Friday, April 30, 2010

Cookies and Creme Pop Tarts get rare A+

I love Pop Tarts. Always have, always will.
They’re the perfect food. They come in nicely wrapped, highly portable packages; keep forever and can be consumed quickly just about anywhere. They don’t need to be refrigerated, and you can eat them right out of the pack or toast them in the microwave.
Just when you thought they couldn’t get any better, I encountered a new variety of Pop Tarts yesterday in the grocery store – Frosted Cookies and Crème. (You know it has to be fancy when they spell “cream” as if we’re in a French restaurant.)
Needless to say, this new variety is pretty good and is now high running on my list of favorite Pop Tart flavors. (I say it’s new because I first encountered them yesterday. For all I know, they may have been out for a while.)
So what makes this variety of Pop Tart special? Let’s start with the chocolate cookie crust before moving on to the sweet, white frosting that’s sprinkled with cookie crumbs. Inside all that, you’ll find smooth vanilla crème filling.
Probably the best thing about these Pop Tarts for the health conscious folks in the reading audience is that they’re relatively low in calories. Just one pastry has just 190 calories, so you’d have to eat five of them to match the calories you’d find in a Double Whopper with Cheese. Also, according to the box, these Pop Tarts are a good source of six – count ‘em, six – vitamins and minerals.

Locally, you’ll find these Pop Tarts in most grocery stores. I bought mine at Excel Supermarket and tossed them behind the seat of my truck, where they’ll ride until I get hungry while I’m on the road. You never know when you’ll be struck by the urge to consume a Pop Tart, so you have to be prepared.
In the end, I give Frosted Cookies and Crème high marks and would recommend them to anyone out there in the reading audience who likes this sort of thing. They get an A+ in my book.
Have any of you tried these? If so, what did you think about them? Let us all know by posting a comment below.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

HWA's recommended reading list

I’ve been holding back on this recommended reading list for some time, mainly because it’s one of my favorites: The Horror Writers Association Horror Reading List.
I’ve liked scary stories for as long as I can remember, and this list features some all time classics from such authors as Stephen King, Ray Bradbury and H.P. Lovecraft.
Compiled by Thomas Deja and Nicholas Kauffman from a survey of the HWA’s general membership in 1996, this list is arranged alphabetically by author’s last name, so no ranking is implied by the order in which they’re listed. Here they are:
1. Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood
2. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
3. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
4. Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite
5. The Hungry Moon by Ramsey Campbell
6. The Between by Tananarive Due
7. Darklands by Dennis Etchison
8. Raven by Charles L Grant
9. Dead in the Water by Nancy Holder
10. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
11. The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
12. Turn of the Screw by Henry James
13. The Ghost Stories of M.R. James
14. Dr. Adder by K.W. Jeter
15. The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka
16. Pet Semetary by Stephen King
17. The Shining by Stephen King
18. The Stand by Stephen King
19. Skin by Kathe Koja
20. Dark Dance by Tanith Lee
21. Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber
22. Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin
23. Songs of a Dead Dreamer by Thomas Ligotti
24. Lovers Living, Lovers Dead by Richard Lortz
25. The Dunwich Horror and Others by H.P. Lovecraft
26. At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft
27. The Hill of Dreams by Arthur Machen
28. Tales of Horror and the Supernatural by Arthur Machen
29. Sineater by Elizabeth Massie
30. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
31. Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
32. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
33. Book of the Dead edited by John Skipp and Craig Spector
34. Ghoul by Michael Slade
35. Vampire Junction by S.P. Somtow
36. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
37. Dracula by Bram Stoker
38. Some of Your Blood by Theodore Sturgeon
39. Phantom by Thomas Tessier
40. Sacrifice by Andrew Vachss
I’ve had the chance to read more than a few of these books, and I’d be interested to know how many you all have read and what you thought about them. (I’ve marked the one’s I’ve read in bold face type, so if you have any questions about them, just shoot me an e-mail.)
For more information about the Horror Writers Association, visit their Web site at

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

'International' gunfight one of the best ever

I watched the “The International” for the first time ever a couple of days ago and found the movie remarkable for a number of reasons.
The movie, which was released in February 2009, tells the story of Interpol agent Louis Salinger (played by Clive Owen) and New York Assistant DA Eleanor Whitman (played by Naomi Watts) as they try to bring to justice one of the world’s most powerful banks, the International Bank of Business and Credit, which, in almost super-villain form, goes out of its way to fund terrorist activities and have a bad influence on international affairs.
This movie is a decent thriller, and I found it very similar to the Bourne Supremacy movies that have been popular in recent years.
The thing that I found most remarkable about this movie was the gunfight sequence that takes place about three-fourths of the way through the movie. To me, the best movie gunfight ever was in 1995’s “Heat,” which starred Al Pacino, Robert De Niro and Val Kilmer. The gunfight in “The International” is a close second.
“The International” gunfight takes place in the Guggenheim Museum, located off of Fifth Avenue in New York, and involves Salinger, a highly-skilled assassin and a team of IBBC hired guns that have been sent to take them both out.
The ensuing gunfight left the museum pockmarked with hundreds of bullet holes and sent the enormous hanging light fixture/sculpture hanging in the center of the building crashing to the lobby floor (taking out a couple of bad guys in the process). According to Wikipedia, a life-size replica of the museum was built for the shootout scene in “The International.” (I wonder how much that cost.)
While the gunfight was pretty awesome, it went on for what seemed like a very long time and a couple of things made it seem a little unrealistic. First, in true movie fashion, no one seemed to run out of bullets or to have access to a loaded handgun that happened to be lying at their feet. Second, the museum’s security staff, which you see prior to the start of the gunfight, must have went to hide in a closet once the shooting started because they make no appearance during the gunfight. Third, the local police only show up after the gunfight’s over, which is weird, given the location of the museum.
In the end, it was a good movie, and it gets a solid A in my book. Have any of you out there in the reading audience seen this movie? If so, what did you think about it?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

'Apocalypto' gets an A

Over the weekend, I finally got around to seeing the movie, “Apocalypto,” which was directed by Mel Gibson. The movie was released in December 2006 and is 140 minutes long. Gross revenues from the film totaled $120,654,337. (Not bad when you consider it was shot for $40 million.)
The story takes place in Mexico during the early 1500s, during the decline of the Mayan civilization and just before first contact with European explorers. The story centers on a tribesman who has to escape human sacrifice and rescue his family after the capture and destruction of his jungle village.
I enjoyed the movie because it opened a window into the lives of Mesoamericans and Mayans of that time. (Whether or not the movie was entirely historically accurate remains up for debate.) The characters were compelling, and I think most folks would be able to identify with them and “put themselves in their shoes.”
Be forewarned, this movie is not for the squeamish. It contains graphic footage of hand-to-hand combat as well as beheadings, dead bodies, etc. In fact, there was at least one point in the movie, where I almost turned it off to go do something else. The desire to see how the story turned out was the only reason I kept watching.
In the end, I give this movie an A. Apparently many people agreed because the movie received and was nominated for a number of awards. I was surprised to learn that the movie was nominated for the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films Saturn Award for Best Direction and for Best International Film.
Have any of you out there seen this movie? If so, what did you think about it?

Bud Ice is OK, but not great (meant for Monday)

A couple of days ago I got the chance to sample a bottle of Bud Ice for the first time, and I did so after it was recommended to me by a guy at work. He said that Bud Ice is his favorite beer and that if I’d never tried any, I should give it a chance.
Bud Ice Premium Lager was introduced by Budweiser in 1994 as “Ice by Budweiser,” and it includes more alcohol than regular Budweiser. The 12-ounce bottle I sampled contained 5.5 percent alcohol by volume. The bottle’s lable boasts that “Our Exclusive Ice Brewing Process Produces A Rich Smooth Taste That’s Remarkably Easy To Drink.”
To be perfectly honest, I don’t like most of the Budweiser beers and this one, while not bad, did little to change my mind. Most of the Budweiser beers leave me with a bad aftertaste, and Bud Ice was no exception. At best, I’d give this beer a B-, and it’s unlikely that I’ll go out and try another one.
For more information about Bud Ice, visit

Sunday, April 25, 2010

'Blacula' won first Saturn Award for Best Horror Film

Today, I began my quest to watch all of the horror movies that have received the Saturn Award for Best Horror Film. “Blacula” won the very first Saturn Award for Horror in 1972, and I scratched it off my list this afternoon.
“Blacula” was released on Aug. 25, 1972 by American International Pictures and is just over 1-1/2 hours long. It was directed by William Crain.
For those of you who’ve never seen this movie, it’s about an African prince who’s made a vampire by Count Dracula in 1780. Prince Mamuwalde, played by actor William Marshall, is then imprisoned in a sealed coffin by Dracula, only to be released nearly two centuries later when two interior decorators inadvertently transport Mamuwalde’s coffin to Los Angeles. As you might imagine, by this time Mamuwalde’s a very thirsty vampire, and he immediately begins claiming victims in 1972 Los Angeles. That’s when the police get involved and set off on the hunt for Mamuwalde.
In the end, this movie was fairly entertaining. By today’s standards, it was pretty tame and was little more scary than an episode of “Little House on the Prairie.” However, it did have its moments and was well worth the time it took to watch. I give this movie a B-, that is, it was good, but not great.
Next on the list of Saturn Award Horror winners is “The Exorcist,” which received the award in 1973. I’ve read the book and have seen various edited-for-TV versions of the movie, but I’ve never seen the bona fide theatrical version, so far as I can remember.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

'Tinkers' receives Pulitzer Prize

I read this morning that this year’s slate of Pulitzer Prize winners have been announced, and if you’re looking for a good book to read, you can’t go wrong in picking one that’s received a Pulitzer Prize.
Since 1917, Pulitzer Prizes ($10,000) have been awarded to recognize achievements in newspaper journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by Hungarian-American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City. Currently, awards are given in 21 different categories, including fiction, history, biography, poetry and general non-fiction.
This year’s winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was “Tinkers” by Paul Harding, who is maybe best known as the drummer for Cold Water Flat. “Tinkers” was his debut novel, so he’ll be hard pressed to top it with another book. (Fans of Harper Lee, does this sound familiar?)
Many famous books were also Pulitzer Prize winners, and if you’re looking for a good book to read, check out some of these past winners:
1918--His Family by Ernest Poole
1919--The Magnificant Ambersons by Booth Tarkington
1920--No Award
1921--The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
1922--Alice Adams by Booth Tarkington
1923--One of Ours by Willa Cather
1924--The Able McLaughlins by Margaret Wilson
1925--So Big by Edna Ferber
1926--Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis
1927--Early Autumn: A Story of a Lady by Louis Bromfield
1928--The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
1929--Scarlet Sister Mary by Julia Peterkin
1930--Laughing Boy by Oliver LaFarge
1931--Years of Grace by Margaret Ayer Barnes
1932--The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
1933--The Store by T.S. Stribling
1934--Lamb in His Bosom by Caroline
1935--Now in November by Josephine Winslow Johnson
1936--Honey in the Horn by Horld Davis
1937--Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
1938--The Late George Apley by John Phillips Marquand
1939--The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
1940--The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
1941--No Award
1942--In This Our Life by Ellen Glasgow
1943--Dragon's Teeth by Upton Sinclair
1944--Journey in the Dark by Martin Flavin
1945--A Bell for Adano by John Hersey
1946--No Award
1947--All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
1948--Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener
1949--Guard of Honor by James Gould Cozzens
1950--The Way West by A.B. Guthrie, Jr.
1951--The Town by Conrad Richter
1952--The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk
1953--The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
1954--No Award
1955--A Fable by William Faulkner
1956--Andersonville by Mackinlay Kantor
1957--No Award
1958--A Death in the Family by James Agee
1959--The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters by Robert Lewis Taylor
1960--Advise and Consent by Allen Drury
1961--To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
1962--The Edge of Sadness by Edwin O'Connor
1963--The Reivers by William Faulkner
1964--No Award
1965--The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau
1966--Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter by Katherine Anne Porter
1967--The Fixer by Bernard Malamud
1968--The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
1969--House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday
1970--Collected Stories by Jean Stafford
1971--No Award
1972--Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
1973--The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty
1974--No Award
1975--The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
1976--Humboldt's Gift by Saul Bellow
1977--No Award
1978--Elbow Room by James Alan McPherson
1979--The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever
1980--The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer
1981--A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
1982--Rabbit is Rich by John Updike
1983--The Color Purple by Alice Walker
1984--Ironweed by William Kennedy
1985--Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie
1986--Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
1987--A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor
1988--Beloved by Toni Morrison
1989--Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
1990--The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos
1991--Rabbit at Rest by John Updike
1992--A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
1993--A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
1994--The Shipping News by Annie E. Proulx
1995--The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
1996--Independence Day by Richard Ford
1997--Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser
1998--American Pastoral by Philip Roth
1999--The Hours by Michael Cunningham
2000--Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
2001--The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
2002--Empire Falls by Richard Russo
2003--Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
2004--The Known World by Edward P. jones
2005--Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
2006--March by Gerladine Brooks
2007—The Road by Cormac McCarthy
2008-- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
2009--Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
In the end, if you’ve read any of these, let me know what you thought of them. (Those that I’ve read, I put in bold face type.)

Doobie Brothers perform in Atmore

I saw The Doobie Brothers perform live last night at the Wind Creek Casino and Hotel amphitheatre in Atmore and was more than a little entertained by the show.
I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of The Doobie Brothers. I can’t name the members of the band. I don’t own any of their albums, and if you’d held a gun to my head prior to Friday night, I wouldn’t have been able to name any of their songs.
However, once the concert kicked off and the music began, I had several “Oh, I Didn’t Know That Was A Doobie Brothers Song” moments.
The concert lasted for just over an hour, and it was entertaining. At the outset, the band promised to give the crowd its money’s worth, and I don’t think anyone left disappointed.
For me, it’s hard to classify the type of music played by The Doobie Brothers. They’re definitely a rock band, but they also perform a mix of songs that could fit comfortably into categories like country, jazz, the blues and maybe even gospel.
In all, The Doobie Brothers have produced a dozen albums over the years: The Doobie Brothers (1971), Toulouse Street (1972), The Captain and Me (1973), What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits (1974), Stampede (1975), Takin' It to the Streets (1976), Livin' on the Fault Line (1977), Minute by Minute (1978), One Step Closer (1980), Cycles (1989), Brotherhood (1991) and Sibling Rivalry (2000).
They wrapped up Friday night’s performance with arguably their most famous song, Takin’ It to the Streets. Here’s a YouTube performance of the song: After you listen to it, I’m sure you’ll recognize it. You may even have one of those “Oh, I Didn’t Know That Was A Doobie Brothers Song” moments.
For more information about The Doobie Brothers, including upcoming tour dates, visit their official Web site at

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Outside's "Great Parks" list

Many of you living in southwest Alabama have been following the news about the possible closing of Little River State Forest (formerly Claude D. Kelley State Park) and when the latest edition of Outside magazine arrived in my mailbox today, I thought it timely to pass along to you their list of America’s “Great Parks.”
The list, which is featured in the May issue, provides readers with information about “America’s wild and relatively untrampled state parks, national lakeshores and recreation areas.” If you’re looking for ideas about great places to visit, you likely won’t go wrong with a visit to any of these places. Here's the list.
1. Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, Colorado
2. South Cumberland State Park, Tennessee
3. North Cascades National Park, Washington
4. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
5. Baxter State Park, Maine
6. Harriman State Park, Idaho
7. Point Reyes National Seashore, California
8. Grand Gulch Primitive Area, Utah
9. Big Bend National and State Parks, Texas
I’ve never been to any of these places, but if you have, I’d like to hear about it, so drop me an e-mail or post a comment below to let us know what you thought of the above-mentioned locations.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Yuengling Traditional Lager passes inspection

Over a week ago, I tried Yuengling’s Original Black & Tan for the first time ever, and it got me to thinking. Afterwards, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember if I’d ever tried regular Yuengling, what they call Yuengling Traditional Lager. Since I couldn’t remember, and to remove all doubt, I took it as my solemn duty to make sure that I hadn’t overlooked this potentially life-changing experience.
Bottled in Pottsville, Penn. by “America’s Oldest Brewery,” Yuengling Traditional Lager isn’t bad. According to the brewer, D.G. Yuengling & Son, this beer is “brewed with roasted caramel malt for a subtle sweetness and a combination of cluster and cascade hops, this true original promises a well balanced taste with very distinct character.”
I found this beer most notable for its amber color. In my clear, glass Viking mug, it was very clear (aside from the sharp amber color) and seemed to have a sparkling quality.
It didn’t taste bad either. It doesn’t go down as smooth as most beers, and it has an edge to it that’s not at all unpleasant.
I definitely try the traditional lager again, and I’d give this beer a grade of B.
In addition to its traditional lager and Black & Tan, Yuengling also produces Yuengling Premium Beer, Yuengling Light, Dark Brewed Porter, Lord Chesterfield Ale and Yuengling Light Lager.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hunter S. Thompson is sorely missed...

The late Hunter S. Thompson is one of my favorite writers, and it’s hard to believe that he’s been dead for five years now.
Best known as the author of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” Thompson was flat out hilarious, and I know of no other author that was as laugh-out-loud funny.
For that reason, I’m posting tonight a list of all of Thompson’s books. Some I’ve read and some I will read before it’s all said and done. Let me know if you’ve read any of these and what you thought about them. (I've bold-faced those that I've read, so if you've got any questions about those, fire away.)
1. The Rum Diary: A Novel (1998)
2. Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Sage (1966)
3. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1971)
4. Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ‘72
5. Gonzo Papers, Vol. 1: The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time (1979)
6. The Curse of Lono (1983)
7. Gonzo Papers, Vol. 2: Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the ‘80s (1988)
8. Gonzo Papers, Vol. 3: Songs of the Doomed: More Notes on the Death of the American Dream (1990)
9. Screw-Jack: And Other Stories (2000)
10. Gonzo Papers, Vol. 4: Better Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie (1994)
11. The Fear and Loathing Letters, Vol. 1: The Proud Highway: The Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman 1955-1967 (1997)
12. Mistah Leary – He Dead (1997 - only 300 copies printed)
13. The Fear and Loathing Letters, Vol. 2: Fear and Loathing in America: The Brual Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist 1968-1976 (1997)
14. Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century (2003)
15. Fire in the Nuts (2004 – only 176 copies printed)
16. Hey Rube: Blood Sport, the Bush Doctrine and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness Modern History from the Sports Desk (2004)
17. The Mutineer: Rants, Ravings and Missives from the Mountaintop 1977-2005 (2008)
18. Happy Birthday, Jack Nicholson (2005)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Amp Energy drink lacks punch of Monster

Anyone out there tried Amp Energy drink?
I tried one for the first time yesterday and learned right off the bat that it doesn’t claim to be an energy drink at all. Rather, according to the distinctive, green can that reminds me of a Monster energy drink, it’s an “Energy Supplement,” instead of an energy drink.
The can caught my eye yesterday when I was buying gas at the BP station in Atmore. (For some reason, Amp Energy makes me think of NASCAR, but don’t asked me who drives the Amp Energy car.) I’d never tried one, so I figured, what the heck, I’d give it a shot.
Upon close inspection of the can, you’ll notice that the can bears the following message: The Power of AMP Energy gets you focused and ready for everything life throws at you each day. Or night. With its energizing blend of B-vitamins and a specially formulated intense combination of Taurine, Ginseng, Guarana, AMP Energy keeps you connected and on top of your game at all times. AMP Energy. More Power To You.”
A closer look at the 16-ounce can reveals a number of slightly humorous and unusual warnings that left me wondering if I should even be drinking Amp at all. “This Product Is Not Intended To Diagnose, Treat, Cure Or Prevent Any Disease” and “Not Recommended For Children, Pregnant Women Or People Sensitive To Caffeine” were featured prominently on the back of the can.
In the end, this drink wasn’t the worst I’d ever had. It had a citrus taste to it that made me think of Mountain Dew, which incidentally is manufactured by Pepsi, which also produces Amp. Go figure. I wouldn’t have any problem trying Amp again, and I give it an overall grade of B.
With any drink of this sort, you always wonder how it’ll affect you afterwards. This drink didn’t leave me wired or jittery, and I couldn’t tell that it packed much punch at all. (The first time I ever tried Monster, I thought I could hear the grass growing outside afterwards.)
For more information about this drink, visit its Web site at

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Backpacker's 'The Best Trails in America'

I recently finished reading Backpacker Magazine’s “The Best Trails in America” and think that you’ll be interested to know which trails they included in this handy guide.
The 20-page guide, which was published as a service to the magazine’s subscribers, details 13 hikes – eight in the category of “Weekend Getaways” and five in the category of “Escapes for a Week or Longer.”
Recommended “Weekend Getaways” included Denali National Park in Alaska, Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, Sequoia National Park in California, Myakka River State Park in Florida, Isle Royale National Park in Michigan, Mt. Nebo in Utah, Olympic National Park in Washington and Encampment River Trail in Wyoming.
The five recommended “Escapes for a Week or Longer” were Death Valley’s Furnace Creek in California, Black Creek National Recreation Trail in Mississippi, Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness in Montana, Roanoke River Paddling Trail in North Carolina and Pacific Crest Trail in Washington.
For most of these locales, the guide includes information about permits, access, the best season to visit, route information, drive times from major cities or airports, tail and elevation information, and contact information.
The guide also features a number of sidebars that cover topics like stargazing, wilderness wayfinding, nocturnal animals, the Aurora Borealis, bears and other potentially dangerous animals.
For more information about the guide and backpacking in general, visit Backpacker Magazine’s Web site at

Saturday, April 17, 2010

NG's 100 Best Adventure Books

Tonight, I give you one of my favorite book lists of all time: National Geographic’s 100 Best Adventure Books. Released in the May 2004 edition of National Georgraphic Adventure Magazine, this list features such classics as “Into Thin Air” by John Kraukauer, “Roughing It” by Mark Twain and “Seven Years in Tibet” by Heinrich Harrer.
Without further ado, here’s the complete list:
1. The Worst Journey in the World. By Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1922)
2. Journals. By Meriwether Lews and William Clark (1841)
3. Wind, Sand & Stars. By Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1940)
4. Exploration of the Colorado River. By John Wesley Powell (1875)
5. Anapurna. By Maurice Herzog. (1952)
6. Arabian Sands. By Wilfred Thesiger (1959)
7. Desert Solitare. By Edward Abbey (1968)
8. West With the Night. By Beryl Markham (1942)
9. Into Thin Air. By John Kraukauer (1997)
10. Travels. By Marco Polo (1298)
11. Farthest North. By Fridtjof Nansen (1987)
12. The Snow Leopard. By Peter Matthiessen (1978)
13. Roughing It. By Mark Twain (1872)
14. Two Years Before the Mast. By Richard Henry Dana (1840)
15. South. By Ernest Shackleton (1919)
16. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. By Eric Newby (1958)
17. Kon-Tiki. By Thor Heyerdahl (1950)
18. Travels in West Africa. By Mary Kingsley (1897)
19. The Spirit of St. Louis. By Charles Lindbergh (1953)
20. Seven Years in Tibet. By Heinrich Harrer (1953)
21. Journals. By James Cook (1768-1779)
22. Home of the Blizzard. By Douglas Mawson (1915)
23. The Voyage of the Beagle. By Charles Darwin (1839)
24. The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. By T.E. Lawrence (1926)
25. Travels to the Interior Districts of Africa. By Mungo Park (1799)
26. The Right Stuff. By Tom Wolfe (1979)
27. Sailing Alone Around the World. By Joshua Slocum (1900)
28. The Mountain of My Fear and Deborah: A Wilderness Narrative By David Roberts (1968,1970)
29. First Footsteps in East Africa. By Richard Burton (1856)
30. The Perfect Storm. By Sebastian Junger (1997)
31. The Oregon Trail. By Francis Parkman (1849)
32. Through the Dark Continent. By Henry M. Stanley (1878)
33. A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains. By Isabella Bird (1879)
34. In the Land of White Death. By Valerian Albanov (1817)
35. Endurance. By F. A. Worsley (1931)
36. Scrambles Amongst the Alps. By Edward Whymper (1871)
37. Out of Africa. By Isak Dinesen (1937)
38. Scott's Last Expedition: The Journals. By Robert Falcon Scott (1913)
39. Everest: The West Ridge. By Thomas Hornbein (1965)
40. Journey Without Maps. By Graham Greene (1936)
41. Starlight and Storm. By Gaston Rebuffat (1954)
42. My First Summer in the Sierra. By John Muir (1911)
43. My Life as an Explorer. By Sven Hedin (1925)
44. In Trouble Again. By Redmond O'Hanlon (1988)
45. The Man Who Walked Through Time. By Colin Fletcher (1968)
46. K2--The Savage Mountain. By Charles Houston and Robert Bates (1954)
47. Gipsy Moth Circles the World. By Francis Chichester (1967)
48. Man-Eaters of Kumaon. By Jim Corbett (1944)
49. Alone. By Richard Byrd (1938)
50. Stranger in the Forest. By Eric Hansen (1988)
51. Travels in Arabia Deserta. By Charles M. Doughty (1888)
52. The Royal Road to Romance. By Richard Halliburton (1925)
53. The Long Walk. By Slavomir Ravwicz (1956)
54. Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada. By Clarence King (1872)
55. My Journey to Lhasa. By Alexandra David-Neel (1927)
56. Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile. By John Hanning Speke (1863).
57. Running the Amazon. By Joe Kane (1989)
58. Alive. By Pier Paul Read (1974)
59. Principall Navigations. By Richard Hakiuyt (1589-90)
60. Incidents of Travel in Yucatan. By John Lloyd Stephens (1843)
61. Shipwreck of the Whaleship Essex. By Owen Chase (1821)
62. Life in the Far West. By George Fredrick Ruxton (1849)
63. My Life as an Explorer. By Roald Amundsen (1927)
64. News from Tartary. By Peter Fleming (1936)
65. Annapurna: A Woman's Place. By Arlene Blum (1980)
66. Bounty Mutiny. By William Bligh (1790)
67. Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea. By Steven Callahan (1886)
68. Castaways. By Alvar Nunex Cabez de Vaca (1555)
69. Touching the Void. By Joe Simpson (1989)
70. Tracks. By Robyn Davidson (1980)
71. The Adventures of Captain Bonneville. By Washington Irving (1837)
72. Cooper's Creek. By Alan Moorehead (1963)
73. The Fearful Void: Across the Implacable Sahara. By Geoffrey Moorhouse (1974)
74. No Picnic on Mount Kenya. By Felice Benuzzi (1953)
75. Through the Brazilian Wilderness. By Theodore Roosevelt (1914)
76. The Road to Oxiana. By Robert Byron (1937)
77. Minus 148. By Art Davidson (1969)
78. Travels. By Ibn Battuta (1354)
79. Jaguars Ripped My Flesh. By Tim Cahill (1987)
80. Journal of a Trapper. By Osborne Russell (1914)
81. Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle. By Dervla Murphy (1965)
82. Terra Incognita. By Sara Wheeler (1996)
83. We Die Alone. By David Howarth (1955)
84. Kabloona. By Gontran de Poncins (1941)
85. Conquistadors of the Useless. By Lionel Terray (1961)
86. Carrying the Fire. By Michael Collins (1974)
87. Adventures in the Wilderness. By William H. H. Murray (1869)
88. The Mountains of My Life. By Walter Bonatti (1998)
89. Great Heart. By James West Davidson and John Rugge (1988)
90. Journal of the Voyage to the Pacific. By Alexander Mackenzie (1801)
91. The Valleys of the Assassins. By Freya Stark (1934)
92. The Silent World. By Jacques Cousteau (1953)
93. Alaska Wilderness. By Robert Marshall (1956)
94. Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Conditions of the North American Indians. By George Catlin (1841)
95. I Married Adventure. By Osa Johnson (1940)
96. The Descent of Pierra Saint-Martin. By Norbert Casteret (1954)
97. The Crystal Horizon. By Reinhold Messner (1982)
98. Narrative of a Journey Across the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River. By John Kirk Townsend (1839)
99. Grizzly Years. By Doug Peacock (1990)
100. One Man's Mountains. By Tom Patey (1971)
In the end, let me know if you’ve read any of these and what you thought about the list.

Friday, April 16, 2010

How many Saturn Award winners have you seen?

With the help of NetFlix, I’m now planning to set out on a fun, new project to watch all of the movies that have received Saturn Awards.
The Saturn Awards are presented annually by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films to honor the top works in science fiction, fantasy and horror in film, television and home video. They were first given out in 1972.
Like many of you, I’ve seen a lot of the more recent winners, but there are a lot of “classics” that I haven’t seen. For more information about the winners of these award, including a complete list, visit As things go, “Blacula” won the very first Saturn Award for Best Horror Film in 1972, so that’s where I plan to start.
When I’m done with this little project, I plan to tackle a similar project that will even be more time consuming, watching those movies that I haven’t seen that have won Academy Awards for Best Picture. These have been handed down, in one form or another, since the 1920s, so this will take a good bit longer.
This project will actually be impossible to totally complete because copies of some of these movies no longer exist. While sad, it just goes to show how long this award has been around. For more information about Academy Award winners, visit

Michelob Original Lager (meant for yesterday)...

Day before yesterday, for the first time ever, I got the chance to sample a bottle of Michelob Original Lager.
I know, I know, you’re thinking that I must live a sheltered life if I’ve never had one of these, but for the life of me, I don’t remember ever having one.
According to the bottle, this beer “was first brewed in 1896 as the beer for beer connoisseurs. It was available only in draught form and only at select locations, including The Michelob Tavern in St. Louis, where retailers and distributors were instructed on the proper methods of storing, pouring and tasting this exceptional Munich-style lager.”
This beer tasted good, and if I had to give it a letter grade, I’d give it a solid B. It wasn’t the best beer I’ve ever had, but it was far from the worst.
On the downside, this beer comes with a “pry off” top, which I don’t prefer.
I hope to kick up my beer judging a notch and have been reading up on the subject. As you might expect, there’s a lot on the internet about how to judge a beer’s quality. One of the more interesting items I’ve found is this short, one-page document called “How to Judge Beer” by Peter Garofalo. You can read it hear at
(As always, don't be an idiot. Use some common sense, drink responsibly and never drink and drive.)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Books by John Keel

Many of you have probably never heard of writer John Keel, but you are probably somewhat familiar with his 1975 book, “The Mothman Prophecies,” which was made into a motion picture several years ago.
I actually read the book after watching the movie, and, as you would expect, the book was very different. Since then, I’ve wanted to read all of Keel’s books, especially after recently running across a complete list of his published works.
For those of you who enjoyed the movie (or book version), here the list of Keel’s other books:
1. Jadoo (1957)
2. UFOs: Operation Trojan Horse (1970)
3. Strange Creatures From Time and Space (1970)
4. Our Haunted Planet (1971)
5. The Flying Saucer Subculture (1973)
6. The Eighth Tower (1975)
7. Disneyland of the Gods (1988)
8. The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings (1994) (revised version of Strange Creatures from Time and Space)
9. The Best of John Keel (Paperback 2006) (Collection of Keel's Fate Magazine articles)
In the end, if you’ve read any of these books, let me know what you think of them.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I tried Starbucks Coffee’s vanilla flavored Frappuccino drink today and was more than a little surprised by its quality. I’d already tried the mocha (my favorite) and caramel flavors, and I expected vanilla to come in last overall in my ranking of the three.
To my surprise, while I still say that mocha is the best, vanilla is a very close second. Caramel is definitely a distant third.
A “lowfat, creamy blend of Starbucks Coffee and milk,” the vanilla flavor drink really delivers. It smells and tastes great and really hit the spot.
Like its two brothers, the vanilla flavored drink comes in a 9.5-ounce glass bottle that resembles an old-timey milk bottle. Each 9.5-ounce serviing also contains about 200 yummy calories, which won’t help you dieters out there, unless you’re seeking a guilty pleasure or two in the form of a tasty beverage.
In the end, I give this one an A-, and I wouldn’t hestitate to try it again.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Coley Chapel Historic Marker

I’ve driven by the historic marker at Coley Chapel Church in Goodway dozens of times over the years, but until today, I’d never taken the time to stop and actually read the marker there.
Those of you who live in Monroe County will know exactly where I’m talking about. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the area, Coley Chapel Church is located on Butler Street in Goodway, about 100 yards from the Escambia County line.
Here’s what the marker says:
“Coley Chapel is the present day site of the former town of Hadley. MacDavid’s Hotel was also located here and was recorded by travelers in the 1830s as a hotel, which had ‘plenty of very nice pork, which in some shape or other is the food generally used in this thinly peopled country…’
“Erected in 1998 by Monroe County Heritage Museums and J.L. Bedsole Foundation.”
As many of you will remember from you history lessons, the Old Federal Road dates back to 1805 when the relatively young U.S. federal government established a “road” from Washington, D.C. to New Orleans. I say “road” because in the beginning it was not much more than a horse trail. A portion of this old road now follows the Monroe-Conecuh county line.
I have to say that I’ve never been inside Coley Chapel Church, but from the outside, it looks to be a well-maintained, old-timey, country church. According to the sign out from, Ronnie Williams is the preacher there, and they have Sunday School every Sunday at 9:30 a.m. followed by a worship service at 10:30 a.m.
Those of you who stop by to read the marker for yourselves should also take a minute to look at the old church bell outside the church. It harkens back to the old days when communities actually used bells to let their neighbors know that church was about to start.
My grandmother in Frisco City grew up not too far from here on the Old Stage Road, and she told me that there used to be a sizable school near Coley Chapel. That school closed when J.U. Blacksher School opened at Uriah (not far through the woods) in the 1920s.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

'Best Books for Babies 2010' list released

One of my favorite pastimes is reading to my two young children, and we’re always on the lookout for a good book to read at night.
There’s no shortage of books on the market for young children, and I was pleasantly surprised to see in today’s Mobile Press-Register an article on Page 9E titled “The best books for babies.”
The article goes on the give this year’s “Best Books for Babies,” an annual list that’s published by Beginning With Books, a Pittsburgh literary organization. Their lists focus on the best new books for babies and toddlers. This caught my eye because I have a young son, who’s not yet two years old.
All of the “Best Books for Babies 2010” were published in 2009 and included the following:
- “All Fall Down,” “Clap Hands,” “Tickle, Tickle” and “Say Goodnight,” which were written and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury and published by Little Simon/Simon and Schuster.
- “Baby Woof Woof!” written by Dawn Sirett and published by DK.
- “Carry Me,” written by Rena Grossman and published by Star Bright Books.
- “Daddy, Papa and Me” and “Mommy, Mamma and Me,” written by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Carol Thompson and published by Tricycle Press.
- “Hello Baby!” written by Mem Fox, illustrated by Steve Jenkins and published by Beach Lane Books.
- “In My Nest” and “In My Pond,” written by Sara Gillingham, illustrated by Lorena Siminovich and published by Chronicle Books.
- “The Little Dump Truck,” written by Margery Cuyler, illustrated by Bob Kolar and published by Henry Holt.
Beginning With Books has been publishing “Best Of” lists for 11 years now. To see their past lists, visit

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Starbucks caramel drink doesn't stack up to Mocha

Today, for the first time, I tried Starbucks Coffee’s caramel flavored Frappuccino Coffee Drink.
Some of you may remember that, earlier this week, I heaped praise on Starbucks’ Mocha flavored coffee drink, and this morning I ran the ol’ modified Pepsi challenge taste test on the caramel version to see which one was the better of the two.
On the way home from work today I bought a 9.5-ounce bottle of the drink from the BP gas station in Atmore, and it was good and cold. I don’t know if I was just that thirsty, but it didn’t take me long at all to finish off the bottle.
In short, the caramel drink tasted and smelled great. While it did have a hint of caramel flavor to it, the taste wasn’t overpowering. This drink also seemed to have more of a coffee taste to it than the Mocha version. The caramel drink also has a very pleasing smell. Just seconds after I twisted off the cap, I caught a whiff of caramel that conjured up mental images of little caramel cubes in mamma’s candy jar.
On the downside, there’s nothing low calorie about the caramel drink. The 9.5-ounce bottle contained 200 calories, which is a lot for a drink that size. On the upside, this small drink also contained six grams of protein, which is about as high as you’ll find in many fitness drinks.
If I had to pick between the two, I would probably go with the Mocha first, but the caramel drink is a close second. As far as I know, the drink comes in only one other flavor – vanilla. I plan to try it in the coming days, and I’ll report on my findings then.
In the end, I give the caramel drink a B-. It tasted good, but it wasn't the best thing that I've ever had.
If you’re interested in trying these drinks for yourself, you’ll likely find them in your local convenience store’s drink cooler. Just look for the short, distinctive glass bottles (sort of like old timey milk bottles) with the Starbucks logo.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Bear Grylls' Great Reads When He's Not Trying to Survive

I’m a big fan of TV adventurer Bear Grylls, and tonight I present you with his top ten recommended reading list, straight from his Web site. It’s called Bear Grylls’ Great Reads When He’s Not Trying to Survive.
Without further ado, here are the books on his list:
10. Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer
9. Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft by Thor Heyerdahl
8. Vanya: A True Story by Myrna Grant
7. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
6. The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and John and Elizabeth Sherrill
5. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
4. Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli
3. What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey
2. Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival by Dean King
1. As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me by Josef M. Bauer
I have to admit that I’ve only read one of the books on this list, Corrie Ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place.” It’s a great book about the struggles of a little girl’s family during World War II. I’ve never read the “Diary of Anne Frank,” but these two books are often compared to one another.
Some of you may be surprised by the number of spiritual and religious books on Grylls’ list, but Grylls is a devout Christian. He’s often said that his faith is the “backbone” of his life.
In the end, if you’ve read any of these books, let me hear from you. I’d like to know what you thought about them and which ones you’d recommend.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Try the "Hooley Burger" at the Hooley Grill

If you’ve never been to Hooley’s Grill, near the intersection of U.S. Highway 84 and Old Stage Road (on the Monroe-Conecuh county line), then I recommend you check it out.
For the first time ever, Crystal and I went there today for lunch, and we weren’t disappointed. I’ve been itching to go there for about a week now, ever since I saw their sign on Highway 84 advertising their “Hooley Burger.”
Today, I had the Hooley Burger combo with fries and sweet tea. Crystal had the Hooley Burger combo with curly fries and water. We got our food fast, and we were both surprised by the size of our enormous cheeseburgers. In fact, they were so big that Crystal only ate half of hers. (I ate the other half tonight for supper.)
I can say that I’ve never eaten a burger quite like a Hooley Burger. Not only is it bigger than most burgers, but it also comes with a special sauce and with fried onion rings instead of plain, old onions. I’d definitely put the Hooley Burger on my top ten list of things to eat locally.
The fries tasted good, but they weren’t remarkable. They weren’t bad. They were just ordinary, crinkle-cut fries.
The sweet tea on the other hand was above average. It wasn’t too sweet like some teas you get, and it didn’t leave me reaching for more sweetener.
This restaurant hasn’t been open long, and it’s nice and clean. In addition to a friendly, helpful staff, you’ll also find plenty of places to sit in this spacious restaurant. Crystal remarked that she’d like to come back on a Sunday, when they serve all-you-can-eat pancakes.
We also got our food in a timely manner, which is important to most working folks. I had the day off, but Crystal, who works in Monroeville, had to be back to work by one o’clock. We sat down at around 12:15 p.m., and she was done eating and out of there in plenty of time to make the trip back to Monroeville.
Also, for the amount of food we got, our meal was relatively inexpensive. Altogether, it cost us less than $13.
As mentioned, this restaurant is located on Old Stage Road, in the same block of buildings as the Old Stage Road Grocery. If you’re coming from Monroeville and pass Randy Raye’s, you’ve gone too far.
In the end, here are my grades for the restaurant. I give the Hooley Burger an A, the sweet tea a B and the fries a B-. The staff gets an A-, and the facilities get a B. Overall, I give our entire eating experience there an A. I will definitley be going back, maybe on Sunday for some of those all-you-can-eat pancakes.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

All aboard for Cable Car Small Batch Lager

I got the chance today to sample a bottle of Cable Car Small Batch Lager Beer for the first ever and was surprised by its quality.
Brewed and bottled by the Cable Car Brewing Company in Rochester, N.Y., the beer makes the following claims.
“Harkening back to old world brewing styles, Cable Car handcrafts each and every small batch. This Lager is full of body and flavors made with artesian water and natural carbonation styled to deliver a soft, enjoyable taste. Enjoy the ride.”
In my opinion, this beer lives up to its claims. It has a very mellow taste, with only the slightest hint of bitterness characteristic of most beers.
This beer also comes in a cool and unusual bottle. Around the top of the bottle is a sticker that resembles a throw-back, turn-of-the-century cable car ticket. The label is a light green and features a distinctive, red cable car. The bottle also comes with a twist-off cap, which I like. (No special gear, i.e., a bottle opener, needed.)
In the end, I give this beer a grade of B. It tasted good, and I’d be willing to try it again. (Starting tonight, I’m getting away from my 1 to 10 scale.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fuze Green Tea not my cup of tea

Today, for the first time ever, I tried Fuze Green Tea, and, aside from the cool bottle, it just wasn’t - for lack of a better way of putting it - my cup of tea.
On the way home from work this morning, I stopped at the BP in Atmore to get something to drink and change for a paper. That’s where I spotted the Fuze Green Tea on the bottom shelf of their drink cooler in the back of the store. Prior to today, I don’t remember ever seeing or hearing about Fuze Green Tea.
As I mentioned before, it comes in a cool bottle. The bottle’s light green, decorated with bright green Ginseng leaves, Asian characters, a dripping wedge of honey comb and a honey bee. After all, as the bottle claims, it’s green tea “with Honey and Ginseng, Natural Antioxidants and these Essential Vitamins.” The bottle goes on to say that the drink contains Vitamins C, E, B3, B5, B6 and B12 as well as folic acid and antioxidants. The bottle also claims that it contains “equal antioxidant capacity as two servings of vegetables.”
When it comes to calories, this drink is on the low side. The bottle I bought contained 18.5 fluid ounces, which has about 120 calories.
This drink didn’t taste bad. It was the appearance of the drink that I had the most problem with. It looked like cloudy white grape juice, and when I looked down into the bottle I couldn’t help but be reminded of dirty dishwater. To me, that’s what it looked like, and I couldn’t shake the thought as I finished off the drink.
In the end, on a scale of 1 to 10, I give this drink a 5.5, only slightly above average. Will I try it again? Probably not, but we’ll see. I guess it all depends on just how thirsty I get and what other drink options I have available at the time.
For more information about Fuze Green Tea, visit

Monday, April 5, 2010

Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino in a bottle doesn't disappoint

This morning, I tried a drink that I really enjoyed, highly recommend and plan to drink again: Starbucks Coffee Mocha-Flavored Frappuccino Coffee Drink.
I’ve been seeing these in drink coolers for a while now and decided to try one for the first time this morning after spotting one in the BP gas station off Exit 93 in Evergreen.
I wasn’t disappointed. Not only was it good and cold, but it had enough kick to give me that wake up that I needed.
I’ve never been a big fan of iced coffee drinks, usually because they don’t taste very good, but this one was different. While it did have a slight coffee edge to it, it had a stronger chocolate flavor that reminded me of a Yoohoo. This should come as no surprise since all mocha coffee drinks contain dark or milk chocolate.
The drink comes in a 9.5-ounce glass bottle and contains 180 calories, which is high for a drink that size, especially when you consider that the average 12-ounce beer contains about 150 calories, give or take.
In the end, I give this drink high marks. It was good, cold and very tasty. On a scale of 1 to 10, with a 1 being bad, a 5 being average and a 10 being the best, I give this drink an 8.5.
To learn more about this drink and other Starbucks products, visit

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sign up for LOA's Story of the Week...

Tonight, I signed up for a weekly e-mail that many of you may be interested in receiving: The Library of America’s Story of the Week.
Many of you will likely be familiar with The Library of America (LOA) after having seen their distinctive, black volumes on the shelves at bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million. From the side, the spine of their books are black with a read, white and blue band across the center.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with LOA, it is a nonprofit publishing house and is dedicated to publishing and keeping in print authoriatative editions of America’s best and most significant writing. Best-selling authors published by LOA include James Baldwin, Robert Frost, Dashiell Hammett, Zora Neale Hurston, Thomas Jefferson, H. P. Lovecraft, Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Paine, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Walt Whitman.
Given the past quality of LOA’s material, I’m looking forward to receiving its Story of the Week e-mail.
“It could be anything: a short work of fiction, a character sketch, an essay, a journalist's dispatch, a poem,” according to LOA’s Web site. “It could be Stephen Crane's ‘The Black Dog’ or George Jean Nathan's ‘Baiting the Umpire.’ What is certain is that it will be memorable, because every story is from one of the hundreds of classic works of American literature published by The Library of America.”
To sign up for the e-mail, visit and click “Join Our E-mail List.” It takes less than a minute to sign-up.
Probably because this week marks the start of the pro baseball season, this week’s Story of the Week selection is “Baiting the Umpire” by George Jean Nathan, which is exerpted from LOA’s “Baseball: A Literary Anthology.”
In the end, if you decide to sign up for this e-mail, let me know what you think about some of these featured stories. If nothing else, you’ll be exposed to some great examples of American writing.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I wasn't blown away by M-80...

I’ve been a fan of Monster “energy drinks” for several years now, but up until yesterday, I’d never tried Monster M-80 Energy Juice.
Monster M-80 is easy to spot on store shelves. While regular Monster comes in a black can with the signature green “M” that looks like it was scratched into the side of the can by some three-clawed creature, Monster M-80 comes in a black can with a yellow, clawed “M.”
When I read M-80, I think of fireworks (and in most states M-80s, which are basically small sticks of dynamite, are illegal to sell or possess), but in this case M-80 indicates that this drink is composed of 80 percent fruit juice.
The drink also claims to contain L-Carnitine, Taurine, Ginseng and B-Vitamins. L-Carnitine is used by the body’s cells for the generation of metabolic energy, and it’s often sold as a nutritional supplement. Taurine is an organic acid that’s regularly used in energy drinks. Ginseng claims to boost memory, and we should all be familiar with B-vitamins.
Interestingly, this can did come with a warning, something you don’t see usually on drinks except when they contain alcohol. The warning read: Consume responsibly. Limit two cans per day. Not recommended for children, pregnant women or people sensitive to caffeine.
The can that I drank contained 24 fluid ounces and contained 270 calories. In other words, you’d have to drink two of them to get the same number of calories that’s in the average Big Mac.
In the end, I probably won’t try one of these again. It didn’t taste bad, but it was a little too fruity for my taste. The regular Monster drink is much better, but on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give Monster M-80 a 5.0, which is average.

Friday, April 2, 2010

NOLS "Wilderness Education" book list...

To be honest, I’ve got nothing today, so I’m going to give you another book list. It’s a short one, but it’s a good one.
A few months ago, I sent away for a course catalog from the National Outdoor Leadership School, which is based in Wyoming and claims to be the “Leader in Wilderness Education.”
NOLS has published a series of books that they use in their courses and these books are also available to the public.
Without further ado, here they are:
1. Backcountry Cooking
2. Backcountry Nutrition
3. Bear Essentials
4. Cookery
5. Soft Paths
6. Wilderness Ethics
7. Wilderness Guide
8. Wilderness Medicine
9. Wilderness Mountaineering
10. Wilderness Navigation
11. Wilderness Wisdom
12. Winter Camping
I have the “Wilderness Guide” and “Wilderness Medicine” books at home, and they look very slick. I haven’t read them yet, but I’m looking forward to finishing both of them.
Have any of you out there read any of these books? If so, what did you think about them and which would you recommend?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

NIT game like watching spiders fight...

I’m sure that prior to tonight I’d never taken the time to watch the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) title game.
Dayton beat defending national champion North Carolina by 11 points, and since I didn’t have a dog in the fight, the game was about as exciting as watching two wolf spiders battle it out in the bottom of a mason jar.
This is not to say that the game wasn’t thought provoking. First, you’re left wondering how either team would have faired in the NCAA tourney. Would the Flyers or the Tar Heels made it to the Sweet 16, the Elite 8 round or beyond? Or would they have been eliminated early on by a team that would have dominated the NIT field but couldn’t make the Final Four themselves?
I found myself pulling for Dayton for whatever reason. They were actually a No. 2 seed, while North Carolina was a No. 3 seed, but it still felt like pulling for the underdog. Nothing against the Tar Heels, but they have a packed trophy case, and it wouldn’t kill them to have little ol’ Dayton win the NIT. Let’s face it. North Carolina will likely rebound, return to the NCAA tourney some day and will probably bring home another national title. Can we say the same for Dayton?
If Carolina had won the NIT tonight, they would have made history in that they would have been the first team ever to win the NCAA title one season and follow that with an NIT title the next.
In any case, an NIT championship has to be a decent way to end the season, but in reality it’s just a consolation prize and means very little. If you don’t think so then ask yourself if you remember who won last year’s NIT.