Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Can You Spin Straw into Gold?

This is not the birthday girl, but her older sister katie who is almost 5. She was holding straw and I asked, "Can you spin that into gold Rapunzel?" (In my best mock English aristocratic accent). She said no, but she would throw it at her brother instead!

Princess gift wrap and gift boxes made by Lady in Waiting Alyssa

the Queen Mum looking great after surgery(Grandma Donna)

Birthday princess Lucy and Queen Kelly (mommy)on the hayride.

"O Prince Jake, thou art so handsome!" sighs Princess Julie.

Somehow big sister has more birthday toys than Lucy does!

It's true, Alyssa looks much better in her princess crown

BookLook Review "The Thirteenth Tale"

“The Thirteenth Tale” Begins our MonsterFest

It’s October (cue the scary music) and time once again for MonsterFest here at BookLook. I am not a fan of gross and gory, but I do love the occasionally creepy book in October. You know how you always buy that giant bargain bag of Halloween candy early even though you know you shouldn’t because you’ll just eat it, but you do it every year? “The Thirteenth Tale” by Diane Setterfield is just like that yummy bag of Halloween candy that you can’t stop eating once you start. It is a real treat!
The ill and aging Vida Winter has summoned Margaret Lea to write her biography. Vida is a famous author who has written twelve bestselling stories over several decades but remained mysterious to her adoring readers. Tending to reinvent her own bio at every press interview, the reclusive Vida has given the public a far from true picture of a glamorous star with a scandalous past. Margaret Lea is a young biographer living a quiet and lonely life with her father before she moves into Vida’s mansion to begin writing the thirteenth and final story for Miss Winters.
It is soon evident to Margaret why Vida has buried her past. It is monstrous. This is an insane family tree where all the twisted branches are wealthy misfits, asylum inmates and even murderers. The ghosts flit eerily across the gardens and into the dreams of the young writer who is haunted by her own family secrets. In the grand tradition of all English Gothic mysteries, the classic themes include abandonment, identity and unrequited love. However, Setterfield writes in a modern literature style that binds the two times together for the occasional novel reader or the avid book worm.
Filled with ghosts and suspense, “The Thirteenth Tale” may give you nightmares – but you‘ll enjoy them. The characters are safely bound by the cover of a book, and can’t jump out of the closet and get you. But be sure to have your big bag of Halloween trick or treat bag by your side when you read this chilling tale just for reassurance.

Monday, September 21, 2009

So cool to have a new release

Thanks to Chris and Marie I got the brand spankin' new Dan Brown novel - read and reviewed so here ya go.
“The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown
The best part about “The Lost Symbol” was that I got it first. Like that little girl with the first Cabbage Patch doll, or the boy with the cool new Star Wars toy, I enjoyed the envious glances in the airport this week as I propped it up to read. I took advantage of the preorder option at Amazon with my birthday gift certificate and had the book delivered to my porch the day before my flight. It was so cool! I got a little distracted from the prologue because I had to keep giving a sympathetic queenly smile to the other passengers who were gazing at me with envy.
It is absolutely Dan Brown strikes again. It will be a home run for him – not because he is a great writer but because he knows how to play the bestseller game. Formula adventure novel number three once more features Robert Langdon. He is tricked into coming to Washington D.C. from his Harvard home base to save his kidnapped friend Peter Solomon. Peter is wealthy (of course), brilliant (naturally), powerful (understandably), lonely (sigh), and a leader of the mysterious Masons. Langdon must solve an ancient pyramid puzzle secret within hours while eluding the CIA and the evil tattooed guy, or his friend will die. To aid him in this quest, the symbology professor has Peter’s wealthy, brilliant, powerful, lonely sister. Although, one thing about her bothered me – if she was so brilliant how come she couldn’t figure out the villain like I did?
Like Michael Crichton, I wonder if Dan Brown is getting a little too impressed with his own research. There are many pages of information on the Masonic history and tradition which is fascinating. There are many more pages of preaching Dan Brown’s religious philosophies which is annoying. Despite these small aggravations, it is an entertaining read. I especially enjoyed the daring escape riding the subterranean book conveyer belt for the Library of Congress and as always the puzzle is lots of fun as it unfolds for the reader.
There was sufficient tension and suspense to keep me reading for a couple of days to finish the book. I enjoyed the coolness of being the first kid on my block to have this new toy but I will have much more fun sharing it with anyone who wants to read it next.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Mark the Principal Walks to School

It was "walk to school day" and Mark posed with Cosmo the BYU mascot at his school. Although, Mark in fact cheated by riding his motorcycle to school!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Roman's First Birthday

Roman had his first birthday at our house and was the star of the day of course. He had us all laughing with his deep voiced manly 2 syllable comments "Uh-oh" and "Duh-da". I know what uh-oh means, but duh-da may be a version of ta-da or just something he repeats because we always laugh. We can't help it!

Roman insisted on standing at the table to unwrap and play with his birthday presents. He has a little frosting on his onesie! He loved this little green alligator pull toy from Uncle Sean and Aunt Alyssa.

Roman would not eat his cupcake until I got him his spoon.

He's checking out the frosting on one of his special birthday cupcakes. His mom made a dairy free carrot cake since he is alergic to milk products and it we all thought it was yummy!

Roman with his birthday loot with a picture of his cupcake cake.

RoRoBean with cousin Gabe the Babe. Notice the birthday onesie on Roman made by Aunt Alyssa.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

BookLook Triple Threat

Here are 3 in a row - I am getting these into the newspaper early so I might as well post them early also. I'm pretty sure my negative review on "The Shack" will get me a couple of letters to the editor! But it just doesn't "feel right" if you get what I mean.

“The Shack” Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity

I wanted to like this book-it’s number two on the paperback fiction New York Times Best Sellers List. But when it was time to give my thumbs up or thumbs down I had to go with a no vote. I checked out a picture of the author William Paul Young at a speaking engagement and the audience was 99% suburban middle aged women. It looked a little like my book club actually! I then read about his life story and understood better why he wrote this Christian themed book. A quote from the website: “He said he had suffered sexual abuse in New Guinea as the child of Canadian missionaries. After an extramarital affair 15 years ago, he said, he spent a decade in therapy, trying to earn back his wife’s and family’s trust.” I hope the success of this book does it for him but if not he will be way ahead financially.
In 2005 Mr. Young, now 53, started writing the book to show how he had healed by forging a new relationship with God. He chose to make God an African-American woman, he said, because he wanted to alter religious preconceptions. “It was just a way of saying: ‘You know what? I don’t believe that God is Gandalf with an attitude or Zeus who wants to blast you with any imperfection that you exhibit,’ ” Mr. Young said. And I said as I was reading, “But I sure don’t like your version either.”
That is one of the first problems I had while reading “The Shack”. Yes, I know it’s fiction but the author is pretty heavy-handed in his preaching about a new Trinity. God is a large pie-baking woman; The Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit is a mystical woman who gardens; and Jesus is of course a carpenter in jeans. Unfortunately he has Jesus portrayed as a perfect but powerless man reflecting God, not being God and saying: “Seriously, my life was not meant to be an example to copy.” The author also writes about Jesus performing miracles. “He did so as a dependent, limited human being trusting in my life and power to be at work within him and through him. Jesus, as a human being, had no power within himself to heal anyone.” It gets a little confusing since some scripture based truth is mixed in with the author’s modernized and humanized view of the Trinity.
But what about the story – Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and he is suffering the “Great Sadness. Evidence that she may have been murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later, Mack receives a note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Unable to resist his curiosity, he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he found there were three characters that would change Mack's world forever and begin his healing. This is the frame for the sermon and it gives an emotional motivation for the reader to keep going. Remind you of any other recent spiritual yearning books? There isn’t a new message since we already know that God loves us and we must learn to forgive and release anger and pain in order to be happy. Reading the Bible instead of The Shack would be a better use of our time.

BookLook #2 "The Last Unicorn"

“The Last Unicorn”

Do you still love fairytales? I have just reread a great one that was a favorite of my children twenty years ago. “The Last Unicorn” is more famous as a favorite children’s movie but the book is, as always, even better than the animated video. The book written in 1968 by Peter S. Beagle combined with the classic 1982 movie in a 25th Anniversary DVD edition will also be a great Christmas gift this year. I’m not a movie reviewer, but if I was I would be sure to mention the movie is G rated and there are great songs by America, voices by Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, and Angela Lansbury… oh wait, this is a book review column.

The story begins in the unicorn’s wood where everything is magical and eternal. Spring is the only season as trees and flowers bloom under blue skies. But the unicorn overhears a conversation between two hunters as they pass through her woods wondering aloud if unicorns still exist. The unicorn bravely leaves her beautiful sanctuary on a quest to find out if there are any unicorns left in the world. She is joined in her search by a cast of characters that bring her the new experiences of friendship, love, and even humor.

Schmendrick is a bumbling but brave magician who is cursed to wander until he finds his true magic. The peasant Molly Grue leaves a band of not-so-merry men in the forest and adds an earthly anchor to the three travelers with her practical and wise ways. The menacing King Haggard is a lesson in the pain and suffering caused by selfishness and greed. It is a simply told tale of a quest and of conquering fear and self doubt to fill our destiny.

It will be a great read aloud for Mike’s boys at bedtime, and then they can watch the movie. His Christmas book gift would seem to be for his sons Dawson and Haydon but it is really for him. It will be wrapped in the hope that they will share this treasured fairytale together and Mike will have his memories to add to the reading experience.

Book Look Review "The Defector"

“The Defector” Daniel Silva’s Latest Novel

Another best seller has arrived at the library. Apparently lots of other people were waiting for this just 6 week old newborn-at-the-end-of-July novel since it is always checked out. But I will not be deterred and I just strolled across to the books on CD and took “The Defector” right home with me.

Silva has created, in the eight proceeding books of the series, a fascinating main character symbolically named Gabriel Allon. He is Gabriel for the archangel-seen as an angel of vengeance; and Allon which means oak tree in Hebrew. Gabriel is a ruthless assassin for the Israelis and one of the world’s finest art restorers. He is a complicated agent of destruction combined with a restorer of beauty. In this latest novel he is called away from his honeymoon in Italy where he is restoring a seventeenth-century altar piece for the Vatican to rescue a Russian defector. Grigori Bulganov saved Gabriel’s life in the past and Gabriel promised him that he wouldn’t end up in an unmarked grave. Grigori has disappeared suddenly from London and may have been kidnapped by Russians. There is a real possibility that he will end up in an unmarked grave if Gabriel doesn’t rescue him.

The series began with “The Kill Artist” and “The Defector” has continued the best selling Silva formula. Lots of international intrigue combined with personal danger. In the first book, Gabriel’s family is in danger. In this book, his new wife is kidnapped. The super villain is a worthy opponent who will be defeated by the superior spy team of more worthy Israelis. Right is might being the motto here. Lots of action, lots of money and lots of tension – all plot and not too much character development to get in the way. Hopefully that isn’t too many spoilers but you shouldn’t be surprised by the similarities to other Gabriel Allon books. The combination of the threat against Israel and those he loves is the motivation that drives this assassin which makes the incentive repetition necessary and the plot development inevitable.

As in the other books with Gabriel as the lead operative, his planning and spy craft keep the reader’s attention as the action unfolds. If you enjoy a spy thriller once in a while you should get on the library reserve list for “The Defector”. It isn’t necessary to read the other books first but you may find them entertaining as well – especially the first two. I enjoyed listening to the book on CD. The accents and voices were masterful which kept the characters in tune for the listener. It turned out to be a good way to “read” a new, popular best seller. There is a warning for language and lots of violence - fast forward through it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

I had to share this funny picture Mike took

It is a picture from a phone, so a bit blurry, but worth sharing. Apparently Haydon was exhausted after our family dinner last Sunday and fell (literally) asleep. He is also proving that those car booster seats are not quite as safe as we thought they were!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

We are Published

The only picture that would print off article websites was Marie's and it's with info right off the BYU website – M.S. 2006.
Identification, sequencing, expression and evolutionary relationships of the 11S seed storage protein gene in Chenopodium quinoa Willd

so that is her published article about um, well quinoa anyway and genetic research.

is the latest published academic in our family and at least I can read his title.School Science and Mathematics articles > April 2009
Article: Crossing the barriers between preservice and inservice mathematics teacher education: an evaluation of the grant school professional development program.
Article date: April 1, 2009
Author: Bahr, Damon; Monroe, Eula Ewing; Balzotti, Mark; Eggett, Dennis Copyright
A 2-year school-based mathematics professional development program is described and evaluated after its first year of implementation. Included in this program as its first course was a unique methods course in elementary education involving both preservice students and inservice teachers who cooperatively studied and applied reform pedagogy. The program resulted from the collaborative efforts of two institutions of higher education, a neighboring school district, the principal and teachers of one school within that district, and the state office of education. Evaluation of the first year of the program consisted of assessing the beliefs and perceptions of both preservice ...
Jon's recently published article in a medical journal is as mysterious as Marie's but basically it is about colon cancer and of course FAP families...
Article: CRC Surveillance Behaviors of Typical and Attenuated FAP Families:
authors and Disclosures
Anita Y. Kinney, Ph.D.1,2, Bret Hicken, Ph.D.3, Sara E. Simonsen, M.S.P.H.1, Vickie Venne, M.S.-G.C.1, Katrina Lowstuter, M.S.-G.C.4, Jonathan Balzotti1, and Randall W. Burt, M.D.1,5
1Huntsman Cancer Institute, 2Division of Clinical Epidemiology and Department of Internal Medicine, School of Medicine, 5Division of Gastroenterology and Department of Internal Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

And a March 2009 reference to one of Jon's academic works related to his job as at the U of U:
"... as with years in the past,we will have two presentations from directors. The first by Jonathan Balzotti of the University of Utah is intriguingly entitled “Tracking Discourse: How Tutors Can Teach Writing Centers.” The verb’s object is what intrigues me most. Writing centers in this becomes a concept to be taught to students at large…interesting"
And Chris of course has lots of posters published which I can't access online but here is a dandy title to contemplate for a soon to be published article.

Chris Balzotti (M.S.) - Predicting species distribution patterns detected from remote sensed imagery in Tropcial Forests of Guatemala. ...
If I missed anyone's publications, let me know and I will for sure brag about them too.