The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

Posts tagged ‘books’

Du Spreche?

Recently I decided to take my German learning attempts to the next level. That is, LEVEL 0.2. My current level is doing Duolingo every day (or close to that), which has been going well.

I thought for next steps two things might make sense – a pen pal or reading children’s books in German. I’m anti-social enough that the pen pal idea lasted about one second.

panama 1For the children’s books I googled for German children’s books to learn German and what do you know – handy results came back. Great! I ordered three books:

Morgen, Findus, Wird’s Was Geben (Tomorrow, Fundus, Will Give What … That can’t be right, but I have no idea what it is)
Eine Woche Voller Samstage (A Week of Saturdays)
Oh, Wie Schön ist Panama (Oh, How Beautiful is Panama)

I looked forward to my three books with great anticipation. When they arrived I happily took the package home, opened it, and was immediately filled with … Whatever word means the emptying of ambition. These are no children’s books! These are more like elementary to middle school books! I wanted to be treated like a 3 year old having a book read to me! Dang it!stamstage

Oh, Wie Schön ist Panama is the one I will start with. It’s the easiest of the three. In this book a bear and a tiger (adorable) are on a journey to visit Panama (super adorable). I don’t know why, or if they succeed, my German isn’t that good. And, frankly, at this point I basically open a page, type word for word what I see into Google translate and then say ‘ohhhh, ok, I knew three of those words.’

Wish me luck on my likely fruitless endeavors.

Also, lesson learned, Germans do quotes differently. For example, in Oh, Wie Schön ist Panama they use these guys: << and >>.

<<Wer wusste?>> (Who knew?)

(I have no idea what’s happening in this book … but I’m excited to stumble through it 10 years from now.)

Double Feature

Recently I finished reading Mayday Orbit by Poul Anderson and No Man’s World by Kenneth Bulmer.

In looking up Poul I was surprised to find he has quite the Wikipedia entry, he was more than just the handful of bad sci-fi books that I had assumed he would be. Of the two I enjoyed Bulmer’s book more.

FullSizeRender(1)Both books featured a main character who was an Earth (or Earth-like) male that women (whether Earthling-like or alien) found attractive, that knew how to handle himself with danger, and had a flippant/wait no I’ve planned all this/wait no I haven’t style. Basically, a bunch of less cool Han Solo precursors. Also, both of them dealt largely with civilizations that looked down or up to others as being more advanced for one reason or another (generally military might related).

I’ve included pictures of the cover of both sides of this book as an explanation for why I bought it. I love campy books, especially sci-fi.

Enough chit chat, lets get to the good stuff. Some of these quotes made me laugh out loud – the authors seemed like geeks trying to imagine what a cool guy would say or do to impress a woman. It didn’t give me much of an impression of a guy drawing on personal experience. (I’m not knocking that, I’d grasp clumsily at writing a character who is suave and debonair and end up basing it on some pre-conceived notion that probably would mostly appeal to men.)

Mayday Orbit

Altaian garments were ridiculously short on him, which was bad for morale. He thanked his elegant ohs for antibeard enzyme …

Flandry noticed once again that Bourtai was no simple barbarian. She came from a genuine and fairly sophisticated civilization, even if it was on wheels. It would be an interesting culture to visit … if he survived, which was dubious.

“Holy hopping hexaglexagons,” he mumbled in awe.

No Man’s World

She’d pierced through with her damned womanly intuition and all the denials in the universe wouldn’t alter her opinion now.

So he was being tailed, then.
So he’d have felt naked if he wasn’t.

She was wearing a transparent negligee that showed most of the things a man might want to see. As Caradine had seen them all before, many times, he could ignore them – with a slight struggle – and concentrate on the reason for their flaunting.

“You see, Mr. Carter, young Tommy Gorse was shot with a one millimeter needle-beam. A one millimeter neadle-beam that was almost certainly a Beatty. Just like the one you have under your arm.”


Literary Themed Restaurant

Recently my friends Airplanes and Battle Toads went to a restaurant called Tequila Mockingbird (which had another restaurant sitting atop it, Boo Radley). How great a name is that? (Both those, really.)

Which brings us to the next question – what would I name a literary-inspired restaurant?

  • The Old Man and the Sea Food
  • Where the Wild Games Are
  • 1984 … Different Wines
  • Brave New Swirl’d? (Swirl might take offense to this)
  • Moby Whale Dick, and Other Animal Body Parts You Wouldn’t Normally Eat
  • Pride and Preju-dis Steak is Tasty!
  • Animal Farm to Market
  • The Odyssea Food – Sweatpants Required, Shirt Optional – It’s Gonna Get Intense
    (It’s an experimental restaurant, instead of all you can eat, it’s all you will eat)

The Murder and …

You know those series of books that have dorky titles and they all kind of play on the same theme? Odds are you’ve walked past a huge collection of them at any number of book stores.

I’ve decided to write one of those. It won’t be easy, but I’m going to be motivated by the knowledge that I’ll be letting down any unknowing reader who picks up one of my books thinking he or she has stumbled on something interesting.


This crow is one of any number of crows that would not read my books.

The Murder and The Untimely Death

This will be about a group of crows who are intelligent and they talk about what a shameful thing that the town doctor recently returned from a trip to the east coast and she forgot to change her watch to the local time, so when a local old man dies the doctor incorrectly states the time of death. The book will somehow stretch this into something that takes 147 pages. I’ll likely insert random facts from Wikipedia about the history of watches, time zones, anything else that could be said to mildly add to the plot.

The Murder and the Killing

The same group of intelligent crows gathers to talk about what a success a young man was at the open mic night at a coffee shop in town. Boy was he ever funny. You could say … he killed. In this book I will again rely on wikipedia, but will also draw upon my own imagination as I relate the history of stand-up comedy, the origin of the phrase ‘killed’ to represent doing well, and also my take on saving rain water in buckets to use for watering plants. It’ll be a must put down.

The Murder and the Tasty Sandwich

Intelligent crows. Yup. This time I haven’t even bothered to think of a title that’ll seem interesting, which will ironically lead to my best sales yet and prompt a second printing of my two previous Murder books. This one describes in mind-numbing detail the contents of my kitchen which some dumb-dumb of a critic will take for a critique on modern society and I won’t be so dumb as to correct said critic and instead I’ll bask in the intelligentsia of everyone knowing that I forgot to buy cheese last time I went to the grocery store and what exactly that means from a global trade perspective.

So, You Wanna Be a Brainiac?

SpaceX has tried again to have the first stage of its rocket, the Falcon 9, land autonomously.

That’s just plain cool. The rocket was trying to land on a drone ship (also cool) called “Just Read the Instructions.” I was following the rocket’s attempt on Twitter and SpaceX’s live streaming of the launch and I saw Elon Musk Tweet using the phrase “Just Read the Instructions.” Eh?, I thought, just read the instructions? That seems kinda mean. I thought that he was saying ‘hey folks, landing a rocket autonomously isn’t that tough, why can’t you get it right? Instead it turns out that “Just Read the Instructions” is the name of the drone ship – a name which is a tribute to the author Iain M. Banks, specifically the novel The Player of Games. And from there I went to two articles.

The articles (posts? what are they?) are about Bill Gates and Elon Musk. Two fellas who I believe most anybody could agree are intelligent. One of the articles, here, is about how good reading is for you and some books that Elon Musk has apparently referenced in speeches. The other is a blog post from Bill Gates himself about his favorite books that he read in 2014.

This post is lazy, it’s just me telling you what these two smart people have read and enjoyed … But hey, I had to click ALL TWO LINKS!

Elon Musk’s List (again, written about here and it’s a good read!)

Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down by J. E. Gordon
Ignition: An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants by John D. Clark
Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele
The Culture Series by Iian M. Banks
Dune by Frank Herbert
Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov
Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom
Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway
Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson


Bill Gates List (here, also a good read! He says why these books)

Business Adventures, by John Brooks
Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty
How Asia Works, by Joe Studwell
The Rosie Effect, by Graeme Simsion
Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization, by Vaclav Smil

2014 in Books

This was a good year of reading for me. I read a few books I really liked, and I am pleased with the amount I read. Here we go – a few sentences on each book to let you know what I think (for whatever that is worth).

2014 Books

I am a bit nutty, and I like trophies, so all the books for one year go on the same shelf.


What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – A good book if you like running. The author shares his thoughts on life in terms of his passion for running. Here is an old post with quotes from it.

Pudd’nhead Wilson – An enjoyable Mark Twain book with the usual dose of ‘woah he said THAT?’ Here’s an old post with some quotes from it.

Diary – Huh. Okaaaay. (That was my reaction upon finishing the book – a Chuck Palahniuk, aka a nutty book with a love of anarchy.)

Catalina – Pretty language (as most Somerset Maugham books are) but the plot didn’t do much for me.

Lord of the Flies – That age old classic of boys being boys. Oh them kids.

Under the Black Ensign – It was entertaining pulp fiction … What brought me to it was the fact that L. Ron Hubbard wrote about it. (Which I wrote about here.)

I, Robot – Classic Isaac Asimov. It was interesting and even though the robots were all programmed with the 3 laws which keep them from hurting humans I read the book waiting for them to kill. I’m stable, I swear.

WeWe – This book is the probable inspiration for George Orwell’s 1984. Either my first or second favorite book of the year. You should read it!

Rome, Inc. – This book talks about the Roman Empire as though it was a business with each leader/ruler as the CEO. An interesting take on history but a lot of dull parts.

Tour of Duty – A collection of war correspondence pieces from John Dos Passos. I think I would’ve appreciated it much more if I was a World War II buff, but it had some interesting nuggets. (And what do you know, I have a post about an example!)

Of Human Bondage – Somerset Maugham’s best known book and … kind of an ‘eh’ for me. I really enjoy how he writes, the language he uses, but the main character drove me nuts with his decisions.

The Fault in Our Stars – I enjoyed it, but I can see how people would see the plot of this book and think cancer is being used as a plot device.Wodehouse

The Inimitable Jeeves – Oh. So. British. I picked this up (and other Wodehouse books) because I heard Stephen Fry really liked him but … boy it took me a while to read this.

Killing Pablo – In preparation for my trip to Colombia, why not read this historical account of Pablo Escobar, the famous drug lord from Colombia? It was well written and left me mildly more afraid of Colombia! (Have no fear, the trip was delightful.)

Murder is Cheap – An old murder mystery with a brash, sexist fella as the PI. The book was enjoyable, but more interesting was my surprise when I came to find out the book was written by a woman! (It had a number of lines I thought were sexist, and let me tell you … Oh wait, here, just read this post about it.)

Damned – Somebody just couldn’t get enough Palahniuk, huh? Well, this one was so-so and it is a part one of two. Gah! To read the second or not? Hmmm.

Wild – This one is now in theaters. To be honest, I figured I’d not enjoy this … A woman decides to run away from her problems in the form of a very long, therapeutic hike which she is ill-prepared for? Blech. But you know, I actually enjoyed reading about her physical struggles on the hike while emotionally working some shtuff out. (See, told you it comes across as lame sounding.)

The Immoralist – I got this because the author won a Nobel literature prize way back in 1947 (the book was published in 1902) … And … eh.

This is How You Lose Her – This is one of those books that I finished and thought, ‘ugh! What is that? Come on!’ because I was annoyed with how it ended. But time went on and a few days later I was happy I’d read the book.

Good Omens – A collaboration between Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. This doesn’t say much for the book, but I enjoyed reading more about their collaboration process than the book itself.

A Fine Balance – The other top two book of the year. It is a beautiful story that is incredibly well told. Oh hey look, some quotes from it!

PippinBoom – This is by the same author who wrote The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (Mark Haddon). It’s a decently fun kids book.

The Ten Thousand Things – This was raved about in Wild so I had to try it. Personally, I don’t get it.

The Short Reign of Pippin IV – A different kind of Steinbeck, but I really enjoyed it. It was a good book to end 2014 on!

Quotes of the Week!

When I was home around Christmas time, I took the opportunity of having no classes or work to read some really dorky books. (I wrote out one of the books back of the book summary already.)

These books were really impressively dorky, and I’d like to share some of the great quotes from them.

Edward S. Aarons

When all was quiet again, he closed the door and turned back to her, and saw that she had shed her bikini and was waiting for him.
“No dice,” he said.


Three hours later, he found Valetti.
It was in the Brighton morgue.


The face was round and babyish; the eyes were those of a disillusioned old man.


“A pity. Do you know the term ‘berserker,’ Mr. Durell? I am a berserker. A Viking filled with the lust for blood. Your blood.”


Bron Fane

“If you can imagine your own problems in detection multiplied by infinity, and laced with a thousand indescribably important technical details, then you will realise something of the task which confronts a Time Warden,” said Chronol.


“It sounds rather frightening,” he said. “Time and Space mean nothing to the killer from Tomorrow.”


Reality was a ship that defied reality, and he was in it – a passenger of the Time Warden. He shook his head slowly.


“You’ve been mixed up with things natural and supernatural. You also, quite recently, got yourself tangled up with a rather strange planet.”
“Oh, you mean the adventure which my friend Bron Fane chronicled under the title The Intruders,” answered Val.


Bron Fane is the AUTHOR of this book, and referenced another one of his books in this book. That is amazing!

But, a quick wikipedia search has now confused me … Apparently Bron Fane is a pseudonym that was used by Lionel Fanthorpe, a British priest (Somewhere Out There did have a clearly pro-Christian part). Fanthorpe wrote for Badger Books which had a number of pseudonyms that any of their authors could pick up and use. SO, the author was referencing himself … but possibly a different person.

Kooky, eh?

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