Wednesday, April 30, 2008

3001: The Final Odyssey

To be honest, I was a little disappointed by the ending to this series. All that buildup, and the last book was basically Clarke's view of the distant future, with a quick little wrap-up to the whole monolith/"origins of intelligence" story line. Glad I read it; not sure I'd recommend it past the first one.

Book 28

Monday, April 28, 2008

Weekend pics

Had a pretty eventful weekend, and came up with a few pictures to share. Got a lot done on Saturday, around the house and stuff, but had to stop to take a picture of the cuteness that is Sofia...

And Julien was amusing himself with some pattern blocks:

Saturday afternoon we went to a birthday party for one of Sofia's friends, Pippa. It was held at a My Gym location, where they had all sorts of cool play equipment, like a climbing wall:

and a ball pit:

Fun stuff. Later we had a snuggle and watched a movie:

Sunday Mich had a couple of events for the Corporate Challenge (she's the coordinator for Granite this year) so the kids and I got some stuff done around the house. We then stopped by the Reno HS track to say hi at the Track and Field events, then did some grocery shopping. In the afternoon, Julien and I took our longest motorcycle ride yet, all the way out to Nathan and Sarah's house on Red Rock Road. He did great; only squirmed a little and held on really well.

Oh, and I managed to fit a couple of runs in as well; about 3.5 miles on Saturday and 8 miles on Sunday. One more week until my half marathon!

Warmest Room in the House

The Warmest Room in the House: How the kitchen became the heart of the twentieth-century American home was a pretty straightforward book. As the title suggests, it's a history of attitudes toward food in America, with an emphasis on how that affected the design of the kitchen. Broad-focused, informative, and easy to read. Kept my attention all the way through.

Book 27

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Land of Two Halves

I started out not really liking this one, but ended up with a weird admiration for the author's viewpoint by the end of it. First off, the title is "A Land of Two Halves: An Accidental Tour of New Zealand." Subtitle is a misnomer; Bennett specifically heads out to hitchhike around the two islands; nothing accidental about it. Unless that's referring to how he originally came to New Zealand (as a visitor who ended up staying); but that was years ago and shouldn't really apply... Anyway, slight digression there. As he starts out, it becomes clear that Bennett has a curmudgeonly attitude about tourism in his adopted country. He rails against the "puchased experience" offered by so many places in New Zealand - bungee jumping, jet boating, etc. - and offers hilarious descriptions of some of the tourists he sees waddling around. At first it seems negative, but after a whole book's worth of it, I find myself agreeing to some degree. That's not the whole book, of course - he spends a lot of his time noodling about the more rural parts of the country, hitching around and drinking with the locals. Reminds me of Bill Bryson's travel writing at times, including the straggling back to his hotel after a late night. I ended up liking his take on things, and may go on to read his newest book, Mustn't Grumble.

Book 26

Monday, April 21, 2008

2061: Odyssey Three

So, continuing with the whole Odyssey Saga. 2061 takes us on a little side trip to Halley's comet, then back to some strange happenings on Europa. The whole thing felt like foreshadowing for the last book in the series, 2001 3001, which I'll start soon...

Book 25

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Farewell, My Subaru

Farewell, My Subaru is Doug Fine's story of moving to New Mexico, buying a plot of land, some goats and chickens, and giving his city-boy best try at living closer to the land. All in the name of reducing his carbon footprint and being generally more environmentally conscious. He converts a pickup to run on biodiesel, installs solar paneling and plants a garden. He's flooded out, his garden is destroyed by hail, and the local coyotes make off with his chickens. But he retains his sense of humor, and in the end, can really appreciate what his new life has brought him.

Book 24


It's a common list to keep: your ideal dinner party guest list. Trying to balance who would work together conversationally, thematically. Seems like all my invitees would be authors - Bill Bryson, Neil Gaiman - and Mary Roach. I can't imagine a group that here sense of humor and take on life wouldn't fit into. Not one that I'd like to attend, anyway.

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex is Roach's latest book, and continues kind of a theme. Her first book was Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, which she then followed up with Spook: Science tackles the Afterlife. Bodies, life after death, and sex - she knows how to pick her topics. Amazingly, she attacks them with a sense of humor that's refreshing whilre remaining tactful and respectful. At least that was the case in Stiff and Spook - in Bonk, she allows herself a bit more snarkiness. Sex is a little less touchy subject than the other two, and probably more deserving of a laugh. Especially deserving of note are her footnotes, where she really lets fly sometimes, and the interspersed U.S. Patent Office searches that she did for obscure sex-related apparatuses.

(Huh, spellcheck doesn't like "apparati." Oh well, it doesn't like "spellcheck" either...)

Book 23

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Way To Go

OK, so I enjoyed Geoff Hill's book The Road to Gobbler's Knob enough that I had to go back and read his previous book, Way To Go. In this one, he covers two different trips, the first from India back to Ireland on an Enfield, the second along Route 66 on a Harley. I definitely enjoyed the description of the first trip more than the second, possibly just because it was more exotic. Also, there wasn't as much complaining about loss fo local color in the American landscape. Still he's fun to read, and now I can get on with the rest of the stack of books I have here...

Book 22

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Road to Gobblers Knob

I had overlooked The Road to Gobblers Knob on the cataloging shelf at work until it actually got on my cart to look at. Once I did, I had to read it. A 6'6" Irish travel writer and ex-volleyball player rides a Triumph Tiger along the Pan-American Highway from Chile to Alaska. Lots to like there.

I really liked Geoff Hill's voice. He noodles off on silly jokes and philosophical wanderings sometimes, but you can tell they're all really heartfelt and genuine. Fun to read, although I'm sure I missed a few nuances with the Britticisms. Kinda wish he would have mentioned how he fit his height onto a stock Tiger for all those miles, though...

Book 21

Friday, April 4, 2008


I hadn't noticed Strides of the shelves at work until it ended up on my cart to catalog. It was just what I needed to inspire me at this point in my training schedule. John Cheever outlines the history of running, while interspersing his experiences over a life of running. He covers running as an evolutionary milestone, the early Olympics and the different modern periods of runnings popularity. His experiences include visiting Kenya and elite training camps there, volunteering at the New York Marathon and visiting military outposts to participate in races with the troops. Fun to read, a little haphazard, but inspiring.

Book 20

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Stealing the Wave

I picked up Stealing the Wave when I didn't have anything to read at lunch a few weeks ago - testament to how short my lunches are now that it's taken me this long to read it. It's all about the surfing at Waimea Bay in the 80s and 90s, and in particular, the rivalry during that period between Ken Bradshaw and Mark Foo. I learned quite a bit about the whole scene; from Eddie Aikau's story (and where "Eddie would go" came from) to the origins of tow-in surfing. And, of course, why Foo was at Mavericks when he died.

I didn't like Andy Martin's writing style at first. Seemed like he tried to work too many vocab words in for no good reason, seemed a little self-consciously poetic. He used the term cordon sanitaire at least twice. But I got used to it, and I would call this a good read.

Book 19

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Nobody does it better

Nope, it's not a James Bond book - it's a cook book! I don't usually review cookbooks, but this is one that I read cover to cover. Trish Deseine's descriptions of her experiences shopping and cooking in France are inspiring, and the recipes here are mouth-watering and (barring ingredient sourcing in Nevada) simple and elegant. Seriously, it's been awhile since I've been inspired by a cookbook, but this did it.

Book 18

C'est la Folie

I stumbled onto C'est la Folie from Amazon's "Customers who bought this item also bought" function. It's not available in the US, but was pretty cheap coming used from the UK, anyway... This is the story of Michael Wright, as he gives up his London life to move, alone, to a house in the middle of France. He does this simply to bring a change, some adventure, a breath of fresh air to his life. He is slowly accepted by and integrated into the community, as he begins to play the organ at the local church, joins the tennis club and moves his vintage plane down from England. The best descriptions of his life, though, come when talking about his animals. He has a cat and a few fish, but also collects a few chickens and some Ouessants, a kind of dwarf sheep. I really liked his voice in this, and it sounds from his website like there may be a sequel some day. I'll make an effort to find it...

Book 17

Downhill Lie

I'm not a Carl Hiaasen reader, generally (I think I've read one of his books) but when I say this come in as an advance reader copy, I thought I'd give it a shot. This is the story if the author taking up golf again, after not playing for thirty years. It's pretty fun - his self-deprecating humor is perfect for describing his golf game, and his stories of his rounds and friends are entertaining. Some of the golf equipment that he tries out, though, is pretty silly. I'd have to imagine that some of the stuff he bought is only purchased by people looking to pad out a golf book... Anyway, short and fun, this would be a great book to buy in an airport for a trip.

Book 16

The Plenitude

I finished this little book about a week ago, but am just getting around to posting about it. Don't have that much to say, really - It's basically the condensed wisdom from one of the talks of Rich Gold, who was apparently quite a modern renaissance man. He talks about science, art and technology, and how they all contribute to what he calls the Plenitude - the huge amount of, well, stuff that we all produce. He seems a bit conflicted about this, at times defending it and at other times calling it "junk culture." But an interesting little book.

Book 15