Books of the Year: 2017

Gnome carrying pile of booksHere are my picks for the best books of 2017, fiction and nonfiction. These aren’t the best books published this year, but rather the best I’ve read in the last twelvemonth. The winner in both categories is barely distinguished from the pack, and the runners up are all worthy of reading. Runners up appear in alphabetical order by their author’s surname. Each title is linked to my review of the book.

Fiction:... [Read More]


Book Review: The Hidden Truth

“The Hidden Truth” by Hans G. SchantzThis is a masterpiece of alternative history techno-thriller science fiction. It is rich in detail, full of interesting characters who interact and develop as the story unfolds, sound in the technical details which intersect with our world, insightful about science, technology, economics, government and the agenda of the “progressive” movement, and plausible in its presentation of the vast, ruthless, and shadowy conspiracy which lies under the surface of its world. And, above all, it is charming—these are characters you’d like to meet, even some of the villains because you want understand what motivates them.

The protagonist and narrator is a high school junior (senior later in the tale), son of an electrical engineer who owns his own electrical contracting business, married to a chemist, daughter of one of the most wealthy and influential families in their region of Tennessee, against the wishes of her parents. (We never learn the narrator’s name until the last page of the novel, so I suppose it would be a spoiler if I mentioned it here, so I won’t, even if it makes this review somewhat awkward.) Our young narrator wants to become a scientist, and his father not only encourages him in his pursuit, but guides him toward learning on his own by reading the original works of great scientists who actually made fundamental discoveries rather than “suffering through the cleaned-up and dumbed-down version you get from your teachers and textbooks.” His world is not ours: Al Gore, who won the 2000 U.S. presidential election, was killed in the 2001-09-11 attacks on the White House and Capitol, and President Lieberman pushed through the “Preserving our Planet’s Future Act”, popularly known as the “Gore Tax”, in his memory, and its tax on carbon emissions is predictably shackling the economy.... [Read More]


New Year’s Customs

The biggest holiday of the year is New Year in Japan. It outranks Christmas by a lot. People prepare for the New Year by cleaning their houses and preparing Osechi. The holiday last from the first of January to the third.

Japanese want to start the New Year right so that means get the house in order. Not a light cleaning for guests but a thorough cleaning. Some people I have heard change their light bulbs at this time of year.... [Read More]


Pretentious Words

Recently I have been thinking how pretentious these words are when related to a web site.

  1. Banned [Organ music of foreboding doom.]
  2. Suspended (It reminds one of school, doesn’t it?)
  3. Redacted (Who uses redacted in normal conversation? And why not call yourself a Redactor instead of an Editor?)
  4. Code of Conduct (John Walker pointed this out to me early on as not the way to go.)
  5. Moderated (Update from Mike)

Can you add to the list of pretentious words?... [Read More]


Book Review: Order to Kill

“Order to Kill” by Kyle MillsThis is the second novel in the Mitch Rapp saga written by Kyle Mills, who took over the franchise after the death of Vince Flynn, its creator. In the first novel by Mills, The Survivor, he picked up the story of the last Vince Flynn installment, The Last Manright where it left off and seemed to effortlessly assume the voice of Vince Flynn and his sense for the character of Mitch Rapp. This was a most promising beginning, which augured well for further Mitch Rapp adventures.

In this, the fifteenth novel in the Mitch Rapp series (Flynn’s first novel, Term Limits, is set in the same world and shares characters with the Mitch Rapp series, but Rapp does not appear in it, so it isn’t considered a Rapp novel), Mills steps out of the shadow of Vince Flynn’s legacy and takes Rapp and the story line into new territory. The result is…mixed.... [Read More]


TOTD 2017-12-29: Marching with Raised Fists

A year or two after emigrating, she happened to be in Paris on the anniversary of the Russian invasion of her country (Czechoslovakia).  A protest march had been scheduled, and she felt driven to take part.  Fists raised high, the young Frenchmen shouted out slogans condemning  Soviet imperialism. She liked the slogans, but to her surprise she  found herself unable to shout along with them. She lasted only a few minutes in the parade.

When she told her French friends about it, they were amazed. “You mean you don’t want to fight the occupation of your country?”  She would have liked to tell them that behind Communism, Fascism, behind all occupations and invasions lurks a more basic, pervasive evil and that the image of that evil was a parade of people marching with raised fists and shouting identical syllables in unison. But she knew she would never be able to make them understand. Embarrassed, she changed the subject.... [Read More]


Isms Over Ers

It is important to keep this site civil and keeping with our principle of not attacking people it is best to go after the Isms and not the Ers.  This has been said in many ways. Such as: Play the ball not the man. Hate the sin not the sinner.  It is a subtle difference but an important difference.

Here are some examples (picked at random) of the Okay followed by the Not Okay.... [Read More]


Knowledge Base: Spoiler Warnings

When you’re writing a post, for example a book or movie review, and you don’t want to give away plot or ending spoilers to those who haven’t yet encountered the story, you can wrap the spoilers in the [spoiler] and [/spoiler] shortcodes.  These will cause the text they enclose to be hidden unless the user explicitly displays it by clicking on the title of the spoiler box.  You can specify any title you wish with the “title=” attribute in the [


For example, if you write in your post:... [Read More]


Knowledge Base: Ratburger Twitter Feed now has an experimental Twitter feed.  Every time a new article is posted on the main site (but not items in groups), a Tweet will be sent to the Ratburger Twitter feed, whose URL is “”).  You can follow these tweets from your own Twitter account by following account Ratburger_org on Twitter.


Did you think “Dunkirk” is Art?

Dunkirk (2017) is written, co-produced and directed by Christopher Nolan. It is a highly professional production in every way.  The music, by Hans Zimmer, is amazing, and heightens the tension throughout the film. He uses the auditory illusion of a Shepard tone to great effect: brilliant and beautiful! This film is the creation of its director, and is Art! No doubt it will appear in the Oscars. It won’t be surprising if it wins the Best Picture award.

Taken as a fictional recreation of the evacuation of the British Army from the beaches of Dunkirk, in France, from May 26 to June 4, 1940, Dunkirk allows us to imagine how it must have been for the people involved. We experience it from the beach at Dunkirk, on the sea in the large ships and little ships, and in the air from the cockpit of a Spitfire. We feel the tension: the boredom of waiting; the terror of being bombed; the dangers on the sea and in the air. We see how ordinary people were affected by the events. As an imagined sliver of time in that place, this is an amazing film. It does have the feeling of being a documentary. The direction could perhaps have been tightened up at times as it even felt a little boring. On the other hand, as has been said, war has its times of boredom. Without the music to convey tension, would Dunkirk have seemed a little dull?... [Read More]


Somewhere Over Nebraska

I just got off the phone with one of our Members. Something was said while we were talking that has got me wondering. How is one “somewhere over Nebraska”? When I looked up the Member’s profile I found out we have a Photon Whisperer among us. I thought this was a joke but it seems Photon Whisperers whisper to Photons at 50,000 feet. I did not ask what type of Super Hero wear he had on but it seems you can make calls up there. I grew up on Superman but he never made phone calls, did he?



Book Review: The Electra Story

“The Electra Story” by Robert J. SerlingAs the jet age dawned for commercial air transport, the major U.S. aircraft manufacturers found themselves playing catch-up to the British, who had put the first pure jet airliner, the De Havilland Comet, into service in 1952, followed shortly thereafter by the turboprop Vickers Viscount in 1953. The Comet’s reputation was seriously damaged by a series of crashes caused by metal fatigue provoked by its pressurisation system, and while this was remedied in subsequent models, the opportunity to scoop the Americans and set the standard for passenger jet transportation was lost. The Viscount was very successful with a total of 445 built. In fact, demand so surpassed its manufacturer’s production rate that delivery time stretched out, causing airlines to seek alternatives.

All of this created a golden opportunity for the U.S. airframers. Boeing and Douglas opted for four engine turbojet designs, the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8, which were superficially similar, entering service in 1958 and 1959 respectively. Lockheed opted for a different approach. Based upon its earlier experience designing the C-130 Hercules military transport for the U.S. Air Force, Lockheed decided to build a turboprop airliner instead of a pure jet design like the 707 or DC-8. There were a number of reasons motivating this choice. First of all, Lockheed could use essentially the same engines in the airliner as in the C-130, eliminating the risks of mating a new engine to a new airframe which have caused major troubles throughout the history of aviation. Second, a turboprop, although not as fast as a pure jet, is still much faster than a piston engined plane and able to fly above most of the weather. Turboprops are far more fuel efficient than the turbojet engines used by Boeing and Douglas, and can operate from short runways and under high altitude and hot weather conditions which ground the pure jets. All of these properties made a turboprop airliner ideal for short- and medium-range operations where speed en route was less important than the ability to operate from smaller airports. (Indeed, more than half a century later, turboprops account for a substantial portion of the regional air transport market for precisely these reasons.)... [Read More]


G-d bless Her Christian Majesty, Defender of the Faith

G-d save the Queen.   I have a new Christmas tradition, for the past three years, which is listening to the Christmas broadcast of Queen Elizabeth II of the UK and British Commonwealth of Nations.   She has stepped into the spiritual breach, and has been bringing the Good News to her subjects.  She begins with themes of home, and ends with the Gospel of Jesus the Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Here is her message for this year.   It is well worth your nine minutes of time.... [Read More]