I’ve been dog & cat-sitting away from my computer since last week, and without a TV or computer to distract me I’ve been doing that ‘reading’ thing.
First up, I read Just in Case, a prepping-for-newbies book the library acquired right after the hurricane hit, in the forlorn hope that some responsible citizen would want to better brace themselves for The Next Time. No such luck, as I’m the first person to have checked it out. April is typically when Alabama receives its worst and most tornadoes, so I’m trying to get things squared away on that front, preparing for power losses and the like. After an introductory section on the why-and-wherefores of disaster readiness, the author devotes succeeding chapters to separate threats (power loss, extreme cold, fire, pandemic, etc) before wrapping up with skills which are valuable in any scenario. The pandemic section was interesting, as the author predicts runs on supplies and warns readers against relying on surgical or painters’ masks, which will not block something as small as virus. Although my reference in the future will remain When Technology Fails, I like this book as one for the general public.
Next up, Rogue Code by Mark Russonovich. In years past I’ve read Russonovich’s Zero Hour and Trojan Horse, part of the same series. Each is a standalone technical thriller in which a retired CIA cybersecurity specialist, Jeff Aiken, is hired to investigate threats to secure networks and the internet as a whole In Rogue Code, Aiken and his partner are hired to check the NASDAQ’s servers for any potential issues, as the IPO for a facebook-killer is looming and the powers that be want no problems. Not only is there evidence of tampering, but when the perps catch on that their work is being examined, they frame Jeff for the theft of millions and force him to shelter from an SEC cop with all the tact of a nuclear missile Russonovich typically mixes in a little action into these books to make them genuine thrillers, and not just prolong scenes of people sitting at desks typing furiously or pondering lines of code, looking for traces of nefarious goings-on. Although Russonovich typically makes his villains interesting, here only their backgrounds in the Brazilian cartel standout: both the chefe and his main mook are your standard-issue evil apes, driven for money, power, and sex. Speaking of which, there are several unexpected scenes of sexual abuse in the novel, just to make sure we don’t start rooting for the cartel which is robbing Wall Street blind. Although I enjoyed the novel well enough, it gets into the weeds of both high finance and code analysis, so it’s not light reading by any means.
I’ve also recently finished Travels with Foxfire, a motley collection of interviews, recipes, folk histories, and hunting stories from southern Appalachia. It’s a buffet of Appalachian culture, you might say: a chapter on the moonshine-running origins of NASCAR is followed by tales of old bear hunts, and then recipes of so-and-so’s old-fashioned country cooking followed up by a history of Appalachian folk music — “Old Time” music, not bluegrass or country. It’s like a Rick Bragg notebook, almost, with lots of the raw material of the kind that one sees worked into his own books. There’s a little witticism on the back of Log Cabin Pioneers, a similar work I’ll be reading soon enough, that says “For them’s that likes this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they will like”. It’s absurd, but true when applied to a book like this: it has immense appeal for those interested in Appalachian culture, who don’t need a central narrative to guide them through the whole thing. I was particularly interested in the old-time music, and had no idea that popular singers of the mid-20th century had adopted several folk tunes and turned them into copyrighted commercial hits, from Bob Dylan to the Kingston Trio. I’m really looking forward to looking for recordings by some of the artists mentioned here, especially Hedwig “Hedy” West, who used folk songs as her ammunition against the Johnson administration.
Later on I’ll have comments for Ironies of Faith: The Laughter at the Heart of Christian Literature, and will begin going through Purgatory. I’m also currently reading Rebekah by Orson Scott Card: apparently the author of Ender’s Game also did a series of historical novels based on women from the Bible. That seemed worth a look-see, and I’ve been unexpectedly snared by the novel’s humor and lead character. I don’t know any stories or traditions associated with her character other than “Wife of Isaac, mom of Esau and Jacob”.