Book Review – The Engish Assassin

ImageAhh. Guilty pleasure books, AKA – Bill wants to pad his book numbers for the year.  You can’t really count The English Assassin by Daniel Silva as anything more than a guilty please, but that’s okay.  It is what it is – a quick read that does not pretend to be intelligent or realistic.  Just an action thriller that seeks to entertain.  It’s the literary equivalent of a later Roger Moore James Bond movie.

The English Assassin is the second novel in an ever-expanding series about Gabriel Allon, an Israeli secret agent who doubles as a world-class art restorer – a man trying to recover himself from his past tragedies by throwing himself into restoring the world’s art treasures.  Tragically for him, his country keeps calling him back to service and to chaos.

For this episode, Silva has Gabriel facing off against the great bankers of Switzerland who are trying to bury their past from World War II.  The book is straight-forward in narrative with few plot twists, except the conclusion – which does not live up to the rest of the book.  Even with a simple plot line, The English Assassin delivers the goods it seeks to – as long as you are looking for a quick book to read on an airplane or beach.  This is not a thinker.  The joy is in its pacing, a book that can be consumed quickly and keeps you moving along. Character development?  Nope.  Any revelations are forced and serve to move plot.

Predictable?  Yes, but so was the movie Titanic and that didn’t stop it from making billions.

Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 out of 5 (but not on literary merit, just fun)

Seahawks? Not a fan

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other…”

-Luke 16:13

I won’t be heartbroken if the Seahawks don’t make it to the Super Bowl. It’s true. Won’t even lose sleep over it.

In fact, February 2 – the date of the Super Bowl – isn’t even the most important footballing date of the month.

The most important date? February 5.

College Football National Signing Day

You can have only one true love…and mine is the Washington Huskies.

[Read more…]

Board Game – Rampage First Impression

Who remembers the old video game Rampage?  You’ve seen it – either in the arcade for us people who know what arcades are or on game consoles.  It takes the classic monster movie – heroes saving the town from a monster – and turns it on it’s head.  You get to be the monster and destroy the town.  And a good time was had by all (except the people eaten by Mothra, but that’s another story).  Rampage the board game takes that premise and moves it into the land of Meeples.  You take control of a monster and battle with your friends to see who can destroy the most buildings and eat the most meeples.  And a good time was had by all.

Rampage is distributed by Asmodee and Repos, the same fine people who distribute the modern classic 7 Wonders.  In fact, Antoine Bauza is responsible for both games.  But don’t expect any similarity beyond that.  Rampage belongs to a growing category of games called dexterity games.  In these games, the game mechanic changes from rolling dice, playing cards, using movement points, etc to actually flicking or dropping your monster or nearby vehicles.  The route to success is found, truly, in your dexterity.  For those who have problems with chewing gum and walking, perhaps chess would be a better alternative?  But honestly, it’s a great change up from traditional eurogames.  It still requires strategy to ensure you don’t set your opponent up for a gobbly-good time, but ensures your strategy goes to **** in a handbasket quickly once your manual dexterity tries to execute your strategy.

Look ma, no hands!

Argh!  Dinner!

You see, it’s pretty easy to knock your monster off the board – or allow meeples to “escape” (their term for when you accidentally flick a skyscraper into your friend’s/son’s/brother’s lap).  And these actions cost you teeth or penalties.  And when you lose teeth, your opponent gains points.

The balance seems fairly good, as long as you’re not playing with a magician/juggler/professional knife thrower or someone with amazing hand/eye coordination.  And it starts out fun, leading to a great midgame where you are having a great entree of little wooden meeple.  The problem is the endgame.  After a great meal, I often feel slow and logy.  Apparently your monster does as well.  Maneuvering to get the last meeple took all our effort and slowed down the game considerably.  The earlier phases were worth it, but it definitely showed the danger in these dexterity based game – a slow endgame.

Scoring consists of how many sets of different colored meeple you have eaten, how many floors you have knocked down, how many teeth your opponent has lost, and a secret objective (like eat all postmen).  Because all your meeple are kept secret behind a little monster mask, you don’t know where your opponent’s score is…but you really don’t care.  Rampage is a blast for tweens to adults and will add a lot of laughs.  Grab it for when you’re done with seriousness or want to warm up for a big, strategic game.

Full review to follow.

Book Review – Soccernomics

ImageLike soccer? Chances are, you’ll dislike this book. Likewise, if you like statistics, you’ll dislike this book. Since Freakonomics and Moneyball, there has been a serious misuse of statistical analysis to prove a lot of things. As a person who works on strategy and research, I should know. I’m well aware of the dark arts.

It’s not that Kuper and Szymansky are bad writers. They’re not. It is a thoroughly engrossing book that keeps you reading. The problem is that it fails to understand what statistics can and cannot solve. For example, they use great regression techniques to show why certain nations are where they are in terms of world soccer rankings and success. They narrow down experience (how many internationals has the world played as a whole), resources available to the country, and population.

[Read more…]

Looking back at my goals..

Well, resolutions, goals, or whatever.  Still didn’t do too hot at them.  I was going to do a detailed analysis but the truth is…I hit under 50% of them.  I’ll tell you – I didn’t do much writing but I did read 40 books.

On the plus side, I DID lose 35 pounds and am working out regularly, so I’ll put that in the positive category.

I don’t plan to write them down again because so many of them remain the same.

A little taste of Hawaii to celebrate the good weather

Luau DaquiriGetting to be good weather.  Time to celebrate with a good Hawaiian cocktail

Luau Daiquiri

2 oz, White Rum

3/4 oz, Orange Juice

3/4 oz, Lime Juice

1/2 oz, Vanilla Syrup

Combine all and shake with ice.

Drinking a Ginger Lemon Drop

1 1/2 oz, Absolut Citron

1 1/2 oz, Crater Lake Sweet Ginger Vodka

1 oz, Cointreau

2 tb, Lemon Juice

1 tsp, Simple Sugar.

 

Shake vigorously and strain into martini glasses.