Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Never-Ending Story

The transition from cabin in the woods to perfect little house continues to continue...

There is still plenty of work to do in 2017:

  • Implement a more cost effective heating solution
  • Repair the driveway
  • Rebuild the steps from the drive to the lower yard
  • Finish sanding, caulking, and painting the exterior
  • Paint the front door
  • Continue landscaping
  • Plant more cover for the fences
  • Replace hopelessly stunted trees
  • Remodel bathroom (more on this later)
  • Expand the flagstone treatment in front of the fireplace
  • Replace carpet
  • Buy a garage

2017 Goodreads Resolution

A few more books, a little less screen time...

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. In progress [16]

Death's End, by Cixin Liu. In progress [15]

The Crash Detectives: Investigating the World's Most Mysterious Air Disasters, by Christine Negroni. Negroni offers a credible theory about the disappearance of Malaysia Air 370 by folding in the fascinating and sobering details of at least a dozen other air disasters and near disasters that have occurred since the dawn of the age of flight. [14]

Deep Time, by David Darling. [13] 

Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse. [12]

Ancient Ruins and Rock Art of the Southwest, by David Grant Noble. Those who know me understand that sussing out what humankind was up to in the pre-historic period is my thing.  David Noble's book came highly recommended by another amateur enthusiast who works a V-Bar-V petroglyph heritage site.  It does not disappoint, offering succinct directions, useful descriptions, and thoughtful analysis of "ruins and rock art" found in my neighborhood.  [11]

Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux, by John G. Neihardt. "Black Elk Speaks" tells the story of an Oglala holy man and his Lakota people who lived through the worst of the American Indian Wars, from the Fetterman Fight to the Little Big Horn to the Wounded Knee Massacre. This book has long been on my "To Read" list (and my bookshelf), but when Joseph Campbell spoke highly of it in "The Inner Reaches of Outer Space" I bumped it to the top of my list. As I enter the autumn of my life I have been encountering books I should have read in my youth. This is one of those. [10]

The Inner Reaches of Outer Space, by Joseph Campbell. This collection of essays and lectures by Jospeh Campbell has been on my "To Read" shelf for quite some time, but Mortimer Adler took such exception to it in his "Truth in Religion" I had to see what all the fuss was about. Turns out Adler was upset with about one page of the 148 that make up "The Inner Reaches of Outer Space." I don't disagree with the views Campbell expressed on that page and the rest of the book is a heady melange of psychology, mythology, religion, art, and literature. Certainly not Campbell's most accessible work, but worth reading. [9]

Sinagua Sunwatchers, Kenneth J. Zoll. Of the thousand some petroglyphs discerned on the rock panels at V Bar V Heritage Site located along Beaver Creek in the Verde Valley, many correlate to midday shadows cast by two rock gnomens during the equinoxes and solstices and at other calendrical events throughout the year. "Sinagua Sunwatchers", by Kenneth J. Zoll, lays out the details patiently in methodical detail. [7]

Truth in Religion: The Plurality of Religions and the Unity of Truth, by Mortimer Adler. The late Mortimer J. Adler reminds his reader, "De gustibus non disputandum: about matters of taste, there is no disputing. De veritate disputandum est: about matters of truth, we should engage in dispute..." And dispute he does. Adler's Truth in Religion: The Plurality of Religions and the Unity of Truth (1990) is chewy, spirited, and oddly argumentative (Adler had some strange beef with Joseph Campbell, who approached religion as misunderstood mythology). A thought-provoking, challenging, and ultimately useful read. [7]

The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality, by Andre Comte-Sponville. My, what a fine "little book" this one is! Comte-Sponville reminds us that the search for meaning has long been - and will forever continues to be - conducted by the non-believer and the non-religious as well as the theist. He reminds the theist that atheism need not equal nihilism while reminding the atheist that non-belief need not entail fatalism. I plan to make gifts of this rich little volume to my favorite evangelical, my favorite Marxist, and many of the others I also love in between. I'll be reading "The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality" again. [6]

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, by Omar Khayyam. As with many volumes I finally have made time to read I wish that I'd read this many years ago. It stands as a worthy companion to the works of Rumi, Ecclesiastes, and the Tao Te Ching. [5]

Flintknapping: Making & Understanding Stone Tools, by John C. Whitaker. A rich resource for those who want to make stone tools or just understand their place in pre-history. [4]

An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar: Talking about God, the Universe, and Everything, by Randal Rauser and Justin Schieber. [3] A worthy effort by two evenly matched opponents, yet more enjoyable than most such exchanges in that authors Rauser and Schieber obviously respect each other. Not sure they got to choose their title. Schieber was called upon to defend the implications of a materialism I'm not sure he holds, while Rauser defended a God of the Philosophers (bare theism) rather than the trinitarian~monotheism of biblical Christianity. I'd buy a sequel, but next time I'd hold out for paper rather than use the Kindle app on my smartphone again.

Hiking the Southwest's Geology: Four Corners Region, by Ralph Lee Hopkins. [2] A marvelous and easily accessible guide to all the many features of the primordial past that lie beneath our feet and entertain our eyes with scenic vistas. This is one of our "Go-To" books we use to plan our road trips across the southwest. Highly recommended!

Mr. Gatling's Terrible Marvel: The Gun That Changed Everything and the Misunderstood Genius Who Invented It, by Julia Keller. [1]  A social history about the man and his times, the application of patent law, the rise of industrialization, the internecine machinations of weapons procurement by the American military establishment, and the role of military technology applied to the acquisition and defense of empire. Regrettably, this book contains very details about the innovative gun itself, its evolutions, or its re-adoption in modernized form in the Jet Age. Not what I expected.

Let's read 48 books in 52 weeks...

Monday, December 12, 2016

Stories of Your Life and Others

Whip smart, wickedly imaginative, and viciously clever...

I bought Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang to read the short story upon which the screenplay for the film Arrival was based.  It was well worth it for that reason alone, but there are other stories in this collection which are even better.  If you enjoy science fiction, speculative fiction, or just plan fiction, give it a try.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Tower of Babel

What if the story had played out differently?

11 And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. 
2 And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there 
3 And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. 
4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. 
5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. 
6 And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. 
7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. 
8 So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. 
9 Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth. 
Genesis 11:1-9
What if Yahweh had not been threatened by human striving?  What if He had let us build a tower to heaven?  What might He have taught us?  Read Ted Chiang's Story of Babylon in Stories of Your Life and Others and find out.  Clever and satisfying stuff.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

I've Got Just The Place for It

Some family heirlooms now grace the man cave...

My father sent me a table hand-made by my Great-Great-Grandfather shortly after he immigrated to the United States from Ireland.  The side chair was purchased later, perhaps by my Great-Grandfather Michael.  It was re-upholstered by my mother Kay in our generation.
 They look just right under the stairs.  

Andy’s Leather Holding Black Friday and Christmas Sales

Our friend and benefactor is having a sale...

The popular Rhodesian Sling in use.

The press release:

Save 10 percent off all leather goods from now through Dec. 24 and 15 percent off all products, including slings, belts, jingle bells, holsters and accessories, from Nov. 24 – 28, 2016 at 
Nebo, N.C. (November 2016) – Andy’s Leather, purveyor of fine leatherwork for rifles, Scout rifle slings and accessories, is pleased to announce two special sales just in time for the holidays. From now through Dec. 24, save 10 percent off all leather goods during its Christmas sale (use code “Christmas” at checkout). For Black Friday, customers can save 15 percent off all products from Nov. 24 – 28, 2016, including the popular Rhodesian Sling, belts, jingle bells, holsters and accessories (use code “BlackFriday” at checkout). These special offers can be taken advantage of by shopping at (Offers cannot be combined.) 
“I’ve found myself in the giving spirit this season and have decided to offer not one, but two exclusive sales, to customers who buy my products direct at Whether you’re looking for rifle slings or holsters or simply a special, handmade belt to give to dad, I’ve got you covered this year. Come check out what we have and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by our pricing,” remarked Andy Langlois, founder and owner of Andy’s Leather.
Andy’s Leather’s fine products are also carried by Ruger®, Gunsite Academy, A.H. Larsen (Denmark), Brownells® and Acme Armament. Holiday discounts and sales may vary by dealer.
For more information on Andy’s Leather, visit

My personal experience:

Andy Langlois' work and materials are of the finest quality.  His service and commitment to clients is second to none.  Buy with confidence.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Tonto National Monument

Spent Sunday visiting some cliff dwellings...

The Tonto National Monument, located in Roosevelt, AZ, is about a two and a half hour drive southwest from Prescott. We met the rest of our party, who arrived from Phoenix, at about 9:30 am. The ranger guided tour to the upper dwellings, which is offered November through April, started at 10:00 AM and concluded at about 1:00 PM. Wear sturdy shoes or boots. Bring water, a wide-brimmed hat, a walking stick, and your camera of course...

The pre-history of the American Southwest is fascinating. Where did its people come from? How did they live? How were they affected by their environment? Why did they leave? Where did they go? I've been reading a few books on these and similar questions lately.

Cactus? The climate was cooler and wetter during the time the cliff dwelling were occupied as many as 300 people and thousands more lived, farmed, and manufactured pottery in the Tonto Basin.  
Those of you unfamiliar with the topography of the Southwest may be surprised to learn we have to drive an hour or two to see the Saguaro cactus many non-Southwesterners might assume we all have in our backyards.

If you're looking for a substantial and tasty meal after your walk up to and down from these well-preserved upper or lower cliff dwellings, drive south on State Route 188 to Boston's Lake House Grill. Everyone at the table liked what they had.  Three of us had the pulled pork sandwich and were delighted.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Monsoon III

Watch this...

...and all of Mike Olbinski's marvelous short films.

Monsoon III is very much like what living in Arizona during the monsoon season is like, only faster.

As a bonus Kerry Muzzey's music accompanies and compliments the visuals.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Best Movie Of The Year

If you like your science fiction evocative, Arrival will deliver...

There have been (or will be) perhaps a dozen good movies in 2016, and Last Days in the Desert was excellent, but Arrival may be the only great film I've seen this year.

This compelling story of first contact, based on the Nebula Award winning novella "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang, runs with the likes of 2013's Upstream Color, 2014's Interstellar and 2015's Ex Machina.

A team is urgently assembled to make first contact with whoever or whatever has arrived in the alien craft now hovering over a remote valley in Montana, as are eleven others at different locations around the planet.  On the American team is Amy Adams, a renowned linguist whose passion for communication is tempered by personal loss.  Jeremy Renner plays an amiable astrophysicist who chooses to follow her lead.  Forest Whitaker's performance as a dour Army officer was so rigidly subdued I didn't recognize him at first.

I can't say a word more without giving away too much.  You deserve to experience this lushly beautiful, deeply thoughtful, and rigorously imaginative film the way director Denis Villeneuve intended, without preconception.

I'll be seeing it again, at least once.  See it cold, then let's talk.

PS, The final theatrical trailer even gives to much away.  The first trailer does not.

UPDATE 11/11/16: Saw it again today.  Even better the second time.  I'm ordering the anthology in which the source material was first published in 1998.

UPDATE 11/18/16: Chiang's "Story of Your Life" was innovative and well-written, but it turns out the screenplay by Eric Heisserer improves upon it in many significant ways.

UPDATE: 11/22/16:
Watched it again last night. Third time is the charm. What a marvelously well-crafted film.

Monday, October 31, 2016


Similarities and differences...

We visited Montezuma's Castle National Monument and Arcosanti Sunday.  

The similarities and differences between what was and is no longer, and what could be but probably will never come to pass, was jarring.

Shelley's great king Ozymandias comes sadly to mind, in both cases...

Photo Credit:

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Scenic Vistas Galore

Finally fixed that "Never been to to Zion or Bryce Canyon" problem...

Bryce Canyon National Park is mostly limestone.

Thor's Hammer

Navajo Loop Trail

Queen's Garden Trail

Zion National Park, on the other hand, is mostly sandstone...

Kolob Canyons

Upper Emerald Pool

Middle Emerald Pool

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Funky Finds

On our trip to Bryce and Zion...

We made a fine four day getaway to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks this past weekend.  Along the way we encountered some neat little places you might seek out when you're next in the neighborhood.

Diablo Burger offers gourmet burgers as big as your head and a serving of fries that would fill a laundry basket.  Program your wayfinder for 120 N. Leroux St., Flagstaff, AZ, 86001.  Parking can be a pain but the greasy deliciousness is worth it.

The Quail Park Lodge has a Route 66 motor lodge sensibility.  In the past couple years this Kanab motel been remodeled, refitted, and refurbished with a funky '60s vibe.  Unlike most complimentary hotel breakfasts, their's features good coffee.

While the Quail Park Lodge has good coffee, Willow Canyon Outdoor, also in Kanab, has great coffee, and all the usual frufru coffee-related beverages the hipsters thrive on.  They also have no end of books and outdoor gear, just in case you forgot something...

We spent two days in Bryce Canyon National Park.

We enjoyed a very nice dinner at the Bryce Canyon National Park Lodge Dining Room.  Great food, excellent service.  Not cheap, but a really fine experience.

The south entrance to Zion is in Springdale, UT.  There we found...

Wildcat Willies, which features huge servings, pleasant service, and sensible prices.  We ate there the first night and still managed to waddle back to the hotel.

The second evening we ate at the Bit & Spur Saloon. There, I was served the best ribeye I've  ever had, and I've more than a few ribeyes in my day.  Unless you're of the abstemious sort, try the Instant Gratification Winery's Seduction red wine, a blend sold apparently sold only to restaurants.  Reasonably priced and very tasty.  

Right next door to the Bit & Spur is Frontier Plunder Antiques.  I'm glad we overlooked the unfortunate marquee.  It features an deep collection of Native Americana (including appropriately papered pottery), desert southwest accoutrement, other collectibles, and books.  It's much much bigger on the inside, with rooms within rooms behind rooms...

If you need a "venti dark roast, no room" on your way home consider stopping at River Rock Roasting Company in La Verkin, UT.

At the north end of Zion is Kolob Canyons.  It's some 38 miles from the south entrance, but definitely worth a look.  It has probably the smallest National Park Visitor center I've ever seen.

Pipe Spring National Monument offers a respite to weary travelers - now as in the past.  It documents and interprets an intriguing glimpse into Paiute and Mormon history.  There are even real live longhorn cattle  in the corral...

It was a wonderful long weekend.