Thursday, December 16, 2010


... in January. Some time.


The letter informing me the transport of Molson's Vats of Infamy would be delayed never came. The notice at Challenger said postponed until further notice. But no fool I, I check the Challenger site daily. I expected a return to this bother. I predicted Christmas Eve as somehow appropriate from these Grinches.

I wasn't far wrong.

Two days ago, Challenger's site warned of the impending movement of the Vats of Infamy starting tomorrow (Friday Dec. 17th). The procession will reach my backyard, resulting in power loss sometime over the next few days, likely Sunday night. I'm guestimating because the #(*$#)(*& at Hydro One won't tell me what their highly-educated Engineers say. Deeper into the throes of winter than we have been in some while, this news is as welcome as a Molson's beverage ever will be in this home. I don't drink the stuff, but, of course, I occasionally like to have refreshments on hand for that rare occasion when I welcome visitors in my home. Ah, Molson's ain't gonna happen. Ever again. Ever. But I digress.

The real interesting sideline take on all this is the magnificent job my local Hydro One company has done on my behalf. Beside bending over for Molson's (graphical image completely intended), Hydro One has completely and utterly futzed up in their duties to me, the customer (there are, reportedly others). I only know about the restart of the Parade for the Powerless because I am paranoid and keep checking a site daily that has NOTHING TO DO with me and my life. The moron (I direct you, once again, to Cyril Kornbluth's famed short story) who is in charge of public information for Hydro One has once again deemed it likely a fortune-teller would magically inform all who are about to be affected by this Poopy Procession that they are about to get seriously cold and probably without Sunday Night Football. The idea others might want to know they are about to go cold turkey hasn't ocurred to him at all.

I'm sure I will see some recompense in the bill. That's the kind of hysteric idiocy some people say when sick and about to get cold. Guilty on both accounts. Did I mention I have been suffering the ravages of my own cooking over the last few days?

A plague on every house involved in this. No, not the houses of my fellow victims. But a Scrooge-like wish for schadenfreude to be visited upon all the $(*@%& who deemed this to be a good idea.

Monday, December 06, 2010


Molson's, the fine people who own the greatest hockey team in the world, the Montreal Canadiens, have never made a dime off me. I don't drink alcohol. But if I did, then Molson's would never see another dime from me again. Ever. And I'm seriously re-considering my patronage of Les Habitants.

Some night this week, no one who knows is fessing up, Molson's has arranged with Hydro One Brampton to turn off my power. For three, maybe four hours. Just as winter's fury has hit this town. Why? So Molson's can move some big vats from the port of Hamilton down through several municipalities, including my own, to its plant in Etobicoke. They will be coming right down the street that runs along my backyard. Between 9 pm and 6 am. You know, prime time or the coldest time of the night. Or both. Some night. This week.

The original letter from the world class do-nothing PR perp at HOB cited tonight, tomorrow night or the night after. That's right, a no better chance than one in three of guessing which night. As to when on what night? No information given. There are a couple of phone numbers, but the one for Molson's goes immediately to an answer box at the cartage company. Any bets I hear from either Molson OR Challenger Motor Freight? Yeah, didn't think so.

So I called HOB and played "I will transfer you now...." volleyball three times before getting to the original letter writer, who then informed me the whole thing's been delayed a day. Later in the conversation, he opined it might be TWO bleepin' days later. So, in essence, some time this week ... but not tonight.

I asked him to put up a web-page with up-to-date information as to when I will be victimized (there's no compensation for the lost heating, lost power for my computers, etc.). He referred me to the ROUTE map page from the cartage company. We talked across purposes for another couple of minutes. He's sending out a new letter alerting us, the too-poor few to have the route bypass their houses, that everything's been pushed back due to today's inclement weather. He thinks he's doing his job. He's not, but he just doesn't understand that, because, after all, HE DOESN'T LIVE IN THE AFFECTED AREA.

It's times like this that I have to remember that, other than ranting here, there isn't a bleepin' bleepin' bleepin' thing I can do about this. Come some hour some night this week, or maybe next, my UPS's will start blaring away. Maybe it intrudes on the last few minutes of a close basketball game. Maybe it starts JUST AFTER I turn off the lights and start to go to sleep. Regardless of when, my nice warm 72 degrees in the shade all year round house, will start to cool off immediately. "Put on socks, throw another blanket on the bed and tough it out. You're Canadian."

It's easy to inconvenience others and slide on by with a less than heart-felt 'Sorry.' Christmas cheer? No, idiots only have Christmas jeer.

Speaking of idiots, the folks behind this farce might not be the biggest idiots I ran afoul of this week. I haven't been out and driving much these days, but I did so a couple of nights ago. Coming down Bramalea Road towards where I lived, I missed my normal turnoff on Alexandria Gate. There suddenly wasn't any street light denoting where it was and I drove PAST it. So, instead of turning left and then hanging an immediate right onto Autumn Blvd., I kept on going. I had to make the NEXT left hand turn and then LEFT back onto Autumn and come back to my house. Remember, my house backs onto Bramalea Road.

So some common-sense deprived planner decided to get rid of the landmarking street light. Okay. But the idiot had some rationale for the decision. You see, they've installed a new traffic light some 200 feet down Bramalea Road. In fact, this new traffic light is almost right in the middle between the two left-hand turn possibilities. That's right, no T-intersection. No intersection at all. No houses to the right, just a big park expanse with NO FOOTPATHS leading up to Bramalea Road anywhere near these new lights. To the left, just backyards as far as you can see. And there is no path leading FROM Autumn Blvd. to Bramalea between any two of the houses. They are packed together like sardine cans.

This is truly the traffic light to nowhere. There's nowhere to turn, save to turn around. And you don't exactly need a traffic light for that. Put at either of the adjacent T intersections, the lights would be useful and maybe even used. Emplaced in the middle of nowhere by the same bright lights who REMOVED the bleepin' street light, well it makes me wonder if we haven't met the future. The one outlined in Cyril Kornbluth's classic "The Marching Morons."

I have lived long enough to see the future. And the idiots are in charge.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

LIFE: The 2010 Christmas Tree Ceremony

I yet live! Oops, that was John Carter of Mars. But it still applies to me. Survived a Wednesday with evil intentions. Capped it with the yearly raising of the Christmas Tree from basement darkness to a prominent place in the living room. All the work, save one last bit, done by the girls from the Movie Mob.

Angela and Megan did the deed this year, adding their yearly ornaments. Angela went for Snoopy, after teasing/threatening me with a Jonas Brothers ornament. Guess she heard she's getting something pretty good at the end of the month. Megan went a little closer to classical with Tinkerbell.

The girls got the tree up in record time and set me up to top the tree with the angel. This has been a laugh-inducing process in the past. And at least once I came close to killing myself by falling off a chair and landing less than an inch away from splitting my noggin like a melon on the corner of the closet across the living room and into the foyer. This year? Piece of cake. First time. For the first time. I felt like running out and buying lottery tickets. I cheated of course, using an extensible claw. But it's the result that counts, right?
The pictures below are lousy quality but are pictures of two girls with big hearts. Thanks to both Angela on the left and Megan on the right!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

BOOKS: The Truth of Valor by Tanya Huff

I would lump Tanya Huff in with Charles Stross as authors who have managed to totally engross me with at least one of their series and who also write material that I can't get into at all. You can browse through my reviews to see in how high a regard I hold Stross' Merchant Prince series. But I haven't enjoyed anything else he's written fiction-wise, even the award-winning Palimpset. Huff does Stross one better, having written the Vicky Nelson books, as well as the Confederation series. But that's it for me as far as Huff is concerned.

That said, the surprising appearance of The Truth of Valor this month is a very good surprise. Huff's fifth entry in the Confederation saga, starring Torin Kerr, is one more twisty-turny story in what started out as a pretty solid military SF series. Back then, Gunnery Sargeant Kerr led her squad through two pretty good examples of the genre before the third book turned out to be a Big Dumb Object story with a twist. (BDO's are often the subject of Arthur C. Clarke books, which is pretty nice company to be in). And the fourth was escaping an inescapable prison book. So what did Huff do for this fifth book?

It's actually hard to explain. First, Kerr is now EX-Gunnery Sargeant Kerr, having 'retired' to the life of a salvager with Craig Ryder, who she met at Big Yellow, the aforementioned BDO. Married in all but law, Kerr and Ryder do the visiting family thing, with Ryder providing a whole space station of 'family,' belying his orphan status in reality. A few chapters later, a different writer might have had the duo walk down the aisle. Naturally, Huff immediately splits them up. And turnabout fair maiden play, it's Ryder that becomes the hostage for his lady-love to come save.

There's a bit of Edgar Rice Burroughs in this book as we get the two obvious view-points, plus those of the two real bad guys in the book. Captain Cho and Big Bill are basically beyond redemption, but like all cornered rats, they have a sort of innate cunning that does have you fear for captive Ryder and then for Kerr and her newly created band of mercenaries. That band, of course, is made up of mustered out members of her unit, including the best of the best Corporals, Werst. Ressk means she has a brace of Krai to protect against the Grr Brothers and the rest of the nasties, while Mashona is along as chief conscience cop. Even still, both Ryder and Kerr leave a lot of bodily fluid and parts in the forgotten--but operational--Vrijheid Station. And there might have been more, if not for the timely rescue by Presit a Tur durValintrisy, normally the bane of Kerr's existence. The Vid newshound gets there just in time to haul their butts away from an explosive situation.

Huff does two things really well and one not so well. She creates great aliens, from Presit's feline Katrien to the big-toothed midget Krai to the sex-all-the-time diTaykan. Each are well-defined and their ability to interact with each other is a fraught-prone as any all human situation. Huff also has an ear for language and the alien speak and the odd future human slang are well done. What isn't well-done, and the only thing that ruins this story, is the excessive swearing, much of which is veiled in future slang by the simple expedience of removing the 'C' from a particular sobriquet we call the F-Bomb these days ... in polite circles. I UNDERSTAND this level of swearing will be forever common. It's just that I don't think Huff as a 'common' writer. 

She's better than that. So is most of this book.

BOOKS: Unsympathetic Magic by Laura Resnick

There are a series of books by Mike Resnick that I've been searching for, forever. But I can't find the Starship books in paperback. I suspect they might only exist in hardcover and audio formats at this point. But I'm always on the lookout for Resnick's works. Which is how I stumbled upon Laura Resnick. She's Mike's daughter.

The book I happened upon was Unsympathetic Magic, which is, as it turns out, the third book in the Esther Diamond series. Now, I'm loathe to read a book in a series if I haven't ready the earlier volumes, but I needed a quick read and there was the book at the top of the reading pile. The actual book pile, not the eBook pile. I was headed for a long soak and something not so .... electric.... was required.

Lucky for me.

Esther is an actress who's finally snagged a guest-star of the week role on a cop show that sounds sort of like NYPD Blue by way of Dexter and The Shield. She play's a hooker. In real life, she's struggling a bit at her chosen profession and she's doing a bit of waitressing on the side. She's also trying to avoid anything occultish. She's had a couple of run-ins in the past and it's put a serious crimp into her not-so-budding romance with non-believing Detective Connor Lopez.

Esther gets an A for effort in trying to avoid the occult and an F for results, given that she falls into the middle of a giant Voodou scene in this book. First, the TV shoot is shut down by a combination of a heart attack to the odious leading man and a blackout. Then Esther sees a zombie being attacked by two trollish gargoyles and then she gets arrested for ... well it's hard to figure whether it was soliciting or assault. She WAS running around, looking like a hooker, with no I.D., trying to get anyone to call in the 'attack.' Police-wise, it was an easy pick-em.

Which brings Connor back on the scene as Esther's call. Connor goes right into Scully mode as Esther's memories seem faulty. No body, no blood. But the right name for a weeks-old death. Which eventually means finding that a body, several actually, are missing. And might be walking around. Plus, Esther ends up guest-teaching at the local Adult Experience classes hosted at the Livingston Foundation. Which might, or might not, be the local New York chapter of Voudou Rites 'R Us.

Things do get all voodooey with priestesses, snakes, bewitched boys and evil connivers, befitting the various gods of Voodou. A crackling stormy night and magic make for a pretty decent finale. At which, the good girl prevails.

This IS a series, afterall.

I like the characters, which also include magical Max, the long-lived book store owner and his dog. I like the sly story-telling without resorting to outright yuks. And I think I can be happy with Laura Resnick's paperback output.

At least until dad's Starship lands here.

BOOKS: Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich

Is it possible to get sick from a book? I know it's at least possible to be sad-hearted. As evidence, I offer Wicked Appetite, the first of what should not be a series, by Janet Evanovich. Yep, the same author I give my birthday night each year to read the latest Stephanie Plum book. The one who I gave effusive praise to this very year when she broke a two-year slide with a pretty good Sizzling Sixteen. The same author who managed to get me to smile through several Max Holt ROMANCE books.

But with this first Diesel book, she made me sad. Sad to the point where I had to head for bed, for being under the weather. Sick.

Wicked Appetite is a trendy book, as in the paranormal romance type of trendy. My mother might like this book. Dawna won't and I doubt Lucy would even crack the cover. Me, I hated it. It wasn't nearly as magical as I'm sure Evanovich and her editor thought it was.

The heroine is Lizzy Tucker. But just about everything in the book either happens TO her or around her. She's one of the lesser-involved heroines since the early days of MaryJanice Davidson's work. If Evanovich had Davidson's ear for magical patter and puns, that might not be too bad. But she doesn't. Not here, at least. Tucker is a cook with the magical touch. Great muffins (the baked kind, not the naked kind), every time. Which turns out to be her magical power. SERIOUSLY!

This being a book about magic and magical women (oft called witches, methinks), naturally the setting is in Salem, Mass. She works at Dazzle's Bakery, naturally. And the hereditary owner is now Clarinda Dazzle. Of course. And Glo, the counter girl, thinks she looks like Harry Potter, lightning-bolt scar and all. Later in the book, she seems to get all the magic and magical artifacts to come her way and mangles them in ways only muggles would.

Into the lives of these girls comes darkness in the form of Wulf (Gerwulf Grimoire, of course) and lightness in the form of Diesel. They are from the same family and are both tasked with collecting pieces of a real special magical item. Lizzy's apparently a lodestone for those things. But she is not all that good at it.

So, hijinks ensue as Wulf and Diesel, with Lizzy in tow, seek out the pieces in question. There are no endearing other characters. It's all wacky or it doesn't exist. Along the way, Lizzy gains possession of a cat AND a monkey, the latter of which spends all of his time giving people the finger. Wulf counters the zany clan by employing a seriously insane guy named Hatchet.

All the while, Diesel's just moved into Lizzy's house and right into her bed. I WISH it were so easy!! But then again, I don't have the body of a god. Which Evanovich elaborates on, at length. Frequently.

I have spent a lot of money on Evanovich over the years. I even subscribe to her newsletter. But this is one bad book. No more money on this series. Ever. I need to protect my health.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

BOOKS: The Missing Ink by Karen E. Olson

Chicklit has been a bit of a sore point for me of late. First, Janet Evanovich hits a downslide that she finally managed to end with this year's sixteenth volume in the Stephanie Plum series, only to return to the dreck side with the first volume in the new Diesel series. Then, I find out I'm unlikely to ever see another Bubbles Yablonsky book from Sarah Strohmeyer or a new Sierra Lavotini tome from Nancy Bartholomew. I'd already given up hope of ever seeing a new Robin Hudson book from Sparkle Hayter.

But luckily, Karen E. Olson seems to have stepped up to the plate with her brand new Tattoo Shop mysteries starring Brett Kavanaugh, the first of which is The Missing Ink. Brett is a Las Vegas-based tattooist who happens to live with her brother Tim, a detective in the Las Vegas Police Department. And truth be told, I think Brett has the detecting genes in the family. Mind you, those genes go back to the family's ancestral home in Jersey (Hey, that's where Stephanie Plum comes from!), as their father was a cop.

Basic plot description includes a missing client of Brett's, who books an appointment to get a tattoo. She wants her fiance's name, which isn't that unusual. Apparently. But what IS unusual is that when her disappearance becomes known, it turns out the name is NOT that of her fiance's! So, you have two enigmas to resolve. Where's Kelly Masters aka Elise Lyon? And, who the heck is Matthew?

As with all things chicklit, the answer to those questions isn't as important as the lurching back and forth by the pack of supporting characters in getting there. Kavanaugh's crew at her shop, The Painted Lady, includes a 300-pound full-time eater, part-time tattooist and bodyguard, a little person named Bitsy who also is an office manager to be feared, and a couple of supporting tattooist who have quirks but are closer to being generic. Olson obviously loves Las Vegas and makes the city a major character too.

The other main recurring characters happen to work out of a competing tattoo shop in the seedier part of town doing little in the way of original work. Murder Ink's owner and possibly future love interest for Brett is Jeff Coleman. He always calls Brett by her last name and she finds him mostly infuriating. If this was a Stephanie Plum book, Coleman would be have the Ranger role, but without the out-there sexual tension. Yet. And Coleman's mother Sylvia would be played by Grandma Mazur. She's just about as crazy as Evanovich's craziest character.

I don't have a tattoo and, as a card-carrying certified coward, won't ever be getting one. But the rationale and artistry of tattooing has been enough to foster a couple of popular TV programs and this series, which I think has some legs. (I've already read the second book, a review is forthcoming) There are fewer outright laughs than most chicklit books, but the gentle humour still pervades this mystery enough for me to recommend it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

BOOKS: Lost Empire by Clive Cussler and Grant Blackwood

As I continue to read everything Clive Cussler writes, with or without co-authors, I find myself dreading that moment in most books he's associated with these days when HE, Clive Cussler, will show up in his own book to offer vital information or succor to the main characters in the book. I dread that moment, that ARRRGGHH! realization that, once again, he couldn't resist the temptation. I imagine he sits in his chair before his computer and chortles with glee as he writes that scene (or scenes) into his latest opus. I wish SOMEONE would tell him it stopped being cute and clever about the second time he did it. Which was years ago. SOMEBODY, ANYBODY, please tell him to STOP!!!!

The trigger for this latest attempt to restore sanity to the Cussler writing factory is Lost Empire, the second of the Fargo Adventures novels featuring husband and wife adventuring team Sam and Remi Fargo. This is, the fifth Cussler series creation, following the better known Dirk Pitt, Kurt Austin, Oregon Files and Isaac Bell series. When the first book, Spartan Gold, came out, I actually thought briefly that Cussler had spun out the Gamay and Paul Trout characters from the Kurt Austin series. But Sam and Remi certainly aren't supporting characters. They are their own team, traveling about the planet, diving and spelunking, digging up lost treasure and solving ages-old mysteries.

Just like every Cussler series, save the Isaac Bell one.

Okay, I've got the familiarity over with. If you like Cussler, you will like this book. But I think there are enough flaws to prevent loving the book. And I'm just not referring to Cussler (AKA The Kid in this one) showing up. There's a certain recklessness that permeates this book. At least twice, Sam intentionally crashes whatever he's in, a car once and then a plane, into the water to escape the bad guy. Ahhh, THAT'S BELIEVABLE. Not! And then there is the sheer unwillingness to involve the constabulary, either by the Fargo's or their inside man at the alphabet organizations. Sure, most of the action in this book takes place in Zanzibar, Mozambique and Indonesia. But surely an honest cop isn't THAT hard to find, even there!

But those are the nits that I'm going to pick anyway. What remains is a great travelogue and a pretty decent mystery. WITH graphics to boot. Because there are old treasure maps. Everywhere it seems. On paper, on metal and in the most surprising places. Sam and Remi act just as tough as Dirk and Giordano or Kurt and Zavala, while making lovey-dovey conversation. But they dive, climb and spelunk into the oddest places to gather evidence about the true origins of the Aztec peoples of Mexico. All the way, trailed and threatened by the right-hand henchman of the fictional President of Mexico.

Cussler never fails to cleverly connect the dots (literally in this book) and draw events from years, centuries before, into the modern day and get that satisfying Eureka! moment late in the book. Ships find their way to the most surprising of places in his books. And this one is no exception.

I like this book and am looking forward to the next Fargo Adventure. I just didn't love it.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

BOOKS: Kris Longknife - Redoubtable by Mike Shepherd

Christmas comes early in November each year when Mike Shepherd releases the latest of the Kris Longknife novels. Redoubtable, the 2010 entry in the now eight-book long series, does not tarnish the reputation the book's predecessors have built up. All of them are entertaining, being a bit of a mix between Elizabeth Moon's Heris Serrano books and Robert Asprin's Phule's Company novels. Throw in a little Jack Campbell too. Shepherd cheekily has one of the ships, Dauntless, commanded by one Jack Campbell. Dauntless happens to be the title of the third book in the Lost Fleet series by ... Jack Campbell.

By this time in many series, the books are a bit formulaic. So Shepherd mixes things up a little. No mirth-filled end-of-book promotion for Kris Longknife. And, in fact, Longknife's family, her actual family, not her shipmates, do not make an appearance in the book. No father, who doubles as a planetary prime minister. No Grandpa Ray, who's also known as King Raymond I, the leader of the United Sentients (which changes moniker late in the book). Nope, she's out doing humanitarian work in the Rim Worlds, when she gets a meet-up demand/request at St. Petersburg (the planet) from frenemy Vicky Peterwald, daughter of the ruler of the Greenfeld Thugocracy.

What follows certainly isn't a primer on two deadly enemies spending lots of time on each other's ships. Although a repetitive wariness DOES set in, this feels a lot like filler until Longknife can swing into action. What prompts an end to the philosophizing is that Kris' maid/social secretary/bodyguard/woman about the galaxy Abby's niece Cara gets snatched by the kind of thugs that everybody hates, even Greenfelders. So it's off to rescue the 12-year old Cara from the slavers.

The book once again returns to what it does best. Military SF with a whole lot of smack talking between Kris and her aides, Abby, Cap'n Jack and most especially her biomechanical computer Nelly. Cara gets rescued forthwith and is properly chastened, as a precocious child who's found she isn't the darling of EVERYBODY's eye often becomes. Which leaves the problem of rooting out the head slaver, a nasty bit of female badness. And like the first female baddie in the book, the ending comes with swift finality, regardless of how many innocents die.

And that's a bit troubling. Shepherd's been pretty good at keeping the innocent body count down, while Kris Longknife, Ensign, has graduated into being a Lt. Commander. She's lost members of her crew aplenty, as befitting a reasonably believable military-themed series. But, in this book, decisions are made by her and for her that bring brutal ends to stand-off situations. Could Shepherd be running out of ideas?
Oh, if you are worried that Kris' BFF, Penny, is the latest casualty, don't be. She spends much of that muddled middle part of the book back on the first planet the Wasp visited in the beginning of the book. She and Colonel Costanzo are left behind to organize the police and such, after the pacification of the planet.

I like these books. They are quick reads, have some real laughs and present more than a few moments of on the edge of your seat action. Shepherd's willingness to off supporting characters means you can never know for sure who (beyond the title character) will survive. This is my first year of reading the books BEFORE Christmas and, quite frankly, I think that won't be the only time that happens. November 2011 can't get here soon enough!

Monday, November 08, 2010

BOOKS: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Bear with me on this. There was once a TV show called Happy Days that eventually focused on a supporting character who initially was verbally uncommunicative and wore a leather jacket most of the time. There was also a series of books called the Millenium Trilogy which featured a supporting character that everybody seems to focus on. As to being sparse on words and often found in leather .... ah ... ditto. Really, Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is NOT principally about Lisbeth Salander!

You wouldn't know that, given the book covers, the book titles and the Swedish movies starring Noomi Rapace as the punk hacker and information wizard Salander. But really, the books, at least the first one, are more about Mikael Blomkvist, the publisher, editor and reporter for Millenium magazine, a business expose magazine based out of Stockholm. Salander certainly plays a large part in the initial volume of the Millenium Trilogy, but she doesn't actually meet Blomkvist until after the half-way mark in the book. But, because all three books have titles starting with "The Girl Who..." the supposition is that Salander is the star. Certainly, the widely-hailed movies, each with an imposing picture of Rapace as Salander, perpetuate the myth. Salander is more central in each movie, by necessity. These are long books, 'flabby,' according to one reviewer I read. And the parts that were cut out were mostly those devoted to the internal mental meanderings of Blomkvist.

An American version of the books is coming out, with Rooney Mara in the star-turning role Rapace played. I know all about the physical transformations Mara will be undergoing to play the part, just as Rapace did. I don't know who's playing Blomkvist. I could look it up, of course. But I'm trying to make a point. I had bought into the Salander hysteria too.

Which is a shame. Because Blomkvist is a truly interesting character, the one Larsson makes his own. He too was a reporter and a writer before fashioning the books. A reported fourth exists. Whether it ever sees the light of day is up in the air. His heirs are fighting over his estate after his too-young death almost immediately after handing in the three books in the series.

Blomkvist is a bit of a satyr. He has an ethical side that's elastic enough not to defend himself against libel charges because he's guilty of NOT having the evidence to back up the truth he printed, but also to regularly bed married women and ladies half his age (and some). He suppresses the truth he uncovers in a year-long attempt to find out what happened to Harriet Vanger more than 30 years ago. And he can nod sagely at the 'criminal' hacking Salander does TOO him and FOR him later.

The story starts basically with Blomkvist being told a story by a friend about the misdeeds of a slimy toad by the name of Hans-Erik Wennerström. After investigating the story, opportunity allows for further nasty details to emerge in the article. Unfortunately for Blomkvist, the first part was provably true. The latter part, not so much, since it's been a complete setup by Wennerström. As a result, Blomkvist and Millenium loses a libel trial and Blomkvist is sentenced to three months in jail. Disgraced and needing to distance himself from the magazine to try an ensure its survival, Blomkvist arranges his own firing by partner and some-time lover Erika Berger.

Which makes him available when Henrik Vanger arranges a meeting with Blomkvist. It takes place on Hedeby Island, just over the bridge from Hedestad, which is basically north of nowhere in Sweden. And about as far from Stockholm as you can get. Vanger has an offer that's too good to turn down, although Blomkvist tries mightily hard. He wants his family chronicles written ... as a cover for Blomkvist to re-investigate the decades old disappearance of his neice Harriet. It's basically a locked island mystery that has defied all investigations into it. And still no solution. But somebody is sending Vanger pressed flowers yearly and it's driving the once CEO of once-powerful Vanger Industries mad. And it wasn't like he wasn't already obsessed with Harriet's disappearance (murder?). He's collected shelves of data. He knows he's nearing death and wants one last fresh set of eyes to look at the evidence.

Soooo, Blomkvist does that. He's not so much interested in the money as a promise of a new bit of evidence against Wennerström. That's the carrot that drives him. But along the way, he too begins to share in Henrik's mania. The island is actually the Vanger family compound. And let's just say, the Vangers are a weird group. They marry and separate, but never divorce. Family members that are next door neighbours don't talk to each other, or call their daughters 'whores.' There's a thread of Nazism that runs through the family and if they aren't Nazis then some are fascists. Henrik's got a lawyer on retainer that seems a nice, old man, but turns out to have a bit of steel in him. All in all, it's like living in a nest of vipers.

Thanks to Blomkvist's daughter and the prodigious talents of Salander, Blomkvist unearths old evidence and new, and, rather unexpectedly, solves the mystery. With many, many pages still to go. And here's where the flab comes in. Rather than stopping there, Larsson then has Blomkvist go at Wennerström again. This time with all kinds of supporting proof provided by Salander. And a different outcome from the initial one makes for some closure. I guess. For me, the 'romance' of the book was solving the Harriet mystery. After that, it seemed procedural. But until then, a very much spectacular book.

Guess it's time to get around to Salander. She's hard-core unpleasant and knows it. She's had a rough life and, even in her twenties, is a ward of the government, having been declared non compos mentis, needing guardianship. Her old guardian dies early in the book and her new one is a nasty piece of work. Her response to his nastiness is frightening and vicious. And effective. Salander's mother passes away during the book, which should have been a relief, but isn't. Salander does get close to Blomkvist--really, really close--but in the end leaves furious at a man she admitted she loved to herself. Otherwise, the ambi-sexual Salander seems to do things from a second-to-second need to dull pain, rather than anything out of joy. 

One last Salander note. Much has been made of Mara's transformation. She's been spotted on camera with a lip-ring. And reportedly, she's bleached her eyebrows, shorn her hair and has had nipple piercings. All to make sure she looks as described in the book. Well, in the book, Salander is described as anorexic and 4 ft 10. Larsson never mentions nipple piercings and Salander has eyebrow and nose piercings, but no lip ring. Unless Mara starves herself into the role and shrinks, there isn't going to be much backing up for that PR rep for the film that ensured she'd look like the character in the book. 

Is that important? Who knows? But isn't it the little things in mysteries that are so important?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

BOOKS: How to Build a Dinosaur by Jack Horner

It's the day we turn back the clock, so I thought I'd write about a book about turning back time. Jack Horner's How to Build A Dinosaur was one of the first books I chose to read when it came time to try out the first dedicated eReader I'd ever used. And to be honest, it was a bit disappointing.

That disappointment lies probably with me. I was expecting something different. Horner has always been an entertaining presence on the screen. He's a popular university professor in Montana for a good reason. He brings the dead to life. His animated and informative teaching style translates well to the screen and his enthusiasm for dinosaurs in no put-on. He lives, breathes and eats paleontology.

But I find his writing bland. He's so completely polar opposite to our own Jay Ingram, the host of Discovery Canada's daily science news hour. Ingram is still a bit stiff and poker-faced years into the job, yet was a dynamically entertaining writer back in the day (I read his Toronto Star column religiously). That Horner doesn't translate to the page as well as I'd hoped was a shocker. He tries. But the jokes just fall flat. But that could just be me.

The sub-title to this book is, Extinction Doesn't Have To Be Forever. This from a man who was the technical consultant on Jurassic Park. That was the seller to me, more than the cover picture of a dinosaur claw emerging from a freshly-hatched egg. I thought we would have a real good, "How to We Bring Back Dinosaurs" treatise. Instead, I was treated to a university level bio course--biology, biomechanics, bioethics and all things starting with bio-. There was a little bit about the problems of growing a dino from a chicken egg. But that was a starting point with no real second step. Horner never got me to the point of wondering where in the world we would REALLY set up our 21st century dinosaur farm.

So, did Horner write a bad book or did he NOT write the book I expected. The latter I suspect. Still, be forewarned. This book is heavy on the science and fairly light on the extrapolation. If that fits your bill, read on. You will be informed. If not, if you're just a dreamer like me, maybe this might be a book to skip.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

BOOKS: The Trade of Queens by Charles Stross

When I finished the first three books in Charles Stross's Merchant Princes series, I was quite happy. Three books, something more than a thousand pages, and a satisfying stop to the action. I didn't know at the time that those books were originally meant to be one door-stopper of a book! And that that doorstopper was to be the first of a trilogy! Or that I was reading fantasy, despite the machine guns, fax machines and cellular telephones! So, along came the fourth book in the series, The Merchant's War, and I grabbed and read it about as fast as I could. Great action, great characters and no bleepin' end. I railed on that in this blog back in February of last year. About that time, I found out the grand publishing plan for this series by reading Charlie's blog. So, I waited until I had both the fifth AND sixth books in the series before opening the cover to The Revolution Business, which I reviewed four days ago.

And now, the review of The Trade of Queens, sixth book in the published series, the third chapter of the original second book. Good stuff. Not GREAT stuff, but certainly worth the time invested.

Oh, you want some details?

Like the ending to Clan Corporate, this book serves as a good stopping place. Were there never to be a concluding trilogy to this story, I could live with that. I can dream up my own next chapters if it comes to that. There are no cliff-hangers taunting me. At the same time, I hope Stross gets back to finishing this series cuz I see sooooo much potential in the opening up of new worlds beyond those of New Britain, Gruinmarkt and the doppelganger USA in this book. Aliens even.

We won't be seeing much of Gruinmarkt in any further books. Carpet-bombing with atomic bombs doesn't tend to leave much in the way of characters to build stories around. With most of the good progressive part of the Clan now ensconced in New Britain's world, Gruinmarkt is going to be nothing more than a faded memory. That and a new oil-drilling platform for the Black Ops dominated US that isn't quite the same as the real US. Well, unless you truly think The Shrub's Cardinal Richelieu is STILL running the country. There are more out-there fantasies, of course.

Things move fairly quickly in The Trade of Queens. The rabbit hole to New Britain is quickly confirmed as being needed after the development of biomechanical means to world-walk is developed in record time by the US-dominated world we sort of live in. The BOOM! promised from the ending of The Revolution Business expands geometrically as inept politicians find slap-fighting with bombs gets people killed. Miriam Beckstein leads the Clan to New Britain and a new way of working and living and the two main bad guys die, more or less, off-stage and almost as collateral damage. No refreshing face-to-face ending with a bullet between the beady little eyes. Just a heart attack and a building collapse. It's about the only real clanger in the book. No satisfaction at particular deaths.

And, of course, there are deaths aplenty. Stross doesn't mind killing off characters that have been around for a few books. But he does spare others. And how can you not love a book that ends on a marriage proposal?

Friday, November 05, 2010

BOOKS: Blink! by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcom Gladwell, more or less, hit the public consciousness with Outlier which postulates, amongst other things, that the exceptional among us are frequently just talented individuals who combined that talent with at least 10,000 hours of practice when young. But for my money, Blink! - The Power of Thinking Without Thinking is just as provocative.

Part of the allure I found in the book is it's application to my life as a Bridge player. Blink! proves, fairly substantially, that first impressions are, in fact, really important. In fact, ADDING information, or trying to QUANTIFY those first impressions, actually leads to lesser accuracy. I know, I know, it seems we should be able to have Columbo solve the mystery in the second act. But, you know, in way, Columbo always did. It was just a case of compiling evidence after that.

So, what about Blink!, me and Bridge? I have always been amongst the fastest Bridge players at the local clubs. I bid and play quickly. And I make enough mistakes to prevent me from being an international level player. And my personality stops me from a top level national player. But I've played with the big boys and I've held my own. I've always been able to make enough instinctive plays to be able to sit at their table ... even if I've been away from the table for months or years at an end. It bothers some of my teammates a fair bit that I can unretire, play well enough to hold my own, and then promptly go right back into retirement.

But, back in the day, when I WAS playing regularly, I occasionally ran up against Eric Caulfield. And, by run up, I mean left standing fuming when I was rotating just behind him. And I hated played against him for the same reason. He was, at that time, the slowest player in all of creation. He also was one of the nicest guy in that same universe, a man I'd like to live next to or even work with. But perish the thought of playing WITH him. Until I had that very thought. I needed to know what made him tick. So I asked him for a game.

After the game in the post-mortem, Eric explained just why he was so slow. He was going over ALL the card combinations. Starting with a 13-0 split and going all the way down to whatever was the opposite of 13-0, depending on the limits of distribution from the cards he could see. For all four suits. For every play. This was how he became successful, and he HAS been successful locally. Me? I always formed an impression quickly about other people's hands and modified it AS I WENT ALONG. And yes, sometimes that resulted in me sitting there looking stunned. Because I WAS stunned. I had been wrong. And sometimes for good Bridge reasons. Which is how I learned. Naturally enough, having learned the secret to Eric's though process, I never asked to play with him again. It at least relieved the frustration I felt when competing against him.

Okay, so back to the book review. Two cases are made against first impressions, to a degree. The first is a successful car salesman who resists the urge to 'label' potential customers coming in the door. It's somewhat persuasive.  The second is the penultimate case cited in the book, the tragedy that Gladwell calls "Seven Seconds in the Bronx." That was the famous Amadou Diallo case wherein the Guinean immigrant was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was a minding his own business on the stoop of his apartment, after midnight, in a bad part of New York City. A cruiser with four cops came by. He didn't move. But one of the cops thought his presence there was wrong in some unexplainable manner. The cruiser backed up. Amadou sensed something amiss and ran back into the lobby of the building. As one of the armed officers approached screaming in machine-gun like English, Diallo panicked and reached into his back pocket. Fourty-one bullets later, the officers, all of whom fired at least once, saw him lying there on the floor, his wallet in hand. One of the officers, all of whom were later acquitted, sat down on that same stoop and cried.

More often, Gladwell talks about a sufficiency of information, that having too much information erodes first impressions and leads to less accuracy.  There are several cases, ranging from surprising to obvious. Take for example the art of trying out for orchestras. For years, it was done with no anonymity and was as unjust as you can imagine. Then, screens were put up and the judges could only adjudge by what they heard, not what they saw. And the result was more women in orchestras and women playing instruments long thought of as a man's preserve. The 'added' information of sight was no longer allowed to ruin the first impression of 'sound.'

Other instances, including the first one of the surprisingly pristine Greek statue that proved able to pass months of scientific muster, yet failed the first glance rule with other antiquity experts, make the case for trusting first impressions. Sometimes in odd ways. There was a study that measure lots and lots of variables and came up with a 95 percent success rate in predicting whether marriages would last 15 years. It seems slicing MOST of those variable away still produces a 90 per cent rate. In THIS case, the added information improved accuracy slightly. In OTHER cases, such as asking witnesses to actually write down their description, proved to be deleterious to their successful pointing out of accused later. Gladwell explains why, well.

I still have two more Gladwell books to get to, but I'm not too much in a hurry to get to them. They make me think so much, I need to space them out. But that's just me. No reason YOU can't go out and do them all in a row,

BOOKS: Steinbrenner - The Last Lion of Baseball by Bill Madden

It took George Steinbrenner's death this summer to prompt me to finally reach down a ways into the reading pile and pull out Bill Madden's biography of the late New York Yankees owner. Getting through the rather longish Steinbrenner - The Last Lion of Baseball was rewarding, yet puzzling.

I'm not sure if Madden actually uses the term bi-polar anywhere in the book. And I'm not anxious to go back over the pages looking to see if he did, once, by accident. Yet how can anybody come away from reading this book and NOT assume Steinbrenner was bi-polar. Here was a man capable of great cruelty to the men he hired to be part of his Yankees organization. The count on men who eventually decided the exorbitant salaries Steinbrenner paid wasn't enough to continue taking flak from the explosive multi-millionaire, was too high to count.

Yet, at the same time, his untold tales of charity were just as legion. He understood the value of a hundred bucks to a man where that much meant a roof over his family's head for another month. It's one thing to make a splashy donation of many, many thousands of dollars to an organization where that might translate into cents on the dollar at the street level. But Steinbrenner really knew how small and medium sums of money could,--would-- make a difference. He was generous, to a fault, and more than willing to do it without a PR hack proclaiming it loud and clear.

After reading the book, I found myself absolutely sure I would have liked to have known him. And just as absolutely sure I would never have worked for him. Not for any money for even the briefest of times. He was a micro-manager who accepted nothing less than total success all the time. Which is unreasonable. Which is how he ended up mixed up with such a mixture of well-meaning good guys and meatheads.

If you play word association games with Steinbrenner's name, two names come up quickly. Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin. Martin got to the big city first, on the heels of being fired after successful seasons by THREE different teams. The combative and allegedly alcoholic Martin had had personality conflicts aplenty. But he was an ex-Yankee and the antithesis of Bill Virdon, a calm career baseball man, who wasn't fiery (read winning) enough for Steinbrenner at that moment in time. So, Martin started his first tour with the Yankees. Of such small starts do tornados grow to destructive dimensions.

The additive of Jackson to the Yankee's volatile mix the winter after Martin took over mid-season, proved too combustible. While much is made of the nationally-televised Martin-Jackson fight in the dugout, the fact is, it was just a rehash of an earlier clash from Spring Training, also televised, this one by ABC. That was the ABC of Howard Cosell at the time. Which meant a meaningless pre-season game couldn't be quietly forgotten. And thus started the War that never turned Cold between Martin and Jackson. And Steinbrenner was certainly no innocent bystander. If anything, he seemed to spur things on, getting some sort of kick out the energy that crackled around the Yankees all the time.

Yet, Steinbrenner almost always backed Jackson against Martin, while taking any other side against Jackson due to his big ticket. He never did 'fire' Jackson, but gassed Battlin' Billy a total of five times. And seemed morose after each time. He fired other people multiple times. And there were occasions he forgot he fired people, expecting them into work the next day ... even if it was a holiday. Had not Martin died in a Christmas Day truck crash, he would most certainly have continued his on-off managerial record. He was already being set up for a sixth time, dependent on Bucky Dent's start as manager in 1990, at the time of his death. If ever there was a "can't live with 'im, can't live without 'im" relationship, it was Martin and Steinbrenner.

It's a testament of sorts that so many people went BACK to Steinbrenner after getting fired. The reason was that in the off-season, the big-hearted Steinbrenner could sell just about anybody on the joys and privileges of helping the New York Yankees be the best team in baseball. And baseball is a game of egos as much as anything else. Many thought they could change/handle Steinbrenner, that the second time around would be different because they were ready/experienced with the stress that was coming. Most were wrong.

But, as the old saying goes, you can't make diamonds without pressure. Steinbrenner revived a moribund franchise when he stick-handled his way through the purchase of the team from CBS. Then he poured hard-earned money from his shipping business into making the Yankees one of the world's biggest sports brands. And a winner again ... in the Yankee tradition and all.

Given his larger-than-live personna, many of us could be forgiven for thinking he'd outlast us all. Watching a university play in Chapel Hill NC in which his grand-daughter Haley was part of, Steinbrenner had to be taken to hospital due to chest pains and breathing problems. Whatever medical problems that evidenced themselves that day in lat 2006, it was the start of the slow decline and disappearance from public view of Madden's so-called Last Lion of Baseball. Less than four years later he was dead.

I'm a Blue Jay fan (and yes, I got a kick out of how mad Steinbrenner was to lose Pat Gillick and Elliot Wahle to the local heroes of the diamond), so a Yankees book isn't something I felt I NEEDED to read. But I did, and it was a worthwhile task.

But come on folks, bi-polar or what?!?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

SPORTS: Hall of Famer Dick Duff

The Toronto Sun ran a feature today called Controversial Hall of Farmers and listed a dozen denizens of the Hockey Hall of Fame. One was Dick Duff. My favourite hockey player ever. And you know something, I've always been uneasy about that since the Duffer was enshrined. The Toronto Sun might be right.

I always wore Duff's number eight in my sport career, save for high school basketball, where I was 32. And this was before a certain Los Angeles Laker made that number something to brag on. Nope, I was eight. Cuz diminutive Dick Duff wore that number. And when I say diminutive, I don't mean pipsqueak small, just smaller than the rest. And Duff was that, as well as tough, successful and without the slightest trace of flash. He worked for a living. It just happened it was hockey that he worked at.

Duff's eventual joining with the Montreal Canadiens also made me a Habs fan for life. In a family of Toronto Maple Leaf loons, being a Montreal fan was fun. And knowing me, it doesn't come as a shock that lording over the backers of the Maple Losers was a fun old time. There WAS that small issue of sticking with the Habs despite Duff moving onto the Kings and then the Sabres. But I had followed Duff from Toronto to the Rangers and then to Montreal. I was tired of changing my favourite team. So, I stuck with Montreal through thick and thin since then, mostly thick, although not recently.

All that said, Duff never struck me as Hall of Fame material. Sure, the Hall had Bob Pulford in it. And if that was the case, Duff deserved consideration. But his only real claim to that fame was playing on Stanley Cup winners. He was one of those glue guys, the guys behind the stars, who provided successful minutes while the big stars were resting. He did it in Toronto and in Montreal ... six times in the sixties, the first two with Toronto. These days, winning two or three times over a ten-year span makes people talk of dynasties. In an eight-year stretch starting in 1962, Duff didn't sip from the Cup only in '64 and '67 (the last Toronto cup win and one of the most bitter losses a team I backed ever had).

Dick Duff was a winner and an everyman who worked hard. While he MIGHT be a controversial Hall of Famer by most people's standards, he was always a member in my own personal Hall of Fame.

BOOKS: Some Girls - My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren

I'm not much of a voyeur. Certainly less than most people these days, what with their fixation on 'Reality TV.' You know, the badly scripted shows that the mentally feeble latch on to because the events are happening to 'real' people. It's all about the schadenfreude and we are all the poorer for Reality TV's popularity.

But every now and then, I descend from my high horse and take in something that offers only voyeurism as an excuse to participate. I offer you Jillian Lauren's bio, Some Girls - My Life in a Harem.

My curiosity for this book stems from a 60 Minutes piece I saw about the beauty queen who sued the Sultan of Brunei, claiming she had been kept against her will and treated as a sexual slave. Astonishingly, she won her day in court. But other things soon came to push those lurid headlines to the side and the affair is largely forgotten. As is the man once called the richest man in the world. That hasn't been the case for years, not since the ascension of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and a succession of oriental shipping magnates and middle eastern oil potentates. The Sultan's money was also petro-driven, but the reserves in Borneo weren't anywhere near what's been drilled elsewhere. So, while rich, the Sultan no longer is a major player on the Forbes List (which is currently topped by a Mexican media baron, of all people).

Lauren is certainly not sparing of herself or her family in describing her journey from Daddy's girl to rebellious teen to sex worker to harem girl to the American Dream of married with child. She was, and obviously still is, a survivor. That said, the only real thing of interest is the goings on in a modern day harem.

The harem in question actually wasn't that of the Sultan. No, Lauren was swept into the sphere of prince Jefri Bolkiah, one of the Sultan's sons. And it's obvious that the multi-married prince is one lost soul. The every-evening entertainment, mostly amateurish and mostly bad, followed by a quick roll in the hay. That's his life according to Lauren. It is all so banal. There are some political intrigues amongst the girls that are a bit interesting. None of the sex is. The description of the opulence, the "let's do lunch in Singapore" type instant decisions and the money that flows to the ever-evolving cast of girls makes being rich seem as boring as watching paint dry. Truly.

Don't get me wrong, I am happy I read this book. It's like a Pavlovian cure. If THIS is what being rich is all about, then I'm damn happy to be middle class.

At least, I keep telling myself every week I tear up my lottery ticket losers.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

BOOKS: The Revolution Business by Charles Stross

The penultimate chapter in the six-volume Merchant Princes series, ends, like its predecessor with a BOOM! And threats of many, many more booms to go. The slow build up Charles Stross has been conducting in the series up until this The Revolution Business has all been about scene-setting. It's been an outstanding ride, but one you have to read in order. Cuz this book can't be read as a standalone.

That said, Stross does his best to weave the threads of what has gone on before through the first few chapters of this book, without resorting to anything as crass as a "What's Gone on Before" section. The fact that he can do that for such a complex story with more than a thousand preceding pages spread over four books is a demonstration of his Hugo Award-winning skills. But he cut a fine line with this reader, given the almost two year gap since reading The Merchant's War. And THAT one was read after about a similar gap after reading the initial three volumes in one weekend.

Oh, and did I mention a cast of hundreds with DOZENS of viewpoint characters spread throughout the book. I didn't stop to count, but there are a LOT of people with something to say and to contribute in this book.

The Revolution Business
is a science-fiction novel centred around the Clan, an inbred family of world-walkers, able to slide between dimensions to parallel Earths. The series started with our Earth (later revealed to be off in a couple of places, so it isn't OUR Earth) and a feudal-era version where the Clan started, living in the upper New England area, called Gruinmarkt there. Later, a third version was added, dubbed New Britain. Think steampunk with the Brits winning the American War of Independence. In this one, the Brits have moved whole clothe and royalty to New York, while the French have run roughshod over them everywhere else. By the time The Revolution Business closes down for good, there is at least another world having been accessed out there and good guy Huw is looking for (and probably finding) more. Soooo, in addition to lots of characters, we have lots of settings.

Speaking of characters, our 'main' viewpoint character, Miriam Beckstein, AKA Lady Helge AKA Queen Widow Helge, doesn't get a LOT of play in this book. She's more or less swept along for the ride,  helpless and pregnant with a future King of the Gruinmarkt, as the politicians around her scheme aplenty. The attempt last book to get the Clan out of the drug mule business was a good idea, but too late to the table. Plus the Clan didn't believe her dire prophecies. With the US Government having discovered the Clan and creating both human and biomechanical means to world walk themselves, the resulting atomic bomb attack on Gruinmarkt is a definite STOP THIS order.

Of course, that's not the only nuke in play, as the closing moments of the book so amply play up. The missing six devices talked about in the opening chapter are very much the subject of the conclusion. An explosive conclusion.

In between all things going BOOM! there's plenty of skulduggery by all of the factions. It's hard to pick out actual heroes but there's plenty of bad guys. Stross even pinpoints one of the bad guys as the serving VP of the USA. It's not like he had to work hard on that one. And no, it wasn't that 'fact' that reveals it's not OUR Earth. It was the pining for the premature death of starlet Paris Hilton. Watch for it.

Stross requires effort to keep all the people and places straight. I'm willing to do that, despite the sections on New Britain with Erasmus being deadly dull and breaking up the intriguing goings-on on Earth and Gruinmarkt. Oddly, I get the feeling Stross, a Scotsman, probably got a bigger kick out of writing the revolution on New Britain more than anything else. If I get his politics right. Still, nothing about New Britain, other than as an escape route for the suddenly-vulnerable Clan, really interests me.

Oh, by the way, I started the sixth book, The Trade of Queens, five minutes after finishing The Revolution Business.