Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Golden Compass

Got started on another YA Fiction series recently: the His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman. The first book, The Golden Compass, is soon to be made into a movie by New Line starring Daniel Craig (The new Bond), Nicole Kidman, and Sam Elliott. Not quite sure how they got enough out of the book to make a full-length movie; maybe they had to do a little padding. Reason I say that is that (so far, at least) this is one of those trilogies in which the books don't really stand alone. Yes, this book has a narrative structure that rises, and climaxes near the end, then sets up the next story, but there is absolutely no question that the story has to continue. Contrast that with the Bartimaeus Trilogy, in which you could read the first book and be completely content that the story ended there. At any rate, I'm sure this will be a fun movie - Balloon rides, armored polar bears, changeling animal companions... I won't give away any more yet (I'm about a third of the way through the next book already), but it is a pretty enjoyable read.

Book 33

Monday, May 28, 2007


Sofia has staked part of the hall closet as her hiding place - it's where we keep a couple of blankets, so it's nice and soft.

The Edict

Bob Cupp is most well-known as a golf course architect, but here he's written a fun little book set in golf's prehistory. The story behind the title, The Edict, is this: The first written mention of golf is in an edict given by King James II and the Scottish Parliament in 1457 banning golf and football. This was meant to encourage archery practice, and make the Scots more effective militarily. What Cupp has done is imagine what golf was like in the years leading up to this ban, and craft a story around what might have been.

Book 32

Mountains of the Pharaohs

A couple of years ago, I read Zahi Hawass's autobiography, Secrets From the Sand. It covered his career from his start in Egyptian archaeology to his current position as "Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities." I was impressed with his story, and his general outlook. (Unfortunately, I missed an opportunity to see a free lecture he did in Reno a few months ago. Mountains of the Pharaohs is his latest book. It serves as a general explanation of what is known, thought, and debated about the dynasty that built the pyramids at Giza. The format is kind of interesting: Hawass begins each chapter with a short sketch of what might have been happening in the lives of the ancient Egyptian kings, craftmen or workmen, then explains why that is a plausible scenario using whatever evidence is available. Pretty interesting how little is actually known about that period, and how much of Egytpology is based on inference and guesses. What most impressed me was the level-headed approach Dr. Hawass takes - if there is debate on an issue, he explains or at least mentions all sides of it, seemingly not weighting his view more than any others. It was refreshing to hear a topic like this presented in what seemed like an unbiased way.

Book 31

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Let My People Go Surfing

I knew that Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard had written a book a couple of years ago, but hadn't seen it until it came into our library in a pile of donations. Our branch didn't own a copy, so I added it to the library system, promptly checked it out and read it. Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman is a pretty cool book - part business theory, part biography, part philosophical treatise. Chouinard explains how his business grew from a part-time blacksmith's shop into one of the most environmentally conscious companies. He explains the philosophies that drive him and how those are translated into business decisions. And he does it all in a way that is inspiring and fun to read.

Book 30

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Julien and Sofia got to play with cousin Ramona for awhile this afternoon, and at one point they were all fascinated by finding worms in our flower beds. Hopefully they have greener thumbs than Mich and I, we can't keep plants alive at all. Ramona looks like she might have a future in the plumbing industry...

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Somehow Julien ended up on the trampoline wearing just his underpants today. (He had pants that zip off to shorts on, but the zippers were hurting his knees, apparently.) Too good a photo opportunity to resist...

Daddy, can I please have a treat?

Fun Home

Something about the cover of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomedy looked familiar when I picked it up at the library the other day - I think even from the cover illustration, I recognized Alison Bechdel's drawing style. Bechdel draws the comic Dykes to Watch Out For, which I've enjoyed in copies of Funny Times that my dad always seems to have around. This is kind of a sneaky book, though - it looks like a standard sized fiction book, but actually is a graphic novel. I'm not a big graphic novel fan; my experience with them is pretty much limited to Neil Gaiman's Sandman series. (Which was great, by the way - Gaiman is such a great storyteller. Anyway...) I REALLY enjoyed this. Bechdel's writing is heart-wrenchingly honest, slyly funny, and deeply literate. Her artwork is her own style, which meshes well with her writing and lends more texture and nuance to the story she's telling. Oh, the story - basically, this is a biography of her family; her fathers' death and her coming to terms with her sexuality. Tragicomedy is a great description. Here's the highest praise: I read this in two sittings - only put it down to fall asleep on the couch, and finished it when I woke up in the morning. Felt a little drained when I finished it, too. Great book.

Book 29

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Candid self-portraits

Thought I was being funny a few days ago and decided to take a couple of "candid self-portraits" - shots taken at arm's length while pretending that someone else was taking them. I know, funny guy...

Gospel of Food

Just finished The Gospel of Food, by Barry Glassner. In it, he basically calls for sanity in food attitudes - he speaks against the no-fat, no-sugar, no-gluten-cholesterol-carbohydrate-whatever groups as well as the food snobs who will only eat in four-star restaurants. He doesn't condemn fast food, but again speaks of moderation. This isn't in any way a diet book, more about the way that we think about food. Although I didn't agree with everything he said, I found myself agreeing with him more often than not.

Book 28

Monday, May 7, 2007


I don't remember who it was who recently recommended Alternadad to me (was it you, Marc?) Someone said they thought I'd like it, and I did. It wasn't what I expected - the parenting of Neal Pollack and his wife is actually pretty mainstream - but his writing style makes this a fun read. Basically, it's the story of a guy trying to maintain a sense of cool while being faced with the terminal uncoolness of parenthood. Yes, he sells out in degrees, like we all do, but it sure is a blast to read about.

Book 27

Marathon de Mayo

This Sunday in Reno was a pretty cool event; the Marathon de Mayo. It's cool in that it starts (and ends) right downtown, under the Reno Arch, and goes on city streets that I drive on all the time. In fact, the race course passes right by the house that Nathan and Sarah are remodeling right now - I saw Nathan's truck on the way by, but didn't see him. Anyway, I did the half marathon - 13.1 miles. I did this same race last year, and didn't train very much for it - I think I ran three miles twice the week before the race. I think my time was in the 2 hours 15-20 minute range - I had been trying to break 2 hours, but didn't make it. I'm in much better shape this year, and decided to just try to break two hours again, and see how things went. Well, the course didn't have a lot of mile markers, so I could only tell that I was on 8 minute mile pace up through mile 5. The second half of the race was overall downhill, though, and I ended up finishing in 1:39 - almost 7:30 mile pace, and I knocked a half an hour off last year's time! Ended up 35th overall, and 7th in my age division (30-34). Pretty happy with the way that turned out...

Wasn't so happy with the race organization - the race started and hour and 20 minutes late, due to some problems with getting the streets closed. Last year it started 30 minutes late, for similar reasons. It's really frustrating to have planned your nutrition, sleep schedule, clothes and gear all around a specific start time, just to have to stand around in the cold waiting for someone to get their act together. And 2000 people in that same situation is even worse... I think I'll do this race again next year, but if it happens again, I'm done with it.

And I wrote a letter to the editor of the Reno Gazette Journal regarding the late start - take a look.

Talking to Grandma Gail

Talking to Grandma Gail
Originally uploaded by turi_b.
Haven't been doing much in the way of simple photo posts lately, but this was just too cute to pass up. Sofia wanted to call Grandma Gail this morning, to make sure they made it home OK last night (Drove all the way from Reno-Vancouver yesterday.) As soon as she got on the phone, cute mode came on. Had to take some pics...

Friday, May 4, 2007


I try not to miss any of Christopher Buckley's books - although I don't consider myself terribly political, his books strike the perfect balance of politics and humor. His newest, Boomsday, again does it perfectly. The title refers to a day when the younger generations rebel against the Baby Boomers who are sucking up Social Security resources. It's a very funny book - Buckley has a talent for writing insanely kooky scenarios that sound suspiciously plausible. Lots. Of. Fun.

Book 26

Good Omens

This was a reread, one of my gym books - Good Omens, by two of my favorite authors - Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. This has been one of my favorite books ever since Mich recommended it - I grabbed it as a last-minute substitute when I couldn't find our copy of something else I was looking for. In brief: It's the story of a hilariously botched Armageddon, with a misplaced Antichrist, an Angel and Demon who would rather work together, and a 400 year old prophetess and her descendants. Pratchett and Gaiman work well together here, and the best phrase I can use to describe this book is relentlessly funny. I laughed (or at least smiled) about every other page. And that on approximately my 5th reading of it...

Book 25

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Children of Hurin

Well, if it escaped anyone's attention, there is a "new" Tolkien work out, Children of Hurin, and of course, I had to read it. It was compiled by Tolkien's son, Christopher, from partially finished material. I have read a few of Christopher Tolkien's Histories of Middle Earth, at least the ones that dealt with the writing of the Lord of the Rings books. He's obviously the person to do something like this, he's spent his life immersed in his father's work to an astonishing degree.

So the story line of this work was already partially told in the Silmarillion, and told in much greater depth here. (Been a while since I read the Silmarillion, too...) That said, this sure is a downer. I'd warn about spoilers here, but I can't imagine more than two people I know reading this anyway, so I'll go ahead. This reads really like a historic epic or Shakespearean tragedy - fathers going off to war, people killing their best friends accidentally in the dark, mistaken identities leading to incest, and suicide. Anyway - wouldn't recommend this to anyone other than Mich. I doubt Ashley reads this (might have to send it to him) but he's probably already read it anyway...

Book 24


Had my day in court today. Actually, it wasn't MY day, and I didn't actually make it to court. This concerned the hit and run I witnessed back in January, while I was out for a run. Unfortunately, I didn't witness quite enough - because I was directly behind the SUV that did the hitting and running, I didn't get a good look at the driver - only the back of his head. Enough to tell that he was an older white male, but not enough to positively identify him. Apparently that made my testimony useless, and after sitting around in the hallway for a couple of hours, I was told I could leave. I should get a check for $26 in a couple of weeks, though - woo hoo! Plus I got some good reading done - started an older John McPhee book on Alaska.