Enjoyable, informative, and maybe even a little hopeful. Maybe.


This is a good book. I thought it was going to be either a polemical diatribe or a “Aren’t I wonderful, aren’t I great!” self-promotion like so many political autobiographies, but this one is by turns humble, informative and, of course, funny. Franken has a real appreciation for the challenges inherent in the job of being a US Senator from Minnesota, as well as its occasional absurdities, and he has a talent for encapsulating serious policy into digestible bites of clear prose. Why, he could teach civics in high school. If we still taught civics in high school.

If you were expecting a beat-down on the Republican Party, yeah, there’s some of that, but he reserves his big guns for Ted Cruz (nobody likes that guy, including Republicans).

…the problem with Ted–and the reason so many senators have a problem with Ted–is simply that he is an absolutely toxic coworker…Real senatoring requires that you build productive relationships with your colleagues. And Ted just isn’t that kind of guy.

(I’m going to use ‘senatoring’ someday in a book myself. With attribution, of course.) Franken, on the other hand, has managed to make friends even with Mitch McConnell.

“Mitch,” I said, “I have to say, I really like your speeches better that aren’t in the service of evil.”

Mitch favored me with his best Grinch smile. Then he said, “I like the evil ones better.”

Also Franken has a gift for footnoting (just go with it), as in

Until 1964, Dad had been a liberal Republican.*

*Those used to exist.

Enjoyable, informative, and maybe even a little hopeful. Maybe. Recommended.

More of my Goodreads reviews here.

All we need is an arrow with a caption: You are here. #persepective

Screen Shot 2017-09-20 at 7.33.51 PM

From the Washington Post:

That little white ball on the right? That’s Earth.
Astronomer Carolyn Porco, the leader of the Cassini imaging team who conceived of the July 2013 photo shoot. She and her colleagues organized a campaign to smile into the void at 21:27 Coordinated Universal Time (accounting, of course, for light’s 15-minute dash from Earth to Saturn. It would be only the third time that Earth had been photographed from such a distance, after an earlier Cassini image and the Voyager portrait. It also marked the first time that Earth inhabitants knew they were being photographed from the outer solar system, beyond the asteroid belt.
(NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/AP)

More photos here.

It’s all about product placement on the Silk Road.

Coal and stovepipes copy

Coal and stovepipes in the Kuche market. Hey, buy one, gotta buy the other.

HoZ Silk and Song final

Which I will be signing at 2pm on December 2nd

at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Click here to pre-order.


That would be this

shown here with samurai for scale, whose weapon it was

A naginata could be over twelve feet in length, butt to blade tip. Other than the obvious uses — stabbing, slicing, hooking, clubbing, kneecapping charging horses, disemboweling and/or beheading their riders — the naginata user’s advantage was by how far it extended the user’s reach over an opponent armed with a sword. The naginata was also the only weapon women were allowed to use in medieval Japan. Read more here.

The naginata is the weapon of choice for Silk and Song’s samurai, Gokudo. His quick hand on the, er, shaft may have in part led to his banishment from Chipangu, and to his intersection with my plot.

HoZ Silk and Song final.jpg

Which I will be signing at 2pm on December 2nd

at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Click here to pre-order.


Shoe a mule or fill a cavity–your choice at the Kuche market.

Shoeing a reluctant mule

So you can get your mule shoed…



…and ten feet to your left see this sign…


…so while you’re waiting on your mule you can go in and get that pesky cavity in your second lower left molar filled. I sent this photo to my dentist and he reported that that that dentist had pretty modern equipment. I regret to this day not asking our guide to ask how much it would cost to get that cavity filled.

HoZ Silk and Song final

Which I will be signing at 2pm on December 2nd

at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Click here to pre-order.


One of those very few good books that have been made into a good film.

an unfinished life

I saw the film and raved about it and everyone told me to read the book. I have now done so and I’m happy to report that this is one of those very few good books that have been made into a good film.

Jean Gilkyson escapes her abusive boyfriend and with her daughter Griff heads back to the one place in the world she’d rather not be–her father-in-law’s ranch in Wyoming. Father-in-law Einar is an embittered, recovering drunk whose only redeeming quality is his friendship for his cowboy cohort, Mitch Bradley, who is missing a kidney from a bear mauling a couple of years before. There’s an attractive sheriff, a wise diner owner, and a lot of neighbors who rally round when they’re needed, but mostly there is some very nice writing, especially Griff’s voice, as in

She opens her hands flat and presses down against her chest. No titties, she thinks. She’s still safe. She thinks that one morning she’ll wake up with breasts, maybe the start of hair between her legs, and everything will begin to go wrong. Just like things have gone wrong for her mother. Breasts attract trailer houses and pickup trucks and lots and lots of tears. She wishes her father were still alive. If he weren’t dead it would be safe to let her titties grow.

The Big Bad Boyfriend is a little too broadly drawn–we’ve all met him far too many times before– but still a book very much worth reading. “I’m careful about what I throw away,” Einar tells Griff. No, he isn’t, or he wasn’t, but now he’s got a second chance to take hold and hang on.

Second book in what appears to be a sort of trilogy. I’ll read the first one but I’m not sure I want to know what happens after.