The Jungle by Upton Sinclair – a Brief Review

The JungleThe Jungle by Upton Sinclair*

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It may be a bit ironic, but I sat down to finish the last 20 or so pages of this book while enjoying a yummy dinner of spicy hot Johnsonville sausages with rice and beans. You’ll have to read the book to see why it was ironic.šŸ˜‰

The book was an interesting read. However, the heavy push at the end regarding Socialism just kinda’ ruined it for me. The book went from a tragedy about the oppression of the working class straight to an expanded political pamphlet expounding the advantages of the workers’ utopia that would come about when Socialism becomes the way of the world.

Like I said, though… it was an interesting read. Just the descriptions of the Chicago meat-packing industry and the ridiculously corrupt politics of the early 1900s makes the book worth reading.

Could even turn you into a vegetarian Socialist!

Yippee, Comrade!


*This review was originally published on

View all my reviews

Books I Should Have Read In High School

WisdomĀ does come with age, it seems. When I was a young lad in high school, we were assigned four books to read during the summer prior to 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades (I attended a Catholic high school in Tampa, Florida). I can’t really remember which books were assigned which years, but I have a list from memory that I think is relatively accurate:

  • Kurt Vonnegut’sĀ Player Piano
  • Stephen Crane’sĀ Red Badge of Courage
  • George Orwell’sĀ 1984
  • William Golding’sĀ Lord of the Flies
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald’sĀ The Great Gatsby
  • Charles Dickens’Ā A Tale of Two Cities
  • George Orwell’sĀ Animal Farm
  • John Steinbeck’sĀ Winter of Our Discontent
  • Thor Heyerdahl’sĀ Kontiki
  • James Herriot’sĀ All Things Great and Small
  • Thornton Wilder’sĀ Bridge Over San Luis Rey
  • Upton Sinclair’sĀ The JungleĀ (currently reading)

TheĀ reason there are only 12 books instead of 16 (four years’ worth) is because I got myself a little girlfriend in the summer between 10th and 11th grades. When school started in September, I also had a really cool ’69 Ford Mustang Mach I. I used to leave for school in the morning and drive to my girlfriend’s school and pick her up at the bus stop. We’d gallivant all over town for the entire school day and then I’d drop her back off as the bus was loading to take the kids home. She and I both missed so much of the first quarter of that school year that we could never recover in time to advance to the next grade. She had to attend summer school the following summer and I dropped out and got my G.E.D. from the State of Florida. Obviously, I had not yet attained enough of that previously mentioned wisdom at this time.

But back to this wisdom thing…

I‘ve often said since that time that these type of books should be mandatory reading for people in their mid-30s, not pre-teens or just-barely-teens. I don’t believe that children of 14 and 15 or so years old have the life experience needed to truly understand and relate to the stories and characters in these “classic” type books. Most everyone did just what I did. We skimmed and then bought the CliffsNotes in order to pass the quizzes and act somewhat knowledgeably about the characters and plots of these books. That’s a sad thing.

IĀ have always been a reader from a very young age. My mother taught me to read and write before I ever started school. However, I just didn’t like (and still don’t) someone telling me what I had to read. This is why I don’t join group reads or similar things. I like to read what I want to read when I want to read it. This rebelliousness or pigheadednessĀ on my part kept me from reading these books way back then.

Fortunately for me, I corrected this situation later in life; once I was mature and experienced enough to truly appreciate the wonderful and profound things these authors were trying to communicate to their readers using the limited medium of the written word. I am forever grateful that I was wise enough to pick these books up and give them a go. They broadened my knowledge and enlightened me to many things I would not otherwise have experienced.

There only two books in the above list that I haven’t read as of yet. They areĀ Kontiki andĀ Winter of Our Discontent. I intend to read both of them sometime before the end of this year; might be some good reading for those cool winter eves here in Florida. Nyuck!

Anyway, should you be somewhere past 35 years old or so and are contemplating your next read, I strongly suggest you hark back to those days of yore during your teen years and pick a book or two that you didn’t read like you were supposed to. You won’t regret it.

Read something! It’s good for you.


*You can find all the above books and millions more at Goodreads. There you can read a synopsis of the book along with other folks’ reviews and thoughts. It’s a great website.

A Goodreads Review of Michio Kaku’s Hyperspace

Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universe, Time Warps, and the 10th DimensionHyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universe, Time Warps, and the 10th Dimension by Michio Kaku
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Science tends to be a bit dry, but Dr. Kaku manages to make it interesting; with just a small boring spell during the discussion of Kalusa-Klein and introductory string theory. This is to be expected, though. You just can’t make multi-dimensional imagery and vibrating strings very exciting to the lay person. It looses something without the excitement of its underlying mathematical foundation.

Dr. Kaku tries his hand at a bit of futurist prognostication, too… very LONG, LONG term future, I mean. The discussion of Type I, II, and III societies and their respective technical and scientific prowess was quite interesting. Sadly, though, the discussion about the impending death of our universe was a bit depressing. Good thing it’s a very, very long way off.

All in all, this 1994 book was chocked full of interesting scientific history and understanding of the amazing things around us. We’ve only just begun. Just a few thousand years ago, we could barely manage to keep ourselves warm and fed. Today we’re sending probes to other planets, asteroids, the sun, etc. Imagine what we’ll be doing in 5000 more years. I can’t wait to see.šŸ˜‰

Read it. Science is fun.

View all my reviews

A Goodreads Review of Dan Simmons’ Abominable

The AbominableThe Abominable by Dan Simmons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve always enjoyed how Dan Simmons weaves his fictional stories so tightly around real non-fiction historical events. And while this particular story isn’t my favorite of his books of this type (The Terror and Drood were better), it is a wonderful story. It’s also one that he writes is a certain way, using certain styles (I won’t spoil it for you) that almost makes you wonder if it might just possibly be a true accounting of something that actually did happen. Of course, as a writer, if Simmons manages to get you to feel that way once you’ve closed that back cover after reading that last page, then he did his job… and did it well.

My only complaint about this book, which isn’t really a complaint, is the fact that it slowed down a bit here and there due to detailed descriptions of technical matters and procedures carried out by the characters in the story. It was all quite interesting, though, and actually got me searching Google for some more info on the things these folks were doing in this story. So, see… not really a complaint at all.

Read it. You might like it.šŸ™‚


View all my Goodreads reviews

Image credits: stock publisher’s photo of book provided by Goodreads. com

Bridge of San Luis Rey – Some Comments

This is one of those books that they are forever assigning to pimply-faced teens to read while in their early years of secondary school. Unfortunately, many of these books are just too deep, too adult, too mature (in the way they require age and experience to understand them) for kids to ken at all.

I was first assigned this book as summer reading when I was 14 years old. There’s just no way that a 14 year old is going to have the life experience and maturity to understand what lies in between the lines of Thornton’s outstanding book. And, of course, I didn’t at that time.

I skimmed and read the Clif’s Notes to pass the quiz and answer a few trivial questions during the one hour spent on this book once the school year started. It’s a shame that books like this are wasted on children. They should be required reading for adults once they reach the age of 30, though.

I’m glad I re-read this one. I enjoyed every word of it. It’s actually inspired me to give Thornton’s Our Town a try next. It’s on reserve at my local library.*

*Originally fromĀ my notes on this book at

The actual edition that I read:

  • Series: Perennial Classics
  • Paperback: 138 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics; Presumed to be 1st as edition is unstate edition (April 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060088877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060088873

The Bridge of San Luis Rey @ Wikipedia

Over 30? Give it a go. You might like it.šŸ™‚


Image credits: book – generic image

Boy’s Life By Robert R. McCammon – a Review

Do you remember the magic of summertime in your youth? Do you remember how bright the sun was or how blue the sky was back then?

I remember. Somewhere between the walks home from the baseball park through the cemetery and my first car/first girlfriend, I seemed to have misplaced that magic, though. I wish I could find it again; maybe when my second childhood starts and I revert all the way back to messing in my diapers (DependĀ®) again.

If you’ve forgotten the magic, then maybe you should pick up a copy of Robert R. McCammon‘sĀ Boy’s Life.Ā It will go a long way to reawakening that magic for you. If you were a child of the 50s or 60s as I was, you’ll be taken along for a ride by McCammon that won’t be too very unfamiliar to you at all.

Sure, the settings might be bit different (Alabama in the book) than those you remember, but they’ll be eerily familiar. McCammon did not lose the magic when he aged. If he did, he was definitely able to conjure it once again to write this story. Or maybe writers just never lose that magic. Who knows?

Boy’s Life is a story about a boy. How ’bout that, huh? His name is Cory. He’s 12 years old in the summer of 1964. A year removed from a tumultuous 1963 and a few years prior to latter historical events like Tet of ’68, Watergate, and theĀ Summer of LoveĀ (’69). From Spring through to that year’s waning days, young Cory narrates his adventures growing up in the small town of Zephyr on the Tecumseh River in southern Alabama.

The events and the tragedies and the strangeness all whirl around one another weaving a story filled with that pure and simple magic of youth. You’ll meet characters who seem oddly familiar. You’ve met them in your own lives, in your own hometowns, in your own eras. They’re common to everyone, I think.

You’ll learn a bit of history while reading this book. It’s OK, though. It won’t hurt you none. If you didn’t know anything about the Civil War, the Wild West, dinosaurs, WWII, the Nazis, the Holocaust, etc., Cory’s telling of related events in his own childhood may lead you to the library to do a bit of research on these things. That’s a good thing.

I have a couple favorite “coming of age” type books: Stephen King’sĀ ITĀ and Dan Simmons’Ā Summer of Night.Ā Both authors manage to bring back the magic long gone from my soul whilst reading these works. I think that’s why they both left lasting impressions on me. Anything that revives the magic is a good thing. There’s so little magic in adult life, sadly.

This would be a great book to curl up by the fire with one of these dark, cold winter nights. Oh, and you won’t have to be a boy to appreciate it. Little girls had a magic all their own. They’ll understand, too.

That’s it for now, folks. Stop being so busy. Get yourself a good book and sit down and read awhile. It’s a magic that we can still enjoy at any age.


2014 In Review – It Was a Slow Year

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Baseball Games Too Long?

I just don’t think I’m going to like some of the changes that are being tossed around and tested for shortening game times in baseball.

Why Baseball Games Are Too LongĀ – an article from

MLB will be trying out some new rules in the Arizona Fall League to speed things up. Good idea. Baseball set a record this year for longest games averaging over 3 hours.

Roughly 30 years ago games took about half an hour less. Not all of that time is the extra commercials and promos. So in the Arizona League theyā€™ll be limiting visits to the mound by catchers, managers and coaches to three per game, other than pitching changes. No more pitching on intentional walks. Hey, just take your base buddy. And hitters have to stay in the batterā€™s box. Thatā€™s key. They canā€™t step out to unfasten and then refasten their batting gloves on each hand after EVERY pitch.

Nope. I just don’t think I’m going to like this. They’re not just attempting to shorten games; they’re changing the game of baseball altogether. No intentional walks? Limited mound conferences? Nah… this ain’t gonna’ fly, I don’t think.

The MLB really stirred the nest up with its institution of the instant replay this season. I wasn’t for that, either. However, I must admit, it’s been used/handled very well so far. It may need a few more refinements, though, before its working optimally.

I’m a traditionalist. I’ve been a baseball fan for nearly 50 years. I just don’t like some of the things they’re considering these days. If you want to shorten games, get rid of the commercials. Yeah, I know… good luck with that. It’s always all about the $$$, ain’t it?

Well, we’ll just have to sit back and see how this all turns out. In the meantime, enjoy the World Series this coming week!





The Boys of Summer Are Done

I just finished watching the Tampa Bay Rays lose their last game of the 2014 season.

Rays 2014 season total: 77 wins85 losses

It’s been a bad one. Rays fans have seen worse, though. Back in the Devil Rays era, a losing season like this was a sadly common occurrence. No one expected it for this year and this group of Rays. As a matter of fact, I’m holding in my formerly nicotine-stained fingers* a Tampa Bay Times Sports section insert from 20 March of this year. In big bold font on the front it says, “Trophy Case – The Rays have done all they can to make their title argument.” It’s accompanied by a big mock World Series trophy with the Rays players on the little flags and “World Champions – 2014 – The Tampa Bay Rays” on the base plate.

Hmm… some really wishful thinking on the part of the Times sports writers, evidently. The Rays did NOT have what it takes to make it even to the playoffs this season. They do have some valid excuses, though. They lost their ace pitcher in a trade. They lost numerous key players to injury. Some key players did not perform at the levels expected of them. Et cetera. Excuses don’t win championships. Whatever went awry, whatever plans didn’t pan out, whatever players had issues of one type or another; I’m confident that, under the continued leadership of Joe Maddon, all will be analyzed and solutions will be discovered and implemented.

Maybe that pretty trophy will end up in the Rays’ trophy case in 2015.

We’ll see…

The cold and dark winter is nearly upon us now, but the spring will come… and with it a renewed, refreshed, and ready Rays organization. Can’t hardly wait to hear that “Play ball!”



*This phrase about the formerly nicotine-stained fingers was a trademark phrase used by a favorite talk radio host of mine from many years ago toward the end of his career. His on-air name was Bob Lassiter. I pretty much stopped listening to talk radio after he retired. There will never be another like him.

Congratulations to Chris and Diana Pirillo

In what seems like forever ago, I started blogging on Chris Pirillo‘s old LockerGnome Blog site.

So, I suppose that means that Chris was probably the one who got me started on this addictive, time-consuming, but FUN avocation. Thanks for that, Chris.

Anyway, the real reason for me posting here today is just to say CONGRATULATIONS to the new mommy and daddy, Diana and Chris P., who very recently had a visit from the stork.

Said stork delivered this bundle of joy to the Pirillos.Ā Here’s wishing this young lady a long and very happy life.Ā All the best to mom and dad, too. They’ll have their hands full now.



Image credits: stork from