The Opus: Spenser

If you are looking for a detective / private eye series to work through, check out Robert B. Parker’s “Spenser” series. He wrote them from 1973 to his death in 2010. You can read plenty of reviews about his stuff if you don’t trust me (go ahead — I’ll wait), but here are a couple of reasons why I like the series.

  • He’s a private eye with brains. A smart ass. A good cook. And strong morals. 
  • The books are quick reads, but aren’t pulp fiction. Parker knows how to write.
  • A great snapshot in time. In 1975 it feels like it’s 1975 (clothing, cars, etc).
  • Parker pushes social boundaries, especially with his gay and non-white characters.
  • He doesn’t make the cops bumbling idiots and slobs.

If you like the genre, start going through his books. Wiki has the order of them. And check to see if your library has them as eBook loans — APL does, and has saved me a lot of money. A highly recommended series.

Best Pepper Mill: Unicorn

I have tried many pepper mills. Wooden ones. Small ones. Big ones. High end brands. Low end brands. There is only one brand of mill that now resides in my kitchen, and it’s the Unicorn line of mills from Tom David.

If you want high capacity, not too huge size, and perfect grinding, get yourself the Unicorn Magnum 6″ version. It’s the best $37 you’ll spend. If you want really high capacity, get their giant Magnum Plus 9″ version for $45. The only difference is the height — they both have excellent grinding mechanisms, fill the same way, and are easy to use.

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Above, you can see my “seasoning” tray that I keep next to the stove. From left to right, back to front: pan spray, olive oil, white pepper, peanut oil, kosher salt, table salt, black pepper. The Magnum Plus is in the front, the smaller to the back. Note that the Plus does NOT come with a “dust” tray — but the Magnum 6″ does. Don’t ask me why. The 6″ is perfect.

I have the Magnum Plus filled with Black Peppercorns and the Magnum filled with White Peppercorns. If I was to do it again, I’d probably go with the 6″ version only, as it’s the perfect size. But nothing wrong with the Plus — it holds a shitload of peppercorns. And I do mean a shitload.

The Standing Desk

If you are well-aged computer guy or gal then you likely have my least favorite ailment. No, not blinding headaches. No, not high blood pressure. No, not ulcers. I’m talking about the bane of the chair-bound: hemorrhoids. Ewe! says the youngsters. Nasty! Well, you’ll get them too, so heed my advice: Get a standing desk.

There are electric ones and cheap ones and expensive ones. Thanks to the advice of another Old Guy who also went to MPHS, I got a MultiTable leg set. Being the fashion conscious guy I’m not, I put an MDF top on it and Evelyn painted it battleship gray. What really makes it is the keyboard tray I stole off my old (normal) corner desk.

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Makerbot Replicator 2

Our newest prototyping machine, the Replicator 2. The open source folks were all up in arms about the software going closed source. To which I say: I couldn’t care less. It’s a fantastic machine. I’ll take a well engineered closed source machine over something made of 5mm plywood any day. Sorry, but that’s how I roll.

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The Opus: Discworld

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a fracking idiot. For the longest time I thought Terry Pratchett wrote kids books. About magic. And, frankly, I got my fill of magic from Harry, thank you very much. I’m glad she got rich, but I never had fun along the way.

Anyhow, after not being able to find the books in dead tree format (because I am cheap and only shop at Recycled Reads), I was happy to see that the Austin Public Library had eBooks for borrowing. And, after many many moons, I got a Kindle Touch (then a Paperwhite). No, I wasn’t behind the curve. Back in the day I had one of those Sony eReaders — and you had to use one of those computer things to get books on it.

Anyhow, the APL was kind enough to get all of the Discworld books, so I could dip my toes for no cost. Hurray!

I started with the Watch series, because I’m still not much of a magic man. This series, quite a long one, follows the Night Watch (think: neglected cops) and their interaction with wizards, trolls, and whatnot.

What fun! Fantasy books that don’t have He Men slaying Dragons. Okay, I’m being unfair, I never read any fantasy, because that was my impression of the genre. I’m shallow. Who cares.

Okay, back to Pratchett: Fun to read. Very well written. Full of tongue-in-cheek. A master as description and language. And he knows how to write a good plot that doesn’t re-hash the same thing over and over (I’m talking to you, Harry).

If you are a detective/thriller guy like me, start with the Watch series. The Death ones are good, too. And the Industrial Revolution–“The Truth” is great. I’ve just started on the Witches series, which I’m a little less happy with, but I give them time. The easiest way to get the reading order is to download “The Discworld Reading Order” PDF from wiki.