Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Several Short Book Reviews

Soul to TakeSoul to Take by Helen  Bateman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have often read in my flakey New Age readings that Souls between lives sort of "hang out" with the prospective new parents immediately before and during a pregnancy.  Well here is an excellent short novel that speculates on the Soul observing and possibly choosing parents.

Bateman has wonderful character development and she has provided an interesting contrast between the lives of the prospective couples and the Soul's last few incarnations.  Bateman wisely avoids getting caught up in any kind of technical details about how all this works.  With her excellent writing skills, Bateman packs a lot of story in a compact and concise package.

Being a New Age flake, this story nicely coincides with my particular beliefs, but I don't believe that you need to be a flake to enjoy this well written novel.  Excellent debut novel!   I will be looking forward to reading more from this author.


View all my reviews





My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Actually not a bad story.  She just took way too long to tell it and the book ends in a bit of a cliff hanger, thus ensuring the reader will read the rest of the series.   I get cranky when authors do that, so my 3.5 stars rounded down to 3 stars.  I knew it was a series before I started reading it and I also knew that I probably would not read any additional books in the series.  The book was one of our book club selections and I read it to see what the big whoop was about.  As I predicted before starting the book, I have no interest in reading the rest of the series.  



My rating: 3 of 5 stars
 I am not sure what to make of this book.  I think it would have been more convincing if it had been either written in third person or the author had been a woman.  Coelho writing in a woman’s first person voice just came off less than true to me.

I tried to be sympathetic to the protagonist but she resisted my best efforts.  She has a wonderful life and is seemingly willing to throw it away because she is bored.  Perhaps we should feel sorry for her because she does not have one negative thing in her enchanted life to occupy her and life, marriage, career, success, extreme wealth, security, and happy healthy normal children are, well boring--although she loves her husband, her life, and her children.  OK this happens.  To alleviate her boredom she finds herself unwittingly drawn into an affair with an old high school lover, gently at first.

Caution Spoiler:

He treats her like an appliance, which she seems to alternately hate and like. Then she gets into a snark fest with her lover’s wife and decides that she has to destroy this woman for being haughty and having the audacity to be concerned about her husband. The protagonist spends 5000 francs on cocaine to plant in the woman’s desk. My sympathy for her goes out the window.

She then has a sort of confession to her husband who makes it easy for her and indicates that he loves her and if there is anything to forgive, she is forgiven. OK all should be well, if her husband can forgive her, I can too. But then a week after this confession of sorts, she has one last wild and wooly tumble in the hay with her lover because she needs closure. Goodbye to all sympathy. 

The book closes with a loving discussion of the love of love that will survive in the universe for all time after all the humans are long gone. It should have restored my sympathy to the protagonist but instead, sort of reminded me of Nicholson Baker’s mystical orgasmic spheres that float through all eternity in his book Vox.




It was not a bad book but it could have been a lot better.  


Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Kindle and Audible Editions of Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre (Penguin Classics)Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book.   The flowery language takes some getting used to for the modern ear but the book was excellent.  I thoroughly enjoyed her feminism, her class commentary, her religious sensibilities, and her practical views on marriage (adjusted for the times).  With the huge numbers of reviews done by those with far more literary finesse than I possess, swine should not attempt to cast pearls.  Five stars for Miss Bronte.

My purposes here are to comment on the following editions of this book:

the Kindle Penguin Classics edition:   Jane Eyre (ASIN*: B002RI9XEC) and

the Audible Brilliance edition:   Jane Eyre (ASIN*: B001I7RRUK).

I feel that both of these editions were very helpful to my understanding and enjoyment of this work.  Due to the fact that these are the only editions of the book that I have read / listened, the following should not be regarded as a critical comparison to other editions but rather simply a favorable mention of the strengths of these particular editions.  For me the Penguin Classics edition is very helpful because of two features.  1) The volume is extensively footnoted.  These footnotes are useful to the literary inept (such as myself) to explain the various literary, classical, and Biblical references and common terms of the time and setting (mid 19the century Northern England) that have since become anachronisms. These can be as simple as describing an Amazon hat to extensive passages out of the Bible.  Also included are references to Bronte’s other works giving the reader a better grasp of Bronte’s thinking.  For example:

“All John Reed’s violent tyrannies, all his sisters’ proud indifference, all his mother’s aversion, all the servants’ partiality, turned up in my disturbed mind like a dark deposit in a turbid well. Why was I always suffering, always browbeaten, always accused, for ever condemned? Why could I never please? 7  Why was it useless to try to win anyone’s favour? Eliza, who was headstrong and selfish, was respected.”

Brontë, Charlotte (2006-06-29). Jane Eyre (Penguin Classics) (pp. 6-7). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

And the corresponding footnote:

“7 . Why could I never please: This theme is presaged by Charlotte Brontë’s thinly veiled confessional account in a Brussels essay of 17 October 1843, entitled ‘Letter From a Poor Painter to a Great Lord’: ‘Throughout my early youth the difference that existed between myself and most of the people around me was, for me, an embarrassing enigma … I believed myself inferior to everyone, and it grieved me’ (Belgian Essays, p. 362).”

Brontë, Charlotte (2006-06-29). Jane Eyre (Penguin Classics) . Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

A Kindle (or other electronic reader) has a decided advantage for such extensive footnoting in that it only requires a click (or screen tap) to go back and forth between text and footnotes.  Such footnoting would be extremely laborious in a printed version.

The second feature is a very good Introduction which explains the novel in context to the time and why it was important.  Alas this Introduction has spoilers for the book.  As such a first time reader should leave the Introduction for the end of the book.  If one has read it before and remembers the story, the Introduction may very well be helpful to read in advance of the book.

My only complaint with this edition is minor.  For the second generation Kindle and Kindle for Mac, there are no chapter listings in the table of contents.  The entire novel appears under one line.  This is not true on the second generation PaperWhite or Kindle-Fire HDX,  all of the chapters are listed even though the same Kindle file was used on all of the devices.   On those devices that do not support the chapter listings, the problem can easily be solved by searching "chapter."

In conjunction to reading the Penguin Classic Kindle edition of this novel, I also listened to the Audible edition Jane Eyre [Brilliance Edition] narrated by Susan Ericksen (ASIN*: B001I7RRUK).  I am a neophyte to Audible so take my comments with a grain of salt.  This edition uses Amazon’s Whispersync (as do some of the other Audible versions) to allow synching your progress with other Kindle devices to the Kindle edition discussed above. It also allows “immersion reading”  on devices that support it.  Ms. Ericksen does an excellent job of narrating this book.  She uses different voices for the various characters which delineates each character in the narration very well.  She also employs what I considered to be a proper amount of theatrical embellishment where required.  I did not find myself gritting my teeth due to an overly theatrical production, but rather a very enjoyable use of her excellent voice to establish the proper emotions being conveyed.  One gets the feeling that it is indeed Jane Eyre, not reading a book, but telling you a story.

I found that I thoroughly enjoyed the process of “immersion reading.”  After downloading both files into my Kindle-Fire HDX, I was able to open the Kindle version of the book and play the Audible version simultaneously.  The line being spoken is highlighted on the Kindle screen.  Pages turns occur automatically.  With the extensive footnoting, if a footnote was tapped, the narration automatically stopped.  It had to be manually restarted (requiring two screen taps) upon returning back to the text.  The only complaints I have with the immersion style reading is that it runs just a bit too fast for me at the normal speed, and for some reason a page change often butchers the first syllable of the first word spoken on the following page.  It appears that the page flip interferes with the narration.  The narration speed can be slowed down, but with the 25% steps that the Kindle-Fire offers, at 75%, it is painfully slow and the narrator begins to sound a bit drunk.  I would like a user inputted variable setting or at least more steps.  I think 90 to 95% would work well for me.  

Audible Version Narrated by Susan Ericksen
Image Credit: Amazon.com

There were some minor differences between the narrated text and the Kindle text, but these were infrequent (bearing in mind that I did not employ immersion reading for the entire book which is the only time that one would notice these differences).  Usually these were single words or short phrases that appeared in the text but not in the narration.  They caused no synching difficulties.  

All in all, I believe that the Audible version was critical in helping me get through the unfamiliar literary language of the book.  Five stars to both of these versions of this great book.  When you consider that I spent 99 cents for each version (you have to buy the Kindle version first to get the Audible version for 99 cents), I believe I got one hell of a book reading bargain.

View all my reviews

*Note!  ASIN is Amazon Standard Identification Number, by searching the ASIN at Amazon instead of the book title, the correct edition should be assured.  ASINs that appear here are only guaranteed at Amazon US.  Other Amazon markets may use different ASINs.

LINKS:

Amazon, Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte, Penguin Classics, Kindle Edition


Amazon, Jane Eyre [Brilliance Edition] [Unabridged] [Audible Audio Edition] Charlotte Bronte, Narrated by Susan Ericksen

Monday, September 1, 2014

Nifty Cool Tool? Perhaps.

Image Credit: Craftsman.com






So what happens when you mate a yankee drill with a ratchet wrench?  You get yatchet wrench.  Obviously I had better remain retired and not seek employment as the creative genius in a tool advertisement agency.  So what happens when you hand a yatchet to such a creative genius?












You get the:

3/8-IN Drive Ratchet

Registered Trademark: Sears Brands LLC.

Oooooohhhh, the Sears Craftsman MACH Series 3/8-IN Drive Ratchet! I feel a tingling in my nether regions.  It sounds so much more MACHo than a yatchet.  Poor Ernst Mach, once again his name is misused on a product that he has absolutely nothing to do with--he died 98 years ago.   Other examples of this misuse are the Mustang Mach 1, an arguably fast car, and the Gillette MACH3 razor, a device for shaving that apparently can reach velocities of 3 times the speed of sound.  

Ernst Mach 1838-1916
Obviously had little use for the
Gillette Mach3.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
  
Ernst Mach was an Austrian physicist that studied the properties of sound in regards to projectile physics.  He discovered the shock wave (sonic boom) produced when a projectile exceeds the speed of sound.  Mach number is a ratio of an object's speed to the speed of sound.  As such, the Mustang Mach 1 is patently false advertising.  Let's give the Mach 1 the benefit of the doubt and say that it can go 200 mph.  The speed of sound in dry air at 68 degrees F at sea level is 767 mph.  So our 200 mph hour Mustang is actually a Mach 0.261 (200 / 767).  Our Gillette Mach3 has to be traveling at 2301 mph (3 X 767).  How this relates to shaving, I have no idea.  But I think in both cases that they just forgot to add the o turning mach into macho.  BTW (according to the Wikipedia article) take the same razor, change the color of the plastic and packaging and call it Venus, and you can sell it to women. 

So getting back to our yatchet, errrr MACH Series 3/8-IN Drive Ratchet, it is so named because it is fast, 16 times as efficient as their traditional ratchet.  This seems to be based on the 72 teeth resulting in a 5 degree "arch" (I think they meant arc).  So I looked at their run of the mill 3/8 ratchet that is priced at 1/3 the cost and it had 36 teeth resulting in a 10 degree arc.  Smaller arcs allow wrenches of the same length to ratchet in tighter quarters.  So how do we get a 16 X (a whopping 1600%) improvement in efficiency when the handle is actually longer than a standard ratchet, and only has twice the number of teeth?  Well it is efficiency and they haven't really defined what they mean by efficiency.  In one place they say "compared to our traditional ratchet, measuring the distance the handle travels to rotate the socket."  In the sales web page they state:

 "The 72-tooth Mach Series 3/8-Inch Drive Ratchet is built for SPEED turning sockets 16X's Times more efficient than a regular ratchet with a swing arch of 60-degrees."   

I am still mystified by the 16,  60 / 5 is 12.   To get a 60 degree arc you would need a 6 tooth ratchet.  The oldest Craftsman ratchet I have is dated to 1967, it is a 1/4 drive and does not have a release button.  It has 24 teeth (15 degree arc).  By my calculations to get a 16 X improvement in efficiency only looking at teeth, the traditional ratchet would have to be a 4.5 tooth ratchet resulting in an 80 degree swing.  Perhaps the traditional ratchet is the one that Sears sold during the Spanish American War?  But I quibble, it is faster.  The question is in my mind, is it three times the cost and much lower torque more efficient?  

Gimbal mounted head.
Image Credit:  Craftsman.com

So here is what this thing does. The head is a standard ratchet mechanism although fine toothed, but it is gimbal mounted.  This allows the head to swivel 270 degrees in relation to the axial center line of the handle.  So you get a high degree of flexibility of the handle position relative to the head.  Where it shines is that you can position the handle directly over the head so that the centerline of the handle matches the center line of the fastener rotation.   This allows you to turn the handle like a standard screwdriver. If the torque goes up, you can swing the handle down ward to pick up some mechanical advantage through the handle behaving like a lever arm.  The second nifty feature is that the handle itself can ratchet in either direction or lock (white icons on the black collar in the image to the left).    And the third cool idea is that shaft and handle is a "yankee drive."  By pushing the handle down and holding the red collar near the head, you get a fast rotation action, one and a half turns of socket rotation per stroke.  The ratchet mechanism in the handle allows the handle to remain fixed in your hand on the return stroke.  They claim the shaft is "expandable."  I am not sure what they mean by that but it appears that you can use the ratchet in a short handled or a long handled configuration.  

Short Handle
Image Credit:  Craftsman.com














Long Handle
Image Credit:  Craftsman.com
Due to the complexity of the helix and ball mechanism in the yankee drive, I would be loath to use this ratchet for anything other than very low torques with the shaft fully retracted into the handle.  I fear that applying torques that would be well within a normal range for a standard ratchet would significantly shorten the life of the yankee drive in this ratchet if not result in outright breakage.    So what! It is guaranteed forever!  Perhaps, but forever is a long time and my prediction is that this wrench is going to have a short life and Sears will  discontinue it.  So if you like the yankee drive action, take care of your wrench, do not use it for anything other than very modest torques.

So yes the wrench is kind of cool and nifty.  But one man's nifty is another man's gimmicky.  Yep it is that too.  It kind of strikes me as cool solution looking for a problem.  Its fast, but not as fast as a drill with a bit driver or an impact gun.  It will deliver torque but not too much torque.  So it is kind of limited to those in-between jobs where you have a need for a lot of rotation but not much torque.    At 50 bucks it is priced a way too high for my budget. But I did get one.  It is on sale for $25 for Labor Day.  That is the price for the ratchet alone, the full mechanics set which includes 20 sockets, and 30 bits and a case is $99.99 on sale for $49.99.   For the most part this thing is a little too gimmicky for my tastes but it just so happens that I have a problem that I think it will work great for.  Rotating my tires.  I have fancy lug nuts that I am loathe to use an impact wrench.  I think this thing will be great for removing and installing those lug nuts.  I will use my 1/2 inch drive breaker bar as usual to un-torque the nuts and this ratchet's yankee drive action to remove them.  Likewise I can install the nuts again with the yankee drive action with this ratchet and slightly torque them using it as a ratchet wrench.  Then I can apply the full torque value with my torque wrench.   OK, I'll admit, I wanted the wrench...it is kind of cool, but if it were not for my lugs nuts, even at 25 bucks, I think this is a pricey gimmick looking for an application.  I hope to be proved wrong.

The wrench is available at Sears and K-Mart retail stores and on line at:

http://www.craftsman.com  




LINKS:

Introducing Craftsman MACH SERIES

Craftsman 3/8-Inch Drive Mach Series Ratchet




Monday, June 9, 2014

Wander-lust

When Dreams are CallingWhen Dreams are Calling by Carol Vorvain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The description of this novel states that it is based on a true story.  A look at the author's website confirmed that the story is very similar to the author's life.  It reads very much like a memoir, but a very lively and entertaining memoir.  Its pointless to wonder how much is true, but I found myself not reading a fictional character but a very real one.

I doubt that I am in the author's target demographic...I am a 65 year old guy that retired out of a factory.  Other than a 4 year stint in the military and a collection of business trips I have traveled very little.  Rather than taking life by the horns and controlling my destiny, I have always reacted to what life handed me.  At this point in my life, my dreams are more on the order of avoiding yet another hurting joint and staying the hell out of nursing home for as long as possible.  So while Dora's adventures and travels inspired perhaps a little regret that I personally never threw caution to the wind and just lived life to the fullest, I am also old enough and wise enough to realize that there are the adventurous and then there are homebodies...I fall into the latter, as Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz "there is no place like home."  

That said I am also an old romantic.  I have often used the term that I am in "love with love."  The car rental woman that takes Dora on a tour of Havana, says that of the people of Cuba.  So what I really found interesting in this book was Dora's romantic life.  While her descriptions of her pursuit of "lust" are not explicit, they were frank and to the point.  She shares the erotic excitement of being in a relationship with the "Stallion" but ultimately rejects the notion of being in a relationship for "just sex."  Dora finds that "that something is missing" and that relationships built solely on lust are operating on borrowed time.   Dora wants something more and what she needs and finds is love.  It was this part of Dora's story that I identified with and to the Doras of the world, I would say it works!  I have been with my wife for 39 years and married to her for 37.  That woman has taken me on adventures to realms that have no air service...there is no place like our bedroom.  So along with my dreams of avoiding nursing homes, I have a dream that I am mid-trajectory in the adventure of life as husband and wife, but only taking off as soul-mates.  There is no place like eternity.

So what does an old cranky introverted curmudgeon like me get out of reading a book about a perky, young, vivacious, intelligent woman with both wander and lust? Dora is full of life, lust and love.  She is intelligent, but also wise well beyond her years.  What Dora did for me was to strum my heartstrings for the daughter that I never had.






View all my reviews

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cool Pillow

Image Credit: cafe press




Here is a cool gift idea for the person who has everything.

The Scrotum Thermogram Throw Pillow.

Not only is it a colorful work of art but it is a scientifically factual.  The image is a thermogram,  imagery produced by an infra-red camera.  The colors are produced by the camera's software, and are used to delineate variations in temperature. The red areas are the warmest, and the blue are the coolest.

Typical body temperatures are not conducive to sperm production.  As such the testis are descended in warm blooded mammals, and as this pillow so dramatically illustrates, are a good bit cooler thus ensuring fertility.  Thermograms can be used as a clinical aid in fertility and urology.

Show the world that you are cool, get your Scrotum Thermogram Throw Pillow at cafe press for $24.50.

cafe press, Scrotum Thermogram Throw Pillow   

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Destruction of the Nuclear Stick Family

I know this will come as shock to my steady readers, but yes, I am getting old and cranky.  Excessively cutesy really gets under my skin.   So it was with great delight that I noted this decal on the back of a mini-van yesterday.

Image Credit:  Amazon.com

It nicely capture's my opinion of the propensity to emblazon the rear of mini-vans and SUVs with stick figures, sports participation, and academic brilliance decals and bumper stickers.   It is sort of a polite protest for those of us who are klutzes, not too bright, and hale from or preside over dysfunctional families.  

And for those of us who reside in that region in the bell curve where the clapper hangs, at last, a bumper sticker and front plate for we the dung encrusted masses of the mundane, usual, and mediocre.

Image Credit:   cafe press

And finally a parting story involving a bumper sticker.  My wife and I took one of our cats to the vet.  There was a single car in the parking lot with its headlights on.  It had a bumper sticker “F--- nice people” except the u c k were not dashes.  We went into the waiting room and there was a rather attractive, well dressed, young woman sitting with no animal.  I said to her “At the risk of being seemingly nice, I believe you left your headlights on.”  She politely thanked me and went out and turned off her lights. 


Credits:

Get your decal or sticker at:

T-Rex:  http://www.amazon.com/FIGURE-FAMILY-Delicious-Nobody-Sticker/dp/B00EI6CKVE/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Aim For Average:  http://www.cafepress.com/mf/56194802/aim-for-average-so-youre-not_bumper-sticker
   

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Create a Caption

Image Credit:  Stacy Innerst, Pittsburgh Post Gazette

We have all seen the ads.  We have all seen the couples lying in their individual bathtubs blissfully staring off into a beautiful sunset.  And we have all wondered, what the hell is with the bathtubs?

Here is your chance to poke a little fun at the tub logo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette Caption Contest. You provide the caption for the cartoon.   The official contest is over but you can still have fun here at Navigating The Finite.

Think of a caption for the cartoon and post it in the comments below.  Alas there are no prizes.

For the real contest and the winning captions, see:

Pittsburgh Post Gazette, April 26, 2014, Caption contest 235 ... and the winners of 234









Image Credits:

Cartoon:  Pittsburgh Post Gazette, April 26, 2014, Caption contest 235 ... and the winners of 234