Friday, May 28, 2010

Book Review: Patient Zero

Patient Zero: A Joe Ledger Novel by Jonathan Maberry

"When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week there's either something wrong with your world or something wrong with your skills... and there's nothing wrong with Joe Ledger's skills."

You see where this one is going? This book combines zombies (of sorts), military and counterterrorism. And all in a seamless, captivating way.

To say that Patient Zero is captivating would be an understatement. I started this book on a Sunday evening, and by Tuesday night I was done. I just couldn't put it down.

Maberry does an excellent job of putting a different twist on the zombie concept, and he answers your questions. Many other stories leave you wanting a little more closure, so you're left wanting a little more. Patient Zero does give you those answers, but not in a way that makes you feel dumb. The answers he gives you are integral to the story, and presented in a way that builds tension and keeps you on your toes.

The way this book is written is a little different, and I loved it. The chapters tend to be short, but each chapter jumps from one locale to another, each crucial to the story, and they are all labeled with a time and date, which helps you keep track of how quickly the story is progressing. Maberry doesn't jump through time, forward and back, but the time codes on the chapters do help you keep track of what's going on at any given moment.

If you are a fan of zombies, or even military covert operations stories, I would recommend Patient Zero to you. It is a fun story, and this book is really difficult to put down.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cirque Du Soleil - Alegria

This week I was fortunate enough to win a pack of tickets to see the opening show of Cirque Du Soleil - Alegria at the Save Mart Center here in Fresno. I really had no idea what to expect, but I was excited because I've heard good things about other Cirque Du Soleil performances.
As we walked into the arena, I was immediately impressed. Only about a quarter of the arena was open, given it the feel of a theater. The stage was in the middle, cutting off about half of the arena, and the upper deck was closed off.
The stage was interesting, and as the first performers came out, I realized that what I thought was a flat backdrop was actually a sloped portion of the stage. Just a clever illusion with the angles. Very nice.
The music hit me quickly: this is the kind of stuff I like. I do enjoy musicals, and this had a very opera feel to it. Actually, at times I was reminded of some of the opera music in Final Fantasy VI (or Final Fantasy III as it was released on SNES). What a treat! So of course I had to come home and get the music.
The performers were all terrific, although two in particular stood out to me. One involved a performer with a giant metal ring, which left me wondering how someone even finds out they have that sort of talent! The other involved two contortionists. Do I need to say more? At times I found myself losing track of what was an arm and what was a leg, and whether the person was bending forward or backward. Simply amazing.
So I give this show a huge thumbs up! If I had the opportunity, I'm pretty sure I'd go and see this again. Maybe I'll save my money to check out a different Cirque Du Soleil show, but Alegria would definitely be worth paying to see again. I recommend you check it out if you get a chance to during the tour. Check out for more information.

As I said, the music in this performance was amazing. Check out the soundtrack here: Cirque Du Soleil: Alegria Soundtrack

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Book Review: The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Strain - By Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

What would it be like if vampires were running around in modern society? What would society do? Would the general public even know what was happening?
This book presents a new take on the vampire genre. Sure, lots of the classic stuff is there: drinking blood, immortality and practically invincible. But this book delves more into what creates a vampire.
The first in a trilogy, The Strain is well written and captivating. I'm not often so drawn into a book that I can't put it down, but with this book, I started and just couldn't stop.
Not sure you want to give vampires a chance in this age of "Twilight"? Just give this book a shot, and you'll see it's not the same. The story is much darker, and definitely aimed at a more grownup crowd.
Unfortunately, the 2nd book doesn't come out for several more months, so you'll be stuck waiting. Impatiently, if you're like me. In the meantime, check out The Strain, I highly recommend it!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Lots of Bowling This Weekend

Bowling is a funny thing, because when people ask me about it, I tell them that I'm "OK." I'm not great, but I am pretty competent. Of course if I say I average around 200, they tend to think I'm crazy to not think I'm really good! Probably part of my mentality there is that a lot of the people I am friends with are a lot better bowlers than I am (think averaging 220 and higher).
In recent years I've watched my average drop from around 200 to under 190. It doesn't seem huge, but it's a big hit on the confidence. A lot of it was mental, part of it was just having more on my plate (graduating and getting a real job has its effects!). But in the last year or so, I've been able to pull myself back up, and especially in the last few months, managed to get a book average of 200. Still short of my peak, but getting back to what I know I can do.
A few months ago, my confidence was at a peak. I had some new equipment, and I had been bowling some of my best scores in well over a year. Then came our trip to Nationals (click here to see the blog post on that). At Nationals, I bowled the worst I have in years. I honestly can't remember how long it has been since I did that bad.
Afterward, my bowling confidence was understandably shaken. I did realize that bowling at Nationals was a tougher situation than bowling at home, but I was still down.
Fortunately, I was able to pull myself out of the funk over the next few weeks. I took a trip to Modesto to bowl their Mini Peach, a 5-game scratch tournament. After 3 games, I was in 7th place, then tanked one game. I just couldn't find my shot, and I dropped to 23rd place. I came back the last game and bowled decently, to finish in 21st. Unfortunately only the top 17 moved on to the next round. I was disappointed, but proud that I had made it through the one bad game, and got myself back on pace the last game.

Now all of this finally brings me back to this weekend. I had considered bowling the San Joaquin Bowling Club's "Last Chance" tournament. It's the last tournament of the season leading up to the Tournament of Champions. I hadn't bowled any of the tournament before, so I couldn't move on to the ToC, but I wanted a chance to get more experience in tournament settings. I got talked out of it, then talked back into it. In the end, I decided to bowl.
The tournament was 6 games of qualifying, with the top 5 moving on to a stepladder final. I felt like I bowled OK. Not great, not terrible. In the end, I finished 9th, and the top 10 cashed. I was excited, especially since I hadn't thought I'd done that well. But apparently it was enough. And beyond cashing in the tournament, I learned a few things about my shot, and how to adjust in a tournament.
After the tournament, there was talk of traveling up to Modesto to bowl a scratch 6 game tournament, which would be on the Professional Bowlers Association's Viper pattern ( I knew it would be challenging, but eventually decided to go with them and try it out. In my head, I had hoped to cash and make a good showing, but in the end all I got was experience. But that's not a bad thing! I learned a few things about my shot, specifically a few things I do when I get off my game, and ways to relax myself and just get back to doing what I do, rather than forcing things.
I do think I probably wasn't helped by bowling 12 games in two days, when I've generally been a "3-game-per-week" kind of guy. I was definitely exhausted, and I'm still feeling the effects, now I know where I am physically, and I know what I need to do if I want to bowl at this level again.
Although I know I am not quite at the same level of some of the guys I went with, I do know that on any given day I can compete with them. I might be deceiving myself, but I do believe it, and maybe I just need to keep telling myself this to force myself to keep trying.
So what's in store next? First, a little time off from bowling. Then in June, we start up a new league, quickly followed by State Tournament in Bakersfield, then back to Modesto for The Peach at some point, and hopefully a few more events scattered in the middle.
I'm just glad I've got a wife who supports me, not just by saying "You can do it!" and meaning it, but also just being there to help pass the time on the travels. I know that watching bowling is not the most exciting thing in the world, but I know she'll always be there to watch and cheer me on, so at least I've got that consistent thing going.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Earn Money Back When You Shop Online

We're all looking for a way to save a little bit of money. We shop discount stores, we shop online for the best deals, and we go to auction sites to save a little bit of money. Online shopping is one of the best ways to save money, you've got access to tons of places to compare deals, you often times can save on tax, and it's such a competitive market that everyone wants to give you a deal.

So why not get a little bit more out of it? What's the best way to do it?

The answer is simple: EBATES

Ebates is a on stop place to find coupons, and get money back when you shop online. The steps are simple.

1. Setup a free account with Ebates.
I've been using this program since 2008, and I can guarantee you that there is no fee to sign up, and no fee to use the site.

2. Shop online through links found on Ebates.
You simply login to your account, and follow the shopping links through the site. Whatever you spend, you'll receive a portion back.

That's it. Two simple steps. Just shop online through the links found on Ebates, and once your account has built up $10, they'll send you a check in the mail.

It seems too simple to be true, but it is. When you follow the link through Ebates, they earn a referral for sending you to shop there, so whatever you spend, they're getting a credit for that, and they just share it with you. So if you're already going to be shopping online, why not get an extra 1%-25% back?

And if you're worried that Ebates only gives credit on obscure sites, you're wrong! Some of my favorite places to shop through Ebates are eBay, and

Other popular websites to shop at through Ebates include,,,, and Overall, there are over 1,200 websites to shop through.

I will vouch for this site, I've made over $125 through Ebates, and I just got notified that I have another check on the way. And it's all from shopping I would have done online anyway!

So give it a shot! It's free, and you can earn back money for the online shopping you're already doing!

Click here to get started

Chrome For Critters in Clovis

In the Fresno or Clovis area, and looking for something to do this Saturday?  Check out the Chrome for Critters fundraiser to help build the new Clovis Pet Adoption Center.

“Chrome for Critters” Pitches In for Pet Adoption Center


The North Fresno CAL Harley Group is revving up for tomorrow’s (5/15) “Chrome for Critters” fundraiser that starts with breakfast at the Clovis Rodeo Grounds for poker run participants at 7 a.m. Then, it’s off to collect the best hands they can as they wind their way through the foothills and back to the Rodeo Grounds for lunch, a Clovis Police Department K-9 demonstration at noon and the music of the popular local band “Midnight Run” at 1 p.m.

         A live auction for items like Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton signed guitars, a trip for two in the Fresno County Sheriff’s Eagle One helicopter and a week’s stay for six in a private home in Mazatlan gets underway at 2 p.m. A silent auction will continue as the band takes to the stage, again, to entertain the crowd.

         At 3:45 p.m., Clovis Mayor Harry Armstrong and Police Chief Janet Davis will accept a check from the North Fresno CAL Harley Group to help fund a new Clovis Pet Adoption Center facility. And at 4 p.m., get ready for the moment of truth as Mayor Armstrong draws the winner of a brand new 2010 Harley Davidson Street Glide valued at $25,000.00. People donated $10 to the Adoption Center for a chance to win the coveted bike.

         Friends of the Clovis Pet Adoption Center and the Clovis Police Department’s Animal Services Division thank “Chrome for Critters” Chairman Bryan Porter and his associates for considering the Clovis Pet Adoption Center as a benefactor for their organization.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ryan Mathews Jersey

I've got my season tickets ordered for this fall's Fresno State Football season, and I'm thinking of getting a Ryan Mathews Jersey for the games. I like the one below, I just haven't decided whether to get it or not.

The problem is I want to get his Chargers jersey when it comes out too, so I guess it's just a decision of which one to get first, since I'm pretty sure both will end up in my closet at some point!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Today I Got a Bag of Crap

Shoppers at will understand my excitement when I got home today and found a woot! box with my bag of crap waiting for me! This is the first bag of crap I've been able to get from woot, and the fact that it was here was even more exciting because the package tracking was apparently messed up and showed the package as being in a different city, with expected delivery 3 days from now.

For those who don't shop at woot, let me give you a brief overview. has one deal a day, sometimes it's new, sometimes it's refurbished, but it's always a good deal. It ranges from computers to baby seats to roombas, and pretty much anything in between. The bag of crap is at least 3 random things sent to you, and you only pay $3 plus $5 shipping, so it's a crapshoot, and it always sells out fast. Like I said, this is the first time I've managed to get a bag of crap, and this video shows what I got!

To summarize, there was a mini tripod, a camera bag, a pair of kid sized headphones, a slinky jr, an action figure, and a fleece baby blanket

Saturday, May 8, 2010

My Favorite Places to Eat in Fresno

As I prepare to start a new site about places to eat and things to do in the Fresno area, I thought I would put together a list of some of my favorite places to eat in the Fresno/Clovis area. While this isn't necessarily a list of the best places to go, and more just what I enjoy, I did make a couple of rules:

Can't be a national franchise or chain

As much as I love eating at Red Robin, I just can't count it

It has to be somewhere I've been
Physically. So I can't count Charlotte's because I've only had delivery from there. And I can't count Iron Bird Cafe since I've haven't been yet.

So here is my list of my favorite places to eat, and roughly where they are. Hopefully I'll get that other site launched soon with more information about each place.

Thai Gem - Shaw/Willow - Clovis
A tiny little Thai restaurant hidden away behind the military recruitment center

Doghouse Grill - Shaw/168 - Fresno
Across from the Save Mart Center, you get big portions and a fun atmosphere

Yosemite Falls Cafe - Various - Fresno/Clovis
Two locations in Fresno and one in Clovis, Yosemite Falls has great lunch and dinner specials

Pho 2006 - Clovis Ave - Clovis
In the barnyard shopping center, pho is the specialty

Fernando's Taqueria - Herndon/Cedar - Fresno
Just down from Fibber's, this little Mexican restaurant has awesome salsas and a great staff

In the future, I'd like to write a little more about each of the places, and get out to try some more local eateries. In the meantime, what is your favorite place to eat?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Ryan Mathews is a Charger - And Why He'll Succeed

Those of you who know me, or who follow this page, probably know by now that I'm a big San Diego Chargers fan, and a big fan of Fresno State (being an alumnus and all!). So as the NFL draft approached, and rumors were circulating that the Chargers were interested in Mathews, my excitement grew. Rumors had the Texans taking Mathews at pick #20, while San Diego sat at #28. But there was still a chance that GM A.J. Smith would trade up.

Unfortunately I was driving the carpool home that afternoon, so I couldn't follow what was going on, but one of the guys in the carpool kept me up to date that San Diego had traded up to #12. I figured they were targeting DT Dan Williams. I'd read that if they traded up, that's who they were going for, and would probably pick up a RB in the 2nd round. But no, Mathews was the pick! From a fan's perspective, what better pick could there be?

And like any other fan, I need to be an armchair analyst and present why I think he'll succeed.

Philip Rivers
San Diego has one of the best Quarterbacks in the NFL. And it's not like he's throwing to chumps. With Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates as targets, I could succeed as an NFL QB (ok, maybe not, but you get my point)! When Rivers took over as the QB for the Chargers, teams stacked the box against LaDainian Tomlinson and challenged Rivers to beat them. He proved that he could, and developed into one of the best leaders in the game. Teams will have to respect the pass, and can't stack the box against Mathews, giving him more opportunities.

Darren Sproles
While a lot of people don't feel that Sproles has the build to be an every down back, he is definitely a great change of pace back and third down back. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, and he hits maximum speed in no time. He's already proven that he can pick up the blitz, despite his small size. At least early on, this should help relieve some of the pressure from Mathews in big third down situations.

Norv Turner Wants to Keep Him Fresh
Norv Turner has stated that Mathews can expect to see 250 carries and 40 catches in his rookie season. This seems to be pretty reasonable. Pretty much right in line with some of the top backs in the league in their rookie season.

So Ryan Mathews is going into a good situation in San Diego. The Chargers did give up a lot to get him, but A.J. Smith felt that Mathews was far better than the next level of running backs, and this team did need a quality starter. Only time will tell whether or not he was the right choice, but I do know that this choice has left me super excited for next season!

And just for fun, check out some Ryan Mathews highlights:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Green Day Rock Band Is Coming!

I saw that Green Day: Rock Band is coming out next month, and I can't wait! I'm a big fan of their music, and a big fan of the game. I plan to get it when it comes out, but the bad thing about games is that they are expensive. For a new release on XBox 360 or Playstation 3 you're looking at around $60 or more. So I did a little research on finding the best deal.

One key to this game is exporting the songs. Green Day: Rock Band comes with 47 songs, and you can export them all to play them with your existing Rock Band or Rock Band 2 game. Similar to Lego Rock Band, you have to pay a licensing fee to export the songs. If you preorder the game from Gamestop, you get a code to export the songs for free.

However, if you order the game from, you save $2 off the retail price and get a $10 gift certificate toward your next video game purchase, so you basically get the same $10 off. Of course Amazon offers the preorder guarantee, so if the price goes down before the game is released, you get the lower price. So Amazon saves you a couple dollars, and possibly more, so that's where I'm heading to order the game.

Note: There is also a Green Day: Rock Band Plus which includes the export code plus a code to get the other 6 Green Day songs already existing in the Rock Band Store, so go this route if you haven't downloaded them yet!