coach and assistant football coach and an English teacher.”

21 YEARS AGO
MARCH 22, 1990

“This 8-1/2 pound largemouth bass was caught by Richard Melton and netted by Truman Hyde during spring break. Richard says that he caught the big fish not only with ‘a cane pole’ but ‘in the mouth,’ ‘in a pond,’ ‘in the woods’ and on ‘a full moon.’”

“Dewan Salter of Evergreen won third place in the Open Division of the Alabama Turkey Hunters Hall of Fame fourth annual calling contest in Linden on Thurs., Feb. 22, at the Marengo Academy Coliseum. Salter is the younger brother of expert turkey caller Eddie Salter of Evergreen who served as master of ceremonies for the event.”

“Jerry Cotton Jr. of Evergreen won third place in the Hunter Division in the fourth annual Alabama Turkey Hunters Hall of Fame Contest held in Linden recently.”

“Mike Riley of Evergreen was the second place winner in the Junior Division of the fourth annual Alabama Turkey Hunters Hall of Fame contest held February in Linden. The event attracted hunters, callers and spectators from seven Southern states.”

36 YEARS AGO
MARCH 27, 1975

“Lynn Lassiter of Brownville killed this fine wild turkey Monday morning. The Tom weighed 16 pounds and had a five-inch beard. Lynn said he killed the turkey ‘in the woods.’”

“Sparta Warriors play Monroe Vols Saturday night: The Sparta Academy Warriors will climax their spring football drills when they play the powerful Monroe Academy Vols in Monroeville this Saturday night with the kickoff set for 7:30 o’clock. A jamboree had been planned, but the third team, Escambia, withdrew, so the Warriors and Vols will tangle in the practice game.
“The Vols won their third state championship in four years this past season, capturing the Class A crown. They have a big squad of 45 players and are expected to be strong contenders again this fall.
“The Warriors have a small squad with only 18 players taking part in the drills. However, Coach Richard Brown says the boys have worked hard and shown a lot of enthusiasm. Sparta lost only five seniors off last year’s club, but Coach Brown says ‘they were hosses and will be hard to replace.’
“The Warriors’ strong point appears to be the backfield with four veterans returning.”

51 YEARS AGO
MARCH 24, 1960

“PINEVILLE, La. – Randy White, lanky Evergreen, Ala. native, is continuing his practice of leading his basketball team’s seasonal scoring.
“During the recently closed 1959-60 campaign at Louisiana College, the blond, 6-5 Alabamian paced Wildcat point-making with 485 points. Prior to that, he had been scoring champion of Mississippi junior colleges while performing at Holmes during 1957-58.
“And, as a sensational cagester at Evergreen High during 1952-56, he also paced the prep scorers in that region.
“Randy, a hook shot specialist, totaled 756 points at Louisiana College during the past two seasons. Old timers here believe this is a two-year Wildcat record. His Central Louisiana cage fandom feel certain that the youngster would have broken the all-time Louisiana College scoring record had he played four years at the local Baptist institution. At L.C., Randy played 46 tilts, sank 261 field goals and 234 foul shots in only 299 tries. His free-throw percentage was a fine 78.3, while his pregame average was 16.4 points.
“A son of Mr. and Mrs. Multon White of Evergreen, Randy was an all-district center in high school basketball and honorable mention all-state end in football. He plans to coach after receiving his B.S. degree at Louisiana College in August.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My movie picks this week are 'Sucker Punch' and 'Skyline'

It’s Wednesday, so today I give you my weekly list of movies that will open in theatres this week as well as a list of movies that will be released this week on DVD.

I hope this will serve as a useful guide as to what’s going on this week if you happen to be near a movie theatre or if you’re looking for something to drop into your NetFlix queue.

Movies that are scheduled to hit theatres this Friday include:

The 5th Quarter (PG-13, Drama): Directed by Rick Bieber and starring Ryan Merriman, Aidan Quinn and Andie MacDowell.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules (PG, Comedy, Family): Directed by David Bowers and starring Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Robert Capron, Peyton List and Rachael Harris.

Lion of Judah (PG, Family): Directed by Roger Hawkins and Deryck Broom.

Miral (R, Drama): Directed by Julian Schnabel and starring Freida Pinto, Willem Dafoe, Vanessa Redgrave and Alexander Sidding.

Peep World (Not Yet Rated, Comedy): Directed by Barry W. Blaustein and starring Michael C. Hall, Sarah Silverman, Rainn Wilson, Ben Schwartz and Judy Greer.

Potiche (R, Comedy): Directed by Francois Ozon and starring Catherine Deneuve, Gerard Depardieu, Fabrice Luchini, Karin Viard and Judith Godreche.

Skateland (PG-13, Drama): Directed by Anthony Burns and starring Shiloh Fernandez, Ashley Greene, Heath Freeman, Taylor Handley and A.J. Buckley.

Sucker Punch (PG-13, Action, Fantasy, Comedy): Directed by Zack Snyder and starring Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Abbie Cornish and Jena Malone.

White Irish Drinkers (R, Drama): Directed by John Gray and starring Karen Allen, Anthony Amorim, Zachary Booth, Daniel Carpenter and Jon Corry.

Win Win (R, Comedy, Drama): Directed by Thomas McCarthy and starring Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor and Melanie Lynskey.

New DVD releases for the week of March 22 include:

Dark Fields (Horror, Thriller): Directed by Douglas Schulze and starring David Carradine, Richard Lynch, Dee Wallace and Ellen Sandweiss.

How Do You Know (PG-13, Comedy, Drama, Romance): Directed by James L. Brooks and starring Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson and Kathryn Hahn.

The Little Engine That Could (G, Family): Starring the voices of Alyson Stoner, Jamie Lee Curtis, Brenda Song and Corbin Bleu.

Looking for Palladin (R, Comedy, Drama): Directed by Andrzej Krakowski and starring Ben Gazzara, David Moscow, Talia Shire, Pedro Armendariz Jr. and Angelica Aragon.

Meskada (R, Drama, Crime): Directed by Josh Sternfeld and starring Nick Stahl, Rachel Nichols, Kellan Lutz, Jonathan Tucker and Grace Gummer.

Skyline (PG-13, Science Fiction, Thriller, Horror): Directed by Colin Strause and Greg Strause and starring Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, Donald Faison, David Zayas and Brittany Daniel.

The Tourist (PG-13, Drama, Thriller, Action, Suspense): Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck and starring Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton and Rufus Sewell.

Vanquisher (R, Action): Starring Sophita Sribanchean.

Yogi Bear (PG, Action, Animation, Comedy, Family): Directed by Eric Brevig and starring the voices of Dan Aykroyd, Justin Timberlake, Anna Faris, Tom Cavanagh and T.J. Miller.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “Sucker Punch,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “Skyline.”

In the end, let me know if you get a chance to watch any of the new movies in theatres this week or if you’ve already seen any of the movies that have just been released on DVD. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Seven-spotted Ladybug Beetle makes an appearance

This week’s insect, pictured at right, appears to be a Seven-spotted Ladybug Beetle (Coccinella septapunctata).

My daughter spotted this ladybug as it hung from the end of a leaf on a small tree in our backyard. If memory serves me correctly, we shot this picture Saturday afternoon.

According to the “National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects & Spiders: North America,” this ladybug is closely related to the more common Nine-spotted Ladybug Beetle, which is found throughout North America, except for the Southwest.

First introduced into New Jersey a relatively short time ago, the Seven-spotted ladybug is typically found throughout most of the Northeast.

The field guide says that ladybugs are most commonly found in meadows, crop fields, gardens and marshes and that they are known to eat aphids, small soft insects and mites.

This is what the field guide has to say about their life cycle: Lemon-yellow egg clusters are attached to leaves near aphids. Larvae feed, then pupate without cocoons, attached to leaves. Adults overwinter in large groups and emerge May-September.

The insect pictured above was photographed last week, that is, in mid-March, so it seems that the local adult population has arrived a month and a half early in southwest Alabama.

According to one article I read online, the Seven-spotted ladybug is the most common type of ladybug in Europe. It was introduced into the U.S. as a biological control agent to reduce aphid (plant lice, blackflies, etc.) numbers.

Interestingly, the Seven-spotted ladybug is the official state insect of Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. Alabama’s official state insect is the Monarch Butterfly.

Before I wrap up today’s post, here’s an update on the insect item I posted on Tues., March 15. As you might remember, I had some difficulty identifying the insect with any degree of certainty, something that is all too common for entomological amateurs like myself. The insect didn’t match any of the photos in my field guide, so I had to make an educated guess. I thought the insect most resembled a Squash Bug or an Assassin Bug.

After that post appeared, Margie Peacock of Repton sent me a message saying that she believes that the insect is a Leaf Footed Bug. A little more research on my part showed that she was right on the money. Leaf Footed Bugs have hind legs with flattened, leaf-like expansions on their tibia, and a close examination of my photo last week clearly shows these expansions.

Now that we’re officially into spring, I look for life in the local insect world to pick up. Already this week, I’ve seen the first real signs of spider activity. Many of you may have noticed along the roads this week, in the early mornings, the many small spider webs in the trees and ditches. These webs catch dew in the early mornings and when the light hits them just right, you can’t miss seeing the scores of them that line the roads and the edge of the woods.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Is 'Ender's Game' the best of Orson Scott Card's 49 novels?

A few hours ago, I finished reading Orson Scott Card’s classic, science fiction novel, “Ender’s Game.”

I knew this book was supposed to be good, and I’d heard and read a lot about it, but I was still somewhat caught off guard by just how good this novel was.

Published by Tor Books in 1985, “Ender’s Game” is set in a future in which Earth has survived two attacks by the “buggers,” an insectoid race of beings from another world. Humans manage to defend Earth from the first two invasions, but expect a third invasion in the near future.

The world’s military, which has joined forces to battle the threat, searches the world for its most talented young children, hoping to find a leader that they can train and prepare in time to lead Earth’s forces against the buggers. Soon after arriving at Battle School, it becomes apparent that the novel’s main character, Ender Wiggin, isn’t a typical student and just might have what it takes to defeat the buggers.

“Ender’s Game,” which has been translated into 28 languages, is generally considered a classic among science fiction works, and it brought home the prestigious Nebula and Hugo awards for best novel. The novel was also nominated for the Locus Award in 1986, and it was ranked No. 59 on the Reader’s List of the Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels. The novel is also listed on the U.S. Marine Corps Professional Reading List.

I was pleased to learn that “Ender’s Game” has spawned five sequels, including “Speaker for the Dead” (1986), “Xenocide” (1991), “Children of the Mind” (1996), “A War of Gifts: An Ender Story” (2007) and “Ender in Exile” (2008).

Card, age 59, is a prolific author and has written scores of novels. Here is a complete list of his novels, in order of publication:

- Capitol (1978)
- Hot Sleep (1978)
- A Planet Called Treason (1978)
- Songmaster (1979)
- Hart’s Hope (1983)
- Saints (1983)
- The Worthing Chronicle (1983)
- Ender’s Game (1985)
- Speaker for the Dead (1986)
- Seventh Son (1987)
- Wyrms (1987)
- Treason (1988)
- Red Prophet (1988)
- Prentice Alvin (1989)
- The Worthing Saga (1990)
- Xenocide (1991)
- The Memory of Earth (1992)
- Lost Boys (1992)
- The Call of Earth (1992)
- The Ships of Earth (1994)
- Lovelock (1994)
- Alvin Journeyman (1995)
- Earthfall (1995)
- Earthborn (1995)
- Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus (1996)
- Children of the Mind (1996)
- Treasure Box (1996)
- Stone Tables (1997)
- Homebody (1998)
- Heartfire (1998)
- Enchantment (1999)
- Ender’s Shadow (1999)
- Sarah (2000)
- Rebekah (2001)
- Shadow of the Hegemon (2001)
- Shadow Puppets (2002)
- The Crystal City (2003)
- Rachel and Leah (2004)
- Shadow of the Giant (2005)
- Magic Street (2005)
- Empire (2006)
- A War of Gifts: An Ender Story (2007)
- Invasive Procedures (2007)
- The Space Boy (2007)
- Stonefather (2008)
- Ender in Exile (2008)
- Hidden Empire (2009)
- Pathfinder (2010)
- The Lost Gate (2011)

In addition to these novels, he’s also published a number of short stories, short story collections, poems, poetry collections, comic books, video games, movie scripts, anthologies, children’s books, illustrated books, flip books, plays, four nonfiction books, two books on writing and a number of magazine and newspaper columns.

In the end, have you had a chance to read “Ender’s Game” or any of Card’s other novels? If so, what did you think about them? Which did you like or dislike and why? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Cussler's new book, 'The Jungle,' appears on best-seller list

It’s Sunday, so that means that it’s time for my weekly review of this week’s Publishers Weekly Best-Seller List. According to the list, we’ve got one new book at the top of the four major best-seller lists this week.

“Water for Elephants: A Novel” by Sara Gruen replaced “A Creed in Stone Creek” by Linda Lael Miller as the No. 1 book on the mass market paperback best-sellers list.

“Sing You Home: A Novel” by Jodi Picoult retained the top spot on the hardcover fiction best-sellers list, and “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand retained the No. 1 spot on the hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list.

“Water for Elephants” also retained its No. 1 spot on the trade paperbacks best-sellers list.

There are five books on this week’s hardcover fiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. Those books (and their place on the list) are "The Jungle" by Clive Cussler and Jack Du Brul (2), "Love You More: A Novel" by Lisa Gardner (5), "Silent Mercy" by Linda Fairstein (11), "The Tiger's Wife: A Novel" by Tea Obreht (13) and "One of Our Thursdays is Missing: A Novel" by Jasper Fforde (15).

There are eight books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement" by David Brooks (2), "The Money Class: Learn to Create Your New American Dream" by Suze Orman (3), "Moonwalking with Eintstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything" by Joshua Foer (4), "The Thank You Economy" by Gary Vaynerchuk (5), "Townie: A Memoir" by Andre Dubus III (6), "Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions" by Guy Kawasaki (10), "The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood" by James Gleick (13) and "Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection" by Pope Benedict XVI (15).

There are three books on this week’s mass market paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on that list last week. They include "Swimsuit" by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (13), "Reckless" by Andrew Gross (14) and "Last Snow" by Eric Van Lustbader (15).

There are three books on this week’s trade paperbacks list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot (4), "The Island: A Novel" by Elin Hilderbrand (13) and "The Double Comfort Safari Club: The New No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novel" by Alexander McCall Smith (15).

As a reminder, I’m posting these lists each Sunday because they, as a whole, represent a great, contemporary recommended reading list. These lists are initially released each week on Thursday, and if you’re interested in reading them then, visit Publishers Weekly’s Web site at www.publishersweekly.com. Below you’ll find all four of this week’s best-seller lists.

HARDCOVER FICTION
1. "Sing You Home: A Novel" by Jodi Picoult
2. "The Jungle" by Clive Cussler and Jack Du Brul
3. "The Wise Man's Fear" by Patrick Rothfuss
4. "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson
5. "Love You More: A Novel" by Lisa Gardner
6. "A Discovery of Witches" by Deborah Harkness
7. "Minding Frankie" by Maeve Binchy
8. "River Marked" by Patricia Briggs
9. "The Paris Wife: A Novel" by Paula McLain
10. "Tick Tock" by James Patterson, Michael Ledwidge
11. "Silent Mercy" by Linda Fairstein
12. "Treachery in Death" by J.D. Robb
13. "The Tiger's Wife: A Novel" by Tea Obreht
14. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
15. "One of Our Thursdays is Missing: A Novel" by Jasper Fforde

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" by Laura Hillenbrand
2. "The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement" by David Brooks
3. "The Money Class: Learn to Create Your New American Dream" by Suze Orman
4. "Moonwalking with Eintstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything" by Joshua Foer
5. "The Thank You Economy" by Gary Vaynerchuk
6. "Townie: A Memoir" by Andre Dubus III
7. "Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story" by Peter Guber
8. "A Simple Government: Twelve Things We Really Need from Washington" by Mike Huckabee
9. "Decision Points" by George W. Bush
10. "Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions" by Guy Kawasaki
11. "Cleopatra: A Life" by Stacy Schiff
12. "Win: The Key Principles to Take Your Business from Ordinary to Extraordinary" by Frank I. Luntz
13. "The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood" by James Gleick
14. "Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertant Education of a Reluctant Chef" by Gabrielle Hamilton
15. "Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection" by Pope Benedict XVI

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "Water for Elephants: A Novel" by Sara Gruen
2. "The Lincoln Lawyer" by Michael Connelly
3. "The Silent Sea" by Clive Cussler and Jack Du Brul
4. "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
5. "Deception: An Alex Delaware Novel" by Jonathan Kellerman
6. "An Engagement in Seattle: Groom Wanted, Bride Wanted" by Debbie Macomber
7. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
8. "Without Mercy" by Lisa Jackson
9. "A Creed in Stone Creek" by Linda Lael Miller
10. "Changes: A Novel of the Dresden Files" by Jim Butcher
11. "Live Wire" by Lora Leigh
12. "An Unlikely Countess: A Novel of the Malloren World" by Jo Beverley
13. "Swimsuit" by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
14. "Reckless" by Andrew Gross
15. "Last Snow" by Eric Van Lustbader

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "Water for Elephants: A Novel" by Sara Gruen
2. "Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back" by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, Colton Burpo and Lynn Vincent
3. "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese
4. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot
5. "Private" by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
6. "The Postmistress" by Sarah Blake
7. "Inside of a Dog" by Alexandra Horowitz
8. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
9. "The Big Short" by Michael Lewis
10. "The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel" by Garth Stein
11. "Little Bee" by Chris Cleave
12. "The King's Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy' by Mark Logue and Peter Conradi
13. "The Island: A Novel" by Elin Hilderbrand
14. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
15. "The Double Comfort Safari Club: The New No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Novel" by Alexander McCall Smith

In the end, let me know if you’ve had a chance to read any of these books. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

605 runners take part in 33rd Annual Spring Fever Chase in Fairhope

I found myself among the 605 people who took part in the 33rd Annual Spring Fever Chase 10K this morning in beautiful downtown Fairhope, Ala., and I was a little caught off guard by just how serious many of the runners seemed to be taking today’s race.

More than a few runners seemed a little overly focused and grim-faced for today’s race, which many were apparently using as a tune up for next Saturday’s Azalea Trail Run in Mobile, Ala.

Jon Bowie, 37, of Daphne was the overall winner and the top male finisher of today’s race. He ran the somewhat hilly course in 36:33, a 5:53 per mile pace.

In-Mi Matsunaga, 19, of Enterprise, was the top female finisher, running the race in 41:35, a 6:42 pace.

I finished 234th overall and 20th in my age group, Males 35-39. (I celebrated my 35th birthday earlier this week and officially moved into another age group - one step closer to geezerhood!) I ran the race in 57:00, a 9:11.6 pace. I take solace in the fact that the overall winner was in my age group, and that I only finished 19 places behind that blistering speedster.

Speaking of blistering, the official race temperature was posted as 70 degrees, but it felt much warmer than that to me. Even though today was technically the last official day of winter, it felt like we were about to skip spring and move straight on to summer. I’ve noticed that many of these races in Baldwin County, held right down on the water, seem to be this way. Maybe it’s the added humidity there at sea level?

It didn’t seem to bother most of the runners though, many of whom seemed to be enjoying the clear skies. They hailed from all over, representing Alabama, Mississippi, Ohio, Louisiana, Georgia, Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Kansas, Washington, New York, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, North Carolina and Colorado.

As you might imagine, Baldwin and Mobile counties were also well represented in the race, as were many other Alabama locales. Alabama towns and cities represented in the race by runners included Alabaster, Alexander City, Atmore, Auburn, Bay Minette, Birmingham, Butler, Daphne, Elberta, Enterprise, Fairhope, Foley, Grand Bay, Gulf Shores, Hoover, Huntsville, Leesburg, Lillian, Loxely, Magnolia Spring, Mobile, Montgomery, Montrose, Northport, Orange Beach, Pike Road, Point Clear, Robertsdale, Satsuma, Selma, Silverhill, Spanish Fort, Summerdale, Troy, Tuscaloosa and Wetumpka.

This event, which also included a two-mile fun run, was sponsored by Thomas Hospital in Fairhope and Wells Fargo, and it was well organized. Today’s race happened to be held on the same weekend as Fairhope’s 59th Annual Arts & Crafts Festival, so many of the downtown streets were already blocked off for that event. At one point early in the race, we found ourselves running down the middle of what appeared to be the main concession area, and the pleasant aromas coming from the vending wagons was almost overwhelming. I figured the image of me running through the streets of Fairhope with a mustard coated pretzel would be too much for others to bear that early in the morning, so I somehow overcame the urge to stop.

Everyone always wants to know about the race T-shirt, and today’s shirt was nice. I’d give it an 8 on a scale of 10. I’ve posted the image from the shirt above. Not sure what the story is on the picture, but I’m guessing that it was painted by a local artist. You’ll see the name “lulu” in the lower right hand corner.

Each participant also received a ribbon at the end of the race, which is a little out of the ordinary. Aside from marathons, it’s unusual for every participant to receive something upon completion. My ribbon was purple and said “Spring Fever Chase Participant.” I saw other runners with red ribbons, so I’m not sure what the distinction is there.

In the end, I look forward to signing up for next year’s Spring Fever Chase. If you’re interested in running the race yourself, check it out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with this relatively fast 10K course.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Blog celebrates one-year anniversary

As hard as it is to believe, I started this blog one year ago today. In other words, Happy Birthday, Blog!

The blog went through a couple of name changes in its early days, and I missed a day or two along the way, but all and all, I missed very few days thanks to my rampant, undiagnosed OCD personality.

One of the cool things about having a blog through Blogger is that you can monitor the traffic to your blog from behind the scenes.

According to my blog’s stats page, it was viewed 7,134 times during the past year. That breaks down to about 595 page views per month or about 137 page views per week.

Over the past year, I posted 398 blog entries, and most of them were about 500 words long. The most popular post of the year was my Dec. 21, 2010 post entitled “Bookreporter.com names Book of the Year, Favorite Books of 2010.” I think that it was linked from someone else’s web site, which generated most of the traffic to that particular post.

The Top 10 posts of the year were as follows:

1. Bookreporter.com names Book of the Year, Favorite Books of 2010 – Dec. 21, 2010
2. The Monroe Journal wants to know ‘Is the old Carter Hospital haunted?’ – Nov. 4, 2010
3. AP Literature recommended reading list – Sept. 25, 2010
4. Publishers Weekly’s ‘All-Time Bestselling Children’s Books’ list – Aug. 31, 2010
5. Barnes & Noble releases ‘Best Books of 2010’ list – Dec. 4, 2010
6. Stephen King’s ‘Full Dark, No Stars’ appears on bestseller list – Nov. 21, 2010
7. Top 10 Spookiest Places in Conecuh County, Alabama – Oct. 21, 2010
8. New R.A. Salvatore book appears on bestseller list – Oct. 17, 2010
9. 2010 Great American Beer Festival gold medal winners named – Oct. 1, 2010
10. Cussler’s ‘Crescent Dawn’ appears on hardcover bestsellers list – Dec. 5, 2010

The stats page also tells me where visitors to my blog live. While the vast majority of them live in the U.S., most of the other visitors hailed from Russia, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Slovenia, the United Kingdom, France, Denmark and China.

I look forward to keeping the blog going for as long as I can, and I hope to live up to what I said I hoped to accomplish in that first blog post a year ago today:

“The main purpose of this new blog is to help me keep and maintain the meager writing skills that I have and journalistically document some of my new experiences. I hope you’ll find it interesting.

“My intention is to keep the content light-hearted and informative, and I hope it’ll encourage others to have and share their own experiences. When I speak of new experiences I’m talking about meeting people I’ve never met before, going places I’ve never gone and doing things that I’ve never done. Much of what you’ll find here will be information about new books that I’ve read, restaurants I’ve never visited, celebrities that I happen to meet (if any), food I’ve never tried, events I’ve never attended (like festivals and sporting events), places (like state parks and hiking trails) and movies I’ve seen for the first time.

“You’ll also find that I’m big on lists. I’ve always been drawn to “bucket” lists, top 10 lists of things to do, go, eat and see, as well as recommended reading lists and best-of lists. If you run across any lists like these, feel free to share them.

“In the end, I hope that none of you find this blog to be boring or too self-indulgent. If so, then I’ve failed in what I’ve set out to do, and I’ll need to tighten up.”

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Eisenberg book wins PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

The PEN/Faulkner Foundation announced Tuesday in Washington, D.C. that “The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg” by Deborah Eisenberg had been selected as the winner of the 2011 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

Eisenberg’s book was selected from among 320 novels and short story collections by American authors published in the U.S. during the 2010 calendar year.

Other finalists for this year’s award included “A Visit From The Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan, “The Lord of Misrule” by Jaimy Gordon, “Model Home” by Eric Puchner and “Aliens in The Prime of Their Lives” by Brad Watson.

Eisenberg, 65, is mostly known for being a prominent short story writer, and “The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg” brings together four volumes of Eisenberg’s work – “Transactions in a Foreign Currency,” “Under the 82nd Airborne,” “All Around Atlantis” and “Twilight of the Superheroes.”

I checked Amazon Wednesday afternoon, and copies of “The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg” (992 pages) are in stock. They’re selling there for $14.96 each. Barnes & Noble also had the book in stock and was selling it for $15.03 per copy.

The PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, now in its 31st year, is America’s largest peer-juried prize for fiction. As you might imagine, a host of prestigious authors have won the PEN/Faulkner Award over the years. What follows is a complete list of the all-time winners.

2011 – Deborah Eisenberg for “The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg
2010 – Sherman Alexie for “War Dances”
2009 – Joseph O’Neill for “Netherland”
2008 – Kate Christensen for “The Great Man”
2007 – Philip Roth for “Everyman”
2006 – E.L. Doctorow for “The March”
2005 – Ha Jin for “War Trash”
2004 – John Updike for “The Early Stories: 1953-1975”
2003 – Sabina Murray for “The Caprices”
2002 – Ann Patchett for “Bel Canto”
2001 – Philip Roth for “The Human Stain”

2000 – Ha Jin for “Waiting”
1999 – Michael Cunningham for “The Hours”
1998 – Rafi Zabor for “The Bear Comes Home”
1997 – Gina Berriault for “Women in Their Beds”
1996 – Richard Ford for “Independence Day”
1995 – David Guterson for “Snow Falling on Cedars”
1994 – Philip Roth for “Operation Shylock”
1993 – E. Annie Proulx for “Postcards”
1992 – Don DeLillo for “Mao II”
1991 – John Edgar Wideman for “Philadelphia Fire”

1990 – E.L. Doctorow for “Billy Bathgate”
1989 – James Salter for “Dusk and Other Stories”
1988 – T. Coraghessan Boyle for “World’s End”
1987 – Richard Wiley for “Soldiers in Hiding”
1986 – Peter Taylor for “The Old Forest”
1985 – Tobias Wolff for “The Barracks Thief”
1984 – John Edgar Wideman for “Sent for You Yesterday”
1983 – Toby Olson for “Seaview”
1982 – David Bradley for “The Chaneysville Incident”
1981 – Walter Abish for “How German Is It”

How many of these books have you had a chance to read? What did you think about them? Which did you like, dislike? Which would you recommend and why? Let us know in the comments section below.

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for March 17, 2011

FIVE YEARS AGO
MARCH 16, 2006

“The Sparta Academy power lifting team competed in the state power lifting meet on March 8, 2006 at Pickens Academy. Winners in their weight class were Chase Brown and Gaston Bozeman. Pictured are Myles Wiggins, Erik Morris, Callahan Bush, Patrick Stoddard, Peyton Thompson, Chase Brown, Casey Pierce, Zack Smith, Gaston Bozeman and Perry Thompson.”

“Hillcrest High School’s 6-7 senior forward Chris Hines has been named to the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s all-star basketball team.
“Hines and his Alabama all-star teammates will compete against the Mississippi all-stars March 24.
“Hines led the Jaguars to the school’s first ever state championship earlier this month when the team defeated Anniston’s Saks High School, 35-32, in overtime in Birmingham.
“Along with being named the most valuable player in the Final Four tournament, Hines was also named most valuable player in the Southeast Regional tournament in Troy.”

“T.R. Miller head baseball coach Jim Hart reached a milestone in his career recently when he collected his 200th career win.
“He is the son of Jerry Hart of Evergreen and the late Wendell Hart, who coached many years at Evergreen High School.”

20 YEARS AGO
MARCH 21, 1991

“The 1991 Hillcrest High School Jaguar baseball team recently opened their season. Their coach is William Wall.”

“Coach Bledsoe’s West All-Stars win: The AISA West All-Stars, coached by Sparta Academy Head Coach Mike Bledsoe, defeated the East All-Stars, 92-75, last Saturday night, March 16, at Huntingdon College.
“Tim Salter, a senior at Sparta Academy, was selected to play on the West All-Star Team. Tim played an excellent game, scoring 12 points, pulling down seven rebounds and having four assists.
“Each team was composed of 12 senior players selected by a statewide panel of coaches. The West All-Star team included players from the West and North regions and the East All-Star team included players from the East and South regions.
“Congratulations to Coach Bledsoe and Tim as they successfully conclude an excellent season.”

65 YEARS AGO
MARCH 21, 1946

“C.C.T.S. Places Man On All-State Team: In the state high school tournament, held at the State Teachers College, Montgomery, Ala. March 15-16, the Conecuh County Training School team held the state champions of State Teachers College High School to the closest score of the tournament, 38-32.
“CCTS, receiving the toughest break of the tournament by drawing the mighty State Teachers College High School team, held the 1,900 students and fans in suspense as they led at the end of the first quarter, 8-6, and trailed at the half by a narrow score of 21-19. In the closing minutes of the game, the reserve strength of the boys from the college high school team enabled them to slip in front of the final whistle by three baskets.
“The tournament coaches selected Calvin Johnson, Conecuh County Training School’s center, on the all-state team. The boys who have put CCTS in the limelight in basketball throughout the state of Alabama are Calvin Johnson, George Armstrong, Clausell Laster, Milton Mixon, Benjamin Lindsey, Ray McDuffie, Oscar McWilliams, James A. Stallworth and Earnest Abrams.
“All state team: L. Hall, F, State Teachers College High School; H. McCants, F, Gadsden High School; C. Johnson, C, Conecuh County; C. Jones, G, State Teachers College High School; A. Robinson, G, Tuskegee Institute High School.”

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My movie picks this week are 'The Lincoln Lawyer' and 'The Fighter'

It’s Wednesday, so today I give you my weekly list of movies that will open in theatres this week as well as a list of movies that will be released this week on DVD.

I hope this will serve as a useful guide as to what’s going on this week if you happen to be near a movie theatre or if you’re looking for something to drop into your NetFlix queue.

Movies that are scheduled to hit theatres this Friday include:

Alabama Moon (Family, PG): Starring John Goodman, Jimmy Bennett, Clint Howard, Colin Ford and Gabriel Basso.

Cracks (Drama, Not Yet Rated): Directed by Jordan Scott and starring Eva Green, Juno Temple, Maria Valverde, Imogen Poots and Zoe Carroll.

Desert Flower (Drama, R): Directed by Sherry Horman and starring Liya Kebede, Sally Hawkins, Craig Parkinson, Anthony Mackie and Juliet Stevenson.

Limitless (Suspense, Drama, Thriller, PG-13): Directed by Neil Burger and starring Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish, Anna Friel and Tomas Arana.

The Lincoln Lawyer (Drama, Crime, R): Directed by Brad Furman and starring Matthew McConaughey, Ryan Phillippe, Marisa Tomei, John Leguizamo and William H. Macy.

The Music Never Stopped (Drama, PG): Directed by Jim Kohlberg and starring Julia Ormond, J.K. Simmons, Lou Taylor Pucci, Tammy Blanchard and Mia Maestro.

Paul (Comedy, Science Fiction, R): Directed by Greg Mottola and starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen, Jason Bateman and Kristen Wiig.

Winter in Wartime (Action, Drama, War, R): Directed by Martin Koolhoven and starring Martijn Lakemeier, Yorick van Wageningen and Jamie Campbell Bower.

New DVD releases for the week of March 15 include:

The Fighter (Drama, R): Directed by David O. Russell and starring Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Melissa Leo and Dendrie Taylor.

Hemingway’s Garden of Eden (Drama, Romance, R): Directed by John Irvin and starring Mena Suvari, Jack Huston, Caterina Murino, Matthew Modine and Richard E. Grant.

Hereafter (Suspense, Drama, Thriller, PG-13): Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Matt Damon, Bryce Dallas Howard, Cecile de France, Jay Mohr and Dereck Jacobi.

Hidden Love (Drama, Not Yet Rated): Directed by Alessandro Capone and starring Isabelle Huppert, Melanie Laurent, Greta Scacchi and Olivier Gourmet.

The Parking Lot Movie (Documentary, Special Interest, Not Rated): Directed by Meghan Eckman.

The Switch (Comedy, Romance, PG-13): Directed by Will Speck and Josh Gordon and starring Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Patrick Wilson, Jeff Goldblum and Juliette Lewis.

Spooner (Comedy, Drama, R): Directed by Drake Doremus and starring Matthew Lillard, Nora Zehetner, Shea Whigham, Pat Healy and Joe Nunez.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “The Lincoln Lawyer,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “The Fighter.”

In the end, let me know if you get a chance to watch any of the new movies in theatres this week or if you’ve already seen any of the movies that have just been released on DVD. What did you think about them? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Do you know what type of insect this is?

This week’s insect, pictured at right, gives us a good example of something that I’ve learned about insects while going on “bug hunts” the past few years with my two kids: Sometimes it’s hard to know what you’ve got on your hands.

There are literally innumerable species of insects, with even more variety within individual species, and it’s often hard to say with any degree of certainty sometimes what you might be looking at.

My son spotted this insect hanging in the net of our trampoline a week or so ago, and it doesn’t exactly match any of the hundreds of insects pictured or described in my copy of the 989-page “National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects & Spiders: North America.”

As best as I can tell, this insect is a Squash Bug (Anasa tristis), but then again, it might not be. Squash Bugs fall into the category of “Hopperlike insects,” which hop from plant to plant and have conspicuous projections on their body, that is, a hump or horn.

The thing that throws me off, besides the fact that the insect pictured above doesn’t exactly match the one in the field guide photo of a Squash Bug, is the fact that Hopperlike insects are relatively small. It’s hard to tell from the above photo, but this was a pretty good size insect, at least 1-1/2 inches to two inches long.

The field guide goes on to say that Squash Bugs are usually about 5/8-inch long. Again, this insect was longer than that.

The rest of the Squash Bug’s description in the field guide is as follows: Dark to pale grayish brown above, pale below. Sides of abdomen are organgish or striped with orange or dark brown. Wing tips reddish brown. They are generally found in crop fields and gardens throughout North America.

It also says that their hind tibiae are cylindrical, not leaflike. The tibiae pictured above are obviously leaflike.

Another closely related type of insect that I found in the field guide that somewhat resembled the insect pictured above were the milkweed bugs, which are more closely related to cockroaches. The only thing that seems to rule out this possibility though is the fact that milkweed bugs are described as having red spots on their heads or red, orange or black bands on their wings. Obviously, the insect pictured above does not have these markings.

I think it’s also possible that the insect picture above is some variety of Assassin Bug (Family Reduviidae). The field guide says that these insects are “elongate, often nearly parallel-sided bugs, 1/2 to 1-3/8 inches long. Some species have long, slender bodies like walkingsticks. Most assassin bugs prey on other insects, although some suck blood from vertebrates and a few transmit diseases to people.”

In the end, if you know what kind of insect this is, let me know. Shoot me an e-mail at leepeacock2010@gmail.com or tell us in the comments section below. I’ll likely update this post if I can get a definite answer.