Movie Review: The Martian by Ridley Scott (Five Stars)

Movie Review: The Martian by Ridley Scott

Five Stars out of Five.

The best science fiction movie I’ve seen this decade. Most of the promotional stuff was not in the movie.

Follows the book—mostly. Good script; good cast; good effects. Looked as if it was filmed on mars, not in front of a blue screen.

Matt Damon nailed Mark Watney.

See it.

Book Review: Let Us Pray by Watchman Nee (Four Stars)

Book Review: Let Us Pray by Watchman Nee

Four Stars out of Five

A collection of Nee messages on the common topic of prayer, Let Us Pray lacks the unity and power of some of his better known works. That said, the opening meditation on the idea that God waits to do his will until we pray for it is worth the whole book.

Born in Manchu China of Christian parents in 1903, Watchman Nee was active in the study and spread of the Christian faith throughout his life, including the translation of English spiritual works into Chinese. Not surprisingly, the Communist Chinese thought him a threat to their new state. He was arrested in 1952 and spent the last twenty years of his life at hard labor. The circumstances of his death prompted suspicion he was murdered. Despite that seemingly narrow life, Watchman Nee influenced Christians around the world. His worlds are still popular and often quoted as received wisdom.

His work came to my attention in the 1970s. Then I found his style dense and hard to follow, perhaps due to my poor preparation or the translation because now I find his writing clear and compelling.

Year 51 Day 1


And many more.

Originally posted on Misty Midwest Mossiness:

Yep. It’ my birthday.

I have a busy weekend planned and took Monday off to recover.


Today (Friday) I’m off over lunch to my First Friday book club at the Westport Branch of the Kansas City Public Library.  This past month Between the Lines read The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.  I’m listening to it (still) and probably won’t finish it until later next week.  But it has been a funny read thus far.  I’m looking forward to hearing what the other members of the book group thought of this interesting centenarian’s adventure.


Saturday night is my final night of the year as a member of the ASKC Team Two volunteers who help visitors during our Powell Observatory public night.  Come on down for some fantastic star gazing after sunset Saturday night.


Sunday afternoon my hubby’s taking me…

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Middle East Lessons Learned

Once again the dogs of war howl in the Middle East (to use the common Anglo-centric term for what has variously been called the Cradle of Civilization, the Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia, the Outremer, the Levant and South-west Asia. Yes, I know those are not synonyms. So?).

Once again outsiders think they can impose simplistic solutions on tribal warfare that spans most of human history. Since Alexander defeated Persia, Europeans (or their American and Australian progeny) have tried to impose this or that system on top of the shifting sands of Earth’s only spot common to three continents. The Greeks failed, the Romans failed, the Caliphates failed, the Crusaders failed, the Mamelukes failed, the Byzantines failed, the Ottomans failed, the League of Nations failed, France failed, Britain failed, the United Nations failed and the Soviet Union failed. Yes, and George Bush and Barrack Obama failed (not to mention Reagan and Eisenhower). Vladimir Putin will fare no better. He’s a botfly to the festering sore Southwest Asia has always been.

In almost seven decades observing the potential and limits of military action, I’ve also learned a bit about the malleability of human nature. In a nutshell:

Wars are hard to win.

Peace is even harder to fashion.

Transforming a culture is Continue reading

Book Review: The Guernseyman by C. Northcote Parkinson (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Guernseyman by C. Northcote Parkinson

Four Stars out of Five

Rises from the sea of Napoleonic war British naval fiction. The protagonist is at once more human and more likable than the likes of Horatio Hornblower or even Jack Aubrey. The writing focuses more on his inner life as well. Parkinson’s skillful plotting places his hero at the scene of numerous real historical events.

Of particular note to American readers of this volume may be Parkinson’s examination of how the American Revolution looked from the British and Loyalist points of view, and how their side was troubled with almost insurmountable command and logistics issues.

The author’s name should sound familiar. Parkinson is the author of the famous Parkinson’s Law that work expands to fill the time allotted to it.

For the Love of Software

Bought a 4 Terabyte external hard drive to back up everything before upgrading our computer to Windows 10. Of course, when I installed its software, it locked up my computer. Several iterations of installing and restarting and a call to the company didn’t suffice, so the tech support lady “scheduled” a Level Two (Oooo) technician to fix my installation.

Spent an hour and a quarter with the Level Two guy; he couldn’t fix it either. Finally he loaded their older backup program from their website. It lacks the newer software’s whistles and bells, but it loaded. But … it didn’t work, and he was already gone. Color me frustrated. (Would that be black and blue?)

When I checked later, it had backed up everything, I think/hope. (Don’t ask.) Since Windows 8.1 does not do “image” backups anymore (Thank you, Microsoft, for dumbing down your software.), I went to the DOS prompt to instruct it.

Now I’m ready to upgrade to Windows 10. Wait? Didn’t I just say … Yeah, what’s your point? You want I should go to Apple? If Microsoft is run by cold-hearted zombies, Apple is a bunch of quasi-religious fanatics. There is Linux, but not for people like me.

And the beat goes on.

Re-Publishing Update


Living in the Spirit has not been available since CrossBooks closed in April. WestBow Press, an imprint of Thomas Nelson & Zondervan, will be my new publisher.

When the book is republished it will have over seventy changes. Many corrected typos, but some involved adding or deleting whole paragraphs. I sent the last text changes to Gateway Press this week. The cover “polish” is complete.

Hopefully, a better, more readable book will appear this fall.

Thank you for waiting.

“We can fix that with software.”

During the late 1970s I lead Air Force operational testing of then-new F-15 fighter avionics. Frequently the representatives of MacDonnell-Douglas, the aircraft manufacturer, and Hughes Aircraft Company, designer of the radar system, responded to discovered flaws with “We can fix that with software.” Sometimes they could; sometimes they couldn’t. Often the next round of testing revealed the “fix” introduced new problems.

Fast forward four decades. Wall Street, Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue are learning that “To err is human, but to really screw things up requires a computer.”

Welcome to the 21st century. Current revelations about Volkswagen malfeasance with automotive software promise recurrence. Soon that web-connected, camera-equipped television in your living room or your hand will surveil everything you say and do. “We can fix that with software” becomes as menacing as “we’re from the government, and we’re here to help you.”

Governments foreign and domestic already probe Continue reading

Book Review: In the Blackness of Space by Robert D. Kuntz (Five Stars)

Book Review: In the Blackness of Space by Robert D. Kuntz

Five Stars out of Five

“To be an adult means you give up seeing yourself as a victim.”

An amazing hard science fiction outing which I compare to The Martian, also published in 2014. While the two books share many parallels, Blackness attracts the reader with a protagonist so flawed that just riding a car is a trauma. How he ends up on NASA’s first interstellar mission, that’s the first (and most obvious) of many plot turns. (Unfortunately, it is spoiled in the plot summary)

Without making spoilers, I can’t discuss the last half of the book at all. The big climax is well foreshadowed but a total surprise. Seriously, how do you sneak someone into space? I know, the whole world knew Chapman was taken up drugged and why, but seriously.

Blackness is not only good science fiction, it’s a good exploration of a person’s inner struggles and his eventual coming to faith. Some readers will disagree with the form of that inner journey, but it’s integral to the plot. Well told. Before I read it, I thought the title obvious, even trite, but in fact it too is integral to the story.

As I read Blackness I toyed with ratings of three or four stars. The climax garnered its fifth star, but I can tell you no more without spoiling the fun.

Nice cover art. (Look closely.)

The Autumn Equinox is Here! Wait, What’s the Autumn Equinox?


The leaves are already changing here.

Originally posted on Misty Midwest Mossiness:


I’m a Libra so this is naturally my favorite day of the year.

I feel so balanced today.

Have a great day!

Posted from WordPress for Android via my Samsung smartphone. Please excuse any misspellings. Ciao, Jon

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