Sunday, September 30, 2007

One Big Damn Puzzler

Sometimes a book will catch my eye just by it's cover design and title, and I'll give it a chance. Some of these books don't hold my interest, but once in a while, I'll really like them. Such was the case with One Big Damn Puzzler. It's the story of a South Pacific Island, a native trying to translate Hamlet into pidgin English, and obsessive-compulsive lawyer, and the way societies clash with each other while people come together. It started out with a bit of an absurd Christoper Moore-ey feel (he wrote a blurb for the cover) but became much deeper and more poignant, without losing its sense of humor.

Book 66

Lake Tahoe Marathon

So, after my Tahoe Rim Trail adventure this summer, I was in pretty good running shape - had strong legs, and good lungs for altitude. I thought I'd make use of those by doing the Lake Tahoe Marathon. Now, I have done one marathon before - back in 1999, I trained for and ran the Silver State Marathon, which doesn't really exist anymore. I hadn't run anything nearly that long, though, and hit the wall at about mile 21. Walked and jogged in for a time of 4:35. I figured I could do better than that at Tahoe, even with the 6000 ft altitude.

Our weather had been pretty good the last couple weeks - a little welcome rain last weekend, and temperatures edging towards autumn. But the night before the race, it was really windy, and parts of Reno got up to an inch of snow! Wasn't at all sure how the race was going to go, or what to wear, or anything. Brought all sorts of changes of clothing along to the start line, but ended up wearing shorts, a long sleeve t-shirt and thin gloves. Yep, it was a little chilly at the start, but perfect for most of the race. Had to be pretty careful for the first 10 miles; there were some very slippery spots in the shade.

I tried to go out pretty slow; save my energy for a couple of big hills between 14 and 20 miles, and then let myself go as fast as I felt like for the last 6 (mostly downhill.) And it worked very well. The second of the big hills, at Emerald Bay (mile 19-20) kind of beat me - had to walk a couple of short sections. But at the top of that hill (20 mile mark) I looked at my watch, and I was right at 3 hours. I realized that I had a whole hour to go 6 miles, of which 3 were very much downhill. I knew I could make it at that point, and got a little choked up. Those were some pretty tough miles, but I made it in. 3:54 was my time, a personal best.

Resting and recuperating now - some pretty sore legs, and a black and blue toe. Don't think I need to do that very often, I'm much more suited to the half-marathon distance.

*UPDATE: Results have been posted - my 3:54:14 got me 8th place in the Mens 35-39 age bracket, only 11 minutes behind the winner for that age. That's 34th place for the overall men's division, and 42nd including the women. Hey, only 8 girls beat me! Speaking of girls, kudos also to my friend Amber, who ran her first half marathon, made her goal of 2:30 by over 15 minutes, and was nice enough to give me a ride home afterwards. Thanks and congrats!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sacramento Zoo

Took the kids to the Sacramento Zoo yesterday. It was a Saturday, but it was threatening rain (just sprinkled a little) so it wasn't very crowded. Here's Sofia, ready to go in the car on the way:

First thing we did was take the train ride around the zoo.Everyone was pretty excited:

Then we started touring the zoo - Julien really liked the orangutans.

And the giraffes were also popular:

The "stick your face through the sign" thing was a big hit -

Had some lunch, and wandered around some more - the snow leopards finally came out, so we had to get a couple shots of them:

Anyway, we had a great time - there was always something the next corner for the kids to discover:

But we had some pretty tired monkeys in the car afterwards.

That's why our trip to IKEA had to be cut short - kids were ready for a nap. But a fun day nonetheless.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


So I'm not generally a big reader of sports books (other than golf, obviously) but this one caught my eye: Fanatic: Ten Things All Sports Fans Should Do Before They Die. Basically, the author designed a year of traveling around attending the sporting events that he considered to be on the list: the Super Bowl, The Masters, Wimbledon, the Final Four, Daytona, a couple baseball games and college match-ups. Some things were absent - it wasn't an Olympic year, for example. I really enjoyed his writing, though - it seemed like he was able to lose himself in the moment of a game while still retaining a fairly objective view. Quick read.

Book 65

Monday, September 17, 2007

More TRT

Got up on the Tahoe Rim Trail again yesterday with Chris - we did the section from Mt. Rose to Spooner Summit. It's my last really long run before the Tahoe Marathon in a couple weeks, and also part of training for a Marathon Chis is doing in October. The trail didn't treat me very well - I had a pretty good fall early on trying to make room for some mountain bikers to pass (noone's fault, I just slipped) and then fatigued pretty nicely toward the end. The last 5 miles (of the 24) I was having trouble keeping my mind focused on the trail. Made it in 4:30 though - and over rough, hilly terrain that's 2-3000 feet above where the marathon will be run, that makes me feel pretty good about it. Also: it was a BEAUTIFUL day. My panorama-making software is still acting up, so I just put this together on the fly - hence the weird transitions between photos. Overloking Marlette Lake and Lake Tahoe:

Click to enlarge. If you look to the far right of the picture, you can just barely see a couple of casinos all the way down in Reno.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Zen of Fish

Yep, another sushi book. This one, The Zen of Fish, traces the history of sushi through the framework of a class at the California Sushi Academy. It's pretty good - interesting to get the history as well as the current state of sushi in America - how it differs from sushi in Japan, and how sushi chefs are trained here.

Book 64

Dances With Marmots

After the last PCT book I read, I wanted a little different view of the long-distance hiking thing, and I certainly got it with Dances With Marmots. George Spearing is a firefighter from New Zealand who decides he needs to get away for awhile, and heads out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. This book reads very informally; like a you'd imagine a conversation with a kiwi firefighter over a beer might be transcribed. I think they have some different punctuation rules in New Zealand, too; I kept wishing this had been proofread better. (But I'm picky...) That said, it did give a pretty good insight into someone hiking the PCT solo, which was cool. As mentioned in the comments to my post on "Blistered Kind of Love", though, this book takes 200 pages to cover the California sections, then skips over Oregon and Washington in less than 50. I guess that's to be expected - a hiker makes all their discoveries and learns all their lessons early on, after a certain amount of time, it just becomes making the mileage. But it would be cool to read more about the northern sections.

Book 63

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Random Books

Sofia was playing around our bookshelves in the living room yesterday, pulled out two books and left them on the coffee table. I just thought the juxtaposition was funny:

Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions"

And "The Virgin Bride Said Wow" by Cathy Gillen Thacker.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Eating the Flowers of Paradise

I picked up this book after reading another of Kevin Rushby's books, and noticing this title - sounded interesting. It is a chronicle of a trip that Rushby took through northeaast Africa, and focuses on the use of qat, a mild drug that is chewed from leaves and is mostly used socially. It as interesting reading, but like the other book of his I read, seemed kind of meandering. He didn't really seem to have a point or goal, but just floated around noticing things until the book ended.

Book 62

Friday, September 7, 2007


After I recently read Daniel Pinkwater's The Neddiad, it reminded me of one of my favorite books when I was a kid. Yobgorgle is the story of a kid who, left to his own devices while staying with an uncle, ends up as a research assistant to a monster-hunting scientist. It turns out that the monster they are searching for is a giant pig-shaped submarine with a cursed captain. And believe it or not, it is even more bizarre than that. Great stuff. It makes me feel good that I liked this kind of deliciously improbable stuff even as a kid, I can see why I now like authors like Mark Leyner, Terry Pratchett, and Tim Dorsey.

Book 61

Saturday, September 1, 2007

French By Heart

Saw this book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble, and put it on hold at the library. Seemed custom-written for me; expatriate family learning their way around France. And yes, it was interesting, and a pretty quick read. It just didn't catch my attention in much of the same way that some others in this genre did. Maybe it was the big expatriate community that the author had to fall back on, although they didn't live right in the midst of an english-speaking group. The most interesting bits were about the family's relationships with their neighbors, and the way the kids fit in to school.

Book 60

Snow Crash

I hadn't read Snow Crash in a while, at least since I have gone through Stephenson's latest series a couple years ago, so I thought it was about time. It didn't disappoint. Perhaps a little dated now, but still full of great, imaginative references to a future that has, at east in part, come to pass. Snow Crash is known as the book where Stephenson predicted the internet, specifically the MMORPG/Second Life-type form of it. There are lots of other great ideas, too, from the business/city-state entities called franchulates to a great conspiracy theory involving ingrained language and a language virus from the time of Gilgamesh. The only problem I have ever had with the book is the main character's name, Hiro Protagonist. That's always struck me as a little corny, but maybe it is supposed to. Great book, anyway.

Book 59