Monthly Archives: March 2024

The Iliad by Gareth Hinds

The IliadThe Iliad by Gareth Hinds
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had a vague idea that the Iliad was about the Trojan War and originally a poem, but not much more. This version in everyday English prose made it much more tractable. The story itself is rather repetitive and unpleasant, but apparently thrilling to readers (or listeners since it was probably based on oral stories) of its day. What’s new about this version is the illustrations, done in comic book style. That’s both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. They seemed too childish for the material and just not artistic enough. I’ve seen many illustrations in books that are higher quality. On the other hand, this book is classified as a Young Adult book, at least in my local library and perhaps having that familiar style would make it more appealing to young readers.

I did learn quite a bit about the original work, including the fact that it covers only two years of the Trojan War which was a 10-year war, and that Homer himself may have been fictional. Also, the war, as told by Homer, was largely decided by various gods helping or hurting mortals and often at odds with each other. In the end, it was a bit tedious to read with scores of cumbersome Greek and Trojan names in paragraphs like X killed Y and Z, Q killed P and twenty others, etc. At least it was something different. I read it because it is nominated for our book club.

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What3words – lunar eclipse, year of the dragon, Salt Lake City

Since today is a lunar eclipse, I thought I’d check my favorite random prediction site: What3Words. Where should you watch the eclipse?

watch.moon.eclipse – near Ely, Minnesota. It is visible from there, but also in fact, from all of North America.

It’s also the year of the dragon in the Chinese calendar, so it’s fitting that fire.breathing.dragon is in Xiamen, Fujian, China.

I have no idea why the site thinks is in East St. Louis, Ill. I know a couple of people who’ve lived there and it’s about as non-Mormon like as anywhere in America. It’s a rough neighborhood.


The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

The Turn of the KeyThe Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The highlight of this book was the delightful reading by Imogen Church, the voice actor. Not only was she an excellent actor, but she did a marvelous job with the many English and Scottish accents. The plot centers around Rowan, the new nanny at a creepy old haunted(?) house in Scotland which has been totally upgraded electronically with technology so advanced only a 7-year-old can possibly understand it. The pay is incredible because the preceding four nannies have left suddenly and without warning. Why? (Cue ominous music) But the man and lady of the house take off immediately after Rowan arrives and Rowan is left with three young girls who vary from adorable to hateful. There is yet a fourth daughter, a teenager, who is away but who is expected to return. From the first day, weird and frightening things happen – creepy noises at night, the climate system going wrong, locked doors becoming unlocked and vice versa. You get the idea. The story is told in a series of letters from Rowan to a solicitor asking for legal representation as Rowan has been charged with the murder of a child. We don’t know who the victim was or why she’s been charged.

I thought it was going to be a crime mystery, but the murder part is left alone till the very end. The main body of the story is really a haunted house/ghost story, not what I was looking for. The plot suffered from a lack of plausibility and Rowan is a hopelessly inept character, hard to find sympathetic. I was disappointed in the ending, but the story had enough action of the creepy sort to stay somewhat interesting.

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How the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein

How the States Got Their ShapesHow the States Got Their Shapes by Mark Stein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If history books in high school and college were this interesting, I might not have developed my hatred for the subject. Stein’s writing is factual but also entertaining. I had no idea about all the competitions, even small wars, over state borders. Another big surprise was how well Congress planned the development of the states west of the original colonies. Many of the oddities one sees in the borders were due to geographic necessity or common sense, usually involving natural obstacles like rivers or mountains. Politics played a big part, too, and there was occasional corruption and certainly greed played a role. I was amazed at some of what I learned, but it did become quite repetitive toward the end, since the same explanations were given again and again as most involved several states. I will point out one geographic fact that may be lost by some readers. The author points out how Congress tried to make various of the western states the same width or height as measured by degrees of latitude or longitude. He doesn’t mention that degrees of latitude are fixed distances, but degrees of longitude are not. The farther north one goes, the narrower one degree is. The southern end of New Mexico is just under six degrees of width and measures 350 miles. The northern end of North Dakota is about 6.5 degrees in width (more degrees) but only about 315 miles across. So the “equality” stressed in the book is only approximate.

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Dark Ride by Lou Berney

Dark RideDark Ride by Lou Berney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hardy is a hapless slacker working as a scarer at a third-rate amusement park and content in that role. Then he comes across two young children with obvious signs of abuse. He tries to get child protective services to investigate but gets nowhere with them. Slowly he begins to grow a spine and makes it his mission to rescue those kids. With the help of an unlikely motley crew (a lesbian goth, a teenage fanboy from the amusement park, and a dodgy prepper landlord) he launches, i.e. stumbles through, an investigation and eventual active rescue.

The dialog is witty and the suspense is, well, suspenseful throughout. As a retired FBI agent, I can attest that the investigative work is surprisingly credible (and entirely foolish for an amateur to undertake). I was amused at first and then became wrapped up in the action. What started as tongue-in-cheek morphed into a page-turner.

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Suspension arthroplasty on CMC joint – patient experience

I’m a man in my 70s who has suffered from osteoarthritis in both thumbs for over five years. For the first three years or so I got good relief from steroid injections, but that stopped working. I was reluctant to have surgery because it wasn’t clear which one would help. The pain was actually centered in my MCP (Metacarpophalangeal) joint, the one most people think of as the base of the thumb, where the webbing is, but the X-rays showed the narrowed bone-on-bone joint to be the CMC (Carpometacarpal) joint, the true base of the thumb where it joins the wrist. I chose the CMC operation for several reasons: 1 my doctor recommended it; 2 it’s surgically simpler with fewer risks and easier recovery; 3 it has a much higher success rate.

Different doctors have different preferences. Mine doesn’t do the “anchovy” operation where a tendon is cut to fill the void where the trapezium bone is removed. Instead he performs the Arthrex CMC suspension arthroplasty where that bone is removed and thumb bone is drilled and lashed to the adjacent finger bone to keep it from slipping into the empty spot, which eventually becomes filled with scar tissue. The operation was one month ago on my right (dominant) hand. I had general anesthesia with a nerve block in the arm and woke up with no pain and my hand in a cast. That night I took one opioid (Hydrocodone) pill for pain on the doctor’s recommendation even though I wasn’t hurting much because they say not to wait for the pain to get bad as the pill takes a while to work. The next morning I took another pill and one in the evening, I had minimal pain that day. The bulky cast meant there were many things I couldn’t do, but my fingertips extended out and I could use the hand to some extent as long as I avoided using the thumb.

The second day I didn’t take the opioid and haven’t since. Acetaminophen has been sufficient to deal with the pain, which has been surprisingly minimal throughout. On day six the doctor watched his P.A. remove the cast and swap it for a brace (aka, spica). The brace is similar to the cast in bulk and coverage, but is more flexible and is removable with Velcro attachment. My doctor was surprised and delighted that my pain was so minimal and I could touch my thumb to each finger easily when the cast and brace were off. I was warned not to pinch or squeeze with that thumb for six weeks and to wear the brace as much as possible, but it’s okay to take it off to shower or when necessary. I wore it to bed the first few nights after that, but found I could sleep more comfortably without it. I even did light chores, like emptying the dishwasher and doing some dishes as long as I didn’t have to scour. My wife did many things for me like cutting my meat and trimming my fingernails.

The next visit was to the P.A. a week later. On day 13 I resumed driving, although only on city streets, nothing high speed and only a few blocks., The doctor wasn’t present as the P.A. removed my stitches. She said I could get it wet and could resume running and exercises as long as I avoid lifting heavy weights, etc. One bad aspect I had not anticipated was that my left hand arthritis pain had gotten much worse right after the operation. I’d asked the doctor about that the last time and he said that was common because I was using it so much more. Although my right hand pain was minimal, that was largely because I was babying it. If I tried to pinch something firmly, e.g. open a ZipLoc bag, or bumped the thumb tip, it hurt a lot. The P.A. told me that I should expect pain until the three-month point. Only then will I begin to feel the pain relief benefits.

It’s now two weeks after that and life has mostly returned to normal. I wear the brace when inactive, e.g. watching TV, reading, etc., but I take it off to eat, brush my teeth, drive, etc. My hand seems pretty flexible to me although I can’t twist my wrist in normal ways. For example, if I’m careful I can brush my teeth with my right hand, but it’s hard to do the right side that way because I can’t bend my wrist for that, so I usually do that side using my left hand. I can use a pencil lightly to do a crossword puzzle, but I hold it wedged low squeezed between thumb and hand, not using my thumb tip and I can’t press hard to write. I can’t sign my name normally yet, so my wife writes any checks needed. I still take acetaminophen daily, but I was doing that for the arthritis before (and still need it for my left hand, too). I don’t know if I will need physical therapy, but I don’t think so. My doctor said not everyone does and seemed very encouraged when he saw me that first visit. I still have a tiny scab at one end of the scar. The skin around the scar has been sensitive, so I roll up my long sleeve on that side when the brace is off as the cuff irritates it, but that seems to be improving. So my next visit is in two weeks; I’m not sure what will be done at that point. Assessment, I assume.

Everyone’s experience is different. Mine is just one data point, so don’t expect yours will be the same. I hope this is helpful. I’ll update this blog when I think enough has changed to warrant it.

Deep Freeze by Michael Grumley

Deep Freeze (Revival #1)Deep Freeze by Michael C. Grumley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

John is trapped in a bus when it plunges in a frozen river. We see him next being warmed back to life by doctors. But John is no ordinary man and the doctors are not ordinary, either. This thriller blends current day genetic breakthroughs with a touch of post-apocalyptic survivalism to make a gripping page-turner. There’s quite a bit of action, but that comes later in the book; be content with the intrigue for the first half. The author penned a series of sciency thrillers called the Breakthrough Series, but this is not part of that series, in case you’re familiar with that series. The writing is workmanlike, not elegant, but the twists and turns keep it fresh and interesting. It’s difficult to say more without spoilers, so I’ll just say it was a good read and I recommend it.

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