Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters

This second book in Riordan’s Percy Jackson series is not quite the book the first one was, but do seconds often meet up to firsts? The humor seemed a little more forced than the last book, or maybe we are just getting used to his style, and therefore, it it not as funny. Still, there are plenty of fun monsters to battle, another quest to attempt—sort of, a few twists and turns, and a god who finally appears to be on Percy’s side. The book got better as it went along, and the new characters (Tyson, Hermes, Polyphemus)  were a welcome addition to the cast. Riordan added a love-to-hate character as well: Tantalus. Not sure if we will see him again, but the grasping the burger at the end was a priceless addition to the story. The writing is certainly not White or Wilder or even Andrew Clements, but the story is fun and clean, and one gets to learn a little mythology along the way. We are looking forward to starting Curse of the Titans tomorrow night due to the cliff hanger at the end. To Riordan’s credit: didn’t see that one coming!

The Fastest 18 I’ve Ever Played

I don’t do it often. No time. Too many competing joys, family and school and teaching. I actually can’t remember when I last did it. But with the school year approaching, I thought, “It’s now or who knows when.” So last night, I started Par for the Course by Ray Blackston. I finished it this morning—250 pages in less time than it takes to play 18. Now, I read all the time, just never big gulps like this. My usual intake includes a sip here, a sip there. So I splurged.

Blackston is not your Pulitzer Prize winner, and since he is in the Christian market, will probably not show up on the NY Times bestseller list. But he is funny. And that is why I read it. I have read his four others and enjoyed them all for the same reasons: light hearted, funny, and with just enough theology thrown in to make you think—nothing over the top, no bashing, often subtle. As is often the case in writing, the second half of the book lacked the style of the first (do authors and editors just get tired?). But I was not reading for literary genius. I was reading to be entertained. And I was.

Set in South Carolina, Par for the Course is a romantic comedy about Chris (driving range instructor) and Molly (political correspondent) and their long distance relationship. Chris, living in Charleston has to deal with feminists, arsonists, and alligators as he seeks to win Molly’s affections. While the political jabs are aimed at both parties, the left gets the more direct shots as might be expected from the author. Being a once avid golfer and now a wish-I-was-an-avid golfer, I felt comfortable with the golf theme and enjoyed the nostalgia of my high school days of daily golf. 

A fun read and worth the few hours I spent on it. Looking forward to his next book.

Hemingway’s Style

I have finished The Sun Also Rises. Good book? Yes and no. From a literary point of view, I loved it. Hemingway’s style and craft and command of the language humble me as I seek to become a better writer. He can do things with words and dialogue that most can’t. He can speed and slow the pace at will, and he tells a great story of a man alone among the crowd. He brings out Jake’s character well. I feel like I knew what he would do on more than one occasion. I don’t think this was because the writing was predictable, but it was because the reader knew Jake well after a time. 

Now, the book was depressing. I have heard it said that it glorifies drinking and sex. I am not sure “glorify” is the word I would use. I think it clearly shows the ugly side of heavy drinking and the loneliness that comes from a promiscuous lifestyle. In that sense, it might be a corrective to how drink and sex are often portrayed in today’s media. But it is a depressing read. Will I read it again? Probably, but maybe just bits and pieces to see how Hemingway does what he does. Would I recommend it? Depends upon what you are looking for. If you love good literature, and by that I mean good craft, then yes, by all means. If you are looking to be uplifted or encouraged, skip it and hug your kid instead.

Saving money or loving others?

I read an interesting article here and a fuller article here about the practice of hypermiling (adjusting one’s driving habits to achieve optimal fuel efficiency). While hypermiling can certainly save lots of money and gas, I have some serious reservations about the methods used. While the article did bring up some safety issues in regards to using your cruise control instead of your gas and break, turning off the engine at various times during your drive, and taking turns at high speed instead of using your break to keep momentum, the overriding message of hypermilers was “save money at any cost.”

On my way into school this morning, I was thinking about the article and my driving habits. I’m not one to speed or practice jack rabbit starts, but as I was driving, I wondered about the effect on other drivers if I put into practice some of the tricks of the trade of hypermilers. One, which doesn’t appear to be a safety issue is coasting for as long as possible, especially when you see a red light in the distance. Certainly, if this were practiced with consistency, mpg’s would rise. However, another issue came immediately to mind. I was a good distance from a light and wondered what it would be like to coast to it instead of having my foot on the gas the whole way and then applying the break at the last minute. A car was sitting in the left turn lane facing the opposite direction waiting for me to pass. Had I taken my foot off the gas, the cars behind me would have caught up to me enough to prevent this person from turning left after I passed. 

I would have saved a little dough, but I would have inconvenienced another. That is not driving in love. The attitude of the hypermiler who was interviewed seemed  to be that his saving money and gas and thus the environment was more important than someone else being inconvenienced. He commented on how he sees how long he can coast (at a slower and slower speed) as he approaches his house on the way home despite the line of cars behind him. 

Nor was he concerned about taking the off ramp at 50 mph to allow him to coast a greater distance even though the speed limit was 25. Boosting mpg’s trumps traffic laws I suppose. While I would certainly be in favor of adopting some of the recommendations in the article, being a good driver does not mean I am only concerned about my mpg’s. It also means I am concerned about those around me. Just because someone doesn’t see the need to conserve energy, doesn’t mean I can be unconcerned about them as I drive.

If they hypermilers are so obsessed with increasing mpg’s, can I suggest a bicycle?