Book Review: The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, I don't know quite how to rate this book. There were a lot of things I liked but there were also a number of things that pulled me out of the story.

Audiobook
Let's start off with the audiobook itself. The audiobook was really well produced. It was read by Philip Pullman and fully cast with actors, resulting in a pretty immersive listening experience. Some of the characters in the book came across better than others, but most were quite good.

Philip Pullman also did an excellent job as the narrator and he has quite a good reading voice.

The Story
The story left me a bit mixed. I felt that there were too many instances of the narrative had to be resolved by a "deus ex machina", where Lyra just happened to have the right tool, or set of words to get her out of a situation. The alethiometer was a really cool device in the story, but often times was just too powerful of a plot device for Lyra.

Lyra's character also really left me mixed at times. I liked that she was portrayed as a strong female protagonist, but she sometimes swung from a helpless child less than her age, to someone who had the intelligence to outwit most of the adults around her. I was able to believe the latter, but the former felt out of place for the character that Pullman developed.

Most of the supporting cast I truly enjoyed. They were well developed and people you could love our hate truly based upon their character. Lyra's parents we come to find out are absolutely crazy. I enjoyed their insanity, but I did have a bit of trouble trying to understand how they fell in love to begin with. Their personalities seemed so far apart and they were insane for different reasons.

This was a pretty solid book, but I wasn't quite "wowed" by the hype that has proceeded it. I am not sure if I am going to go onto the second book in the series.

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I have been blogging for eleven years!!!!!

I was browsing around my blog today and noticed down at the bottom of the page that I had 45 pages of archives. I decided to click on the last link to see what my very first blog post was. My very first blog post was on October 9th, 2004. You can see it below. 

Now, I obviously wasn't using Posthaven back then and it appears that I had setup a custom html website with an RSS feed at the time. To be honest, I don't remember exactly what that was. Clearly though through the beauty of RSS I have been able to export and carry my past blog posts to the various platforms that I have used over the years. I have at one point or another used nearly every blog platform out there. For years Blogspot.com was my go to choice for blogging in the mid-2000's. The interface was clean and with the ownership of Google you got good search results. That annoying blogspot bar got to me over time and I then migrated to other platforms. At some point I was using Wordpress and while I liked the platform, it did eventually change from a blogging tool into a full on CMS, which became a bit overkill for my needs. Tumblr and Posterous were also great sites that I experimented with and there were probably more. 

In the end I have found myself now residing on Posthaven.com, which is a decent place to blog. It is a bare bones blogging system with a minimalist interface, but that is largely what I am looking for from my blogging system. I have always preferred to go with a paid hosting site if I can so I don't have to deal with ads and can have my own URL. Posthaven has grown a bit stagnant over the past few years though so there may come a time if I find the need to move onto another service to try. 

In the meantime though I thought it would be interesting to post a couple of my favorite old blog posts. Going through these brings back some interesting memories, and while the migrations from service to service to service hasn't preserved every post, many of them are at least still readable. 

C2E2 2016

Meg and I went to C2E2, Chicago's comic-con on Saturday and we had an absolutely blast. I have wanted to goto this show for a few years now, but I always miss the date and find out about it after the fact. It just so happened that this year, Megan's art teacher's conference abutted up to comic-con so we were able to attend. 

The show is a blast and if you are into comic books or TV shows then this is a good event to goto. There is a huge floor full of all sorts of vendors and media ranging from books, to comics to toys. And then there is the cosplay. As with any con, the cosplay is almost the draw in and of itself and the cosplay did not disappoint. There were some absolutely amazing costumes out there like the Black Mage from Final Fantasy I got a photo of. 

Megan got in on the cosplay this year and went at Kiki from Kiki's Delivery Service. It was a simply costume, but I was surprised at how many people wanted to get a photo of here. She probably had 30+ photos taken and she was a hit. I think she wants to go full in on the cosplay creation now.


Cook Book Series: Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home - Olive Oil Ice Cream

A couple of weeks ago Megan and I won a goodie basket from the chocolate fair at the Morton Arboretum. In the basket was (obviously chocolate) some olive oil and some dark chocolate balsamic vinegar from the "Olive Tap". We decided to adapt the olive oil ice cream recipe from Jenu's ice cream book, leaving out the nuts in the recipe to instead make just a pure olive oil ice cream. 

First off, if you are into making your own ice cream. Get this book. The recipes here are not only fantastic, but they are super easy to make since they do not require you to make a custard with eggs. Instead Jeni uses cream cheese as a base. 

This ice cream came out incredibly smooth and in fact did taste like custard when we were mixing it. It probably helped that the olive oil was as high quality as it was. This was a super easy recipe that nailed it out of the park. 

New Orleans

This past week I had an opportunity to goto New Orleans. Megan was having her annual art educator's conference there and I tagged along like I usually do. I never really had a desire to go to New Orleans before. I always sort of imagined it as a  sort of drunken college town (and it is that)  but I was pleasantly surprised after my weekend there. I was able to genuinely find some great music, great food and some great history. 


Day 1 - Thursday

We flew in to the city Thursday afternoon. We checked into our hotel which was located in the rehabilitated Warehouse district and then went out and got our bearings of the city. Our hotel was the Renaissance Arts Hotel which Megan thought was cool because it had a Chihuly sculpture in the lobby. Food was foremost on our minds though and we got some fantastic Happy Hour drinks and food at the Swizzle Stick Bar and had some gumbo and turtle soup. We then made our way to the downtown area and had some beignets a Cafe du Monde and checked out our first glimpse at the French Quarter. 

The night wrapped up with us taking a stroll through Bourbon Street late that night to see what it was. It was pretty much exactly what I thought it was. Expensive bars with crappy cover bands. We saw strip clubs and twenty or so drunken people standing in the street laughing at people who walked through horse manure. We decided pretty quickly that we had our fill. 


Day 2 - Friday

Day 2 had me heading out to a bayou kayaking tour. It is amazing how much of the area around New Orleans is really just swamp and bayou. There are almost no suburbs in the way that we think of them and everything is basically just under water. The kayak tour was a lot of fun. 

I was able to get some good tips for checking out some places in the area from our guides. I ended up going to Mother's Restaurant for lunch and had a huge po' boy sandwich and mustard greens. I had a chance to head back down to the square to to get some photos and found a bunch of street performers out and about.  I then attempted to see some of the old cemeteries, but the main one in the city just outside of the French Quarter unfortunately required you to go with a tour and it closed at 3:00 PM, so I was out of luck on that. Megan and I met back up and we had dinner at a place called Cochon. It was good, but honestly it reminded me a lot of a Chicago restaurant like Carriage House or something. 

We then decided to spend an hour over at the Harrah's casino which seemed to dominate the downtown area. I put in $2 in the slot machine and ended up with $8, which Megan then quickly made disappear. 


Day 3 - Saturday

Saturday was a really fun day. I started out at the World War II Museum, which was quite impressive. If anyone has a chance to go see it do so. There is a really great interactive movie there that features Tom Hanks that is very immersive. The museum is really well made and features a really heartbreaking but also partially romantic look back at the war. I thought they did a particularly good job at covering the Pacific front of the war which all too often seems to be overlooked. 

I then left the museum and headed out on the trolly to finally get to see the cemeteries. This time I went to the Greenwood Cemetery to the north. It was an interesting place and it was neat to see the gravestones dating back to the 1800's. From there I met back up with Megan and we grabbed a bite to eat and killed some time in the afternoon before making our way over to Frenchman's street for the evening. Now if you want to see some local music that isn't cover bands it seems that Frenchman's Street is the place to be. We got luck and found a seat at the bar of a place called 3 Muses. They had an amazing jazz ensemble with a clarinetist, accordion player, guitarist and upright bass player. We spent our evening there and had a wonderful time. It really was the perfect way to close out New Orleans.