Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My First 100 Marathons

My First 100 Marathons: 2,260 Miles with an Obsessive Runner My First 100 Marathons: 2,260 Miles with an Obsessive Runner by Jeff Horowitz


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
Wasn't expecting it to be such a quick read, but this book flew by - I finished it in a night and a half. Very inspirational, basically a biography of a marathoner. Horowitz takes us from his first marathon experiences running through 100 marathons, a couple of ultras and beyond - in all 50 states and around the world. He has a very healthy and sane view of what running is and what it can mean to people, some of which comes from his own experiences but also from coaching others. As much fun to read for the running talk as for the travelogue. Experienced runners will find the tips at the end of each chapter to be pretty common-sense, but I wish I'd read some of them before I ran my first marathon...


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Confessions of an Eco-Sinner

Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff Confessions of an Eco-Sinner: Tracking Down the Sources of My Stuff by Fred Pearce


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
At first glance, I wasn't sure if I was going to like Confessions of an Eco-sinner - the writing looked a little dry, and I thought I might have just read one too many "green" books recently. I was wrong - this is probably the best, most important one I've read. Fred Pearce tracks down the origin and final destinations of many of the things in his life, like his food, clothing, electronics and recycling. He discovers some surprising things, both good and bad, about where products come from and where they end up. He takes a very global perspective, and writes in an honest, refreshing style. This is one I'm sure I'll recommend to people.


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Friday, October 24, 2008

The internet amazes me

I'm still kind of amused at the way I send an email across the room to a coworker with the same nonchalance that I contact a friend living in Kosovo. Pretty cool stuff, and I came up with another story this morning about it.

Images that I upload to flickr I have set to be Creative Commons licensed (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike Creative Commons, specifically.) What that means, basically is that anyone can use the images I post as long as they're not making money of them, and they credit me. I've only had one photo used before, a picture of the Incline Village Library used in a Schmap travel guide to Lake Tahoe. (Hover over the icon at Incline Village for a minute, and my photo will scroll by in the upper right corner.) I believe in that case, since it was kind of a commercial use, they requested my permission to use it first, and I granted it.

I also have a Google Alert set up for my name. Ant time Google's web indexers come across a new page that has the search terms I entered (in this case, my name) I get an email with a link to that page. It's kind of fun, a lot of times what I get are library program announcements or running race results. This morning, though, I got this:

Blogs, Wikis and eLearning Week
... Slide 20 – Right tool for the right purpose | Wrong tool for the job by Turi Becker| cc by-nc-sa http://www.flickr.com/photos/turi_b/697794899/ ...


I had to follow the link to see what it was about. With a little looking around, I found that a guy at the University of Singapore used one of my images in a slideshow about blogs and wikis - a picture from a trip to Alaska in which my friend Jeff was using a tiny backpacking hatchet to try to split a giant log. He was using it as an illustration of when to use the right tool for the right job.

I think that's just awesome. That a moment of hilarity on our camping trip in Alaska might be of use to someone teaching about blogs and wikis in Singapore. That it was OK for him to use because of how flickr encourages people to set up their Creative Commons settings. And how I only found out about it because of the Google alert on my own name. What a crazy place, this internet.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Long Way Down

Long Way Down Long Way Down by Ewan McGregor


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another epic journey from Ewan and Charley, just as enjoyable as the last. Can't help be jealous of these guys...


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Completely out of character sports-related post

Do I have to cheer for the Devil Rays just because they wear hats with my initials on them?

The Great American Attraction

The Great American Attraction: Two Brits Discover the Rollicking World of American Festivals The Great American Attraction: Two Brits Discover the Rollicking World of American Festivals by Rich Smith


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
Ah, my kind of book. Couple guys take off and travel around a different country on some whimsical quest. In this case, they're British, so the different country is the U.S., but it's fun to see another view of your own country, too. Their quest was to visit some of the crazy carnivals and festivals we have here. (Come to think of it, I read a book a few years ago about an American traveling around England to weird festivals. Can't remember the name of it...)


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Monday, October 20, 2008

Fall photos


For those of you who check my main blog here but not my running blog, there are some great fall color photos from yesterday's Fall Colors Half Marathon over there...

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Other tooth - gone!

Pumpkin Pie-balls

I love this season - in large part because I get to bake with pumpkin. Pies, cookies, cheesecakes, souffles... Mmmmm. There's a recipe for pumpkin pie in the new Cooks' Illustrated that I want to try out, too, come to think of it. Anyway...

I have a few different Halloween baking opportunities this year, and wanted to come up with something creative to make for them. In a nod to my genes (thanks, Dad) I feel the need to name my creations with some terrible pun. Hence: Pumpkin pie-balls.

This is basically a pumpkin cookie, covered with a disc of pie dough with a slit down the center and a raisin for a pupil. Steps:


Pumpkin cookies - I use some old recipe I have laying around, but I'm sure any pumpkin cookie recipe will work. These scoops are too big by about half, I cut them down a lot on the second batch.


Pie dough. Cookie cutter circles. Slit in the middle. Pretty simple.


Terrible picture. But: pie dough draped over cookie dough. As I said, there was too much cookie dough on this first set, on the second batch the pie dough draped more fully over the edges and baked up better. Plunk a raisin in the middle (not pictured) and push it in a ways - it'll try to rise up as they bake.


Et voila. Pumpkin pieballs. Making them again, I'll probably scale them down - use a smaller circle cutter and less filling.

Bloody Confused

Bloody Confused!: A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English Soccer Bloody Confused!: A Clueless American Sportswriter Seeks Solace in English Soccer by Chuck Culpepper


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
I've always been a bit fascinated by English football, as a sport, fan fixation and general cultural phenomenon. I read Fever Pitch and Among the Thugs years ago, and learned that there was no way that I could possibly understand the game, let alone the nuances, rivalries, and everything else that makes it such a rich experience. Chuck Culpepper's book reinforces that - an American sportswriter, he finds himself in London, and falls into football fandom. Well, actually, he goes about it systematically, choosing a team to support which will be the most interesting in the next year. He follows them through the whole year, traveling to away games (and home games as well, as he supports Portsmouth, not exactly near his London base.) (An aside - he complains about the cost of tickets and travel, but continues to go on these crazy journeys - where's all this money coming from?) What it all boils down to is that he enjoys himself immensely, learns a huge amount about the game, but knows he will be an outsider for years to come. Very entertaining, fun read.


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On the resilience of muffin recipes


Woke up this morning to a request for bran muffins. As I have a new favorite baking book, I was excited to try out a new recipe.

Turns out this particular recipe was a little too much for my pre-coffee consciousness. LOTS of steps and a sink fill of dishes later, the muffins were in the oven. Looking down on the counter, I saw three ingredients - walnuts, melted butter and raisins - that I had completely forgotten to include. The muffins had already baked to the point where I couldn't pull them out and include the forgotten parts, so I just let them go. And they turned out wonderfully.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Multitasking

Found myself at work yesterday, cataloging books, while listening to my iPod in my left ear and eavesdropping on two different conversations in the room with my right ear. Weird how the brain works...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Death: A Life

Death: A Life Death: A Life by George Pendle


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
I wasn't expecting to enjoy this as much as I did - really just picked it up to compare to Terry Pratchett's Death character. But hey - George Pendle does a great Death, too - crazy, irreverent, and a little too fond of wordplay. But lots of fun to read.


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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Anatomy of a tantrum

Not even sure what Sofia's tantrum was about at Nanny's house today, but it was pretty cute. Click the picture and zoom in tor big tears...





Friday, October 10, 2008

Kick the balls

Kick the Balls: An Offensive Suburban Odyssey Kick the Balls: An Offensive Suburban Odyssey by Alan Black


My review


rating: 2 of 5 stars
I didn't quite "get" Alan Black's tale of being a Scot trying to fit into American society be coaching a kids soccer team. It seemed to have a kind of "descent into madness" feel to it, but maybe that was just me not knowing what he was talking about half the time. I made it through it for the funny bits and because it read pretty quick, but I don't have anyone I'd recommend it to...


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This is book 82 on the year...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Literary terminology

Every once in a while I see a specialized literary term go by, and for a little while now, I've been noting them as I see them. Good stuff to know, trivia-wise. Not sure there's much other use to these...

Bildungsroman: Basically, a coming-of-age novel. Anywhere from Catcher in the Rye to Harry Potter. See the Wikipedia entry for more details, including bonus definitions of entwicklungsroman, erziehungsroman and künstelrroman.

Vade-mecum: A pocket reference. Like that thing the Mythbusters always pull out that has all the formulas and stuff in it.

Festschrift: An academic thing, a publication honoring a person, usually presented at their retirement. By their grad students, maybe? German thing, go figure. (According to Wikipedia, if published posthumously, it's called a gedenkenschrift. OK, enough German.)

Dénouement: Ah, on to the French. Here we have the conclusion of the story that happens after the climax. In Harry Potter terms, when Dumbledore explains what's going on to Harry after the big fight.

Deckle edges: Super- untrimmed, ragged edges in the paper in a bound book. Check out this post at the Powells.com blog for a great explanation and pictures.

Epistolary novel: A book written as a series of documents - letters, emails, postcards. Example: The Locklear Letters is a novel written as a string of obsessive fan-mail to Heather Locklear.

Lipogram: A lipogram is a word, sentence, or book written without the use of a certain letter or letters. (It's easy to write without Z or X, writing without E or S is harder.) Many examples of lipograms in the Wikipedia article.

A really fun book I read a few years ago, Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn, is a "progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable." He loses a word each chapter (written in the form of letters) until there are only a couple left, then gains them back.

Vegeslexic

Hi. My name is Turi, and I'm vegeslexic.

Seriously. I get vegetables confused. Especially, for some reason, "A" vegetables. Artichoke, asparagus, avocado. I actually have to stop and think about which one I mean. Who knows why...

The other day, I was at the grocery store with a list my wife had written up. I saw "zucchini", grabbed a cucumber, and was done with it. Didn't realize in until days later, as she rooted through the vegetable drawer trying to find the zucchini. "Is this what you think a zucchini is?" "Um..."

So, yeah. I guess the first step is admitting I have a problem. Anyone know what the second step is?

Just in time for school pictures...

Which are next Monday. The other top middle tooth is loose, too.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Semi-scientific comparison

On and off for the last ten years or so, I've had painful dry cracking on my fingertips. It's been so bad at times that I've had as many as four band-aids on different fingers, which makes it kind of hard to type or work. I've tried different over-the counter creams and lotions, and some prescription ones as well. Some of them worked for a short while, but the cracking always seemed to come back. The only solution that really worked was a steroid shot from the dermatologist; that was effective for about six months before it started again. Don't want to do that too often, though.

A few years ago, I decided that it might be some ingredient in my shampoo that was causing the cracking. I have very mild dandruff, and had always used some kind of shampoo for it - Head & Shoulders, usually. Around the same time that I stopped using that, I started taking a fish oil supplement with my multivitamin. The cracking cleared up and went away. I assumed that the combination of those factors did the trick.

About a month ago, we were at Costco and needed bar soap. We decided to try a new brand, Lever 2000. A week or so after starting with the first bar, my fingers started cracking again. I realized that, if I compared the ingredients of Head & Shoulders, this Lever 2000, and my previous bar soap (Irish Spring Aloe) I might be able to find out what was causing the cracking. I typed the ingredients into an excel chart, highlighted the ones that were in Head & Shoulders AND Lever 200, but not Irish Spring, and only came up with one possibility: Sodium sulfate. (Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, specifically.)

The Wikipedia page for sodium lauryl sulfate even mentions that it has been identified as causing dermatitis in some people. I've since switched shampoos and soap to something without sodium sulfate (not easy; most shampoos contain sodium sulfate or ammonium sulfate) and it looks like my cracking fingers are clearing back up.

Feels good to have figured that out. Anybody need some bar soap that I can't use?

Wordy Shipmates

The Wordy Shipmates The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
OK, I really like Sarah Vowell's writing. Snarky and fun, but with unexpected depths, and an overall tone that I really agree with. But wow, she picks some off-the-beaten-path subjects. Wordy Shipmates is basically a religio-political history of the Puritan founders of Boston. As a child of the West Coast, I know very little of and could honestly care less about the squabbling that happened in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 17th century. I guess it's a testament to Vowell's writing, then, that I stuck this book out to the end.


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Friday, October 3, 2008

Softball socks

Mich headed out for her last softball game of the season last night, dressed like this:



Apparently they have a tradition of dressing up for the last game, and came up with some sort of disco theme last night. They won their game, and took first in their division - the "N" league, I think. Pretty cool.



Sofia liked Mommy's outfit, too...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
I picked up "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" because I'd read a few reviews, it sounded interesting, and the Swedish author angle made it kind of exotic-sounding. Oh, and I have a dragon tattoo. That helped.



I don' tread much fiction; it takes a pretty special book to pull me in. This did. I stayed up a couple hours later than usual last night to finish it up. That in itself says something to me.



I never know how much to say about the plot in these reviews, not wanting to reveal too much. Basically: Swedish journalist, writing a history of a powerful family, decades old mystery. Well crafted and captivating.



Wish there was a 4 1/2 star rating.


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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sofia's first dance recital

Yep, that's right. Sofia and her fellow dance class members had their first recital at All About Kids this afternoon. It was actually pretty fun. Some pictures:



There was a quick wardrobe issue getting the tap shoes on...



A couple of little ballerinas watching the show...



And the videos. First, the ballet:

video

I missed the "Sesame Street" themed dance, but here's the tap:

video

And I'm sorry this is sideways, I need to figure out how to rotate videos, but we caught Julien rockin' out to some of the music, too...

video

Lego Designer Set #4883: Gear Grinders - More

Continuing...

The sixth car. P. 17-19. I don't really know what this is, some kind of commando minivan?



Seventh. The first of the "medium difficulty" cars. P. 22-26. Roadster.





And the eighth, uh, vehicle - a tractor. P. 26-32.





Three more medium difficulty cars, then we get to the hard stuff...

Lego Creator Set #4939: Cool Cars 2 and 3

Catching up on some of the Lego building Julien and I've been doing. Here's the second car from the Cool Cars set, Some kind of racey-thing...



And the last of the three, a semi truck cab.