Posted by: nhfalcon | May 11, 2009

Some Random Recommendations

Working for the company that currently employs me can sometimes mean a lot of travel time. How much? Well, last week we travelled to Glens Falls, NY, Essex Junction, VT, and South Burlington, VT in back-to-back-to-back days. I pulled 40 hours in those three days, and 26 of them were spent sitting in a company van (thank the gods I get paid for travel time, huh?).

Needless to say, one needs to find a way to pass the time on such trips. Sleeping, conversation, and staring at the scenery can take up only so much time. I’ve taken advantage of the time to catch up on my reading and movie watching, and I thought I’d pass along some of the things I’ve enjoyed of late…

* – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – not as good as the original or third film in the series, but better than the second one. I like the way they brought Marion Ravenwood back and paid little tributes to Indy’s dad and Marcus Brody. Poking fun at Indy’s advanced age and his fear of snakes was a nice touch, too.

* – Munich – not light entertainment! Thought-provoking, well done, and makes me want to read the book it was based on, “Vengeance” by George Jonas.

* – The Departed – again, anything but light entertainment, though it was far less violent than I expected it to be. Set in Boston, I was impressed with how well all those actors pulled of the accent, though, of course, Matt Damon and Mark Wahlberg are from Boston.

* – I’d like to add I Am Legend to this list, but my laptop (which serves as my portable DVD player on these trips) wouldn’t give me really good volume for this movie for some reason.

* – “A History of the World in Six Glasses” by Tom Standage – rather than divide world history into ages based upon the primary contruction material (Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, etc…), this book breaks up the progress of humanity based on the dominant beverages of their time – beer, wine, liquor (primarily rum and whiskey), coffee, tea, and cola. A very easy, entertaining, informative read full of all kinds of bits of fascinating trivia. For example:

          * – the beer of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt was essentially liquid bread and used as much as a food and a currency as a form of liquid refreshment. It was preferred over water at the time because the fermentation process purified the water in it and was actually safer to drink than water. The beer we drink today, which is usually made with hops, is not the same beer from those ancient days, as introducing hops to the mix was an addition made somewhere in the 12th to 15th centuries. The closest thing to the beers of yore made today are King Cnut Ale and Sahti.

          * – wine was also a form of currency to the Greeks and Romans. The Greek symposia – gatherings of the minds to discuss business, politics, religion, the arts, and so on – were centered around the drinking of wine. It was considered highly uncouth to not drink it at these gatherings, as it was believed that drinking the wine (diluted with water and not drunk to excess) freed the mind and allowed its full potential to come forth. Consider this quote from the book: “Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine so that I may wet my mind and say something clever.” – Aristophanes

          * – ever wonder what grog was? It’s a primitive cocktail of rum, water, sugar, and lime juice created by British Admiral Edward Vernon in the latter half of the 17th century. Vernon was known as “Old Grogram” because he wore a waterproof cloak made of grogram, which is a coarse fabric stiffened with gum.

          * – coffeehouses quickly became centers of commerce in London in the late 17th to early 18th centuries. During this time period London consumed more coffee than anywhere else on earth. The infamous Lloyd’s of London started out as a London coffeehouse known simply as Lloyd’s in the late 1680’s.

          * – the British are usually associated with tea more than any other country, but, of course, they didn’t come up with it themselves. They got it from the Chinese. Once the popularity of tea really set in back in England, the East India Company found itself in a bit of a bind because it had nothing to trade to the Chinese for tea that the Chinese wanted except silver, wchich they were loathe to give. Then the EIC discovered how much the Chinese loved the opium they were making in India…

          * – by now just about everybody is familiar with the fact that Coca-Cola used to actually have small amounts of cocaine in it (not the refined white powder that pours into this country from Columbia and Peru and elsewhere, but the unrefined drug that is released when the leaves of the coca plant are bruised or chewed), but what else was in the original mixture? Well, the “cola” comes from the nut of the kola plant, which contains caffeine. The drink was invented in 1886 by John Pemberton, a creator of patent medicines – in other words, a quack (think Doc Terminus from Disney’s Pete’s Dragon) – and was originally meant to be a medicine. 

          * – Standage believes water will be the next big drink to dominate humanity (imagine that!). Global bottled water sales hit around $46 million in 2003. The industry grew at around 11% a year at that time. However, contrary to popular belief, it is apparently no safer than tap water. In fact, 40% of bottled water is derived from tap water. Aquafina and Dasani are derived from municipal water supplies. One brand of “spring water” actually gets its water from a well in a factory parking lot – near a hazardous waste dump!

* – “Guns, Germs, and Steel” by Jared Diamond – I’ve only just begun this one, a study into how and why Caucasian Western Europeans were able to become (apparently) the “dominant” race of humanity. So far it’s reminding me a bit of “1491” by Charles C. Mann, another excellent book that looked at the popular misconception that the Americas were a vast, sparsely populated, uncivilized wilderness until the Europeans came along.

* – “The Mission, the Men, and Me” by Pete Blaber – I actually read this just after this past Christmas, as it was a gift to me from Cookiemaker, but I’m sure I’ll be going back to it soon. Blaber is an ex-Delta Force commander now working as an executive for a major biotechnology company. He saw action in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, and other places as a member of Delta, and uses his combat experiences to provide guiding principles for life in general. For example:

          * – When in doubt, develop the situation.

          * – Always listen to the guy on the ground.

          * – Humor your imagination.

          * – It’s not reality unless it’s shared.

          * – Don’t get treed by a chihuahua (my favorite 🙂 )

* – one of my coworkers suggested I go online to “Adult Swim” and check out G. I. Joe: Resolute. For some reason that link wasn’t working the last time I checked, but it did when I first went to follow up on the suggestion. It’s about an hour long, broken up into 5 – 10 minute chunks. It’s over-the-top and testosterone-laden (think Schwarzenegger’s Commando, only animated), but there are worse ways to kill an hour.

* – another online film I found, this time on my own, was The Hunt for Gollum. It’s about 45 minutes long, online only, independently done, and based on the writings of JRR Tolkien. It’s not as good as Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (though it’s clearly heavily influenced by it), but it’s still pretty good.

I’ll end with something other than a recommendation. Cookiemaker and I had to take Little Man to the dentist this morning to take care of his first cavity. We had to give him a sedative about an hour before the appointment. When we got to the dentist’s office, the drug had clearly taken hold. The dentist took one look at him and said, “Well, obviously the drugs are working!” to which I replied, “Nope, we just topped him off with a little Wild Turkey!”

After the cavity was taken care of (which the dentist said he handled – and I quote – “perfectly”) Little Man was trying to talk to Cookiemaker and I, and I swear he sounded like this:



  1. I think I have Munich, but I’ve not watched it yet (wait…maybe it’s Syriana that I have…). I liked the Departed (or, as we called it around here, the DaPAHded), but not enough to buy it.

    Oh, how I wish I could read in a moving car!

  2. Hey, yeah – “Syriana.” Thanx for reminding me! I have that one, too, but haven’t watched it yet. Well, I know what I’m bringing with me when we go back to Glens Falls on Thursday…

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