Monday, June 30, 2014

June Ends on a Grand Note

With a victory for religious freedom, courtesy of the Hobby Lobby decision.

Go Supreme Court!  Yay!  You got this one right.

No one should be forced to violate his conscience.  Pay for your own damn contraception.

* * * * * * *

Oh, and in an entirely unrelated act of love and good humor, my hamster-obsessed, nine-almost-ten-year-old Little One emailed me this:

Not sure how appropriate it is, but, hey, it made me laugh out loud, so that’s gotta count for something major, right?

Anyways, arrivederci, June!  I’m ready for July …

Dropping Out

Okay, its official.  Im going to drop out of politics for the month of July.  True, I am not in politics, but here in 21st century America, everything is politics.  Everything.

Not anymore.  Not for me.

Honestly, its depressing.  One political party is evil, one is stupid, and both are self-serving and power-hungry.  And since I am powerless to change anything except with a meaningless vote every November (and no, I am not going to run for office a la Mr. Hopper Goes to Washington), I no longer feel the desire to stay plugged into each and every micro skirmish in the degrading, day-to-day tactical war of attrition we call politics.

I am dropping out for the 31 days of July.  I want to see if my outlook rosies and sunnies a bit.

Betcha it does.

Tonight, though, Im pulling an unread science fiction book off the shelf at random, filling the tub with hot, relaxing, Epsom-salt water, and enjoying life.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Master Bedroom

Well, here are some promised before and after pics of the “renovation” of the master bedroom.  I spent sixteen hours over six evenings cleaning, washing, spackling, priming, and painting the ceiling and walls.  All while the ladies were on vacation down in Hilton Head.  Poor Me.  Oh well, at least I had some quiet time after all the work was done and I could crack some books.  And the master bedroom now has a cleaner, neater vibe about it.


Take particular note of the nasty soot streaks up the walls and ceiling, particularly above the radiator.  Reminds of the double split interference experiment by Thomas Young we studied in Physics 101 which revealed the wave property of light.  At the end of the summer we’re going to buy a radiator cover to prevent this from re-occurring.

Oh, and pardon the piles of clothes everywhere. 



Other Cultures

Here’s something that I’ve been pondering, Ent-like, for over a year, and still have not come to a decision.  I’ve been feeling a pull to immerse myself in another culture completely and in totality, like plunging off a cliff into a small but very deep pool of water.  Learning everything I could about it – it’s history, geography, people, beliefs, language, technologies, wars, you name it.  Not for any practical purpose, mind you; just for the sheer intellectual beauty and exercise of it.

I’ve even discussed it with my wife, and she’s sees the merit in this when it’s explained this way.  So we’ve come up with a list of cultures I’d be interested in exploring.  In no particular order –

The American Indian

I have analysis paralysis about each one.  India – I’m worried that delving into their rich philosophic and religious thought would be a betrayal of my own religious beliefs.  China – the difficulty of the language (in both its spoken and written form), the lack of familiarity with names, it’s past century of communistic genocide.  Russia – ditto on the language and ditto on the genocide.  The American Indian – the lack of good books on the subject (admittedly, from some quick google and library searches).

All interest me deeply, though.  The American Indians because of my newly-discovered enjoyment of traditional western novels.  India exactly for its 180-degree view of man’s spiritual life.  And China and Russia precisely because they are America’s current global rivals.

What to do, what to do …

I guess it’s just another existential crises.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Orr / Not-Orr

Orr’s Law: Whatever the Thinker thinks, the Prover will prove.

Hopper: That’s blatantly, latently false!

I Need to Read

Something really, really weiiiiiirrrrrdddd ....

Something so far out of left field it actually curves space and time and winds up somewhere between home plate and the visiting team’s on-deck circle. Something so bizarre it’s like Nessie giving Bigfoot a ride across the lake while flipping all of us the bird.

That’s weird.

That’s what I need to read.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Existential Crisis # 23,452

All right – finished painting the master bedroom ceiling last night around 9 pm.  Took a nice, long, hot shower to remove all the sweat and paint and aches and pains (painting a ceiling sentences muscles I hardly use to a severe workout).  Slipped into a nice clean shirt and shorts, drank a nice cool glass of water, went into Patch’s vacant room with her nice powerful AC cranking, stretched out, pulled over the covers, and opened my nice new book. 

After reading six pages of Robert Jordan’s Eye of the World, I cried out – no one is in the house but me all week, mind you – I cried out: “This is just Tolkien redux!”  In the past four years I’ve re-read The Silmarillion, The Lord of the Rings (twice), The Hobbit, and even, for the first time, The Children of Hurin.  Seeing how thick Jordan’s epic is, a sudden cold hollowness made its presence felt in the pit of my stomach.  No, I could not read Eye of the World; at least, not now, not yet.  No, I could not spend an entire month on the thing.  The older and busier I get – and both seem to go hand-in-hand – the more precious free time becomes to me.  I could not squander twenty or so hours on this … thing.

I went down two flights to the writing desk and the stacks and stacks of books on the shelf behind it.  I selected another book I’d long been pondering.  A Western, and every summer the past few years I get a hankerin’ to read about the West, the Frontier, where one lived by the sweat of one’s brow, where fists and brains kept you and yours alive in a brutal, fickle world.  Life was simpler, and harsher, but somehow more authentic than the wage slavery me and millions like me are sentenced to in today’s world.  So I brought it back upstairs with me, and cracked open and read the first couple of pages of A. B. Guthrie’s The Big Sky.

“Ach!” I cried out to the empty room.  “I cannae read this!”  (Somehow I had adopted a Scottish accent.)  The hero of the novel just beat up his pa – a pre-emptive beating, it must be noted, since pa was about to whip the hero’s hide for gettin’ drunk – and left his pa in the rain and split the log cabin in Kentucky for points out West – No!  This didn’t feel right either.  Not the time for it; needs to ferment a bit more on the bookshelf in the basement.

How about something spiritual?  Something uplifting?  Pope John Paul II has just recently been declared a saint.  I have George Weigel’s Witness to Hope, Karol Wotyla’s official biography, on the shelf for more than a decade.  Twice I’ve cracked its 900 pages, one time getting as far in as page 119 (the bookmark was still there marking my farthest advance).  I seized it off the shelf, trudged back up two flights to Patch’s empty room, hopped in bed and read.  And five or six pages in, I realized, to the dread and existential angst bubbling up within me, I realized that tonight there would be no quality or quantity reading to sooth my roiling, paint-scarred soul.

Woe is I!  What am I to read next?!?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bunnies and Napoleon

What is the world, O soldiers?
It is I
I, this incessant snow,
This northern sky;
Soldiers, this solitude
Though which we go
Is I.

– “Napoleon,” Walter de la Mare

One of the many things I enjoyed about Richard Adams’s Watership Down is that each of the 50 chapters is prefaced with a short quote from some other literary piece.  Some come from works of fiction, others from encyclopaedic tomes.  Shakespeare shows up a few times (such as “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war” from Julius Caesar …) , and there may be one or two snippets from other plays.  Folk songs, philosophy, and scripture.  A few poems, like the one above.  Every preface has something someway to do with thematic elements in the upcoming chapter.

As a forty-something re-reading Adams’s book, I find myself familiar with perhaps a third of them in other reading (both primary and secondary sources).  But as a child of ten or so, reading Watership Down for the first time, I remember being both mystically puzzled and incredibly curious as to the meaning behind these prefaces.  A feeling which ultimately left me feeling quite inadequate.  Similar to in tone to my first baffling struggles, tongue poking out and face scrunched up, to solve an adult crossword puzzle.  But through twenty or thirty years of reading – and other literary explorations – the knowledge of these authors and their works has, by some strange form of osmosis, become part of me.

There were perhaps a dozen or so of these prefaces I liked; this was one I read last night so it is still fresh in my mind.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


You know prime numbers, right?  A prime number is a number that only has one and itself as factors.  Thus, the first couple of primes are 2 (the only even prime), 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, …

That’s what most of us learned at some point in our early math educations. 

But I just found out something so freakishly cool, it gave me goose bumps.

Note: It may not give you goose bumps.  It probably won’t give you goose bumps.

Take that number 5.  It isn’t really a prime.


Why not?

What other numbers, besides 1 and 5, multiplied together, yield 5?

Well, two complex numbers multiplied together can result in 5.

A complex number is a real number plus an imaginary number.  An imaginary number is the square root of minus-one.  It is represented by the letter i.  Trust me, these types of numbers exist, are fully accepted in the mathematical community, and actually have direct applications in the physical world.


… drum roll …

5 = (1 + 2i) (1 – 2i)

To multiply this out, multiply the first two numbers, the last two numbers and the inner-outer and outer-inner numbers.  When we do this, we get:

1 + 2i - 2i + 4

[That last two numbers multiplies out to minus-4 times minus-1, which is 4.]

[The middle terms cancel out.]

The result is:

1 + 4

Which equals


Ergo, 5 is not a prime number, because it is the product of

(1 + 2i)


(1 – 2i)


Monday, June 23, 2014


Busy busy busy this week, doing my annual thing when the wife and girls fly down to South Carolina to visit her family for the week …


Last year was little Patch’s room.  This year it’s the master bedroom.

Spent four hours yesterday moving all the furniture into the center of the room – bed, glider, armoire, two dressers, two end tables, TV and TV stand.  The amount of filth, in the form of dirt, old papers, magazines, baby clothing (mostly socks), rubber bands, pens, pencils, hair clips, hair bands, tissues (uck!), wrappers, makeup accessories, etc., that have accumulated underneath and behind all these things, was unbelievable.  Dust bunnies the size of tumbleweeds.  Ten years, more or less, of build-up (though to be fair to myself, I did do a massive clean, which included mopping the hardwood floor, sometime in the spring of 2010).  Yeah, it’s not a positive reflection of the Hoppers’ household hygiene.

Anyway, tonight I aim to wash the dirt and soot off the walls.  Once that’s dried, I need to spackle a couple of nail holes, some minor cracks in the curved ceiling above one of the windows, and a fifteen-foot crack running straight horizontal across our ceiling.

Tomorrow and Wednesday I want to put on two coats of primer and two coats of white ceiling paint.

Thursday and Friday I will apply two coats of the deep, dark mauve-y color we decided on (after ten years of a light lavender). 

Saturday morning I will put all the furniture back in its original place.  Or maybe I’ll re-arrange them.  Depends on my mojo level.

If everything turns out well enough, I may post before and after pics here.

Ah, painting.  The only home maintenance thing I can really do.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dyatlov Pass

Finally got around to watching that Discovery channel “documentary” on the Dyatlov Pass incident … the “documentary” where it’s posited that the Russian Yeti, or “Menk,” was responsible for the mysterious deaths of nine student hikers isolated out in the Ural Mountains in the thick, dark heart of the Soviet Union in February of 1959.

While I’m not particularly sold on that as an explanation, what has fascinated me was a throwaway comment I heard toward the beginning of the show.  Now, I have no idea whether it is true or not, but when I heard it something clicked in the old noggin and my jaw metaphorically dropped:

“The Dyatlov Pass incident is to Russia what the JFK assassination is to the United States.” (My paraphrase.)

The narrator went on to explain that no other subject in Russian contemporary history has created such an amount of conspiracy, alternative, and fringe theories as this one.  And since the Soviet authorities closed the book on the investigation three months later (to remain unopened for over thirty years) with only a vague “compelling natural force” as the cause of deaths, who could blame them?

Needless to say, Hopper now must do his own research on this …

Dogs and Rabbits

“A dog chasing a rabbit, which has a start of 150 feet, jumps 9 feet every time the rabbit jumps 7.  In how many leaps does the dog overtake the rabbit?”

- from “Problems for the Quickening of the Mind,” by Alcuin (AD 735-804)

Nice little riddle to tell right away if someone has mathematical aptitude.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sacred Heart Candle

I took the Little Ones with me earlier today on errands, and one stop I was not particularly looking forward to was at Home Depot.  The girls are all leaving me for a week beginning tomorrow, and I decided to paint the master bedroom while they’re gone.  Last year I redid Patch’s room after four years.  Now its time for me and the Mrs. to have our bedroom renovated, especially since its pretty much falling apart.  The paint on the walls is ten years old.  As is the soot from the radiators, the big crack through the ceiling, and the broken blinds.

So we go to Home Depot and I’m searching the aisles for some some primer, some ceiling paint, spackle, rollers and brushes, etc.  Also something to clean the walls with before I begin painting.  And lo and behold, I find this candle tucked in between the floor wax and the deck stains:

At Home Depot!

I had to pick it up.  Something to read my spiritual books by, I guess.  During my 20-day stay at the Hotel Valley Hospital a few years ago, I felt called to the Sacred Heart.  Saw something tacked up on the wall in one of my rooms; had it mentioned by a priest who visited me; also thought it particularly apropos to the reason I was there: my own pitiful heart.  So I purchased a thick book on the devotion, studied it a bit, but never did much about it.

Perhaps this is a sign that I should do something about it. 

I mean, a Sacred Heart candle – at Home Depot!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Congrats Patch!

Out littlest one is now officially a kindergarten graduate.  We are very proud of her.  She is reading a year above her level; her artistic skillz have gone through the roof; she is fearless and very excited to begin playing soccer in two months.  It is completely amazing how far a child can develop and advance in the span of a school year.  Completely amazing.

Congratulations my dear!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

On the Highway

“The two greatest highway menaces are drivers under 25 going over 65 and drivers over 65 going under 25.”

No real commentary; just something pithy I read today that I had never read before. As for me, I fall just slightly north of the median age-wise in that expression. So, does that make me a delight on America’s highways and byways? A treasure and a pleasure when you see me motor on past?

[Full disclosure: Last moving violation – driving on the shoulder, October 2006. Last (and only) speeding ticket – June 2002, 85 miles per hour on I-95 south.]

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Academic Excellence

Well, Little One finished her fourth grade career with an award for Academic Excellence – straight As, as best we can tell (we haven’t got her report card yet).  So while the family is out celebrating with some Sonic ice cream, Hopper is home slaving away putting air conditioners in four rooms on two floors in this mid-90-degree evening.

But I’m very well pleased with my Little One.

(And they’re bringing me back a shake …)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Godzilla (2014)

Or, Fat Godzilla vs. The Cloverfield Twins

Or, why can’t an American film studio do a decent Godzilla flick?

[mild spoilers]

Yeah, Godzilla 2014 is getting a lot of positive reviews.  Was the main reason, all these years after surviving that 90s Godzilla thing, that I wanted to see this one.  Turns out I lost gigabytes of street cred convincing my buddy to see it with me (thinking it would be too intense for my nine-year-old Little One).  I felt obligated to apologize to him as the final credits rolled up the screen.

Main complaint: You don’t see Godzilla until nearly an hour into the film. 

Secondary complaint: Yes, he’s fat.

Tertiary complaint: Everybody but the Breaking Bad guy is a one-dimensional product of lazy boring screenwriting, acting, and directing.  Even the Japanese scientist guy, who every critic seems to be praising, fails us.

Let’s address these, shall we?

Sometimes it’s good to hide the  monster.  Think Arnold’s Predator, Cameron’s Aliens, even Pitch Black’s carnivorous flying thingies.  It all works very well – ramps up the tension, magnifies the scares, delivers a satisfying “reveal” that makes us root for our beleaguered heroes fending off their foul, disgusting nemeses.  But what if your creature is several hundred feet tall, and is more interested in knocking a building down than ripping out your larynx?  Do the same rules apply?

I think not.  In the case of the city-size monster, you want to see him.  You want the visceral terror of fleeing, antlike and powerless, from something towering over you that can blot you out of existence without even acknowledging you.  It’s one reason why I think Spielberg was absolutely correct and a hundred percent effective showing his fifty-foot tall tripods in Act I of his War of the Worlds remake.

Here we see footprints.  We see 1950s stock footage of something rising on the ocean horizon.  Eventually we see news helicopters broadcasting a few seconds of footage of Godzilla bodyslamming another monster – then we immediately cut away to reaction shots of fleeing citizens.  Screw the reaction shots.  I want to be the one reacting, in my movie theater seat with the goofy 3D glasses on, thinking that if Godzilla doesn’t see me and eat me, step on me, or nuke me with his fire breath, I still court death from collapsing skyscraper.

And why is it so hard to reimage Godzilla?  The 1990s beast looked more like a cross between an iguana and Stan Laurel (that overinflated lower jaw they share is what I’m getting at).  2014 version looks like he needs to take in a couple of Weight Watchers meetings.  He’s husky.  Stocky.  Big-boned.  Okay, he’s fat, and probably obese if you extended that BMI table out to five hundred feet and five thousand tons or whatever.

The movie makers seem to think the best way to make a movie entitled Godzilla is to spend the majority time on two different giant creatures, called MUTOs.  (It’s an acronym for something or other.)  One’s bigger than the other, one’s a female, one’s a male, they eat radioactivity or something.  To me, guy in the chair in the theater, they just looked like Cloverfield’s cousins – gangly spindly legs, ferocious attitude, confused and not quite at home in our world so bam! there goes the neighborhood.  Godzilla saves us somehow or someway, but don’t let down your guard cuz he’s not good either, maybe, we’ll have to see next sequel if there is one if it makes enough money.  The backstory kinda made sense when I was watching it, but dunno if I can repeat it a week later.  Also, they killed Bryan Cranston way too early, so right then and there I rooted for their demise (the monsters, though I can understand if you thought I was talking about the movie makers).

Which brings me to my third complaint: I am patriotic as the next conservative, but these square-jawed military men, especially the vanilla hero of our movie, are all just plain boring.  Ditto the other extraneous characters: the wife, boring, the little tyke, boring, the obligatory Japanese tyke, boring.  The only interesting guy they kill off a half-hour in and leave us with these bands of bland beige banal boredoms.

All that being said, I still like Godzilla, still want him to come to the big screen in a way that does honor and homage to the two or three hundred hours I spent as a kid, mostly on Saturday mornings, glued to the teevee set watching the big rubber-suited reptile fight all those other big rubber-suited reptiles.  And apes, robots, pterodactyls, caterpillars, three-headed alien monsters, and whatnot.  I’m looking for cosmic justice here, cosmic justice in the form of a decent flick, not just a whole building of computer animators doing this and that with the pixels to try to make me think I’m watching a giant green lizard on the big screen.  They owe me, and after failing now for two major movies, they get one more chance.

Grade: C-minus.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Prejudice Hurts

Saw this and I laughed until nothing but hoarse high-pitched squeaks wracked my body, convulsing in waves of uncontrollable guffawage.  Was it a rare bad case of the giggles?  Was it the slap happies?  Who knows – least of all I, susceptible at a moments notice to the transformation into a quivering bowl of jelly.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Lotus Eater

In afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon.
All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.

(from The Lotus-Eaters, by Tennyson)

I feel like a lotus-eater myself, imprisoned at some mid-dimensional realm, not quite here, not quite there, a Trekkian neutral zone where nothing ever happens, never fully healthy in mind or body or spirit, marking time in a perpetual replay of some cold November day in 1988 or 89, the second hand moves ever faster, especially when I’m not looking, and the face in the mirror is not the one I saw last time I looked.

[I need to shake this cold, now going on six days.  Come to think of it, I need to shake my life, now going on forty-plus-plus years…]

Friday, June 13, 2014

Dearth of Blogging

Hi … I know that I have not been holding up my end of the bargain here, i.e., a subjectively interesting post on a daily basis.  Yeah, I’ve been posting some mildly amusing pics and stuff, but I haven’t been able to dig in and write something of consequence.  Not to make excuses, here are my excuses:

1) Sick as a dog – however sick that is – since waking up Monday morning.

2) Busy as a bee – if that bee was overworked, overtired, fighting flu-like symptoms and generally a miserable s.o.bee – all week at the job.

3) Not inspired to do anything in the evening except lay in bed with the sheets pulled all the way up to my chin.

Monday night I had the chills and dizzies.  Tuesday morning I sweated all day like a I was an extra in the mid-80s “Satisfaction Guaranteed” video by The Firm (now there’s a simile for ya).  Wednesday I had all sorts of Important Deadlines at work, and a pounding headache to boot.  Thursday was Little One’s poetry recital at school and I drove all over the county in the rain in a frenzy.  And today … well, the cold has migrated into my nasal passages and chest; I feel like I have about a half-ton of phlegm occupying my throat. 

But there’s been stuff to blog about.  Saw the new Godzilla movie over the weekend.  Some thoughts on the latest read, a re-read from my youth, Watership Down.  There’s the aforementioned poetry recital.  My two nemeses at work are gone.  A post on Tolkien I wrote in my head in the shower.  Stuff like that.

Should be able to do some writing this Father’s Day weekend …

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Hmmm ... Makes Sense

[Note: Hopper is a big fan of the Sacrament of Reconciliation ...]

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Astronomical Stupidity

There are at least three things wrong with this latest twitter pic from the geniuses over at the Executive Branch. 

I know you can pick out the most obvious one, but can you find the others?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


This picture is supposed to represent a technological span of 25 years.

For yours truly, it represents one of about three years. 

Yep, up until 2011, I was typing away blog posts on that dinosaur to the left.  And I still don’t have one like the one on the right – I compose the majority of my posts on my Dell desktop, produced sometime in 2004 ...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sad News

Just found out this morning that my pastor of ten years is being reassigned to another parish effective July 1.  This man baptized both our children and gave Little One her first Holy Communion and first Confession.  He visited and prayed with me several times and consoled my family during my three-week hospitalization back in February of 2009.  I visited with him before my follow-up surgeries and we spoke of deep theological truths and he gave me the Anointing of the Sick sacrament several times (even right before our flight to Paris to allay my flying phobia).  Later he suggested I become an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion.

Though he will only be moved a town away, the congregation was stunned when we heard the announcement.  So was he; filled with shock and surprise he could barely hold back tears as he read the archbishop’s letter to us all.  And not only is he leaving, but his right-hand-man, a good young priest originally from Columbia whom both my girls grew fond of, is being reassigned to a church in Philadelphia effective that same day.  It’s like our parish is being decapitated.  We don’t even know who will be replacing them in three weeks.

We are all numb.  Please pray for these good men.

Saturday, June 7, 2014


Glad you asked:

Yeah, after a solid spring of nonfiction (math, religion, Civil and World War), I suddenly find myself jonesing for fantasy fiction.  Long, involved, world-creating fantasy fiction.  Reading The Hobbit two weeks ago made me realize this; reading Watership Down now has only cemented it.  So I picked these trio of hefty paperbacks off the shelf behind me and will hit them all in order from elbow outward as the summer progresses.

Robert Jordan’s Eye of the World, the first book of his acclaimed Wheel of Time series (of at least a dozen books, still going strong, if I remember correctly, a half-decade after the author’s death), is first on the list.  I read it way back in 2000, living expatriotly of sorts down in Maryland.  Lots of Tolkien analogousness (to put it kindly), but it sits kinda fondly in my memory, though I never progressed past Book I.  So, I will give it a re-read.  There were some things I like, but can’t comment on it just yet as my mind is that proverbial leaking sieve.

Soldier of Sidon by Gene Wolfe is on the arm because, well, it’s by Gene Wolfe.  Dying to read more of his stuff.  Why not now?  The book is not of the world-created fantasy fiction per se, but takes place in ancient Egypt as imagined by the author.  So – what’s the difference, I ask?  We’ll see. 

And last, Robert Silverberg’s Majipoor Chronicles.  A dozen or so short stories taking place in his Majipoor world, where his Lord Valentine book takes place.  Or books, dunno.  Just remember reading Lord Valentine’s Castle (though never finishing it) during one of my week-long solo vacations at my parents’ house in Lake George during the late-80s.  For nostalgia’s sake I want to revisit it.  Plus, Silverberg has a really really sweet knack for creating intense fantasy worlds.

So there you have

What’s On Deck.

Friday, June 6, 2014


25,567 days ago the Allies stormed the beaches at Normandy, the beginning phase of Operation Overlord to liberate Europe from the tyranny of Nazi Germany.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Book Review: Shipkiller

© 1979 by Justin Scott

Well, thanks to Shipkiller, I now know all I ever wanted to know about deep-sea sailing, but was afraid to ask.  I’ve lived 430 pages over four days with jibs and genoas and lateens, ketches, trimarans and beams, rigging and dhows and lanshes (sp?), dead-reckoning navigation, squalls, and, yes, even gross gross gross sea snakes.

Now, truth be told, I don’t really know about all the methods and materials of deep-sea sailing.  To be perfectly honest, it would probably scare the heck outta me.  Consider the ocean itself: massive, dark, bottomless, id-like.  I remember bobbing in the middle of Lake George as a lad, awaiting the return of the powerboat after I wiped out on water skis.  My only thought, troublesomely terrifying but held in check, was wondering what swam below and beneath, me at its mercy, me at the mercy of powerful yet simple forces beyond my control.  I can only imagine being alone in the middle of the Atlantic in a sailboat would be exponentially more frightening.

Peter Hardin does not find the sea frightening.  He thrives upon it, master and commander of himself, his boat, and the waves.  A middle-aged doctor who retired after a medical invention brought him untold millions, he and his wife Carolyn blissfully sail the seas, falling ever more in love with adventure and freedom and each other.

That is, until Leviathan, the world’s largest supertanker, runs them down somewhere in the northeastern Atlantic.  Their ship is destroyed, Carolyn is lost, and Hardin, catching the killer ship’s name and registry before blacking out, barely survives.  The tanker continues on, Goliath unaware of even David’s presence, a giant with no knowledge of the gnat it just happened to squash.

Our hero, barely alive, is found washed ashore on an English coast by a Nigerian doctor who nurses him back to health over the long days and weeks and months.  Eventually she falls in love with him, consoling him when one by one every legal and political channel denies him justice for the death of his beloved wife on the high seas. 

What else to do, a hundred pages in, except develop an intense Ahab complex?

We follow Hardin closely as he concocts a plan to sink the Leviathan: a new sailboat built for vengeance, an illegal weapon procured for the tanker’s destruction (which brings him to the attention of various national intelligence organizations), a meticulously-plotted course to hunt his prey down, and a whole host of adversaries – the tempestuous Cape of Good Hope, Iranian hovercraft pilots, the eeeevil crotchety Captain Ogilvy of the Leviathan, and those nasty nasty nasty sea snakes.  Heck, that part in the sea storm where Hardin’s sailboat is actually completely underwater brought previously slumbering neuroses and phobias up from my subconsciousness.

Oh, yeah, and there’s a stretch two-thirds of the way in where we’re certain Hardin’s mind has gone completely AWOL.  Something about the hidden meaning of triangles and not speaking a word for five straight weeks …

Hardin encounters his nemesis three times on the high seas in his bloodlust drive for revenge.  The first time, with the help of his Nigerian lover (Ishmael’s stand-in here?) our pseudo-sane doctor is faced with the choice of mutual destruction or no destruction.  The second, chased by just about every single OPEC air and watercraft, results in, well, basically stubbing the giant’s toe and, yes, plummeting into those snake infested Gulf waters.  And the final confrontation –

Well, you’ll just have to read this page-turner.

Grade: A – 

Colonel Lego

[Spotted this on the twitter feed at NRO yesterday and thought it clever enough to induce a broad, experience-based smiled and a satisfactory chuckle ...]

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Shift of Gears

A lot of thought over the past two weeks; some bloggable, some not.  Also, some of extreme import, some not so much.  For something somewhere in the middle, I offer a shift of gears in my Current Reads.

Currently, well, currently as of the third week in May, I was thick in 1940 Europe as the Wehrmacht was rolling unstoppably east and west.  Technically, I was still reading PKD’s Exegesis, though that had stalled a few weeks earlier.

Then, said I, this World War II stuff, suddenly and swiftly I realized, is eternally depressing and intolerably insufferable to my soul.  I need a break from the war thing.  190 pages in to Beevor’s (excellent, mind you) book The Second World War, I need to put it down.  Mr. Atkinson, Mr. Eisenhower, I must put your books, which I planned to read in June and July, back upon the shelf.

Similarly for PKD.  Though not as soul-crushing as reading through the endless atrocities of the Germans and Japanese – even in passing – the further I read into the Exegesis the more pity I felt for the man.  A genius, no doubt, but a severely unbalanced one.  Still, an interesting read, but I have too much on my plate to continue further exploration of this work.  I decided to purchase it should I find a copy well below its $40 hardcover price and will return to it at some murky, undefined period in the future.

Instead, I found intense and unaccustomed joy in re-reading Tolkien’s Hobbit for the first time in nearly forty years.  I plan on giving a nice copy of the book to Little One for her tenth birthday this September, and after she’s done I think I’ll read it aloud to both she and Patch in the fall.  Then I moved on to the pageturner known as The Shipkiller, a unique cross between Melville and Cussler that I just can’t put down.  Once I finish its 430 pages – probably Thursday or Friday – I will turn to another childhood classic and joyful memory, one again I haven’t read in nearly forty years, Watership Down.

Now I have to weed through what I should and should not reveal here at the Hopper in future posts.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Three Junes

Little One, my budding writer, is struggling to finish the year with straight As.  Inexplicably – to me, at least – the hardest B for her to bring up to an A has been in Writing.  Since I’ve seen this child’s development as a writer, I can’t believe she’s not acing the subject (though her spellign needds a bit of work, unlik mine).  However, despite my admitted bias, I’m still blaming her teacher.

So last night I had the dream I was back in high school, and her teacher was now my teacher.  Being June 1, he gave the class an assignment: write three sentences with the word June in it.  Wouldn’t that be redundant, a literary faux pas, I asked him.  Apparently in my dream I was an annoying thorn in his side.  Just write three sentences with three Junes, he replied sourly, and I knew I would be called on first to read my work.

So here’s what I wrote:

Later that June Hemingway was obligated to spend three weeks with McDonald, whose wife happened to be named June.  Ernest had spent the past three Junes on safari in Kenya with his old friends Bookbinder and Doggett, both of whom had wives coincidentally – and ironically – named June.  So that entire month in 1937, as he stared at his June calendar, listening to June McDonald babble on and on while reminiscing of drinking binges with two other Junes during three previous Junes, Hemingway began his most famous unfinished short story, “June.”

There.  That’s nine Junes in three sentences, three times as many as the teacher called for.  Wonder what grade I got?  Maybe I’ll find out in tonight’s dream …