Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Monday, February 22, 2016

That's the Way the Snow Blows

The snowblower. If you recall, the first time I ever tried using it, it wouldn't start. At the time, I chose not to name the manufacturer or where I purchased it, so as not to disparage a company without cause.

Well, now I know the whole story.

The 7 to 10 days to repair took 13. Of course, they didn't notify me of the delay; I had to call them. And because of the delay, it was another week before I could pick it up. (My neighbor with the pickup truck was out of town.)

The problem, according to the repair center? The unit was overfilled with oil.

I should have guessed. After all, I didn't put a single drop in it.

The snowblower came with oil when I bought it, added by the store's staff. They also loaded it into our SUV on its side, leaking oil into our vehicle. I'm not sure which mistake truly caused the issue, or if it was a tag-team effort. Either way, it's now clear which of the players was the culprit:

Troy-Bilt makes quality snowblowers.

Lowe's staff ruins them.1

1 Yes, I realize our experience may well have been a single, isolated instance. But the above holds true for 100% of the snowblowers I have purchased there, so I stand by my statement.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Halfway Down the Stairs

In my last post, I recommended two books. Or rather, I said I enjoyed them, which is essentially the same thing. The thing is, I may have overstated my enjoyment, at least for one of them. Oh, and my write-up contained other inaccuracies as well. Let me 'splain.

I hyped both books as the type that would normally cause me to temporarily abandon my secondary book (as I always have two going at a time). But, in retrospect, that was a lie. A more accurate assessment: The Martian begged to be my sole focus. Blackbirds, on the other hand, was just entertaining enough I couldn't bring myself to put it aside.

Mind you, that's not a black mark on Blackbirds. A lesser tale would have been cast aside faster than you can say "post haste." I'm merely saying that, under different circumstances, it still wouldn't have been a one-at-a-time book.1

On to The Martian. I stand by my statement that it's one of the best books I've read, but I should mention it's not one of the best-written books I've read. I mean, it's written well enough, but there is unevenness to the narration (particularly the third-person omniscient sections I referred to last post). And though you suffer with astronaut Mark Watney throughout, you don't get a real sense of his character. The story, like Mark, is focused almost entirely on his survival. Unlike most great books, at its core this one is not about people or relationships. It's about crazy scenarios and clever solutions. And I loved it.

Although, I would've liked an epilogue.

One last thing. I've never been good at keeping track of what I read, but I did want to share a short list of the other books I've loveloveloved this past year. A few others came close, but these are the three that grabbed hold and didn't let go:

1 I also spoke of Blackbirds' plot twists. I'm not sure why; thinking back I can't recall any real twists. (Luckily, it didn't need them. Its concept and characters were compelling enough for this humble reader.)
2 Now these two are rife with plot twists. And backstabbing. And backstabbingly good plot twists. (Sure, you may not trust my judgment after my misstatement last time, but don't worry. There's absolutely no chance I'll be recanting these statements in a future post.)3
3 Note: I reserve the right to recant other statements.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Upstairs Downstairs

I tend to read two books at once. An upstairs book and a downstairs book. I typically try for different genres, or at least different enough plots the two don't blend together.

Sometimes, one will be so engaging I push the other aside. I'll read the greater book both upstairs and downstairs while the lesser one sits, waiting, till I finish devouring its better. This probably happens a few times a year.

I can't remember the last time I wanted to promote both books to solo status at the same time. But that's what happened this past week. It was like a Mexican standoff. Only, you know, with neither book written in Spanish.

The upstairs book, Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig, was a well-written and entertaining affair. Basic plot: Miriam Black can tell, with one touch, how and when someone will die. But when she meets a person she actually cares about for the first time in ages, she learns she'll be present for his murder in a few weeks' time. From there, things get a little crazy.

Wendig's propensity for profanity and graphically descriptive metaphors may turn some people off, but his intriguing characters and plot twists kept me rapt. I'll be seeking out the next in the series in short order.

The downstairs book, on the other hand, was one of the best I've ever read. When a novel hits all the bestseller lists and gets uber-popular, I always assume it won't live up to the hype. Usually, that's the case. Not so with Andy Weir's The Martian.

Hot damn it's a good book.

Basic plot: An astronaut gets stranded on Mars, and the only way he can survive is by MacGyvering his way out of life-or-death situations left and right. Each peril is entirely plausible, the science employed is legit, and the narrative is punctuated by a stellar sense of humor. The couple third-person omniscient scenes feel a bit heavy-handed, but overall The Martian is a gripping, fantastic story. It's one of only a couple books I read this past year which I utterly loveloveloved. You should read this book.

Of course, now that I've dispensed with each of the above, I need to find a new upstairs book and a new downstairs book. Any suggestions?