Book recommendations for April 2017

 


The Fold
by Peter Clines ★★★★
A good sci-fi summer read that touches on teleportation and inter-dimensional travel.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk ★★★★★
Palahniuk’s 1999 debut holds up. I read it because it continues to be referenced in a variety of media.

Blindness by José Saramago ★★★★
A country is stricken by a plague of blindness in this parable, which is considered one of Saramago’s signature works. This is a book that will keep you thinking after you’ve finished it.

Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier ★★★
The story of a magnetic Portuguese doctor living during the dictatorship of António Salazar. A lot of philosophy, which I enjoyed, but the narrative bogged down at points.

The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story by Douglas Preston ★★★★
A fascinating story of the search for a lost Honduran city, the politics of archaeology and the medical consequences of exploring in the tropics.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman ★★★
I was disappointed in this story of a misunderstood, grumpy man with a hidden heart of gold, which felt derivative.

The Final Day by William R. Forstchen ★★★
If you read Forstchen’s first two books, read this one to see how it ends. If you haven’t, just read the first one, One Second After, to learn what might happen after an Electro Magnetic Pulse attack on the United States.

Carrie Fisher: I had to comport myself with something approaching dignity

Had I known it was going to make that loud of a noise, I would’ve dressed better for those talk shows and definitely would have argued against that insane hair (although the hair was, in its own modest way, a big part of that noise). And I certainly wouldn’t have ever just blithely signed away any and all merchandising rights relating to my image and otherwise.

And on top of whatever else, Mark, Harrison, and I were the only people who were having this experience. So who do you talk to that might understand? Not that that is some sort of tragedy—it just puts you in an underpopulated, empathy-free zone. I mean, obviously I’d never starred in a movie, but this was completely not like starring in your average everyday movie. It might’ve been like being one of the Beatles. Sure, most of it was a fun surprise, but the days where you could really let your guard down were over because now there were cameras everywhere. I had to comport myself with something approaching dignity, at twenty.

Carrie Fisher, in The Princess Diarist,  discussing the attention surrounding the original Star Wars movie.

GE wall-mounted refrigerator background

GE wall-mounted refrigerator
This photo on Flickr shows a working unit in a kitchen in Excelsior Springs, MO.

I was talking with my mother-in-law in 2012, getting her to reminisce about some of her past homes when she mentioned a house in St. Louis in the late 1950s that had a hanging refrigerator. Stop, back up, “let’s talk some more about this refrigerator, Mom.” Yes, she says, it was as neat as it sounds but it had a worrisome habit of not working all of the time. This came with the added complication of having to be removed from the wall to be repaired. We’ll file this under the category of good in concept, bad in execution. She was most likely describing the GE wall-mounted refrigerator.

Continue reading GE wall-mounted refrigerator background

Old San Juan journal

  • The harbor at San Juan Bay is a hive of activity. There are cruise ships, sailboats, commercial ships, ferries, seaplanes and regular planes all moving about. If you have the opportunity, grab a coffee or cocktail and sit and watch.
  • The cruise terminal docks are also a hive of activity of a different kind as vendors pitch services and wares.
  • The oldest building in the United States, if not counting Native American structures, is in San Juan. The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista dates from 1521 (pictured above).
  • The narrow, European-style streets along with the historic buildings and views of the waterfront make Old San Juan a treasure to walk through. You  can turn the corner and run into something like Capilla del Santo Cristo de la Salud (Chapel of Christ the Savior) from 1753.
  • Some cities are overrun with pigeons. Old San Juan is overrun with cats and pigeons. At Capilla del Santo Cristo de la Salud you will be offered bird seed for sale, but no cat chow.
  • The men’s room in San Felipe de Morro Fortress has a great view of the sea.
  • At night the lights on surrounding hills and cruise ships make for a beautiful sight.

Chef’s love it when customers are willing to pay to eat their garbage.

So what happens when the chef finds a tough, slightly skanky end-cut of sirloin, that’s been pushed repeatedly to the back of the pile? He can throw it out, but that’s a total loss, representing a three-fold loss of what it cost him per pound. He can feed it to the family, which is the same as throwing it out. Or he can “save for well-done” — serve it to some rube who prefers to eat his meat or fish incinerated into a flavorless, leathery hunk of carbon, who won’t be able to tell if what he’s eating is food or flotsam.

— From Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential

Bad behavior can be necessary for politicians

The Dictator’s Handbook by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith sheds light on how politicians get and keep power. In a nutshell, the most important thing to a politician is not the welfare of the citizenry, but the welfare of the politician’s winning coalition. Keep the coalition happy by lavishing rewards on them and the politician will stay in power.

Continue reading Bad behavior can be necessary for politicians