Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Spook Country

Just finished William Gibson's latest, Spook Country, and I loved it. Seriously, probably my favorite of his. His previous book, Pattern Recognition, I also enjoyed a lot, but it almost seemed too normal. In Sppok Country, Gibson returns to a weird, nebulous feel more like his earlier books, but still writing within the framework of the real world. Don't think I'll even try to summarize - if you've liked Gibson in the past, I think you'll love this. If you've never read him, I probably won't get you to pick this one up anyway.

Book 58

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

First Grader

Well, that's it - Julien has started first grade. Monday was his first day, and he seems to like things pretty well. Likes his teacher, and has already made at least one little friend. Here's a few shots of him packing up his new backpack, and on the playground.

Oh, and a bonus picture of Sofia's silly hair...

Mt. Rose

First blog entry in a little while here; I've felt bad about not finishing up the Oregon vacation posts and haven't got to anything else. At any rate, on last Saturday I decided to do the hike up Mt. Rose - hadn't done it yet this year, with the TRT stuff happening. It also fit nicely into a training schedule I've set up for the Lake Tahoe Marathon at the end of September. The Rose trail is just under 5 miles up, and I ran about half of it on the way up, just until it gets steep. It was SUPER windy at the top, even at 7 AM. So windy that it 1) almost blew my hat off, 2) almost blew ME off at one point, and 3) seemed to blow the breath out of my mouth when I tried to breathe. So, didn't spend a lot of time at the top, just about 5 minutes to sign the register and eat a power gel. It was hazy from fires, too, so the views weren't all that great. Trotted back down, being careful to avoid falling and the fate that my friend Amber suffered last week up there. Made it down safe, having to go around all sorts of people on their way up. Total time, up, down and break at the top, was 2:20 - pretty good since I felt like I barely made it at the top.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Hunting Pirate Heaven

I was hoping for a little more humor in Hunting Pirate Heaven - there was some there, but I had pictured a Bryson-esque travelogue. (Hmmm, mentioned Bill Bryson again. Wonder if he's writing anything.) Anyway, Kevin Rushby travels the east coast of Africa and Madagascar searching for remnants of pirate havens. He does find a few, but this is mostly the story of his trip and some of the people he met along the way. Enjoyable book, but not quite what I expected.

Book 57

A Blistered Kind Of Love

Not sure what spurred me to pick this book up - I had just dropped my parents off to do a section of the PCT in Oregon, but I honestly can't remember if I sought this book out or if I just happened to see it. Anyway, this is the story of a couple who decide to thru-hike the PCT from Mexico to Canada. They realize that it's going to be a test of their relationship, and that's part of the reason they do it. They weather it well; apparently they married not long after the trip. Neither of them had a huge amount of hiking experience, which made this a bit like Bill Bryson's A Walk In The Woods - he set out with not much more training than a visit to the outdoor store. They, at least, did their homework and took a couple practice hikes first. Definitely not "purists", though, they took a weekend off for a wedding, hiked alternate routes when the PCT didn't suit them, and even skipped a section near the end to meet their deadline. This was fun to read, and I'm glad they were out there doing it, but the non-purist thing made me cringe a little.

Book 56

OR Vacation - Golf

One of the things we made a point of doing on our recent vacation was get in a few rounds of golf. It was kind of cool the way it worked out; we started small and worked our way up.

The first place we played was the Pub Course at Edgefield, where we stayed Sunday night. It's a 17-hole pitch and putt course - the longest hole was 90 yards, but most were more like 60. All you need is a wedge, a putter, and a few balls. Here's the clubhouse:

Here's the view from the tee box on one of the holes on the back 9 - as you can see, you hit off the mats:

It was a pretty squelchy day, and wet grass is kind of a phobia of Mich's. I thought it was hilarious when her ball got stuck under this tree, and with every swing, she got sprinkled on. Nice guy, I know...

Anyway, we played OK, and had fun with it. Sure wish there was a short course like that here in Reno.

The next place we played was near McMinnville, at the Bayou Golf Club. It's an OK course, pretty cheap green fees, which we were happy for later in the week. Kind of winds through some swampy area, hence the name "Bayou" I think. Didn't get any pictures of it - we both played pretty bad, and didn't feel like taking any. I think I shot a 96 - it's been awhile since I haven't broken 95. I'm usually right around 90, hopefully just under.

The golf finale was in Sunriver, at the course where I worked for 7 summers in the 90's, the Woodlands. Course is the same, but it's changed a bit since I worked there - much more up-market. For one thing, when I worked there, the public green fee was $65 - Now it's $135. Sure, it's ten years later, but that seems quite a jump. That said, everything was much nicer - someone came out to clean your clubs, the range balls were free and waiting for you at the range, and the course was in REALLY good shape. New restrooms on the course as well. I guess I was inspired, because I shot a 40 on the front 9, and bogeyed 7,8 and 9 to do that. Best 9 I've played in a long time. Totally lost my rhythm on the back 9 and shot a 52. Mich did the opposite - improved by 12 strokes on the back 9. The only picture I took on the course was from the 6th tee:

Kind of a boring picture, but makes me proud - I cleared that bunker with my drive and had about 180 left on the par 5. Chuffed the approach shot, though, and ended up making par.

So we had some fun playing golf - wish we had more time to do it at home. Mich is pretty fun to play with; she has a good attitude about the game. Out for fun - not too serious, but enjoys hitting good shots.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

OR Vacation - Friends

It was really nice to see some friends when we were up in Oregon. Mostly just the first couple of days; we took off by ourselves after that. The first night, we went to Karl and Brandi's Biergarten party, then stayed the night at their place. Here's Karl, manning the grill:

And Karl in the middle, Brandi on the right, and other friend Rachel on the left:

Rachel's husband, Matt, was playing some darts in the garage:

With another friend and fellow Boyz-tripper Ashley:

Absenting themselves from the party games, on the back porch were Mich, Brandi and Rachel:

Things got a little fuzzy after that...

But the next day we took the kids over to Matt and Rachel's for their son Nathan's first birthday party. Here's Nathan with his cupcake:

Sofia posing with her cupcake:

And Julien and Marin (Nathan's older sister) having some lunch.

Also met up with friends from Reno: Chris, Abby, their daughter Hannah and their friend Aaron were at the half-marathon outside of Bend. Didn't have my camera there, though...

OR Vacation - Itinerary

Well, instead of doing on big huge post about our recent vacation, I 've decided to do a bunch of little posts on different topics of it. I'll start, though, with a basic itinerary to give an idea of where we were:

Saturday, August 4
Left Reno at about 4:30 am, heading to Vancouver. Had breakfast in Ashland, a quick ice cream stop at Prince Pucklers in Eugene, and got to Vancouver at about 2:00 or so. Got the kids set up with my parents, ran a couple errands, and headed to ou friend's Karl and Brandi's house in Portland for their Biergarten party. Saw lots of friends, had a great time. Stayed at Karl and Brandi's.

Sunday, August 5
Had a nice breakfast with Karl and Brandi, then went back to Vancouver and collected the kids. Went to some other Portland friends, Matt and Rachel's house for their son Nathan's first birthday. Had yummy cupcakes, let kids play. Took the kids back to my parents in Vancouver and headed to Edgefield. Had dinner and stayed there.

Monday, August 6
Breakfast at Edgefield, the 17 holes of golf on their par 3 "Pub Course". Some pstcard writing and gift shopping, then drove to McMinnville, where we found our B&B. Dinner at a local microbrewery, and Bourne Ultimatum at the theater.

Tuesday, August 7
Run in the morning for Turi. Breakfast at the B&B, then some golf near McMinnville. Nap in the afternoon, then dinner at the Joel Palmer House.

Wednesday, August 8
B&B Breakfast, then it some balls and chipping at the golf course. Visited the Air Museum near McMinnville and saw the Spruce Goose. North to wine country - lunch at Tina's in Dundee. Drove through some vineyards, but didn't stop. Nap at the B&B, some pool at the Hotel Oregon. Dinner at La Rambla, a tapas bar.

Thursday, August 9
Finished up at the B&B, then headed east. Stopped at the OGA Golf course near I5, but didn't play. Continued on to Bend, then Sunriver. Checked in to our house, got some groceries, and relaxed. Had dinner at the house.

Friday, August 10
Breakfast at the house, then golf at the Sunriver Woodlands. Into Bend for lat lunch at the Brewery, then back to Sunriver to relax at the house.

Saturday, August 11
Met parents and the kids in Bend around noon, had a picnic on the river. Back to Sunriver to play for awhile. Dinner at the house there with everyone.

Sunday, August 12
Turi had early race in Bend. Everyone else met him there afterwards, then drove south to drop Ken and Gail off for PCT hike. Shuttled car to hike end, then back to Reno. Got home about 9:00. Started laundry.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Back from Vacation

For those of you who didn't know, we spent the last week up in Oregon. Drove up to Vancouver, dropped the kids off with Grandma Gail and Grandpa Ken, and did a little tour of Oregon. Edgefield for a night, then McMinnville for a few days and Sunriver for a few days. Met my parents in Sunriver, then headed back home. I'll get more in depth as I can - I had my laptop along, and all our lodging had wifi, but my computer just wouldn't start. Seems to be working now, though...

The Neddiad

Daniel Pinkwater used to be a favorite of mine when I was a kid - had no idea he was still writing until I saw this. Grabbed it as a "read out loud in the car that the kids can hear" book. And that's pretty much what it was - If I was ten, I probably would have loved this. Lots of explanation of stuff that a kid might not understand, lots of description. Weirdly, this book contained the factoid that since "la brea" in Spanish means "the tar", when you say "the La Brea Tar Pits" you are really saying "the the tar tar pits". Weird because the last book I had read, Pinball Theory of the Apocalypse also contained that fact. Anyway... The Neddiad is the story of a boy named Ned and the adventures he had when his family moved from the Midwest to Los Angeles - sometime in the fifties, by the feel of it. Pretty fun stuff, but definitely written for a younger audience. I'll try to get Julien into it in a couple of years...

Book 55

The Pinball Theory of Apocalypse

Picked this up in a bookstore in McMinnville, OR because I was running out of reading material, and I was in kind of a "wacky fiction" mood after that last book. And it was - wacky, fun, and a pretty quick little read. It's the story of a southern California artist who is struggling with selling out within the crazy culture down there. Kind of unpolished, but fun.

Book 54

Crooked Little Vein

Whew. This was a twisted book. Fun to read, but wow. Probably didn't help that I had to read it out loud in the car to Mich (no kids along for this reading experience.) It's the story of a down-on-his-luck private eye (an admitted "shit magnet") who is hired by the heroin-addicted White House chief of Staff to track down an "Alternate constitution of the United States", of extraterrestrial origin... Still with me? Yeah, it's kind of twisted. Factor in that one of the early capters is about testicular saline injections, and it's just slightly bizarre. Sweet, too, in it's own way. Just hope I don't recommend this to you - probably means I think you're kind of a freak. In a good way, of course...

Book 53


Not sure why I picked this book up - probably because of the cover art. I once had a collection of parodies of Grant Wood's "American Gothic" - probably why this caught my eye. Anyway, Robert Frank takes us on a journey through the world of America's "new rich", who he terms "Richistanis." From their businesses and finances to their hobbies and kids, it's an interesting glimpse into a demographic that I'll never really see otherwise. What's surprising (but not really so much) is that these people who insist on alligator-trimmed steering wheels for their private jets aren't so different from us - still human, with concerns about the future, their kids, their lives. Couldn't really put it down, actually.

Book 52

The World Without Us

The World Without Us was a book that I'd seen reviewed in a few different place - Outside Magazine, maybe Smithsonian? Sounded interesting, so I picked it up. The main focus is on how the earth would react if it were suddenly without human influence. The Weisman tracks down experts in many different fields to ask them th shed their insight on the question, and the results are pretty interesting. The thing that captivated me, though, were the places that the author found that, for one reason or another, have been missing humans for some time. The two examples that spring to mid are the Korean De-militarized Zone, where much wildlife is enjoying a human-less existence, and a city on Cypress (?) that has been left abandoned since a civil war. Haunting, and a good exercise that puts some perspective on things.

Book 51

Ghost Map

I picked this book up initially because it looked interesting, and only after I checked it out did I realize that I had read a previous book by the same author. I had really enjoyed Everything Bad is Good For You, but it seemed like a terribly different book. This seemed more in the style of Erik Larson's Devil in the White City or Simon Winchester's books.

Anyway, Ghost Map is the story of the discovery, in London, of how cholera is transmitted. Discovery is not quite the word; it was more like grudging realization. But it seemed a watershed moment in the scientific method as applied to epidemic tracking. This didn't have the romance of "Devil in the White City ( while reading it, I referred to it as "the poo book"), but it held my interest, and I learned a lot from it.

Book 50

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Bad Monkeys

Saw this book come through at work the other day, and grabbed immediately. I read one of Matt Ruff's books (Fool on the Hill) long ago and loved it, but then read another (Sewer, Gas and Electric) and didn't like it as much. Knew I was going to like this one, though - the two blurbs from other authors were from Christopher Moore and Neal Stephenson, two of my all-time favorites. If Neil Gaiman had recommended it as well, I would have called in sick and read it it a day.

Tough book to describe. Reminded me of Moore's A Dirty Job - set a bit in San Francisco, kind of a conspiracy theory that noone knows about, but the story is recounted in conversations with the protagonist's prison psychologist. As a result, you are left guessing whether the story is intended to be true or not until the very end. Anyway, LOVED IT. It was over too quick, is my only complaint.

Book 49