Mike Becvar
Mike’s Take on the World

October 16, 2012

Books on CD

Filed under: entertainment, Life in General — Mike @ 8:02 am

I got my first book on CD several years ago to help keep me entertained on a car trip from Washington, DC to Chicago. At the time, I hadn’t read a book in years and didn’t really know what type of book I might like. I had enjoyed the first Harry Potter movie and knew a lot of people were reading the books, so that is where I started. For a year or two, I only listened to books on CD when I went on long car trips. I am not exactly sure when or how that changed. I know that I sometimes had a few hours of a book left after the trip or a new book that I couldn’t wait to listen to. Eventually, I learned that books on CD could keep me entertained on my daily commute to and from work and even on shorter trips to the store.

Now, it seems that I will listen to the books on CD almost every time I drive my car. It has been hard to constantly find new titles. I try to stick to books that are at least 5 hours long with a few being more than 20 hours long. Since my daily commute takes a little less than an hour in the morning and more than an hour in the afternoon, I can go through 8-12 hours per week. I will often listen to several books in the same series or by the same author back to back. It really helps me become attached to their characters. When a new book in the series comes out, I will sometimes go back to the prior books to review the story but otherwise, I mainly listen to each book only once.

Initially, I purchased all of the books on CD. But, I had found one series, Septimus Heap, Book One: Magyk, by Angie Sage where I couldn’t find the remaining books online for a reasonable price. I was hired to do balloons at one of the local libraries and since I was there a little early, I wandered their shelves. I was amazed by how many books on CD they had in their collection and happened to find they had the full Septimus Heap series available on CD (or at least all of the books that had been published at that time). I didn’t have a library card, but decided I needed one. After that time, I started getting more and more books from the library.

Most of the books I have listened to fall in the Young Adult or Juvenile Fiction category. Most involve fantasy worlds, magic, dragons, or other such themes. I have mixed in a few classics (like Dickens). After struggling to find a new series to start, I decided I needed to make a list of books and authors to use as a starting point. Here is my current list of books (in no particular order)

Septimus Heap, Book One: Magyk, by Angie Sage
Septimus Heap, Book Two: Flyte, by Angie Sage
Septimus Heap, Book Three: Physik, by Angie Sage
Septimus Heap, Book Four: Queste, by Angie Sage
Septimus Heap, Book Five: Syren, by Angie Sage
Septimus Heap, Book Six: Darke, by Angie Sage

Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke
Inkspell , by Cornelia Funke
The Thief Lord, by Cornelia Funke
Dragon Rider, by Cornelia Funke

The Navigator, by Eoin McNamee
The Navigator: City of Time, by Eoin McNamee
The Navigator: The Frost Child, by Eoin McNamee

Simon Bloom, The Gravity Keeper, by Michael Reisman
Simon Bloom: The Octopus Effect, by Michael Reisman

Bartimaeus Sequence: The Amulet of Samarkand, by Jonathan Stroud
Bartimaeus Sequence: The Golem’s Eye, by Jonathan Stroud
Bartimaeus Sequence: Ptolemy’s Gate, by Jonathan Stroud
Bartimaeus Sequence: The Ring of Solomon, by Jonathan Stroud
The Last Siege, by Jonathan Stroud
Heroes of the Valley, by Jonathan Stroud

The Magic Thief, by Sarah Prineas
The Magic Thief: Lost, by Sarah Prineas
The Magic Thief: Found, by Sarah Prineas

Dragons of the dwarven depths, by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.

The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan
The Sea of Monsters, by Rick Riordan
The Titan’s Curse, by Rick Riordan
The Battle of the Labyrinth, by Rick Riordan
The Last Olympian, by Rick Riordan

The Lost Hero, by Rick Riordan
The Son of Neptune, by Rick Riordan

The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan
The Throne of Fire, by Rick Riordan
The Serpent’s Shadow, by Rick Riordan

Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull
Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star, by Brandon Mull
Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague, by Brandon Mull
Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary, by Brandon Mull
Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison, by Brandon Mull

Beyonders: A World Without Heroes, by Brandon Mull
Beyonders: Seeds of Rebellion, by Brandon Mull

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, by Gregory Maguire
Son of a Witch, by Gregory Maguire

The Magicians, by Lev Grossman

Eragon, by Christopher Paolini
Eldest, by Christopher Paolini
Brisingr, by Christopher Paolini
Inheritance, by Christopher Paolini

Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo, by Obert Skye
Leven Thumps and the Whispered Secret, by Obert Skye
Leven Thumps and the Eyes of The Want, by Obert Skye

Tiger, by Jeff Stone
Monkey, by Jeff Stone
Snake, by Jeff Stone
Crane, by Jeff Stone
Eagle, by Jeff Stone
Mouse, by Jeff Stone
Dragon, by Jeff Stone

DragonFire (DragonKeeper Chronicles), by Donita K. Paul
DragonKnight (DragonKeeper Chronicles), by Donita K. Paul
DragonSpell (DragonKeeper Chronicles), by Donita K. Paul
DragonQuest (DragonKeeper Chronicles), by Donita K. Paul
DragonLight (DragonKeeper Chronicles), by Donita K. Paul

The Witch’s Boy by Michael Gruber

The Warrior Heir, by Cinda Williams Chima
The Wizard Heir, by Cinda Williams Chima
The Dragon Heir, by Cinda Williams Chima

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J. K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J. K. Rowling

Beyond the Deepwoods, by Paul Stewart
Stormchaser, by Paul Stewart
Midnight Over Sanctaphrax, by Paul Stewart

Here, There Be Dragons, by James A Owen
Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow
Half Moon Investigations, by Eoin Colfer

May 7, 2012

Books

Filed under: entertainment, Life in General — Mike @ 2:16 pm

I have been listening to books on CD in the car for a few years now. At first, it was just on long car trips, like driving home to Chicago, but now it is every day on my commute to and from work. I started with the Harry Potter series and slowly added on a few other series.

It was getting expensive buying the books on CD. To save money, I would repeat listening to books. I definitely caught some details I had missed the first time, but I could only listen to the same book so many times.

I had some free time one day when I was at the library and was checking out the shelves for ideas on other books to buy when I discovered they had a large collection of books on CD. They actually had a few books that I was unable to find elsewhere. I decided to get a library card and started checking out books instead of buying them.

I have enjoyed most of the books I have selected. Most of the books have some sort of “magic” in the story. I find it interesting to see how the various authors explain magic, its source, and the limits of its use. I imagine that one of the hardest parts of writing such a book is defining the magic.

I often think about writing a book…. now, I don’t have a story, or character, to write about. I somewhat think it is more like a dream of winning the Lottery… I would love to be able to write a series like Harry Potter.

July 13, 2011

Trash cans at fast food places

Filed under: entertainment, Life in General — Mike @ 12:20 pm

I have always seem to notice the signs at fast food places reminding guests not to throw out the trays or other reusable items. Recently, I have noticed a trend to make it impossible to throw the tray into the trash. Fast food places are switching for the wide open lids or doors to a small circular hole in the top of the trash can. The hole is smaller than the tray, but this in my opinion makes it harder to throw the trash away.

Usually, a fast food place has a paper tray liner on the tray. If the tray can’t fit into the trash can, the tray liner won’t fit either unless it is folded. You can’t just walk up and tip the tray over any more. Now you have to throw each item away and push it into the trash. Personally, I think this is harder and dirtier than before. I have seen many places upgrade their trash cans, but wish they would go back to the old methods.

June 15, 2011

Library cards

Filed under: Clown, entertainment, Life in General — Mike @ 1:09 pm

Last year, I started listening to books on CD in the car during my daily commute to and from work. When I began, I only had books from the Harry Potter and Inheritence Cycle (Eragon) series. I let Amazon suggest a few other books and found a few titles at Borders or the local used book store.

One of the books I picked up, was Magyk by Angie Sage (part of the Septimus Heap series). I enjoyed the book, but when I went to see if I could get the next book in the series, I discovered that new copies were not available from Amazon, or just about any other seller I could find. They had the print copy and an MP3 version, but not the book on Audio CD.

Well, this past weekend, I was at the Burke Center Library and had some time before making balloons for the kids and decided to check out their collection of books. I was surprised to see how many Audio Books they had. I walked up and down the aisle, but really didn’t see anything I liked. I then went over to the kids section, and stumbled upon the Septimus Heap series and discovered they had the books on CD. Now, I don’t actually have a library card. I was tempted to get a card and check out the books, but this library location isn’t exactly close to home. I pass two libraries every day on my way to and from work, so I decided to wait and planned to make a visit to my local library.

I checked online and discovered the Fairfax County Library System has their card catalog online, and they even indicate which libraries have the books and if they are currently available. The library closest to my home has the complete series, but the books are currently checked out. The other library that I pass has the first three books and they are available.

Now, it just so happens that I have been listening to the first book in the series again and I am almost done. It would be perfect timing if I can get the next book in the series now and continue listening to it as soon as I am done with the first book. So, now may finally be the time to get a library card, something I haven’t had since I was in high school.

May 4, 2011

Fast Food

Filed under: entertainment, Life in General — Mike @ 8:10 am

I know that I eat fast food way too often. During the week, I have three options for lunch: bring something from home, eat at the cafeteria, or go out.

I have never been good at bringing lunch from home. From time to time, I would bring in some leftovers, but never got into the routine of making a lunch on a daily basis. The truth is, I am not a big fan of sandwiches which would be the easiest thing to bring from home.

I used to go to the cafeteria on a daily basis. Most of my jobs have been at places that had a cafeteria either in the building or close enough that I could easily walk there. At several of my past employers, I used to have a group of friends that would get together on a daily basis and visit the cafeteria together. But for one reason or another, the groups always seemed to fall apart. Sometimes it was caused by the workload of my friends and other times it was caused by a feeling that the cafeteria service had gone downhill. Either way, I would eventually start to find other places to get lunch. I must say that having an excuse to get away from work, even for just 30 minutes, is a positive aspect of not eating at the cafeteria.

At my current job, McDonald’s and KFC are both a walkable distance (5-7 minutes) on a good day. There are a handful of other places the I can get to by car. I have fallen into a rut where I visit the same few places week after week. I try to keep my lunch down to 30 minutes which means that between the time it takes to get there, order food, and eat, I have to stick to fast food. There are a few carryout places that I have considered, but I would then have to eat in the car or eat at my desk.

Since I visit fast food places on a regular basis, I tend to notice various details. Very few fast food places seem to provide plates to customers who plan to eat at the restaurant. KFC used to serve its meals on a plate, but recently switched to boxes. Boston Market is probably the only place I visit on a regular basis that uses plates. I suppose plates are more expensive than other ways to serve the food.

April 25, 2011

Starting a new blog

Filed under: entertainment, Websites, Life in General — Mike @ 8:01 am

Last year, I registered several domain names with the hopes of using them to build new websites. I had some good ideas but lacked the momentum needed to get the projects started. Years ago, I started to play around with PHP/MySQL in hopes that I could design a simple database engine that would make maintaining website content easier. The one drawback with a database is the fact that to be of most value, the data needs to be well formed and entered into separate fields in the database.

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