It doesn't take much to make me happy, but then it doesn't take much to annoy me either.


21 MAY 2021 - Grant by Ron Chernow. Another excellent book, both well written and tremendously informative. Ulysses Grant ranks among Washington and Lincoln in his influence on America. Both as the top general in the Civil War and subsequent terms as 18th president, Grant left an indelible mark on the history of the US.

His life was extreme both for the poverty experienced as a young man before the Civil War as well as world-wide popularity after the end of his 2nd presidential term. More than once he was overlooked as a simple unassuming man, yet the same man rose to unparalleled dominance when it came to managing the crushing pressures of both war and politics.

He had glaring weaknesses - alcoholism constantly dogged him, though in later years he truly master the curse. He also was naively trusting of people when he should have been much more aware. This led to his final mistake of blindly trusting a financial advisor who swindled the Grants for literally everything they had... servants had to be let go because there was no money to pay them, and houses and properties had to be sold to pay off debts.

Fantastic book - highly recommended.


28 FEB 2021 - Storm Front by Jim Butcher. This was a very easy read, though not one I would normally choose. AJ Danna recommended it when I found out he likes to read and asked for a good book.

It is a good book, just not in the genre that I tend to like. This is about a wizard that's also a detective trying to solve a series of murders before he's murdered himself. Easy to read, the story is told with good cadence that keeps you wanting more. The solutions to each challenge are not always predictable, so it's entertaining from that standpoint.

I'm just not that interested in mixing fantasy with reality, but will admit Storm Front does a pretty good job. There were a few places where you wondered what the next door neighbors might think when a scorpion the size of a buffalo starts tearing apart the inside of a house - but we'll suspend plausibility here and there to allow a good story to develop.

I will not continue reading this series, but for those interested in wizards, witches, and that sort of thing it's worth a try. 


08 FEB 2021 - Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian. Not an easy start, and the amount of old nautical terms can be intimidating, but a good read if you persist. This book is about the captain of a ship back in the early 1800s, and the challenges faced when touring the Mediterranean while battling opponents of the King of England. There's a true feeling of authenticity with the amount of detail and explanation for how a naval ship operated back in that time. Excellent book and I will likely follow with reading the rest of the series. Yes, there are about 20 other books that follow the adventures of Captain Jack Aubrey and his ship's surgeon Stephen Maturin.


martin luther24 NOV 2020 - Just past the halfway point of Martin Luther, a biography written by Eric Metaxas of the 16th century monk who turned the world upside down with his simple request to be judged by scripture and scripture alone.

Luther was a brilliant young man who was supposed to go to law school, but at the last minute decided to join a monastery instead. He took his faith seriously. His early years at the monastery involved six hour confessionals with his spiritual advisors where he would plumb the depths of his soul attempting to reveal and confess every morsel of sin in his life. Doing so, he thought, would bring him closer to the Lord. Instead it drove his superiors crazy... but for the fact that he was an exceptional scholar, he would have been thrown out of the monastery as a madman.

And he was brilliant. He quickly advanced thru his studies, gaining a masters early on and finally his doctorate before the age of 30. And it only took that long because he delayed, thinking himself to be too young to hold such an honor.

A simple monk, he never desired to take on the Catholic church or it's allies. His goal was to correct church doctrine where it had strayed from scriptural truth. When the pope resisted such efforts, Luther became the focal point of a revolution that released multitudes from oppressive church doctrine while encouraging them to take up scripture reading for themselves.

But how would normal people be able to read scripture if they didn't know Greek or Hebrew? Up to this point in church history these were the only translations available, so Luther took it upon himself to translate the entire Bible into the common German language:

"Luther relied mostly on Erasmus’s second edition of his Greek New Testament, which came out in 1519. Although there were a number of rather turgid German New Testament translations in circulation, they had all relied on the Latin Vulgate—with its innumerable errors—rather than on the original Greek, which had not existed until Erasmus’s 1516 edition. So Luther mostly ignored these previous German translations. But he brought not only accuracy to this new work but the supreme genius of an ear so attuned to the dramatically variegated German language of his day that what he accomplished in translating the entire Bible—for after finishing the New Testament, he would turn to the Old—not only succeeded in revolutionizing the Christian faith in Germany but also had the effect almost of creating a new German language."

Metaxas, Eric. Martin Luther (p. 273). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

This is an excellent biography which demonstrates in detail a man who is not only an academic genius, but who also had the heart of a caring pastor:

"It is probably Luther’s astonishing intellectual wingspan—to be able to go from Greek and Latin translation and deep exegesis and scholarship to preaching candidly and clearly to the open-minded peasant—that marks him as a genius for the ages. He not only did not disdain the common man but positively hated those who did."

Metaxas, Eric. Martin Luther (p. 358). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.


Luther had an uncanny and unparalleled ear for communicating with those of other social castes. He was able to write to emperors and popes with perfect fluency and to argue academic points in Latin with Erasmus and others, but he was unmatched in speaking directly to those whose knowledge of their own German language was primitive. In this capacity, he was able with ease to run blurred circles around less capable opponents.

Metaxas, Eric. Martin Luther (p. 435). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

And to those living in western culture who claim disbelief in God and disdain for organized religion, you can thank Martin Luther for fighting for your right to choose what to believe instead on an institution forcing faith upon you. Up until his lifetime, and primarily because of his battles based on scripture with the Church, heretics were burned at the stake:

He had opened the door to what we today call conscience and dissent. He had therefore also opened the door to the idea that truth and power were inevitably at odds with each other. This was an immeasurably significant moment, and most of what we take for granted in the West, especially with regard to democracy and human rights, began with this crucial idea. Once this brightest of all ideas took hold, who could believe that a forced conversion to another religion was a real conversion? Brute power itself had been vanquished by the human right to believe as one wished.

Metaxas, Eric. Martin Luther (p. 439). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The more I dwell on this book (just finished it BTW) the more I recognize that Luther was the start of a new era in history where men have freedom to decide for themselves the meaning of truth. Up to this point, the Roman Catholic church decided what was true and heresy was punishable by death. Luther first attempted to correct the wrongs of the Church by calling attention to scripture. When that didn't work he steadfastly refused to recant his beliefs, debated in person and in writing any who would challenge him, and made available to common people the Bible itself so they could read and decide for themselves.

Last of all, Martin Luther was a prolific writer. In addition to being a trained scholar he also had the benefit of living at a time when the printing press became common. After penning an article, pamphlet or book he would send it off to a printer who would print and sell copies to eager readers. Except Luther, wildly popular in his time and throughout history, never once asked for payment for any of his writings - he was truly a monk indeed.


10 OCT 2020 - washingtonAlmost finished with Washington by Ron Chernow. Excellent, excellent book. This is the third book I've read about colonial time figures. John Adams by David McCullough, 1776 by either McCullough or Thomas Fleming (can't remember which and it's not in my Kindle library) and now Washington.

It's always amazed me that things were not as clear cut back then as I had imagined. Not all colonists were supportive of the revolution, and that included George Washington's very own mother. Mary Washington is described as a woman who lived a sparse life, raising her kids without a husband around. George did his best to be a good son, but she never forgave him for going off to lead the colonists in the French Indian war. Their relationship deteriorated from that point forward. But then to find out Washington had to balance the embarrassment of his own mother being a Tory - amazing. [more]

27 JUL 2019 - Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance is a very good book, easy to read with great commentary on the contradictions and struggles of growing up in a poor family. Contradictions because loyalties to family members who make poor decisions will present a struggle between wanting to stay and help and wanting to flee and get away from the madness. And obviously the struggle of being poor will magnify any difficulty in life.

23 SEP 2018 - Scalia Speaks is a great book about a great man who will be very greatly missed.

This is a book of various speeches given by Justice Antonin Scalia. The topics vary widely from his Catholic faith, to law, virtues, and friendships. Scalia is impressive not only for his depth of knowledge and logic regarding each topic, but also for a humility in recognizing and admitting his own limitations. Indeed, the common topic throughout the book is of constitutional originalism, a subject he preaches about along with the admission that such an approach will protect others from Scalia himself imposing authoritarian views.


30 JUL 2018 - Chilcoot PassDamn near finished with Alaska by James Michener. Boy is this a tome... not that it's too scholarly, but man this is a long book.

Michener goes all the way back to prehistoric times, speculating about mammal migrations, continental earthquakes, and such. He carries thru to Asian migrations, Russian explorers, gold rush, American purchase as well as all the efforts to finally gain statehood in 1959. He follows a salmon fry from moment of birth, freshwater development, sea faring migration, and the final life expiring return to original birthing grounds where the breeding lifecycle is repeated.

As with all Michener novels, I learned a lot about Alaska. One of the more interesting points relates to a famous photo of the Chilkoot Pass. My first impression of this picture was just a bunch of gold miners plodding up a hill to the waiting gold fields. Sure, it looks cold and walking up mountains isn't easy, let alone thru the snow.

But the miners shown are not simply hiking up a hill and moving on. No - in order to get thru Canada to the Kondike they have to bring with them 1 ton of supplies. This came about because the Canadians realized miners were showing up to the gold rush woefully unprepared for the rigors of what lay ahead. They were starving and freezing from lack of food, clothing, and equipment to get them thru the harsh winters.

So Canada instituted a rule that nobody could pass thru their territory to the gold fields without bringing supplies. The total list amounted to 1 ton of equipment, and all those supplies had to be carried up the Chilkoot Pass. The only way to do that was to pack part of it up one trip at a time, then return to the bottom for the next load. It was estimated that most miners would need a whole day to go up and back, and that effort would get 50 lbs of supplies to the top. Divide 2000 lbs of supplies by that and it took most men 40 days straight to get the everything up to the top. Once there, a lake and river made transportation a little easier.


Milo30 DEC 2018 - Finished reading Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos. This was the book that was deemed too risky for the publisher to bring out. Then Milo was drummed out of society for comments about sex with minors (he doesn't endorse it) and he's been pretty quiet since. Certainly not the straw that stirs the social drama - that's Trump's job these days.

But in the middle of reading Milo's book there was a movement to discredit it, something akin to it not being well written, or coming off as too egotistical. I paused in my  reading, read the criticisms, and came to the conclusion that this was another hit job. Dangerous is a good book, well annotated with logical arguments and rebuttals. As if not trying to hide anything, Milo starts our the very first chapter addressing the charges of supporting sex with children. That to me was very admirable - he's taking something difficult on up front, ready and willing to explain himself on the very first page. I like that.

Milo is no doubt a provocateur - both his lifestyle as a gay conservative and his Hollywood appearance gain unusual attention. But he proves to be incredibly scholarly as well. Page after page is filled with political arguments that are not just jabs at his opponents, but each is annotated with facts and figures to back his points.

Regarding the Black Lives Matter movement he drills home the fact that in 2014 police shootings of 238 blacks are dwarfed by 6095 black-on-black shooting deaths. This statistic has become so bad that even his critics have come to agree that the problem is too severe to ignore. Yiannopoulos further cements this by pointing out statistics that show Latino and black officers are more likely to shoot blacks than white cops - which further diminishes BLM claims of racism in the police force.

Not content to leave the matter of racism with simple statistics, Milo defends himself against charges of being racist by stating "Have you seen the people I sleep with? They come in a lot of colors, and very few of them are hues of white." Classic Milo... 


Time Enough For Love30 SEP 2017 - Finally finished reading Time Enough For Love by Robert Heinlein. Very good book with a very creative story. The protagonist, Lazarus Long, is a man who happens to be the oldest man in the universe.  In the beginning of the story his family has to trick him into not committing suicide because, even though he's tired of living, yet they don't want to lose all the knowledge he has acquired over the centuries. Yes, he is centuries old. He lives at a time when people can be rejuvenated, repeatedly restoring their lives to an earlier age.

Mankind has also mastered space travel and because of that the human race has spread out, called "the diaspora", to remote regions of the universe. Lazarus Long is not only centuries old but he has traveled all over the universe while accumulating a great deal of knowledge from his experiences. A good portion of the book is Lazarus dictating these experiences to a computer, where they will be stored with the family archives.

Heinlein is known as a great author and proves it with Time Enough For Love. His intimate knowledge of various professions gives a plausible feel to much of the story, from pioneering challenges of newfound planets, to military strategies of WWI, to parenting wisdom on the best way to raise children. It's not surprising when coming across a quote from Heinlein - he was truly a very wise man.

The title comes from a lesson Lazarus gives to his young adopted children. Having reached adult age, they work hard at running a restaurant but he teaches them that without taking time to love each other, they will lose their zest for life and each other. This theme is repeated throughout the story, with family members luxuriating in a manner that can only be described as loving life.

I enjoyed this book, but I'm not sure I agree with the sexual freedoms Heinlein seems to be proposing. In the final chapters of the book, Lazarus Long travels back in time to not only meet his family, but... well, I'll leave that for others to find out on their own.

Good book - I recommend it. 



20 AUG 2017 - I'm reading Time Enough For Love by Robert Heinlein right now. It took a while to get interesting, like most good books, but has caught my interest and I've been cruising thru it pretty steady. Won't say much about it now, as I'm not finished, but I will mention a book I did recently finish reading.

Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie - Murder on the Orient ExpressI became interested after seeing it mentioned on the web. I've never been a fan of Agatha Christie, but decided to try one of her books since she's so popular.

It was an interesting read - was very difficult keeping track of all her characters and how they were related to the story. The writing also had a very dated feel to it, not something I could put my finger on exactly. Sort of a formality to how the characters lived and talked, as though it were from a time long ago. Now I understand it was written in the 1930s and the story  seems to also take place at that time as well. Christie is from the UK and first published the book there also... the British aren't too formal, are they?

I stuck with it, and even started to gain interest in how the mystery would be resolved. The ending was a little implausible for my taste, but obviously my opinion is no match for Agatha Christie's popularity. I was very impressed that she could weave such a complex tale, keeping track of so many characters while planning a resolution all along.

In the end, I'd say Agatha Christie isn't my favorite read, but that's okay - I was never a big fan of murder mysteries to begin with.


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