Tarken By: James Luceno ** Book Review **

 With the new Star Wars movie on the way a question quickly arose.  Since the movie is taking place after the original trilogy, what happens to all of the books and such that were written about that time period?  Well to the great anger of many, and my personal joy the answer was simple.  None of those books count any more.  Not even a little bit.  Unceremoniously booted out of the canon.  This makes me happy.  There are a ton of those books, and given that a lot of them came out when I was in elementary school or before, it simplifies my life to have a whole new canon that also reflect the newer movies.  Here is your canon now as I understand it.  All the movies, the clone wars, the Star Wars comics currently being published by Marvel (awesome if you wanted to know), Rebels, and when I started this there were four novels.  It is about one of those novels that I am here to review now.

Tarken is a story set before the events of Episode IV: A new hope.  It centers around a time when the Death Star (not yet named) is being constructed under the supervision of Moff Tarken.  James Luceno has done a splendid job of fleshing out the life of Wilhuff Tarken.  Taken bought the big chicken dinner at the end of Episode IV, so he has always been one of those great characters that there was just not enough of.  Taken crops back up in Clone Wars here and there, but with this novel we finally get the full dose of Moff We were hoping for.  If you account for the fact that he spends the book running around with Darth Vader, well to an Imperial fan thats just plain awesome.  As with all of the Star Wars novels (new ones) I’ve gotten through so far the story is really just filler.  The entire book is an excuse to tell Tarken’s life story and allow you to see it applied to a filler story.  I am more than a little ok with this.  Whoever Tarken applies the Imperial justice too is fine by me really, it is the history I am after.

Final words:  in no way does this book disappoint, Easy A+ for me.

Hrolf The Ganger

**Note** with school and such keeping tabs on my time, I listened to this on audio book from audible.  The Narrator Euan Morton was great.

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The Billion Dollar Spy, By David E. Hoffman. **Book Review**

 This blog is called Books Brass and the Bear for a reason.  If you have seen the pictures of (or been inside of my home) you will know that, well…books.  All the books.  Books by the ton.  BOOKS.  There is obviously not a bear in my house, thats just my rather high opinion of myself (I’ve come to terms with it.)  Heaven help you when we get to the part of brass…

Anyhow lets talk books again.  Books.  I am sorry I just enjoy saying the word at this point.   BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKSSSSSSSSSSSS….

Here is your actual review.  Now that I am sitting here, it occurs to me that I am uncertain of how to write a general book review without giving it all away or just saying here read this.

While perusing the local Barnes and Noble history section recently I encountered this.  Here are a couple of facts about me.  I love first edition hard backs, my wallet is not as crazed about them.  It prefers to wait for a soft back, to buy used on eBay, or try a particularly shady book out with a free credit generated monthly by my audible account.  This book did not meet the criteria of “save money and do not take me home right this moment.”  This book was ripped from the shelf and taken home and I was not disappointed.

The book centers around Adolf Tolkachev, and the time he spent as a spy for the United States during the cold war in The Soviet Union.  This book was extremely well researched and not only covers the events described (and holy wow they have pictures) but does a marvelous job of setting the context for what it took to be a spy or an American intelligence operative inside of The Soviet Union.  There is not a single loose detail in this book and it was hands down one of the most satisfying reads I have had in a while.  Satisfying like a ham and cheese sandwich with a cup of coffee is supposed to be.  I do not want to give it away, but I will say that if you enjoy Tom Clancy, you will love this, and it is non fiction.  I will also say that this book should leave you believing the world to be a little less bright for the loss of some of the people in it and the contributions made for the fight against the red menace.  It details not just how Tolkachev turned and what he did, but his motivations, the lengths he went to, his great love for his family, with tidbits thrown in about actual spy gear, and the fact that every American combat aviator who ever had to fly against a piece of Soviet designed air power, owes their respect, and their lives to Adolf Tolkachev.

The Bear’s rating on this book, A+.

Rules and tools.

Welcome back.  It is time to go for the second part of this life is an adventure blog.  This is where the rules and tools of the trades come in.  This will strike you as a little zombieland or NCIS, but it is a good way to live.  My Uncle Fred will attest that I have kept a little note book of reminders since before the movie so laugh all you want, but I am still alive.  You are also about to get a birds eye view into things I spend too much time thinking about.  Anyhow let us get right into the good stuff.  Your necessary gear list starts now.  Feel free to write this down hahahahaha (you’ll understand in a moment.)

Necessary Gear

  1.  A knife.
  2. A notebook.
  3. A pencil.
  4. A bag.

So part 1 is a knife.  This is also rule 1.  Again this is not a tv joke.  Live by the quote  A knifeless man (woman) is a lifeless man (woman).  The best tool you can have is a knife.  Multipurpose endless ammunition survival tool never ending uses knife.  Also make a note this is not the place to go cheap.  Your knife is your life, think that through when you are pricing them.

  

Some of my favorite pieces.  You have the Gerber folding tanto based off the IDF fighting knife, A gerber multi tool w/knife, the ever handy much knocked off Victorinox prize bragging rights of the school yard Swiss Army Knife, Skallywag Tactical dagger (advanced users only), the Gerber Bear Grylls survival knife (one of the best despite the name on it), and the beast of the western fighting force the Ka-Bar fighting knife (advanced users only).  Not pictured is the Case Medium Stockman, and the classic Opinel #8.  One day when Im running short on material I will do an in depth on each and every one of these beauties will get the job done, with a couple of caveats.  1.  do not just rely on a multi took, in fact have one of each if at all possible.  I personally have a fixed blade stashed somewhere with a folder in my pocket.  Congratulations you have now started your everyday carry kit.  Now that I have said it once I will henceforth refer to it as EDC.  These tools are not just for adventuring, it is just life.  It is a wacky wacky world.

2.  You are on an adventure! this is your life! write it down.  You need a notebook!  (also yes this is part of why I thought telling you to write it down earlier was funny.)

I love notebooks.  I have one for everything.  I have a journal (you see it in pictures on this blog) I don’t keep so much of a journal for myself anymore…I will work it out.  Anyhow Journal, rule/gear book, a notebook tracking which books I have read (and when), I keep the books in a notebook, a bucket list notebook, a notebook for when I read the Bible, and one day I will have a notebook to track what each notebook is for.  My notebook of choice is the great Moleskine.  It was the simple product of choice for years of adventurers, artists, writers, and whatever your hobby is they probably have a notebook specifically for that.  In the photo you will see some various choices.  Once you have payed for a nice knife you can rest assured that a simple composition book will do.  Whatever it is, there is not quite any feeling like seeing those pages fill up and knowing that it is your life, your story you are writing down.  The simple and sturdy notebook should you choose Moleskine has what you need and no more, a ribbon page marker, lined pages, an elastic strap to keep it closed, and a little accordion pocket for the odds and ends you pick up along the way.

3.  Along with the notebook comes another one of my favorite things in life is the pencil.  Humble lovable pencil, or as some call it The Russian Space Pen.

The pencil is your stylus of choice for any reason you can list.  Do not get me wrong, I love pens too, but the pencil is the way to go.  Reasons you ask?  The pencil doesn’t quit working despite still having ink, it does not dry out, it is unaffected by weird gravity fluctuations (despite the whole space pen, Russian story being just that), they just have that classic feel in your hand, the ink does run when wet, you can erase (some people say thats a reason not to use them), and when/if it breaks or gets dull you can use the knife that you most certainly have to resharpen your pencil, and you will feel awesome for having done so.  I keep a pretty large stash of pencils with me at all times (with my notebooks).  Whats not to love about a good #2???  Some of my favorites? Ticonderoga and Mirdao.

4.  Last but not least, a bag.  You will need a bag to carry everything with you.  The knife, a small notebook, and pencils can go in your pocket, but you can put more in a bag.  A bag holds your various other goodies, stuff you find, or your whole life when you are out on a journey.  Back pack is my norm, but I also enjoy a good messenger bag for a day at school.

These are my two carry all, be all bags for most every day.  Pictured is a black Goruck GR1, and a line of trade messenger bag.  Both of them are top of the line, and their price can reflect it.  The Goruck is meant to carry more crap than you can come up with, and the line of trade while it holds plenty is meant to carry the bare essentials.  I use the go ruck for everything you can imagine, during the week it carries my lunch, gym clothes and shoes, water bottle, and thermos.  The line of trade carries note book, pencils, and every school book and notebook, and computer for school.

These items are the start of your everyday carry and if you want to be able to pick up and go you will put them together.  Do not do it because I told you to, do it because you want to go where your feet carry you.

When you look up the mountain…

I should be doing more homework right now, but I got it all done last week end, which you will see why that is impressive and I should not be worried now.  Ive gotten a good bit done tonight and now I want to sit down and do a couple of entries that I think have been a long time coming.  First lets hit the journal and then the rest will follow.


9-23-2015

We did it.  Keith and I joined the Spartan TriFecta tribe by completing the spartan beast at Killington, Vermont.  This is the birthplace of the beast and the medal says as much.  The first photo on the previous page is of Keith and I right before the race.

 Before this I had done spartan races already (two of them anyhow), and then I met Keith at the Natick Church of Christ.  I decided that this year I was going to get my trifecta so that I could get most of it done while school was out for the summer and before critter (child 2) gets here.  I invited some guys to come with me and Keith took me up on the offer.  He also said if he started this he was going to finish it.  He just wanted to go ahead and get the trifecta as well.  This is the kind of guy you need by your side in these kinds of messes.

 Three races later and the trifecta is in the bag.  Let us just be frank, for a guy who calls himself Hrolf the Ganger (Hrolf the big walker), the day on that mountain was one of the longest days of my life, and for a soldier that is saying something in my opinion.  Estimated 15-16 miles of mountainous hell, designed by Norm Koch (I now understand the patches that say effnorm).  I will not bother to hash out all the details about the water, and all the other stuff that made this race into a Stalingrad dumpster fire, if you were there then you know.

 What I will say is that I have never wanted to quit something so badly in my life.  At some points going up that mountain it got down to hiking for one minute and stopping for 3 or 4 to rub the cramps out of my legs.  Another fun thing is when you get to the top of a (loose) cargo net and suddenly your core decides to turn into one big cramp.  It was so tight, that may have been the best abs I’ve ever had…you know pain aside and it being a ball of contracted muscle.  I may have gotten my first successful spear throw here (yes on the little one.  still counts.  no burpees.)  None of this changes the fact that my marathon runner of a partner could have gone on faster without me.  He bested the herculean lift and sled pull this time which really nixes the parts of the race where I am a beneficial team member.  No matter how many times I told him to go on, go finish, he wouldn’t do it, even when we were facing cut offs, even when I was on the last big hill dry heaving with thirty minutes left and a mile to go he would not just go.  He is the best friend you could want on the mountain.

 I was able to chug on.  He and I kept to our normal pattern of helping people when we could.  There was a guy named Mike having a panic attack.  He had gotten really dehydrated and decided there was no way out of the woods and they that continued up hill forever as some kind of bizarre purgatory.   Medical wouldn’t get there in time to calm him down, so we got him sipping water and led him off the mountain literally by the hand.  When we got to the bottom, thankfully it was a water point, we had to give him the bad news that he was done.  We had to tell him he couldn’t go back out, he was dehydrated and the moment he saw another up hill in the woods it would all happen again (there was one not 500 feet after that water point) and there was still 3 miles of race to go.

 
To the point, Killington was filled with soul crushing.  I had accepted six hours before we finished that we were not going to make cut offs.  I was quite confident that given all the time we needed we could make the end of the course, but there wasn’t time.  However training kicked in, which really means imagine that you just can’t stop and go stupid for a while and keep moving.  Having a good buddy doesn’t hurt either.  Somehow we kept passing the cutoffs, sometimes within minutes.  In the end suddenly the fire jump was in sight and we crossed that finish line with twelve minutes left.  twelve minutes.  We were out there for twelve hours fourteen minutes.  There were 100 more after us.  We did it.  We left some things that needed to die out there on that mountain.  Katie was at the finish line, towel draped over her shoulders cheering us on.  She was a real trooper having to hang out and wait all day.  The mountain was ours.  I think I rediscovered some parts of myself that had lain dormant for a while.

 Moving on, while I was recovering I still needed to take some friends for exercise.  I took them Geocaching as that was about all I was up for.  This also gave me a chance to get a picture of Liam at the grave yard for the journal, he is at the graves of the Rice family, at Robin Hill cemetery.

 The third is simply a picture of him helping me with the garbage.  Seems dull I know, but this is what we do.  We help each other.  Garbage is one of his favorite things to help with.  He is currently very excited because Halloween decorations are already going up.

  
Halloween is one of our favorite holidays.  With a kid you have to split the movie festival into two portions.  The part the kid can watch, and the part that would classify as child abuse if you let them watch.  Casper is one of our staple movies.  It being twenty years old this year makes this a great moment to reflect about this movie.  I remember going to see this movie in theaters with my Grandmother Vicki.  I remember that pizza hut had a bunch of rubber glow in the dark puppets of the ghosts (I had casper).  Every year around this time I have to fight the urge to pile all this kind of crap up off of eBay.  I remember my buddy Danny Armstrong and I at the neighborhood pool discussing the bad words that were featured in Casper.  I remember my grandmother calling for showtimes in front of the sink of the cabin she and my grandfather lived at.  Not long after it came out I got the VHS and I’ve kept this movie close ever since.

 Reflection and making things to reflect upon is the point of this.  We need anchor points that we can share and call constant.

end.

There you have it.  This one is not very adventurous, but the life of a late comer college student and family man is not always exciting.  Homework, papers, repeat.  I may have beaten the mountain but it does not look like I will be able to beat remedial math. Tomorrow is several events which I am sure you will see all about.

Hrolf the Ganger

P.S. the halloween movie count stands as such.

Kid friendly: Hocus Pocus, Casper

With Carl: Halloween,2,4,5,6,H20

Alone: Scream,2

Halloween is coming…

9-16-2015

On Monday in preparation for the start of Halloween season in our house, which was officially September 15 in our house, Liam and I decided to complete a couple of initiatives.  We marked the event and decided to go outside for a while and hit up the playground, and to go geocaching.  Geocaching is a good time and it is a great outdoor activity.

This cache did have trinkets in it, so Liam took a small purple car, and in exchange we left a keychain compass.  The super fun part which made this an easy double check day, was that the geocache was located in Robin Hill cemetery! 

 The cemetery is small, but everything about the day was perfect.  The air was chilled just right and despite being September there were actually some leaves blowing around.  We managed some time at the playground, which we try to do as often as possible…more on that later. 

 Later on in the evening, my friends Devin, Jon, and Leo came over for a tradition that has almost been completely lost to Las Vegas style debauchery…poker night.  This was our first one, we try to have a game night every so often.  The boys were good enough to let Liam hang out and play with a small set of his own cards and some chips of a very large denomination that we were not using.

If you’ve never tried to have a game night or a poker night you and your friends should give it a try.  Throw your phone in a corner for the night, invite your friends to the table, and have a conversation and some genuine game time.  You will enjoy the sound of cards on cards and chips rattling without the risk of losing you home.  Side note: yes we decided to play Casino Royale in the back ground.

  Beverages for the night?  A combination of two of the best things in the world.  Tea and Whiskey.  Tea and Whiskey.  I do not need to say it again.  It was a great combo.  We weren’t mixing we were sipping both.  It made for a good night.  If you must know the tea was Black Dragon Pearl, the whiskey was Larceny Bourbon.

  Today Carl, Katie and I were able to start the Halloween movie festival for 2015.  First movie set is always the same.  We begin with Halloween.  We finished the second one as well.  Halloween is our first major celebration usually so let the games begin.  It can’t get much better than living in New England for the season.  I mean what better place to take a kid geocaching in an old cemetery, and let him play so you can grab some photos.  He was playing with the toy car he got out of the cache on the headstones.  I told him not to do that, and he looked at me and said “Daddy…they dead.” 

 Moral of the story.  Get some friends together for an analogue game night and unplug.  Start your adventure. 

   

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