Sunday, April 29, 2007


The main event for Saturday was a race for Turi. My co-workers Amber and Chris talked me into going down to Carson City for the Escape From Prison Hill, a half-marathon that can be run as a relay. Amber ran it with her husband, Kevin, and I ran it with Chris. (Little explanation here - Chris is a frickin' serious runner. Wins races now and then. Fighting injuries lately, but still a few orders of magnitude better than I am.) Anyway, this is a seriously hilly race - in fact, there are few flat spots on the whole course - check out the elevation chart on the link above. I ran the first leg, 7 miles, and Chris finished the last 6 which were if anything, slightly steeper. Scary. I gave myself a goal of an hour for the first leg, and finished in 1:08. (Took a good tumble into a sagbrush on one of the downhills too, but only got a little scratched.) Not sure what Chris's goal was, other than to kick everyone else's butt, but he passed like 5 other relay teams and finished with a total time of 1:54. That was good enough for first in the Men's relay category, although a Mixed (M/F) relay team finished in 1:45. But we got a nice little plaque, and our team name mispronounced at the awards ceremony. We were the "Guy-Brarians", but the presenter read it as guy-barbarians. Nice. Anyway, thanks to Chris, I can now no longer say that I just run for fun and "have never won anything." Not that I'll be doing any winning on my own anytime soon...

FFA Golf

Bit of a busy weekend for the Beckers. First thing that Mich and I did was on Friday - we played on the GCS (Granite Construction Supply) team in a charity golf tournament for the FFA (Future Farmers of America. OK, enough with the TLAs. It was an afternoon shotgun scramble, so thanks to Nathan and Sarah for picking up the kids. We had a great time, ended up shooting a 7-under 65. Didn't come close to winning, but apparently we beat the other Granite teams, which got Mich bragging rights. That's Mich in the foreground, Joe on the left, and Brian in the middle.

And here's Mich getting ready to spank one right up the middle.

Ptolemy's Gate

Finished the third book in the Bartimaeus Trilogy, Ptolemy's Gate. Really enjoyed these, so I kind of blazed through them. It was pretty obvious, reading the last book, that this was conceived of and written as a trilogy. There was quite a bit of stuff that, while it stood on its own very well in the first two books, ended up being perfect setups for the final book. Bit of a surprising ending as well, which was nice. And while the ending didn't obviously prepare you for a sequel (or sequel trilogy, who knows) it also left some intriguing possibilities in that direction. If there are any, I'll sure read them.

Book 23

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Golem's Eye

Another book in the Bartimaeus series - I really enjoyed the first one, Amulet of Samarkand, so decided to go ahead and plow through the series. Amber was nice enough to lend me her copies, so I didn't have to wait to get them from the library. So this one, The Golem's Eye, continues the story of Nathaniel, a novice magician making his way up the ranks. This time he deals with a traitor within his own government, as well as a resistance movement in the London he lives in. Again: really fun writing, pretty quick reads. I don't like to give too many spoilers (especially on the next in the series, because Amber says she hasn't read it yet) but I sure did enjoy it.

Book 22

Rubiks Cube

Julien was stacking some blocks last week in cube shapes - 2x2s, 3x3s and 4x4s - and they reminded me of the old "Rubik's Cube" toys. Found one at Target, they still sell them. Julien was fascinated with it for about half an hour, until it got all mixed up. Then it was daddy's turn. With the help of this website, I got it back to "solved" in only 3 days! It'll probably go faster if I have to do it again, now that I know the basics, but wow - what a pain.

Friday, April 20, 2007

King of Swings

If you haven't noticed, I try to keep up on new golf books that are published. I think the only one I've read recently, though, was Dream Golf, about Bandon Dunes. Saw this one on the New Book shelf at the Downtown Reno Library last week: The King of Swings: Johnny Goodman, The Last Amateur To Beat the Pros at Their Own Game. Liked it so much that I went out and bought the paperback for my father-in-law. (I'm 100% certain that he doesn't read this blog, so no-one ruin my suprise, eh?) Anyway, it's a rags-to if not riches, then at least fleeting fame in the golf world story - a poor kid from Omaha, Nebraska who teaches himself the game while caddying, and goes on to beat some of the greats (Bobby Jones, Francis Ouimet.) Has a lot in common with another golf book I really enjoyed from a couple years ago, The Greatest Game Ever Played. (Really liked the book, but the movie had to include a Hollywood love story, which kind of detracted from the whole thing for me...)

Book 21

Monday, April 16, 2007

Amulet of Samarkand

Another book in my current drive to read some of the Children's Fiction that I see at the library every day, but don't know much about. The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud is the first book of the Bartimaeus trilogy. Basically, it's the story of a novice magician who is learning the trade and an ancient demon who he summons without permission to do his bidding. The young magician character reminds me a little of Artemis Fowl, but with a more human side. The demon (Bartimaeus) is wonderfully sarcastic, and has his own sense of style and self-worth. I really liked Stroud's writing style, too, which included footnotes a la Terry Pratchett, another of my favorite authors. Gotta love an author who can poke fun at his own use of footnotes... In a footnote. Great sense of humor; I enjoyed this enough that I've got the second book, The Golem's Eye, on hold at the library already.

Book 20

Chicken Biryani

Another favorite recipe here: Chicken Biryani. Here's my recipe, modified from the Cooks Illustrated Quick Recipe cookbook and illustrated from tonight's cooking.

Here's my mise en place: In front, six boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into smallish pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper. Middle left: one medium onion, chopped; 3 jalapenos, two seeded, all cut into short strips; Approximately two teaspoons ground cardamom, half a teaspoon ground ginger, and half a teaspoon cinnamon. Middle middle: one and a half cups basmati rice, two cloves of garlic, diced, and a pinch of saffron. Middle right: two and a half cups water. Back: the recipe.

Preheat oven to 375. Heat one tablespoon oil in big oven-proof skillet over high heat.

Cook chicken until no longer pink; don't overcook or it will dry out in the oven later. Remove chicken from pan and cover with aluminum foil.

Add the onions, jalapenos, cardamom, ginger and cinnamon.

Add a little water to deglaze the pan to release any browned bits, until the onions soften and begins to brown.

Add the rice, saffron and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until te grains of rice are coated with fat.

Off the heat, add the 2 1/2 cups water and the browned chicken. Return the pan to the heat and bring back to a boil.

Cover the skillet with a lid and transfer to the oven. Bake until rice has absorbed liquid, 20-25 minutes.

While the biryani is baking, make the yogurt sauce to put on it. Ingredients: Yogurt, cilantro, garlic, salt & pepper. Basically to taste, use however much you want.

Chop cilantro, mince garlic, stir into yogurt, and season with salt and pepper.

If your wife happens to like things INSANELY spicy, chop up an extra jalapeno for her to garnish with.

Remove skillet from oven, being very careful to use the happy piggy pot holder, and let cool a bit.

The finished product, before plating.

And ready to serve.

Hopefully you don't burn yourself trying to get a cutesy pot holder picture...

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Yummy tuna sandwiches for lunch today, one of our weekend standards. A little celery in them gave them a nice crunch. Our brilliant daughter, Sofia, though, decided that the celery chunks were better suited for sticking up her nose. After quite a bit of drama and tears, some holding her down and probing with tweezers, Mich finally got it out with a dental tool. We WEREN'T going to the emergency room; not after Mic's experience of a few weeks ago where she waited for three hours with a bleeding finger. Would have been terrible, waiting with Sofia, trying to keep her from sticking her finger up her nose, etc. Yay, parenthood...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


This one was a re-read, I think I first read it in college around 1993 or 94. William Gibson's Neuromancer, considered one of the founding novels of cyberpunk. It basically revolves around a hacker-for-hire who is lured into working for an artificial intelligence trying to free itself from it's corporate shackles. Pretty amazing, what Gibson imagined back in 1984, when it was published. It still reads gritty and edgy, even now.

Book 19

Monday, April 9, 2007

Big shoes

How much description does this need? Sofia trying on mommy's shoes. A lot cuter than when Julien does it...


If you're tired of seing pictures of our stove-top, just let me know. This pizza tonight came out looking pretty good, though, and I just had to snap a picture of it...

Baking Boot Camp

I was at Barnes and Noble the other day for something completely different, and ended up chasing Sofia around the store. On one of our passed in the baking section, this caught my eye: Baking Boot Camp, by Darra Goldstein. Having dreamed myself about taking one of the Culinary Institute of America's "boot camp" courses (but also been scared away by the price) I had to have this book. Glad I did. Goldstein does a good job not only of portraying what it's like to attend one of the boot cam courses (two, actually, the baking boot camp and the pastry boot camp) but also imparts quite a bit of the culinary wisdom that was passed along to her. If attending one of these courses sounds like fun, but you don't have the time or the money, take a look at this book. It made me want to cook something right away. In fact, I made the Pots de creme recipe tonight - it was a little different than the one I've made before, but sure tasted wonderful.

Book 18

Sunday, April 8, 2007


We had our Easter madness in Carson City this morning, at Nick and Dianne's house with the cousins (Ramona, Luther and baby Gus.) Had a wonderful brunch, hunted some eggs, and pretty much destroyed Mich's parents house. Eggshells everywhere - sorry, guys. Enjoy a couple of pictures here; the rest on flickr.

Friday, April 6, 2007


This is one of a couple of children's fiction books given to me to read by a co-worker (Amber, who's a bit of a connoisseur of the genre.) While I definitely have my own reading tastes, I think it's good to read outside of them sometimes, especially if you work in a library setting. It's nice to be able to recommend a book because you've read it, not just because you've "heard" that it's good.

So Inkheart by Cornelia Funke is the story of a book-loving girl and her bookbinder father, who are entangled with a web of characters that the father has "read out" of a book. Saying any more would give too much away, so I'll stop with the description there. The story developed kind of slowly, and it seemed like it took me quite awhile to read, but it was all enjoyable. An interesting writing style, and each chapter is preceded by a relevant quote from another children's book. This is the first book in a trilogy, of which only the first and second (Inkspell) have been published. It's also going to be a movie starring Brendan Fraser in 2008.

Book 17

Stroller Jog

Well, Sofia had a goopy eye earlier this week, and it seems she has a slight case of conjunctivitis. Mich brought her home from school yesterday, and I'm staying home with her today. She's got eyedrops, though, and seems to feel fine. On a whim, I decided to take her for a stroller run around Sparks Marina. Two laps, about 3.6 miles, according to the the website. Beautiful day, too, as you can see. She fell asleep in the car on the way home.

Thursday, April 5, 2007


Made some homemade Peeps (meringue, not marshmallow) for Julien and Sofia to bring to school for their Easter Party of Friday. (Note that there are a couple missing - they were a little deformed and had to be eaten...)