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 14, 2012

Summer Vacation and Traffic

Filed under: Life in General — Mike @ 9:55 am

With the arrival of Mother’s Day weekend comes graduation and end of the school year. While the elementary, middle, and high schools in Virginia still have several more weeks of school left, the college school years are coming to an end. This means that people will begin taking their summer vacations and hopefully reducing the number of cars making the daily commute to and from work each day.

I don’t currently have plans for a summer vacation, but I still enjoy the benefits of a slightly less crowded commute. Most likely, the commute will gradually get lighter each day or week until the middle of June when the last schools let out. Unfortunately, it won’t last forever. Schools have a closer start date at the end of August or beginning of September.

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.

November 23, 2011

Changing a lightbulb

Filed under: Life in General — Mike @ 2:29 pm

One of my least favorite tasks is changing light bulbs. I don’t know what it is that makes it seem like such a chore. I can usually notice the difference in lighting level when just one bulb in a set of two or more bulbs burns out.

I guess you can call me cheap. When a bulb burns out, I only change the one bulb that burned out and not the other bulbs in the fixture. I guess I should know better because bulbs should have a relatively even life. As a result, I may be saving a few cents by not throwing away a working bulb, but I am setting myself up for having to go back in the near future.

Currently, I have three bulbs out in the master bathroom. I had to make a special trip to the hardware store to get replacements. For some unknown reason, I didn’t run to replace the bulbs as soon as I got the replacements.

Today, I noticed I had a burned out headlight. I think it is the third time that headlight has gone out. Since I am doing a fair amount of driving before sunrise and after sunset, I made it a priority to change the bulb. I ran over to an automotive store during lunch and changed the bulb right away… Now, I have a replacement for the other headlight, but decided not to change it just yet. Changing the headlights isn’t too hard, but due to their placement, I can’t see in very well, so it is more a thing that I need to feel. I have done it enough times that I knew how to get the old bulb out, but it still took me 10 minutes to figure how to get the new bulb ligned up properly.

November 7, 2011

At the beep… the time might be…

Filed under: Life in General — Mike @ 1:44 pm

Daylight Savings Time has ended for the year. It is now Standard Time. But with the change, comes the time when all of the clocks need to be adjusted. Some are easier than others, but getting them to all gree on the time is almost impossible. Some clocks are set by computer networks, others are set manually. A few are forgotten.

There was an article in the Washington Post last week about community clocks, those big clocks on sides of public buildings. I can’t say I notice too many on my daily commute. The article made an interesting comment about how their ability to keep time makes a statement about the community. I used to laugh whenever I passed a bank with a clock or temperature listing that was clearly wrong. I don’t think I ever made a decision about the quality of the business based on the functionality of its clocks. I guess that if I can’t set the clocks in my own house, I shouldn’t have a problem if others have the same problems with their clocks.

Personally, I don’t think we need the sun to rise before 7:00am. I would be happy with a few more weeks of Daylight Savings Time as that would also mean a few more weeks where I can get home from work before the sun sets.

September 27, 2011

Award winning business

Filed under: Life in General — Mike @ 7:13 am

When I talk to people about websites, one of the things I often mention is to make sure the dates are current. If you stop updating your website, suddenly, people see events, awards, and other news that was several years old. They will wonder if you are still in business.

 Well, when I was eating out at a local chain, I noticed the walls were plastered with articles and signs telling of their many awards for best food in various cities. But, after looking around, I noticed that most of the awards were at least 3 years ago. It made me wonder, had they decided to stop putting up the newest awards or had they stopped winning the awards?

I know a bit of the history of the chain. It is about 10 years old and started in the DC area. Years ago, I would hear my friends talk about the chain several times each month. I know they have grown and expanded to other parts of the country, but the local buzz seems to have died down. Either growth has caused them to loose some of whatever it was that made them special or they are no longer the great new place that everyone just discovered. The food is OK, but I know why I never made it a regular place to stop.

But it made me think about the restaurants that have walls plastered with pictures of famous people who at there. Any place open long enough could eventually fill a wall of fame. But places change, staff comes and goes, maybe the awards and pictures do need to be reset each year. Just because a business was voted the best value or any other award last year doesn’t mean they are still the best value today. You can’t rely on the past, you need to be the best each and every day. And being the best actually means you need to get better all of the time.

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