Friday, January 24, 2020

Weekend Links 1-24-20

A plethora of links for your weekend reading:

Meet the stewards of the James Bond film franchise: Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson. With Daniel Craig due to retire from the role following No Time To Die this spring, the producers will be looking for a new actor to take on the role. My suggestion would be to hire Anthony Horowitz to adapt his own Bond novel for the next film. It's an origin story of sorts and would work well as a screenplay especially since they will have to cast a new Bond anyway. Related: Daniel Craig pokes a little fun at his cinematic alter ego:

DeWolf Hopper made a name for himself on the vaudeville stage with his dramatic recitations of Ernest Thayer's poem Casey At The Bat. But it turns out that Hopper was quite the baseball fan.

Sometimes a seemingly small decision can pay big dividends: how a single mail order ad transformed a family owned business into a billion dollar enterprise.

Strange but true: Sesame Street was once banned in Mississippi.

A fascinating deep dive into the world of ghostwriting. It's a problem for readers when they don't know if the person whose name is on the cover is actually the one who wrote the book. It's a bigger problem than you might imagine.

Last year for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, the NASA History office tweeted out the mission in real time. This year for the 40th anniversary of Apollo 13 they are going to have the mission audio available in real time on their website.

Trivia buffs rejoice! Some fans have created the Jeopardy! question database featuring almost every answer (and question) contained in the last 36 seasons of the show.

Dr. Howard Conyers is on a mission to preserve the tradition of the whole hog barbecue. He also happens to be a rocket scientist.

Before there was Photoshop, the Soviets had mastered the method for removing people from photographs.

At one ski resort in Sweden after a day on the slopes you can ski right into McDonalds for a quick bite.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

How to Read More Books

It's always a challenge to read more books. Even though you might realize there are plenty of benefits to reading regularly it can be difficult to develop a habit of reading. Here are a list of tips (in no particular order) that can help you develop a habit of reading:

Make time to read. In this age of Netflix, smartphones, and other similar digital enteratinment it has become easier to entertain ourselves by things other than books. One of the first steps to developing a habit of reading is to make time for it. For example, as part of my daily routine I have time set aside for reading before I start my work day. I spend a few minutes reading the Bible and then a few minutes reading part of a book. The books either coincide with my devotions or may be connected to my work. Either way, I am setting aside time before I get immersed in my job to make time for reading. Apart from the benefits I gain from what I am reading it also helps put me in a peaceful frame of mind before the chaos of the work day unfolds.

When I travel, I always carry books with me. If my travel involves flights I use all of my down time both in the aiports and on planes as opportunities to read.

There are other options too. If you are waiting at a doctor's appointment that's another time to read. If you have a commute on a train it's another chance to read. Or if you have a long commute to work you can listen to audiobooks.

Set goals. This may seem a little counter intuitive especially for someone who recently stated they aren't setting numeric goals but just hear me out.  In the beginning when you are getting into the habit of reading more books a numeric goal is not such a bad idea. However, I encourage you to go beyond simple numeric goals into other types of broader goals. For example, this year in addition to my numeric goal that I set on my Goodreads account, I am going to try to be intentional in some of my other reading goals. Some examples of these types of goals include:

  • Reading an author you've never read before
  • Reading literary fiction (a.k.a. classics)
  • Books from a specific genre (for me it is self-improvement books that dovetail into my work life
  • Reading from a genre you wouldn't normally select (for me it will be science fiction)

These are but a few examples but the possibilities are endless if you think in terms other than just numeric goals.

Decide what you like or are interested in. There are books on literally every subject so it shouldn't be hard to find something that is of interest. In addition, the internet makes researching potential books to read very easy.

Start small. If you are just getting started on a reading habit it's probably counter productive to pick up a book the length of War and Peace. Instead start with something shorter that won't take such a huge time commitment to finish. You will find once you have a book or two under your belt it's much easier to keep going.

Don't be afraid to give up on a book you don't enjoy. Life is to short to be spent on books you don't enjoy. There is nothing wrong with deciding that a book is not enjoyable to you. If after forty or fifty pages you aren't enthralled with the book you should consider whether you should abandon it and move on to another. This is one of the most freeing things I have come to understand about reading. I've given up on a number of books that I didn't enjoy. Some of those were even by authors whose other works I really liked. In the end it's better to give up on a book if it is not working for you and move on to something else.

Read more than one book at once. I used to think I could only focus on one book at a time. But as I came to understand that different things I am reading serve different purposes it has become easire to read multiple books simultaneously. Also, since I understand that different books serve different purposes and therefore are going to be read at different times in my day it has become easier to have more than one book I am reading at a time.

Sign up for Goodreads. Goodreads is the social media account for readers. But it is much more than that. It is the perfect place to track what you read. It's also a place for setting your numeric reading goals (if you have them). But perhaps its greatest strength is in its recommendations. The more books that you record that you have read there the better it becomes at recommending other books to you. It also has a handy place for you to make a list of books you want to read. There's also an extensive database of ratings and reviews that will help you make choices about what to read.

Buy books. This may seem somewhat obvious but in otder to develop a healthly reading habit it helps to have books on hand that you want to read. Books can be expensive so I recommend going to used books stores. When I travel I have several of my favorite stores that I visit where I know I can trade books I no longer want to keep for books that I want to read. I have a large stack of books waiting to be read so I don't have to be paralyzed by deciding what to read next. Alternatively if you are on a budget visiting your local library is a great free option. Also, librarians can help you find good books to read and can make recommendations based on your interests.

Don't be afraid to go digital. Personally, I prefer physical books for most of my reading. However, I have occasionally dabbled in audiobooks especially on long car trips. I also have the Amazon Kindle app on my phone and sometimes can get better deals on digital versions of books than physical ones. The key is to figure out what formats work best for you.

Get recommendations. Books are a great topic of conversation with friends and family Find out what they have enjoyed. That might lead to something that you want to read. Social media has also made it easier to get recommendations. For example, a couple of the podcasts I listen to periodically feature interviews with authors. Hearing an author talk about his or her book has often led me to want to read it. All of you have to do is be willing to ask. Readers enjoy talking to other readers about books.

My hope is that these tips will help you develop a habit of reading. It is one of the best things that you can do for yourself.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Weekend Links 1-17-2020

While you are waiting for me to get my act together and write some original stuff here are a few items of interest I ran across this week:

I am a traditionalist when it comes to the designated hitter rule in baseball. I am strongly opposed to it. If I were commissioner I would abolish it in an instant. However, I understand with the entrenchment of the DH in the American League it's only a matter of time before the National League adopts it. This proposal from Jayson Stark (subscription required) might be the best proposal yet:

Did you know the designated-hitter rule has been around in the American League for nearly 50 seasons now? So apparently, this isn’t going to be a short-term fad. In fact, it’s hard to find anyone in the game who doesn’t believe that one of these years — possibly as soon as 2022, once the new labor deal is done — every team will be writing a DH into its lineup. 
But wait! Here’s one possible wrinkle that has been kicked around in behind-the-scene brainstorming sessions: How about a rule that would allow teams to use their DH only as long as their starting pitcher remained in the game? Then, once the starting pitcher exited, that game would revert to old-school rules. The more we think about this idea, the more we like it. Starting pitchers would no longer hit, which would eliminate some teams’ injury paranoia. It would create incentives to keep starters in the game longer, which could lead to more offense. And it would preserve some elements of late-inning managerial strategy that fans of “NL rules” still love. 
 OK, so this part of the plan might never happen. But it’s at least worth having a long conversation about – even if it’s just a segment on “MLB Now.” 

There's lots more bold predictions about how baseball will change in next decade that are worth reading. Incidentally, I find The Athletic to be an outstanding source of sportswriting. It's well worth the cost of the subscription. 

Also at The Athletic, Molly Knight follows up on the sign stealing story from last weekend's post. Her solution is to abolish instant replay. (language warning) Emma Baccellieri adds her own thoughts. While I believe it's important to get calls right the whole system has done more harm than good.

I had no idea that Charles Schulz once worked as an art instructor. This is fun:

When No Time To Die premieres in April, it will mark Daniel Craig's last appearance as James Bond. Here are 10 things that his Bond did differently that the franchise should keep. Related: the recipe for James Bond's Vesper martini.

Solving life's important mysteries: why button down shirts have loops on the back.

An interesting observation:

If I had the money and the shelf space I would definitely buy this collector's edition of P. G. Wodehouse novels. The cover designs are fantastic. I managed to find The Code of the Woosters in this edition but haven't been able to locate any others yet. (Hat tip: Light On Dark Water)

On a related note, how seriously should we take Wodehouse? (Hat tip: Honoria Plum)

Taking control of your time will make you happier. 

This looks like fun: a supper club in a decommissioned London Tube carriage.

Finally, there is this:

Friday, January 10, 2020

Weekend Links 1-10-2020

Back when I was blogging on a semi-regular basis I ran a feature on Fridays of collection so stories that had caught my attention. As I ease back into a more regular writing schedule I thought it was an opportune time to revive this series. Here are a handful of items that caught my attention in recent weeks:

It's hard for me to believe that it has been 40 years since the Miracle on Ice. The U. S. Olympic Hockey team's victory over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Games was one of the most improbable victories in sport. Here is a terrific profile of the man who was behind the microphone for the game and coined one of the most memorable catchphrases in broadcasting history.

It's a new year which means setting goals for 2020. But in order to succeed first you need to address some common myths that inhibit achieving your goals. It also helps to align your habits to the goals you want to achieve.

By the way, if you want to become more focused in your productivity, this book is a great place to start. 

Speaking of books, this list of book towns look like great vacation destinations for a bookworm like me.

This is a pleasant surprise: vinyl records are on pace to outsell CDs for the first time in 30 years.

Baseball teams stealing signs has been in the news a lot this offseason. MLB could fix the problem very easily if they wanted to. 

Longtime baseball writer Peter Gammons is being honored by the people he covers. Definitely well deserved

Baseball history: In 1919, the Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. The reasons why are fascinating. 

More baseball history; my current favorite Twitter feed is Flagstaff Films. Click on their media and fall down a worm hole of old home movies. Your welcome.

Pitchers and catchers report in 32 days. It will be spring before you know it.

Have a great weekend.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Reading Goals

It was just a year ago that I last posted here reflecting on what I read in 2018. Now, as 2019 comes to a close, I find myself in a reflective mood again. I guess that's normal. As one year comes to a close we tend to look back on the previous twelve months and setting resolutions for ourselves in the upcoming year.

At the end of 2017, I had made a commitment to read more books. I set an ambitious goal for myself. I was going to read 52 books or the equivalent of one a week. By the end of the year, I managed to read 57 books. To challenge myself further in 2019, I increased my goal to 60 books. As 2019 comes to a close, I have only read 34.

Does this make me a failure?

I don't think so.

In fact, I think it's probably unwise to set a numerical goal for myself. Rather, I think it's more important to read widely and periodically select books to read that are outside of my normal comfort zone.

I am convinced it's important to read a lot and to read a wide variety of subjects. As I head into 2020 I am not setting a numerical goal. Rather, I am going to challenge myself to read at least a few books that I would not have normally picked to read. I am also going to challenge myself to read a couple of classics. Finally, I am going to reread a few books that I have read before.

Here's to a new year filled with books!

Monday, December 31, 2018

What I Read in 2018

At the beginning of this year, I had a simple goal to read more books. I figured that if I could read a book a week I could easily read 52 this year. As of right now I am on book 59 which doesn't sound like a whole lot but is at least a step in the right direction. My hope is continue to increase the number of books that I read but also to diversify the types of books that I read. Below are a few of the highlights of the books I read this year.

Most Important Book I Read This Year: On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Reading Great Books by Karen Swallow Prior
The other day my daughters caught up with a friend of theirs who also happens to be a fellow bibliophile. She posed the question "What's the most important book you read this year?" On Reading Well easily wins the prize in the books I read this year. I've always shied away from the so-called "classics" but Prior's book inspired me to dig more into classic literature in the coming year. Prior does an excellent job of showing how both virtue and vice are demonstrated through the stories she highlights. This is a book I imagine I will find myself coming back to as I read through the novels that are selected. There's no question that fiction should be a key part of every Christian's reading list and Prior makes the point very clearly in On Reading Well. (Honorable mention: Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More: Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior)

Favorite New Historian: Candice Millard
Last Christmas, my wife bought me Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President. It had me hooked from the first page and I could not put it down. It reads more as a murder mystery thriller than non-fiction book. I enjoyed Ms. Millard's writing so much that I then picked up Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill and found it equally enjoyable. If you are looking for a writer whose non-fiction work reads more like a thriller novel then Ms. Millard is for you.

Favorite Non-Fiction title, History
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 8 mission was the first attempt to send a manned spacecraft in orbit around the Moon. While the mission's achievements are well known the tireless work in turning that mission into a success is lesser known. Thanks to Robert Kurson's Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man's First Journey to the Moon we have a very detailed but thoroughly readable account of the men involved in this daring mission into space. Given the tumultuous year that was 1968 the Apollo 8 triumph was the redemption of a very dark year in American history.

Book that I had the hardest time putting down
Without a doubt that would be Brad Meltzer's The Escape Artist (my review of the book can be found here). Meltzer is a master at writing thriller novels and The Escape Artist is one of his best yet. He's one of my favorite authors and I thoroughly enjoy reading everything he writes. His new book (due out in a couple of weeks) will be his first foray into non-fiction with the account of the plot to assassinate George Washington. Should be a very interesting read. 

My favorite Agatha Christie novel of the year would have to be The Mysterious Affair at Styles. I read a total of nine of Christie's novels this year which is more than any other author. The thing that I love about Styles is that even though it is the first of the Hercule Poirot novels Christie already has a clear idea of what her Belgian detective is like as a character. I have read others of her books that I like as much or more but this definitely stands out as one of her better books.

My new favorite mystery writer: Anthony Horowitz.
I was far more familiar with Horowitz's writing for television with programs such as Foyle's War,  Agatha Christie's Poirot, Midsomer Murders, Collison, and New Blood on his resume. But this year I discovered his novels and quickly became a fan. Two that I would particularly recommend are Magpie Murders (my review is here) and Forever and a Day. 

Saturday, December 29, 2018

How I Became An Accidental Book Collector

I have always considered myself more of a book hoarder than book collector. Just ask my wife. She will quickly point out we have always had far more books packed up in boxes than shelf space to store them. I tend to buy books and then keep them without really thinking about whether they are something that needs to stay in the house forever. Certainly I will read that book again one day, right?

A couple of years ago things started to change. We had downsized to a smaller house a while back and didn't have nearly the bookshelf space we had before. Our old house had built in bookshelves in both the living room and upstairs family room which is of course exactly why we bought it. Since we had moved to our current house I've slowly been purging books and other stuff that we simply don't have space for any more.

Then about a year ago I joined Instagram. I was aware of it but never really saw how it would fit in with my social media consumption. I joined primarily because my wife and daughters were on it doing different things and I wanted to be the supportive father and husband and be able to give them support for their posts. Somewhere along the way though I started looking at different feeds and discovered a whole subculture of Instagram wholly devoted to books. This was a game changer. Now I follow a number of these accounts where people post pictures of their books. It opened up a whole new world to me as I was largely unaware of some of the artistic treasures that existed out there in the wild.

This also coincided with my desire to read more of Agatha Christie's novels as well as other classic crime fiction. I do a lot of reading for pleasure as a diversion from the day to day stresses of work. I had become a fan of Christie largely through watching the entire series of Agatha Christie's Poirot with David Suchet. I had read the occasional novel here and there and thoroughly enjoyed them and so I wanted to start branching out and reading her other works.

Around the same time I stumbled across an Instagram account that has become one of my favorites: The Year of Agatha. The account was started by two Christie fans who read through the entire canon of Christie's novels in a year and blogged about the experience. But they also collect vintage Christie novels and post the photos on their Instagram feed. As I started browsing through the feed the first time I was instantly struck how many different versions there were out there of her books and how striking the covers could be.

The real kickoff to collecting occurred back in March. While my wife was away with her college girlfriends for the weekend, I spent a lazy Saturday afternoon at Too Many Books in Roanoke, VA (a store I would highly recommend visiting while in the area). As you can see from the photos below, I came away with quite the start to my collection.

Now all of a sudden I had a mission: start collecting Agatha Christie novels. I was already purging books and other stuff I didn't want but now I could take that to used books stores and leverage it for credit for stuff I did want. I have been pleasantly surprised at being able to find older copies of her books. For the proof all you have to do is scroll through my Instagram account where I have been posting photos.

I have long been a fan of used book stores because (a) I like to read a lot, and (b) I'm cheap and don't like to pay a lot for books. Thanks to my new found pastime shopping at used books stores has gone to another whole level.

Book Review: Magpie Murders

If you were to scan my Goodreads list of books read you would likely see a disproportionate number of mysteries and thrillers compared to other genres. This started a couple of years ago after binges on British TV shows such as Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey, and Father Brown that I turned my attention towards reading the books upon which these great detectives were based. Along the way I also discovered a number of new detectives and stories to read.

I also frequent a lot of used book stores because (a) I read a large number of books; (b) I don't necessarily want to keep the books after I have read them and trade them for more books and (c) because I am cheap. Often my trips to the bookstore uncover amazing finds (as I have previously documented on Instagram). This was especially true for Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz.

I was familiar with Mr. Horowitz's writing for television particularly as creator of such shows as Foyle's War, New Blood, and CollisionHe's also contributed scripts to Agatha Christie's Poirot and Midsomer Murders. He's also written Sherlock Holmes stories and James Bond novels (each with blessing of the estates of Arthur Conan Doyle and Ian Fleming) as well as an adventure series for young adults.

But it's clear that Mr. Horowitz knows what makes a good mystery and how to in some ways turn the conventions on their head. This is certainly true in Magpie Murders which features a novel within a novel thus setting up two mysteries for the reader to solve.

From the synopsis:

Editor Susan Ryeland has worked with bestselling crime writer Alan Conway for years, so she has no reason to think his latest novel will be much different from his others. Readers love his detective, Atticus Pรผnd, a celebrated solver of crimes in the sleepy English villages of the 1950s.
But Conway’s latest tale of murder at Pye Hall is not quite what it seems. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but hidden in the pages of the manuscript lies another story: a tale written between the very words on the page, telling of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition and murder.

All throughout the book are sly references to Agatha Christie novels. It is no accident that Atticus Pund reminds readers a lot of Christie's Hercule Poirot. The similarities between the two characters is striking. There are also other reminders scattered about that will remind readers of other famous detectives as well.

It's difficult to take an established literary genre as the British cozy mystery and do something completely different with it but Mr. Horowitz manages to do just that. It's clear that he understands how the genre works and is willing to turn convention on its head. I look forward to seeing what he has coming next.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Weekend Links 5-11-18

A Friday roundup of interesting stuff from the internet. Here are the articles that caught my attention this week:

Brad Meltzer, best selling author of The Escape Artist has a new book in the works. This time he is delving into non-fiction with the story of the secret plot against George Washington.

A profile of the man who invented book selling as we know it.

This is a terrific look at the geniuses behind the Babylon Bee.

Analytics is pretty commonplace now in Major League Baseball but at the college level it is still a novelty. At UNC they are leading the way in adopting analytics into the game.

Many evangelical leaders have not only been outspoken in their support of President Trump but have gone to great lengths to defend his most egregious behaviors. David French has some very frank words for the President's evangelical backers.

Tim Challies poses an interesting question: is your church Christian or Christianish?

10 things you should know about your smartphone.

Nostalgia alert: 10 Fun Facts About Highlights.

The woman who was the subject of one of the most iconic photos to come out of the Vietnam War shares how she came to Christ. It's a powerful testimony.

Baseball America polled its correspondents to come up with a list of the ten best major league parks (excluding Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Dodger Stadium as they are in a class of their own).

This is one of the more interesting stories I have run across this week: How a Coney Island sideshow helped to save thousand of babies.

On an almost daily basis there are new reports of scientific studies reported as absolute fact. But there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of such studies. 

As I visit used book stores in my travels I am always on the lookout for vintage cover illustrations. In fact, I believe that book cover illustration is in many ways a lost art. This collection of pulp covers of classic fiction is fantastic. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Weekend Links 4-20-18

A weekly roundup of interesting stuff from the Internet:

The old adage is that you never leave a baseball game early. Never. Last Saturday, the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves proved this adage to be true in one of the strangest innings of a baseball game ever. I was watching this game live and still cannot believe the way it turned out. I have never seen anything like it.

C.S. Lewis is known as one of the greatest Christian writers of all time. Many forget that he was once an avowed atheist. His experiences in the trenches during World War I changed his life forever. 

Adventures in etymology: Why are bananas, nuts, and crackers the only foods that say "crazy"?

How a notorious art heist led to the discovery of six fake Mona Lisas.

English isn't logical and that's a good thing.

How Schoolhouse Rock became the "Jingle of a Generation". (hat tip Witnify)

Five ways to recover the lost art of note taking.

Five years ago, Brad Meltzer put out a plea on social media for a kidney donor to help save his beloved history teacher. He then rewarded the donor by making her a major character in his latest novel.

Could a move towards localism help heal our political divide? It's certainly a good place to start.

Myrtle Beach is known as a great place for a golf vacation. But it also happens to be the self-proclaimed mini-golf capital of the world. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Weekend Links 4-13-18

It's been a really full week of fun stuff on the internet. Here are the stories that caught my eye.

I'm generally not a fan of colorized photos but I have to admit these colorized photos of old baseball players are amazing.

Minor league baseball teams always have to be creative with their promotions. Case in point: the Richmond Flying Squirrels will have an Edgar Allan Poe Bobblestache night (Poe lived in Richmond).

Speaking of the minor leagues, here is a terrific profile of the brief, colorful history of the Saratoga Phillies, where baseball was played for the fun of it.

Disneyland has updated its monorails with some pretty cool Pixar themed artwork.

Many young girls dream of being a princess. The next best thing is to attend a royal wedding.

The idea of being a location scout always seemed interesting to me but once you know their secrets it's not as glamorous a job as you might think.

Strange but true: how a typographical error might have helped end World War II.

Matt Walsh has some interesting observations about how our culture destroys boys.

No doubt this was a shock among Purdue fans: head football coach Tony Levine has stepped down to run a Chick-fil-A in Houston. But read the whole article to discover why he made this unusual career move.

Tweet of the week:

Friday, April 06, 2018

Weekend Links 4-6-18

A random collection of links for your weekend reading:

ICYMI: my review of Brad Meltzer's The Escape Artist is here.

This is one of my favorite stories of the week. A couple decided to open an independent book store in Ann Arbor, Michigan. One of its more notable features is a typewriter in the store available for anyone to use. Those contributions have been collected and published in a book.

Uncovering the secret of Chick-Fil-A's success.

Ranking the best westerns ever made.

Once a rare sight, the C-flap is becoming more common among baseball hitters. Here's the story of how it came to be. 

Want to be a better writer? Study the habits of these famous writers.

This made me laugh out loud.

How to beat the Facebook algorithm by becoming your own curator. I don't really use Facebook for much of anything (except for friends who still want to stay in touch). It's definitely not the site to use to curate news.

Tweet of the week (watch the catcher carefully):

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Book Review: The Escape Artist

Every once in a while a book comes along that I am hesitant to start because I know once I do start it I'm not going to be able to put it down.

Brad Meltzer's new book The Escape Artist is just such a book.

And it's no big surprise that it debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list.

The best thrillers are those where it's hard to separate what's fact from what's fiction. Meltzer intersperses his books with details that only come from meticulous research. For example, one of the main characters, Jim "Zig" Zigarowski is a mortician at Dover Air Force Base which is home to the government's mortuary. Any soldier killed in action is brought to Dover. So are CIA undercover agents that have died in the line of duty. And many others. Meltzer's description of the mortuary is so detailed you feel like you are right there. And I came away with a much greater appreciation of the work that is completed there by our unsung heroes who go to tremendous lengths to make sure that their fallen sons and daughters are properly prepared to be given a decent burial.

When a small plane crashes in Alaska with the Librarian of Congress and several others aboard it is up to Zig to deal with the bodies as they are brought to Dover. He is shocked to discover one of the victims is Nola Brown, a young woman who many years earlier had saved his own daughter's life. But as he completes his examination he realizes that the woman is not Nola Brown at all. Nola is alive and on the run. Why did she go to such lengths to fake her death? Who is she running from? And why? Zig is determined to get to the truth. But at what cost?

I would share more but that would be telling. Suffice it to say that because Meltzer does such a great job of grounding his stories in what is true that it makes the plot much more realistic and as a result the novel much more fascinating to read. Also he's a master at the unexpected plot twist - just when you think you know where the story is headed he brings an unexpected twist (or two or three).

Meltzer has made a career of constructing page-turning thrillers and The Escape Artist is no exception. Pick up a copy and then block out time to read it. Once you start it you won't be able to put it down.

My rating: 4 1/2 stars.

Note: this book contains adult language.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Weekend Links 3-30-18

A shorter than normal collection of links for your weekend reading. Just means I had less time to hunt stuff down this week.

Facebook has been in the news a lot because of a data breach. But the problem goes much, much deeper as Gracy Olmstead points out.  I've long since stopped sharing personal stuff on Facebook and these days don't spend a lot of time there.

There's a lot of truth in this article: Remote Workers Outperform Office Workers. I have worked remotely for the past fifteen years and always find I am far more productive working remotely than in an office.

Wise words from Andy Crouch: It's Time to Reckon with Celebrity Power.

It amazes me that decades after the end of World War II there are still news stories connected to the war. The latest is the discovery of the wreckage of the USS Juneau which sank in 1942. The wreck is notable because among the victims were the five Sullivan brothers from Iowa who insisted on serving in the Navy together.

Via The Curious Reader, a wonderful analysis of master and servant, Jeeves and Wooster.

The benefits of practicing attention management.

And finally, baseball is back!

Ready for some baseball!

A post shared by Snoopy And The Peanuts Gang (@snoopygrams) on

Friday, March 23, 2018

Weekend Links 3-23-18

Your Friday roundup of interesting stuff unearthed this week:

I've always been curious how rare book dealers appraise books. Surprisingly it's a much quicker process than you might think.

You can now take a free online course in Klingon.

Every wonder how to write a great Jeopardy! clue?

Why P. G. Wodehouse is the funniest author in the English language. It's hard to argue with this logic. This also happens to be one of my current favorite websites to visit.

Steve McQueen's 1968 Ford Mustang from the movie Bullitt is considered the holy grail among car collectors. For a long time it was thought to be lost. The fact that it was found is only the beginning of the story. 

In some parts of the country it's time for the dreaded PBS fundraising drive.
It's rare that umpires speak in public about their profession which is why this interview is so interesting.

This documentary about Fred Rogers looks like it will be amazing.

Related: Why Mr. Rogers still matters.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Weekend Links 3-16-18

A roundup of interesting stuff I ran across this week:

Last weekend marked the premiere of the film version of A Wrinkle in Time. Fans of the novel have been alarmed that removal of the faith elements from the novel are going to dilute the story. Plus here's seven things to know about the novel and its author.

Fifty years ago this week, Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey premiered. The amazing ways the film foretold the future.

Matt Chandler delivers a powerful message on biblical masculinity and its absence in our culture is at the heart of the brokenness we see today.

P. G. Wodehouse was one of the most prolific writers of all time. Here are nine of his lesser known books that are worth reading.

Productivity tip: How to Send Insights to Your Future Self.

In this brief video, Karen Swallow Prior explains why Christians should be readers.

The easy response to the news is to tune out. The much more difficult (and possibly better response) is to carefully tune in.

I love the fact that Food and Wine magazine chose a local burger chain as the nation's best. It is really good. Well worth the visit if you're ever in the neighborhood.

This is a fascinating article: How a book warehouse is changing Columbia University's Library.

I've never seen a play like this before. I am not sure how he pulled it off.

This is a fantastic idea.

Video of the week - Nutella: The Miracle of World War II. (Hat tip: Tim Challies)

Friday, March 09, 2018

Weekend Links 3-9-18

Your weekly roundup of interesting things from the web:

One of the things I love about Brad Meltzer's thrillers is the tremendous amount of research he puts into his novels. His new novel The Escape Artist was just published this week. One of the characters in the novel is a mortician at Dover Air Force base. While visiting the mortuary to do research for the book he discovered a message from 9/11 victim that was sent from beyond the grave. It's a fascinating story.

Gracy Olmstead has a terrific column on discovering community through book clubs. She also quotes P. G. Wodehouse which is an added bonus.

Productivity tip. sometimes you need a reset day.

Legendary North Carolina Tar Heels broadcaster Woody Durham passed away this week. I shared a few of my own memories of Woody here but Adam Lucas did a much better job summing up how Tar Heel fans felt about him. 

While lots of sports news outlets are facing cutbacks, The Athletic is growing by leaps and bounds. Seems like every day they are hiring more writers.

For baseball fans, the dead ball era refers to that period in history before the home run became commonplace. Most of our sights of the era have been based on photographs. However, this video shows footage from actual games of the era. 

The assassination of President James Garfield rocked the nation yet few people know the full story. Now there is a move underway to mark the site of the assassination.  If you want to learn more about the assassination, I highly recommend Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard.

One of the best ways to stay informed is to read less news.

This may seem counter intuitive but actually makes a lot of sense: I wanted to be a good mom. So I bought a gun. 

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Farewell Woody

As the ACC basketball tournament gets cranked up this weekend, North Carolina Tar Heels are faced with the sad news that Woody Durham, the voice of the Tar Heels, has died.

Growing up in North Carolina the son of a Tar Heel (my father graduated in 1958) I had no choice but to become a Tar Heel fan. Woody started his career with the Heels in 1971 when radio was still the dominant medium in college sports. As a result, generations of Tar Heels like myself grew up listening to Woody's calls.

The impact that Woody had on Tar Heel nation was visible. It was not uncommon during football games for fans to chant "Woody, Woody" over and over again until he would lean out the press box and wave to the crowd acknowledging he had heard their chants. Fans would frequently bring radios to the game so they could listen to his call while watching the action.

It was also common when games were televised for many folks to "turn down the sound" and turn on Woody's call of the game. I can vividly remember while a student at Carolina being at numerous viewing parties where Woody's call was on while the game was on television.

When I was at Carolina there were only eight teams in the ACC so the basketball tournament would start on the first Friday of March. I always made a point to make sure I didn't have any Friday classes after noon (and if I did I would have skipped them) because not only would be calling the Carolina game he would call the entire tournament. That meant on opening day he would call four games. Stop and think about that for a moment. And he was just as sharp at the end of the day as he was at the beginning. It was the one time of the year that no matter which ACC school you pledged allegiance to you would have the privilege of having Woody call your team's game.

The reason that he connected so well with the fans was he was not only a Tar Heel (class of '63) but also at heart a fan. His excitement when Carolina had success was evident in the tone of his calls. All you have to do is listen to a few of his memorable moments to hear that at heart he's not just a broadcaster but a fan.

But I will always treasure the brief period of time when I got to work with him. I was a part time announcer and sports report at WCHL in Chapel Hill while I was at Carolina. I was fortunate enough to work with the Tar Heel Sports Network my senior year including conducting locker room interviews following home games during the 1987-88 season. I was able to sit in the booth and watch a master at work.

If I learned anything from working with Woody it was the importance of getting details right. For example, he was a stickler about getting players' names right. He hated mispronounced names. He also encouraged me to make sure to get the details right because they were important.

As a listener, Woody made it sound like he had a really easy job. But the fact of the matter is that he put an immense amount of preparation into each broadcast. It showed with the immense amount of information he managed to convey during a broadcast. Plus he was able to paint a word picture of the action like few other broadcasters have been able to since.

I would venture to say there are probably only a handful of announcers who have been able to make the personal connection with their fans they way that Woody Durham did. He was definitely one of kind. And Tar Heel nation will miss him greatly.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Weekend Links 3-2-18

After an unexpected week off a whole host of links for your weekend reading. I'm spending the weekend off of social media and am going book hunting. We'll see how that goes. Meanwhile, enjoy these articles.

This is fascinating: these astronauts have seen Earth from space. Here's how that experience changed them.

Odd but true: divers found an undetonated World War II bomb in Sydney harbor.

Someone decided to abandon a Boeing 737 in Bali and nobody knows why.

If you can't remember the last book you read or the last movie or television show you saw you're not alone.

Speaking of reading, here's how to read more books. I have found that I have to make time every day to read. Plus I have at least one book I am working on at any given time. Right now I am churning through about seven books a month and that feels like a pretty good pace. I also follow lots of different bookish people on Instagram and it's a treasure trove of inspiration.

Tim Challies weighs in on why men don't read books written by women. I think he's on the right track in terms of how writers target their writing for a particular audience but mostly I think it has to do with how publishers market the books.

Quote of the week: Carl Trueman on the Oscars:

I make a point of never watching the Oscars. If I want to waste four hours of my life being alternately patronized and reminded what an abject failure I am according to the criteria of contemporary society holds dear, I can always read The New Yorker.

I don't like to wade into politics here any more in large part because it has become far too toxic to discuss. However, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to share this column from Mona Charen. Last week she was booed off the stage at CPAC because she dared to call conservatives on their hypocrisy when it comes to sexual harassment and the chronic excusing of past behaviors of their candidates. I applaud her for her courage. I wish more conservatives had her backbone.

Guns have also been a hot topic in the aftermath of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. But this piece by David French is very thoughtful and worth careful consideration.

Joe Carter wraps up his series on how Christians should engage with the news. In summary, consume less of it. The previous installments are here, here, and here.

A related issue that frankly has been woefully under-reported is the plague of fatherless homes. Matt Walsh has some great insights into things every boy needs to learn from his father.

Matt Szczur may have moved on from the Cubs to the Padres but he still has fond memories of the 2016 World Series. He's also quite the talented artist.

"Great people choose to do what is right no matter what." That certainly rings true for Iowa's Jordan Bohannon who missed a free throw on purpose.  A very classy move.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Weekend Links 2-16-18

A weekly roundup of links of interest. Commentary included at no extra charge.

Pitchers and catchers report this week which means baseball season is right around the corner. The big story this offseason has been the extremely cold free agent market. George Will offers some very sensible analysis why teams aren't going to spend money on expensive free agents. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the start of new trend.

This interview with Roy and Karen Prior on marriage is well worth reading. I found myself thinking a lot about how I met my wife and how much God has blessed our family in reading their story.

Some helpful advice here on how to become a morning person.

This is interesting: The Phantom Tollbooth and the Redeeming Power of Words.

This sounds like a dream job to me!

An important article from Russell Moore: How to Teach Boys to Respect Women.

Now we know the origin of "Who's On First?"
More productivity advice: why your phone's airplane mode is not just for flying. Because I use my cell phone as my work phone it's hard for me to disconnect at times. But this is a terrific idea.

Fun fact of the week:

A post shared by Mental Floss (@mental_floss) on

Friday, February 09, 2018

Weekend Links 2-9-18

It's a cornucopia of interesting links this week.

This is interesting: 16 facts about Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. This makes me want to go read the book.

Articles like this make it harder to enjoy football. There was a time when I was truly interesting in watching it. Not anymore.

If you are a football fan enjoy it while you can because the sport is doomed.

Thomas Boswell was right - baseball is better than football. There's also this from George Carlin.

Spring training starts next week. Here are the report dates for every team.

One of the best shows currently on television is the Inspector Morse prequel Endeavour (shown on PBS here in the United States). This is a fascinating interview with Russell Lewis, the series creator and sole writer.

America is at her greatest when she accomplishes great things. Just ask Elon Musk. (As a side note, I am currently reading a second book on the Apollo space program and find myself longing for the days when we dared to do difficult things).

This seems to fall more in the category of "don't try this at home". However, I know of at least one person who does one of the things on this list regularly.

How Groundhog Day (released 25 years ago!) shows we are "stuck with virtue".

Quote of the week:

Abide is an old fashioned word. It simply means remain, stay, or dwell.  The challenge is for us to continue to be immersed in, satisfied by, surrounded by, empowered by, protected by, and infused with Jesus.
Read the whole thing.

Some interesting thoughts on The Post and the current state of the press. Lots of stuff here to think about.

This is an amazing article written by a long-time photojournalist. The story - about one man and a photograph - is pretty remarkable.

This article from WORLD Magazine on the current turmoil at Moody Bible Institute is incredibly detailed and provides a pretty comprehensive account of the challenges facing the college.

Recommended reading: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.
This book wasn't on my to be read list at the beginning of the year but I ran across it a library book sale and couldn't resist. I had seen it recommended several places and now I understand why it was getting such tremendous endorsements. It's an amazing account of a group of working-class boys who fought theri way through the Great Depression to defeat the heavily favored German team in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. It's a terrific read and well worth your time.

Incidentally, pay particular attention to the prologue of the book. I love the story of how the author stumbled onto this tale. It made reading the book even more enjoyable.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Weekend Links 2-2-18

A few links of interest for your weekend reading:

Brad Meltzer is one of my favorite authors. His political thrillers helped get me interested in reading fiction again. But he also has written a series of children's books entitled Ordinary People Change the World. In this wide-ranging interview he discusses the latest entry in the series as well as what inspired him to write the books in the first place.

The gentle - and radical - faith of Mister Rogers. In related news, Tom Hanks will portray Mister Rogers in an upcoming film.

Last week we had the class of 2018 for the Baseball Hall of Fame announced. The election results refueled the debate over whether Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens (among other steroid users) should be allowed induction into the Hall of Fame. Don Yaeger makes the compelling case against their election (which I also wholeheartedly agree with).

This is something I honestly had not considered: 4 ways that Netflix perpetuates modern anxieties.

I try to shy away from political commentary with the exception of a small handful of writers. David French is one that I make a point to read pretty much everything he writes. In this column he manages to sum up perfectly the issue that is at the heart of the culture wars: masculinity.

Tweet of the week (this video gave me chills):

Friday, January 26, 2018

Weekend Links 1-26-18

A roundup of interesting stuff that I ran across this week:

I really appreciate Tim Challies' analysis of the Billy Graham Rule and its practical application. As usual, he has taken a very thoughtful approach to a thorny issue.

This is cool: Trash collectors in Turkey use abandoned books to build a library.

That time Edgar Allan Poe pranked New York City and inspired Jules Verne.

This is right on the money: America needs more gentlemen. Thank you Peggy Noonan for writing this column.

This is the first of what promises to be a fascinating series of articles: How should Christians think about "the news"?

Why this guide to "intelligent reading" should be on your to be read list. It's definitely on mine.

"Follow Your Heart" has to be without a doubt the worse advice you can give to someone. Don't believe me? Here are ten great reasons why.

Tweet of the week:
Congratulations to the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2018! Another fun note via Jayson Stark: with Chipper Jones' election to the Hall of Fame, he becomes part of the only foursome of teammates in the Hall of Fame that spent 10 or more years with the same club (the other three are John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Greg Maddux).

This speaks to me: 12 bookstores worth traveling for. I love visiting book stores when I go to different places.

What I'm Reading: The Rubber Band and The Red Box by Rex Stout.
I first became intrigued by the Nero Wolfe mysteries watching the A&E series A Nero Wolfe Mystery some time ago. Then last fall I read Fer-de-Lance and The League of Frightened Men (the first two Wolfe novels in the canon) and was immediately impressed by how well the TV series captured the essence of the books. Rex Stout managed to create one of the most interesting detectives in the history of mystery fiction. Each book has been tremendous fun to read so far. I count this series among the many that I am thoroughly enjoying.