Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fortune Cookie Chronicles

People don't seem to have very good opinions about author blurbs. I, personally, love them. Some of the best and most unexpected books I've read in the past year, I've been drawn to by seeing that one or more of the blurbs on the jacket was from an author I enjoy. Same with this one. Granted, I was almost through the book before I glanced at them, but when I saw that the two Blurbs on the back were from Sasha Issenberg and Mary Roach, my feelings about blurbs were validated yet again.

Wow, I digressed before I ever got to the book I'm talking about. Oh well. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles is another great example of the kind of non-fiction I love to read: an in depth look into a specific subject, so in-depth that it ranges all over other subjects as well, with enough of the author's personality thrown in to make it interesting and humorous. Jennifer 8. Lee covers the phenomenon of Chinese food in America from a global and historical viewpoint, touching on subjects as wide ranging as Powerball lotteries (lucky numbers on fortune cookies), takeout box manufacturing, immigration policies and the birthplace of General Tso. Excellent book; glad I picked it up.

Book 11

Monday, February 25, 2008


Wow. Yet another year in which the only Academy Award winning film that I've seen was the Best Animated Feature. Come to think of it, I haven't seen a Best Picture, Best Director, or Best Actor or Actress winning film (before the awards) since Lord of the Rings: Return of the King...

Friday, February 22, 2008

Atomic Lobster

I look forward to each new Tim Dorsey book. The continuing adventures of Serge Storms in the wacky landscape of Florida - well, if you don't already appreciate it, I'm not sure I can explain. I really enjoyed his last one, Hurricane Punch, and Atomic Lobster continues in the same mode. Even better; kept me guessing right until the end this time. Read it in less than two days...

Book 10

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Didn't have anything to read at lunch a few weeks ago at work, so I grabbed Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World. I'd heard in the news a few years ago of the "banana scare" - that, because of disease and the sterile nature of the banana plant, the world would be banana-less within twenty years. Turns out this was a gross exaggeration; not only are there thousands of kinds of bananas, most of which are disease resistant, most of them are not sterile either. It's just our familiar grocery store banana, the Cavendish, that is in danger. This is the story of the banana - where it came from and were it might be going. Pretty interesting, a great member of one of my favorite nonfiction genres: the "history-of-a-specific-thing." There's got to be a better term for that. Maybe I should invent one...

Book 9

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Eclipse cookies

For some reason, the people at work decided to have an "Eclipse Party" to celebrate the lunar eclipse that's happening tomorrow night. For some reason, the first thing that popped into my head was the classic New York Black and White Cookie. I've never actually had one, being a west-coaster and having never been to New York, but I've read and heard about them. If nothing else, the Seinfeld episode that featured them cemented them in my generation's popular culture. At any rate, I thought it was time I gave them a try. Found a good sounding recipe for them at and modified it slightly, I went with straight dark chocolate for the "black" half instead of cocoa frosting. Here's the progression:

Dough ready to bake

Cooling cookies

White glaze

Chocolate side

Plated and ready to go...


One of the things that I crossed off my long-term list this weekend was to build a shelf. We have a little desk in out kitchen area where our laptop sits when it's not mobile, and at first it was pretty self-contained. Then I plugged in an external hard drive to start collecting and organizing our digital photos and music. Had all that music righ there in the kitchen (our most used room of the house, I'm sure) so I dug out some computer speakers that were kicking around to listen to some of it. Had to plug in a power cord to manage all that, and pretty soon there was a mess of cables and peripherals right near our kitchen table. Well, I buckled down on Monday (President's Day) and threw a shelf together. What do you think? Pretty good for a librarian?

Granted, it's far from pretty, but I'm kinda proud of it. Seemed like every time I had some weird part I couldn't figure out, I remembered some little carpentry trick that Mich had shown me and made it work. Thanks, Mich - you've taught me a lot.


In my life, I've only bought a few of the precious stones mentioned in this book. A diamond in an engagement/wedding ring, a few pearls here and there. Jewels: a Secret History traces ten precious stones in such interesting detail, though, that it was fascinating to read about all of them.

Author Victoria Finlay leads us on a tour through Mohs scale of hardness, from pearls to diamonds. She visits lost Egyptian emerald mines, learns how to cut rubies in Sri Lanka, and learns about farming pearls in Japan. She bring enough of herself to the story that it's part history and part travelogue, with a voice that's both chronicler and poet. I looked forward to sitting down to read it.

Book 8

Monday, February 18, 2008

Utopias tasting

I realize that title didn't make sense for a lot of people. Utopias is an "extreme beer" brewed by the Sam Adams Brewery. They're fairly rare and hard to find, crazy expensive, and pretty much a beer connoisseur's dream. My friend Marc managed to get his hands of a bottle of the 2007 holiday release (it comes out every two years) and had kept it until he found an occasion to open it. I guess he decided to manufacture an occasion, because a few friends who would appreciate it were invited over to taste it last night. We each brought a bottle or two (or six) of "something interesting" to taste as well. Some were homebrews, some were organics, some hoppy, some stouts... A good mix. Here's a look at part of the selection:

We tasted a few, maybe 7 or 8, then it was time to try the main event. After a reading of the label describing the complicated brewing and aging process (see wikipedia link above), Marc cracked it open.

Here's my glass awaiting a pour...

And Marc tasting (note the look of concentration):

What an amazing drink. The best description I can give is a port-whiskey with beer flavor profiles. The bouquet was startling at first, but nice once you got used to it. The texture was a little syrupy, but very smooth. There was none of the throat burn that you can get with a harder alcohol, just pleasing warmth. And the complexity! So much going on with this, my mouth almost didn't know what to do with it.

At any rate, thanks, Marc, for the opportunity to taste that. It was excellent.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Morning Ride

It was finally nice enough (in February!) to get out for a morning motorcycle with my coworker Max. We've been for a few rides in the past couple years, and he's a great guy to ride with - about my speed, into having fun more than being macho or looking cool. This morning we headed out to do a loop on Red Rock Road, a little north of Reno:

View Larger Map

Usually you end up getting stuck behind some kind of traffic on Red Rock, but it was clear sailing today. Rode out to the junction with 395 and had a little rest:

(When I took this, Max asked "I'm not in that, am I?" I said "Yeah, but just for scale." Like the scale, Max? Ha!)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Chocolate Class

I went to a Chocolate class tonight, at Reno's premiere (pretty much only) cooking school, Nothing To It. The class was a gift from our friend Anju; one of the most thoughtful gifts I've been given in a long time. It was supposed to have been taught be Alice Medrich, who has written prize wining cookbooks and owns a San fRancisco based chocolate company, Cocolat. She had an emergency and couldn't make it, so the class was taught by a man (I forget his name, how good is that) who has a chocolate company in Gardnerville, NV, Grimaldi's. The class ended up being about making truffles, which is what this guy's specialty is. I was hoping it would be a bit more about chocolate in general, not just about dipping one thing in another, but there you have it. Did learn a bit about different types of chocolate, percentages and whatnot, but (gasp) I'm not really a huge chocolate fan. I told myself that's why I was there, to learn to appreciate it so I could bake with it for others, but... Didn't get bit by the chocolate bug. Plus, I'd never been to a "cooking class" before, and it felt a little bed-and-breakfasty -then whole enforced interaction with people that you otherwise wouldn't get along with or even talk to. But I'm kind of private that way...

Catching up

Been awhile since I've posted here - it's been crazy at work, and there hasn't been that much of note happening at home. In the middle of a few books, too, so I haven't posted any book reviews either. Couple of those coming up soon, though...

One home project I'm involved in is consolidating all out digital photos and music onto an external hard drive, with an eye toward organizing them. I've got almost all our music on it, and all of our pictures, then will run some software to clean it all up. Should make it easy to use...

The biggest thing I've started recently, though is running more seriously. I just began a 12 week training program, leading to a half marathon the first week of May. In order to track my progress, I've started a separate Running Blog. If you're at all interested, follow the link or find it under "Turi's other blogs" at the top left of the page. If not, I understand. It's mostly for me to put down a few thoughts, anyway.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


I've been a fan on Neal Stephenson's for quite awhile now. I've only reviewed one of his books here, but I've read pretty much all of them. Or so I thought. When I saw this post on Boingboing a couple months ago, I realized that there were a few I'd missed. I tried to find it at a local bookstore, but it seemed to be sold out. Wasn't until Christmas that I found out Mich had bought it for me...

Anyway, Interface is pretty classic Neal Stephenson. Definitely more political than his books usually are, but it fit in nicely with the mood of this campaign season. For a better description than I can provide, read Cory Doctorow's review at Boingboing, above. This would be a good read if you liked Stephenson's Cryptonomicon.

Book 7

Friday, February 1, 2008


Been awhile sine I've read Dune, and I've had a few people recommend it to me lately (Mich is reading the whole series) so I thought I'd give it a go.

I had forgotten how well crafted this book was. The first two-thirds, at least were absolutely captivating. Mystery, politics, dynastic feuds. Really sucked me in. Getting near the end, I started to find it a little tedious, but the ending was satisfying.

I don't think I'll continue on in the series; I tried to once before and didn't like the other books as well. Plus, I have a few other things I want to read...

Book 6