Semper Fidelis: A Crime Novel of the Roman Empire (Medicus Novels Book 5) B+

Semper Fidelis: A Crime Novel of the Roman Empire (Medicus Novels Book 5) – Kindle edition by Ruth Downie. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. Use features like bookmarks, note taking and highlighting while reading Semper Fidelis: A Crime Novel of the Roman Empire (Medicus Novels Book 5).

Source: Semper Fidelis: A Crime Novel of the Roman Empire (Medicus Novels Book 5) – Kindle edition by Ruth Downie. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle eBooks @

The fifth book of the Ruso / Tilla series. By this point the series is getting a little tired; the books begin to feel like Scooby Doo episodes.

  1. Ruso, the doctor, will get into some sort of scrape and luck his way out.
  2. Tilla, the native Briton, will get into some other scrape.
  3. The murder mystery will be solved in the last few pages with the help of at least one deus ex machina.

And yet… I read this book and then bought book 6 as well. Downie has a good handle on writing in the period when Rome had invaded and settled England. It’s an interesting period to read about as it doesn’t come up in school very often. The invasion started with Julius Caesar in 55AD but took nearly 100 years before the fighting finished (and even still most of Scotland was never settled). This book is set around 122AD when the emperor Hadrian had started construction of his famous wall. Clearly the Roman occupation of Britain was a lot longer than I had otherwise known. 383 AD was nearly the end of Roman rule with. Put it that way and Rome ruled Britain for twice as long as the United States has been a country.

This series is a nice way to access some of the history of this time. Yes, it’s fiction. Yes, the leading characters are getting a bit worn around the edges. But it’s still a fun, light, easy piece of reading.


Why do they stop making great products?

The verdict: pretty good. My feet were never cold and  really enjoyed wearing a thick wooly sock. The ground-feel was nice although not as crisp as the FiveFinger KSOs, closer in feel to the Bikilas I wore for the Dublin Marathon. The footbox is wide, no hot spots, just generally good. The one thing I noticed is they are louder than the FiveFingers. Running barefoot or in FiveFingers you run almost silently, ninja-style. It’s one of the treats of running barefoot is to job next to someone in traditional shoes and hear them clumping and galumphing along. The EVO II’s are just a little less quiet somehow.

Source: Terra Plana Evo II | Bricin

I wrote this review five years ago. Since then I learned that a) this was about the best shoe ever made and b) somehow the company is now Vivo Barefoot. These shoes were great and I bought several pairs of them as I wore them out. My son wore a few pairs out too. And I bought some of their dressier versions for work. The Evo II was waterproof, solid enough to wear daily to Crossfit, mountain bike, and dressy enough for work. Loved this shoe and they simply don’t have anything like it anymore.

So why did they stop making these? The only reason I can figure is that some of the shoes had trouble with the glue. Some pairs would simply separate the upper from the lower. I assume all those returns were expensive and since I was apparently the only person buying them they discontinued these shoes. Some running shoe manufacturers do a similar thing to ensure that you keep buying a new and often more expensive shoe. In this case though there is nothing for me to “upgrade” to.

The Relic Master: A Novel (B)

Source: Amazon Kindle: The Relic Master: A Novel

I like Christopher Buckley books. I tend to find them funny and I also tend to learn something new as they are set in history that I usually am unfamiliar with (or at least deeply familiar with).

This is a fun romp. A little dark at times and somehow feels unfinished, like the editor didn’t quite do the job. But if you have a yen to read about a “relic dealer” i.e. someone who bought and sold pieces of the bodies of saints or of their implements or of the Holy Cross, or the Shroud of Turin then this is the book for you.

My Highlights

I found several items of interest in this book.

  • pari passu: this means “side by side”   Read more at location 811
  • And here, perhaps, was the greatest irony of all: Frederick himself remained devoutly Catholic. So far as anyone could make out, he didn’t agree with Luther on a single point of his heretical doctrines.” Read more at location 819
    • This was an interesting nugget of information and something of which I was unaware of in the history of the Reformation.
  • Take away a Spanisher’s red paints—his massicot, sinopia, carmine, bole, cinnabar, lac, madder, solferino, vermilion, Pozzuoli, crimson
    • I liked this quote simply for the many ways of describing “red”.
  • hortation: to exhort or to urge on. I’d never seen this usage before.
  • peine forte et dure: a form of medieval torture. It means ‘hard and forceful punishment’.

Books: At Home on the Kazakh Steppe: A Peace Corps Memoir ( C )

Source: Amazon Kindle: At Home on the Kazakh Steppe: A Peace Corps Memoir

I struggled with this book. I’ve read a lot of travel books lately. I go through phases like this: sci-fi and fantasy, serious books, business books, a biography or two, and then back to tales of living somewhere else. I should map this out but if I had to guess I read a lot more “living elsewhere” books during winter. If you’ve lived a winter or two in Seattle that would make sense.

This book… at the end I didn’t feel I had a good sense of Kazakhstan or even really the small town the writer lived in. I had a good sense that she was experiencing the highs and lows of moving abroad. It’s harder than you might think and yet also in some ways a very easy adventure (disclaimer: moving to Switzerland and France is no doubt less jarring than a small town in Kazakhstan). Still I felt disappointed that there was a lot of talk about marital difficulties vs. what the town and people and country are like. The entire upheaval of a nation that had formally spoken Russian for decades but could suddenly use its native Kazakh was briefly touched on but never dealt with well. I would have liked more of that.

It wasn’t bad and it took a lot of courage for the writer (and one presumes her husband while reviewing the drafts) to put this out there. But it doesn’t make up for the fact that I don’t seem to know much more about Kazakhstan today than I did before reading the book.

Books: Uprooted

Source: Amazon Kindle: Uprooted

Solid world, interesting reading, well-written… just couldn’t sustain the pace

If you like fantasy and need something nice to read for a day or two, this is a solid choice. The world is interesting, the hero is well written and believable, and at the end you do want to read more about this world. I hope Naomi Novik keeps going with this world.

*** spoilers for those who care ***

Why not an A? Well… for one the romance felt forced and just a bit clichéd. Do all young women need to fall in love with a powerful older man? It’s hard to call this a spoiler as the book telegraphs this. And Novik does a decent job making it okay, somewhat believable, and in fact a little realistic. But in the end… the hero needs a man.

The other thing that is a true decider for me in a rating is when I find myself rapidly flipping the pages during a large section because I just want it over. Not in agony of knowing what’s going to happen, just a bit of boredom, yadda yadda, get it moving, etc. This wasn’t terrible but it happened. Maybe I was in a bad mood.

So yeah… read this book. It’s good.


Put an Egg on It – The New York Times

Our new egg guide and loads of healthy recipes for the new year.

Source: Put an Egg on It – The New York Times

Absolutely great list of foods you can make that include eggs, most are beyond the basic breakfast fare.

I’m a big believer in putting eggs on things. Some winners:

  1. Pizza. I first saw this living in Europe but some of the good, high-end places in the U.S. have pizzas with eggs. Serious Pie in Seattle will add eggs to most of their pizzas and it *really* works.
  2. Hamburgers. With bacon and cheese this is truly all-American. The tip is you need to _commit_ to the burger. Once you pick it up you need to eat the whole thing or it will fall apart. Do not wear long sleeves, stuff will be running down your arms.
  3. Salads. Salads are generally speaking boring. Putting a few poached or fried eggs on top makes them fun an tasty.
  4. Poutine. Not much wrong with poutine to begin with (french fries, gravy, and cheese curds) but adding an egg just gets you that much closer to heaven (and a heart attack).

That’s a good start, what are your favorite egg dishes?

Book: Postcards From Across the Pond ( C or maybe C+ )

was informed there was one in a nearby parade, which, after some confusion, I discovered means a strip mall in Britain. Finding the parade was easy enough,

Source: Amazon Kindle: Postcards From Across the Pond

I have been reading this very lightweight book about life in England when I came across this section. I like to think that I have a decent handle on UK English overall but “parade” for “strip mall” was completely new to me.

Somehow parade seems a lot nicer than what these awful things are — strip malls evokes “strip mining” or “Vegas strip”. Tawdry and bad which just about sums it up.

Mildly amusing, good for reading when you have a cold

5 years ago: gluten free and paleo weren’t a thing

Why no bread? I think I understand why no bread from white flour, but why not whole grain? Why not sprouted grains.

Source: Questions about Tim Ferriss’ Slow-Carb Diet | Bricin

What’s interesting about this post from five years ago was that I had not yet stumbled onto paleo, Mark Sisson’s primal concepts, and the entire world of gluten free was not prevalent. Since then:

  1. Paleo has become mainstream
  2. Many people have removed gluten from their diets. That’s a mixed bag since often they replaced a gluten-y food with something that overall was worse for them. Worse most removed gluten without knowing *why* and whether the science was clear (it’s not, pretty mixed bag).
  3. Interesting that even five years ago I was asking about sprouted grains (generally considered paleo). I never followed up much as the easiest thing for me is to cut out wheat. For me this is less about gluten than it is about a) calories and b) all the other junk that wheat tends to wrap up (e.g. a donut).
  4. Our family diet has settled into a pretty solid slow-carb system albeit the kids eat more carbs than I do. We need to eat more fish and shellfish but overall the diet is pretty solid.

Amazing how long these cycles take.

I know this is hard, but…

Flickr has a new feature “Magic View”. Okay, kudos to Flickr for finally doing something… but, um, well…

This isn’t very good. The first one is of my wife hiking with our dog. I guess I will stretch the British slang “bird” on this one:-)

It really doesn’t get better from there.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 8.01.54 PM

Um.. not birds



Over on Medium I’ve joined the One Side Project movement. The goal of this movement is to focus on one side project at a time. This is extremely interesting for me as I usually am juggling numerous side projects and wind up struggling to finish any of them.

This year I’ve decided to focus on as my first side project to “finish”.

What is Whalesight?

The problem: today there are numerous efforts to help clean up and make our oceans healthier places for marine mammals. The trouble is that these efforts aren’t coordinated, the data they gather isn’t shared, and what data is collected isn’t always in a format that others can benefit from. Think about it this way: every time there is a new study or survey put out the raw data is essentially trapped in a PDF somewhere. Or sometimes it’s in an Excel sheet or random database on a server under the scientist’s desk. To make things worse there are literally millions of people out there taking pictures of whales, dolphins, seals, polar bears, and others and yet that data does not get used.

The data gathered can inform public policy, corporate decision-making (e.g. oil companies and drilling), scientific research, and of course help enthusiasts have a bigger hand in ocean health and marine mammal well-being.

The solution: my brother Dave has extensive experience in gathering marine mammal data with his software Mysticetus. When he mentioned there was no central clearing house, no “big data” warehouse in the cloud (maybe we didn’t use all these buzzwords from 2015) we asked ourselves why not? The amount of data being collected isn’t huge in a modern sense. We know how to build scaleable storage in the cloud. It wouldn’t be hard to add APIs and data feeds based on this information. And lastly getting the enthusiasts, the people flocking to whale watching boats, the people on their kayaks, or the people spotting stranded whales and reporting them to NOAA to put their data and photos somewhere useful is just an app away.

This is how Whalesight started.

What does “finish” mean?

If done properly we see Whalesight as something that should go on indefinitely. We are not 100% sure what “monetization” looks like but we know this isn’t a unicorn, it probably isn’t a startup even. There might be grant money, this might provide some ROI for marine mammal scientists, and we might need to crowd-fund at some point. But we think we can get this up and running in a viable way and then enlist others. To that end:

  1. Front-end web site to collect names from interested people, showcase what we are building, and track progress. This is 25% done but needs more work. Check out Any interested WordPress devs / designers out there please let me know.
  2. Back-end data collection in the cloud. This will be my focus in the next few months. If we can scale to 100 users (scientists and enthusiasts) and get the schema right, the rest can be revised later.
  3. iPhone app. This is Dave’s project. We have the design sketched out, now we need to implement it and get this into the hands of a few hundred beta testers (interested in being a beta tester? Sign up on

That will get us to a point I can say “done” and perhaps move on to a new side project. I’d love to hear from any tech / design folks out there who might want to pitch in and help. If you know someone at Amazon Web Services, Microsoft BizSpark (Azure), or a similar cloud storage engine we could leverage let me know.

What do you do after Whalesight is finished?

I always have a list of side projects. My book is at 22,000 words, my screenplay is stalled, I still cannot play more than rudimentary chords on the guitar, what little French I spoke has evaporated and hey… I just might need to get a job in 2016 as my gap year enters the second 6 months.