Reading All Thor/Flynn Books Again!

I started reading Vince Flynn books back when there were only about fourteen of them, upon the recommendation of someone that I trust for this kind of thing. Didn’t regret it. My first book was from the middle of the series, so I didn’t start in sequention order, but that was okay. That makes the previous books more like prequels.

Unfortunately, Vince Flynn passed away in 2013. Although the series was pretty substancial by that point, there was no reason to not continue it, so they found Kyle Mills, who had written twelve of his own books, to continue ala the Tom Clancy books, which are also now written by someone else.

I have only read one of Kyle Mills’ books, but it was good and I have no worries about the Vince Flynn books he’s written (these came out after my first reading of the series). I still have two of Mills’ books to aquire, but they are the most rare and expensive in hardback. I like paperbacks, but hardbacks are my preference if the option exists.

So, enough time has passed that I’ve decided to dive in and read the series again, but this time, in sequential order. What additionally spurred me on was that with the twelve volumes that have been released as Collectors Editions, for all these years, the first three/set has been elusive as it has been unreasonably expensive to purchase. I came in on the tail-end of that era, so they had been out for some time and apparently they are difficult to come by. So for the past ten years or so, I’ve occasionally been checking eBay and Amazon for this set, as I had the other three sets which were not expensive or difficult to find. This first set (the red books above) has been eluding me for so long!

Finally, after all this time, I was able to aquire the set for under a hundred dollars. I don’t know why they didn’t price it as high as everybody else, maybe the rough corners on the box, but at least for them, it’ll actually sell. I wouldn’t be surprised if all the $250-$1,000 copies are the orignal postings I’ve been viewing for the past ten years.

So, upon these books arriving, this was the perfect time to begin re-reading the series. I’ve already completed the first book, and it was at least as good if not better than the first time I read it!

However, it’s not just Vince Flynn. In reading Flynn’s books, I came across another recommendation… Brad Thor. Apparently, he writes the same kind of books, published by the same publisher. I bought the entire Collector’s Editions set before reading any of his books based on how well the Vince Flynn recommendation had gone. And it was just as good as I’d hoped!

So much of the same thing, that these two authors have had the same number of books published, so in my first run of reading them, I read twenty-eight books! And since then, they’ve published about five more each, so when my re-reading is done, I’ll be going straight into the new volumes.

I did contact the publisher of the Collector’s Editions, inquiring if the books after #12 would be sold as Collector’s Editions as well, but I was told that the main publisher hasn’t indicated whether that would happen. Since they did the first twelve at one time, maybe the financial side of this works out to be profitable if they do twelve books at a time, in which case it’ll be a while.

These books are great to break up my usual non-fiction reading. It kind of keeps me on a more consistant reading schedule.

I would get into more series, for instance, for a while, I did collect the Jack Reacher books, but I ended up letting those go because the Flynn/Thor books were so re-readable, and I still have the Kyle Mills books to get to. I have a serious lack of shelf space, so I couldn’t branch out into another series, although in the future at some point, I will. Beyond that, there are the Will Jordan books, which are more obscure, but I follow him (Critical Drinker) on YouTube and based on those videos, I feel confident his books are going to be good. Unfortunately, they are paperback only.

Beyond that, there are a few authors that come recommended from here or there when I’m looking at the Flynn/Thor books, so there is no shortage. And this is before the very idea of getting into Tom Clancy books!

Something I really like about these is that when the author writes about, say, Afghanistan, it’s because he actually went on a trip out there to research what he would be writing about. Kyle Mills grew up in this world as his father was an FBI agent and very much a part of the world of these books. Vince Flynn was actually investigated by the FBI (Or was it CIA?) because one of his books was so detailed. So there is some learning about how politics, people, terrorist groups, weapons, etc. work that isn’t found in other books or movies. Plus, these are very, very non-politically correct. When the bad guys in real life are Islamic, from the Middle East, than they are in the books, too. Nowdays, if the real bad guys are from the Middle East or China, it’s either softened up or changed to Russians.

Unfortunately, 24 (which Flynn was a technical advisor for in season five) had an episode in the middle of it’s run which was specifically to appease the politically correct on this, focusing on how not everyone from that part of the world is a terrorist. Which to me, is pandering. We all know this. Every society has bad people in it, we don’t need story lines to point this out. By the final season of 24, it had become so bad that they had this Muslim character who was being falsely accused of aiding terrorists, and it was always extremely sympathetic to this character. That’s okay to do, but what made 24 so good is that sometimes this character would actually turn out to be the bad guy, which is realistic. Now, it would be unthinkable to do that because it is “offensive”. We’re not babies, we know that some are good, and some are bad, we don’t need our entertainment to be washing away the reality of these things for whatever feels good. 24’s final season started off extremely well, but ended up in a mess of politically correct story lines that never would have been done in the first eight seasons. Hence, it didn’t do well and wasn’t renewed.

Anyway. I’m going to be attempting to get through these books faster than last time, from what I can tell, I read the original twenty-six books from 2011-2015 or so. I’d like to get through these, including the additional books that have been released since my last reading, within two years at the latest. We’ll see how that goes!

Also. I’ve been picking up the additional, newer volumes at thrift stores over the past five years… the newer books take a while to show up there, but at the moment, I’m currently caught-up except for the Kyle Mills books. He’s an extreme rarity in the used book stores and thrifts, only one or two of his can ever be found there. I might just buy the new Flynn/Thor books brand new as this journey is such a long one, it wouldn’t be right to end it a book early because of the price. It isn’t like the books aren’t worth full, or used price.

Century-Old Drawing

Recently came into possession of a more than century-old drawing of my grandma Rydberg, before she came to the United States from Hungary, before the Great War (World War I).

I did some really quick Photoshop Healing Brush and Stamp tool work on it so that there are two versions, a beat-up version and a touched-up version. At some point I’ll do some more detailed work on it.

Very glad to have this.

Ultimate keyboard

My first non-standard keyboard was the Datadesk Smartboard.

It was just over a hundred bucks, back in 1997 or so. Maybe even more than that.

This keyboard was fantastic, especially coming from the standard, straight boards. The keys felt and sounded great, it was fairly compact, was comfortable, and was everything I’d hoped for.

So, thinking it was safe to do so, and being someone who is enthusiastic when I find something good like this, I bought three more, since I used three computers at home and one at work.

I’d had some hand issues, so this was just perfect. Until it wasn’t.

One after the other, each board started typing the wrong thing. I had absolutely no idea how to fix it. So I got in contact with Datadesks’ customer service, and shipped all four off to them for repair.

I never saw them again.

I got this run-around from them, and I know they were delivered. It does make sense though, that a product with a selling price of about a hundred bucks like a keyboard wouldn’t be something anybody would bother to fix, but still. They told me to send them for repair…

But this turned out to be a good thing. I discovered the Microsoft Ergonomic Natural 4000, a better keyboard. The keys were good, more of a standard, membrane keyboard instead of switches, but still good. Not ortholinear like the Datadesk, but it had a better hand-wrest, specialized and programmable audio keys, and eight programmable application keys which were incredibly helpful. A zoom key and two directionals for web surfing were added extras.

Even better though, in the next twenty years, they never, ever broke down and if they did, all one would have to do is buy another one at the nearest office supply store. They were common, unlike the Datadesk board.

But, of course, something bad had to happen.

About 2013 or so, Apple increased their security protocols and Microsoft wasn’t willing to go through the effort of writing updated software, as it apparently was too difficult. For Microsoft. A company not exactly known for secure, safe and solid software in the field of operating systems. I’m sure there’s a good story behind all of that.

But after a year or so, I had to go to the command line in OSX to override the new security protocols so that the keyboard would function normally. And I very much depended also on the Command-Option-Control keys on both sides of the space bar for navigating Adobe programs, my bread and butter. Without any software, the board worked, but Command and Option were backwards on one side. Very annoying.

Shareware and freeware, even paid programs that all claimed to be easy to use, were ineffective in simply swapping those two buttons. Eventually I had to use the Microsoft board along with an Apple board, just for those three keys.

I was optimistic that someday they’d release an updated version of that software for the board… they sold a ton of those keyboards, and time changes things… but it never happened.

Around the first of the year, I finally found a board with the right ergonomics, updated, modern keys, and Command-Control in the correct order on the right side of the space bar… no Control key on that side, but I could make that work. The rest of the Logitech ERGO K860 was excellent, although the extra keys the Microsoft board offered weren’t there. It was still an improvement over using two boards at the same time.

My job had changed, and the logistics of bringing two different boards to work every day, especially a big ergonomic board, that was worth the trouble, but it was trouble.

As of a week ago, I am now using an expensive, but excellent two-piece, fully programmable and adjustable ortholinear LED keyboard. And what an adventure it is!

Learning to type ortholinearly again, but with the hands farther apart, is difficult. And with every key being customizable, and up to thirty-six layers available for customization, one week is not nearly enough time to become fluid typing on this thing. The company, ZSA, recommended not ‘tenting’ the keyboard until the user is acclimated to the board in the flat position, and this was excellent advice.

After one week, I’m still moving key assignments around, experimenting, learning. I actually pulled a few physical keys and re-arranged them. Assigning the individual key LEDs is incredibly helpful in remembering where certain keys are, in addition to the on-screen keyboard layout which responds to every key-press. I’ve got five different layers, and am trying to keep it as simple as possible, but the key ecosystem keeps getting better and better. Lots of learning.

The ZSA Moonlander wasn’t cheap, but it is just what I needed… it’s very portable, too, being in two halves and coming with a portable carrying case. It’s been an adventure learning how to use it, but it’s been paying off, and I’m only on the first week. It’s going to take some time to really know it backwards and forwards, but considering how much I’m at my computer for work and personal tasks, my productivity and hand-health is going to be better than ever.

I also upgraded from the Kensington Expert Turbo Mouse Trackball, which has worked well for twenty-five years, to the Kensington Slimblade, it’s evolutionary replacement. Along with two Apple Magic Trackpads, (Great for scrolling) it is the best setup possible!

Of course, only now do I find a board that is under a hundred bucks that has those precious three keys on both sides of the space bar… I have the name written down somewhere, but it’s a moot point when I have a board like the Moonlander.

To sum up, it’s important to have a keyboard that is functional, good on the hands, and flexible in everything. Something that can be depended on to work, that can be depended upon to change as change is needed. No software that can be subject to bad computer issues or corporate decisions. It’s going to be an adventure learning, and using this board, but finally after all these years, it’s here. I can even change the actual key mechanisms to one of many choices in resistance, sound, and feel! I can even mix-and-match them! When I ordered the Moonlander, I chose from one of at least ten choices!

Also, I’m going to transition from QUERTY to Workman or Colmac once I’m acclimated to this board. Querty isn’t being used, like the layout and basic design of most keyboards, isn’t being used because it’s optimal. It’s being used because people aren’t willing to change to something that is proven to be better. No risk, no effort… no reward. With Querty, the strongest fingers are wasted and the weaker fingers work more than they have to. And with normal keyboards, fingers have to move more than they need to, unlike ortholinear boards.

And rest assured, when I do make the change to another layout from Querty, I’ll have no issues re-arranging the keys!

ZSA Moonlander

RISK / Stratego

I bought these for $1.25 each, quite a deal! The RISK game appears to be complete, but the Stratego is missing two pieces. Not a big deal, I’ll just buy another set and then I can have interesting games by switching out pieces, new rules!

I’ve always wanted to play RISK for years, but never had the game.

It’s a mystery as to where our original Stratego is, and where our Battleship game is. Along with LIFE, Monopoly, and a few others. The attic? Who knows. But at least replacements are cheap… really cheap!

Also, I might buy a few Monopoly sets just so that I can have a lot of extra money, I remember running out of different denominations.

And I also have a newer release of Stratego with pieces like the classic, but lost version we used to have. Modern, recent versions have the numbers on the pieces backwards, whereas the most powerful piece used to be “1”, it is now “9”. No way. I’m not playing it that way, it’s just wrong. Why did they change it?