losing our go-to propane supplier

When we left Gilroy in 2015 our outdoor gas grill was one of the things that didn’t make the cut. We were here in Hemet for two years before we bought a new gas grill. When we did my brother asked me whether we were going to own our own propane tank or use the swap-out system. As I wrote back then, I didn’t know we had a choice. For us and our neighbors on Arbor St. in Gilroy, all we knew was that you picked up a full tank at Orchard Supply or Home Depot and swapped it out when it was empty. I quickly discovered that it was much less expensive to buy your own tank and refill it as needed.

Trailer SupplySince we have been doing that here in Hemet there has only been one place that we have gotten our refills: Trailer Supply. It was a mom and pop shop where it was easy to get the task done. And I mean literally “mom and pop.” A husband and wife ran it without any additional help that I ever saw. The husband filled my tank and wrote down on a post-it the amount of propane he had dispensed. I went inside and paid the wife. Simple and easy.

And now they are gone. Closed. Just like that. The store is on my route home from church so the closure caught my eye. I realize that we did not use our grill once this year, as I wrote. But we expect to be back in the grilling business next spring. We’ll have to find another source for our propane. A couple of the big gas stations in town sell propane, but that I would expect to be a hassle. With customers coming and going, filling up their vehicles and paying at the counter, getting someone to leave their post behind said counter to refill your propane could be difficult. There is a farm supply store in the tiny town of Winchester, just a few miles from us, which has a sign saying that they sell propane. I think we’ll give them a try.

But we won’t have to worry about that until next spring.

What is Real?

What is Real?What Is Real?: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics
Adam Becker
Narrated by Greg Tremblay
Blackstone Audio, Inc., March 20, 2018
$13.99 for Audible members, more for non-members

Adam Becker is a science writer with a PhD in astrophysics and a B.A. in philosophy and physics. As such, he is well qualified to write this book, which discusses both theories in quantum physics and the lives of those involved in developing those theories. He goes back to the beginning, with a lot of attention being given to Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr. Bohr was one of the originators of quantum theory, while Einstein questioned it. Becker takes us through the twentieth century, documenting Hitler and his anti-Jewish policies (which robbed Germany of many brilliant physicists), the creation of the atom bomb, and the effect that military spending and the cold war had on the direction taken by physics.

Becker discusses the Stockholm interpretation of quantum theory, which essentially says that the quantum subatomic world behaves differently from the physical world that we perceive with our senses, and we shouldn’t worry about why. He talks about those who developed alternatives to the Stockholm interpretation and the poor reception they got. David Bohm was blacklisted due to his activities with the Communist party in his younger days and ended up teaching in Brazil. Hugh Everett left academia for the Pentagon and industry because he preferred fine dining and sexual affairs to debating theoretical physics. At the end of the book Becker wonders how these debates might have turned out differently had these two remained in the conversation.

The book is capably narrated by Greg Tremblay. His convention of changing the tone and pitch of his voice when reading quotations was slightly annoying, but, I suppose, necessary to distinguish that material from the the author’s narrative. In some respects I might have been better off with a print or Kindle edition so I could flip back and review certain material, but for the most part this was enjoyable and educational listening.

on not throwing the baby out with the bath water

I have written quite a bit recently about plant-based meat substitutes. For six months after my surgery in February I was not allowed red meat, and those products helped satisfy my cravings. I am once again allowed to eat red meat, but those products are still a part of my diet and cooking habits.

Beyond Meat Burger packageThere has, however, been something of a backlash against the Beyond Meat, Impossible, and LightLife products. I see items pop up on social media and in suggested stories on my Google iOS app. My good friend Farrell has railed against them on Facebook. In one CNBC article, John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods, said that these products are highly processed and not terribly healthy. The Impossible product has been criticized for being made with highly processed soy.

LightLife BurgerBut let’s back up a minute. Beyond Meats says its burger product contains a blend of pea, mung bean, and rice proteins. The LightLife product is somewhat similar. Processed, yes, but healthy vegetable products. And these products are far healthier for the environment, as Mackey admits. The CNBC article states, “According to a study commissioned by Beyond Meat with the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan, a plant-based burger generates 90% less greenhouse gas emissions, requires 45% less energy, has 99% less impact on water scarcity, and 93% less impact on land use than a ¼ pound of traditional U.S. beef.”


It was back in 1971 that Frances Moore Lappé, in her groundbreaking Diet for a Small Planet, pointed out that animal products are a highly inefficient way of getting protein. And within that realm, beef is far and away the most inefficient. Folks, one reason (among many) that the Amazon is burning is our insatiable desire for beef. Getting our protein from plant-based sources is far easier on the planet. These products will continue to evolve and improve. If people can shed their lust for beef by eating these products then we ought to give them a fair shake.

Let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water.

sacrificing quality for price

old razorIt was a year ago at this time that we were getting ready for Terry’s Knee surgery. At the same time I needed to get a new set of blades for my Norelco electric razor. When I checked the prices on Amazon I was taken aback by cost of replacement blades. I could buy a new razor for that price, I thought. So I did. I bought a low-end model.new razor

Big mistake. I never liked the feel of the razor in my hand and the shaves I got were not all that great.

Now here it is a year later. I went to Amazon to buy replacement blades. No Norelco blades came up for that razor. What did come up was a third-party set of blades with really poor ratings. So I checked the Norelco web site. No blades for that razor on the Norelco web site either. Really? Really.

So I took the opposite approach. I ordered a mid-range Norelco razor. Not the cheapest, but not the most expensive. Something right in the middle. I’m quite happy with it. It gives me a close, smooth save.

Sometimes it’s not a good idea to sacrifice quality for price.

When Christians Were Jews

When Christians Were JewsWhen Christians Were Jews: The First Generation
Paula Fredriksen
Yale University Press (October 23, 2018)
272 pages
Kindle edition $9.62, Amazon Hardcover $19.02

Although this book is published by Yale University Press, it is definitely a popular book. It wasn’t written for the scholarly community. It is, however, very heavily annotated. Nearly half the book is footnotes, bibliography, and other end matter.

Fredriksen discusses the first generation of the followers of Jesus. She talks about the Essenes and how their notion of the end time varied from and was similar to that of the followers of Jesus. She discusses the discrepancies between Paul as he is portrayed in the book of Acts and how he writes about himself in his letters. She explains how it was not Jesus who had the Romans upset, but the crowds he incited. The Romans were always nervous about angry crowds.

I have a couple of problems with Fredriksen’s approach. She places the books of Luke and Acts (written by the same author) in the early second century, when most scholars place it at the end of the first century. She uses the Revised Standard Version of the Bible for her English translation, which is odd. The RSV was published in 1949, while the New Revised Standard Version was published in 1989. The latter is regarded as a solid, reliable translation, so why she uses an earlier one baffles me.

There is one oddity with the footnotes in this Kindle edition. Clicking the footnotes takes you to the footnote section in the back of the book. In all other Kindle books that contain footnotes which I have read in the last couple of years the footnote appears as a pop-up. Very odd.

The book had some interesting insights, but there wasn’t really anything in it that I hadn’t picked up elsewhere.

Trick Mirror

Trick Mirror coverTrick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion
Jia Tolentino
Narrated by the author
Random House Audio, August 6, 2019
$22.05 for Audible members, more for non-members
purchased with an Audible credit

There is a perception that for many woman of the Generation X era feminism was not a compelling or urgent cause, as they felt comfortable being able to create the lives and careers that they wanted without any significant barriers or obstructions. This may or may not be true, but the perception exists.

Things seem to be different for the Millennials  If Jia Tolentino speaks for her generation then feminism is front and center for Millennial women. Tolentino, a culture critic for The New Yorker, is sharp and insightful in this collection of essays. The author is literate and perceptive, never holding back in expressing her own opinion. The book is timely, including multiple discussions of the repercussions of the 2016 election along with mentions of public figures such as Kate Middleton and Megan Markle. Tolentino knows her literature, nineteenth century, twentieth century, and contemporary. She is well versed in the writings of Simone de Beauvoir and Gloria Steinem. She writes about appearing in a reality television show while in high school and about how Queen Victoria’s wedding had a profound effect on how weddings have been performed since.

Throughout her essays Tolentino describes how women have not made the gains that society perceives them to have made, and how their rights and autonomy continue to be under attack. The final essay makes clear that Tolentino has no use for marriage. She argues that historically marriage  has benefitted men and has been detrimental to women.

The fact that Tolentino reads her own essays in this audio version made the book all the more engaging for me, but I believe it would be just as effective in print, either paper or electronic. If you want to know what one segment of the Millennial generation is thinking this book is the ideal place to start.

The Grammarians

The Grammarians coverThe Grammarians: A Novel
Cathleen Schine
Sarah Crichton Books (September 3, 2019)
272 pages
Kindle edition $13.99, Amazon hardcover $22.99

This novel received some excellent reviews, and those reviews are well-deserved.

The book is about a pair of identical twins, Laurel and Daphne, who share a love for language and words. Their connection is made clear in their names. In Greek mythology the nymph Daphne is turned into a laurel tree.

When the two were very young they had their own secret language, which was unnerving to their parents and their psychologist uncle. All were relieved when they were old enough to begin speaking English. The two shared pretty much everything as children, and as high school graduates attended three years of college together after spending their freshman year apart. (It was Pomona College, in fact, one of the Claremont Colleges, as is Pitzer College from which I graduated. This gets all of a one-line mention.)

The novel is only one-fourth complete when the girls, now women, are college graduates and have begun seeking careers, or at least work. The two both meet their future husbands at about the same time and have a double wedding. They both live in New York City as they start their working lives, Laurel teaching kindergarten and Daphne working at an alternative weekly newspaper (something I myself have done). Over time they grow apart and eventually stop speaking.

The final ten percent of the novel covers a period of several years and is somewhat of a jumble. It is almost as if the author was only allowed a certain number of pages for her book and had a lot she wanted to cram into those final pages. In the end things come full circle and loose ends are tied up, if not in a totally satisfying manner.

This is not the perfect novel, but if you enjoy language and words you’ll likely find it worth your time and money.