A few good books

I am a decent reader with one or two books going all the time. I have a wish list of about 400 books that I keep an eye out for when checking the library web site, gutenburg.org, etc. Most of them are classics or represent a highly rated story by a noted author. 

These days, books can be found cheap or free in many cases. So, having plenty to read is not a problem as it would have been even 100 years ago. 

But, a thought occurred to me. What if we could only read a limited number of books so instead of quantity,  we had to focus on quality. Those books would become dear friends and would be reread over and over until they became an integral part of our being.

So, if you could only read 25 books, what would those books be?  I have some ideas of what my list would be, but it will take much more thought. 


Living the Legacy

On the way to our recent family reunion, I was thinking about genealogy and those that had passed on. They were not famous or wealthy, there was never a great inheritance handed down. They were simply decent, loving, hard-working people. Somewhere along the line, they left everything behind, family, friends and country to make a new life in a new land.

But there has been a legacy handed down to our generation from our patriarchs. My wife claims that there is a certain kind of hair texture that predominates my family. The men tend to hang on to their hair and early morning bed head is our curse. But, our legacy is more than genes passed from one generation to the next. I think our legacy is one of love. I don't see my extended family very often, but when I do, I feel that deep connection between us.

Love manifests itself in the way my family cares for their children and each other. I remember my grandparents arguing, but underneath that, there was a deep love that you could feel. It was an enduring kind of love that kept them together their entire lifetimes and left 10 children to carry on the legacy. They love their country and it is impossible to think of them as anything but American. They have served their country in numerous ways including military service in peacetime and war. My family has also expressed their love through service to God and community. If I tried to count the number of ministers, Sunday School teachers and church musicians, I would miss some.

So, I resolve to embrace my legacy a little more each day. To love family, God, and country, and perhaps in some small measure, pass that legacy along to those that are coming up after me.


Road Rd

I got a big kick out of a couple of roads in downtown Lake Jackson, TX. They are named 'This Way' and 'That Way'. Guess there is someone in Lake Jackson with a sick sense of humor. I can hear them giving directions now, "Well, go straight and make a right on This Way and then go left on That Way".

Maybe we should take it further. How about having streets named things like "Road Rd" or "Street St"? I like "Avenue Ave". Then to mix it up some, let's also have "Road St.", "Road Ave", "Road Dr.", and so on. I could also imagine names like "Turn Left Blvd" and "Keep Right Rd".

It used to be that your GPS would often make mistakes. But, they have improved a lot in recent years. So, I am thinking that if we gave roads really confusing names it would restore some of the adventure into trying to listen to Google give you directions.


Reading 2015 Summary

I completed 2015 by reading 64 books. There were some enjoyable highlights.

Science Fiction "Forge of God" and "Anvil of Stars" by Greg Bear are in the classic science fiction mold. In addition, Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: Space Odyssey and Rendezvous with Rama were fascinating. First time reads for all of those. Spent time re-reading some old favorites. Three of Isaac Asimov's Foundation books, and two of Frank Herbert's original Dune Chronicle's book. Also read some classic Robert Heinlein, The Puppet Masters and The Red Planet. I probably read them as a teen, but don't really remember. There were both fun, but not too serious.

Finally got to read Phillip K. Dick's, Do Android Dream of Electric Sheep. Read Jurassic Park for the first time. Found the movie followed the book quite closely. Ray Bradbury's "The Martian Chronicles" did not really resonate with me, although there were parts that were good. Finally, Cloud Atlas with David Mitchell, was very good.

Classics I always try to throw in some classics on my reading list. 2015 included... Charles Dickens - A Christmas Carol (had seen so many different TV versions that it was kind of ruined for me).
Alexandre Dumas - The Count of Monte Cristo. It was awesome.
Erich Maria Remarque - All Quiet on the Western Front. Sad, but good. It has piqued my interest about World War I.
Louis de Bernieres - Captain Corelli's Mandolin - highly recommend, it was great.

Other Standouts.

Louis L'Amour - Last of the Breed... not his typical western, but about a U.S. pilot downed in cold war USSR. Robert Ludlum - The Road to Gandolfo. A little bit crazy. Terry Pratchett - Raising Steam. Discworld is always amusing. Steven Manchester - The Rockin' Chair. Heart warming. C.S. Forester - Hornblower and the Hotspur. Perfect companion to the Patrick O'Brien Aubrey-Maturin novels. John Scalzi - Agent to the Stars - Hilarious.


I do read books by new unproven authors. For the most part, I give those folks a pass if the writing is not up to par since they are starting out in their writing career. The books I mark as disappointments are ones that came highly recommended or I had expectations of the book being pretty good.

H.G. Wells - The Invisible Man. It was on my long time wish list, but it didn't do anything for me. L.E. Modesitt, Jr. - The Towers Of The Sunset. I really enjoyed the first Saga of Recluce book. So, I guess my expectations were a little too high. I didn't think this one equaled the first. Gillian Flynn - Gone Girl - Good story, but so loaded with profanity that it ruined it for me.

64 books in 2015 was down from my all time 2014 high of 80 books. But, then I had more opportunities for reading in 2014, so that will probably remain a record for a while. Here are the numbers for the last five years.

  • 2011 52
  • 2012 57
  • 2013 62
  • 2014 80
  • 2015 64

First Church Reading List

Reading is a good habit. With that good habit, we can also develop a bad habit of reading book after book in one or two genres that we are particularly fond of. In trying to combat that trap, it's good to look for additional sources of reading inspiration. My wife and I attend a church where the pastor is definitely a bibliophile. He routinely draws sermon inspiration from a variety of literature. It also seems that visiting ministers will often mention books that inspired them. So, I began to jot down books and author that I heard at church. So, I dub this, the first installment of the "First Church Reading List".


Configuring UltraEdit for Working with Markdown

This article is about how I configured UltraEdit to work with editing of Markdown text files. Many other editors could be configured to work similarly, but the details of setting it up would differ. Behind the scenes, this setup is also using the python programming language. So, the prerequisites for this particular setup are: Use UltraEdit, Markdown, and python.

There are some decent text editors out there that are specifically designed to work with Markdown. I have tried MarkdownPad and StackEdit which runs in your browser. My thinking has been, I already have a good editor so is there are way to integrate markdown into Ultraedit?



Back on the Market

814bayshoreUpdate: SOLD! It's good to be homeless for a while.

We tried selling our home two years ago, but it did not sell. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise because we were able to rent it to our kids for a year to aid in their transition from being a military family to becoming established in South Carolina.

Check out our new listing at Realtor.com.



Rules for Reading

readingReading is a habit that needs to be cherished and cultivated. During my teen years, I always had my face in a book. Unfortunately, I reached a point around there year 2000 where I couldn't remember the last time I had read a book from cover to cover. That was the catalyst for me to rekindle a reading habit. I came up with some guidelines to keep in mind that I'd like to share. Hopefully, this will be food for thought for others and encourage you to read more.

Keep Track of Progress

Stay motivated by keeping track of your progress. I started with a spreadsheet and eventually migrated to a web site. Google docs works great for building a spreadsheet. The fields that I used in my spreadsheet were: Title, Author, Genre, Format (paperback, hardback, ebook, audio), Year read, Series, Notes.

Goodreads is a good choice since you can track what you read and get recommendations for future reads. Read more...


Life Tools

There are certain resources that are essential to managing the business of your personal life.  When I started working, personal computers did not exist.  So, the minimum things I needed to mind my own business "back in the day" went something like this.

  • A checking account (and the knowledge of how to keep it balanced)
  • Some notebooks.  Spiral bound and loose leaf binders.  These were for:
    • Keeping track of important notes, ideas.
    • To do lists
    • Loose leaf binder for address book to track contact information.
  • An accordion file to keep track of insurance papers, tax returns, receipts, etc.
  • A calendar to note appointments.

How technology has changed things.  What would be the basic starter kit for someone beginning to manage their personal life now?  You need applications that will work across platforms (Windows, Android, Linux, ...) so that the information will be easily accessible from a variety of devices.  The applications need to have a version that is free.  With that in mind, here is my life management starter kit recommendation for an interconnected world.

  • Still need a bank or credit union, one that allows online access and the ability to pay bills online.
  • Mint - track where your money is going, create a budget.
  • Gmail - There are a lot of good online email applications out there.  For this, I recommend gmail .  It is one of the best online email applications, and once you have a google account, many other essential google tools become available under the same account.
  • Google Drive - allows creating documents and spreadsheet as a start.  Can also be used to share files and documents with others.  Also, print or scan important documents to .PDF files and upload them to drive.  This is your accordion folder.
  • Google Calendar - Track appointments, school schedule, meetings, etc.
  • Evernote -  manage notes that are synched across all my devices.  Not only is it easy to write notes, they are easily organized and searched.
  • Wunderlist - A brain dead simple to do list applications that has just enough features to make it perfect.
  • Lastpass - with all of these accounts, you need a good way to create complex passwords and keep them organized and secure.

The ones listed here, I have proven by using them on a daily basis.  They have worked out very well for me and I continue to use them.

While these applications are simple to use, they do have a lot of power and depth.  So, take the time to learn the application, hunt down tips and tricks for getting the most out of them.  It is much better to have a handful of applications that you know well than to load up with a ton of similar apps.



Cardinals and Red Sox

Fluor Field

Fluor Field

It was great to see my home town Saint Louis Cardinals in the World Series this year.  In 1968, I remember listening to the Cards battle the Detroit Tigers.  The school would play the games over the public address system and the teachers gave the kids busy work while the games were on.  Bob Gibson was practically unbeatable that year, and listening to those games instilled a love for the game in me.  Unfortunately, they lost the series in 1968 too.  But, somehow they always seem to be competitive and make their way into post season play every so often.

I now live in a town that hosts a Boston Red Sox farm team, the Greenville Drive.  Their small stadium is quite nice and has the same dimensions as Fenway Park even down to sporting a green monster wall in left field.  It's a lot of fun to take the grand-kids and enjoy a game in this great minor league park.

It was cool to see my two of my favorite teams meet in the series this year, but, still had to root for my childhood Cardinals.  The days are turning cool and the chill rain drips outside; I am dreaming of spring when the bats and gloves come out once again and take the field.