Chronological Star Wars Canon

As you may (or may not) know, shortly after the purchase of Star Wars, Disney and JJ Abrams made the landmark decision that everything that existed outside of George Lucas’ six movies – something referred to as the “Expanded Universe” – was no longer canon. This meant that literally decades of stories were wiped clean; freeing JJ Abrams to tell his story without the burden of continuity errors sure to be brought up by nerds not unlike myself.

Naturally, this enraged quite a few people… but not me. My opinion was that the vast majority of the Expanded Universe was pretty awful. The one rare gem is Timothy Zahn’s excellent “Heir to the Empire” trilogy (colloquially known as the Thrawn trilogy). Zahn basically knocks it out of the park – proven by the fact that most Expanded Universe stories reference characters and events in this series as canon.

Well, not anymore!

Disney was quick to fill this void with new “officially in-canon” stories – and I’ve listed the major entries below. Enjoy.

Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
The Clone Wars (ABC TV)
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Lords of the Sith by Paul S Kemp
Tarkin by James Luceno
A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller
Star Wars Rebels (DisneyXD)
Rogue One
Episode IV: A new Hope
Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne
Battlefront: Twilight Company by Alexander Freed
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Battlefront (PS4)
Aftermath by Chuck Wendig
Bloodline by Claudia Gray
Lost Stars by Claudia Gray
Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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2015 Book List

As I write this year’s entry I realize that, for some reason, I began and ended 2015 on either side of our globe’s poles. Of the two, I found the southern tragedy (Shackleton’s) was far more interesting. Both were excellently written and exhaustively researched; I heartily recommend both.

Late in 2015 my wife issued a challenge for both of us: read one biography on every U.S. President; so I begin 2016 with Ron Chernow’s Washington. Never one to stick solely to one literary genre I’m mixing it up by also reading a book about an alien attack on Earth. Y’know, because entertainment.

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing *

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer

Dead Wake by Erik Larson

The Men Who Would Be King by Nicole LaPorte

The Fold by Peter Clines

Armada by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (re-read) *

The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

Under the Dome by Stephen King

Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones *

In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides *

CURRENTLY READING

Fear the Sky by Stephen Moss

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

NEXT ON MY LIST

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

(As always, asterisks denote recommended titles).

Liberty and Immigration

Europe has been very accommodating and accepting of Syrian refugees. In 2014 alone the EU welcomed 283,532 refugees; the majority arriving from Syria. In light of recent events, as well as additional well-documented attacks, why would we want to emulate what the EU has done? Have events of the very recent past not been enough of a warning? As of yet, the left’s strongest argument for America accepting Syrian refugees has been to quote a passage engraved on the Statue of Liberty – a gift to the United States from the country most recently, and savagely, attacked.

Lady Liberty was constructed in France, shipped overseas in crates, and assembled on the already completed pedestal. The statue’s completion was marked by New York’s very first ticker-tape parade and a dedication ceremony presided over by President Grover Cleveland in 1886.

The poem in question – written by a foremother of the Zionist movement – was added 17 years later, in 1903.

The Statue of Liberty was originally conceived as a memorial to our independence not a symbol of immigration. However, it quickly became so due largely to immigrant ships passing by and heading toward Ellis Island. It was the addition of Emma Lazurus’ poem that cemented Miss Liberty’s role as unofficial greeter of incoming immigrants.

I find it terribly ironic how the left encourages [demands] that we all be progressive forward thinkers instead of “bitterly clinging to the past”… but then relies on a 112 year old sonnet, written by a staunch supporter and advocate of the Jewish state, to support their argument.

The poem is beautiful – presented as a simple distillation of common sense and provisions for fair dealing that none but the wicked and ignorant could oppose – but it is not the law.

Don’t misunderstand, I am not opposed to immigration. The liberty-loving are not defined by ethnicity… but neither is everyone equally liberty-loving as is often assumed by many Liberals today.

President Obama claims that States unwilling to accept the refugees his administration will be bringing into America “must be afraid of orphans and widows“. I’ve seen the video and images of these refugees and it’s largely young able-bodied men. I’m sorry, Mr. President, but that’s not widows and orphans – that’s an army.

Immigration policy, who we allow into our borders, ultimately defines the citizenry [ie: the electorate] of the nation, as well as the political culture and future trajectory of the nation.

You get the immigrants – and the nation – you ask for.

2013 Book List

It’s that time of year! Here’s the list of what I’ve read over the course of 2013 (recommended titles are marked with an asterisk). If you’ve read anything over the last 12 months that you’d like to recommend, please let me know. I’m always looking for that next good read.

And speaking of Good Reads, if you haven’t had a chance to check out that particular social network (and you happen to love to read), I suggest you direct your browser to www.goodreads.com today. I’ve discovered a good number of books using that site and welcome you to connect with me (just click the link) so we can trade recommendations.

    • Island of the Lost by Joan Druett  (carried over from December 2012)*
    • Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan*
    • The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle
    • Masters of Doom by David Kushner
    • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
    • 14 by Peter Clines*
    • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
    • Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
    • Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
    • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
    • Inferno by Dan Brown
    • Reclaiming History by Vincent Bugliosi*
    • Star Wars: Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn
    • Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand*
    • Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America by Jeff Ryan
    • Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser*
    • Star Wars: Dark Force Rising by Timothy Zahn
    • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
    • The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg*
CURRENTLY READING
  • Dream It! Do It! by Marty Sklar
NEXT ON MY LIST
  • Last of the Blue and Gray: Old Men, Stolen Glory, and the Mystery That Outlived the Civil War by Richard A. Serrano
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Book List 2012

I am what you might call a slow reader. I know it and I’m not particularly proud of it.

In an effort to improve, I decided to set a goal for myself at the very beginning of 2012: read twelve books this year. One per month. As 2012 draws to a close I am proud to report that I’ve successfully finished 18 books and am currently working through the nineteenth.

Below is the list of books (titles that I highly recommend have been marked with an asterisk).

Steve Jobs by Walter Isacson*
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
Helmet for my Pillow by Robert Leckie*
Weight by Jeanette Winterson
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline*
Reamde by Neal Stephenson
Boomerang by Michael Lewis
11/22/63 by Steven King*
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Devil in the White City by Erik Larson*
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard*
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Where Ever I Wind Up by R. A. Dickey
Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
The River of Doubt by Candice Millard*

Currently Reading: Island of the Lost by Joan Druett

Upcoming titles include Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Beautiful Ruins, and 1Q84. If you can think of any other recommendations (books that simply cannot go un-read) please sound off in the comment section.

New Book

Speaking of books: this showed up randomly (and quite anonymously) in my in-box this week. I assume the person I should be thanking dropped this off in response to my last blog entry. It’s a very clever book and I enjoy it very much. Thank you, whoever you are!

Twenty Skills Every Man Should Learn

No man is born with any of these skills – but all should spend their life acquiring them (in no particular order):

Cook (not just grill) – Start simple guys; learn how to make eggs four different ways.

Buy Clothing – Specifically, learn how to look good in a suit. Be aware of how you look and what it is you like/dislike. Be secure enough in your manliness with feeling fabric. If it feels like a burlap sack it will wear like one. Always get fitted. When in doubt, look for the best dressed associate in the store… and have him help you!

Sew a Button / Iron Your Shirt – Because, at some point, one of your dress shirts (see previous skill) will require mending… and there is no reason to ask your wife to do something so simple.

Shave – I’m not talking about lathering up with some pressurized gel and swiping it off with a quintuple-bladded razor. Any boy can learn to do that. Teach yourself to use a straight razor; or at the very least a safety razor.

Properly Tie a Necktie – Whether it’s a bowtie, a standard necktie, or (my preference) both… learn to look good.

Console a crying Woman – Being a gentleman doesn’t mean you have to carry a handkerchief – but offering a clean tissue will certainly help. If she doesn’t tell you to go away ask her how you might be able to help. Don’t get all bent out of shape, her feelings are legitimate. Proceed, according to her wishes, until she says she’s okay.

Parallel Park – The first step is admitting you have a problem.

Basic Home Repair – Learn to swing a hammer (and sucessfully drive a ten-penny nail into a 2×4). One rule applies in basic plumbing and electrical wiring: turn off the main!

Carve a Turkey – Let Alton Brown show you how it’s done. Not only does he carve a mean turkey, he also regularly wears bow ties. Bonus.

Prepare a Drink – Whether you’re mixing a martini or brewing a cup of coffee – do it with excellence. It’s never as simple as just combining the correct ingredients. Put some care and attention into what you’re doing.

Very Basic Automotive – Jump-start a car (with zero drama). Change your oil, plugs, and air filter (at least once). Fix a flat tire (safely).

Shine Your Own Shoes – Chance are, unless you join the military, you’ll never be punished for not having a pair of well-shined shoes. Nonetheless, it’s an essential man-skill. Not only does it look good… it also maintains your shoes and lengthens their lifespan.

Read and Write – Guys, please. The sports page does NOT count. Pick a book that matters and then set a goal (example: 8 books this year). Guaranteed, your grammar skills will increase and so will your writing ability. You’re never going to be Ernest Hemingway… but making a habit to write some Thank You notes wouldn’t kill you.

Throw a Punch – Swing with your shoulders, not your arm. Step in close (long punches rarely land squarely). Follow through; don’t pop and pull back. Trust me, you don’t have a roundhouse or a haymaker – don’t try it. Final caveat: every man should master this skill while secretly hoping he never has to use it.

Show Respect – In the following order: Age, Experience, Record, Reputation. Oh, and never mention any of it.

Talk to a Woman – You know that one guy at church or work that you really admire? He does his job with a quiet confidence. He doesn’t feel the need to tell stupid jokes. He doesn’t eye you up. He knows things you don’t but doesn’t talk about them endlessly. He never apologizes for his status or his job or the way he’s dressed. You know how wildly inviting that seems? Be that guy.

Order at a Restaurant – Lift your chin and don’t talk into the menu. Make eye contact with your waiter. You don’t own the restaurant, so don’t act like it. You own the transaction.

Build a Campfire – Light the tinder, feed on the kindling, lay on the fuel wood. Be patient.

Shake a Man’s Hand – Shaking someone’s hand is simple: steady, firm, pump, let go. Make eye contact. It’s not like holding a woman’s hand (but some of you guys need to work on that, too).

Ask for Help – It’s simple and it doesn’t mean you’re weak. Guys who refuse to ask for help are the most cursed of all men.

A Cool Connection

I am currently reading Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard – and excellent book that details the election and assassination of President James Garfield. While reading today I came across a part I though my dad would find particularly interesting (as he works in HVAC and Comfort Systems). Quickly, I paraphrased this portion of the book and emailed it to him. In turn, he responded with a historical connection to the industry in which I am employed – printing.

I found the link between our two professions truly fascinating and wanted to share it here.  The paraphrased narrative, and my father’s response, were basically as follows:

During the particularly hot summer of July 1881, the US Navy Core of Engineers and John Wesley Powell set about to create a system to cool the bedroom of the recently shot President James Garfield.

Using three tons of ice, and an elaborate system comprised of a 36” electric fan that forced air through cheese cloth screens that had been soaked in ice water and placed in a  6 foot long iron box, air was conducted to James Garfield’s bedroom through a series of tin pipes.  Although the system worked (the air entered the pipes at miraculously cool 55 degrees) the cheesecloth made the air heavily humid.  Worse still, even though the majority of the cooling contraption was in Garfield’s adjacent office, the contestant whirring and grinding of the fan caused an ear-splitting racket.

Undeterred, the engineers set to fix the problems.

First they set a 134 gallon ice box between the iron box and the pipes in order to dry the air.  Then, realizing that the tin pipes actually amplified the noise, they replaced them with pipes made of canvas covered wire; which absorbed the sounds.

Twenty years later, the first modern electrical air conditioner was invented by Willis Havilland Carrier of Syracuse, NY.

Now, Carrier actually worked for a large printing company (Sackett-Wilhelms Lithography) and high summer humidity in New York was often a problem.  Paper would swell with moisture (unevenly, of course) and would then become misaligned in the huge presses. Also, ink took longer to dry in humid air; causing smears and ink transfer from page to page.

Carrier knew that he could use steam to heat buildings and reasoned that by altering the process he could lower temperature – and therefore lower the amount of humidity that the air could hold.

Instead of forcing air over steam coils, he blew air over coils filled with cold water.

The lower heat and humidity improved the manufacturing process (which was his goal).  Human comfort was just a by-product.