The Wonder of Things

Do you ever stop to wonder about the things you are using or the things around you?

If the answer is yes then you will love Theodore Gray’s latest book How Things Work: The Inner Life of Everyday Machines.

Most ideas and things don’t just originate completely out of the dark. There is inspiration involved. Ideas and things actually piggy-back off of prior ideas and things. In this book Gray shows us that many of the objects we take for granted provided the foundation for today’s civilization. For example, he shows how something like a padlock started out simple and evolved over time leading to the concept of computer encryption. A lock is an exclusionary device as it’s purpose is to keep things in and others out. A lock has become ever more complex from its simple origins to the point of being able to differentiate who should be let in and who should be kept out. Cryptography would not be possible without .

There is some fascinating information in this book about things. And, just like his other books, there is some illustrious photography that accompanies each object. What he did for the elements and science he now has done for things.

Now, if you will excuse me while I explore the inner workings of the weaving factory.

Until next time, good reading.

Dirge of the Common

Dirge of the Common

I am hiding in the light. I have weaved myself into the trappings of convention so I don’t have to be me. The crowd is where I obscure myself. It’s so much of the same. This is where I can really punish myself. True numbness is right here in the status quo. Dying inside doesn’t happen at any bottom, it takes place right among the common.


Take Your Info with a Grain of Salt

When it comes to food and nutrition there is no shortage of information and opinion. The rabbit hole is deep with promises and claims.

Who is right? Who is wrong? Who do you trust?

A good rule of thumb is take all that information with a grain of salt and that is exactly what Dr. Joe Schwarcz tells us in his book. I featured Dr. Joe Schwarcz on the blog before after reading his book Monkeys, Myths, and Molecules. This book A Grain of Salt is every bit as fascinating but serves as a wonderful guide inside part of the food world.

Inside is filled with so much information you will want to keep the book handy as reference because it’s impossible to remember everything. The one thing to remember though is to develop a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to food information. Take all the advice you hear on what’s healthy and what is not healthy with a grain of salt.

If you would like to know more I suggest you look at Dr. Joe Schwarcz’s work.

Until next time, good reading.

Happy Halloween

Candy is not the only thing we fill up on for Halloween. Many of us also devour scary, spooky, frightening stories and movies. They help set the mood for this holiday.

Halloween is a holiday about fun and frights and it embodies escapism as you can truly be someone or something else for the day. Halloween has tradition behind it but yet also allows room for novel, modern ideas and practices to take shape. One of the interesting things about Halloween is that you can set the mood you want for the day whether it be fun and creative or scary or nostalgic or eventful. The themes are plenty.

If you are a reader and like a little scare in your Halloween may I suggest the series of books by Alvin Schwartz. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

There are three books to the series. The first two were written in the 80’s and the third was published in the early 90’s. The stories are all based on folklore and urban legend. Each book is littered with drawings by Stephen Gammell that contain their own fright factor. Some people like and own the books just for the drawings alone. The stories and drawings hold a certain haunting charm. Despite certain groups disliking the books and even trying to get them banned, they have endured controversy and remain around to enjoy for those that want to.

I think they are a great accompaniment to your Halloween. A few minutes is all it really takes to consume a story or two, and really set the mood for your evening of costumes and fun.

I hope you enjoyed this post and recommendations.

Until next time, good reading and Happy Halloween.

Unusual Found Bookmarks

As a reader sometimes it is necessary to mark your page in a hurry and sometimes the things we use to mark our pages are downright strange.

Have you ever found an unusual item in a book you have picked up?

I was inspired to write this post by the used book I purchased the other day. After picking it up and examining the book I found the above pictured baseball card inside the book. Someone had used this Manny Ramirez baseball card as their bookmark. It may not be a conventional bookmark but it works. This unusual found bookmark reminded me of all the different objects I have discovered and seen being used as bookmarks.

Here are some of the unusual bookmarks I have found inside books:

baseball card



small book


lollipop stick


dried flower



business card

plastic fork

an earring

a twig

money, both coins and dollar bills

a piece of licorice

a pencil


Identification card

bubble gum wrapper

an old key

Those are most of the unusual items I personally have found being used as bookmarks. I am sure you may have your own infelicitous things you have discovered as bookmarks. Feel free to comment on them below.

Until next time, good reading.

Beware Lonely Numbers

“Never believe that one number on its own can be meaningful.”

Numbers, numbers, numbers!

People love to throw around numbers, and the bigger the number, the more important we tend think it is. Big numbers tend to have impact, but did you know that numbers on their own are usually meaningless?

Do not trust lonely numbers!

Let’s repeat that…do not trust lonely numbers!

A number on it’s own means nothing unless it is compared with something else. If you are offered a single number ask for at least one more number.

Politicians, managers, pundits, and people repeating what they see on tv have a tendency to provide single numbers all the time. It is just a lonely number they are providing that has no basis or meaning at all. When your politician tells you the crime rate this year or your boss tells you that business is down 3% they are throwing around solitary figures that mean nothing. You have to have a comparison for there to be meaning. The crime rate needs to be compared to at least the previous year’s rate to have significance. It needs to be compared to the population size and other demographics as well in order to tell a picture. Business being down 3% is misleading. You need to ask for more numbers like, three percent compared to what, last year’s sales. Are we talking revenue or profit or what? Ask for more.

When you don’t compare numbers and just provide a single figure you can easily mislead people. You can manipulate information and scare people into a certain way of thinking.

Don’t settle for one number!

The quote that started this post is from a book by Hans Rosling called Factfulness, and in it the author constantly proves the necessity of establishing facts through comparison of numbers. He warns against numbers on their own. He provides ten reasons why we are wrong about world information. He shows how even some of the smartest and most professional people wrongly answer questions about the world.

If you would like to know more I would recommend reading the book, but for now just remember to not trust single numbers. Ask for more.

Until next time, good reading.

Fictional Warnings

Loyalty and obedience are more important.”

It had become usual to give Napolean the credit for every successful achievement and every stroke of good fortune.

These two lines are from Animal Farm by George Orwell. I put them here because they seem so familiar today. We are seeing much talk about loyalty within government the last few years. We are seeing anything remotely positive being accredited to a leader and anything negative in any way being blamed on someone else. This is no different than the warning Orwell was giving us in his book. I fear not enough people have read Orwell. He gave us this warning against totalitarianism and authoritarianism for a very good reason.

I used to consider Animal Farm and 1984 to be illuminating stories that would help open people’s eyes to the dangers of those who seek power and promise greatness. Right now, I feel as though I was being too optimistic and giving people too much credit.

I understand why some people need authority and feel like they have to have a leader, but what you won’t find in me is love for a leader no matter who it is.

I question those who seek power.

Pay attention because they always want more, and what they were originally against they usually end up becoming.

Read your Orwell. Read your history. You are going to need it sooner than already there.

Until next time, good reading.

Real Daymares

I was thinking about the everyday things that go on that actually have the ability to frighten. I don’t mean the stuff in our nightmares but the things that transpire during the day. The little things that take shape in culture and in politics and in economy instead of the usual scary suspects like monsters and murder and war. I was thinking about the normalization of lies. I was thinking about the manipulation of ideology. I was thinking about the dark little beliefs that are held in the mind that suddenly rise to the surface, get emboldened, and have the potential to threaten other people’s life and liberty. I was thinking about how too many people have a twisted perspective on freedom and reality and I wrote this short piece of writing.

Real Daymares

narrow myopic minds that just repeat and never think. intolerable people with rigid, inflexible beliefs. empty phrases, ad hominem attacks, and inconsistent hypocritical ideals that recirculate among a group. these are the things that terrify me when I am awake.

Until next time, good reading.

Time for Murakami

The world of literature is vast and sometimes we discover an author that is new to us that completely captivates our heart and imagination.

For me that author is Haruki Murakami.

My introduction to his work was with his short but wonderfully bizarre story The Strange Library. Now, I am onto this one Kafka on the Shore.

One of the things I like about him so far is he seems to have a deep adoration for books and libraries. I think most authors do but Murakami describes a library in this story that is elegant, enchanting, tempting, and inviting. The library is a major part of the story and the way he describes it and presents it’s history just fills you with envy for the ones lucky enough to be patrons of the facility. You want to be there and see it for yourself. Fortunately, Murakami is a wonderful storyteller and you get to live the library through his words using your imagination. It is a joy.

I know I will discover new authors in the future who capture my attention but for right I am enjoying Murakami.

What are your favorite books by this author?

Until next time, good reading.

The Ultimate Cooking Skill Book

Do you like to cook?

Do you wish you could cook?

If the answer to either of these questions is yes then you really should locate and acquaint yourself with the above pictured book. It is titledĀ The Haven’s Kitchen Cooking School by Alison Cayne.

This book is a true resource for you and your kitchen. It is not a dry, boring manual. It is full of information, techniques, and recipes that will have you cooking better in no time. It is a very hands-on approach to everything culinary.

One of my favorite features is a short section titledĀ How to Use this Book. This is an amazing section of the book because not all books are meant to be read in order from front cover to back cover. My favorite line in this section is the following: “write in the book.” Yes, that’s right, write in your book. I do all the time, and that’s why this blog is called Penciled Margins. Writing in your books is a tremendous way to remember things or question things.

This great book will guide you through almost anything you have wanted to cook. Don’t be afraid. Learn, develop new skills, and sustain yourself from hunger of the mind and well as hunger of the stomach.

Until next time, good reading.


Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑