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


27 JUL 2019 - Hillbilly Elegy 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.

Chilcoot Pass30 JUL 2018 - Damn 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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