In the eight years I've been grinding my own coffee, I've burned out the motor on three grinders: a cheap blade grinder, then a Cuisinart burr grinder, and finally a Capresso grind 'n brew. Either consumer-level grinders are poorly made, or my workload of 4-5 pots of filter coffee per week plus the occasional enemy (no space for a wood chipper in my city apartment) is too intense. Having spent more than $300 on now busted grinders I decided to investigate what it would take to acquire a grinder that I might reasonably expect to last for a decade.
The Rocky has commercial grade grinding burrs and is rated at 7.7 lbs per hour. Rancilio refers to the Rocky as "quiet during operation", and maybe it is in a relative sense, but I've yet to find a device that crushes things at a volume level approaching "serene". It is slightly less obnoxious than my previous grinders at close range.
Though I was sufficiently assured that the grinder would stand up to my usage, the quality that tipped the scales towards the Rocky is one most coffee nerd sites don't mention: height. At 13.8" tall, the Rocky is much shorter than most prosumer grinders, and it was the only grinder of its quality that fits easily under my shelves. I've had it for two years at this point and it still grinds as if I'd just taken it out of the box.
Greatfall, a take on religion in the world of Hugh Howey's Wool, was my introduction to Jason Gurley's writing, and I was immediately hooked on the fresh take on the Silos inhabited by the specter of an imposing and oppressive cult. Having enjoyed myself I set out to try some of Gurley's original IP through his collection of short stories, Deep Breath Hold Tight, which has become one of my favorite books.
Despite being introduced to Gurley through another author's universe, Greatfall is representative of his work. Gurley has a mind for building compelling speculative worlds, and there's a consistently oppressive, dystopian quality that runs throughout this book of seven short stories. The tone is reminiscent of Black Mirror, if the subject matter wasn't restricted to technology.
The collection is consistently excellent, from Wolf Skin and it's post-apocalyptic survival tale through The Caretaker, a story of a solitary astronaut and her growing realization that she may be the last living human being, on through Onyx, an exploration of guilt and class struggle on a space station as humanity escapes a decaying Earth.
It's The Dark Age that stands out the most for me, not just because it's the final story; the examination of the period surrounding a one hundred and fouty-four year deep space hibernation condenses a crew's lifetime of regret into several dozen pages of gut-wrenching regret. Deep Breath Hold Tight is the perfect book to read on a rainy January day punctuated by bouts of sobbing into a pillow.
Rarely do I dive right into the second book in a series, but I couldn't wait to start Rysa Walker's second time travel adventure: Time's Edge.
Picking up right where Timebound left off, Time's Edge feels like a seamless extension. Kate is off collecting the time travel enabling medallions from lost CHRONOS agents while Prudence and Saul could not care less. Could it be that Kate doesn't really know whats going on?
Appropriately, Time's Edge reads like the second novel in a series, and occasionally some development does feel forced, but I tore through this novel. With the technology and physics of her universe well set up in the first novel, Walker successfully sets out to develop her characters and the plot. I could have done with a bit more of the present time storyline, but honestly maybe her focus on other events will pay off (alternate time line Trey is a doofus.)
I'm looking forward to the next installment. For the brave souls amongst us: I've been told that there is a metric ton of Chronos Files fan fiction in Kindle Worlds.
Virtual reality becomes reality for folks afflicted with the Perma Effect. D. Rus' AlterWorld is the story of a terminal cancer patient who transfers his life into an MMO.
This is genre I've meant to explore a bit and Rus sets up a great series in this, his first installment. Humans, NPCs and AI mix to create a vivid world where loot and twinks abound. Max and his friends are permanent fixtures in a video game. While this gives him a new lease on life there is a lot to watch out for.
This is translated from Rus' native Russian. There are a few rough spots but this is an engaging and fast read.
It has been a while since I read a superhero novel. Meta, by Tom Reynolds, was all the fun I expected.
Metas, or superheroes, haven't been seen in 16 years. After the "Big Battle" in which two heroes duked it out and a number of normal people were killed, the Metas simply disappeared. Our protagonist Connor lost his parents that night. Nearly two decades later, Connor does a good deed and wakes up a Meta. He soon finds he is more powerful than any who've come before, and that he is certainly not alone.
Meta is a quick read. Reynolds is just finding his ground and defining his characters, while doing a good job at world-building. I will certainly be picking up the second in this series.
This collection of Mercy Watson books is all my seven-year-old daughter wants to read. They are cute stories with thoughtfully challenging vocabulary.
Mercy Watson is a pig who lives with her adopted human family. She loves toast with a great deal of butter and has wonderful adventures. The stories are entertaining enough that as an adult listener I chuckle quite often. The vocabulary and character names are well chosen, requiring a bit of effort but expanding her grasp of our language.
We had a hard time finding books that Hannah wanted to read. Now she reads me bedtime stories.
The Line is first in JD Horn's enchanting Witching Savannah series. The old South and the supernatural just seem to go hand in hand.
Mercy Taylor was born into Savannah's greatest witching family, but has no powers of her own. She makes the most out of her normal life, leading Gothic tours of Savannah, while her twin sister Maisie appears to be the real deal -- an incredibly powerful witch. All of that changes on her 21st birthday, however, when a murder upsets the power balance of her family and the world.
I read through his book in one sitting. The characters grabbed me and the story moved along at a fantastic pace. This was a welcome break from the space operas and zombie novels I've read so much of lately.
My daughter insisted that Nemo, our Great Pyrenees, needed this stuffed Yoda dog toy. My daughter likes it so much she now wants the Jedi master for her own.
A few days ago my daughter found this very nice quality Yoda for our dogs to play with. Today, when I suggested she let them have the doll, a giant fight broke out. It appears Yoda is so soft and snuggly that my seven year old wants him for her self. Yoda is inexpensive enough that I offered to buy a second one, but she now wants to try and share.
The stuffy feels well made and ought to last. I wouldn't give this to a puppy, for fear the stuffing will be everywhere, but my 2 year old dogs will not destroy it. The kid can share.
I loved Jenn Thorson's zany, absurdist space adventure There Goes the Galaxy. Join Bertram Ludlow as he negotiates what appears to be complete mental breakdown by saving the Earth.
With a wild sense of humor that is perfect for the genre, Jenn Thorson quickly sets up a hilarious, but oddly familiar, Greater Communicating Universe. After being kidnapped from Earth and taken to another planet, psychology doctoral candidate Bertram Ludlow is either going crazy or the Earth's sole defender from being redeveloped. Gruff sidekick nee abductor Rollie helps Bertram negotiate the wacky social and political atmosphere that stands in their way. They are a wonderful unlikely buddies pairing.
I'm looking forward to reading the second in this series, The Purloined Number.
Safety Tips for Living Alone is a true story of American service men and civilians sacrificing their lives during the cold war. Stationed on a precarious mid-Atlantic listening station, join the brave souls and their families as the end draws near.
This short kindle read was amazing. Jim Shepard tells a little known story from the Cold War expertly. The crew of Texas Tower 4, a poorly designed listening station in the middle of the sea, and their families, know death is likely on the way. How they approach this, and their last communications home, brought me close to tears.
Vaughn Heppner's The Lost Starship is a high speed space adventure. Join Agent Maddux, and his team of lovable rejects, as they save one branch of humanity from another.
Forget aliens, humanity is still at war with itself. Centuries after self imposed peace, a divergent evolutionary branch, the New Men, return from deep space with a vengeance. Agent Maddux, who may or may not be half New Man himself, gathers his team and sets off in search of an ancient, alien battleship that be the key to 'humanity' surviving.
I enjoyed The Lost Starship. Heppner keeps a breakneck pace and the books 371 pages fly by.
Pawel "Sariel" Kmiec's Incredible LEGO Technic: Cars, Trucks, Robots & More! is an inspiring gallery of amazing LEGO creations. Using the Technic system, and years of experience, Kmiec's work is stunning.
In Second Avenue Caper: When Goodfellas, Divas, and Dealers Plotted Against the Plague, “Ray” recounts his brave, quixotic, tragicomic adventures as an experimental AIDS drug smuggler who funded his operation by selling weed out of his New York apartment, during the early years of the “gay plague.” It’s a strangely fitting subject for a graphic novel, and Joyce Brabner and Mark Zingarelli graphic novel make it work as a history book that’ll make you laugh and cry. Cory Doctorow reviews.Read the rest
“Health and Safety” is the all-purpose excuse for any stupid, bureaucratic, humiliating rubbish that officialdom wants to shove down our throats. In the Interests of Safety, from Tracey Brown and Michael Hanlon, is the antidote: an expert dismantling of bad risk-analysis and a call-to-arms to do something about it, fighting superstition and silliness with evidence.Read the rest
LJ Kummer's Fun as Hell is a great kindle single. A fast read about a journalist and his girlfriend who take a training course intended to show civilians what war is all about.
Kummer share the tale of journalist coming to understand why he writes. As he and his surgeon girlfriend experience a rigorous military training program, the protagonist each exercise helps him understand why he has chosen his career.
Kummer doesn't leave you with a firm ending, but he manages to use the short story telling format well and leaves you thinking about what comes next.
I watch for cheap prices on Lens Pens, as I keep them on hand for cleaning eye glasses and cameras on the run. Anything in the sub $5 range catches my eye.
The lens pen sports a retractable brush at one end and a cap-covered, lint-free soft wiping element at the other. It is compact and protected enough to live in a pocket or glove box without collecting ruinous amounts of dust. Number of useful cleanings per pen varies on the size of and what I'm cleaning, but I tend to get quite a lot of careful use out of them. Grease and oil that gets picked up by the wiper don't get cleaned off, so over time you'll need to replace the pen.
I clean big lenses at home with a blower, lens paper and cleaning solution if needed. It'd be a waste to use one of these. In the field, however, this little guy shines.
Nothing has fed my ridiculous, personal anxieties like moving to a house with a septic tank. Lloyd Kahn's fantastic The Septic System Owner's Manual helped educate me enough that I'm back to worrying about other things.
When I bought my home, back in 2008, the fiberglass septic tank was leaking. I got all sorts of advice from folks that seemed to involve a lot of voodoo and very little science. I found this book and have been able to confidently make good decisions ever since. I replaced the tank with a very basic concrete design.
Kahn is clear, his story telling is whimsical while at the same time pointing out construction or political tragedy. His solutions are always steering you towards the simplest solution and to avoid adding points that can break. Complications in this type of system are messy.
Now I'll go find something else to worry about...
While no one can match the razor-sharp intensity of Neuromancer, there is plenty of room for writers to slot their books in the midst of William Gibson's later works, those multi-faceted stories that intertwine like a mutant caduceus to bring three tales to a head. Kingmaker by Christian Cantrell is one of those books.
The book, published last year by Amazon's 47North imprint, is a straight-ahead tale of a "heartless" assassin (his real heart is replaced by a mechanical one) named Alexei Drovosek. Drovosek's goal is to watch the old world burn and a new world take its place. With the help of an AI named Emma and a team of children he is training to take down the world's major business entities, he aims to bring freedom back to the planet.
It is, in short, a tall order. Does Cantrell pull it off? I think he does.
Read the rest
Read the rest
'Animal Architecture," by Ingo Arndt and Jürgen Tautz, with a foreword by Jim Brandenburg, is a beautiful new science/photography book exploring the mystery of nature through the "complex and elegant structures that animals create both for shelter and for capturing prey."
Arndt is a world-renowned nature photographer based in Germany, whose work you may have seen in National Geographic, GEO and BBC Wildlife.
Above, a grey bowerbird's bower in Australia's Northern Territory. "The grey bowerbird goes to extreme lengths to build a love nest from interwoven sticks and then covers the floor with decorative objects. The more artful the arbor, the greater the chance a male has of attracting a mate."
Read the rest
Read the rest
For those keeping track, futomono is the course in a Japanese kaiseki meal that consists of a lidded dish. Keeping the lid on Miriam Lass until the last minute of an episode that was already a feast of sadistic twists, morbid whimsy, and incredible food porn was a real treat.
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Read the rest
I am always looking for dog toys that'll keep both a very large Great Pyrenees and a pretty small Cavalier King Charles happy. The Starmark Everlasting Groovy Ball is a winner!
The Groovy Ball is a big rubber chew with ridges to work your dogs gums. It has several holes that snugly fit the Everlasting treats. Dogs find the variety of treats delicious and work at the ball until its gone. Everlasting means 1-2 hours if your dog isn't a able to pop the treats out. Nemo, my Great Pyr, can remove the treat with ease while Pretzel the Cavalier enjoys a really long chew.
Most importantly the Groovy ball, as are all the similar Starmark toys, is quiet. This is a go to treat when I need to focus.
Bios and trivia on all your favorite Muppets! The Muppet Character Encyclopedia appears to be the perfect guide to introduce young children to the entire cast and crew of the Muppets.
This would have come in very handy when I introduced my daughter Hannah to the Muppet Show, last year.