Wednesday, February 29, 2012

This week's movie picks are 'Project X' and 'Hugo'

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 week include:

Being Flynn (Drama, Comedy, R): Directed by Paul Weitz and starring Paul Dano, Robert De Niro, Olivia Thirlby, Julianne Moore and Wes Studi.

Black Butterflies (Drama): Directed by Paula van der Oest and starring Rutger Hauer, Liam Cunningham, Carice van Houten, Grant Swanby and Graham Clarke.

Boy (Comedy, Drama): Directed by Taika Waititi and starring James Rolleston, Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu, Taika Waititi, Moerangi Tihore and Cherilee Martin.

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax (PG, Family, Comedy): Directed by Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda and starring the voices of Danny DeVito, Zac Efron, Ed Helms, Betty White and Taylor Swift.

Last Days Here (Not Rated, Documentary, Music): Directed by Demian Fenton and Don Argott.

Let the Bullets Fly (Action, Comedy, Not Rated): Directed by Jiang Wen and starring Chow Yun-Fat, Jian Wen and Ge You.

No Room For Rockstars (Documentary, Music): Directed by Parris Patton.

Project X (Comedy, R): Directed by Nima Nourizadeh and starring Thomas Mann, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Oliver Cooper, Miles Teller and Nichole O’Connor.

The Salt of Life (Comedy): Directed by Gianni Di Gregorio and starring Gianni Di Gregorio, Valeria De Franciscis Bendoni, Alfonso Santagata, Michelangelo Ciminale and Valeria Cavalli.

The Snowtown Murders (Suspense): Directed by Justin Kurzel and starring Daniel Henshall, Lucas Pittaway, Craig Coyne and Louise Harris.

Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (Comedy, R): Directed by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim and starring Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim, John C. Reilly, Zach Galifianakis and Jeff Goldblum.

New DVD releases for the week of Feb. 28 include:

Answers to Nothing (Drama, Mystery, R): Directed by Matthew Leutwyler and starring Dane Cook, Elizabeth Mitchell, Julie Benz, Barbara Hershey and Zach Gilford.

Beneath the Darkness (Suspense, R): Directed by Martin Guigui and starring Dennis Quaid, Aimee Teegarden, Stephen Lunsford, Devon Werkheiser and Tony Oller.

Bounty Hunters (Action, R): Directed by Patrick McBrearty and starring Trish Stratus, Frank J. Zupancic and Boomer Phillips.

Hugo (Family, Adventure, PG): Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Asa Butterfield, Chloe Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Christopher Lee and Jude Law.

I Melt With You (Suspense, R): Directed by Mark Pellington and starring Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven, Carla Gugino, Christian McKay and Rob Lowe.

Insight (Action, R): Directed by Richard Gabai and starring Natalie Zea, Sean Patrick Flanery, Christopher Lloyd, Adam Baldwin and Thomas Ian Nicholas.

Johnny English Reborn (Comedy, Adventure, PG): Directed by Oliver Parker and starring Rowan Atkinson, Gillian Anderson, Rosamund Pike, Dominic West and Richard Schiff.

Mandrill (Action, R): Directed by Ernesto Diaz Espinoza and starring Marko Zaror, Celine Reymond, Alejandro Castillo, Luis Alarcon and Maria Jose Prieto.

The Myth of the American Sleepover (Drama, Comedy): Directed by David Robert Mitchell and starring Jade Ramsey, Amy Seimetz, Nikita Ramsey, Amanda Bauer and Marlon Morton.

Rabies (Horror): Directed by Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado and starring Ania Bukstein, Lior Ashkenazi and Danny Geva.

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

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.

Daily Weather Observations for Wed., Feb. 29, 2012

Temp: 63.1 degrees F (17.3 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.1 inches.

Humidity: 87 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast.

Winds: 1.7 mph out of the South-Southeast (light air)

Barometric Pressure: 29.66 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.3 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 7.7 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 12.4 inches

Local Weather Alerts: Dense Fog Advisory in effect until 9 a.m.

NOTE: 70th day of Winter. End of Rabbit, Squirrel, Raccoon, Opossum and Quail seasons in Alabama.

And Remember - "Expect the weather to be fair when crows fly in pairs."

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Nominees for this year's Nebula Awards named by SFWA

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association recently released its slate of nominees for this year’s Nebula Awards, which are given annually by the SFWA to recognize the best science fiction and fantasy fiction published in the U.S. during the previous year.

This year, awards will be given in six categories, including best novel, best novelette, best novella and best short story. There are also three special awards – the Andre Norton Award for Excellence in Science Fiction or Fantasy for Young Adults, the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation and the Solstice Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Field.

The Nebula Awards are voted on by active members of the SFWA, and the winners will be announced during an awards banquet on May 19 in Arlington, Va.

The Nebula Award that I keep an eye on each year is the Nebula for Best Novel. This year’s slate of nominees for Best Novel includes the following six novels.

- “Among Others” by Jo Walton

- “Embassytown” by China MiĆ©ville

- “Firebird” by Jack McDevitt

- “God’s War” by Kameron Hurley

- “Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti” by Genevieve Valentine

- “The Kingdom of Gods” by N.K. Jemisin

The first Nebula Awards were awarded in 1965, and, as you might imagine, more than a few outstanding and famous sci-fi and fantasy novels have received the Best Novel award over the years. What follows is a complete of the Best Novel winners over the years.

1965 – “Dune” by Frank Herbert
1966 (tie) – “Babel-17” by Samuel R. Delany and “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes
1967 – “The Einstein Intersection” by Samuel R. Delany
1968 – “Rite of Passage” by Alexei Panshin
1969 – “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula K. Le Guin
1970 – “Ringworld” by Larry Niven

1971 – “A Time of Changes” by Robert Silverberg
1972 – “The Gods Themselves” by Isaac Asimov
1973 – “Rendezvous with Rama” by Arthur C. Clarke
1974 – “The Dispossessed” by Ursula K. Le Guin
1975 – “The Forever War” by Joe Haldeman

1976 – “Man Plus” by Frederick Pohl
1977 – “Gateway” by Frederick Pohl
1978 – “Dreamsnake” by Vonda McIntyre
1979 – “The Fountains of Paradise” by Arthur C. Clarke
1980 – “Timescape” by Gregory Benford

1981 – “The Claw of the Conciliator” by Gene Wolfe
1982 – “No Enemy But Time” by Michael Bishop
1983 – “Startide Rising” by David Brin
1984 – “Neuromancer” by William Gibson
1985 – “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card

1986 – “Speaker for the Dead” by Orson Scott Card
1987 – “The Falling Woman” by Pat Murphy
1988 – “Falling Free” by Lois McMaster Bujold
1989 – “The Healer’s War” by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
1990 – “Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea” by Ursula K. Le Guin

1991 – “Stations of the Tide” by Michael Swanwick
1992 – “Doomsday Book” by Connie Willis
1993 – “Red Mars” by Kim Stanley Robinson
1994 – “Moving Mars” by Greg Bear
1995 – “The Terminal Experiment” by Robert J. Sawyer

1996 – “Slow River” by Nicola Griffith
1997 – “The Moon and the Sun” by Vonda McIntyre
1998 – “Forever Peace” by Joe Haldeman
1999 – “Parable of the Talents” by Octavia E. Butler
2000 – “Darwin’s Radio” by Greg Bear

2001 – “The Quantum Rose” by Catherine Asaro
2002 – “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman
2003 – “The Speed of Dark” by Elizabeth Moon
2004 – “Paladin of Souls” by Lois McMaster Bujold
2005 – “Camouflage” by Joe Haldeman

2006 – “Seeker” by Jack McDevitt
2007 – “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” by Michael Chabon
2008 – “Powers” by Ursula K. Le Guin
2009 – “The Windup Girl” by Paolo Bacigalupi
2010 – “Blackout/All Clear” by Connie Willis

Have you had a chance to read any of this year’s Best Novel nominees? Which did you like? Which do you think will win this year’s Nebula for Best Novel? How many of the past winners for Best Novel have you read? Which of did you like? Which would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.

For more information about the Nebula Awards, including the nominees in other categories this year, visit the SFWA’s website at www.sfwa.org.

Daily Weather Observations for Tues., Feb. 28, 2012

Temp: 58.6 degrees F (14.8 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.1 inches.

Humidity: 85 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast and foggy.

Winds: 1.3 mph out of the South-Southeast (light air)

Barometric Pressure: 29.79 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.2 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 7.6 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 12.3 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTE: 69th day of Winter. End of Snipe season in Alabama.

And Remember - "A wind in the south has rain in her mouth."

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Monday, February 27, 2012

FICTION - The Ambulance Incident - Part III

The wolf’s howl echoed into the foggy night, and I watched as the beast turned toward me. He stood on top of the stretcher with his teeth drawn back from his lips in a snarl. They were fish belly white under the ambulance’s bright fluorescent lights.

From my vantage point at the vehicle’s rear double doors, I only had a second to consider the situation. My partner looked dead. He was sprawled on the bench seat and was covered in blood. Our patient, the man we’d struck with the ambulance, was nowhere to be seen. Had he gotten free somehow and escaped while the wolf attacked my partner?

Those thoughts left my mind when I saw the wolf flex his hind legs. He then pounced towards the door lightning fast, and left me with almost no time to react. Only the right side of the double doors was open. I swung it shut hard, and the wolf slammed into it. The beast was large, maybe as much as 200 pounds, and the blow almost knocked me to the ground. Somehow I managed to stay on my feet, but the door was still ajar. The only thing that stopped the wolf from escaping was the fact that it had been briefly stunned by its collision with the thick metal door.

The wolf recovered and rammed the door again. I braced against the door and kept him inside. If I could just close the door, he’d be trapped, unable to work the latch from the inside with his thumbless paws. The wolf’s forelegs and snapping muzzle filled the gap between the closed left door and the open right door, and its teeth gnashed savagely. If it were to escape, I’d be done for. There was no way that I’d be able to outrun the wolf. I’d end up as so much dead meat on the side of the foggy road.

We struggled on, and I could feel my strength fade. I made one last ditch effort to force the door closed. At the same moment, the wolf threw its full weight into the door, and it banged hard against my head. My vision blurred as I bordered on the edge of consciousness. Blood began to run down my face. For some reason, I think because the wolf caught the scent of blood, he relaxed his pressure on the door and that’s when I finally closed it.

The wolf threw himself repeatedly against the door as I sat on the bumper, dazed, catching my breath. It was hard to sit there for more than a minute. The wolf howled out of frustration and from somewhere close by in the fog there came an answering howl, a sound that got me moving.

I ran down the left side of the ambulance only to fall hard to the wet asphalt when I stepped into a small pothole that was invisible in the darkness. I went down hard and the wind whooshed out of my lungs as I belly-flopped hard against the blacktop. The pavement was wet from the fog and dew. In seconds, my clothes were soaked as if I’d stepped beneath the stream of a running shower.

I was tired, and it took all the strength I could muster to fight the urge to stay down. Nothing would have pleased me more than to lay there, close my eyes, drift off to sleep and await the rising sun. The only thing that kept me from doing just that was the noise of the wolf crashing against the back doors of the ambulance. The beast was big and heavy, and I knew that he’d eventually get lucky, hit the latch just right and free himself. I had to get to the cab. It was my only hope.

I got to my feet and steadied myself against the side of the ambulance. My head swam as I wiped the blood from my eyes. The wolf slammed against the rear doors once more and I got moving. I stumbled to the driver’s side door, pulled it open and climbed behind the steering wheel.

I fought the urge to rest, and the one thing that kept my mind in action was the sudden silence from the back of the truck. It was then, in a terrible moment, I realized that I had walked into a trap. I spun in my seat, grabbed the knob of the open window between the cab and the back of the ambulance and slid it closed. A second later, the wolf’s snarling face appeared at the window.

The window was made of hard plastic and was about one-foot square. The window allowed the paramedic in the back to communicate with the driver up front and vice versa, and you could also pass items back and forth through the opening. Despite the window’s size, the wolf clawed at it with great energy and bit at it with a fierceness that was unnerving. If he ever got to me, I’d be done for.

I needed a weapon. I snatched open the glove box. It was full of nothing but loose papers and fast food napkins. Next, I zipped open John’s jump bag, and my heart sank when I recalled that he’d already removed the handgun that he kept in case of an extreme emergency that required the last resort of self defense. In the compartment beside the door, I did find a large flashlight. I might get one good lick in on the wolf with it, but beyond that it would be of little use as an effective bludgeon.

I flicked the light on and searched behind the seats. There was nothing of use behind the driver’s seat, just a few spare boxes of rubber gloves and a roll of white paper towels. I cast the beam behind the passenger’s seat and the light fell on a long red plastic box.

I pulled the box free and sat with it in my lap. I worked the latches open and looked inside. The box contained our roadside breakdown kit. I dumped it all into the passenger’s seat. Beneath a packet of triangular reflectors and a folded safety vest, I found what I’d hoped was inside, two roadside flares. They were covered in dust and looked like a pair of old Roman candles.

Between snarls and bouts of scratching against the window, the wolf’s black eyes met mine. How could I use the flares against him, I wondered? Could I drive him out of the ambulance and away from John? The back of the ambulance had two exits, the double rear doors and a side door. My problem was that I could only open one door at a time, so how could I drive him out of the truck with a flare? Worst of all, suppose he’s not afraid of the flare? What if he ignores it and pounces on me despite the hot, bright thing in my hands?

I glanced over my shoulder, peered past the wolf and tried to look at John. His face was obscured behind the sharps container where we threw away our used needles. I could only see him from the chest down. He was covered in blood and was perfectly still. I knew that he was either dead or dying.

It occurred to me that I might be approaching things all wrong. Unable to unlatch the doors himself, the wolf was trapped. Instead of driving him out of the truck with a flare, I could start the ambulance and drive to Claiborne. I’d either arrive somewhere to get help or get within cell phone or walkie-talkie range.

I took a deep breath, and my mind was made up. I set the flares in my lap and reached for the keys. I turned the ignition switch, and the diesel motor roared to life. I put the truck in drive, but it was then that my worst fears were realized. The small plastic window gave way under the wolf’s constant onslaught. The window came off its track with a loud snap, and the wolf wriggled its large head into the cab.

I tried to move out of the reach of his snapping jaws, but failed. They were inches from my face, and I instinctively threw my right arm up to protect my head and neck. In the next instant, his powerful jaws and razor sharp teeth sank into the flesh of my right forearm. Blinded by the pain, my right foot pressed down on the gas pedal, and the ambulance leaped forward.

As the truck gained speed and the tires left the road, I groped for the flares in my lap. In the struggle, I knocked them aside and saw them disappear into the darkness of the floorboard at my feet. A moment later, the ambulance came to a sudden stop as it entered the ditch and collided with a large pine tree. Unrestrained, I surged against the steering column, and everything went black.

(All rights reserved. This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.)

Yesterday's News from The Evergreen Courant for Feb. 27, 2012

25 YEARS AGO
FEB. 26, 1987

“Masonry class is moved to Evergreen: The Regular class in Masonry being held on Thursday nights at Downing Lodge in Castleberry will be held at Greening Lodge in Evergreen tonight. The change is for this week only.
“Assistant District Lecturer Bernie Raines of Brewton is conducting classes which are open to all Masons.”

“A crowd of over 255 people overflowed the available area at the Evergreen Inn last Thursday night for the annual Membership-Promotion Banquet of the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce (both private dining rooms, the Henry Sessions Room and the Conecuh Room and about two-thirds of the general dining area, were thrown open for the meeting.
“Governor Guy Hunt was the principal speaker and the main attraction and was warmly received by a standing ovation.”

“Earl Windham reports three nice rains, .50 of an inch on Feb. 20; .42 on Feb. 21; and .55 on Feb. 22.”

“The 42nd annual Conecuh County 4-H and FHA Steer Show will be held Monday at the Evergreen Cooperative Stockyard Livestock Arena starting at 9 a.m.
“The show, generally recognized as the best county show in Alabama, is sponsored by the Conecuh County Steer Show Committee and the State Dept. of Agriculture & Industries in cooperation with the Extension Service of Auburn University and the Dept. of Vocational Agriculture and the Conecuh County United Fund.”

40 YEARS AGO
FEB. 24, 1972

“David T. Hyde Jr., Evergreen attorney, has qualified as a candidate for the Republican nomination for County Solicitor.”

“W.W. (Billy Wayne) Cook is seeking re-election to the Conecuh County Commission, District 1, Place 1.
“He is a member of the Mt. Zion Methodist Church and of the Masons.”

“Delma E. Bowers is seeking re-election as County Tax Assessor.
“He is currently active in the Evergreen Kiwanis Club and the Masons as well as church affairs.”

“The University of Alabama in Birmingham got its first chapter of a national fraternity with official establishment of Eta Xi chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha.
“Tim Stinson of Evergreen is one of the charter members. Tim serves as corresponding secretary and is a member of the Executive Council.”

“J.W. Windham qualified Wednesday morning to campaign for the Democratic nomination for Member of the Conecuh County Commission, District 2, Place 4.”

“Navy Seaman Joel R. Price, son of Mr. and Mrs. W.P. Price of Evergreen, has sailed for the Mediterranean aboard the destroyer escort USS Sims, homeported at Mayport, Fla.”

55 YEARS AGO
FEB. 28, 1957

“The Ben Franklin Store, located on West Front Street in Evergreen, is being moved to Jay, Fla., Mack B. English, owner, said this week.”

“D.T. Stuart has been appointed Conecuh County chairman of the 1957 crusade of the American Cancer Society in April.”

“Letters are being mailed this week to the Chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Commander of Naval Air Training urging the location of a new Naval Jet Training Facility at Whynot.”

“The Southern Bell Telephone Co. estimates that Evergreen will have 2,665 telephones in 1966 – 93.1 per cent more than the present 1,380.”

“Henry Sessions was elected president of the Evergreen Rotary Club Thursday.
“Elected vice president was M. Blake Campbell. Hill Stallworth was named to the treasurer’s post, and Harvey Pate was elected secretary.”

“One of Conecuh County’s oldest post offices, Gregville, was discontinued as of today, Feb. 28, according to Mrs. E.B. Darby, Postmaster.
“Gregville is located in the northern tip of the county, close to the Butler County line.
“The post office at Gregville, once known as Peachbloom, has been in operation for around 80 years, according to Mrs. Darby.
“Mrs. Darby was appointed Postmaster at Gregville on Jan. 17, 1924 and has served continuously since that time. This past January marked her 33rd year of service.”

70 YEARS AGO
FEB. 26, 1942

“One hundred and seventy selectees from this county were carried to Pensacola for physical examination the first three days of this week.”

“John H. Tranum, tax collector of Conecuh County, has filed qualification papers with the Democratic Executive Committee as candidate for re-election in the forthcoming primary elections.”

“Friends of Mrs. Annie L. Travis will be glad to know her son, Cpl. Carter Kyser, has just been notified of his acceptance as an Aviation Cadet in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Kyser has been stationed at Selma, Ala. for the past six months.
“Prior to Kyser’s entrance in the Army, he was assistant bookkeeper for Tuskegee Lumber Co. For the next few months, he will be stationed at Maxwell Field.”

“Sherlock Enters Governor’s Race: MONTGOMERY, ALA. – Pledging an administration of honesty, integrity and energy, Chris J. Sherlock, 43-year-old state highway director, Wednesday launched his campaign for the governorship of Alabama.”

“SCOUTS TO COLLECT PAPER THURSDAYS: After this week, Boy Scouts will collect waste paper on Thursdays instead of Fridays.”

“Dr. Roth, Opt., Montgomery’s Eyesight Specialist, will be in Evergreen, Fri., Feb. 27, from 12 ‘til 4, at the Fairview Tourist Court.”

85 YEARS AGO
FEB. 24, 1927

“For the past several weeks, some of Evergreen’s best talent has been preparing a radio program to be broadcasted from WCOA, Muncipal Broadcasting Station, Pensacola, Fla., on the night of Feb. 25. The program is under the direction of Rev. W.H. Kamplain.”

“A storm which almost reached cyclonic proportions visited this section at an early hour Friday morning, doing some damage to buildings, and timber.
“Several buildings in Evergreen were damaged. The glass fronts to the stores occupied by the Electrik Maid Bakery and King’s Help Yourself were broken loose and leaned slightly. The tin roof of L.D. King’s warehouse was blown off, causing damage to a large lot of feed. A tree blew down on the house of G.C. Reynolds, knocking down a chimney and doing some other damage. The storm was followed by a terrific downpour of rain.”

“Farmers and gardeners report that no damage worthy of mention resulted from the frost on Sunday night. Considerable fear was entertained that early vegetables, fruit and strawberries might be hurt but such did not happen.”

“CASTLEBERRY: Early Friday morning Castleberry experienced quite a severe wind storm, which unroofed the fertilizer warehouse of the Peoples Bank of Castleberry, demolished the garage of Mr. E.A. White and did other lesser damage in several places. The wind was accompanied by considerable lightning.”

Daily Weather Observations for Mon., Feb. 27, 2012

Temp: 50.4 degrees F (10.2 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.1 inches.

Humidity: 84 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast, misting very light rain.

Winds: 1.1 mph out of the East-Northeast (light air)

Barometric Pressure: 29.85 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.1 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 7.5 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 12.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTE: 68th day of Winter. Orthodox Lent Begins.

And Remember - "If clouds move against the wind, rain will follow."

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tom Clancy's 'Against All Enemies' tops paperback best-sellers 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, there are three new books at the top of the four major best-sellers lists this week.

"Private Games" by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan replaced "Kill Shot" by Vince Flynn as the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction best-sellers list.

"American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History" by Chris Kyle, Jim DeFelice and Scott McEwen replaced "Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America" by Mark R. Levin as the top book on the hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list.

"Against All Enemies" by Tom Clancy with Peter Telep replaced "44 Charles Street" by Danielle Steel as the top book on the mass market paperback best-sellers list.
"The Help" by Kathryn Stockett remained the No. 1 book 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. They (along with their place on the list) include "Private Games" by James Patterson & Mark Sullivan (1), "The Wolf Gift" by Anne Rice (3), "I've Got Your Number" by Sophie Kinsella (5), "The House I Loved" by Tatiana de Rosnay (13) and "Robert Ludlum's The Janson Command" by Paul Garrison (15).

There are three books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "The Start-Up of You" by Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha (3), "Sexperiment" by Ed & Lisa Young (9) and "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand (14).

There are three books on this week’s mass market paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on that list last week. They include "The Summer Garden" by Sherryl Woods (11), "A Clash of Kings" by George R.R. Martin (12) and "Those in Peril" by Wilbur Smith (15).

There are five books on this week’s trade paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "The Weird Sisters" by Eleanor Brown (9), "Save Me" by Lisa Scottoline (12), "Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey" by The Countess of Carnarvon (13), "The Lucky One" by Nicholas Sparks (14) and "The Zombie Survival Guide" by Max Brooks (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. "Private Games" by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan
2. "Kill Shot" by Vince Flynn
3. "The Wolf Gift" by Anne Rice
4. "Defending Jacob" by William Landay
5. "I've Got Your Number" by Sophie Kinsella
6. "Death Comes to Pemberley" by P.D. James
7. "11/22/63" by Stephen King
8. "Home Front" by Kristin Hannah
9. "Private: Number 1 Suspect" by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
10. "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson
11. "Catch Me" by Lias Gardner
12. "Taken" by Robert Crais
13. "The House I Loved" by Tatiana de Rosnay
14. "A Dance with Dragons" by George R.R. Martin
15. "Robert Ludlum's The Janson Command" by Paul Garrison

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "American Sniper" by Chris Kyle, Jim DeFelice and Scott McEwen
2. "Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America" by Mark R. Levin
3. "The Start-Up of You" by Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha
4. "Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
5. "The End of Illness' by David Agus
6. "Steve Jobs: A Biography" by Walter Isaacson
7. "The World of Downtown Abbey" by Jessica Fellowes
8. "Behind the Beautiful Forevers" by Katherine Boo
9. "Sexperiment" by Ed & Lisa Young
10. "Once Upon a Secret" by Mimi Alford
11. "The 17 Day Diet" by Dr. Mike Moreno
12. "Quiet" by Susan Cain
13. "Bringing Up Bebe" by Pamela Druckerman
14. "Unbroken" by Laura Hillenbrand
15. "Hilarity Ensues" by Tucker Max

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "Against All Enemies" by Tom Clancy with Peter Telep
2. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
3. "44 Charles Street" by Danielle Steel
4. "Cold Vengeance" by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
5. "Bonnie" by Iris Johansen
6. "The 9th Judgement" by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro
7. "Tom Clancy Presents: Act of Valor" by Dick Couch and George Galdorisi
8. "The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae" by Stephanie Laurens
9. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
10. "Bennett and Camilla" by Nora Roberts
11. "The Summer Garden" by Sherryl Woods
12. "A Clash of Kings" by George R.R. Martin
13. "Crunch Time" by Diane Mott Davidson
14. "Lucky Penny" by Catherine Anderson
15. "Those in Peril" by Wilbur Smith

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
2. "The Vow" by Kim & Krickitt Carpenter with Dana Wilkerson
3. "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer
4. "Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, Colton Burpo and Lynn Vincent
5. "The Tiger's Wife: A Novel" by Tea Obreht
6. "Bossypants" by Tina Fey
7. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot
8. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
9. "The Weird Sisters" by Eleanor Brown
10. "Lethal" by Sandra Brown
11. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
12. "Save Me" by Lisa Scottoline
13. "Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey" by The Countess of Carnarvon
14. "The Lucky One" by Nicholas Sparks
15. "The Zombie Survival Guide" by Max Brooks

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.

Daily Weather Observations for Sun., Feb. 26, 2012

Temp: 46.6 degrees F (8.1 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.1 inches.

Humidity: 69 percent (Normal)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy.

Winds: 0.5 mph out of the East-Southeast (calm)

Barometric Pressure: 29.85 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.3 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 7.4 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 12.1 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTE: 67th day of Winter.

And Remember - "If birds fly low, expect rain and a blow."

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Handheld weather station is perfect for backyard weather observations

Regular visitors to this blog will know that I’ve been making and recording daily weather observations in this space since mid-November. For a little over a month, I’ve been using a neat, useful handheld tool that has helped me make more detailed readings – Ambient Weather’s WS-108 Keychain Altimeter, Barometer, Thermometer and Compass.

I’ve been test driving this device in the field since Feb. 21, and I’ve found it to be more than reliable. For my purposes, I’ve been using the device’s digital compass to give me a more accurate wind direction reading. Prior to that, I’d been using an analog, military-style compass to take my wind direction readings. I like the device’s compass because it will give you the direction reading in degrees and in 16 compass point directions (S, SSE, SE, etc.)

The only other feature that I use on a regular basis is the barometer. I always take this reading indoors because you’re supposed to take barometric readings indoors. I always take my barometric readings in inches of mercury (inHg), but it will also give it to you in millibars.

In addition to the compass and barometer, the device includes a digital clock, thermometer, altimeter and a simple weather forecaster. It also comes with a carabiner clip and features a bright, 30-second LED backlight similar to the backlight you’ll find on many wristwatches today.

I use a front-porch digital thermometer to take my daily temperature readings, but if I were to use the device’s thermometer, I feel that it would be pretty reliable. It’ll give you the temp anywhere within the range of 14 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It’ll also give you the temp in degrees Celsius if you’d rather have it that way.

The device’s weather forecaster is very simple, but I haven’t paid much attention to it because I don’t make that part of my daily weather observations. It’ll supposedly forecast the weather 12 to 24 hours in advance. The forecasts are based on barometric pressure changes and are displayed as an icon that indicates whether it’s going to be sunny, partly cloudy, rainy, etc.

The device is powered by a coin-shaped battery, similar to a watch battery, only larger. Like a wristwatch, the device remains on all the time, and I’ve been using it for over a month, and have yet to notice any decrease in performance due to a low battery. It’ll be interesting to see how long it will take for the battery to run down. The trick then will be to find a place locally where I can buy a replacement battery. I may be able to buy one at Wal-Mart, but if not, I may have to order one from somewhere online or check the local jewelry stores.

If you’re interested in buying one of these handheld weather stations, check Amazon.com or www.ambientweather.com. I bought mine from Amazon, and it cost about $24 before shipping and handling. Not only is it perfect for backyard weather observations, it would also be ideal for hikers, campers, runners, bikers and boaters.

In the end, how many of you have had the chance to use one of these Ambient Weather handheld weather stations? What do you think about it? Do any of you use any other similar devices? If so, what kind do you use and what do you like or dislike about it? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations for Sat., Feb. 25, 2012

Temp: 41.9 degrees F (5.5 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.1 inches.

Humidity: 60 percent (Normal)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy.

Winds: 1.1 mph out of the North-Northwest (light air)

Barometric Pressure: 29.84 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.2 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 7.3 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 12.0 inches

Local Weather Alerts: Fire Weather Warning in effect from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

NOTE: 66th day of Winter.

And Remember - "Evening red and morning gray, two sure signs of one fine day."

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Friday, February 24, 2012

'Art of Manliness' books aren't your run-of-the-mill self-help books

I recently came into possession of two outstanding books by husband-and-wife authors Brett and Kate McKay called “The Art of Manliness: Classic Skills and Manners for the Modern Man” and “Manvotionals: Timeless Wisdom and Advice On Living the 7 Manly Virtues.”

While their titles might lead you to think that these books are just your run-of-the-mill self-help books, think again. I assure you that they are much, much more.

Published by How Books in October 2009, “The Art of Manliness” is filled with 288 pages of material that would improve the life of any reader, but most especially men. If you’ve ever wondered about the proper way to dress, groom or fight like a gentleman, how to save a drowning person, treat a snakebite, land a plane in an emergency, deliver a baby or predict the weather like a frontiersman, then this is the book for you. Other sections of the book describe how to break down a door in an emergency, change a baby diaper, start a fire without matches, navigate without a compass, tie different knots, give a great speech and shake hands like a man.

I thought that the book was extremely interesting, and it was also very funny in parts. The book’s final chapter is called “The Virtuous Man,” and it goes into detail about Benjamin Franklin’s “quest for moral perfection.” According to the book, Franklin attempted to live a life in which he abided by 13 virtues – temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity and humility. He didn’t always succeed, but he felt the effort to do so enriched his life in ways that it otherwise wouldn’t have been.

One of my favorite parts of the book was the section called “One Hundred Books Every Man Should Read.” Many of you will be familiar with books on this list, which included “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Monroeville author Harper Lee and other classic novels.

“Manvotionals” was also published by How Books and was released in October 2011. It contains “the best advice ever written down for men,” including “manly wisdom” from sources that stretch from ancient times to modern day, including classic essays, poems and quotes by such famous figures as Marcus Aurelius, Jack London, Theodore Roosevelt, Benjamin Franklin, Rudyard Kipling, Winston Churchhill, Aristotle, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Martin Luther King Jr. and others. The book is arranged into seven different chapters, one for each of the manly virtues of manliness, courage, industry, resolution, self-reliance, discipline and honor.

In the end, I really enjoyed both of these books and would highly recommend them to anyone in the reading audience, especially to young men who might need a little extra motivation. I wish that these books had been around when I was about 16 or 17 years old.

For more information about these books, check them out on Amazon or visit Brett and Kate McKay’s popular website, www.ArtofManliness.com. Content on the website is similar to the content of the books mentioned above, and the site has become extremely popular, receiving over one million visitors a month.

Daily Weather Observations for Fri., Feb. 24, 2012

Temp: 68.5 degrees F (20.3 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 82 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast.

Winds: 5.1 mph out of the South (light breeze)

Barometric Pressure: 29.31 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.1 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 7.2 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 11.9 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTE: 65th day of Winter.

And Remember - "When the dew is on the grass, rain will never come to pass."

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Evergreen Courant's Sports Flashback for Feb. 23, 2012

25 YEARS AGO
FEB. 26, 1987

“Special Meeting of Landowners & Sportsmen… and all persons interested in having a voice in the better enforcement of our conservation laws. Also how they might be changed to benefit all. Officials from the department in Montgomery will be on hand to answer your questions and take your message back to the proper people in Montgomery. Come meet with us at Castleberry High School Lunchroom Fri., Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. For further information, call James Lee, Jim Oliver or Cliff Steele.”

From Beano Baker’s SportsBeat – “HOT STOVE LEAGUE… There’s good news and bad news concerning the Atlanta Braves and spoiled brat infielder Bob Horner, who turned down a three-year, $4.5-million offer from the Braves after calling the offer ‘embarrassing.’ The bad news is that Atlanta may be stuck with Horner and his lousy attitude again in 1987. The good news is that under current baseball rules, he can’t re-sign with his old team (Atlanta) until May. The grossly overweight and out of shaper Horner has received only one other offer, that a one-year, $1-million pact with San Diego. That must be doubly embarrassing.
“The fact is, Horner is the embarrassment. Once considered of sure Superstar capable of hitting .300 and 40-50 homers a year consistently, he has become dead weight simply because he won’t get in playing shape. In 1985, the Braves offered him a $15,000 bonus each time he made his assigned weight (210 pounds) on a monthly weigh-in basis. He collected one bonus out of a possible seven.”

40 YEARS AGO
FEB. 24, 1972

“Coming - March 15, 16, 17, 18 – Coliseum – Montgomery – World Championship Rodeo – Starring in person at every performance Roy Rogers, Dale Evans – 8 p.m. Wed.-Sat. – Sat. Mat. 3 p.m. – 2 hours of Exciting Entertainment – Also Featuring the Songs and Music of the World Famous Sons of the Pioneers – 5 Big Performances – Order Tickets By Mail! Sponsored by Southeastern Livestock Exposition and Alabama Cattlemen’s Association.”

“E.L. McInnis is seeking election to a full term of office as Chairman of the Conecuh County Commission. He was appointed to fill the unexpired term of the late Guy N. Mason.
“A native of Barbour County, McInnis came to Conecuh County as a young man as a teacher and coach and has lived most of his adult life here. He is familiarly known as ‘Coach’ by former students and others because of his many years service in athletics.
“Coach is in an executive position with Flexible Southern Co. at the present time in addition to his duties as chairman. Coach and his wife, Sarah, a retired teacher, live on Bruner Avenue.”

55 YEARS AGO
FEB. 28, 1957

“Aggies To Meet Neal In District Tournament At Mobile Thurs. Nite: Evergreen’s Aggies face a tough assignment in their first game of the 1st District Class AA Tournament in Mobile as they take on third seeded W.S. Neal of East Brewton tonight (Thursday) at 6 p.m. in the U.M.S. Gym.
“The Neal Eagles were ranked in order behind first seeded Grove Hill and second seeded Murphy of Mobile, with Vigor of Mobile rated fourth. Theodore High, undefeated in 20 games this season, was not seeded, but is considered a strong contender for the crown due to their impressive record.
“Evergreen not only drew a rugged opponent to open with, but also fell in what is considered the strongest bracket. Such stalwarts as Murphy, Theodore, W.S. Neal, Foley and host team U.M.S. of Mobile, with any one capable of taking the crown. The Aggies have proven that when they have a good night, they can beat almost anybody, so the lower bracket might be considered a toss-up.
“The class of the upper bracket is generally considered to be Vigor and McGill despite the fact that Grove Hill is seeded first. The remainder of the upper group are considered weaker teams, however anything can happen in a high school tournament.
“Evergreen was runner-up in last year’s tournament with one of their best teams in the school’s history and made the trip to the state tournament. Murphy High, who beat the Aggies in the finals of the district tourney, went on to take the state crown in Tuscaloosa.
“Coaches Wendell Hart and Ray Owens will leave for Mobile around noon today (Thursday). The following team will make the trip: Paul Pace, Billy Grace, Robert Ellington, Wayne Frazier, Mickey Joyner, Jimmy Moorer, Buddy Zukowski, Allen Hunter, Jack Harper and Bill Ivey.”

70 YEARS AGO
FEB. 26, 1942

“The Evergreen Aggies downed the Brooklyn High team on the Brooklyn court after a perilous first half, 36 to 24. The locals were forced all the way in the first half, with the lead changing hands several times. Evergreen held a slight 15 to 14 lead at the end of this period, but came back with a neat rally, and turned a 30 to 18 lead over to the reserves at the end of the third quarter. Eleven men saw action, with each doing his part. Langham failed to score, but I guess he is just saving up for the tournament here Friday.
“Edsel Johnson and Derrell Moorer matched each other goal for goal as they tied for scoring honors with 12 points each. J. Ralls shot eight points to keep Brooklyn in the game.
“This game completed a successful season for the locals. Final record stands: 15 won, four lost.”

“The Evergreen High School basketeers won their 14th game of the season in a return battle with the Red Level cagers at Red Level Thursday, 31 to 23. The locals won the first contest handily, 28 to 12. Led by their captain, Derrell Moorer, the Aggies played one of their better games of the season. Moorer shot 14 points to pace the offensive effort, and played one of his best floor games. This win ran the Aggies record to 14 wins against four losses.”

“The Conecuh County basketball tournament will be held here Friday afternoon to decide what two teams will enter the district tournament at Brewton. The winner and runner-up will be the only ones eligible to enter from this county. A drawing to determine foes for the first round will be held at 1 p.m. Friday afternoon with the tournament taking place soon after.”

85 YEARS AGO
FEB. 24, 1927

“FLAT ROCK: Brownville girls lost a close game to the Flat Rock team on the local court Saturday, Flat Rock scoring three points and Brownville two. Bigger and Stillwell put up a good defense for Brownville. Blackburn and Aarons did good guarding for Flat Rock with Deason and Potts for forward. However, Brownville boys with their good pass work were too much for the locals and Brownville boys walked from the court to the tune of three to nine.”

“The Aggie team has not been defeated in basketball this year. They have played several close games, but each time they managed to come to the top in the end. They have accomplished this through hard work and a well developed fighting spirit. They never give up even if they are behind in the score.
“From a comparative score of the teams in the district the Aggies are chosen as one of the eight teams to meet at Georgiana to play for the championship of the district. If the Aggies can win this, which is very likely, they will go to the state tournament at Tuscaloosa. The prospects are bright for a championship team this year.”

“A troop of Boy Scouts is being fully organized under the leadership of W.P. McMillan.
“These are the boys that have passed the (Tenderfoot) test: Orman Bowers, Billy Beaven, Claude Pritchett, George Hairston, Lloyd Hairston, Frank Fountain, Robert Mills, Walter Wild, Billy Kamplain, Murray Kamplain, Winston Hagood, Wilbur Kelley, Clinton Hyde, Clinton Gregory, George Lambert, John Wright Jr., William Letford and Sam Robison.”

Which of our local high school basketball teams has the best overall season?

Another fine high school basketball season has come and gone in Conecuh County and all four of our local varsity teams posted seasons that they can be proud of.

Which of our local teams had the best overall season?

That’s a hard question to answer in just one sentence since there are a number of factors to consider.

Sparta Academy’s varsity girls had the best overall record in the county. They went 17-4 overall for a winning percentage of .810. Hillcrest High School’s varsity boys followed with a 15-14 overall record, a winning percentage of .536.

Sparta’s varsity boys went 11-13 overall for a winning percentage of .458. Hillcrest’s varsity girls finished with a 7-14 overall record, a winning percentage of .333.

It should be noted that Hillcrest’s varsity girls, under head coach Tommy Dukes, improved greatly over their showing last season, when they went 3-23 overall. They not only won more than twice as many games this year, but they also lost four other games by four or fewer points.

Hillcrest’s varsity boys had the most potent offense in the county. They led the county with 1,801 total points this season, an average of 62.1 points per game. Sparta’s varsity girls followed with 1,154 total points, an average of 54.9 points per game.

Sparta’s boys collected 1,137 total points, an average of 47.7 points per game. Hillcrest’s girls scored 769 total points, an average of 36.6 points per game.

Sparta’s girls appeared to have the best defense in the county this season. They allowed just 840 total points, an average of 40.0 points per game. Hillcrest’s girls followed with 863 total allowed points, an average of 41.1 points per game. (This is another example of how much the Lady Jags improved over last season, when they allowed 1,362 total points, an average of 52.4 points per game.)

Sparta’s varsity boys allowed 1,210 total points this season, an average of 50.4 points per game. Hillcrest’s boys allowed 1,750 total points, an average of 60.3 points per outing.

Sparta’s girls and Hillcrest’s boys both played very well at home this season. The Lady Warriors went 10-1 on their home court this season, losing by three in overtime to Marengo Academy on Nov. 22. The Jags went 9-1 in Evergreen, winning all their regular season home games before falling by two against Monroe County in the area tournament title game Monday of last week.

Hillcrest’s girls went 4-4 at home compared to a 1-8 showing in Evergreen last season. Sparta’s boys went 5-6 at home this season, a winning percentage of .455.

Sparta’s girls were the best road team in the county this year. They went 7-3 in away games, a winning percentage of .700. Sparta’s boys followed with a 6-7 road record.

Hillcrest’s boys went 7-12 on the road, and the Lady Jags posted a 3-10 record in road games this season.

Maybe the best performance mark of all is each team’s area record during the regular season.

Sparta’s girls went undefeated in area play, posting a 6-0 record against area foes. Hillcrest’s boys followed closely with a 7-1 area record. Sparta’s boys went 3-3 in area play, and Hillcrest’s girls posted a 3-5 overall record.

In the end, I’d have to say that Sparta’s girls had the best overall season of the county’s four varsity teams this year. Hillcrest’s boys were a close second, and I’d rank Sparta’s boys in third. The award for most improved team this year goes to Hillcrest’s varsity girls, and I look for the Lady Jags to be even better next year.

Daily Weather Observations for Thurs., Feb. 23, 2012

Temp: 62.6 degrees F (17.0 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 84 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast.

Winds: 1.1 mph out of the Southeast (light air)

Barometric Pressure: 29.28 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.1 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 7.2 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 11.9 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTE: 64th day of Winter.

And Remember - "If salt is sticky and gains in weight, it will rain before too late."

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

This week's movie picks are 'Act of Valor' and 'J. Edgar'


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 week include:

Act of Valor (Action, R): Directed by Mike McCoy and Scott Waugh and starring Roselyn Sanchez, Nestor Serrano, Emilio Rivera, Gonzalo Menendez and Ailsa Marshall.

The Fairy (Comedy, Romance, Not Rated): Directed by Dominique Abel and Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, Philippe Martz and Bruno Romy.

The Forgiveness of Blood (Drama): Directed by Joshua Marston and starring Refet Abazi, Tristan Halilaj, Sindi Lacej and Ilire Vinca Celaj.

Gone (Suspense, PG-13): Directed by Heitor Dhalia and starring Amanda Seyfried, Jennifer Carpenter, Sebastian Stan, Wes Bentley and Daniel Sunjata.

Good Deeds (Drama, Romance, PG-13): Directed by Tyler Perry and starring Tyler Perry, Gabrielle Union, Thandie Newton, Brian White and Rebecca Romijn.

Tomorrow When the War Began (Action, Drama, R): Directed by Stuart Beattie and starring Caitlin Stasey, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Linsoln Lewis, Deniz Akdeniz and Phoebe Tonkin.

Wanderlust (Comedy, R): Directed by David Wain and starring Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd, Malin Akerman, Justin Theroux and Lauren Ambrose.

New DVD releases for the week of Feb. 21 include:

J. Edgar (Drama, R): Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts, Armie Hammer, Judi Dench and Jeffrey Donovan.

London Boulevard (Drama, Crime, R): Directed by William Monahan and starring Colin Farrell, Keira Knightley, Anna Friel, Ray Winstone and David Thewlis.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (Drama, Suspense, R): Directed by Sean Durkin and starring Elizabeth Olsen, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson, Hugh Dancy and Brady Corbet.

The Mighty Macs (Drama, G): Directed by Tim Chambers and starring Carla Gugino, David Boreanaz, Marley Shelton, Ellen Burstyn and Phyllis Somerville.

Puss in Boots (Comedy, Family, PG): Directed by Chris Miller and starring the voices of Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris.

Retreat (Suspense, Action, R): Directed by Carl Tibbetts and starring Cillian Murphy, Jamie Bell, Thandie Newton and Jimmy Yuill.

The Son of No One (Action, Suspense, R): Directed by Dito Montiel and starring Channing Tatum, Al Pacino, Juliette Binoche, Ray Liotta and Katie Holmes.

The Space Between (Drama, Not Rated): Directed by Travis Fine and Melissa Leo, Anthony Keyvan, AnnaSophia Robb, Hunter Parrish and Brad William Henke.

Tower Heist (Action, Comedy, PG-13): Directed by Brett Ratner and starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Gabourey Sidibe and Casey Affleck.

The Way (Comedy, Drama, PG-13): Directed by Emilio Estevez and starring Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Deborah Kara Unger, Yorick van Wageningen and James Nesbitt.

If I could only watch one movie at the theatre this week, it would be “Act of Valor,” and if I had to pick just one DVD to rent this week, it would be “J. Edgar.”

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.

Daily Weather Observations for Wed., Feb. 22, 2012

Temp: 52.0 degrees F (11.1 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 84 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast and foggy.

Winds: Calm.

Barometric Pressure: 29.54 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.1 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 7.2 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 11.9 inches

Local Weather Alerts: Dense fog advisory in effect until 8 a.m.

NOTE: 63rd day of Winter. Ash Wednesday. Washington's Birthday.

And Remember - "When the sun shines while raining, it will rain the same time again tomorrow."

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2012 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize winners announced

The winners of the 2012 Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize were announced recently, and this year’s winners were “Lincoln and the Border States: Preserving the Union” by William C. Harris and “Lincoln’s Forgotten Ally: Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt of Kentucky” by Elizabeth D. Leonard.

The Lincoln Prize is administered by the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College and has been awarded annually since 1991 for the best non-fiction history work of the previous year on the American Civil War.

Nominees for this year’s prize included 116 books. This year’s Honorable Mention Recipient was “The Won Cause: Black and White Comradeship in the Grand Army of the Republic” by Barbara A. Gannon. Other finalists included “Freedom by the Sword: The U.S. Colored Troops, 1862-1867” by William A. Dobak, “A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War” by Amanda Foreman and “The Iron Way: Railroads, the Civil War and the Making of Modern America” by William G. Thomas.

The complete winners of the Lincoln Awards are as follows:

1991 – “The Civil War” by Ken Burns
1992 – “Frederick Douglass” by William S. McFeely
1993 – “The Peculiar Institution” by Kenneth Stampp
1994 – “Free at Last: A Documentary History of Slavery, Freedom and the Civil War” by Ira Berlin, et al.
1995 – “The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln” by Phillip Shaw Paludan
1996 – “Lincoln” by David Herbert Donald
1997 – “Prelude to Greatness: Lincoln in the 1850s and The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics” by Don Fehrenbacher
1998 – “For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War” by James M. McPherson
1999 – “Honor’s Voice: The Transformation of Abraham Lincoln” by Douglas L. Wilson
2000 – “Runaway Slaves: Rebels in the Plantation” by John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger
2000 – “Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President” by Allen C. Guelzo
2001 – “A Great Civil War: A Military and Political History, 1861-1865” by Russell F. Weigley
2002 – “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory” by David W. Blight
2003 – “Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!” by George C. Rable
2004 – “Lincoln” by Richard Carwardine
2005 – “Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation” by Allen C. Guelzo
2006 – “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin
2007 – “Lincoln’s Sword: The Presidency and the Power of Worlds” by Douglas L. Wilson
2008 – “The Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics by James Oakes
2008 – “Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee through his Private Letters” by Elizabeth Brown Pryor
2009 – “Tried by War” Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief
2009 – “Lincoln and His Admirals: Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. Navy and the Civil War” by Craig Symonds
2010 – “Abraham Lincoln: A Life” by Michael Burlingame
2011 – “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery” by Eric Foner
2012 – “Lincoln and the Border States: Preserving the Union” by William C. Harris
2012 – “Lincoln’s Forgotten Ally: Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt of Kentucky” by Elizabeth D. Leonard

In the end, how many of these Lincoln Prize winners 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.

Daily Weather Observations for Tues., Feb. 21, 2012

Temp: 49.6 degrees F (9.8 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 81 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy.

Winds: Winds out of the Southeast.

Barometric Pressure: 29.73 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.1 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 7.2 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 11.9 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTE: 62nd day of Winter. Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras Carnival Holiday (Mobile). New Moon.

And Remember - "When down the chimney falls the soot, mud will soon by underfoot."

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Monday, February 20, 2012

FICTION - The Ambulance Incident - Part II

Stinking, gray smoke issued from the spot where I applied the electrode, and the man on the stretcher grabbed me by the throat. Just that fast, my head swam on the verge of unconscisousness as the man’s clawlike fingers dug into my neck and tightend against my carotid artery.

John dropped the IV he was prepping, grabbed the man’s thick arm and pulled hard in an attempt to remove his hand from my throat. The injured man was strong for his size, and John had to rise from the bench seat, brace one boot against the stretcher and pull to make the man’s arm budge. Blackness crept into the edge of my vision just before the man’s hand slid from my throat.

The man had long fingernails, and they raked down the right side of my neck as John pulled the man’s hand away. Four fresh, superficial scratches began to ooze blood and stain the collar of my uniform shirt.

John jerked the man’s left hand down in the next instant. I lost my balance and pitched forward across the stretcher. I reached out to keep from falling across the man, and my left hand came down on the siderail on John’s side of the stretcher. In that brief second, my shirt sleeve rode up and left my exposed upper arm inches from the man’s mouth. In a frenized flash, the man jerked up and sank his teeth into my left tricep. I swore as a wave of brief, intense pain shot down my arm.

I snatched my arm out of his mouth and regained my balance. I pulled back my short sleeve and examined the damage. The imprint of the man’s teeth was etched into my arm, and I watched as blood began to seep from the spots where his canine teeth had been.

“He bit me!” I said to John, who continued to struggle with the wildeyed man.

John didn’t look up. “Get the soft restraints,” he barked, almost out of breath. “We’ve got to tie him down before he hurts himself.”

I turned, squated and opened a low compartment to the side of the monitor shelf. “Don’t we need to call med control and ask for permission to restrain him?” I asked, glancing over my shoulder.

“To hell with that,” John said. “Radio’s busted anyway.”

We seldom have to use soft restraints on the ambulance and for that reason the small plastic bags that contained them had worked their way to the back of the dark compartment, well behind the myriad bits of other equipment and gear that we used more often. More by feel than by sight, I found them, pulled them out and slid the thick, plastic compartment door closed.

The next few minutes were a chaotic blur, but somehow between the two of us, John and I got the man into the restraints. We were both out of breath when we finished, and we paused for a few seconds to get our wind back. John, a smoker, looked like he’d just run a marathon, but I was sure that I looked the worse for wear. He wasn’t the one bleeding.

The man on the stretcher fought uselessly against the restraints, and it was in that moment of brief rest that I took a good, long look at the man. Under the bright flourescent lights of the ambulance, I could see that he was a strange looking man. The dominant feature of his face was thick, black eyebrows that met over the bridge of his nose. He also had low-set ears that gave him the aspect of a dog. I was already well acquanted with his curved fingernails, and from where I stood I was struck by the putrid smell of his breath.

“Break’s over,” John said as he began to calmly reassemble his IV set. “You need to clean those scratches and that bite. Look in that cabinet. There are some four by fours in there and some rubbing alcohol. That’ll have to do until we get to the ER.”

Before I could turn to open the compartment, the deep, long howl of a coyotoe sounded from just outside the ambulance. Gooseflesh popped out on my forearms, and I pretended not to notice that John had jumped at the sound. “That was close,” he said.

As if in reaction to the howl, the man on the stretcher grew calm and ceased to struggle against his restraints. In the ensuing seconds, he made the only statement that John and I heard him mutter during our entire encounter with him.

“You’ve…. got… to… let… me… go…” he said, his voice rough and deep, almost like a growl, like someone who might be very sick.

I immediately thought about what this might mean in regard to the fresh bite on my uppper arm. “Sir, do you have any health…”

Before I could say “problems,” the man resumed his struggle against the restraints. “Sir, you’ve got to calm down,” John said. “You’ve been in an accident, and you might further injure yourself if you don’t calm down and be still.”

John might as well have been talking to the wall because the man was in no mood to listen. I watched as his abdominal muscles flexed hard as he tried to sit up against the restraints. It was then that one of the soft restraint straps did give slightly with a small sound like ripping velcro. John and I exchanged a glance and only had a second to consider what it meant when the alarm on the heart monitor began to sound as the man’s vitals began to spike out of control.

The man went limp as John and I studied the monitor’s small screen. “He’s crashing,” John said, turning back to his IV set-up.

John began to start the IV, and I read off the man’s vitals. “Heart rate’s 150 beats per minute,” I said. “Looks like sinus tachycardia. Last diastolic BP’s 116. Pulse ox is good at 98 percent.”

“All right, let’s go,” John said. “Get up front and get us to the hospital.”

I nodded and headed for the side door. “Hey!” John called.

I turned and saw him stick an 18-gauge needle into a large purple vein that ran down the length of the man’s left forearm. “Look out for that coyote,” he said with a grin. “And keep trying the radio.”

I’d forgotten about the animal responsible for that howl only minutes before. I pulled off my plastic gloves, dropped them into the garbage can beside the bench seat and opened the side door. I stepped outside and closed the door. If anything was out here, it would probably get me before I could get back inside. I jogged around to the driver’s side, pulled the door open and hopped in.

It was nice to be back behind the wheel and headed to the hospital. The fog was as thick as ever, but that was no big deal. I switched off the emergency flashers and turned on the big overhead strobe lights. As I put the truck in drive, I heard John’s muffled voice. A small window, about one-foot square, separated the cab from the back of the truck. I reached over my shoulder and slid the window open on its track.

“What did you say?” I yelled back through the hole.

“Get back hear,” he yelled. “Something’s wrong.” There was an unusual hint of strain in John’s voice. Like most paramedics, John was unflappable, conditioned to hide his feelings behind a blank mask that came from years of dealing with the worst kind of emergencies.

I put the ambulance back in park. “What’s wrong?”

“Just get back here,” he yelled. “I need you back here. Hurry!”

I grabbed a pair of medium plastic gloves from a small cardboard box in the center console and opened my door. I jumped out and ran to the rear double doors. I pulled the handle, but the door stuck as it sometimes will on humid nights. I swore under my breath, got a better grip on the handle and pulled again. The right half of the double doors swung open, and I was shocked by the scene that met my eyes.

The man who’d been on the stretcher was nowhere in sight. In his place was a large gray wolf. Its back legs were on the stretcher and its front paws held John down against the bench seat. John was still alive, but he struggled weakly against the powerful animal that had its muzzle buried in his throat. Before I could react, the beast turned its head and looked at me. Fresh blood – John’s blood – dripped from its snarling black lips, and I watched as drops of crimson fell to the plastic mat of the ambulance floor.

The beast seemed to grin and then arched its back before unleashing a long, unnerving howl. As if in response, from somewhere close behind me, there came an answering howl from some unseen creature shrouded in the thick fog.

(All rights reserved. This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.)

Yesterday's News from The Evergreen Courant for Feb. 20, 2012

16 YEARS AGO
FEB. 16, 1995

“Lucy Brock, Damian Fantroy, Sarah Lenn Lanier, Sherri Salter and Terri Salter are attending the National Young Leaders Conference from Feb. 14 to Feb. 19, 1995 in Washington, D.C. Lucy, Damian, Sarah, Sherri and Terri, all juniors at Hillcrest High School, are among 350 outstanding National Scholars attending the conference from across America.”

“This is the new elevated tank constructed by the Owassa-Brownville Water Authority just south of McKenzie. The tank will help to service the 225 homes which were recently added on the Owassa-Brownville Water Authority in their third extension. A fourth extension is currently under consideration.”

“Earnest McMillan, 9, proudly displays a Picasso Bill’s T-shirt that he recently earned by submitting a drawing to the Montgomery Advertiser’s feature, Picasso Bill’s Alley. Earnest’s sketch, entitled ‘Day on the Farm,’ was printed in the Sun., Feb. 5, edition of The Advertiser. A second-grader at Evergreen City School, Earnest is the on of Shelina Crosby.”

“This is the new pumping station located in front of the Beat 8 Fire Department on County Road 47. The station was constructed during the extension recently by the Owassa-Brownville Water Authority.”

“Woodmen of the World Field Rep. Mitch Crutchfield presents Don White, manager of Hardees with a Certificate of Appreciation for his help with the local Woodmen Youth Camp.”

31 YEARS AGO
FEB. 19, 1981

“If you thought that was a big rain on Tuesday of last week, Feb. 10, you weren’t wrong. Weatherman Earl Windham reports 6.28 inches and says: ‘Well, we got a Real Rain. I don’t know what your rain gauge had in it, but that’s what mine measured.’”

“This frozen fountain on West Front Street at the corner of Rural made a pretty, but cold picture Thursday morning of last week… and the ice didn’t melt until over in the afternoon. Weatherman Earl Windham reported an official low of 16 degrees that morning.”

“Sparta Academy had two winners in the Alabama Private Schools Association State Spelling Contest. Carol Kendrick won first place in the seventh grade and Matthew Ansley won third place in the fifth grade. Carol is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Roy Kendrick, and Matthew is the son of Mr. and Mrs. James Ansley.”

“The Evergreen City Council voted Tuesday night to employ Winston Rayfield as City Water and Sewer Technician, a new position.”

“Nelda Pugh Stephenson has been named dealer-operator of Bobby Mitchell Chevrolet, Inc. of Florence, Ala. She is a native of Evergreen and the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lester Pugh.”

“Conecuh Medical Center will move into its new offices on Mon., Feb. 23. The offices are located in the Evergreen Church of Christ building at 110 South Main St.”

46 YEARS AGO
FEB. 17, 1966

“Howard Geck, 51, veteran insurance man of Rt. E, Evergreen is making his first political bid as he seeks the office of Tax Collector.
“Geck is a veteran of two years service with the U.S. Army in World War II and has been extremely active in American Legion affairs. He is now serving his second term as Commander of Alma Martin Post 50, having previously headed the post in 1961.”

“MacDonald Gallion, former attorney general of Alabama, is the headline speaker for the annual banquet meeting of the Evergreen Chamber of Commerce next Thursday night, Feb. 24, at seven o’clock.
“Gallion now practices law in Montgomery after an outstanding career in public service as assistant attorney general and attorney general. He is the leading contender for attorney general in this year’s election.”

“Marvin Johnston qualified last Thursday morning to campaign for the office of Tax Collector in the Democratic Primary Election. This is his first venture for a political office.
“Johnston was born and raised in the Owassa community. He graduated with honors from the Evergreen High School. During World War II, he served overseas for 18 months as a top secret administrative assistant in the office of Commanding General A.M. Patch, Seventh Army Headquarters.
“Upon release from the service, Johnston continued his studies at Auburn University, from which he received his degree in Business Administration in 1946, majoring in accounting.”

61 YEARS AGO
FEB. 15, 1951

“Evergreen Boy Scouts and their fathers will be feted at the annual Father and Son Banquet at the Evergreen City School lunchroom tonight.”

“Speed limit in the city limits of Evergreen has been set at 25 miles per hour and will be enforced by the city police department.”

“A large group of Brooklyn citizens numbering some 135 persons met at the school building Thursday night, Feb. 8, for the purpose of organizing a Community Adult Club.”

“Mrs. Induk Pahk, one of the leading citizens of Korea and an ambassador of goodwill, will speak at the Evergreen Methodist Church Sunday morning Feb. 18 at 11 o’clock.”

“The City of Evergreen has let a contract for the erection of a 250,000-gallon elevated water tank. The contract went to Chicago Bridge and Iron Co. Cost of the tank when erected will be $46,600.”

“A meeting will be held at the county courthouse in Evergreen Tues day night, Feb. 20, at 7:00 for the purpose of reactivating Alma Martin Post 50 of the American Legion.”

“The Parent-Teacher Association of Brockton School met in regular session Tuesday night, Feb. 6, in the school auditorium. About 275 persons were present at the meeting, with Mrs. Ronald Shaver, President, presiding.”

76 YEARS AGO
FEB. 20, 1936

“Eugene M. Binion, 74, well known and prominent citizen died suddenly of heart attack about 11 o’clock Saturday morning causing sadness and sorrow to hosts of relatives and friends here elsewhere in this and other sections.”

“Curtis E. Robinson of Castleberry, filed his announcement with The Courant Tuesday as candidate for member of the Board of Revenue from district No. 3, subject to the action of the Democratic primary elections to be held May 5 and June 9.
“For the past 10 years he has been on the town council of Castleberry. He is now serving as mayor.”

“J. Frank Pierce of Lenox, member of the Board of Revenue from district three of this county is this week making formal announcement of his candidacy to succeed himself in this office.”

“M.A. Travis of Beat 8 this county, is announcing his candidacy for the Democratic nomination to the office of Chairman of the Board of Revenue in this issue of The Courant, subject to the action of the primary elections to be held May 5 and June 9, 1936.”

“Announcement made this week by John T. Lee, President, that L.M. Chapman has been appointed manager of Wilson Motor Co. and is now in active charge of the business of the company.”

“Old Skeletons Are Found In Cliff: Tuscaloosa, Ala., Feb. 15 – Thirteen skeletons of prehistoric persons, found in a cave near old Burleson Post Office in Franklin County, have been brought to the Alabama Museum of Natural History at the University of Alabama.
“Walled up in a crevice in the side of a limestone cliff, the 13 adult skeletons and those of an undetermined number of infants were jumbled together in a single burial. The exact age of the bones is unknown. But Dr. Walter B. Jones, state geologist and director of the museum, says that they probably belong to one of the prehistoric tribes of bluff-shelter people, prevalent in the Tennessee Valley.
“But two earthenware vessels, found in the cave, show only slight similarity to the typical Tennessee Valley pottery. This fact gives rise to the belief that these persons belonged to one of the earlier tribes.”

Daily Weather Observations for Mon., Feb. 20, 2012

Temp: 36.9 degrees F (2.7 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.1 inches.

Humidity: 83 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Mostly clear with a few thin trace clouds.

Winds: Calm.

Barometric Pressure: 29.73 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 0.1 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 7.2 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 11.9 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTE: 61st day of Winter. Ground still saturated from recent rains. Jet contrails visible. Today is Presidents Day in the U.S. and Family Day in Canada. Trapping Season Ends today in Alabama.

And Remember - "No weather's ill if the wind be still."

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

'Kill Shot' tops this week's PW hardcover fiction best-sellers 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, there are four new books at the top of the four major best-sellers lists this week.

"Kill Shot" by Vince Flynn replaced "Home Front" by Kristin Hannah as the No. 1 book on the hardcover fiction best-sellers list.

"Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America" by Mark R. Levin replaced "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History" by Chris Kyle, Jim DeFelice and Scott McEwen as the top book on the hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list.

"44 Charles Street" by Danielle Steel replaced "The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae" by Stephanie Laurens as the top book on the mass market paperback best-sellers list.

"The Help" by Kathryn Stockett replaced "Night Road" by Kristin Hannah as the No. 1 book on the trade paperbacks best-sellers list.

There are four books on this week’s hardcover fiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They (along with their place on the list) include "Kill Shot" by Vince Flynn (1), "Catch Me" by Lias Gardner (3), "Left for Dead" by J.A. Jance (10) and "No Mark Upon Her" by Deborah Crombie (12).

There are six books on this week’s hardcover nonfiction best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "Hilarity Ensues" by Tucker Max (2), "Take the Stairs" by Rory Vaden (5), "Once Upon a Secret" by Mimi Alford (10), "Behind the Beautiful Forevers" by Katherine Boo (12), "Bringing Up Bebe" by Pamela Druckerman (13) and "Great by Choice" by Jim Collins & Morten T. Hansen (14).

There are five books on this week’s mass market paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on that list last week. They include "Bennett and Camilla" by Nora Roberts (7), "One Book in the Grave" by Kate Carlisle (9), "Devil's Food Cake Murder" by Joanne Fluke (12), "Crunch Time" by Diane Mott Davidson (14) and "Shaded Vision" by Yasmine Galenorn (15).

There are five books on this week’s trade paperbacks best-sellers list that weren’t on the list last week. They include "The Vow" by Kim & Krickitt Carpenter with Dana Wilkerson (2), "The Harbinger" by Jonathan Cahn (11), "Life As I Blow It" by Sarah Colonna (12), "Before I Go to Sleep" by S.J. Watson (14) and "Dreams of Joy" by Lisa See (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. "Kill Shot" by Vince Flynn
2. "Defending Jacob" by William Landay
3. "Catch Me" by Lias Gardner
4. "Death Comes to Pemberley" by P.D. James
5. "Private: Number 1 Suspect" by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
6. "11/22/63" by Stephen King
7. "Home Front" by Kristin Hannah
8. "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" by Stieg Larsson
9. "Taken" by Robert Crais
10. "Left for Dead" by J.A. Jance
11. "Raylan: A Novel" by Elmore Leaonard
12. "No Mark Upon Her" by Deborah Crombie
13. "A Dance with Dragons" by George R.R. Martin
14. "The Fear Index" by Robert Harris
15. "The Litigators" by John Grisham

HARDCOVER NONFICTION
1. "Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America" by Mark R. Levin
2. "Hilarity Ensues" by Tucker Max
3. "The End of Illness' by David Agus
4. "American Sniper" by Chris Kyle, Jim DeFelice and Scott McEwen
5. "Take the Stairs" by Rory Vaden
6. "Steve Jobs: A Biography" by Walter Isaacson
7. "Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
8. "Quiet" by Susan Cain
9. "The World of Downtown Abbey" by Jessica Fellowes
10. "Once Upon a Secret" by Mimi Alford
11. "The 17 Day Diet" by Dr. Mike Moreno
12. "Behind the Beautiful Forevers" by Katherine Boo
13. "Bringing Up Bebe" by Pamela Druckerman
14. "Great by Choice" by Jim Collins & Morten T. Hansen
15. "Through My Eyes" by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker

MASS MARKET PAPERBACKS
1. "44 Charles Street" by Danielle Steel
2. "The 9th Judgement" by James Patterson & Maxine Paetro
3. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
4. "Against All Enemies" by Tom Clancy with Peter Telep
5. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
6. "Lucky Penny" by Catherine Anderson
7. "Bennett and Camilla" by Nora Roberts
8. "Cold Vengeance" by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
9. "One Book in the Grave" by Kate Carlisle
10. "The Capture of the Earl of Glencrae" by Stephanie Laurens
11. "Bonnie" by Iris Johansen
12. "Devil's Food Cake Murder" by Joanne Fluke
13. "Tom Clancy Presents: Act of Valor" by Dick Couch and George Galdorisi
14. "Crunch Time" by Diane Mott Davidson
15. "Shaded Vision" by Yasmine Galenorn

TRADE PAPERBACKS
1. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett
2. "The Vow" by Kim & Krickitt Carpenter with Dana Wilkerson
3. "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" by Jonathan Safran Foer
4. "Heaven is for Real" by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, Colton Burpo and Lynn Vincent
5. "The Tiger's Wife: A Novel" by Tea Obreht
6. "Bossypants" by Tina Fey
7. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" by Stieg Larsson
8. "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot
9. "The Girl Who Played with Fire" by Stieg Larsson
10. "Lethal" by Sandra Brown
11. "The Harbinger" by Jonathan Cahn
12. "Life As I Blow It" by Sarah Colonna
13. "10th Anniversary" by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
14. "Before I Go to Sleep" by S.J. Watson
15. "Dreams of Joy" by Lisa See

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.

Daily Weather Observations for Sun., Feb. 19, 2012

Temp: 55.0 degrees F (12.8 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 2.6 inches.

Humidity: 84 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Overcast, light fog in the distance.

Winds: Winds out of the Southwest.

Barometric Pressure: 29.26 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 5.6 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 7.1 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 11.8 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTE: 60th day of Winter. Ground saturated with standing water in many places from yesterday's rains. Birds visible on the powerline, but not the ground.

And Remember - "Catchy drawer and sticky door, coming rain will pour and pour."

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Is 'Paranormal Activity 3' the best movie in the series?

Just the other day, I finally got the chance to watch “Paranormal Activity 3.” As you may have guessed from the title, this movie is the third installment in the “Paranormal Activity” film series, and like the first two movies, this one contained its fair share of creepy moments.

Released just 10 days before Halloween last year, “Paranormal Activity 3” was directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. The cast of this horror film included Lauren Bittner, Brian Boland, Johanna Braddy, Jessica Tyler Brown, Chloe Csengery, Katie Featherston, Hallie Foote, Sprague Grayden, Dustin Ingram and Chris Smith.

The movie was written by 36-year-old Christopher B. Landon, who is probably best known for being the son of late actor and filmmaker, Michael Landon. Other movies written by Christopher Landon include 2007’s “Disturbia,” which many of you probably watched and enjoyed.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing “Paranormal Activity 3,” it’s set about 20 years before the first two movies and likely answers many of the questions that you may have asked yourself while watching the first two films. Like the first two “Paranormal Activities,” much of this movie is supposedly based on found footage and explains how the main characters become entangled with an evil spirit that follows and plagues them from childhood into adulthood. I hesitate to say much more about the plot because I don’t want to ruin the movie for those of you who haven’t seen it.

Like the first two “Paranormal Activity” films, “Paranormal Activity 3” was extremely popular among movie-going audiences. It reaped box office revenues of over $205 million against a budget of just $5 million. It also broke a number of other revenue records on its opening day. Of the three “Paranormal Activity” movies, it had the best opening at almost $53 million; the best opening day for a horror film in the U.S. at just over $26 million; the best ever midnight opening for a horror film at $8 million and the highest opening for any film ever in the month of October.

While reading up on this movie, I was interested to learn that Christopher Chacon helped promote and publicize the third installment. In addition to being a writer, director and producer, Chacon is also a paranormal investigator and researcher who is generally considered to be one of the world’s top experts on paranormal phenomena. Chacon, 48, is a native of California and traveled the world investigating a wide varsity of paranormal phenomena for the Office of Scientific Investigation and Research.

In the end, I really enjoyed “Paranormal Activity 3” and would recommend it to anyone out there who enjoys horror movies and is old enough to watch a movie that’s Rated R. How many of you out there have seen this movie? What did you think about it? Did you like it or dislike it and why? Which of the three “Paranormal Activity” movies is your personal favorite and why?

Those of you who like the “Paranormal Activity” series will be pleased to hear that Paramount Studios announced last month that a fourth installment in the series is in the works and is set to be released this coming Oct. 19.

Daily Weather Observations for Sat., Feb. 18, 2012

Temp: 54.0 degrees F (12.2 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.0 inches.

Humidity: 80 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy.

Winds: Winds out of the Northeast.

Barometric Pressure: 29.47 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 3.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 4.5 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 9.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: Flood Watch in effect from 6 a.m. Saturday through 3 a.m. Sunday. A Flood Watch means there is a potential for flooding based on current rainfall forecasts.

NOTE: 59th day of Winter. Ground still wet from recent rain with standing water in spots. Numerous robbins and black birds on the ground this morning.

And Remember - "When the chairs squeak, it's of rain they speak."

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Mack Maloney's 'UFOs in Wartime' describes two unusual Alabama incidents

Regular visitors to this space will know that I have a healthy interest in Alabama UFO reports, and I recently finished reading an intriguing new book that contains information about two unusual UFO incidents in the state. The book’s called “UFOs in Wartime: What They Didn’t Want You to Know” by Mack Maloney.

Published by Berkley Books in December, this 304-page book talks about how UFO incidents are most often documented during times of military conflict. The book discusses reports from as far back as Roman times up through the American Revolution, World War I, World War II, Vietnam and even during our most recent conflicts in the Middle East.

Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I am about the most skeptical person you’ll ever meet when it comes to UFOs, but Maloney’s book with definitely make you stop and think. When you consider that many of these incidents have been witnessed by soldiers and airmen of all ranks as well as by respected members of the media, you’ll come to consider that maybe there’s more to the story in the world of UFOs.

I was especially interested in two Alabama incidents that Maloney mentioned in his book. The first incident occurred on June 28, 1947 and involved four Army officers at Maxwell airfield in Montgomery. These officers claimed that they saw “an unusual circular object perform inconceivable midair maneuvers for more than 20 minutes.”

That same day, an Army F-51 Mustang pilot near Lake Meade, Nevada claimed to have seen five circular objects pass him off his right wing. In Wisconsin on that same day, two farmers said that they saw 10 “saucer-shaped objects” fly over at high speed.

According to Maloney’s book, just over a year later, on the night of July 24, 1948 Capt. Clarence Chiles and copilot John Whitted were flying an Eastern Airlines DC-3 from Houston to Atlanta. Over Montgomery, Ala. they saw a “dull red glowing object” appear out of nowhere. The object was headed right for the plane, but before the pilots could react, the object zipped by their starboard side, nearly colliding with the plane. The object then climbed quickly and disappeared from sight.

Chiles and Whitted said that the object was about the size of a B-29 bomber and noted that it didn’t have wings or a tail. When it passed the plane, the pilots saw that a row of windows ran down the side of the object.

Adding credibility to their story, witnesses at Robbins Air Force Base near Macon, Ga. also claimed that they saw an unusual object that matched the description of the object seen by Chiles and Whitted. Investigators later determined that there weren’t any other planes in the area when the sighting took place.

In the end, I really enjoyed reading “UFOs in Wartime” and recommend it to anyone with an interest in UFO reports and eyewitness accounts from men and women in uniform. How many of you have had the chance to read this book? What did you think about it? Let us know in the comments section below.

Daily Weather Observations for Fri., Feb. 17, 2012

Temp: 51.3 degrees F (10.7 degrees C)

Rainfall (past 24 hours): 0.1 inches.

Humidity: 82 percent (Humid)

Conditions: Mostly Cloudy.

Winds: Winds out of the Northwest.

Barometric Pressure: 29.63 inHg.

Week to Date Rainfall: 3.0 inches

Month to Date Rainfall: 4.5 inches

Year to Date Rainfall: 9.2 inches

Local Weather Alerts: None.

NOTE: 58th day of Winter. Ground still wet from recent rain with standing water in spots. Numerous robbins on the ground this morning.

And Remember - "A rainbow in the afternoon means good weather is coming soon."

Readings taken at 0700 hrs Central Standard Time (1300 GMT) daily, just west of the Monroe-Conecuh County line, near Excel, Alabama, USA, in the vicinity of Lat 31.42834°N Lon 87.30131°W. Elevation: 400 feet above sea level.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Five UFO reports logged during January from within the state of Alabama

It’s the third week of the month, so this week I’m giving you an update on UFO reports in Alabama from the past month, courtesy of the Mutual UFO Network.

A search for UFO reports in Alabama between Jan. 1 and Jan. 31 on MUFON’s website, www.mufon.com, resulted in five reports from within our state. None of the reports say exactly where the following incidents took place other than that they occurred somewhere in Alabama.

The first incident occurred on Jan. 5 and was reportedly seen by four witnesses. The UFO was disc-shaped and appeared to rotate from side to side, witnesses said. When viewed through binoculars, witnesses saw that the object was multicolored, appearing at times to be red, green and blue. Witnesses also said that they could see what looked like lights around the middle of the disc and that the object looked “very large relative to distance.”

The second incident occurred on Jan. 6, and the witness first noticed the UFO while carrying groceries from his vehicle into his home. The object was just below the clouds and made no noise, witnesses said. The object traveled northeast in a straight path for about 10 miles and covered the distance in less than two minutes, the witness said.

The object appeared to have a “flickering, bright white flame with a red lens surrounding the bottom of it,” he said.

The “flame” flickered at a slow, steady pace and the witness said that it was like looking at a large fire from a distance. “Although the wind should have had a greater affect considering the speed at which it moved,” he said.

The witness said that there were no flashing or pulsating lights to make him think that it was an airplane, helicopter, weather balloon or satellite. It flew just under a small amount of cloud cover and eventually disappeared into the clouds above, the witness said.

The third incident occurred on Jan. 13. It was reported by a witness who was driving and had been watching what he thought was a star on and off for a couple of hours. The “star” was the brightest in the sky, and sometime between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. the witness saw it move.

The witness stopped his car and confirmed that the “star” was moving. He tried to use the camera on his cell phone to record the movement, but streetlights in the area “made it hard to see anything,” he said.

The witness hurried home, got another camera and began recording the object. It eventually stopped moving and the witness felt that it was only a mile or so away. The witness got back in his car and began driving toward the object in order to get a closer look, he said.

The “star” had been on the man’s left, but it eventually ended up on his right side. He knew it was the same object because of its brightness, he said. The object began moving again, but the witness couldn’t see it clearly because of the trees, he said. His camera also died at that point, he said.

The man drove another mile or so down the road to get past the trees, and the object reappeared, but only for about 15 seconds before it disappeared into the dark sky.
When the man returned home and reviewed his camera footage, he noticed that there was a string of three red lights on the object and “some type of head to it,” he said.

The fourth incident occurred on Jan. 14 and was reportedly caught on an exterior camera the witness set up to record the night sky. According to the short witness report, the video footage reportedly shows the “reflection of the UFO overhead.”

The fifth incident occurred on Jan. 24, and the witness said that the UFO appeared to be following an airplane. The witness was standing in his driveway at 11:26 a.m. when he looked up and saw an airplane that was traveling west, away from Birmingham, he said. The plane was so high in the sky that the witness couldn’t see its body clearly, he said. He assumed that the plane was large because it was leaving a large contrail in its wake, he said.

As the man continued to watch the plane, he noticed a larger object behind it, “just slightly lower in the horizon, trailing the plane,” he said. Light from the sun reflected off the object, and even though it kept pace with the plane, it left no contrail behind it.

The witness watched the object for three to four minutes before it and the plane went behind the trees in the man’s front yard. The man walked about 45 feet to the end of his driveway and at that point was able to see the plane, but not the trailing object.

The witness said that it never crossed his mind to get a camera, but he called his brother in Kansas City, Mo. at 11:36 a.m. to tell him about the experience. While on the phone with his brother, the witness saw another plane flying east at high altitude towards Birmingham and the trailing UFO again.

“This time I was only able to see the object for about 15 to 20 seconds,” the witness said. “And then it just disappeared, but the airplane was still in view.”

Before closing out this week, I just want to put it out there again that I would be very interested to hear from any readers of The Courant who have witnessed a UFO in Conecuh County. I think a lot of other people would be interested in hearing your story too, and I’d be willing to accept your report on an anonymous basis if you’d be more comfortable with that arrangement. You can contact me by e-mail at courantsports@earthlink.net or by phone at 578-1492.