Friday, May 29, 2009

In the Land of Invented Languages

In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and The Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Language In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and The Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Language by Arika Okrent


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
I don't know why I'm drawn to the language books like I am - I even have a goodreads "bookshelf" for them. But, somehow, I am, and this was a really good example of one.



Okrent has written a fascinating, accessible yet deep, and even at times funny book about the languages that have been "invented", and the character-ful people who have invented them. For the most part idealists, sometimes cranks, it makes for some great storytelling. I guess that's what makes this so readable - the focus is less on the grammars of the languages as on the people, and why their languages didn't catch on.


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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Education of Robert Nifkin

The Education of Robert Nifkin The Education of Robert Nifkin by Daniel Manus Pinkwater


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
A recent boingboing review by Cory Doctorow of a Daniel Pinkwater book I haven't read? Of course I'll pick it up!



Fun, quick little read. Pinkwater's trademark dorky outcast kid finds his place in the world, with moments of hilarity and long stretches of absurdity.


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Eat My Globe

Eat My Globe: One Year to Go Everywhere and Eat Everything Eat My Globe: One Year to Go Everywhere and Eat Everything by Simon Majumdar


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
I hadn't heard of Simon Majumdar before seeing this book, but apparently he isn't unknown in foodie circles. And rightly so; he's a dedicated aficionado with a readable and fun writing style. This book chronicles a frantic year traveling around eating and experiencing as many cuisines as he can find. My only problem with it is that in order to fit it all into a single book, he has to gloss over a lot of detail. But still, a good job at an impossible task.


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Friday, May 22, 2009

Fish books

After the weird similarity with the White House books earlier in the week, today I had two more eerily similar (but not really) books show up.

The first is Richard Conniff's Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time: My Life Doing Dumb Stuff with Animals.



And right next to it, Hunting with Barracudas: My Life in Hollywood with the Legendary Iris Burton by Chris Snyder.



Like I said, eerily similar titles, but one about experiencing wildlife out in the jungle, the other about the jungle of Hollywood.

Are You Kidding Me?

Are You Kidding Me?: The Story of Rocco Mediate's Extraordinary Battle with Tiger Woods at the US Open Are You Kidding Me?: The Story of Rocco Mediate's Extraordinary Battle with Tiger Woods at the US Open by Rocco Mediate


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was lucky enough to notice a twitter post from Little, Brown (publisher) about this book, and was sent a free copy. Really, though, I would have paid for this book. I think I've read everything golf-related that John Feinstein has done, and I've got a soft spot for Rocco Mediate, and "everyman" golf hero.



"Are You Kidding Me" is really a biography of Mediate, focusing in the last third of the book on his battle with Tiger Woods at the 2008 US Open. It's great to get such an inside look at the history and background of a golfer like Rocco, and Feinstein worked closely with him to get it done right. Recommended for any golfer who watched the Open last year.


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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bigfoot

Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend by Joshua Blu Buhs


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
I had a boss in the library system who was a Bigfoot witness. Sober, solid, no-nonsense this guy. The way he put it, he just saw something that his mind couldn't explain, and Bigfoot was what he called it. That's always stayed with me. That, and the fact that a coupele of my wife's colleagues up in Oregon had a sighting recently right before this book came across my desk, made me pick this book up.



Bluhs has done an incredible job of collecting the history of Abominable Snowman, Bigfoot and Sasquatch sightings, legends, and scholarship into one place and presenting them as a coherent timeline. Spectacularly footnoted, it gets a little scholarly and folkloric a couple of times, but is mostly very readable.


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Book cover mistake

I just finished cataloging a cart of books, and realized that two of them had views of the White House featured prominently. As I looked closer, I realized they were different views. Final Finesse, by Karna Small Bodman, shows a flamed-up view of the south facade:



And Marine One, by James Huston, has a military helicopter swooping over the north lawn:



Problem is, the blurb inside the front cover of Marine One starts "The president rushes across the South Lawn in a pounding thunderstorm to Marine One to fly to Camp David..."

Not sure who outside of my father is going to get a kick out of this, but I thought it was funny...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Madsen Cargo Bikes

I'm a bit fascinated by these - just recommended my mom look at them for bike commuting needs up in Vancouver. They've got a little contest going; click on over and take a look at them.

Madsen Cycles Cargo Bikes

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bike to Work Day

I decided to take part in Bike to Work day - I tried to do it a couple days a week last summer, and was moderately successful for a while, so this seemed like a good way to get back into it. It's about 5 and a half miles to my work - a slightly downhill ride in the morning, and a little uphill on the way home. It only gets really tough when there's afternoon wind - which is fairly common here in Nevada. I registered at Bike Nevada this morning, and had a nice ride into work in about 22 minutes. Tried to take it easy, so I wouldn't be all sweaty when I got there - last year I noticed that the closer to 20 minutes I got, the sweatier I was. 22 seemed about right. It was a perfect day in the afternoon, in the 70s and not very windy. Here's a video of me passing by Virginia Lake:

video

And my route on the way home. I try to stay away from the big streets, but heading through downtown isn't too bad on Arlington and 5th. The lights time out pretty well through there...



So, it's always nice to be reminded how easy it is to get around my bike. Maybe I'll consider a commute once or twice a week "cross-training" this summer...

Britten and Brulightly

Britten and Brulightly Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
A really interesting graphic novel - poignant, absurd, deep, at times silly. Very noir-ey feel - the handwriting used for the main character's thoughts was perfect.


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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Eiffel's Tower

Eiffel's Tower: And the World's Fair Where Buffalo Bill Beguiled Paris, the Artists Quarreled, and Thomas Edison Became a Count Eiffel's Tower: And the World's Fair Where Buffalo Bill Beguiled Paris, the Artists Quarreled, and Thomas Edison Became a Count by Jill Jonnes


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a very readable account of the 1889 World's Fair in Paris - focusing quite a bit on the building of the Eiffel Tower, but including many diverse and interesting tidbits. Learned quite a bit.


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The Mysterious Benedict Society

The Mysterious Benedict Society The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
Very strange and wonderful book about a group of super-smart orphans and runaways conscripted by a mysterious figure to help his organization save the world from his evil twin brother. Wow, that makes it sound ridiculous. Really, it's a lot of fun.


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Monday, May 11, 2009

The Italian Summer

The Italian Summer: Golf, Food, and Family at Lake Como The Italian Summer: Golf, Food, and Family at Lake Como by Roland Merullo


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
When this book came across my desk to be cataloged, I wasn't sure where to put it - in with the golf books, in the Italian travel section, or (and this is the eternal question) as a biography? There was a lot of description of the area around Lake Como, only some of which was golf-related, so it ended up in with Italian travel books. That said, there was enough hole-by-hole description of rounds of golf that no-one but a golfer would want to read the whole thing. It was an quick and interesting read, though - all about relaxing for the summer, enjoying life, family and food at a leisurely pace.


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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day thoughts

I just happened to find Julien's April "journal" from school and found this entry, dated 4/29/09:

The Top Ten REasons Why I Love My Mom
#1 I love my mom because she reads me books
#2 I love my mom because she dances with me
#3 I love my mom because she likes to play dart cricket
#4 I love my mom because she let me help build our fort
#5 I love my mom because she goes skiing with me
#6 I love my mom because she can figure out magic tricks
#7 I love my mom because she watches me bounce on the trampoline
#8 I love my mom because she knows a lot of math
#9 I love my mom because she's a great swimmer softball player
#10 I love my mom because she's the bes mom ever!

Happy mother's day, everyone...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

WWW:Wake

WWW: Wake (Www) WWW: Wake by Robert J. Sawyer


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pretty dang awesome book here, about a blind girl who regains here sight through some experimental imaging technology and is surprised to find she can "see"the Web - and it's looking back. Very cool and accessible sci-fi.


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Friday, May 8, 2009

Spiced

Spiced: A Pastry Chef's True Stories of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, andWhat Really Goes on in the Kitchen Spiced: A Pastry Chef's True Stories of Trials by Fire, After-Hours Exploits, andWhat Really Goes on in the Kitchen by Dalia Jurgensen


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
Spiced is a great memoir of working through various kitchens, catering gigs and food styling jobs, and becoming a respected pastry chef. Jurgensen peppers her tale with intimate details about life in and out of kitchens, with enough variety to keep it interesting.


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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Naked In Dangerous Places

Naked in Dangerous Places: The Chronicles of a Hungry, Scared, Lost, Homesick, but Otherwise Perfectly Happy Traveler Naked in Dangerous Places: The Chronicles of a Hungry, Scared, Lost, Homesick, but Otherwise Perfectly Happy Traveler by Cash Peters


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
Interesting look at the life of a TV travel-show host. And a wimpy, reluctant one at that. Cash Peters is pretty funny, but I don't think this was the best use of his talents - parts of the book had exactly the kind of humor I like, but others seemed a little flat to me.


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Monday, May 4, 2009

Books: A Memoir

Books: A Memoir Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry


My review


rating: 2 of 5 stars
I picked this up on the recommendation of mt father-in-law, who thought I'd like it.l I've got to admit, it wasn't what I expected. I was expecting much more about why books are important to McMurtry, what their impact on his life has been. There was a little of that, but mostly this was tales from his experiences as a book buyer and seller. Parts were interesting, but there was a bunch of antiquarian book lingo I'm not familiar with, references to authors I don't know, and stories about people that I honestly didn't care about.


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Unplugging Philco

Unplugging Philco: A Novel Unplugging Philco: A Novel by Jim Knipfel


My review


rating: 3 of 5 stars
I hadn't seen a book by Jim Knipfel in a while, but I remembered liking his more memoir-ey stuff from a few years back. This looked like interesting, slightly humorous fiction, so I thought I'd give it a shot. It turns out to be a great send-up of our paranoid, media driven safety society, centering on Wally Philco, who decided he's had enough and wants out. Little rushed at the end, but fun overall.


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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Under The Table

Under the Table: Saucy Tales from Culinary School Under the Table: Saucy Tales from Culinary School by Katherine Darling


My review


rating: 4 of 5 stars
A very interesting look at a year in culinary school in New York; one student's experiences. Maybe not as "saucy" as the subtitle might hint at, but a good memoir of a year of intensive kitchen learning.


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