Tag Archives: books

Coming to grips

This is the family coin we had made in Korea when I retired in 2003:

Family coin mediumAndrea edited English manuals for Samsung products and worked with one of their graphic artists to design it. The van was how people knew us in Korea (custom vans were rare and often used by celebrities instead of limousines.) As there doesn’t seem to be a coat of arms for Razinha, let alone the hybrid Razinha-Davis, we made up our own with emblems of things that were important to us: the Navy, music, books and animals/pets. The “Live Well-Laugh often-Love much” quote was on a plaque in our kitchen and Rufus Choate just happened to say something that we hold true.

As I said, I retired in 2003, but the Navy will always be a part of who I am. As for the others… they were ripped from us on July 31st. The van? Destroyed. Our personal library of 5,800 books…gone. Guitars, basses, drum kit, baby grand piano…gone. Our dear, sweet cats….so much more than symbols on a coin.

Out of all of us, I seem to be having the hardest time dealing with the devastating loss of our house and as near to everything we possessed as you can imagine. I, a champion of rational thinking, became physically ill when I went into a bookstore last week. Remembering this

Libraryis probably why.

I, a champion of reason over emotion, feel my chest tighten when I think of this:

P1020733I spent years building, creating, arranging, tweaking, adding to our admittedly WAY over the top display. I even took precious time away from studying for the Professional Engineer exam in 2010 to set it up because it’s such a part of the family tradition. While Andrea’s art went in so many directions and grew so fast that I had a hard time keeping pace, this was a stable part of our lives that I considered my art. Right now, I don’t know how I can start over. It’s like taking ten years off from the gym and thinking, “I can bench press with the same weight I remember I used last time, right?” How can you go from super huge to a couple of skeletons and gravestones? Still reeling. And that doesn’t even scratch the surface of all the things we lost.

“You need to deal with this.” “You need to get past this.” “You need to move on.”

These are words I’ve heard lately from several people. All said, I know, with sincere concern for me. I can forget a ton of things, but for me to “deal with” and “get past” so I can “move on”, I’ll have to wall off those memories of things that can never be again so that I don’t think about them because I can’t forget.

The saying goes: Time heals all wounds, but the podiatrists know that time also wounds all heels.


On weather, creating art, and other general thoughts

I grew up in New England (southeastern Connecticut) and heard many times as a young man, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.” Someone attributed it to Mark Twain, but it was probably around longer than that. We lived in Oklahoma from 1989 to 1992, and I heard the same phrase (this time attributed to Will Rodgers.) Some years later, living in Korea, I heard that they had the same phrase…for about four hundred years.

Christmas Eve brought us four types of precipitation in 15 hours: hail just after 1:00 a.m., rain through most of the night/morning, sleet in the early afternoon and accumulating snow by 3:00 p.m.

So, after living in Texas for the past six years, I can say those other locations were pretenders. It was in the 70s on Friday and heading south of 34F right now.

Art creation

We discovered last year that Andrea and I do not collaborate well on her art. I can make the boxes and frames she needs but my creativity and hers do not align. Not so with son Brandon. He has a knack for paper placement Andrea sometimes uses in her mixed media works. See here for progress photos. I do get a kick out what has become my role in her brainstorming process: “What about…?” is usually met with “No. but thanks.” So, I contribute by helping Andrea eliminate the things she doesn’t want to do!

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Resolutions are usually doomed to fail. The intellectual challenge is to enumerate them without dismissing them as folly before you finish writing them out. Perils of a skeptic, I suppose. Or a realist.

At any rate, here are some personal goals that I’d like to at least attempt, if not make a sincere effort toward in the coming year:

  • Write regularly on this blog. Seems simple enough, but there are always distractions for the ADD brain. I’d like to try to get to an actual weekly blog with semi-regular “features”. Okay, mostly irregular, but with some regularity.
  • Get back to contributing to Dangerous Intersection. A double blogging goal.
  • Read more. I’m 51. At 100 books per year, I’ve got what? three to four thousand left available to me?
  • Finally write that extended piece on home educating I’ve had in outline form in my head for the past two years.
  • (Actually work on next Halloween’s display in the off-season. So many ideas…so little time.)

Sure, I’d like to be consistent with stretching (the body doesn’t agree, hence the inconsistency); exercising; …um, sleeping – that’s probably never going to happen, so it doesn’t make the wish list; roll back the clock on the curmudgeonliness; maybe even accept psycho-whatever as legitimate sciences. (That last one was not meant to be serious.)

Oh. And world peace.

50 books or series I’ll read again

This was harder than I thought, in part because so many of these are collections of three or more, which would have filled out the list very quickly had I listed them individually.

I do like to reread books, usually in parallel with other books and all the new material I stumble across every day. So many books, so little time!

  1. Dune by Frank Herbert
  2. The Lord of the Rings (trilogy) by J. R. R. Tolkien
  3. The Well World series (five plus three and two) by Jack Chalker
  4. The Amber series by Roger Zelazny (ten total, but until I’ve read the last five, I don’t know if I’ll reread them)
  5. Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen – this book shook the sense into me; can’t trust history books, and if there are no sources cited, it’s even worse
  6. Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science by Martin Gardner – the original skeptic; okay, modern skeptic; valuable even if 60 years old
  7. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  8. Modern Times by Paul Johnson – my first “real” book on history post-high school (actually, no high school books count – see #5 above)
  9. A Brief Glimpse of Time by Stephen Hawking
  10. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  11. The Timewars series by Simon Hawke – twelve books, science fiction based on historical works of literature
  12. Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
  13. The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality by Brian Greene – brilliant descriptions of cosmological theories
  14. Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken – because it’s quite funny and I remember laughing out loud on a flight back from somewhere when reading about what he did to Bill O’Reilly
  15. Ishmael by Daniel Quinn – I get something different out of it with each read
  16. The Incarnations of Immortality series by Piers Anthony – eight books, interesting enough to reread
  17. The Apprentice Adept series by Piers Anthony – seven in this series, I like his games
  18. Rama series by Arthur Clarke – four books (the two by Gentry Lee don’t count)
  19. A Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle – great science fiction
  20. Ringworld by Niven and Pournelle – more great science fiction; might also include the sequels
  21. Losing Faith in Faith by Dan Barker – a little refresher now and then
  22. Harry Potter and the … by J. K. Rowling (all seven)
  23. Four Lords of the Diamond by Jack Chalker – I really liked this series (of four)
  24. Math and the Mona Lisa: The Arts and Sciences of Leonardo da Vinci – it may yet help me bridge the gap between my mind and art
  25. Lateral Thinking by Edward de Bono; more gap bridging
  26. A Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan; I read through it too quickly the first time
  27. Gödel, Escher Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter – this first taught me about the math in music, despite playing trumpet for seven years when I read it
  28. Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences by John Allen Paulos – he had some great observations in this book
  29. The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – I didn’t like it the first time oh so long ago so I wonder if I’ve changed
  30. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  31. Space by James Michener – think of it as a fictionalized Right Stuff; it’s the only Michener book I could ever finish…and I finished it twice, so far
  32. The Riverworld series by Philip Jose Farmer – an all time favorite
  33. 1984 by George Orwell – to see what I’ve forgotten, and what he got right
  34. Letters from a Nut by Ted Nancy – this guy really makes me laugh out loud
  35. The Call of the Wild by Jack London – for some strange reason, this story disturbed me so much as a 11 or 12 year old I’ve forgotten nearly everything about it and have never wanted to find out why; maybe someday it will be time to find out
  36. Silverlock by John Myers Myers – I didn’t get a lot of the references when I first read it, and I started again a few years ago, this time with the internet, but got distracted
  37. Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris – because he put in one small book so much of what I think needs to be said again and again in the US
  38. The Riftwar saga by Raymond Feist
  39. A Warlock in Spite of Himself by Christopher Stasheff
  40. The Wizard of 4th Street series by Simon Hawke; and…
  41. The Reluctant Sorcerer (trilogy) by Simon Hawke – both because they’re good light reading and fun to boot
  42. The Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov – I’m reading his entire universe from I,Robot through to Foundation and Earth, so will catch these along the way
  43. Some Clive Cussler – call this an odd pairing, because I am not really fond of his writing style and his conclusions are always too pat, but they’re good yarns
  44. Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto – because it is the eye opener on what is wrong with compulsory education
  45. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen Donaldson – another strange one; his pedantic style and deliberate thesaurical (coined that word just now) irritates me, but the first trilogy was quite imaginative
  46. The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – because I skimmed it in high school for a book report and have no idea what it is about
  47. Ghost Boat – and…
  48. Thin Air by George Simpson and Neil Burger – both good sciency fantasy fiction; I’m not sure how The Philadelphia Experiment (1979) wasn’t plagiarism of Thin Air (1977)
  49. The Matarese circle by Robert Ludlum – I used to enjoy his fiction, and this one was pretty good (BTW, The Bourne Identity was so much better than either of the movies)
  50. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins – this is speculation, but I suspect in a few years I’ll want to check it out again