Site reorganization

Well things have been quite on my sites while I finished up my Masters!  Now that I am finished with that, working on a little bit of a site redesign and reorganization.  I have re-split off my online portfolio and whatnot back off onto – and am generally working on cleaning up this site here.

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Introducing the CamperBrain project

Ok, so I have been horrible at keeping this site up to date.  Ever since starting my grad program, blogging in general has gone by the wayside… I really don’t expect that trend to change until my program is complete at the end of 2016.

However, I would like to mention a new project that I will be documenting in my (very limited) free time.  That would be project CamperBrain!  Head on over to see what that project is about, but the short version is that it is a project to bring home automation tech to a camper!

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Dude – what happened to your other site?

If you have visited this site before, or one of my other sites (I will get to that shortly) you might notice some changes around  I am currently in the process of redesigning and refreshing the entire site.  The site code had been kept up to date, but the theme, content, etc I had let become rather dated.

This had to do a lot with brand fragmentation.  Basically over the course of a few years with blogging is that instead of incorporating all of my content into a single location, I developed niche sites related to a specific topic.  This worked in part due to the highly focused nature of the site, however it resulted in maintaining many different “brands.”  (Not to mention maintaining 6 different sites and their code, themes, etc.)  In the end I discovered that I spent far more time trying to maintain different sites than I did actually writing for those sites.  Writing being the reason I started blogging in the first place.

In the end, I decided to return to my original “brand” of  I imported and recombined the posts and pages from,, and Four sites I decided to simply discontinue and point to,,, and  I took MTR offline a while back due to some nasty malware that I was never able to fully purge from the database, so sadly lost all of those tech related posts.  AXS, SAP, and AA – two of those are old professional sites relating to a specific product that were no longer maintained and no longer making anything in the way of income.  AnalyticsAlley was going  a new site, but decided anything on that topic to simply correctly tag and categorize here.

The result is that instead of maintaining 8 different sites, which normally ended up being maintenance instead of writing, there is a single site/blog to write for and keep up to date.  If you have gotten to this site from a link to one of those other sites – that is why.  It is going to take a bit of effort, but I will be continuing to clean up the categories and organize the site to account for the unified purpose it now serves.

I hope you all enjoy the changes – please send in feedback!

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BU MSCIS Page Updated

I have now added and updated my Masters program page – swing by to find out all about my planned program!

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Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris Review

The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris
 Leila Marouane

Paige’s Rating: (3) of 5
Recommended for: Religious-Fiction Readers

Book Description:
A witty story about Mohamed, a 40-year-old Muslim in France, who is trying to leave his mother and live the life he has only been able to dream of.

This book starts off strong with a gem of a character Mohamed, a 40 year old virgin Muslim banker with a needy, over-bearing mother. As I dove into the book I was thoroughly fascinated by Mohamed because had I not, while living in Istanbul, known many men like him? Just not quite 40? Indeed I had. The plot seemed as if it would pivot around Mohamed’s succession from his family and conquest of the opposite sex. Had the book followed that path, I could have given it 5 stars easily. However, while the characters and writing are strong, the plot itself leaves many questions.

Mohamed goes through all the thoughts of a 40 year old finally leaving the tablier strings of his mommy dearest. He worries about how she will react to him leaving home and comes up with elaborate lies in order for her to digest this news better. But even more endearing, or for some readers perhaps it’s a bit misogynistic, is Mohamed’s completely pathetic behavior when around women. As he encounters women, it is clear that he is not only a virgin but a clueless one. Waiting for a young woman to call him, when the reader can clearly see that she is not interested in him, Mohamed makes sure keep his phone on in case she does call him. He reeks of desperation in every female interaction, including that with his own mother. Being familiar with Turkish mothers, many times I laughed at the accuracy of Mohamed and his mother’s exchanges, but maybe this humor would be lost on those who don’t have such experiences. I find his character and his mother’s character completely believable in the context of Muslims in Paris.

So where this fascinating tale goes wrong is in its plot, as it slips further from an aesthetical piece of literature to a philosophical one. *Spoiler Alert* In the third part of the book, Mohamed’s sister comes in and tells him that his mother is coming to visit him at his private domain. It is through his interaction with her that we begin to see that the women Mohamed was hunting down were not real at all. Or at least one was not. Were they are all figments of his imagination? Mohamed is obsessed with a female writer, whose books are scattered around his home. In these novels, the female characters have similar lives of that as the women Mohamed has interacted with. In this way, things get a bit meta-fictional (is that a word?) and confusing.

Maybe the author is trying to focus on the impossibility of escaping your identity. Certainly one could argue that however, I believe that if this truly was the goal of the author, going about it in a less confusing way would have been more poignant. I would have loved to see Mohamed marry the exact type of women his mother would have wanted for him. I would have loved to see him get painfully rejected and brought to reason. I would have loved for him to go back to his conservative ways; or maybe finally being a man and standing up to his family. Either way, any outcome other than poor Mohamed losing his mind would have been more desirable and enjoyable, like really good sex ought to be.

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The Slap Review

The Slap
Christos Tsiolkas

Paige’s Rating: (2) of 5
Recommended for: Fiction Readers

 At a suburban barbecue, a man slaps a child who is not his own. This event has a shocking ricochet effect on a group of people, mostly friends, who are directly or indirectly influenced by the event. The Slap is told from the points of view of eight people who were present at the barbecue. The slap and its consequences force them all to question their own families and the way they live, their expectations, beliefs and desires.

This book had all the bones to be a great novel: the topic is one that is controversial and edgy and the idea of writing it from the perspective of eight different characters is interesting. I was given this book along with five others and chose to start with this book first. It took me about a month to finally finish it. Why?

While the premise is right on, the details of the novel are sloppy. The first chapter from the perspective of Hector introduces so many characters, half of which are irrelevant later on in the novel. The characters are also very flawed; their personalities are wretched and there are not many redeeming qualities to them. Yes, the author attempted to make the reader sympathetic to some of the characters but it was not near enough. In this way, I felt that the novel failed to connect to the reader, at least this reader. And dear friends understand that I am by no means saintly. With that said, even I still found the characters gross and disgusting.

Speaking of which, the plot had a lot of disgusting sexual scenarios. As much as I enjoy some steam in a novel, the sex in this novel seemed forced and intentional to cause discomfort and bring the characters down to a primal level. And again, that is fine but not if you want the reader to eventually connect with the character and find the character redeemable. The characters also swore a lot, which again is not something I would normally find offensive. However the swearing seemed again, forced and done simply for shock value.

The language, being vulgar, is bad enough but the dialogue between the characters is ridiculous. The characters often lapse into internal dialogues, which are indistinguishable from the regular plot. Often, I was reading and got lost as to whether what I read was the plot or the characters personal thoughts. This is just sloppy writing, in my opinion.

The plot is interesting and I really did enjoy all eight characters’ separate stories; however, they all tended to drag on and the characters with their warts and all still became predictable and dare I say, boring. I actually skipped ahead in some areas because I either 1) knew what was about to happen and then 2) didn’t even care. I wasn’t invested in the characters at all.

And I get it. I understand that the author is trying to remind us bluntly that we are humans and that our society is becoming increasingly ego-centric and destructive. But this message is so loud and clear that you simply want to shut the book and say, “I get it. Some people really are selfish and suck. So?” After all, how does that pertain to me when I am not in any way connected or sympathetic to the characters?

A good try and a fantastic message, but I feel like The Slap is just a little too harsh and brutal. A nudge would have been more my liking.

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The Eloquence of the Hedgehog Review

The Eloquence of the Hedgehog
By: Muriel Barbery

Paige’s Rating: (3) of 5
Recommended for: Fiction Readers

Paloma and Renée hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma’s trust and to see through Renée’s timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her. This is a moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.

I got this book sent to me in Istanbul and so I was excited to read it. I really enjoyed this book until the very end; needless to say for all the depth and beauty that was portrayed in the book, I felt the ending was a little cliché. It was like this witty and sweet first date where the goodnight kiss doesn’t come, or worse, it does and he ends up being one of those dudes who drools on you. Oh, it’s over even though there was so much potential.

This book really had a beautiful plot which was split between the life of an educated concierge and 12 year old girl who both felt it necessary to keep their intellect covered and thus, hide a large part of their personalities. Both characters live in the same building and the descriptions of the high class Parisians who also occupy it is done is a very simple yet effective way, from the point of views from the two main characters.

From these observations, the central and underlining themes of the book are exposed. I personally felt, however, that the main theme was not nearly as important or as interesting as the smaller ideas that were peppered through the book like chucks of jalapeños ready to bomb your taste buds. For example, “Can’t you tell when a person hates himself? He becomes a living cadaver, it numbs all his negative emotions…so that he won’t feel nauseated by who he is.” Or also, “…and maybe the greatest anger and frustration come not from unemployment and poverty…but from the feeling that you have no culture…How can you exist if you don’t know who you are?” There are more, but the idea is that there are some really nice nuggets of truth about human psychology.

The only down side is that a lot of this information is presented in an overly wordy tone. I understand that both characters are intellectual, but I found that their manner of speaking sometimes became too weighty and wordy. It was sometimes too rich and I wanted to skim some of the paragraphs. I felt this more with the dialogue of the concierge than the young girl, although, it was really hard to initially believe that a twelve year old girl would talk in such a tone.

Overall, the book is enjoyable. The plot is more interesting and developed than that of other books which have tried to weave story and philosophy together, and if the reader can get through some vocabulary, than it’s definitely worth a read. Barberry accomplishes a beautiful novel wound around a philosophical vein despite the ending leaving much to be desired. 

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Dancer from the Dance Review

Dancer from the Dance
By: Andrew Holleran

Paige’s Rating: (5) of 5
Recommended for: Fiction Readers
It depicts the adventures of Malone, a beautiful young man searching for love amid New York’s emerging gay scene. From Manhattan’s Everard Baths and after-hours discos to Fire Island’s deserted parks and lavish orgies, Malone looks high and low for meaningful companionship. The person he finds is Sutherland, a campy quintessential queen — and one of the most memorable literary creations of contemporary fiction.

Wow and wow! I must admit that at first I was a bit apprehensive to read a novel about gay culture simply because my gay friend himself said, “Are you sure you want to read it?” “Why not?” was my reply and I am very glad that I did.

Dancer is a brilliantly written book! The plot itself is engaging as it follows the lives of two very different gay men living in New York in the late 60s and early 70s. Both are looking for something that seems to be beyond their grasp. The plot moves forward effortlessly as it describes the lives of these men without being repetitive or without being overtly crass. Throughout the book there are scenes of group orgies and lot of drug consumption, but presented in such a blasé way that I personally never felt uncomfortable. The plot ends in tragedy, but the reader knowing from the beginning of the book about this, is able to appreciate the plot more as it unfolds, making the end of the book a lot less shocking so that it may be simply heartbreaking.

The author is also incredibly skilled with words. Both the appearances and personalities of the two main characters are so beautifully and vividly described. Holleran is able to paint to portray Malone as an incredibly handsome man simply because of his humility and never-ending drive to find real love in a loveless world. Sutherland is eccentric, loud, wild and a great balance to Malone’s more rational tendencies. While both characters are starkly different from each other, they play off each other very well and their friendship seems to be one that is necessary for their own survival.

New York is also described with this mysterious air, as the neighborhoods that these men live in are not wealthy. But the sounds, the sights and the energy of New York and outer boroughs are so well written that even someone who has never experienced New York can easily feel at home in the novel.

This book was so well done that I felt as if it were written by three of my favorite authors. The characters themselves reminded me a lot about the multi-dimensional characters that Salinger would conjure up but set in a New York society that Fitzgerald would have described. The plot at times is melancholy and at other times shocking but in general it reminded me a bit of Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange where it is overall fascinating.

The mixture of the well-developed characters set in a magical New York with a scandalous plot makes this one of the best books I have read in the last year.

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Changing Location for Inspiration

Location, location, location. Great writers will tell you it means everything when it comes to composing their next sentence. Whether you are writing a classical fiction tale or just putting thoughts down in a journal, it can be the catalyst that breaks down writer’s block. Changing location doesn’t have to require a van and movers; maybe getting off the chair is enough. No matter what you write, work environment plays a role.

Make a Small Change

Taking the occasional break helps keep your thoughts flowing. Writing is a complex task. Sometimes the words seem to write themselves, but those moments are few and far between. When you are struggling, a minor change in location can give you inspiration. Leave the words behind while you walk around, take a shower, do the dishes or watch a movie. Stepping away will freshen up your thinking so when you sit down to write again, the struggle is over. It’s also beneficial to step away from a first draft before you begin editing it again. When you come back with a different mindset you can view your writing more objectively.

Get a New Perspective

If you have been staring at the screen or paper for hours, now might be a good time to change your perspective. Location doesn’t have to be where you physically are, it might be where your mind rests. Minimize the word processor screen and read some emails or surf the web for a few minutes. If you are writing by hand, flip the page and doodle for a while. Since you are not actually leaving your spot, your mind will still be somewhat in the writing game. You might find the next line pops in while you’re looking at something other than the page. Let your brain soak up some visual art or music. Muses play across art forms. It wouldn’t be surprising for your next writing spark to come from a completely different type of flame.

Just Get Moving

Grab your work product, whether it is a laptop, tablet computer or notebook and move to a different location. Go to the nearest coffeehouse and work over a piece of pie. If nature is an inspiration for you, move to a quiet area in the park to work. Sometimes just changing rooms is enough. There might be distractions in the office that are interfering with your thinking whether you know it or not. Move from the desk to the couch or from the couch to the kitchen table. Changing the environment around you may be all you need for inspiration. Lighting, noise level and room temp—all have an effect on you. If your current position isn’t inspiriting, then a different area of the city may help too.

Think Bigger to Get Better

The writing process is funny. It’s hard to say what will truly inspire. When you are really stuck, then it might be time to consider a big change. Ernest Hemingway used to run to the Florida Keys when he needed inspiration. Some writers require solitude to get their creative juices flowing. Finding the right setting might take some time and travel. Maybe you need to stare at the New York City skyline, sit under the arch in St. Louis or light a fire in a Colorado cabin to focus on your task. Making a big location change to get away from life’s distractions can help writers finish a book or work on a dissertation. Going to a place with the purpose of finishing keeps you on task.

Writing is an art form and like any creative process, it is different for each artist. Take the time to figure out what truly inspires you. Location may be the key that unlocks your creative self.

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This Burns My Heart Review

This Burns My Heart
By: Samuel Park

Paige’s Rating: (4) of 5
Recommended for: Fiction Readers

In a country torn between past and present, Soo-Ja struggles to find happiness in a loveless marriage and to carve out a successful future for her only daughter. Forced by tradition to move in with her in-laws, she must navigate the dangers of a cruel household and pay the price of choosing the wrong husband. Meanwhile, the man she truly loves remains a lurking shadow in her life, reminding her constantly of the love she could have had.

This book was beautifully written, and I thoroughly enjoyed the majority of it although I felt that the first half of the book was far superior to the second half. The story begins with a head-strong Soo-Ja who has the nontraditional dream of being a foreign diplomat. Her parents refuse her to leave alone, her mother suggesting she could pursue her dream if she left her village with a husband. Soo-Ja finds a young man who is easily won, but finds to her horror just how weak he is soon after their marriage. The author makes the story believable and does an excellent job of describing the consequences of Soo-Ja marrying the wrong man.

It is in the second half of the book, however, where Soo-Ja runs into the other man who desperately wanted to marry her. He is a doctor now, married, and while he should have no concern for Soo-Ja, it is apparent in his actions that he still loves her and cares for her. At this point, their relationship becomes one where there is love still between them, but neither act on it. Here I find the plot a bit stagnant and parts of it even far-fetched. The love that is suppose to exists between the two seems cold, and maybe that is only because it would be culturally inappropriate for them to have any sort of physical contact. Regardless, the character of Soo-Ja has opportunities to correct her mistake of marrying the wrong man, but doesn’t and I find this to actually be out of line with the character that had been described all along.

The ending is what it is, and I won’t say anything else to spoil it. However, I dove into the first half of the book and read it steadily but found myself losing interest towards the end. The plot seems to become loose, the characters rigid and the writing hurried. Yet overall, a nice book indeed.

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