The intellectual equivalent of a ham sandwich.

Posts tagged ‘reading’

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.”

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Resolutions for 2017

2017! That’s nuts.

Anyway, last year wasn’t all that great for me as far as self-improvement. I have the easy and ready excuse of my wife and I moving from Texas to Colorado at the very end of  December, 2015, so 2016 was spent adjusting to a new home, and a new job (two stressful things – especially the job).

One thing that stands out is that I hardly read! I played more video games, I think, so those two things combine to show that I was choosing escape over engaging my brain in anything.

This year I’d like to get back on track.

***

I have forced my hand on the work out front by signing up for a 25 mile trail run. This will be difficult. Really difficult. You go up hills, down hills, up hills, down hills, etc … What have I done?

That’ll force me to work out the first half of the year, hopefully I’ll keep it going for the second half. Now, let’s get to brass tacks.

  • I will read at least 18 books
  • I will volunteer 12 times (once a month would work well)
  • I will do six new hikes. (Colorado, I am failing to take advantage of your beauty!)
  • I will get to know my fancy new camera and take it out and try my best to take awesome pictures

What’s that Corporate Brad, you want to talk stretch goals?

  • Because I’ll be trained up for a 25 mile trail run, it’d be nice to do a marathon, but that’ll depend on how I am feeling after the 25er
  • It would also be fun to do a relay race or a mud run kind of thing for funsies
  • I’d like to get back to writing more … I do three blog posts a week, which is nice, but it’s somewhat of a consistent low grade effort. I would like to pick up my NaNoWriMo book that I started 2 years ago and finish it, or some other book I have worked on but it could use a revisit. That’d be a good thing.
That’s it for my resolutions. How about you?

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

Typical January 1 Post

Last year my girlfriend (now fiancé) and I wrote down our resolutions or goals for 2014 on pieces of paper that we then put up on one of the walls of her apartment. I can only remember three of my goals and they were ones I felt confident I would meet. The rest served as reminders for all that I did not accomplish. What stunning wall art!

This year the question is … do I tap in to my most ambitious self for the goals of 2015? Or do I put things I feel confident I’ll meet. Why not both?

 

Confident I’ll Meet

  • Read at least 18 books
  • Find a way to reduce how much trash I generate
    • One example of something I did in this category before: I went from using two paper towels in public restrooms to just one, also if air dryers are available I tend to use those
    • I don’t know what I’ll be doing this year to address this … so, brain, get to work
  • Cook more (since I’ll be a married man starting at the end of January I will be putting the fancy new dishes and cookware to use)
  • Get back to reading other blogs more

 

Goals I’ll Have to Work For

  • Beat my 5k and 10k PRs (and stretch more and better!)
  • Finish the first draft of the book I started during the 2013 NaNoWriMo (good thing documents on a computer don’t gather dust …) OR some other book project I have started and not finished
  • Experiment with a new dish AT LEAST once every 3 weeks!
    • This might not sound hard, but do you know how EASY it is for me to make the same 6 or so dishes over and over?
  • Less soda (hopefully this will go hand in hand with cooking more since I usually only get soda if I eat out)

 

There you go public, and future self for my own reference, the goals/resolutions for 2015!

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!

Murder is Cheap, and Other Ruminations

I just finished reading Murder is Cheap, which was originally called The Scarlet Button. It was published in 1945. I bought the book because it has a dramatic cover and it says in smaller letters above the title “Only suckers pay blackmail!”

Murder is Cheap

Who could resist such a charming read?

I was hoping for a great noir story full of phrases I wish I could use in every day conversation without sounding like a tool.

“Hey Brad, how’s your Thursday?”
“The day is all aces and eights. Not good enough to play. Not bad enough to fold.”
“Uh … Ok.”

Instead, as I was reading the book, which was written by Anthony Gilbert, I couldn’t help but notice blatant sexism everywhere. At first I took it in stride because the book was written in 1945 and life was different then … But the sexism came at parts where it didn’t even make sense.

Mr. Stout thought that if he used that expression again he’d go womanish on him and scream.

I decided to mark some of the sexist lines just to see what they add up to in the end. I sat down today having finished the book, all ready to write a post where I have looked up this Anthony GIlbert character and dive into what made him so sexist when … Oh, it turns out Anthony Gilbert was a pen name and the real author was Lucy Beatrice Malleson. In other words, a lady.

Malleson wrote 51 novels with Arthur Crook in them (a lawyer with dirty hands but a pristine record when it came to his clients).

My claims of sexism then were probably misplaced (gee, ya think). Malleson could have written the sexist lines with a smirk on her face, a Stephen Colbert approach of heavily agreeing with the opposition and seeing how far she could push it to show just how absurd they could be. Thinking about it, the insults to women were given by men while the two female characters were strong, independent, helpful (though one seemed like an overbearing mother figure) and the men in the books relied upon them all the while saying nasty things.

What’s my point? I suppose it’s that I’m too quick to judge, or that authors are crafty devils and (almost) every book deserves a re-read. Imagine now if I went back and read this book knowing this tiny bit about the author. Sometimes when I read what is considered a “great” book I can’t decide if I want to look up hidden meanings, symbolism, themes, etc before so that I can look for it and see it in action while I read … or wait until after I’ve read the book to see if I discovered for myself some hidden meaning(s).

The main thing to know is: No matter how you cut it, no matter how you read it or how much you know about the author, Fifty Shades of Grey was still awful. (Read my review full of amazingly bad quotes from that book! Or my mock version, part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4! Self-promotion, yay!)

Ignorant Readings of Books I Bought in Europe

And longest post title of the week award goes to …

Here’s the vid. Full of a bad southern accent (my go to “dumb guy” voice). Sorry, South.

Oh yeah and I don’t have anything against UT … I just thought “why not?” for that being the t-shirt I wore. I’ll go and buy this shirt for my next southern guy video (if I’m not lazy …):

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