1. Atlas Shrugged

If six years ago you were to tell me my favorite book would be an epic, philosophical, economic thriller written by an atheist, I would have assumed that you don’t know me. Nonetheless, I went through Atlas Shrugged three years in a row (2015-2017), and each read deepened my affinity for the book.

Atlas Shrugged grabbed my attention immediately with the characters. Because the story is philosophical in nature, many of the characters are idealistic, yet Ayn Rand writes intriguing backstories for these people. I often found that it was my interest in the characters that spurred me onward in the story. Let me introduce just a few of the protagonists: Continue reading “1. Atlas Shrugged”

When I Am Afraid

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19:11-12

It’s strange that I find myself drawn to water, considering that I almost drowned when I was five. I was exploring a field with my brother, took a false step, and found myself in another dimension: air was replaced by water, warmth with cold, peace with fear—I couldn’t swim. A scream goes nowhere in water; it drifts around your head in vacant bubbles. The experience left me terrified of deep waters, yet I always find myself drawn to lakes, ponds, and oceans. Fear is like water, like drowning. It slows movement and brings a unique degree of clarity to life. It shows what we love; it reveals our faith.

***

I never considered myself a fearful person. My mild arachnophobia was an acceptable trait; my acrophobia disappeared in high school, after a week on a high-ropes course; and the phantoms of my childhood hydrophobia, repressed by swimming lessons, resided only as tokens of the past. All things considered, my worries were generally healthy and relegated to practical areas of my life. The last time that panic ran rampant in my thoughts was when I stumbled across a timber rattlesnake. My mind was contemplating the dietary habits of black bass, and his senses were absorbed in basking. Our acquaintance was brief and professional. Continue reading “When I Am Afraid”

2. The Count of Monte Cristo

I first ran into The Count of Monte Cristo in movie form, when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school. I was living in the Philippines, my parents were out of town, and a typhoon was blowing in. As I was watching, the protagonist, Edmond, had just gotten out of prison when the power went out, and when the power went out in the Philippines, it might not turn back on for day or even weeks. I was so caught up in the story that I went outside in the middle of the typhoon and started our generator so that I could keep watching the movie.

A few years later, I was concluding my second senior year of high school (I was a particularly motivated student) and borrowed the book from the library. It took me at least a month to finish, maybe two. Reading the book wasn’t a pivotal experience and I didn’t enjoy the book the way I enjoyed the movie.

Then six or seven years later, after I’d finished my English degree and written my first book, I got the audiobook for The Count of Monte Cristo. This second time through, I realized that the book is brilliant. It was still a journey to get through—389,180 words or 1,276 pages—but I listened to it in back-to-back years. Each time I listened, I understood more and appreciated it in deeper ways. While I still like the movie, I now see it as less than a shadow of the book.

My two favorite elements to the book are its plot and its wit: Continue reading “2. The Count of Monte Cristo”

A Tale of Two Roosters

It’s been a rough week to be a rooster on our homestead, whether chicken or quail.

Our quail rooster hit puberty a few weeks ago, which was entertaining at first. His attempted crowing sounded like moist flatulence for about a week until it matured into a beautiful trilling quail crow. However, the adolescent games of “tag” quickly turned into something darker.

In nature, mating is rather indelicate and often rough. Still our quail rooster turned into a little domestic abuser, despite the 1:4 rooster-to-hen ratio in our starter flock. When I found a couple of our hens bloody and one seemingly missing an eye, the rooster went straight into solitary confinement. Continue reading “A Tale of Two Roosters”

Albino Asian Cookbook Update and Seafood Curry

Where am I in the process? 

I did my initial edit. My wife read it and gave me her feedback, which I have incorporated. Now I just have (1) the final edit and (2) figuring out all the boring technical financial/internet stuff.

In the meantime, here’s another recipe:

 Seafood Curry

Introduction: Introduction: This is easily my favorite way to eat seafood. Coconut milk pairs beautifully with seafood, and the other ingredients build a complex taste. Serves 2-3. Continue reading “Albino Asian Cookbook Update and Seafood Curry”

Living in the Shadow

As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.

Psalm 103:15-16

My eyes burned from lack of sleep, because Hugh, the old man beside me in the truck, had insisted that early in the morning was the best time to fish, even if that meant getting up hours before the sun. Still, I was glad that we’d started before the roads got busy. Despite Hugh’s waning eyesight, he had to drive because I was unfamiliar with handling a stick shift, so the road became an obstacle course where the lives of men hung in the balance. I made peace with God on the way.

We traveled without speaking, Hugh’s waning hearing making conversation ungainly and impractical on the highway. Eventually, we pulled onto a dirt trail; the predawn Kansas sky was stained the color of my dark blue jeans while the sounds of nature were drowned by the rumble of Hugh’s F150 as we barreled toward our unseen goal. Finally we crested a hill overlooking a triangular lake, descended, and parked along the far side, which was a dam of dirt and chunks of concrete. Hugh tugged a rod from the truck bed and plucked a lure loose from a metal tackle box.

When I asked what lure I should use, Hugh tacitly pointed one out—he was there to fish, not teach—before he shuffled toward the water, the squishing sound of saturated earth under boots silencing the noise of nearby insects. He must have been my height at one time, but the vertebrae in his back had compacted on each other, shrinking his frame. I watched him for a while; Hugh had no patience, like a child, which was why he used lures rather than bait. As he meandered along the shore, each cast was a precise motion directed by years of experience, infused with precision and cunning. Even the sages among the fish were naive before him, yet Hugh’s steps were short and heavy, like those of an infant learning how to walk for the first time. Continue reading “Living in the Shadow”

3. Pride and Prejudice

For those who have known me and my love of books for a long time, there’s a burning question, perhaps an angry one: Why is Pride and Prejudice now number three on my top ten list after nearly a decade at number 1? Rest assured that my affection for Pride and Prejudice has not diminished; in fact, it’s probably grown over the years.

Here are a few reasons why: Continue reading “3. Pride and Prejudice”