Asparagus and Uranium


The sign of a great writer is the ability to create interesting and real characters, and to place them into interesting situations. I just completed reading a book titled The Accidental Further Adventures of the 100 Year Old Man. Writer Jonas Jonasson lives in Sweden and crafted a superb story around two elements; asparagus and uranium. He included world leaders like Trump, Merkel, Putin, Rocket-man Kim Jong un, and others to embellish the story. In my opinion he lost points by making Trump a doofus. Other than that bit of bias I enjoyed the story because it was intriguing and funny. The idea of a one hundred year old man going on adventures drew me in.

So how were asparagus and uranium involved? A side kick of the hundred year old man grew and sold asparagus and the two of them happened upon a suitcase filled with nine pounds of enriched uranium headed for North Korea. Jonasson wove a complicated tale and made it all come together in the end.

Much Better

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I finally rushed to the library to drop off the terrible book that took me ten weeks to read. It was time to change-up and get back to reading enjoyment, instead of pain, suffering and intellectual torture. I cruised the book racks looking for something to jump out and yell, “take me.”

Three rounds of staring at covers, titles and authors set a new record for me. Usually I find something within a round and a half. I finally decided to read Steven King. I have avoided him for years. Mostly because of all the things I have heard about his books being weird. It was time to break through the barrier of ignorance and decide for myself what he was like as an author. I know he is a progressive nut job in his politics which puts him on my hit list of people to avoid.

The book I picked up is “Elevation.” A mere two hundred and fifty-eight pages of very large print. It took me three hours to finish. What a joy it was to read a story and not some obnoxious author’s brain dump about a genius mathematician. Elevation is a story about real people with real problems except one who has an exceptional problem. The problem is so weird that the character is afraid go to a doctor to learn what it is. I guess this is the weird Stephen King coming into play. The story has a sad but happy ending which I loved. Elevation is a good short read well worth the time.

I Finally Finished


In my old age I should know better than to struggle for twelve weeks to finish reading a book. My time on earth is rapidly diminishing and reading useless literature is not what I want to be known for. The book that almost broke my back is Alan Turing: The Enigma. I love the story of the Enigma. It is an important piece of WWII history. A machine invented by the Germans to scramble messages, it drove the British nuts. I saw the movie Imitation Game and loved the story. Following my rule that a book is usually  better than the movie I trusted my fellow reading club members that this was still true. Except, in this case the movie is infinitely better.

Who ever this author Andrew Hodges is, I will never read another of his works. This work is over six hundred pages of small print. The story could have been cut in half that amount of words and pages. True, trying to describe a mathematician’s work process and ideas is trying. None of Hodges’ descriptions of Turing’s early work while inventing the modern digital computer was understandable. The only way I was able to decipher what he was trying to say was by looking at Turing’s sketches of his early machine which contained a series of zeros and ones. It was then that I began to understand some of his gibberish. I learned to program an early digital computer using binary numbers which was the basis of the machine i learned to program.

This story convinced me that I abhor intellectual work and should refrain from reading it. I love good stories. I hate reading math books. Even a physics book is more exciting than a math book. Alan Turing was a pure mathematician and Hodges failed to tell his story in a simple understandable way. The last two hundred pages finally started to read well, but by then the story drifted away from math and toward the man and his life struggles.

I also like stories with short chapters. This work has boring with long chapters of a hundred pages or more. The chapters could be shorter. The author may have decided to cut some of them had he done so.

All in all, if you want to learn the story of the Enigma go see the movie “The Imitation Game.”

Five ughs.

Five Stars Squared

I just finished reading a delightful book which I thought would bring me back to grief. I read all the reviews and picked up the story line ahead of  time to realize the main character loses his wife to cancer. I hate stories about men who lose wives to anything disease. That is how I lost my first wife and am now losing my second. The idea of awakening grief within my body made me cringe. Yet, after beginning to read I fell in love with this story. Yes there was grief, love, suspense, and excitement, all of the elements of fiction that make a story interesting. The most unlikely character is the dog. The central character’s dog Enzo tells the story from beginning to end. The ending is sad but beautiful. You will not go wrong reading The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.

Five stars squared.

WOW! Squashed By A Truck

Stories about people who overcome personal adversity are among my favorites. The latest such story that I read is Gratitude in Motion, by Colleen Kelly Alexander. As many biographies do the author begins describing her life as a young person. She describes her first love, and her faith in God. Her parents were very strict Baptist and conveyed their own faith beliefs to her. She does little to describe her athletic prowess but does mention that her father taught her to love  bicycles because he ran a bike shop.

The biggest  problem she met as a teen was having to give up her first love because his faith was not the same as hers. This trauma sent her into a personal dilemma and she wound up wondering what to do with her life. She did eventually find a passion in counseling troubled teens. She learned that she was good at what she did, and was able to write grant proposals to get funding for her work. This usually gave her a salary too, albeit a small one.

She was living in Connecticut working at a counseling service, and rode her bicycle to work. One Saturday, she went in to catch up and on her way home she encounters a large truck at an intersection. The truck ran a stop sign and ran over her. Both the front wheel and the rear wheels crossed over her abdomen. She remembers looking into the driver’s eyes as he proceeded to run her down. The truck squished her insides out of her abdomen, broke many bones and stripped muscles from her pelvis, gluteus and thighs. That is when this story really gets going.

The fact that Colleen survived is one thing, but the process she went through to survive is another. She describes her injuries in vivid detail, and it is demoralizing. I felt myself wincing throughout.

I love this kind of story because it relates to my experience with polio at age fifteen. It is not fun laying in a bed with IV’s and machines all around in a stupor wondering what the hell happened here. Colleen is a trooper and has courage beyond a normal human being. I won’t go into any details of her injuries except to say it wasn’t pretty. What is important is that she recovered and channelled her frustration and pain into positive healing. Not only did she recover, but she has gone on to become a revered motivational speaker, and an advocate for the Red Cross blood drive. They used seventy-eight pints of blood during her emergency surgery and many units of plasma. She believes the blood to be one of the many things that helped save her life. She is also back to running, swimming, walking, and bicycling. to the extent that she competes in Iron Man competitions.

Read this story, it will fill you with positive energy, and a wish to help humanity.

Five stars.

Devolving

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Early English Territory Occupied By Tribes

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Modern English Counties

I am reading a fascinating series of books labeled The Camulod Chronicles. At this point I have completed six of the eight volumes. It is historical fiction based on Arthurian legend. The island we now today as Britain is a territory of warring tribes. The people of these tribes do not trust anybody, ever. They are this way because when one tribe roams into the territory of another tribe it is because they are seeking to take over land, food, women, or valuables. Consequently, each tribe sought to defend itself, and often the outcome was war. These meetings on the battlefield ended when on of the tribes ran out of living warriors. The tribe with the most able warriors plundered, raped, and occupied as was their winning right.

The time period for this story is 400-500 A.D. There were no countries as we know them today, only groups of people who lived near each other for protection. In areas where the group was large the tribe carried a name like Gaul, Saxon, or Dane, and they occupied a large area. As time progressed some of these tribes updated their protection systems by building fortifications. When sighting the enemy the locals all herded into the fort, and closed the gates. Most tribes had one man who ruled over all the others as king or warlord.

The Camulod Chronicles narrates the evolution of the many tribes into an alliance of tribes which eventually become a single kingdom made up of many smaller kingdoms. Throughout the story I couldn’t help thinking of how our current world is trying so hard to devolve back into a wild state of existence. The longing for open borders with men traveling from place to place freely is reminiscent of the original tribes who wandered and looked for something better by deliberately wandering into a neighbors territory.

Europe was the territory inhabited by tribes which eventually defined themselves into discrete territories with boundaries. They gave their domains names likes France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Austria, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and England. They all had boundaries, discreet languages, laws, and governments. Then in the late sixties there were some on the continent of Europe who thought it might be more efficient if they united into a single entity like the United States. One of the first things they did was to open their borders to allow people to have free movement from place to place. Then over a period of twenty to thirty years they standardized on a currency. Things were going along pretty smoothly until the head of the European Union began to place restrictions and regulations into place that silently began to change the cultures of the nations.

Another event happened more recently, that is the mass migration of Muslims from war-torn countries disguised as refugees. Nothing could be done to stop the flow because the borders were open and the migrants were free to roam as they pleased looking for countries with social systems that they could plunder. Britain wised up and decided to exit the European Union and to reclaim its sovereignty as an independent nation. My guess is that is because Britain has a good sense of history and has rejected the progressive idea that history must be rewritten to encompass  the vision of the future. The Camulod Chronicles splendidly depicts the story of how painful it was for Britain to become the great country it is

Perhaps the European Union will succeed some day into uniting the countries of Europe into one nation. While this evolution is taking place I venture to guess that the EU will undergo several periods of devolution.

In the meantime, the same genius jerks who propose to unite Europe are working overtime to devolve the United States into a primitive un-united warring state.

The Chinese curse is working, “May You Live In Interesting Times.”

Nothing but Surprises

I have to say that Defending Jacob by William Landay is suspenseful, and surprising. This is not your typical murder mystery because it involves a teen ager as the victim, and who knows maybe a teen ager as the killer. I never learned who the real killer was, nor his motive, nor how he did it, but that is why I call it a suspense story.

There are so many characters in the story that I found myself trying to figure who the killer was. I partly guessed right. I admit that almost every character in the story is intimately involved. The author did not place characters in the story just to fill space.

One theory of defense postulated is the “murder gene.” If you have this gene you may be pre-disposed to violence. It is not a proven science yet, but it is far enough along to write about it.

The first eighty percent of the story is plot build up, and character development; the thrills take place in the last twenty percent. I hesitated beginning this book because so many murder mysteries are so alike; this one is not. It is so far from the ordinary, that I stayed up past my bed time to keep on reading.

This story clearly points out how clueless parents can be of a teen’s activities. The parents of this fourteen year old could not imagine that their son was into dark porn websites, but he was. He also wrote a story that mimicked the murder and all the characters involved, then posted it on a social media website for the world to see. That little act did not help his cause one bit. Much of the story depicts the family falling apart over the kid’s arrest, indictment, and trial. The father lost his job, his mother quit her teaching job, the school suspended the accused, all their friends shunned them. They were in total solitary confinement. At first, the parents did not believe their son is guilty, but as the trial opens, and they hear testimony pointing at him they begin to have doubts. By the time the trial ends, the family is held together by flimsy threads.

I have to give this story five stars. ⊕⊕⊕⊕⊕

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