The 5 Stages of a Hangover

bottlesDuring the string of drunken nights I went through over Memorial Day Weekend one of my good friends remarked on how the coming week would follow a set pattern due to the inevitable hangover.  Spending most of Monday (it was a three day weekend; usually this cycle would begin on Sunday) in a state near grim death I began to think about my good friend’s wise words and the conversation that followed and decided to take a scientific approach to things and attempt to lock down the 5 distinct stages of my hangovers at the age of 30.

Stage 1:

You are a sack of meat. You exist solely as a physical being.  No mental processes of any coherence take place inside your skull.  Instead there are only the immediate animal responses to your internal organs and the nausea, heartburn, dread and exhaustion that they emit.  Attempts to meet any responsibilities you might have during this stage, be they social or professional, are jokes.  If your responsibility is social in nature you have the option of doubling down on your hangover by starting to drink again, though this only delays the inevitable.
Assuming you’re cashing your chips in and taking your hangover immediately it is important to grasp that Stage 1 is nothing more than an attempt to pass time as painlessly as possible.  You would be asleep if possible. Outside of immediate physical needs there are no other goals during Stage 1 then getting out of Stage 1.  You are a strip of Velcro and the entire world is a cotton ball.  Wherever you happen to stop moving you tend to stay for long periods of time.  You wave away concerned friends who ask if you’re comfortable with a, “Nah, I’m all right,” while lying sprawled out on the kitchen floor or curled up on a footrest.

appletiniThe only thing to break your clinging to the earth is usually the need to eat or drink, which can be problematic as your digestive system has become bi-polar so that at the top of the hour you’ll declare Lemon-Lime Gatorade to be the single greatest invention mankind  has ever produced and at the bottom of the hour you’ll shiver in the fetal position cursing Lemon-Lime Gatorade for being sugary piss-water. Also, while attempting to meet dietary needs, your own brain will work against you.  I must repeat, during this stage you are not a thinking creature, you are a bundle of frayed axons firing at random trying to make it through the day.  You are a very large steak attempting to get rid of its Jack Daniel’s marinade. This causes problems when your first meal is needed.  You’ll think during the whole process of deciding what to eat about how you need something bland and inoffensive: oatmeal or maybe a plain bagel.  You’ll repeat this to yourself over and over while looking at the delivery menu. However, in the instant before ordering, an electrical storm will strike your brain and you’ll make a last minute decision to order some bat-shit crazy thing in a “Oooh, I haven’t had that in a while,” sort of way and you’ll wonder at your own stupidity twenty minutes later while you’re trying to choke down Peking Duck or a big bowl of paella.

Vh-1 is extremely watchable.

Stage 2 :

There are a lot of people who claim that the, “I’m never drinking again,” mantra gets repeated during Stage 1 of a hangover. This is incorrect; such coherent thoughts are not within your grasp during Stage 1. I repeat, Stage 1 is nothing but the passing of time.  You are a stop-watch with a caloric intake.  It is only at Stage 2 where complex mental processes such as cause and effect are attainable again.  Thus, when you finally are able to declare that you’ll “definitely be taking next week easy,” that you’re “not going to go out,” and, “will most likely catch up on movies or TV you’ve been missing,” you will know that you have reached Stage 2.

As a sidebar I should also mention that this is the point where the people who “only smoke socially” yet spent the last three nights calling for a cigarette break every fifteen minutes, panicking every time it appeared that the people they’re bumming from might run out, will say with disgust how they’re never smoking again and marvel at how “only having one or two a night” is totally not worth the after effects.

liquor

I have heard it argued, to remarkable effect, that Stage 2 is not so much a hangover as it is a hangover from being hungover.  This is where the real problems you have to deal with come not entirely from the alcohol, but from reactions to Stage 1 itself.  You wake up to face the day in a state of abject confusion, unable to grasp what the hell you spent yesterday doing.  Having plodded through Stage 1 taking 47 consecutive cat-naps while a “Girls Next Door” marathon was playing on your TV, your attempts to sleep that night don’t result in you sleeping so much as you lying in bed watching your dreams happen.  And, oh, what dreams you have.  The electrical storms of the previous day have purchased air-time in your subconscious and you might as well stay up till dawn watching nothing but Terry Gilliam films for the amount of actual rest you’re going to get. This results in you waking up to face Stage 2 in a mental state that can’t remember days of the week.

Your stomach is a mess, again though, not entirely from the alcohol but because you spent most of the previous afternoon throwing up, or debating throwing up, Peking Duck. You also re-inhabit your body.  It’s common to finally feel how sore your feet are from standing at a bar for three nights in a row during this stage.  You’ll also say things like, “Why am I bruised there?” and, “Huh, I don’t remember cutting my foot.” However, you will also react just as much to Stage 1, and as you try to rub the kinks out of your neck you’ll wonder why you didn’t move the extra three feet to take a nap in your bed instead of in your desk chair yesterday.

liquorglassesStage 3:

Frank Sinatra has a famous saying: “I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day.” This is often taken to mean that drinkers have the option of stopping off for a beer to unwind. I’ve often felt that this quote can be used in the exact opposite regard and be applied to Stage 3 of your hangover as well.  For it is Stage 3 where you actually feel like a corner has been turned and hour by hour, minute by minute, you can feel yourself recovering to the point where you actually look forward to being human by the end of the day, which is why I think that quote fits in here so well.  Only heavy drinkers know the feeling of joy that comes upon realizing that your hangover is departing, like an exorcised demon, from your body.  Foods that contain flavors and textures begin to seem appetizing. Bubbly soft-drinks start to seem like logical choices to accompany meals.

On the mental side of things I have heard this referred to as the “Doctor Sam Beckett” stage or the “Quantum Leap” stage.  Your brain is Swiss Cheese.  Yet you no longer feel like grim death so you think you’re capable of doing real work or participating in actual social interactions.  So you’ll be half an hour into some process or another and you’ll suddenly stop, just stop dead-cold, and you’ll be filled with intense self-doubt as you wonder if the math you spent the last half-hour doing, or the words you spent the last half-hour writing, or the conversations you spent the last half-hour having are in the slightest bit coherent. It takes you three times as long to do anything and everything as you constantly stop to either recheck your work thirty times, or because you suddenly can’t remember what the word “peanut” means.

beer1The “Doctor Sam Beckett” stage also refers to the fact that you are now, while still hungover, most definitely sober.  A state of mind that you have not shaken hands with in quite awhile.  Taking into account that even if Stage 1 and 2 are not technically drunk (and the jury is still out on that) they are stages of such mental incoherence that they can not be referred to as sober.  This means that for three day weekends, by the time you reach Stage 3 it might have been five or six days since you were last sober. If you’ve never watched Quantum Leap then this reference will be lost on you, but if you have then at stage three you will feel very much like Doctor Sam Beckett as, due to your extensive sabbatical from sobriety, you are constantly facing mirror images that are not your own. You pop into the bathroom and while washing your hands you catch sight of some stranger in the mirror.  They look vaguely familiar but their hair isn’t tousled, or they’re not wearing a Hawaiian shirt, or they’re not yelling to the people in the living room under the impression that the conversation taking place before their bathroom trip is still going on.  Instead it’s just your sober face, calmly sitting there, not opening it’s mouth so you can look at your tongue, not bedraggled and red-eyed from nausea, not clammy and sweaty from exhaustion.  It’s just you.  Sober.  You haven’t seen that guy in ages. And you feel like a spy, you feel like a ninja, you feel like you’re conducting a covert-opp the difference in your personalities is so striking. This person staring back from the mirror with sober eyes was screaming and laughing at a bar, buying drinks and the life of the party mere days ago.  “What happened to that person?” you will wonder. “Why aren’t I charming anymore? And which one of us is real?”

Stage 4:

You’re completely out of the woods.  Sobriety is the norm now and your bar hopping from last weekend seems like a distant dream, something you did years ago, possibly in Europe.  Your body is fully recovered and you feel wonderful.  You might be in the worst shape of your life and hacking up blood and cilia due to allergies, but you are no longer hungover and by comparison this makes you feel like Rocky after Adrian finally shows up.  You make firm commitments to go to the gym more often, taking the time to write out a quick little schedule that you’ll start on next week.  You have your weekend all planned out, you have some good Netflix waiting for you and that blockbuster movie you planned on seeing in the theater will be a perfect Saturday night activity.  Some family members or old friends have wanted you to have dinner with them for weeks now and you can definitely make it out to see  them on Friday.  Not to mention there’s a ton of work you can get done if you go into the office for even a few hours on Sunday, and that’ll make sticking to your gym schedule that much easier.

You are the king of the world.

You are at the high-point of your life.

You are still young and the world is yours.

Stage 5:

You could really go for a beer.

Things That Were Made (Smoked) Last Weekend

Last summer, some of you might recall, I made a foray in the art of cooking with smoke and decided to make the homemade smoker from Alton Brown’s show, Good Eats.  You take an earthenware flower pot, put a hot plate at the bottom, a tin full of chips on top of that, a grill grate down inside of it, you put your meat on the grill grate, top it off with another pot, then plug it in and walk away:

smoker4

It works frightiningly well.  I’ve heard people talk about how finicky smokers are and how using them outside can be tough because the weather can affect your temperature, but the earthenware is so thick and so good at holding onto heat that it never wavered. It always held at a nice 200-210 degrees through pretty strong wind and even some sprinkles.

The first day I made pulled pork.  Pulled pork takes a loooooong time.  I was up early:

sunrise

Then the pork went on:

pork-before

Twelve hours later the pork came off:

pork-after

Awesome bark, great flavor, extremely tender.  The only thing I would change is that I’d like to try giving it a longer brine.  I was only able to soak it over night which, considering I got it in late and was up early, wasn’t that long a time.  I’d like to give it like a four day soak and see how that effects things.

But otherwise I’m so very happy with my smoker.  If anything, actually, the thing is too easy to use.  The next day we decided to smoke some more stuff.  I did some sausages that I stuffed with jalapenos and cheese:

sausage-before

sausage-before-2

Those turned out pretty well:

sausage-after

There were some ribs that were smoked as well but I didn’t get a shot of them. They turned out awesome.  There was talk of smoking some chicken wings but that never materialized.  For that matter there was talk of smoking a pizza and a hot dog bun and possibly some Cheetos and, had we not been incredibly stuffed full of food, we probably would have tried it.

Also, you’ll notice that there isn’t a damned vegetable in sight. I was so fixated on getting the pork right that I didn’t exactly round out the meal.  Yes, we had coleslaw, but that was really just part of the pork delivery system.  Then again had there been any vegetables lying around I most likely would have tried to smoke them (I’m sitting here wondering how many stoners are going to wander onto this blog post).

So this, the second outing with my crazy-ass homemade smoker, was such a success that I think I had my fill of smoked meats for about six  months.  Which is good and bad.

Oh, and you’ll notice in the top picture how I use a seashell to block the hole on the top of the smoker.  This is what the shell looked like at the end of the weekend:

Which I think is beautiful.

Part 1 Is Finished

beachthumbI wrapped up the first draft of Part 1 yesterday.  I rambled awhile ago about  my concerns as to its structure but looking back over it in my mind’s eye right now I’m happy with how it turned out.

If you’re new here, I’m talking about the first draft of the sequel to Probability Angels that is currently being churned out on my computer. Part 1 had turned into one gigantic scene which I had found odd. Okay.  Now you’re caught up.

Upon finishing this 20,000 word long single scene, though, I decided that it works.  I was able to connect all the dots and touch base with all the main characters and introduce the main plot elements to my satisfaction.  Obviously it needs a ton of work but all drafts do, I’m just saying that I’m no longer concerned that my structure was taking over and I was making choices to appease it rather than making choices to tell my story well .  My only lingering worry is that I wound up spending an awful lot of time with a character named Gary that I didn’t even know existed before and I’m not at all sure what to make of that.  Then again, if you had asked me if this book would be divided into parts when I started writing it, I probably would have said no, and yet parts abound and they seem to be working so I’m not worried about a rogue character stealing screen time.

Also, whenever I’m writing a plot-intensive story such as this one I tend to get really really excited and want to give things away…which is annoying.  Don’t let me do that.

Now all I have to do is figure out what comes next.  Hitting a section break of any sort is a great feeling but it can be jarring as you no longer have the flow you’ve been working with previously to guide you to your next day of work.  I have to go pick up a completely new thread which is a strange challenge.

Whatever. I’ll figure it out. I think.  To be honest Memorial Day is coming up on me fast and I’m planning on visiting the Jersey Shore and hopefully smoking some pulled pork so my concentration isn’t top notch this week.

May’s Contest Shall Turn to June

thefutureJust a quick note on contests here.  When I first started doing contests I arbitrarily started the first one mid-month and that became the pattern.  This was fine but now we’re going to be doing Red’s idea of a trivia contest for my shorts stories and I’d like to give you all a full month to get into things so we’re going to be launching the next contest June 1st.  I think.  I haven’t looked at a calendar so if June 1st is a Sunday we might technically wind up launching on June 2nd but you get the idea.

Also, since we’re skipping May’s contest we’re going to take that month’s prize money and lump it together with June. That means that it’ll be a $100 Amazon Gift Card up for grabs.

As for the quiz itself, well I’m working on it and it’s been challenging.  It’s pretty hard for me to tell if a question is difficult or not.  I want to have them scale in difficulty as the quiz progresses but that may be a pipe dream.  And right now it’s looking to be about fifteen questions, ideally one for each short story.  But, again, we’ll see how that’s looking a week from now.

That is all.

Video of me solving a Rubik’s Cube

rubikthumbI am a nerd, and as such I do nerdish things.

Management is more of a geek, and as such he tends to make geeky purchases.

Combine his latest purchase, a Flip video camera, with my one displayable talent and you wind up with the following video.

Management jumbles up a Rubik’s Cube; I sit down and solve the Rubik’s Cube.  Then I grin like a goofy goofy bastard at the camera. It takes me about a minute twenty to solve it, which is a little on the slow side but I was nervous around the camera.

Also I’m wearing my snazzy new Probability Angels baseball-t.

Enjoy.

Things That Were Cooked Last Weekend

I had a cooking outing on Saturday.  I will attempt to walk you through this visually, although being busy cooking means not being free to take photos.  Some of the more interesting stuff went undocumented and some of the better looking stuff was cooked not by me but by my happy cooking friend.

So be it.

Everything started at Whole Foods in Columbus Circle:

Whole Foods Outside

This is the only picture I was able to take inside before being told I wasn’t allowed to take pictures:

Whole Foods Inside

I don’t know why they don’t allow photos.  I’ve never run a store so I’d imagine there are plenty of reasons, the first that springs to mind is that they don’t want a bunch of idiots like myself rearranging their fruit to take photos while paying customers are trying to shop.  But it’s a shame.  That place is beautiful and I’d like to photograph its pants off.

On to cooking.

I was in charge of the protein and we settled on baby back ribs. I went with Alton Brown’s recipe which involves putting a dry rub on the ribs, letting them sit for at least an hour, then wrapping each rack in a separate aluminum foil pouch (I have no before pics of the ribs or the rub sadly):

Foil Wrapped Ribs

Here’s an artsy picture of them…aluminum foil is shiny:

foil

You then make a braising liquid, pour some into each pouch, seal the pouches and park them in a low oven for a few hours.  It’s an interesting cooking method, one I’ve never used before, and something went a little wrong.  The ribs tasted great and all but they weren’t BBQ Baby Back Ribs.  They were…I don’t know what they were.  They didn’t have the sticky mahogany coat I was aiming for.  And after they’ve cooked you’re supposed to drain out the remaining liquid from each foil pouch and reduce it to make a glaze. Only it never really reduced into anything except brown water.  I’m thinking I put too much liquid into each pouch.  Braising requires the barest minimum of cooking liquid, otherwise you’re stewing.  So I guess I made stewed ribs.  Which still tasted awesome.

Ribs

That photo is making me hungry.

We also had Okra…

Chopped Okra

…which you toss in corn meal.  No egg or flour or any washes are required as Okra is slimy.  I know saying that a food is slimy doesn’t sound that awesome but it allows your dredge to stick to it au natural which makes it fry up surprisingly light and crisp:

okra

We had biscuits.

I didn’t make these.  I hate baking.  My happy cooking friend also claims to hate baking which started to sound a little silly by the end of the night as, among other things, she managed to turn this:

Cut Flour

Into this:

Biscuit Dough

Into this:

Biscuits

We also had grits.  I’ve never made grits before.  We used quick grits.  There are grits, which require full cooking time, quick grits, which are specially ground regular grits that require very little cooking time, and then there are instant grits, which are precooked grits which only require hot water to rehydrate.

Here’s a fun experiment.  Try cooking grits in a group and counting how many times My Cousin Vinny comes up in conversation:

vinny

It’s a lot. I can’t find the actual clip.  You either know what I’m talking about or you don’t, and if you don’t then you were living in a cave for all of 1992.

Anyway, grits are crazy-stupid-easy.  You boil them for five minutes.  Then you dump cheese and butter into them. We also threw in some chopped jalapenos:

grits

What else…collared greens and fried green (yellow) tomatoes:

Collared Greens

tomatoes

No after shots of those.  Both very simple.  Greens get simmered in some salted and sugared water for about 30 minutes or until tooth tender.  Adding cooked bacon and caramelized onions, shockingly, adds some nice flavors.

Tomatoes get floured, egged and dredged then pan fried in some oil.

And here is a shot of some tomato and dill which has nothing to do with anything nor do these two ingredients have anything to do with each other but they looked nice:

Dill and Tomato

There was also key-lime pie and pecan tarts but no pictures were taken of those.

Oh.

Wine and beer:

beer

Can’t forget that.

Joe out.

My take on the Kindle

kindlethumbI finally got around to plugging in my Kindle last week.  I ordered my Kindle sometime back in the Neolithic era based on a strong recommendation from a mastodon friend of mine (see that’s a joke because Amazon is having some problems meeting demand…also the mastodon was really more of an acquaintance and not a friend).  When I ordered it I was actually ordering a Kindle 1, although the Kindle 2 didn’t exist yet so it wasn’t called that.  Sometime in the intervening eons Amazon emailed me and told me that I was automatically upgraded to the Kindle 2 since it was now for sale and I was still on the waiting list.  I responded by promptly forgetting all about it.

It showed up a few weeks ago.  Then it sat on a box on my floor for awhile.  My point here is that this was something I knew I should look into, but it wasn’t something that I thought was going to be all that earth shattering.

I was wrong.

I opened my Kindle, charged it up and dove in about a week ago.  In that space of time my entire frame of reference has been altered and I now look at the clunky foolish messes of mashed up trees covered in squid liquids that reside on my bookshelves and wonder how the hell I lived with the primitive devices known as “books” for the past thirty years.

Which is to say that I’m a Kindle Convert.

For those who don’t know what a Kindle is, imagine a device the size of a small paperback with a screen on it that can display text beautifully.

Amazon Kindle

Now imagine that this screen can be erased and redrawn in less than a second and that the device can store and then display, page by page, over 1,000 books.

“Yes,” many of you are thinking. “That’s called a computer.”

Which is a fair point, but the important difference is the screen.  It uses something called e-ink, which I’ve seen described in a number of baffling ways.

I can’t find anyone who uses the nice easy explanation which is this: it’s a magnadoodle:

magnadoodle

Granted, it’s a magnadoole with a vast number of cells and a ridiculously complex method of getting the black stuff to stick to the screen. Instead of tracing over the screen yourself with a magnetic pen, the screen magnetizes itself in a precise way which causes pigment to rise to the top in an intricate pattern which creates letters and sometimes draws pictures.

What does all of this mean?

A number of things.  The first, and the biggest, is that the Kindle does not emit light. When you stare at a computer screen you are staring at thousands of glowing crystals (or bits of plasma or diodes) that shine different colored lights at your eyes.  The Kindle does not do this.  It does not glow.  It just sits there like a sheet of paper with words written on it.  This is a much different experience from reading off of a computer. A much kinder experience.

The second difference is that once the page is drawn the Kindle requires no more power.  The first time I powered down my Kindle it flashed black and then this showed up.

screensaver

At which point I thought, “No, you stupid, stupid device, I want you to turn off.  Now turn off.” And then I hit the power switch a few more times, watching the main menu pop up, then watching another famous author appear, then the main menu, then a famous author, then the main menu and so on.

It took me a few moments to make the leap and remember that this:

screensaver2

is off.  Once the screen gets drawn it can shut down, leave the ink where it is, and use no more power. Which means, assuming you aren’t downloading new books, you can get a couple of weeks of life out of this thing without recharging.  That’s pretty awesome.

Those are the big, technology-ish things that most people talk about.

I’m more of a pragmatist (no I don’t know what that word means) so here are the things I found much more interesting.

First, you “turn” the page by pressing a button which is both conveniently large and located on either side of the device:

nextpageright

nextpageleft

The first few times you do this it’s disorienting. The screen goes all black for a half-second before the next page draws.  But you get used to this pretty fast.  Also, it’s odd not to be turning a page.  This also gets forgotten quickly.  It took me up until my first subway ride with my Kindle when I, without even trying, stumbled onto the most astounding aspect of this device.  I was standing there, reading a book, one hand holding my Kindle, the other holding onto the subway pole for balance.  I rode the whole way to my stop before it dawned on me that I never had to let go of my grip on the subway pole in order to turn a page.

I was reading with one hand.

This. Is. Huge.

All you do is press down gently on the button and you’ve turned the page.  This is one of those things that sounds so stupid and seems so insignificant that it’s impossible to convey how revolutionary it is.

Therefore I will say this as bluntly at possible.

Books suck.

They’re clumsy and they’re all different sizes and if you’ve got a hardcover then you have to worry about breaking the spine in order to keep it open if you want to read while, say, eating your breakfast.  If you have a soft cover and you’re reading on the subway in the scenario described above you have to fold the cover over and keep flipping the book around to read the facing page and then the backing page and you lose your grip sometimes and pages go flipping backwards and then to turn the page you have to let go and subway surf.  Even reading on your couch you’re constantly shifting position, not due to any internal need of your own body for comfort, but because of an external need to meld yourself in some better way to the book your reading.

The Kindle, on the other hand, always sits there perfectly flat.  If you’re able to hold it up close then great, if you’ve got to hold it a bit further away, well that’s no problem because you can adjust the font size to enormous proportions and continue reading.

I ate a cheeseburger the other day, a big cheeseburger that I had to hold with both hands, and I read while doing so.  Granted we’re not quite at the point where you can just think at the device and the page turns so there was some fuddling to push the “Next Page” button with my elbow, but I got it done with relative ease.  And the Kindle sat there on my ottoman, the pages never blew around when my fan hit it, its spine never decided to return to a previously creased position and flip itself over to an earlier chapter, it sat there unmoving for me to read while both my hands were occupied with a cheeseburger, happily waiting until I pushed the button.

Do I sound like a lunatic talking about the hardships of having to move one hand in order to turn a sheet of paper over? Yes.  Do I care? No. Is this more than superficial prissiness? Yes.

Consider this: since I’ve started reading my Kindle on the subway I’ve missed my stop three times.  I never miss my stop. It’s happened once in the ten years I’ve been living in New York.  This past week it’s happened three times.  Not having to break constantly to fuddle with paper lets you concentrate more fully and more deeply on whatever you are reading.  To the point where I’m missing subway stops.  This is powerful mojo.

Now here’s the second big thing for me.  I live in a small apartment.  Space is precious.  Here is my bookshelf:

bookshelf

Here is the foot of my bed:

footofbed

Here is a drawer that was supposed to contain not a single book:

drawer

Now here are the next 1,000 books I’m going to purchase:

1000books

I love this thing.

The third biggest thing for me is how you get your books.  You download them via wi-fi…or something.  Here we run into the limits of my grasp of technologies.  So lets just say that magical, invisible elves bring you your books and implant them into the heart of your Kindle so they show up when you go to your library.  It takes one minute to get a new book.  One.  Plus, as I’ve mentioned, you can store up to 1,000 books. The easiest way to explain the awesomeness of this is to ask you to picture yourself packing for your next vacation.  Do you take a book? They’re so heavy and you’re currently reading the last Harry Potter which weighs roughly as much as a blue whale.  Also, you’re almost done with that so now what do you do? Do you bring that book and another book?  Which one? What are you going to feel like reading when you’re done with Harry Potter?

So you stop and your forehead wrinkles and you think, “Okay, I’ll just have finished a light fantasy book.  So maybe I’ll want something a bit more edgy, like a nice hard-boiled crime drama.  Except I’ll be near a pool which relaxes me so maybe I’ll want to re-read an old classic…but what if there’s a breeze…” at which point your brain explodes as you try and put yourself into the shoes of your future self while debating what sort of influences on your fiction desires a breeze might exert.

Have a Kindle?  Problem solved. Bring every book you’ve ever heard of and take up no more space in your bag than the lightest of paperbacks.

Other little things I enjoy include the ability to toggle a cursor around on the page and get definitions for any word there, as well as the ability to preview available books while you shop at the Kindle store.

Now onto the cons.

Con number one is that the thing is light, which seems like a pro, but to be honest I felt really weird carrying it around without a case.  And it doesn’t ship with a case. You have to buy one extra.  Trust me, you need a case.  The thing is too light without a case to the point where I was convinced I was going to leave it somewhere or toss it onto a stack of books forgetting that it was fragile and break it.

Con number two is that it’s a little clunky to navigate around inside of a book.  If you’re reading straight through from beginning to end (obviously a pretty common occurrence) then it’s easy enough.  The page you’re on gets remembered so if you pop out to the main menu then back to your book you’re right where you were.  But if you want to jump back to something in chapter one and you’re in chapter eight it can get rough.  There’s an option to “sync up to the last page read,” which seems like an attempt at a solution to this problem, but you have to be online (wi-fi elves) to use this for some odd reason. I was on the subway and wanted to jump back to the last page I had read and it told me I had no internet service.  Considering how relatively easy it is for me, a human, to mark a section so I can return to it later I found it odd that the computer inside couldn’t somehow constantly mark the last point I had reached in case I jumped out to the table of contents without thinking and then wanted to find my way back.

I realize that I may have sounded contradictory there saying that it was hard to navigate but then saying that it was easy to mark a spot to return to later, but keep in mind that you don’t always know what spots you’re going to want to return to.  It’s not like at the beginning of a murder mystery you’re going to go, “Oh, that guy is obviously the murderer. I’ll mark the first time we see him now so I can go back and reread it when he gets revealed as the dastardly villain later on.”

You might think that page numbers would be helpful here but keep in mind that page numbers don’t exist anymore.  When you can change the font size at will page numbers become meaningless.  Instead there’s a new number notation system that seems to have been devised by NASA cryptographers. It’s a series of four numbers then a dash then a series of two numbers but, and granted I suck at math, they don’t seem to proceed in any sort of logical order.

That’s it really.  Those are the only cons I can think of while the pros are that it has completely changed the way I read.

If you were on the fence, get off the fence.  Go buy a Kindle.

This thing is awesome for reasons I never would have guessed.

Well, actually I’ll wrap up with one last con.

Sometimes when you shut it off and go to the screen saver it draws pictures of authors whose faces I’d have been perfectly happy to leave shrouded in mystery.

Yeah.  That’s right.  I’m looking at you, Alexander Dumas.

dumas

April’s Contest Winner Is…

victorythumbThe submissions are in, the votes have been tabulated and management and I have ordered our dresses for the gala red carpet extravaganza accompanying this month’s contest results.

There was a lot of good stuff out there but in the end we went with Red’s idea to put together a trivia contest based on the currently published short stories.  It sounded like a lot of fun and a great way to get new readers to dip into the fiction or for old readers to revisit with their favorites.

So thank you all for entering, congratulations to Red, and we’ll have next month’s contest up and running in a couple of weeks.

Many thanks and happy reading.