28 December 2011

87. The Vig

The Vig - John Lescroart

Good cops...bad cops...ex-cons gone straight...mafioso on the take...hot girls wanting to be famous...insurance money...understanding ex-wives...bartender buddies that should have an honorary psych degree...not so perfect goons and hitmen...whoopee!

It was OK. More of the same. No thrill. Just another story. Predictable. Even the best plans are doomed to overlook some minute detail that will unravel the entire plan in very convenient ways. Whatever.

16 December 2011

86. Whitewash

Whitewash - Alex Kava

Eh. This was just your average every day run of the mill nothing special but it was entertaining.

The part I found most fascinating was the very idea that organic materials left over from processing plants (chicken heads, etc.) could be turned into oil by accelerating the supposed process by which oil is created naturally. Imagine the potential.

The part I found ridiculous is that they could do the same with hurricane debris (lumber, plastics, metals, etc.).

So, what it came to was that the company producing this new oil was having to pay for the chicken heads and stuff because fertilizer companies wanted that same stuff. There was cost involved. On the other hand, due to numerous hurricanes, the government was paying 50 dollars per ton for someone to haul stuff away. So, the corporation that spent billions on inventing and building this plant and making it work so that the country, and the world, would not be dependent on Middle East oil fields, was suddenly so short minded that they took shortcuts that they knew would put dioxins into a river...just to save a dollar short term.

I think that is ridiculous. A corporation invested billions. Now the author wants us to believe they would not refine the process for what they said would be two more years in order to recycle the debris waste safely? That is insane! No corporation is going to risk billions in order to save a few hundred thousand. Especially when they were just about to be awarded a contract that gave them exclusive rights to supplying the Department of Defense.

They threw away a future. They discarded an awesome invention and MASSIVE profit potential in order to save a dollar right now? Totally ridiculous.

Other than that, it was not bad, except that maybe there were too many characters and different story lines that just happened to all coincide in the end and make a nice neat little package. Yeah yeah yeah.

06 December 2011

85. Crisis

Crisis - Robin Cook

A medical thriller that I listened to making trip to and from work. It kept me interested, but was less than thrilling. I had a suspicion that the cause of death would be from the pills given by the doctor. It sucks when I figure it out so early.

What really bugs me is that the doc had some guys come in and rough up his own kids in their home. What a douche!

05 December 2011

84. Bus Stop

Bus Stop - William Inge

This is a play. I discovered it in an advertisement at the back of the book Rally Round The Flag, Boys! and decided to give it a try. It was written in 1955 and is supposed to be a comedy. I did not find it all that funny. It was also supposed to be a "romance". I did not find it romantic either.

I bus driving through Kansas makes a scheduled stop at a diner only to discover the road ahead is closed due to a winter storm. The play is the interactions between the passengers and the diner workers...oh, and a sheriff.

It was OK, but not funny and definitely dated.

I don't read plays much. The stage direction stuff was disruptive to me. I don't know what all the codes mean and therefore it took away from the flow of the story as I tried to visualize what was happening. I may have enjoyed it more if I knew what all those abbreviations meant. Bah!

83. The Land That Time Forgot

The Land That Time Forgot - Edgar Rice Burroughs

I loved this book. It mixed modern technology (kind of) with the world of dinosaurs and cavemen. What a riot.

The book was published around 1916. A World War I German U-Boat (submarine) ends up in a fantastical world somewhere in the South Pacific where time has stood still.

It is a fantastic read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I listened to this one on my MP3 player during a recent road trip. It passed the time and kept me awake and alert while driving. Much better than listening to crappy music on the radio.  :-)

82. The Machine Stops

The Machine Stops - E. M. Forster

This was an excellent little science fiction novel first published in 1909. What a crazy world.

People no longer live on the Earths surface. They live in isolated "cells" beneath the surface. They stay within these cells all the time and communicate with each other and interact with the rest of the world through a world-wide network that supplies all their needs. This network is called "The Machine".

Travel is permitted, but is very rare. Usually it is only used to fill vacant cells when people die. But, Vashti (an older woman) gets a call on the machine from Kuno (her son) asking her to make the two day journey to visit him because something magnificent is about to happen. After much convincing she agrees and travels by airship to Kuno's home on the other side of the planet.

During the trip Vashti is forced to actually interact with other people without using the machine. That whole sequence of events is quite interesting.

She arrives at Kuno's place to find that he is some kind of rebel now. He leaves his cell and has visited the surface without permission or authorization from the machine. Vashti is angry that Kuno would go against the machine in this way. Kuno insists that the machine is breaking down and that the world needs to prepare. Vashti calls him a lunatic and returns to her own home/cell.

Needless to say, Kuno is correct. The machine slowly breaks down until there is nothing. No lights. No food. No air circulation. No communication. Vashti must once again open her cell and sees that the outside world has gone crazy. People are dying all around her. Kuno comes to try and save her.

What they realize before they all die is that man must be connected to the natural world.

It sounds stupid, but it is a pretty darned good story.

29 November 2011

81. Hostile Fire

Hostile Fire - Dick Stivers

Utterly unbelievable, but it sure was fun.

The Vietnam War is over. The troops are all home. That doesn't mean they are "over it". This book uses the PTSD and life changing events for many soldiers as a part of the story line.

The Vietnamese refugees are now settled in America. The section of Los Angeles where many settled is now called "Gook Town". There are constant references to the smells and cultural icons that bring soldiers right back to the war.

Anyway, it just so happens that there is a "friendly" General who is pretty important in the community in LA. Trouble is he is now seeking fortune at all costs. He is a staunch anti-communist, but only until the communists can make him money. So, some renegade CIA agents from "back in the shit", the communists and General Trang start smuggling heroine into the good ole USA. Uh ohhhhh.

Since the CIA is involved the Presidents hands are tied (bullshit) so he calls in an elite team of war veterans (Able Team) to do something about the problem (bullshit). They find out that there is another person involved and spearheading the operation. The "White Bitch" (aptly named because she always wears white...representing death in Vietnamese culture.) is a female NVA operative that has tortured and killed numerous POWs in Hanoi. Now she is in LA.

Able Team busts up the drug ring and pisses this killer lady off, but she does get to torture a girl who informed the cops of the pending drug drop. It was pretty nasty. So, she and the rich General run to a secret hideout they built in Oregon that is built just like the tunnels in Vietnam. They also have a bunch of NVA regular forces with them. Now the war is NOT over. It is on our soil. The NVA are taking the war to America.

Able Team is only three guys and an LA policeman who is helping them out on the case. They need more troops to fight this "war", but the government must be able to maintain deniability and all that crap. So, they start recruiting all the guys the "White Bitch" tortured. They have all these dudes come promising them a shot at revenge...if they live.

So, there is a big battle in the Oregon woods...the good guys win...the bad guys die...the girl gets saved...lots of old wounds are healed...lots of super-heroic efforts always succeed...blah blah.

Outrageous!...but fun.

23 November 2011

80. The Book Of Fate

The Book Of Fate - Brad Meltzer

This was a pretty decent suspense thriller. Nothing magical.
The character of Wes Holloway was a big time sissy pants.

The title of the book is stupid. There is no "book of fate". It is some crap the crazy killer dude uses as reasoning for all kinds of things that happen to people.

The use of the Masonic symbols would lead one to believe that there was much more to that being tied into the plot than there really is. Once again, it is all tied in through the mental gymnastics of the lunatic character.

Still, it is an exciting book and would make a pretty decent movie. They may have to do some editing of the part where Lisbeth is getting whooped on by the bad secret service dude. That was not very nice.

The CIA guy seemed kind of clueless and had a lack of intuition at times. I would not think he would be in the position he supposedly held if he was nowhere near as bright as even Wes' lawyer friend.

Overall, I enjoyed it.

20 November 2011

79. Rally Round The Flag, Boys!

Rally Round The Flag, Boys! - Max Shulman

I found this humorous book printed in 1958 and it jumped to the top of the to-be-read stack.

I enjoyed every minute of it. It was a different time. The same book written today could never be pulled off and still be funny.

Imagine it is 1958. We are in a small Connecticut coastal town where the old blue blood Yankee Mayflower descendants and the professional New York City commuters live in the same community, but they are pitted against each other at town meetings for control of everything. The commuters are all lawyers, accountants and Broadway moguls. Now throw in a plan to build a US Army Nike missile base that will defend Bridgeport airspace in that town.

Some of the funniest parts were discussions about how to protect their daughters from the incoming Army soldiers. It was hilarious.

14 November 2011

78. God's Politics

God's Politics : Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It

"Since when did believing in God and having moral values make you pro-war, pro-rich, and solely pro-Republican? And since when did promoting and pursuing a progressive social agenda with a concern for economic security, health care, and educational opportunity mean you had to put faith in God aside?

God's Politics offers a clarion call to make both our religious communities and our government more accountable to key values of the prophetic religious tradition -- that is, make them pro-justice, pro-peace, pro-environment, pro-equality, and pro-family (without making scapegoats of single mothers or gays). Our biblical faith and religious traditions simply do not allow us as a nation to continue to ignore the poor and marginalized, deny racial justice, tolerate the ravages of war, or turn away from the human rights of those made in the image of God. These are the values of love and justice, reconciliation, and community that Jesus taught and that are at the core of what many of us believe, Christian or not. Jim Wallis inspires us to hold our political leaders and policies accountable by integrating our deepest moral convictions into our nation's public life."

The author of this book is self-proclaimed as a "progressive" and "prophetic". He discusses many subjects in this book that make total sense. He also falls into many stereotypical fallacies that perpetuate the rhetoric that makes the left-right divide deeper with every passing election.

This book was written after the 2004 Presidential election. Bush just defeated John Kerry. Needless to say, the author was definitely not a Bush fan. This book is a Bush basher from the very start. It bashes him for wars, for neglecting the poor, for trying to kill women, etc etc. Don't get me wrong, I am not a Bush fan. I voted for Kerry in the 2004 election. I just think that the piling on from all leftist fronts was ridiculous, just as the righties did to Clinton in the 90s.

So, despite my agreeing with some of Mr Wallis' suggestions and on how to find bipartisan common ground, I think this book is just a tool. I think Mr. Wallis is a tool. I think both fall into the "useful idiot" category.

Why do I think that? In a 2004 context I would be able to buy into his arguments. In a 2011 context we have seen much more from the "progressives". 2008 was a game changer. The 111th Congress and the Obama administration could have pursed any course of action they wished. They could have checked all the boxes on the progressive wish list. They could have been the progressive fairy godmother. But, they chose not to even address many of the issues discussed by Mr. Wallis in this book. Poverty, racism, and a long list of those holy grail leftist issues could have been addressed...but they were ignored. They were not truly the goals of progressives despite all the smoke blowing rhetoric they love to spew about being so caring. It was and continues to be lies...just like the right is lying.

Next thing...if Mr. Wallis is looking to include faith into the political conversation coming from the left...as he says numerous times (prophetic politics)...then why is the left making efforts at every possible opportunity to eliminate all references to religion, faith, or God from anything public? This contradiction is blatant. Don't tell me. Show me! The progressives do show me, despite what this book is touting as truth.

The next issue...Mr. Wallis likes to say things like the right-GOP-conservatives (whatever) do not care about the poor. I hear this kind of BS a lot. It is stupid. The reason they say this is because the right does not support government programs to care for every aspect of people's lives. That does not mean they want to starve everyones grandmothers. Government is not the solution to everything. Especially when this book is trying to say that Jesus himself would want us to make government programs that care for everyone...and we should do that by following a party of progressives that are openly hostile toward Jesus? Do what Jesus would do, but don't do it BECAUSE Jesus would do it? Do it because it is right, but don't give God the glory...or even a mention. That makes no sense and is nothing more than manipulation.

So, for those reasons, despite my agreement with some of the writer's goals, I think this book SUCKED. It is just more political pandering and manipulation from a different angle. I would not have known that in 2005. Today it is glaringly obvious. Have a nice day.

77. The Resolution For Men

The Resolution For men - Stephen Kendrick

If you want to know what this book was about you should see the movie "Courageous". This is a companion to that movie.

If you want to know what it meant to me personally while reading, well, you will have to be ready for a long and meaningful discussion. There is no way to blog about such stuff. Not for me anyway.

12 November 2011

76. Infected

Infected - Scott Sigler

Extra-terrestrial parasites grow in human hosts until they hatch to build a portal to bring millions of aliens to Earth for some unknown reason.

The graphic descriptions of the parasitic growth, the crime scenes of the "victims", and the war waged within the body of one "Scary" Perry Dawsey, ex-football linebacker superstar, are outstanding.

I really enjoyed this one and will be looking for the sequel to finish the story.

75. The Ethical Engineer

The Ethical Engineer - Harry Harrison

Another old sci-fi novel.

As a science fiction book it was pretty good. A couple of space travelers end up stranded on a primitive planet. These guys are light years ahead of the natives as far as knowledge and scientific discoveries go.

The two progress through parts of the primitive civilization beginning with a slave camp that forages for food all day, to a group that inefficiently pumps crude oil from the ground, to a group that is capable of manufacturing very basic steam engines, to a group is capable of generating electricity and using radio communication in Morse code. Eventually they are rescued by the spacemen in orbit awaiting their signal.

Anyway...that was all interesting and a good story.

The problem for me with this book is it wasn't just a science fiction story. It was a propaganda piece. It was riddled with moral relativism being far superior in every possible way to Judeo-Christian morality. The "ethical" engineer was constantly pointing out how different situations called for different actions. The other guy with him had morals based in his religious faith.

First of all...the religious moralist was WAY over the top. Nobody goes as far as this guy. The author took some serious liberties with this character to make his case against faith based morality.

Second...the moral relativist was always shown to be absolutely right in every single instance...but he really wasn't. That was ignored in the book. For instance...he has always said that  we are innocent until proven guilty. We, as human beings, should not condemn others for their actions until we understand the entire situation. But, he himself justifies his condemnation of a man based on his own perceptions of what is right and correct within that man's own society. He says that since the dude could be expected to kill because that is what his culture would normally do then he is justified in preemptively killing the man himself. So, what was his proof that the man would be expected to kill? He asked a third party what they thought the man might do...they said he might kill...therefore he is guilty!  That is total crap and can be used in a thousand other situations where someone wishes to make their own actions "morally relevant".

One line I did like very much. The two space travelers, Micah and Jason, are arguing about what to do in their current situation. They have become slaves. Micah yells "Live free or die!", or something to that effect. He is prepared to go fight the slave master for his freedom right away. Jason tells him to "shut up!" He says they should wait. They should be slaves until they can make a plan to escape or kill the slave master. He says it is "better to be alive-free than dead-free!" That made a ton of sense and I agree. I liked the quote, but once again, it was an example of the moral Micah taking a ridiculous false position based on morality so Jason could argue it into stupidity.

The book was good if you can look past all the moral relativist argument garbage.

09 November 2011

74. Why We Suck

Why We Suck: A Feel Good Guide to Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy and Stupid - Dr. Denis Leary

What a pissa! This dude cracks me up.

This book reminds me of conversations with Billy and Brian Skidmore or many other friends from Long Island.

It is what it is.

07 November 2011

73. Long Time Leaving

Long Time Leaving: Dispatches From Up South - Roy Blount Jr.

A liberal southern democrat who has lived in Massachusetts and New York compares where he came from with where he is. It is kind of funny at times. It rambles on and on at others.

I loved the comparisons of people's viewpoints and ways of life.

Blount lost me about half way through when he started these long dialogue discussions between William Faulkner, Shakespeare and Mark Twain. He didn't get me back when he spoke of Ray Charles or other singers. I totally lost interest for that whole section of the book. It was probably about half.

But, overall he had me chuckling.

I have heard Roy Blount Jr somewhere before. I did this one on audio and read by the author. I know that voice. I wonder from where.

02 November 2011

72. L.A. Outlaws

L.A. Outlaws - T. Jefferson Parker

This is a fun crime novel. Exciting and action packed. An LA County Sheriff with unwavering integrity. A beautiful dark and mysterious modern day Robin Hood type outlaw running around LA. She just happens to really be an award winning history teacher in the LA Unified school district, a single mom, and the last person anyone would suspect...except of course the super duper copper.

The book is no big thrill. The bad guys are bad. There are crooked cops to help them be even badder. There are ties to MS13 which gives things a more vicious feel. The "real" bad guy likes to hack people up with a machete that shoots shotgun shells. Yeah, whatever.

One of the best parts of this book was the cars. Allison Murietta, the "outlaw" bad ass, just happens to love boosting awesome rides. She not only steals them, but is a real car enthusiast. I liked some of her descriptions of the cars.

The ending was terrible. Talk about the worlds longest feel-good do-good wrap up. Everything ended happily. The cops relationship with his dad. The cops traumatic experiences from his Iraq war experiences. The family history. The kids are all cared for. blah blah blah blah... come on... and the option for a sequel was left glaringly open.

Like I said, it is just another crime story. In fact, there is probably nothing new here at all. I still enjoyed it. It required no thought at all. That was nice for a change.

27 October 2011

Armageddon's Children

Armageddon's Children: Genesis of Shannara - Terry Brooks

I hate this book. I hate it so much I can't continue. I made it about a third of the way in and just can't go on. I usually like dystopian stuff. This fits that category in some way. It is a future world that has fallen apart. I like that part. It is all the other junk that makes me want to puke.

For instance...what future world that has cars, flying machines, guns and all kinds of cool gadgets...yet also has magical staffs that can put up a force field type shield that makes you bulletproof? Stupid!

The mixture of future technologies, old world mysticism and native American earth worshipping naturalist crap made me want to puke.

If you ever need to find the direction you need to travel throw these human finger bones on the ground. All five will point to your destiny every time you need them to show the way...blah blah. Hate it!

24 October 2011

71. 7: The Mickey Mantle Novel

7: The Mickey Mantle Novel - Peter Golenbock

Here is a fictional novel about Mickey Mantle doing a tell all about himself from heaven. It is written by a man who actually knew Mickey, and Billy Martin, and Joe Pepitone, and Jim Bouton, and Whitey Ford, and Roger Maris, and so many other real life ball players from the Yankees heyday as well as their families and friends. Golenbock wrote this book as if Mantle say down with a sports reporter from back in the day and was discussing his entire life to "set the record straight" without hiding anything. The truth. The whole truth. Nothing but the truth.

OK. Mantle was great. He was also an alcoholic. He was also famous for his infidelities. We know all that. This book expanded on those stories in ways that could have been left unsaid forever.

I loved loved loved the parts where Mantle was discussing the baseball seasons or interactions with different managers or relationships with other players on and off the field. I especially liked the Casey Stengel stories. The baseball was great. At the same time the story definitely showed how the alcohol and crazy life were affecting Mantle on the field. What could the man have done if he didn't do all the silly junk he was known for. What could he have been if he did not get injured so much?...which alcohol had a lot to do with in some ways.

But, when Mickey was discussing all his affairs and sexual encounters there was much more than was needed. It bordered on stupid. Some of the stories were funny and all, but it was taken too far. We get it. He had a problem. So did Billy Martin. Also, no secret.

Why write this book when you were "friends" with the guys? I think it is totally in response to another book that was written. Jim Bouton wrote Ball Four, in which he revealed some secrets about the late great Yankee players. I think that made Golenbock mad...and since he needed to make a few bucks he could write a book that revealed even more...fictitiously...and bust Bouton's chops a lot while doing it. I think that is what this book is all about.

It was OK, but if you want to learn anything about Mantle this is not the place to look.

23 October 2011

70. Jeremiah: Terrorist Prophet

Jeremiah: Terrorist Prophet - Michael A. Smith

This was a fast paced thriller about a terrorist disguised as a prophet of God who wants to break America apart into separate countries based on cultural factors such as race and religion. One of those areas just happens to be the north west USA. It is to be named New America, will be a theocracy, and will be run by God's appointed superhero, none other than Jeremiah himself.

Jeremiah is part of a decades old plot set up by his mega-rich German uncle. Following each act of terrorism Jeremiah reveals a new chapter of the Book of Second Jeremiah as revealed to him by God. This is the book that shall be added to the end of the bible according to Jeremiah.

He murders a guy who is a rapist and killer. He murders two boys who have been a blight on society all through their teen years. He poisons the water supply to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. He blows up the New York Stock Exchange. He threatens the use of biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction...and the race is on to catch the bad guy.

While all this is happening he uses a national news television program to get his message out to the masses. Of course, the masses, being crazy fundamentalist Christians looking for any "message from God" they can follow blindly and fanatically, no matter how absurd, insane, or non-biblical it is, they all join in and Jeremiah starts a movement. Yeah, right.

Then the heroic government agents and "enlightened few" (I swear, they used those exact words.) prove that Jeremiah is actually a kid from Minnesota who supposedly died on a ski trip to Europe, has been plotting and planning for years, is associated with all kinds of known terrorist, separatist, and fundamentalist extremest groups, and is blowing smoke up everyones booty.

So, Jeremiah has two nuclear weapons he plans to use to bribe Washington into giving up about a third of it's territory, abandoning military assets in place, and peacefully relinquishing the reigns to him. Sure. That is gonna happen. Oh, it doesn't.

But...Jeremiah gets away (again and again and again, ugh)...and the end of the book is him revealing himself to someone as they begin establishing their "nation" from within...for the sequel...in the trilogy...which I will pass on.

The book was fun and exciting and a real page turner. It was also predictable and full of me guessing correctly about where the author would go next. I enjoyed the read, but there was nothing challenging.

One paragraph I really did enjoy was when the FBI agent was explaining how Jeremiah was able to get such a following to the President's chief-of-staff. Superhero Steve said
         "I see a melting pot that no longer makes stew. It has quit boiling and the ingredients are starting to separate out. Not only have we given up on integrating people of different colors, cultures, and religious backgrounds, but we've got thousands of groups that have circled their philosophical wagons around some central belief, whether it's religion, abortions, guns, sexual orientation, whatever, and they don't want anything to do with anyone who believes differently."

Yup.

17 October 2011

69. The Iron Heel

The Iron Heel - Jack London

Before 1984. Before A Brave New World. Before We. There was The Iron Heel. A dystopian novel with a different dystopia than normal. This one covers an America run by an oligarchic tyranny.

It is possible to completely disagree with the premise being promoted by a book and still be in awe of the novel itself. Jack London has written a masterpiece of political dialogue in this dystopian novel.

The book itself is written as if a narrator is reading an ancient manuscript (The Everhard Manuscript written by Avis Everhard) that is a first-person account of the rise of the Socialist movement against the Oligarchy that is running the capitalist America. The manuscript is discovered hidden in a tree and explains so much of what was unknown about that time hundreds of years earlier.

There are also numerous notes within the book that explain the results of actions and expand on subjects touched on in the manuscript. The novel explains more than the author of the manuscript could possibly have known. It was an interesting way to read a story.

The first half of the book is a series of extended conversations between middle class businessmen - clergy members and a working class Socialist with a gift for debate and leadership.

The second half of the book is what happens after they have these numerous discussions about what could and may happen politically. Of course, all the Socialist predictions of enslavement of the workers and abuses from the capitalists came true and caused lots and lots of problems.

This book was like reading current events in 1905. It was all real world stuff...and then it branched off into the future and became dystopian. Being that I am now reading it over 100 years later it is hard to consider it actually dystopian without placing myself back in time. It also feels a lot like an alternative history. Of course, it was not intended that way at all. It feels that way because the book survived so long and is still relevant enough to make sense.

What I found most interesting is that despite my disagreement with London's philosophy and the protagonist's (Ernest Everhard) ranting against capitalism...it was awesome. I loved reading it. I loved cheering for the little guy. I could feel the tension in the rooms as Ernest debated with clergy or with upper middle class businessmen. The dialog in this book was some of the best I have ever read.

The one problem I had with the dialog though was that it was one sided. Earnest would go on and on about the benefits of Socialist society and then the opponents in debates would always stutter or fall into his linguistic traps. They never had real counter-points. It was always a point they would make to lead into Ernest's next rant...but ohhh, how fun those rants were. Really.

That is a credit to an outstanding writer. He took a subject that would normally have me throwing up a little in my mouth, used numerous convenient events (like Shaggy and Scooby always stumbled upon a clue), and still made me love the characters and the book itself.

READ IT! You must.

I did this one as a audio book. I downloaded it for free. The man who read it (Matt Soar) did an outstanding job. I am sure I liked the book more because it was in this format. The long debates would have probably worn me down in a printed version. I suggest you download the MP3 for this novel and listen to it. It fit on 8 CDs (normal CD audio) and played in the car as I drove everywhere.
You can get it here:  The Iron Heel by Jack London

Oh, I forgot...in some ways it reminded me a lot of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.

12 October 2011

68. Are Women Human?

Are Women Human? - Dorothy L. Sayers

Like the front cover says, this is a book of: "Penetrating, sensible, and witty essays on the role of women in society". It really was outstanding.

This book is about the rights of women. The essays contained in the book were written in the 1930s. It was a very different world then. It is not about being pro-feminism. It is about the rights of women as human beings. Human beings with exactly the same rights as every other human being, male or female. Ms. Sayers uses common sense to reach her conclusions. She also says a number of times that she does not agree with "aggressive feminism" as a tactic. She thinks the humanization of women is what we should pursue. I love her approach.

She breaks down the fight for women's rights in a way I have not seen before. She fights for the individual. "What is repugnant to every human being is to be reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person"

When discussing why women should be allowed to attend classical universities like Oxford and the resistance she encountered in her own education, she says:
"...the cry went up at once: "Why would women want to know about Aristotle?" The answer is NOT that all women would be the better knowing about Aristotle...but simply: "What women want as a class is irrelevant. I want to know about Aristotle."

Later she discusses another little inequality:
"We are asked: "Why do you want to go around in trousers? They are extremely unbecoming to most of you. You only do it to copy the men." To this we may very properly reply "It is true that they are unbecoming. Even on men they are remarkably unattractive. But, as you men have discovered for yourselves, they are comfortable, they do not get in the way of one's activities like skirts and they protect the wearer from draughts about the ankles. As a human being, I like comfort and dislike draughts. If trousers do not attract you, so much the worse; for the moment I do not want to attract you. I want to enjoy myself as a human being."

And then later she is discussing women in the workplace and how the response is usually that a woman's place, and work, are in the home. She says:
"Let us accept the idea that women should stick to their own jobs- the jobs they did so well in the good old days before they started talking about votes and women's rights. Let us return to the middle ages...It is a formidable list of jobs: the whole of the spinning industry, the whole of the dyeing industry, the whole of the weaving industry. The whole catering industry...the whole of the nation's brewing and distilling. All the preserving, pickling and bolling industry, all the bacon-curing. And (since in those days a man was often absent from the home for months together on war or business) a very large share in the management of landed estates. Here are the women's jobs- and what has become of them? They are all being handled by men. It is all very well to say that a woman's place is in the home- but modern civilization has taken all these pleasant and profitable activities out of the home, where the women looked after them, and handed them over to big industry, to be directed and organized by men at the head of large factories. Even the dairy maid in her simple bonnet has been replaced by a male mechanic in charge of a mechanical milking plant."

She goes on to say that the new way is much more efficient and makes a better product, but that there is no "work" left like it used to be. That, and that the home is now much smaller than the castles and plantations of the past.

Dorothy L. Sayers

67. The Dueling Machine

The Dueling Machine - Ben Bova

This is another fun science fiction novel that I have wanted to read for quite some time and finally got around to it.

This one is about inter-planetary and societal conflicts being settled using the dueling machine. It is essentially a virtual reality machine that two people enter and fight it out in a "world" of their own making. The duels are used to settle everything from legal problems to treaties between planets.

That is great, though I am still not sure how being a better fighter in any arena makes one more correct than another, but it sure is fun to make a story about such a scheme.

The dueling machine works fabulously until people start getting killed...for real. One faction is using the machine to kill members of another faction so they can take over politically and avoid an actual military assault.

Luckily the super mega ultra hyper genius that invented the machine comes to the rescue. He figures out that the bad guy is a telepathic and the machine is enhancing his abilities and allowing him to bring others into the battle to assist him. All his opponents are so shocked at this ploy that they have strokes and heart attacks and generally faint dead away like fragile 19th century women. Wimps!

It all gets figures out and the good guys use the same tactic against him, but they bring really good fighters and kick hell out of the bad guys in virtual reality and win the duel. Once the duel fails to kill someone the entire evil genius plan falls apart and they retreat back to their galactic hideout to fight another day.

OK, so I described the story in comic book super hero terms. That doesn't mean it was stupid like that. It really was a good book, a fun quick read, and something that didn't take a lot of thought to stay involved or entertained.

11 October 2011

66. Hot Rod

Hot Rod - Henry Gregor Felsen

What an awesome find from a thrift store bookshelf. This book was originally published in 1950. My copy was from 1963. I picked it up for a quarter. You can't lose for only a quarter.

I have been using PaperBackSwap.com a lot to trade books I have for other books I want. I would recommend that site to anyone looking for something they are having trouble finding. Anyway, I added this book to my To Be Read pile and found that there were a lot of folks wishing for this particular book. Then I did an online search for the title and found that it has been selling for 90-100 dollars. Wow! I might try to sell this one rather than swap it.  :-)

As for the book...Bud Crayne is a 17 year old phenom driver. He loves speed. He loves to control his car through what others could never handle. He is a legend and the town's big man that everyone looks up to.

He takes a bet that he can run from his home town of Avondale to Trenton in under 30 minutes. If he does it he wins ten dollars! But, the high school driver's education teacher and a state highway patrolman get wind of it and try to convince Bud to pass on the bet.

Needless to say, the ribbing from the guys and the encouragement of his hot girlfriend are too much for Bud. After all, his reputation is far more important than a future or facing jail time, aren't they? He makes the run in 29 minutes. The cops chase him all over the place. They fail to catch him. He has broken so many laws that he knows he will lose his license. He is a hero, for all of about an hour. The teacher and the cop show up while he is prepping to pick up his girlfriend so they can high-tail it to California, a real hot rod place where she can pursue acting dreams. They convince Bud that running is a bad idea. He stays and agrees to take part in a Roadeeo they plan to use to teach kids how to drive. Bud is supposed to be the sacrificial lamb who will do it his way. They want to prove speed and recklessness are no match for safety and defensive driving.

So, while waiting for the Roadeeo to take place some little kids that envy Bud take a joy ride in a car and try to drive like Bud says to do it. They end up crashing and die. Booo! Killing little kids to make a point?

Bud loses the Roadeeo to the driver's ed teacher's prodigy who has only had a license for six months. The lesson? It is easier to teach kids how to drive than it is to teach people that already have bad habits and instincts to change the way they drive.

Bud is now devastated. He goes into a overly dramatic tailspin where his entire life is falling apart and he can no longer even drive a car because he is not the best. He is second best. Even the tires of his car as they touch the stripes in the road are yelling at him..."second best"..."second best". Bud has no reason to live. Please!

After some time goes by and Bud is just a lump, a lot of kids show up at the garage where he works. They decide to go out Rat Racing. It is kind of like a 30 minute game of hide and seek with cars. All his friends go. They end up in a head on collision with each other in the middle of "ninety-mile curve". A high speed wreck with bodies strewn all over the highway.

The highway patrolman is visiting Bud at the time and convinces Bud to give him a ride in his hot rod. They head for the accident and both guys are the first on the scene. Bud is told to go get the doctor because one person (the one who beat him in the Roadeeo) is still barely alive. He also needs to trade the hot rod for the police cruiser. Bud does it. The ambulance is too far away. The boy has less than an hour to live according to the doctor. The patrolman jumps in the back of the cruiser to help the injured boy and makes Bud drive.

Where are they going? The hospital in Trenton! They are in Avondale. The Trenton run reenactment! Of course! How convenient. But Bud is now afraid to drive. The patrolman explains how it is OK now because he is in a police cruiser. Turn on the lights and siren. Go Bud, GO!

Bud makes it to Trenton in 27 minutes! He even ran into a teen driver along the way who was driving like Bud used to. Stupid teens driving aggressively and much too fast! Arrghhhh, they made Bud so mad. Golly, it is so much better and faster to do things the right way!

The book is total cheese. It is utterly preachy about safe driving. This could have been used in a driver's education course back in the 1950s. It probably was. The crash scenes had descriptions of how the bodies were mangled that reminded me of the old "Blood on the Highway" driver's ed movies. Films like this.

But, ya know what? I liked it. A lot.

The author's kids are selling a 60th anniversary version of this book on their website. It says they can be autographed. I am not sure who would be autographing them since the author died in 1995, but you can get someones autograph. :-)

I also just learned that the driver's education course theory is exactly right. In fact, this book was contracted to the author by the Des Moines Safety Council specifically for that purpose after a fatal crash involving teenagers.

10 October 2011

65. Planet Of The Damned

Planet of the Damned - Harry Harrison

1962! The year I was born. I think I turned out better than this novel though. :-)

Harry Harrison is the same guy who wrote the book that the movie Soylent Green was based upon (Make Room! Make Room!). That was a better book than this one. This was good, but that one captured my imagination much more.

This book involved planets that were inhabited by humans from Earth. After many centuries of exploring and colonization something went wrong and the entire system collapsed. The planets were no longer "connected" and they became different over thousands of years.

The story is about an empathetic all around great guy from one planet working with a band of interplanetary super-heroes to prevent the planetary destruction of Dis by a nearby planet they are threatening to destroy themselves.

Anyway, it is pulp sci-fi and does not explore anything really new. Well, maybe it was doing that fifty years ago, but how the heck would I know about that. I didn't read it as soon as I came out of the womb. Today, it is the same old tired story, but is fun because I knew it was as old as me.

FYI...the planets are saved. The people of all planets are spared. The wonderfulness of all people is retained because the aggressive people are all know to be sick with a symbiotic-parasite in their brains that caused them to be violent and unfeeling. The obligatory happy ending was achieved. Blah blah.... but it sure was fun getting there this time.

Enjoyable and fun.

08 October 2011

64. Second Variety

Second Variety - Philip K. Dick

This was a great science fiction story. It was originally published in 1953, but is still a great read today.

The story takes place in a post-nuclear war earth. The war between the Soviet Union and the United Nations was disastrous for the planet. The Soviets took the early advantage and were dominating the planet. The UN government took refuge on a secret base built on the moon. The only folks left on Earth are military forces.

The UN forces have designed killer robots. They also gave the robots the ability to create better robots. They learn and improve and become deadlier as time passes. So much so that the Soviet Union is being defeated and there are talks of surrender.

The story take a twist as the robots "evolve". They learn to alter and eliminate the programming that keeps them from killing UN troops. They also learn to create human looking robots that can fool people. A wounded soldier version is used to enter Soviet bunkers and kill the troops within. A little boy with a teddy bear is designed to take the place of the wounded soldier when the troops catch on.

The second variety is a type of human looking robot and the actual identity of this type is not known or revealed in the novel. That is what makes it so good. The reader is spending the whole time trying to figure out who the second variety is? Think you have it figured out? Something happens to change that or cast doubt upon your prediction. It was a lot of fun to figure it out.

FYI...I did figure it out about half way through.

What was interesting is that the story reminded me a bit of the Terminator movies. Robots hunted people. Robots learned and modified the production of better and better weapons against humans. It was familiar, but very different also.

I like Philip K. Dick a lot. It was a quick read also. Perfect for work. :-)

05 October 2011

63. Sleepyhead

Sleepyhead - Mark Billingham

This is a police-procedural type book. It is the first novel by this author and was a hit. A big enough hit to spawn an entire series of books starring Detective Inspector Tom Thorne.

It was a creepy book. Weird in that it had a person killing people, but his intent was not for them to die. His goal was to put them into a semi-comatose state where they were alive and aware, but unable to move or communicate with the world outside their own minds.

That raised an interesting legal question for me early on. If and when they catch the "killer" would he be tried for first degree pre-meditated murder when the intent was NOT to kill? Would it actually be second degree? Maybe even manslaughter with reckless endangerment if they got a super lawyer?

Another interesting part to this book was the character of Allison. She was a 24 year old woman who was the "killers" first success. She is actually in this semi-comatose state all through the book. That could make for a seriously boring character, but it was the opposite. I found her to be the most interesting person in the book. Every second or third chapter was Allison alone. It was Allison within her head. Her thoughts. Her frustrations. Her desires and triumphs and failures. Rational and irrational. It was fascinating. Allison's character very much reminded me of "Johnny Got His Gun". That one freaked me out.

04 October 2011

62. The Ego Machine

The Ego Machine - Henry Kuttner

This was a science fiction story written in 1952. It is about a writer who is contracted to work for a studio in Hollywood to write movies. There is suddenly a time traveling robot that appears and wants to use him as part of a sociology experiment. The man gets the robot drunk on AC power and twists things around where he can have the brain patterns of Ivan the Terrible or a guy named Mammoth Slayer put into his brain for 12 hours in order to not become a slave to the puppet-master studio owner.

It is a strange book, but it was quick and was fun. I was looking for a copy of this, but I found it in an mp3 format down loadable for free from LibraVox. So, i listened to it and liked it very much. The dude doing the reading was slow and deep. That did not help, but it made me pay attention more to understand what he was saying.

I enjoyed this one. I have a whole line up of old sci-fi books sitting here waiting to be read. The Plague Ship, Star Surgeon, and many more. I hope to get to them sooner rather than later. We shall see.

27 September 2011

61. The Ten Things You Can't Say In America

The Ten Things You Can't Say In America - Larry Elder

Larry Elder wrote this book over ten years ago. He was (and may still be, I don't know) a Libertarian radio talk show host in southern California at the time. The things he says you can't say, well, some of them have and are being said since that time. So, this book is a little dated, but the arguments he made are still valid and very well executed in the text.

What are the ten things that you could not say in America?

Blacks are more racist than whites.
White condescension is more damaging than white racism.
There is no health-care crisis.
We are losing the war on drugs.
Republicans and Democrats are the same beast with different rhetoric.
Gun control advocates have blood on their hands.
Illegitimacy is America's greatest problem.
The welfare state is our national narcotic.
There is no glass ceiling.
There is a real, widespread and destructive left wing media bias.

He made good arguments for each of his points. Granted, they are Libertarian arguments and therefore will blame a lot on government. I don't disagree with him in a lot of those areas.

This was an interesting book that would have been far more interesting ten years ago. Although, at that time I may have looked at it as more of a fringe wacko type book than something more mainstream that it has become today. Libertarians have come a long way since then.

60. Why The Left Hates America

Why The Left Hates America: Exposing The Lies That Have Obscured Our Nation's Greatness - Daniel J. Flynn

I read the following description of this book and was intrigued. Is the left wing of American politics that jacked? Why? I must know! I must read this book and learn something about the the Left's opposing political beliefs.

""The American flag stands for hatred, warmongering, and imperialism." — "Our free-market system is responsible for killing and oppressing millions of people." — "This country breeds racists and sexists." — Is America really that bad? It is if you accept the lies and propaganda from the anti-American Left in our own country. This dismal, distorted view of the greatest, freest nation in history comes from a Left who would rather idolize Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro than honor George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, who burn down businesses and destroy property to protest free markets, and who fight alongside radical terrorists rather than against them. They trample the Constitution while hiding behind the First Amendment, and their idea of displaying the American flag is setting it on fire and parading it through the streets. Yes, this is a Left comprised of people who truly hate their country, and they will stop at nothing to tear her down—smashing our liberty in the process.



Why the Left Hates America punches a hole right through the thin veneer of political correctness that has long protected these anti-Americans—exposing their rotting, vacuous core. Author and commentator Daniel J. Flynn digs deep into the American Left and reveals why they blame every bad deed in the world on the United States, while ignoring her myriad contributions.

This book cogently points out that, of course, all Americans have the right to speak their minds. But, all too often, the actions by the anti-American Left become destructive and anarchistic. You need not look any further than the explosive 1999 World Trade Organization "protests" in Seattle, campus book burnings, or even John Walker Lindh to see that factions on the Left are the worst perpetrators of anti-Americanism. And what may be most shocking is that many of these anti-Americans are at the same time teachers, professors, journalists, news reporters, and even judges and politicians.
Probing and controversial—without devolving into jingoism—this book proves once and for all that what you see in the news and learn in school is often tainted by the anti-American Left, and it shows you what you can do to keep them at bay."

What I learned is that the left this guy is talking about is not the main stream liberal Democrat politician. He is talking about an extreme fringe element. This book is written to have the reader believe that ALL liberals are what he is describing here.

I found this book to be more like pouring gasoline on a fire than teaching. I did not like what he had to say. It was interesting, but not for the reasons that I had wanted to read it in the first place. Disappointing, yet interesting.

23 September 2011

59. Understanding The Constitution

Understanding The Constitution - David Gibbs

Outstanding!

58. The Lords Of Flatbush

The Lords Of Flatbush - Leonore Fleischer

Remind me not to read novels that were adapted from the screenplay for a movie. Novels make good movies. I have not read a book yet that was a movie first and was any good.

It is a coming of age story about four friends in the 1950's who live in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. What is it really? It was a way for Sylvester Stallone to capitalize on the popularity of Henry Winkler in the mid to late 1970s and to get his own career jump started. It worked, but not as a novel.

14 September 2011

57. Blackbox

Blackbox: A Novel In 840 Chapters - Nick Walker

"Cross a road, take a train, or get on an airplane and you put your life in the hands of a stranger -- every bit as screwed up, every bit as fallible and as human as you are. Then the person turns out not to be a stranger at all, and suddenly it's much worse. In America and Britain and the sky in between, an apparently disparate group of people is connected, whether intimately or by chance, to the tragic death of a stowaway on board flight AF266. As the action veers across countries and time zones, the stowaway's real identity is revealed through stolen black box recordings, answering machine messages, sitcom outtakes, and court transcripts. Told in a shifting, circular narrative, the interwoven lives make up a jolting and layered puzzle that builds to a heart-stopping, chilling climax. An intelligent and invigorating novel with a bizarre menu of dysfunctional characters, Blackbox is the story of an attempt to erase a life on tape."

It was just OK. No big thrill. Not worth searching for. Not a bad book either. It had some interesting characters and a different way of telling the story, but was hard to follow at times as it jumped here and there and everywhere very quickly.

08 September 2011

56. America By Heart

America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag - Sarah Palin

I agree with her. I agree with her about family. I agree with her about faith. I agree with her about American exceptionalism. I agree with her on feminism. I agree with her on the Constitution. I agree with her on liberalism. I agree with her on the role of government in our personal lives. I agree with her on environmentalism. I agree with her on Reagan. I agree with her on Kennedy. I agree with her on many topics she discussed in this book.

I recall disagreeing once when she half-heartedly said something about Bush. I think Bush was far from conservative and think that is indefensible no matter what the circumstances were during his presidency.

The book itself? Well, despite agreeing, it felt like a non-stop cheerleading competition.

I forgot one thing. She said something about how the folks that want to "fundamentally transform" America are trying to take it in a direction that is not where I want to go. I agree with that. I also like the way she put it. To want "fundamental transformation" you must believe there is something seriously wrong with the fundamentals, the basis, on which our country was founded. Why else would someone want to transform it at a fundamental level? I am in 100% agreement with her that this country is totally awesome and does not need to be transformed.

55. View With A Grain Of Sand

View With A Grain Of Sand - Wislawa Szymborska

Normally poetry is not a big thrill. I find it laborious. I tend to wonder "what did I miss?" because if it is just these words then it is nothing special.

This woman was different. I enjoyed reading these poems despite being totally lost at times.

54. The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day - Kazou Ishiguro

I enjoy Ishiguro's novels a little. I never thought they were fantastic, but they never suck. This one goes right along with the others. No big thrill, but it was not horrible either.

This book took a long time to read. I started and then stopped probably five times. It was good enough to know I wanted to finish, but not good enough to delay beginning something else. This last few weeks I made it a goal to finish a number of "those" books. :-)

53. John's Story

John's Story: The Last Eyewitness - Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins

A novelization of the life of John. The John who authored the Gospel of John and Revelation. It was interesting, but I find it unneeded. The author's made another dollar. That is good, I guess.

52. Your First Year In Network Marketing

Your First Year In Network Marketing: Overcome Your Fears, Experience Success, and Achieve Your Dreams - Mark Yarnell and Rene Reid Yarnell

Rah Rah! Sell some stuff!  Be a millionaire! You can do it!

27 August 2011

51. A Damned Fine War

A Damned Fine War - Bill Yenne

This is an alternate history based in World War II, or immediately after. What if the Russians took a short break and then invaded Europe? What if Patton had not died and was around to fight them?

Interesting concept for a story...but lacking in execution as far as I am concerned. I did not fall in love with the story as I had hoped.

The good guys were too heroic.
The bad guys were too evil.
The technical aspects were inaccurate too often to overlook.
Who cares about romance in a war novel? Not me!
The troop movements were too simplistic and immediate.
Time must have been compressed. I don't know why.
As the book drug on we got less battle and more personal story crap.

Anyway, what I was hoping for would be more of a realistic type of book. One where General Patton and Marshal Zhukov could duke it out in the European theater with much more reality. Both looking over their shoulder for a Nazi resurgence that was non-existent in this book.

That is not what I got.

25 August 2011

50. Johnny Got His Gun

Johnny Got His Gun - Dalton Trumbo

The only book I can recall reading where every word is written from the thoughts of a single person. No narrator. No additional perspective. Not one single external word. One man's thoughts and memories. That is all. He does not go anywhere or do anything other than attempt to communicate with the world...and think.

I saw this book every time I went to the bookshelf in the last two years to choose which book I would read next. Every time I would pull it down and put it into the "short-list" stack (usually 4-5 books). Every time I would put it back saying "next time".

A few weeks ago I was cranking "One" by Metallica and it reminded me of this book because the music video used a lot of scenes from the original movie starring Timothy Bottoms. I made a decision. I immediately went to the bookshelf and picked out this book. I began reading it right then.

The impact this book made on me was impressive. It made me cry. Literally. It made me shake and want to scream at times when I was being empathetic to what Joe was thinking or feeling. Those types of feelings from some written words do not come often.

I know a lot of military people. I am retired military myself. It took all I had not to put my friends faces, or my own, onto Joe Bonham's body in the novel. The problem was that Joe had no face. My friends had no faces. My friends were in this predicament.

Then, for those that know me, there was the "trapped" factor. One of my fears is being trapped in a cave, or under snow in an avalanche, or in a building after an earthquake...anywhere that I can not escape from and will just be there forever waiting to starve or suffocate. It is even worse if the confines are so tight that I cannot move. It causes sleepless nights when I have those dreams...but that is a different story.

Anyway, this book was like those dreams. This is a man who has no arms and legs. A paraplegic. That sucks, but it is not the end of the world. But, Joe also had head trauma. He lost his eyes, ears, nose and mouth. He lost his hearing, his sight, the ability to smell and taste. He could not speak. He lost the ability to communicate at all. He was stuck in a prison exactly the same size as his own mind and body. Imagine being fully aware of your predicament and being able to do nothing about it...for years on end. Imagine that you really can't be sure if you are awake or asleep and dreaming because it all feels the same. That freaked me out!

One of my favorite parts of the book is where Joe was talking to himself about why he went to war. He was drafted in WWI, but the sales pitch was about words like "liberty", "democracy", "freedom" and "patriotism". These words are used to inspire the little guys into doing their duty. Problem...Joe fought for all of them and has none of them despite still being alive and winning the war. These words are not concrete. They are abstract terms with different meanings to different people at different times. They can be tools used to manipulate.

A memorable quote: "What the hell does liberty mean anyhow? It's just a word like house or table or any other word. Only it's a special kind of word. A guy says house and he can point to a house to prove it. But a guy says come on let's fight for liberty and he can't show you liberty. He can't prove the thing he's talking about so how in the hell can he be telling you to fight for it?"

The book is obviously anti-war and does a great job of making it's point about the brutality and inhumanity or warfare. It also has a bit of class warfare going on. The upper-class ordering wars and the lower-class (little guys) fighting them and dying for the causes of the rich and powerful.

I am very impressed with this book and will be putting it back on the keeper shelf with other books I consider worthy of staying after being read. (Great Gatsby, Mother Night, The Kite Runner, True Grit, One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich, Night, Without Remorse, Into The Wild, etc).

18 August 2011

49. God and the State

God and the State - Mikhail Bakunin

What a miserable fella Bakunin must have been. It seems that everything is either absurd, stupid or is enslaving mankind.

Christianity was especially hated throughout the text, though he made the same old arguments and rationalizations that have been tossed about repeatedly. Whatever dude. You don't want God to exist because you don't get to be omniscient yourself. For a long time I thought he was equating the Roman Catholic church with Christianity. In the end he meant Christianity and all kinds of religion. The eastern religions (Buddhism and Hinduism) did get a slight pass with some footnotes attached. Blah blah.

The thing is, I expected the book to be anti-christian, so none of that surprised me at all. What did surprise me was that Bakunin dislikes schools, governments, historians, scientists, Romans, Greeks, plumbers, carpenters, teachers, priests, anything at all that would be any kind of authority figure in even the minutest fashion.

Anarchy! It is obviously the only way for any reasonable human being to be free to make all his own decisions without external influences and therefore using only his own reasoning. Ban everything immediately! Wait, if I tell you to ban everything and you want it then I am infringing on your ability to choose and am therefore inflicting my own authority over you and must be banned myself.

I guess the only real solution would be to shoot myself dead in the face if I lived in Bakuninland.

I did enjoy hearing a different perspective on many subjects despite my disagreeing with much of it.

16 August 2011

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court - Mark Twain

I can't do it. Despite this being about King Arthur, which is cool, and despite it being Mark Twain...it is like reading Shakespeare or the King James Bible. Too olde englishy for me to even consider continuing this book.

15 August 2011

48. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Washington Irving

It is a classic and is outstanding. You all know the story or Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. I won't review that other than to say, I loved it.

I have not done this for a while, and this is a worthy book...

SAT Word Alert:

INVETERATE: set or confirmed in a habit, practice, feeling, or the like

WITHE:  a tough, flexible twig or stem suitable for binding things together.

WHILOM: formerly

SUPERNUMERARY:  being in excess of the usual, proper, or prescribed number.

PERADVENTURE: chance, doubt or uncertainty

ERUDITION: knowledge acquired by study, research, etc.

PERAMBULATION: a walk, travel, journey, etc.

COQUETTE: a woman who flirts lightheartedly with men to win their admiration and affection; flirt

CHANTICLEER: a rooster

ANDIRONS: one of a pair of metal stands, usually of iron or brass, for holding logs in a fireplace

CAPRICES: sudden unpredictable changes, as of one's mind or the weather

GAINSAY: to deny, contradict or dispute

RANTIPOLE: a wild, romping young person

BREASTWORK: a temporary defensive fortification usually about breast high, a parapet

PILLIONS: a pad or cushion attached behind a saddle, especially as a seat for a woman

SWAINS: a male admirer or lover, a country gallant

PLASHY: marshy, wet

47. Adopted For Life

Adopted For Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches - Russell D. Moore

This was an very interesting book about the Christian perspective on adoption. Not only on adopting children into a family, but how it relates to us being adopted as the children of God. It was very interesting to see the parallels.

One thing that kept coming back while reflecting on what I had read was the idea the author had about an adopted child's culture. It is important to keep an adopted child aware of where they came from, isn't it?

We have adopted five children from Ukraine. Keeping them aware of Ukrainian culture has been something we have made half-hearted efforts at over the years. Ukrainian food is really good. We enjoy those meals where we go out of our way to prepare it. As far as the rest of Ukrainian culture, well, we have fallen well short of my own expectations. It seems like it is just a waste of time to keep them in tune with the motherland when they are Hills kids now. Know what I mean?

Well, this author did. He expressed that feeling in a way I had not been able to before. It made perfect sense when I read it. Once we are adopted into God's family and are his children, does he desire for us to keep current in cultural awareness of our previous sinful life? Does he desire to expose us to the way we were before we were adopted? Of course not. In a way that is exactly what I have been feeling about my own kids. They are MY children now. They are living here and are citizens here. If Ukraine was so great then why are they here in the first place? Why would I wish to push a culture on them that has caused them all heart-ache and pain?

Something else that struck me...as Christians we are called to care for orphans and widows...that does not mean we are all called to bring a child into our homes and be their parents. There are many other ways to "care".

14 August 2011

46. Biblical Ethics

Biblical Ethics - Oswald Chambers

How can I do what I ought to do?

Why should I do what I ought to do?

This was very heavy reading, very deep and meaningful. It was quite revealing and I will be thinking of this reading for some time.

08 August 2011

45. The Prayer of Jabez

The Prayer of Jabez - Bruce Wilkinson

My mother and father sent this book to my wife and I in 2007. I finally read it. :-)

I agree that God can do anything. Asking in prayer is great also. I liked the book up to a point, and then it felt like prosperity preaching. I am not into that at all. I agree with much of what the author wrote, but not always to the degree he took it.

I especially liked one section. Part of the prayer was "keep me from evil". The author writes;
"Jabez's last request is a brilliant but little-understood strategy for sustaining a blessed life. After all, as your life transcends the ordinary and starts to encroach on new territory for God, guess whose turf you're invading?"

03 August 2011

42. 43. & 44. Cowboy Bebop Vol 1, 2 and 3

Cowboy Bebop Volumes 1, 2 and 3 - Yutaka Nanten

Manga.

Intergalactic bounty hunters.

Stupid.

Comic books with curses and skimpy clothing. Wow! Who cares?

Why do I even try to give this junk another shot?

02 August 2011

41. Altering the Blueprint: The Ethics of Genetics

Altering the Blueprint: The Ethics of Genetics - Alexander McCall Smith

This is actually a University level course taught by Professor Smith. It is a series of fourteen lectures on various subjects concerning the ethical choices we face in modern day reproduction and medical science.

The topics discussed included:

An Overview of Techniques for Creating Humans
When Does Life Begin?
Cloning
Sex Selection
Abortion?
Surrogacy
Screening for Abnormalities
Genetic Enhancement
Spare-Part Children
Population Control

I found this to be an extremely interesting course.