Saturday, May 13, 2017

Book Review: Ready Player One - Ernest Cline


OK, I know I am late to the dance on this one as it was published in 2011, but I just read it this week. The year is 2044, and the world is deep into a huge energy crisis. Huge amounts of the population have abandon their homes in the suburbs and rural country side do to the lack of energy and have swarmed to the cities. The resulting scramble for housing has caused some creative solutions. Mobile home trailer parks have been converted to "stacks" - trailers on scaffolding five and 8 stories high. A virtual world has been created called OASIS, where people escape the miserable conditions of the modern society. The virtual society relies on virtual reality goggles, gloves, and chairs. When the creator of OASIS dies, he leaves a message to everyone with an OASIS account that he has created an Easter Egg within OASIS. The first one to find the Easter Egg wins inherit his estate - a huge fortune and OASIS. 

The story focuses on Wade Watts an aimless teenager living with his aunt in the stacks. When he is not in virtual high school in OASIS, he is an egg hunter. The closer he gets to finding the egg, the more the multinational corporation that provides Internet services sets their targets on the teenager,  and they will stop at nothing to bet him to the egg so they can capitalize on ownership of OASIS.

Halfway through the book, I had a hard time convincing myself to set it down and go to bed. It is an excellent read with a well crafted story line and well developed characters. If you grew up in the 1980s, you will recognize all of the video games mentioned. I enjoyed every page and highly recommend it.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Book Review: Unthinkable - Scott Rigsby with Jenna Glatzer


18 year old Scott Rigsby had completed another days worth of working mowing lawns and was riding on the toolbox on the back of a pickup when the trailer they were pulling was struck by a tractor-trailer attempting to pass them on a narrow bridge. Scott was thrown from the truck, wedged under the trailer, and drug down the asphalt for over 300 feet. His right leg was amputated at the hospital. After several years of battling infections, his left leg was amputated as well. 

Scott spent several years wandering aimlessly struggling to keep a day job and to find his way in life. He struggled with alcohol and depression along the way. Despite it all, in 2007, some nine years later, he became the first double amputee to complete an Ironman competition - a 140.6 mile course combining swimming, biking, and running. He completed the course in 16 hours, 42 minutes, and 46 seconds. Scott now devotes his time inspiring physically challenged individuals and students to overcome the obstacles and challenges to pursue their dreams to do something amazing.

Once I started this book, I could not lay it down until I had finished it. I highly recommend it to everyone at any age.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Update on Awakened


In case you were wondering, I have not fallen off the face of the earth or fell asleep at the switch. I have been writing, and I am happy to announce that I have completed the manuscript for the sequel to Shaken Awake which is entitled Awakened. The editing process is now under way, and I am shooting for publication early this Fall. All of your favorite characters have returned. For those of you who said Shaken Awake ended too soon - your voice was heard, and your concerns have been addressed. You will be able to see into the lives of everyone that was impacted by the storm in the original book. I think and I pray that you will enjoy this book, and it will spawn many honest conversations and give folks a great deal to consider.

Stay Tuned!


Allen

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Yak and Yeti Restaurant - Walt Disney World Animal Kingdom

(photo credit: the author)

Nestled in the Asia section of Disney World's Animal Kingdom sitting in the shadow of Mount Everest, is the Yak and Yeti Restaurant. Whether you have a small appetite, or are hungry from a day of adventure,we have found the menu to provide delightful selections. Our small plate favorites are the Pork Pot Stickers (dumplings) either pan seared or steamed served with soy lime dipping sauce and the Firecracker Shrimp which is lightly fried and tossed in what I refer to as spicy fire sauce served over Asian slaw. The slaw is just the right mix to control the fire that ignites in your mouth.

From the Wok, we can solidly recommend the Korean Beef wok fried with peppers, onions, pineapple and Korean barbecue sauce. On a recent visit, they had added a specialty selection of chicken and waffles that they were trial running. Apparently it has made such a smashing sensation on all who have tried it, the waiter admitted it would soon be included as a staple on the menu. One of our party ventured out and tried it and gave it rave reviews. I have personally eaten at the Yak and Yeti twice now and am planning on returning to try more menu items as there are so many entries that sound delicious. 

As always reservations are recommended. They do accept walk-ups and we have had success getting seated for lunch as a walk-up, but that may vary depending on the busy season.


Friday, December 30, 2016

Le Cellier Steakhouse at Epcot World Showcase

Photo credit: http://guide2wdw.com/

For my birthday this year, my wife booked us a reservation at Le Cellier Steakhouse in the Canada exhibit in Disney World's Epcot World Showcase. Forget about a walk up table as it simply is not going to happen. Most recommend making a reservation 180 days ahead of time. We did not have to go quite to that extent, but a reservation will be a requirement as it is the most requested dining reservation within the Disney World Resort.


Yes, it is pricey.  I will not begin to tell you any different, but sometimes in life, you get what you pay. And this is one of those occasions. The steaks are cut somewhere between 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. A medium rare steak while having its traditional warm red center will come out with a wonderful exterior seer, amazingly tender, and full of flavor. If you prefer your steak medium, medium well, or we'll done, I will never understand you. But in any case, I would recommend having your steak butterfly cut to achieve the finish you desire just because they are so thick.



I have not yet sampled them, but I understand their Whole grain, pretzel, and sourdough breadsticks and their Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup are the requests of repeat customers.

For the adults seeking a refreshing beverage, they have a well stocked bar with a separate drink menu that is as thick as the steaks. I am comfortable saying that everyone should be able to find a beverage to their delight.

The price may preclude visitors from dining there on every visit to the Disney World Resort,  I would submit that it merits a position on your bucket list.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Disney World's Maya Grill at Coronado Springs Resort


This past Summer our vacation at Disney World was cut short due to the rescheduling delays of the closing on our house. So our 5 day vacation at the happiest place on earth was shortened to two days and one night. One of the highlights of the shortened trip was dinner at the Maya Grill located in Coronado Springs Resort Main Building just past the Pepper Market.

The first pleasant surprise is compared to many of the better Disney restaurants, the Maya Grill is reasonably priced with dinner selections under $30. But the reasonable pricing in no way reflects on the quality of the food. To say I had a hard time making an entree choice would be a huge understatement.  We both settled on the beef short ribs which were cooked to absolute fork tender perfection.  They were served with a potato puree that ideally complimented the tender beef. We both left desiring to return and sample some of the other entree choices.

The good news for Disney guests, you do not have to be staying at Coronado Springs Resort to take advantage of the Maya Grill. You can take a resort bus from any Disney Park to Coronado Springs or to any Disney Resort property and avail yourself to their restaurants. I do recommend making a reservation which is easy enough to do if you have the Disney World app on your phone or mobile device or by calling Disney World Dining Reservations (407) WDW-DINE or (407) 939-3463.

Hours: 7:00am- 10:00pm



Sunday, December 11, 2016

50's Prime Time Café and Tune In Lounge - Disney's Hollywood Studios

image credit: http://www.wdwlive.com/

Having started our second season as Disney Annual Passholders. It occurred to me I should share our discoveries. Living within an hour and half driving distance to Disney World, we have the opportunity to visit once a month. Many folks only have the opportunity to visit once a year. So, for those of you in that situation, I would like to provide some insights to help you maximize your enjoyment when you visit during your vacation. I will begin with sharing our experience at the 50's Prime Time Café.

When you enter the doors of 50's Prime Time Café, you literally have stepped back into the 1950's. Having not grown up in the 1950's, it gave me pause. As you look around you see Formica countertops, waitresses dressed in pink dresses and men in shirts and ties. Everything in the Café, and I mean everything, is period authentic including black and white televisions playing 1950's TV shows. To your left is a waiting area that looks like the living room from an episode of "Leave it to Beaver" or "Happy Days". Just behind the living room area is the Tune In Lounge which is a appropriately decorated 1950's bar. 

The waitstaff treat you like family, so be on your best behavior or be prepared to be admonished with quips like "Would it kill you to say please?", "I am not taking your order until you take your hat off at the table", "Get your elbows off the table", "Is there a napkin in your lap?".

If the decor and the entertainment of the waitstaff is not enough to get you in the door, the quality of the food certainly will be. An order of fried chicken produces a leg, a wing, a thigh and a breast of some of the best fried chicken I have ever eaten since my grandmother died. Yes, it is honestly that good. It was served with a side of whole kernel corn and mashed potatoes and gravy. No Substitutions. Would your Mom offer substitutions with your dinner? Right. The beef pot-roast is another sure bet as is the meatloaf. Conflicted? Try the sampler, you will get a portion of all three and you can make your own evaluations. I have not tried the Chicken Pot Pie, but it is a safe bet it is on my short list.

Drinks include options for vanilla or cherry syrup added to a Coke, Coke and root beer floats, hand spun milkshakes and of course adult beverages from the bar. Dessert will pick up where the entrees left off. A delightful selection of cheesecake with strawberry syrup, ice cream sundaes,  Chocolate-Peanut Butter Layered Cake, warm Apple Crisp, and more.

If a visit Hollywood Studios is in your future, I highly recommend making a reservation for lunch or dinner. The 50's Prime Time Café and Tune In Lounge are located on Hollywood Studios' Echo Lake. When you enter the park, head straight up Hollywood BLVD and turn left at the first intersection. You will walk directly to the 50's Prime Time Café and Tune In Lounge.







Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Interview at SeriousReading.com



Recently, I played a game of 20 questions with the staff of SeriousReading.com If you have ever wanted to know a little bit more about me and my writing, I would suggest you take a couple minutes, grab a cup of coffee, and check out the interview: Interview at SeriousReading.com

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Review: Time for Dervin: Living Large In Geiggityville - Bobby Darnell



I have known Bobby Darnell since the late 1970s. Bobby was always known for his sense of humor. He was always a source of jokes that didn't necessarily make you laugh but would produce a smile. Jokes like, "How do you catch a unique rabbit? You 'nique' up on it" were known as Darnell jokes in our circle of friends. We never expected he would launch a stand up career, but everyone enjoyed having him around as everyone can enjoy someone that makes folks smile. Bobby sent me a complimentary copy of Time for Dervin. As I read it, I quickly detected a pattern. Three frames of each cartoon are an amazing pun that won't always produce a laugh, but everyone will make the reader smile. The fourth frame is what I have come to call "a fun fact about Dervin" (aka Darnell).

All told Time for Dervin is an enjoyable collection of cartoons that remind me of Calvin and Hobbs. Many give you pause. All will make you smile. And who couldn't use a smile?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Big News!

Since originally publishing Shaken Awake, I have had regular inquiries if there was a study guide for the book that could be used by book clubs or small groups. The good news is, we have released a study guide edition. It is the complete book organized for a 5-week study. Each week, read 3 of the short chapters and then the reader is presented with questions to consider related to that week's reading. The study guide is being released in a paperback edition only, so readers can make notes, etc. It is currently available at Createspace.com. But will be available on Amazon and from other book sellers in the next few weeks.

Is your small group looking for their study? We got you covered. Check out Shaken Awake - Study Guide Edition.