Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Cry "Fowl" on Sion Chickens

Yes it is true, sapphoq is a Second Life (r) drone-- I mean avatar. Within the past month over on the grid, I was given some eggs and they did the expected thing. They hatched into fuzzy yellow chickens. One thing led to another and soon our group (friends of sapphoq-- the branch that is on Second Life) had a big skybarn and lots of chickens in coops squawking their little heads off. Soon after, the group acquired a version 12 vendor and a Sion corn vendor. We swung into chicken farmer mode with a vengeance. And then suddenly, all vendors went down. And ours did not come back up.

The creator of this mad mess, one Sion Zaius by name, allegedly does not speak English very well. His profile says so. After the failure of the vendors, Sion Zaius changed his profile to reflect a three month vacation. Must be nice. No matter. A cursory look-see revealed that many vendors besides our own remained non-functional.

Sion Zaius himself does not want to be bothered with the problems of his customers. His profile says so. Sion Zaius has two assistants. I was able to get one of them online-- GreenShamrock McMahon-- who was "busy" of course. She did take a few moments to carefully explain to me that since the stolen chicken food episode, security was tightened and our dinky little market did not make the cut. Or rather, friends of sapphoq was cut out. All small businesses were cut out and their vendors permanently offline. Only the top one hundred or so vendors were allowed to remain. (This is supposedly in response to the great food heist. Apparently, someone had stolen a bunch of Sion chicken food and was selling it in bulk). There was a vague promise that perhaps "more vendors can be given out in the future." So in other words, if friends of sapphoq wishes to sell eggs and chickens in Mirr, folks would have to then go elsewhere-- to the larger farms and markets-- to purchase the totally necessary food, transport boxes, and other "accessories." To my way of thinking, this sucks. My group had spent significant amounts of money to get set up in the chicken business. Belatedly we discovered we are to be denied the privilege of having Sion Lab vendors in our store. In the vast world of Sion Labs, the individuals and the small groups-- even a small group of disabled and otherwise misunderstood folks-- really don't matter. Business is business, to quote my dad. To which I say, "Phooey."

GreenShamrock McMahon was unyielding as befitting her job description of Customer Support. After a bit more stomping of pixeled feet, I was told to "Have a nice day and be safe." I held back on what I really wanted to say. What I really wanted to say was a vulgar phrase denoting the advisability of Sion Zaius and Sion Labs (r) to . Or that is to say, to engage in carnal intercourse with themselves. What I did say was, "Stick a fork in me. We are D O N E done. Thank you Sion Labs for wasting the time and investment money of our group." Then I muted her so she could not ever contact me again.

I returned to the skybarn and in a fit of rage, deleted bunches of chickens. Let the great Sion Labs boycott begin!

sapphoq reviews says: If you are in Second Life (r), don't bother with Sion Chickens or the new "pettable turtles" or any other thing that Sion Zaius wishes to sell to you. Instead, get yourself over to the dogpark on Canis Beach in Rhoda and buy yourself a pixelated doggie. The dogs come with a training package, they respond to you, you can pet them. And although they do come with a set of dog food bowls, you are not required to shell out money repeatedly to feed the dogs. Cuz they, unlike Sion Chickens, don't really consume the "dog food" in their bowls. The dogs come in a variety of breeds and price ranges. Furthermore, Vitolo Rossini and his young son Danny06 Aya provide excellent customer support.

sapphoq reviews books and more

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Campos de Castilla by Antonio Machado

Antonio Machado, Campos de Castilla. (trans. from Spanish by Stanley Appelbaum).
New York, Dover Publications, 2007. trade paperback, 195 pps.

I was first introduced to the Dover line of dual-language books (Spanish on the left side/translation on the right side) during my foray into community college level Spanish courses several years ago. During those four semesters in which I engaged in my lifelong dream of learning Spanish, I quickly found that I needed more than textbooks and language labs. That void was filled by Dover dual-language books. Although today I read Spanish-language newspapers and periodicals, I have not set down these books which I favored early on.

Antonio Machado (1875-1938) was a teacher and poet from Seville Spain who spent some time in the Old Castile province at a teaching job. It was from that time that this, his second published book of poetry, hails. The poetry itself is lyrical and descriptive both in Machado's native Spanish and in Appelbaum's translated English. I was at once enchanted by his use of colorful adjectives as well as by his subject matter-- common people and the countryside of Castile.

highly recommended for those who love Spanish poetry
written in Spanish

Friday, September 04, 2009

Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, The Phoenix Endangered

Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, The Phoenix Endangered: Book Two
of The Enduring Flame.
New York: Tor, 2008. trade paperback.
468 pps including preview of The Phoenix Transformed.

Book Two of The Enduring Flame does not disappoint. The two teen heros--
Harrier and Tiercel-- continue their long trek past the veiled lands and into
the desert in order to find a mysterious Lake of Fire and the evil contained
therein. The story opens with Harrier being dunked into some water by
a golden unicorn named Kareta and then having a red satchel with three books
foisted upon him. Kareta is not the usual sort of unicorn. She is somewhat
annoying and impetuous. The Three Books of the Wild Magic mark Harrier's
passage into the ranks of Knight-Mages, something that the son of a harbour
master would not have chosen for himself. For one, Harrier hates spells. He
doesn't want to do them. He has no interest in studying the books which contain
them. For another, he cannot imagine himself killing another human being,
never mind fighting in a war. Kareta hitches herself to the caravan so she can
nag Harrier until he yields.

Tiercel, son of a noble family, discovered some time ago that he was able to
"do" high magic. He continues his growth in this book cumulating in a quite
formidable purple (I quite approve of the color purple) shield used to hold back
some crazed desert folk from destroying a city. The cities in the desert are built
around the presence of water, water wells to be precise. There is a glorious black
dragon also, Ancaladar, who picks off shoters (something like camels I imagine
although we are never told directly) and other desert game for his meals. The
dragon comes equipped with a saddle so his newly Bonded, Tiercel, can go along
for the ride as the caravan containing Harrier, Kareta-- and later on a wounded
swordsmaster-- makes its way along roads and sand.

The people of the desert are drawn with excellence. Of particular cunning is the
foe, a BlueRobe gone bad ["bluerobe" being the name for wild mages] named
Bisochim who for the love of a lady is able to rally the desert tribes into one
maddened hoard. He tells them that those who do not follow him and the way
of The True Balance are actually disciples of The False Balance. His argument
of needing both the dark and the light are convincing to me (but unfortunately,
it is the "wrong" argument in the book).

Having rallied the people to his cause, Bisochim leads the various tribes to a
city where everything is provided to them in the middle of the desert. The
people are not used to idleness and so Bisochim appoints the young and the
restless warriors to go out in bands of twos and threes to find the Nalzindar
and their woman leader Shaiara who did not follow along with his propaganda.
Instead, they went off into hiding and managed to find another city underground.
Shaiara is able to keep the peace within her own tribe and their frugal ways
enable them to live quite well in the artificial orchards miraculously provided
for the Nalzindar.

Unfortunately for Bisochim, the young warriors have taken his words to heart and--
under the leadership of Zanatter-- mass destruction of the desert cities occur. There
is killing and plundering enough for those who like that sort of thing. There are also
fine examples of military strategy as can be found in any fantasy world. Bisochim
must now work even harder and faster to undo what Zanatter et. al. had unwittingly
done to make his goals even more difficult to achieve.

The Phoenix Endangered was an especially pleasing read for me. I enjoyed immensely
the introduction of new characters to the series. I also enjoyed being let in on the
thoughts of Tiercel and Harrier. The only weakness perhaps was when the two were
"held prisoners in a suite of luxurious rooms" at the bequest of the city heads. This is
something which is repeated often in the fantasy genre. It is overdone in my estimation
and not very convincing in this book. Perhaps there could have been developed another
way to get the two where they needed to be for the rest of the story to continue. At any
rate, this book comes recommended to those who like fantasy and especially to the
adolescent crowd.

sapphoq reviews

Victor LaValle, The Ecstatic

Victor LaValle, The Ecstatic. New York: Crown Publishers, 2002.
Trade paperback, 276 pps.

The Ecstatic is a different kind of book. The narrator is a fat, black, and
crazy college drop-out named Anthony who comes home to his mother who
had traded Haldol (registered trademark, no copyright infringement
intended) in for thin living via vegetarianism, his 13 year old sister
Niasase who fought viciously with his mother and also entered beauty
pageants, and his feisty 93 year grandmother who did not hesitate to
call the cops on either her daughter or her grandaughter. Actually,
Anthony doesn't come home. Urged on by his younger sister, all
three family members show up at his rented room in Ithaca to find
that Anthony is not mentally well. Instead of admission to the nearest
nut ward, Anthony is installed in the family basement and watched
over until once again he becomes an impaired but functioning member
of society.

There is sex in the book. Anthony picks up Lorraine, a fat woman with
ambition on the subway and there is a brief two week interlude of failed
love. Niasase also has her day in a movie theater, much to Anthony's
horror. Besides sex, there is the neighborhood loan shark and a preacher.
The preacher, Uncle Armes, is responsible for the beauty pageant held in
small town Lumpkin, Virginia for teen girls who are virginal and have
allegedly fallen upon hard times. Naisase wins the hearts of the audience
by declaring that she and her grandmother-- strapped to Naisase's back
due to a bruised hip-- are both "orphaned." Anthony finds out that Uncle
Armes is a fraud. In return for his knowledge, Uncle Armes offers to allow
Naisase to win the pageant if Anthony opens the door to some protesters
outside the auditorium. Anthony agrees and gets hated for it later on.

Between a flooded hotel room and a pack of neighborhood dogs intent upon
biting whoever they can; between Mom's burgeoning collection of dog
statuary and Anthony's job cleaning up moldy abestos; between the ill-fated
barbecue and the ill-fated visit to the local fat clinic, there is much laughter
in this book. Yet the laughter rings hollow when we consider the underpinnings.
Still, this is a worthwhile book for those who like offbeat books about folks
who are not typical heroes. I enjoyed it immensely, although not enough for
a re-reading. Recommended for the offbeat reader.

radical sapphoq reviewing books and more

Cristina Garcia, Dreaming in Cuba

Cristina Garcia, Dreaming in Cuban.
New York: Ballentine Books, 1993. 246 pps. trade paperback.

Dreaming in Cuban is a novel written in the lyrical style. Husband surprised me
by picking this book up at a sale and further astonished me when he read through
it and liked it. "You like Spanish lyricism," I taunted him over his morning coffee.
Intrigued by the idea that husband was reading such a novel, I read it also. Last

Dreaming in Cuban introduces us to several branches of one family scattered
in several places. The grandmother, a strong atheistic woman named Celia,
remains in Cuba but has preternatural conversations with a granddaughter
named Pilar nightly. Pilar lives in Brooklyn with her mother Lourdes (who is
one of Celia's daughters) and her father Rufino. Lourdes runs a bakery and gets
fat on the pastries.

Lourdes' younger sister lives in Havana and her baby brother lives overseas in
Czechoslovakia. There are also relatives in Florida that send Pilar back to Brooklyn
when she runs away in an effort to get back to Cuba. Pilar is the most intriguing
woman-child in the novel. She is artsy but not insane. She is there when her
grandfather is sent to Brooklyn for cancer treatments. (He dies). She is the
catalyst for a trip to Cuba with Lourdes in time to witness Celia's passing on.

The thing is, both Lourdes and the middle sister Felicia go insane. Felicia is
intoxicated with the (Cuban) revolution. Lourdes (who is as anti-Castro as
Felicia is pro) has an unhappy marriage to a cheating husband. Yet Cuba
still calls to Lourdes. She reminisces about birds she had over there in an
aviary once in times past.

But the glory days never quite return. And the old haw about never being
able to return home again holds true.

The language in Dreaming in Cuban is rich as befitting the genre. The
novel is sentimental, perhaps syrupy. I found myself liking Celia and
Pilar the best out of all of the characters in the story. The forays into
Santeria were also of interest to me since there are some who practice
here in my hometown.

Cautiously recommended, for those who are devoted to the lyrical

sapphoq reviews books and more

Jeffery Deaver, The Broken Window

Jeffery Deaver, The Broken Window: A Lincoln Rhyme Novel.
New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.
Hardcover, 418 pps.

The first Lincoln Rhyme novel I read by Jeffery Deaver was
The Bone Collector. For the uninitiated, Lincoln Rhyme
was a detective until an accident rendered him a quad. He
now has a high tech life in his townhouse, an attractive
girlfriend by the name of Amelia Sachs, an assistant Thom,
and a bunch of N.Y.P.D. colleagues who depend upon him.
Amelia walks the grid of crime scenes and Lincoln processes
the information into leads and suspects. The Bone Collector
has also been made into a movie with the attractive Amelia
Sachs played by Angelina Jolie.

The Broken Window has at its' heart several identified and
convicted innocents and one estranged Rhyme cousin who is on
his way to a similar fate. UNSUB522 is cunning. He has inside
connections to a data mining company. The data mining company
holds a half-dozen suspects and an aura of evil. One of the detectives,
a young man with a traumatic brain injury, has a run-in with one
of the suspects who mocks him for not knowing what Excel (trademark,
no copyright infringement intended) is. With a great deal of compassion,
Lincoln Rhymes tells the detective not to bother learning stuff that isn't
useful for him.

Jeffery Deaver comes through with shining colors on this novel. For
those who enjoy mysteries, highly recommended.

sapphoq reviews books and more

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

My Sister's Keeper, the movie

Recently some women friends and I opted for a night out. After dinner at the King's Buffet, we adjourned to a local cinema to feast on "My Sister's Keeper." Here I must confess that I have not read the book and probably won't.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Cameron Diaz in a starring role as the evil, controlling mother. I am a great fan of hers ever since "Something About Mary." She played the role with excellence. I found myself hating Mrs. Fitzgerald during the show for what she was putting her younger daughter through medically.

Younger daughter Anna (Abigail Breslin) was very convincing. I felt her pain as she talked about being "spare parts" for her older sister Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) who was then terminally ill with leukemia. She was gutsy in court and I applauded her triumphs.

Older sister Kate was also very convincing. I was glad to see that sex happened during the movie. Very often professionals and others forget that we folks with disabilities, illnesses, and conditions often still like sex and want it, just like anybody else. Her death was moving and she got to say all the things she had to say via a scrapbook collection she shared with her witch of a mother.

The movie opened with a horrific nosebleed. The seriousness of Kate's condition was immediately established. The hospital scenes were poignant, the court scene was dramatic, the sex scene was fun. Dad (Jason Patric) who was usually cowed by Mom showed character growth when he defied her in order to fulfill Kate's last wish for a day at the beach. Unfortunately, the ending paled. It resembled "On Golden Pond" and I would have liked to have seen something stronger done.

"My Sister's Keeper" is a pure chick flick and one I recommend as such. Ladies and those men with especially sensitive souls, bring your crying towels. You will need them for this tearjerker.

sapphoq reviews