Friday, November 12, 2010

Misheard Lyric

I Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore by REO SPeedwagon

Actual Lyric:

"A candle in the window on a cold dark winter's night"

What I always though it was:

"A candle in the window and a corndogger in the night"

I always thought "corndogger" was insider band slang for doin it. I still say my way is better.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Zero to 100 in 250 days

Phase one of training for the 100 is done.

I have stop eating grains (make me quite sick quickly) and the refined sugars (makes me sick in the long term – triglycerides). I made it through the entire Halloween season without any candy, even with my kids dragging home 5 pounds a piece.

Then I got myself off the carbonated drinks and caffeine. It really screws up my sleep schedule and I start drinking more than healthy. I quickly work up to 2 litres a day. Some people can manage a little and be fine, but I am not that guy. On the plus side when I am at mile 60 at 2am in the morning, that first Mountain Dew in 8 months is going to kick me awake pretty strongly.

Phase 2 is jogging with a little consistency. This first month will about 30 miles per week. I am just getting my legs used to running everyday, the increased milage will come later. I still need to add milage on my bike and some basic calesthenics and weght exercises. My exercises are goblet squats, single leg deads, push-ups, pull-ups, and some core work. Shoulder pain over time is a weakness of mine while running, hence the bodyweight pulls and pushes.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Book Him Danno!

Since Lisa and I have challenged each other to read over a 100 books a year and then blog about them - Lisa has been better at this than me - we have decided to start a group book review blog. All books all the time.

So the first review is up, Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, so please come on over and visit, even comment. Remember we are just getting started but links and more book news will be coming soon.

Plus if you have read a great book lately and can follow the same basic format for a review that we do, please send it over and we will post it. If you can do that at a few times a month we will sign you up as a permablogger (full blogging privileges).

So come join us for all the booky goodness, and please add a a link to your sidebar.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I have found my race

June 24-26th, 2011
South Dakota

I have been looking for an ultramarathon for a few years now that would fulfill a goal I have had for a few years now. It had to be point to point, on a trail, woods and hills but without the altitude, within a day's drive, but not a total killer. For the longest time I was considering doing the Sawtooth 100 up in northern Minnesota, but the course is a relentless killer and is an extremely technical trail.

But now comes the Black Hills 100 and it is just perfect.

Promo Video

Who wants to join me for 100 miles of pure fun??

Longer Video showing some of the course

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why JT is Awesome

So the conversation at my house the other day was between me and my older kids about future career choices. The old “What do you want to be when you grow up” talk. JT walks though the room and let’s know what his plans are too.

JT: So I want to be in the Army.

ME: That is a great plan if you want to do it. The Army can be a good life.

JT: Or I want to be in the Police:

ME: You mean?

JT: No, No, I mean

ME: Another excellent career path. Seeing a pattern forming I also suggest that he could be a Police Officer in the Army.

I thought we were done when

JT: Or … I want to work at the House of Bounce.

ME: JT, this is exactly why you are Awesome!

Books 39-43

Book #39 - Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us
Author: Daniel Pink
Copyright: 2009

Book #40 - Switch: How to change things when change is hard
Author: Chip & Dan Heath
Copyright: 2010

This is the problem with not blogging about the books when you actually read them. I read these two back in March and nothing is standing out in my mind about them. I really enjoy reading a lot of these personal psychology books about the latest research in human behavior, but they can blend together as time passes.

The Heath Brothes Web-site.

To see Dan Pink talking about his subject at TED. BTW the TED website is really what the internet should be about. It is a goldmine of useful and interesting presentations from around the world, all gathered in one helpful location. Dan also has a web-site.

Book #41 - Sleepyhead
Author: Mark Billingham
Copyright: 2001

Meh. Over the top criminal killing/incapacitating his victims in an extreme way. Not my thing generally speaking.

Book #42 - The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun.
Author: Gretchen Rubin
Copyright: 2009

This was a fun book that looked into what it means to be happy. Overall it was a documentation of the author’s life – an experiment of one. Maybe one or two of her suggestions can affect your life for the better. Please visit the web-site for my information.

Book #43 - The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Copyright: 2008

I jumped on to this bandwagon a little late into the game. I saw this book listed on a lot of just read lists of my friends’ blogs and Goodreads’ accounts. It is Lord of the Flies meets Survivor. It was very good and well worth your time. And it is soon to be a movie and now the third book of the trilogy is out you do not have to wait to read the whole series. Soon to be a movie.

Friday, September 10, 2010

My New Shoes

I used some of my birthday money to invest in some new running shoes. The Vibram Five Fingers are a shoe that allows you to experience barefoot running without actually being barefoot. For the most part I have been running in cheap aquasocks which have worked well, but their durability has been limited. The VFF’s should last a lot better.

Now if any of you are thinking of moving to a minimalist running shoe, be aware it doesn’t happen overnight. It has taken me about a year to get to the point wherein I can go on a 5 mile run in these shoes and not hurt myself. We have years of wearing elevated shoes that we have basically disabled our natural foot stike, calf muscles, and achilles tendon. If you do not gradually build them back up and try to rush it, you will definitely regret it.

The benefit though makes it worth it. On average 80% of runners will experience some sort of running injury any given year. This style of running has allowed me to run injury free for the first time in 15 years. The biggest change to my running has been in my stride. I used to focus on my foot stike and push off, but now I spend my time thinking about my knee lift – the opposite. I pull my feet off the ground rather than worrying about how they hit it.

For more information please read the book Born to Run by Chris McDougall or watch this video of a presentation he gave a Google Headquarters.

Friday, September 3, 2010

And a Dollar Short

It’s not something I talk about a lot, but I read like a crap load of books. I make small discoveries along the way, some of which I share, because I am a giver. Anyways the need for a reliable bookmark that is cheap and convienient is very real in my day to day life. After much experimentation I finally hit upon using Post-It notes for this job – and they are fantastic. So I was pretty proud of myself until I saw this article on Newsweek’s site. It was a collection of products that were discovered accidently, among which was this entry about Post-It notes:

While the credit for the adhesive belongs to one man, Spencer Silver, the idea for the Post-it note belongs to another: Arthur Fry. In 1968 Silver, a chemist at 3M, created a high-quality, "low-tack" adhesive, which basically means it wasn't very sticky. Silver realized it was ideal for use with paper, because the adhesive was strong enough to hold it to a surface but weak enough that paper could be removed without tearing it. The added bonus: the adhesive remained sticky through multiple uses. In seminars at the office, Silver pitched it as a surface for bulletin boards or as a spray, but after five years of trying, he continued to have difficulty finding a marketable application for it. In attendance at one of these seminars, however, was Art Fry. A colleague at 3M working in the product-development department, Fry sang in his church choir, and the paper bookmarks he used to mark his spot in the hymnal were constantly slipping out. He realized that Silver's adhesive offered a solution, and he wrote a proposal for a sticky, reusable bookmark. The samples he passed around the office were a hit, and after refining the idea, 3M introduced the Post-it nationwide in 1980.

So using them as book marks was their original purpose – I am only 30 years too late. Story of my life.

The Usual Denials

FYI – I know you all have been asking but I just want to say the following story from Arizona has nothing to do with me.

Story Highlight

ASU students are on alert, after police issue a warning about a man who's been groping students walking on campus. A man on a mountain bike groped a 20-year-old and put his hand under her shirt.

While I get it totally sounds like me, I just want to clarify I haven’t been to Tempe lately and I ride a Surly LHT.

I also haven’t been to New Jersey recently either. But a good time could just mean a game of Uno – just saying.

In other news Lisa had no comment when asked to confirm or deny if she had been in Bremerton.

Finally, my brother in law Steve relocated to D.C. last year and now the capitol has been named the worst driver’s in America according to an Allstate insurance poll. COINCIDENCE??*


Books #34-38

Book # 34: Denialism: How Irrational thinking hinders scientific progress, harms our planet, and threatens our lives.
Author: Michael Spector
Copyright: 2009

A fun book that smacks the idiots about. Idiots can be defined by their unwavering belief that the plural of anecdote is data.

Book # 35: Kindred in Death
Author: JD Robb
Copyright: 2009

Another chronicle into the life of Eve Dallas, kick ass future cop and her merry band of friends, as they solve crimes. JD Robb as most of you know is a pseudonym for Nora Roberts, and her perchance for romance is in the structure of these books. My favorite is Eve’s husband Roark, the most handsome and richest man on the planet and beyond, possessing the Irish accent and the orgasm giving stare that all women love. As Mrs. Kensington** would say, “All men want to be him, all women want to be with him.”

Book # 36: Homeland
Author: Sam Lipsyte
Copyright: 2004

Former High School loser writes an extremely honest monthly email update for his graduating class ten years on. A different sort of book.

Book # 37: The Lucky One
Author: Nicholas Sparks
Copyright: 2008

Not his usual love death porn he is famous for. You know – let me create the greatest love story ever known and then let me kill it off so it fails. A decent story and at the end SPOILER ALERT they get to have happy ever after.

Book # 38: Mojo: How to get it, how to keep it, how to get it back if you lose it
Author: Marshall Goldsmith
Copyright: 2009

Run of the mill business book. I read it just because of the word mojo. Which brings me back to the earlier reference:

**Anyone recognize who Mrs. Kensington is?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Books #29-33

Since Blogger lets you add 5 pictures at a time that is what I will do. Plus I will pick the best of each set as a handy dandy reference for you.

Four of the books in this group are continuation of ongoing series.

BOOK #29: Arctic Chill
BOOK #30: Hypothermia
AUTHOR: Arnaldur Indritason
COPYRIGHT: 2005 & 2007

More crime and punishment in Iceland. This series is great for anyone interested in police procedurals and Nordic Noir, which is riding a wave of popularity right now. Similar authors would be Henning Mankell (a favorite) and Jo Nesbo who write about Sweden and Norway respectively.

BOOK #31: The Fixer Upper
AUTHOR: Mary Kay Andrews

Who can resist a book on Home Improvement? This wasn’t too bad but in the end it was a little romancey* for my taste. I listened to it on CD as I went about my day and it was fun. If you like your mystery more light hearted with down to earth lovable guys just looking for the right woman to love, then this is for you. *Mainly involves name dropping shoe brands and dreamy guys able to give orgasms merely by looking at the female protagonists.

BOOK #32: Flesh House
AUTHOR: Stuart MacBride

Gritty Tartan Noir with the Aberdeen police force. This is the third book I have seen this year involving cannibalism – I blame Thomas Harris. I can’t imagine that a human steak is so tasty that you can’t fill that need with a New York Strip, but then I am not a evil sociopath; at least not yet.

BOOK #33: The First Rule
AUTHOR: Robert Crais

Crais writes a longstanding series about the wisecracking PI Elvis Cole and his silent partner, the don’t mess with me or I will kill you with Spartan efficiency Joe Pike. While the books almost always feature both characters, they usually center on Cole. Occasionally we get a Pike centered book and they are always a lot of fun in a kick ass sort of way.

Since these are all ongoing series I can recommend them all, just pick your style. The Arnaldur stuff featuring a sparse landscape and a cop whose personal life is in shambles while he draws the mystery out (standard fare for all Nordic stuff). MacBride’s Scotland with its dismal weather and nasty citizens (and there is some bad stuff about it too). His police officer keeps getting screwed by the man, but somehow maintains his sense of humor and solves the case in spite of it. Or the fun loving California PI’s of Crais, quick with a joke or a gun, whatever works best.

You hipsters will want the first ones as they are so in fashion in the mystery world right now.

You're Still Here? Yay!!

Well, I got caught up doing other things, then my card reader got destroyed, and then the humidity season started and my internet is always spotty when the humidity gets going.

In an effort to get caught up I am going to star posting quick book posts mentioning the stuff I have read. I hit my 100 book goal early than ever this year in late July, and I have over 120 done now.

Otherwise I am going to try and be a little more focused here; reading, running, riding, (a little bit of) religion, and the general ridiculousness that I love – the 5 R’s as they say.

As always this will be sprinkled with family stuff and other social events that come my way. Stay tuned for an update of the side bar as well.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Doors Open – Book #28

Title Doors Open
Author Ian Rankin
Genre Mystery
Pages 364
Publisher Little Brown & Company
Copyright 2010

Synopsis (from web-site)
Three friends descend upon an art auction in search of some excitement. Mike Mackenzie- retired software mogul, bachelor and fine art enthusiast- wants something that money can't buy. Fellow art-lover Allan Cruickshank is bored with his banking career and burdened by a painful divorce. And Robert Gissing, an art professor, is frustrated that so many paintings stay hidden in corporate boardrooms, safes and private apartments. After the auction- and a chance encounter with crime boss Chib Calloway- Robert and Allan suggest the "liberation" of several paintings from the National Gallery, hoping Mike will dissuade them. Instead, he hopes they are serious. As enterprising girlfriends, clever detectives, seductive auctioneers and a Hell's Angel named Hate enter the picture, Ian Rankin creates a highly-charged thriller, a faced-past story of second guesses and double crosses that keep changing the picture, right until the harrowing finish.

Why I read It
Ian Rankin is one of my top five favorite authors (Rankin, Henning Mankell, Marian Keyes, Haruki Murakami, Stephanie Meyer*). So I read everything he writes as soon as possible.

What I Thought About It
Rankin recently ended his longstanding series featuring Inspector Rebus, and as I here has started another series with another Scottish detective. This book is the sorbet between those two courses. The emotional depth he achieved with the Rebus series was missing, but I don’t feel it is really fair to judge it by that standard. So it was a light, fun book that reminded me of a cross between Ocean’s 11 and the Usual Suspects.

Mormon Mentions

Author Biography

Ian Rankin lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, with his wife and their two sons.

*Just checking to see if anyone is actually reading this. I enjoyed the Twilight series (though not as much as a lot of you), but she is not in my top 5. My fifth choice is a little bit more fluid and varies depending who has a new book out. But it would include the likes of Laura Lippman, Tess Gerritsen, Christopher Moore, Robert Crais, Denis Lehane, Stuart MacBride, John Burdett, etc..

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I Actually Never Knew This

What was the number one song the day you were born?

Honky Tonk Woman - The Rolling Stones

Go here to find out yours and leave it in the comments.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The quiet red sky in the morning

After getting the exercise disks I see it is based on a 7 day schedule with the last day being stretching (i.e. an easier day). So after talking with Lisa I decided to make Saturday the easy day so I would be free to work on the house or other family activities. That would mean a Sunday start for the big P180X experiment, and it also meant I had 5 days to “get ready”, what ever that means. So over those five days I took steps to get my diet in line, because the sad truth is no matter how hard you “bring it” you cannot out exercise a bad diet. That is especially true as you get older. Heck my ability to out metabolize my diet ended at 22 years old thanks to some stellar genetics.

The other thing I did was work through the stretch video three times as I figured it couldn’t hurt and just might help. I could handle just about all of it except for the plow as it cut my breathing off. It will be interesting to see as I progress how that improves. Anyways I really like the structure of the DVD with the countdown clocks, and the slight banter between the participants. I am sure I will have it memorized before I am done. But Tony, Pam the blam, Shauna the super freak, and the seething Phil go from head to toe over the course of an hour. Actually I don’t know if Phil is seething but I was amused to find a lot of online speculation about his hidden anger, mostly due to his stone face expression.

I also took a before photo but that isn’t coming up unless I get a decent after to go with it. The beginning numbers are 256#’s and 35.1% fat, but that is spread out over 76 inches so it isn’t too bad, he said wishfully. The only nagging injury I have is some slight ITBS on the right side, but that requires some pretty unique positioning to aggravate.

Glass Houses and Such

The sad part of procrastination is that one day the piper must be paid. I had this discussion with my son just the other day about getting into and paying for college. You can have all the fun you want in high school but all it ends up doing is increase the cost of the next phase of life. For him that meant he had reached the 100% point of putting his paycheck towards college. If he continues to waste time that would mean he will need to forgo his freshman year and work fulltime. I am alright either way but I wasn’t sure he was. I guess time will tell.

But this post isn’t about him, or his choices, that is his story to tell. I have procrastinated my health so long now that I crossed over the 100% line. Not taking care of your health as a young(er) person just means you will be less energetic, tired, and overweight; but definitely not anything dangerous. But I am forty now, the dangers for me are legitimately scary. I am easily old enough for a heart attack or a stroke. I am hitting most of the risk factors pretty solidly.

So I was sitting in a hotel the other day getting used to live television and I ended up watching infomercials, specifically Tony Horton and the P90X system. I am always doubtful of infomercials, especially when it comes to my health; but this looked pretty straightforward. Plus I have a few friends who have successfully used the system, so I know it can be helpful. After a little online research I was pretty sure it could help for three reasons. First I already had the equipment I need to do the program at home. Second it seemed to integrate a lot of bases; strength, fitness, and flexibility. Third, and probably most important to me, it is highly structured and visual.

I also realize the results shown on the commercial are not really within my reach at this time given the amount of weight I want to lose, but I have seen enough evidence to feel confident that two rounds would be pretty dramatic, so a P180X so to speak. My goal for this first round of 90 days will be to lose 30-35 pounds, be able to keep pace with the videos (more on that later), and generally to be ready to get super intense for round two. I realize some might feel I should be “intense” from the get go, but trust me at 50 pounds overweight and generally not exercising (besides the bike) for the last two year I am more concerned about not injuring myself until the rust falls off.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

You can call me Hay Bale

The Set Up:

JT has been JT his whole life (Jay Tee) though his actual name is Joseph Talmage.

The Pay Off:

I was reading with Cenny the other day, or rather Cenny was reading aloud to me when the character in the book said: "My name is Alexander, but you can call me Al."

Except Cenny didn't say Al (rhymes with Pal), she said AL (rhymes with Hay Bale).

This make me happy, and I might have to call Cenny Hay Bale from now on. It's a pretty good nickname.**

**yes, I am proud of the correct usage of It's versus Its

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Scars of Youth

I noticed today one of my interactions has been permanently inf; influenced by my Mom. A scar so to speak that has changed me. Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying this in a negative way, more just a neutral observation.

Whenever I hear Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd the first thought to enter my mind is my Mom ranting about how terrible this song is and how irresponsible the band is because they use BAD GRAMMAR!!

"It is clear that these kids really do need education. 'Don't need no'; I mean, really!"

And on and on she would go for the whole song. Through some Pavlovian training I cannot enjoy this song at the highest level because my interaction has been damaged. I cannot hear it without also hearing my Mom too.

Not necessarily a bad thing, just part of the weird mixture that is me.

What scars are you toting around? And are any of them indirectly affecting your more meaningful interactions?

Monday, April 19, 2010

About Last Night, or Not Really A Bucket List

As I said in a previous post I am not really thinking in terms of a bucket list, but I do admit that I need to make changes to my general health if I want to have a long life. I was actually thinking in terms of just making changes to my outlook on life, or rather, the way I interact with it. I had my first opportunity last night to implement these changes.

So several months ago I read a book called Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert (but for some reason I cannot find my post on it). In it Gilbert posits that we as human beings are absolute crap at predicting what will make us happy. We set these very narrow standards at what will make us happy and when we vary off that target we predict we will be unhappy. This sets us up for a lot of self fulfilling prophecy of sadness in which we end up missing opportunities for joyful moments. Please watch the video below where Gilbert discusses various extreme events (paralysis and winning the lottery) and which makes people happier).

Anyways an example from my own life is pears. My exposure to pears growing up was limited to fruit cocktail in the can. We had that for dessert about 3 times a month growing up and I absolutely detested the pears (favorites in order are cherries, grapes, pineapples, and peaches) in so much that I would pick them out. Now that was no easy task given their small size and very similar color to the pineapples. I hated the pears so much that I went 35 years purposely avoiding them because I DO NOT LIKE PEARS. It was part of my identity.

Then one day I saw some Anjou pears for sale in the grocery store. They looked so good I bought a few pounds for the kids, but then they tempted me. I tried one to confirm that my core being hadn’t changed; I hate pears. But major paradigm shift later and now I am the guy who checks the fruit section of store EVERY TIME I go shopping to see if they have any Anjou pears in stock. What is the point of this story? Well I wasted 35 years of my life based on the prediction that eating pears would be an unpleasant experience and thus make me happy. Or conversely I believed that avoiding pears would make me happy and I was wrong.

Here is another shorter example for you to mull over. More often than not are truly great moments of real happiness come from unpredicted, unplanned events. Assuming you are in a happy relationship, think back to how you met your significant other – planned or random? It was completely random set of events that led me to Lisa (and vice-versa) and that has led to twenty years so far of the happiest moments of my life.

So what does that mean for you and me? We need to spend a lot less time setting up all these arbitrary standards for us to be happy, and more time finding happiness in all the moments we get. Stuck in traffic – don’t worry, be happy. I was stuck in traffic on I35 driving to the Twin Cities a while back. It was very frustrating to have all the construction slowing us down. Now while I turned off to go to the St. Paul side, I have to wonder how many people who where stuck along side me avoided the bridge collapse that happened just a few miles up the road from where we were that same afternoon? If my clueless school counselor hadn’t have passed the buck on writing my recommendation to the one teacher I had had verbal altercations with (and even filed a complaint about), maybe I would have made it into the Coast Guard Academy and then I would have never met Lisa. (of course I had never been on a boat either I have since learned I get violently sea sick). I was angry at the time but what a blessing that has turned out to be. Ms Mayers where ever you might be – I owe a lot of my happiness to your crap teaching, man hating, personality disorder – who knew?

So long story longer, what did I do? Two things I believed would never lead to happiness, first is a choir concert, and second is a long bus ride with people I don’t know. These are things I have been avoiding since forever and I totally could have avoided again. But as I told Lisa I wanted to go just to see if I could give up my narrow views and to see if happiness could be found in any moment. So last night Lisa and I rode the parents coach up to Minneapolis to see Gunnar and the AHS choir participate in a 6 choir show. You know what, I had a good time. It was fun, the performances were great, the venue was beautiful, and we had a great conversation with our neighbors on the way up, and met another parent at the show. Plus our son was very happy for us to be there.

What are you avoiding? Reframe it; What moments of great happiness are you missing out on because you are too busy being unhappy?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I Haven't Forgotten

The annual Most Challenged Books List has been put out by the American Library Association again. These are books certain individuals want banned from libraries because they are incompetent parents and all around priggish busybodies. How many of the top ten have you read? (I have read the bold ones)

1. ttyl, ttfn, l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs

2. “And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Reasons: Homosexuality

3. “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Anti-Family, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide

4. “To Kill A Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee
Reasons: Racism, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

5. Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

6. “Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

7. “My Sister’s Keeper,” by Jodi Picoult
Reasons: Sexism, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group, Drugs, Suicide, Violence

8. “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things,” by Carolyn Mackler
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

9. “The Color Purple,” Alice Walker
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

10. “The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Nudity, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

It looks like I have a few books left to read this year. How about you?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Dad would be so jealous

One of the benefits of our little town is the Austin Artist series. This organization schedules 5 concerts through the year and they are always wide ranging in their appeal, but almost always fun and extremely talented. Last night was no exception as we closed out the 2010 season with Riders in the Sky, an old school singing cowboy western band. I was a little surprised at how many of the songs I knew, but in retrospect this is the music I grew up with as a kid as my father loves it (Think Gene Autry).

Anyways, they have been playing together for over thirty years so it was fun to watch how easy they made it all look even though you could tell they were technically brilliant. Of course their banter and jokes were spot on, but I always wonder how many times they have told the same jokes over their nearly 6000 performances? The kids had a good time, especially as they went through the medely of Disney songs they did for Toy Story (Woody’s Round-up being the best known). All that was missing was a banjo picker, but maybe that doesn’t fit into the genre.

The other big news was the announcement that next season will include a group from the cities perfroming the musical Forever Plaid. I don’t know much about it but one of my last college roommates absolutely loved it. On that alone I am looking forward to it.

The Likeness – Book #27

Title The Likeness
Author Tana French
Genre Mystery
Pages 466
Publisher Viking
Copyright 2008

Synopsis (from web-site)
The eagerly anticipated follow-up to the New York Times bestselling psychological thriller In the Woods Six months after the events of In the Woods, Detective Cassie Maddox is still trying to recover. She’s transferred out of the murder squad and started a relationship with Detective Sam O’Neill, but she’s too badly shaken to make a commitment to him or to her career. Then Sam calls her to the scene of his new case: a young woman found stabbed to death in a small town outside Dublin. The dead girl’s ID says her name is Lexie Madison “the identity Cassie used years ago as an undercover detective” and she looks exactly like Cassie. With no leads, no suspects, and no clue to Lexie’s real identity, Cassie’s old undercover boss, Frank Mackey, spots the opportunity of a lifetime. They can say that the stab wound wasn’t fatal and send Cassie undercover in her place to find out information that the police never would and to tempt the killer out of hiding. At first Cassie thinks the idea is crazy, but she is seduced by the prospect of working on a murder investigation again and by the idea of assuming the victim’s identity as a graduate student with a cozy group of friends. As she is drawn into Lexie’s world, Cassie realizes that the girl’s secrets run deeper than anyone imagined. Her friends are becoming suspicious, Sam has discovered a generations-old feud involving the old house the students live in, and Frank is starting to suspect that Cassie’s growing emotional involvement could put the whole investigation at risk. Another gripping psychological thriller featuring the headstrong protagonist we’ve come to love, from an author who has proven that she can deliver.

Why I read It
Even with all the frustrating editorial decisions the author took with her first book, In the Woods, her writing was excellent.

What I Thought About It
Well you have to accept a really, really, really big premise; but after that it is a great book throughout. The writing was engrossing again, not as many open plot points at the end (but there are some still there), and the characters are still likable. I will definitely be reading book three when it is released later this year.

Mormon Mentions

Author Biography

Tana French grew up in Ireland, Italy, the US and Malawi, and has lived in Dublin since 1990. She trained as a professional actress at Trinity College, Dublin, and has worked in theatre, film and voiceover.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It has been a long time

Between the pneumonia, the week I spent in bed, and making up that week at work; I have been busy. Isn’t it always the case that it is exponential for making up work that you have missed? That is it takes two days to make up one missed day. So a week off was a killer to catch up. Plus it wasn’t like I was well when I got back to the office; I was just able to sit up for an 8 hour day.

Then last week I had a four day short course at the University of Minnesota; An Introduction to Food Science. That was more work missed, but at least this time I knew it was coming. By the way that course was really a misnomer. I went to school to become a therapist (double major in Psychology and Family Science) and then went on and got a masters in Organizational Management (yes, I am a degreed MOM). This job working with food was one I took at the time to make money after spending so much time in school (I was on the 9 year bachelor’s program). Well that was fifteen years ago and besides Food Allergies, my actual detailed food knowledge is severely lacking.

So I signed up for this course thinking it might give me the basics to get started. Instead it was more like “So you really know your Chemistry, so let us talk about the specialty of FOOD Chemistry.” I really liked how to make it “easier” the teacher would draw chemical compound diagrams on the board. It wasn’t a total loss because I learned quite a few superficial things, even a couple of really neat things, but ultimately I did get one truly important lesson.

I learned how much I didn’t know, especially since I work in R&D. As a 40 year old with 14 years into a 30 year career I realized I am not just doing this job to earn money before my “real” job. This is my life right now, this is my real job and I shouldn’t really be wasting anymore time. To that end I have decided to take advantage of my local community college and all the online courses now available and learn Chemistry and Food Science.

I am reminded of a brilliant woman from my mission, Sister Pass of Runcorn England. She earned her college degree in Art when she was 90 years old. She was interviewed on National TV at the time and the presenter asked her “Why get a degree at 90?” Her reply has always stuck with me. She said she figure she could have a degree at 90 or not, so either way she would still be 90. Why not have the degree.

So in ten years I will be 50, still stumbling along blindly in my career waiting for my life to begin or I can actually start living it today and get something done. As my secretary used to have as her screen saver, “Life is what happens while you make other plans.”

Maybe it is my midlife crisis, but I really want to start making changes to my life. Get ‘er done before I miss it. I do have a few nagging goals and desires that I will post later, but unlike Lisa I don’t think that will include skydiving.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Fantasy in Death – Book #26

| Title | Fantasy in Death |
| Author |JD Robb (Nora Roberts) |
| Genre |Mystery |
| Pages |356 |
| Publisher |GP Putnam |
| Copyright |2010 |

Synopsis (from web-site)
In the latest novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author J.D. Robb, it is game over for the criminals pursued by NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas. Bart Minnock, founder of the computer-gaming giant U-Play, enters his private playroom, and eagerly can't wait to lose himself in an imaginary world, to play the role of a sword-wielding warrior king, in his company's latest top-secret project, Fantastical. The next morning, he is found in the same locked room, in a pool of blood, his head separated from his body. It is the most puzzling case Eve Dallas has ever faced, and it is not a game. . . . NYPSD Lieutenant Eve Dallas is having as much trouble figuring out how Bart Minnock was murdered as who did the murdering. The victim's girlfriend seems sincerely grief-stricken, and his quirky-but-brilliant partners at U-Play appear equally shocked. No one seemed to have a problem with the enthusiastic, high-spirited millionaire. Of course, success can attract jealousy, and gaming, like any business, has its fierce rivalries and dirty tricks-as Eve's husband, Roarke, one of U- Play's competitors, knows well. But Minnock was not naive, and quite capable of fighting back in the real world as well as the virtual one. Eve and her team are about to
enter the next level of police work, in a world where fantasy is the ultimate seduction-and the price of defeat is death. . . .

Why I read It
This is one of Nora Roberts’s ongoing series and I believe she is up to book 30 now. Her usual pattern is to write 3 at a time, and then while she returns to her other books the publisher will release the three over the course of two years. This is book two of the latest set. Now you can read each book for the mystery in any order, be aware there are ongoing characters and relationships that have been developing since book one. My advice is to start as early in the series as you can.

What I Thought About It
Eve Dallas is a police detective in a futuristic New York City. In an homage to her romance writing Eve also happens to be married to the world’s richest, most considerate, good looking, desired man who also happens to be a former Irish street criminal gone straight. This guy gives women orgasms just by looking at them. All that silliness aside the mysteries are straightforward and solid – somebody killed somebody else for usually pedestrian reasons. Through determination and cleverness Eve’s team of investigators usually get to the bottom of the case.
The only drawback to these books is the sameness on the big picture elements. So while it may seem tempting after enjoying a couple of them to read her backlist straight through, I would highly recommend breaking it up with other authors. If you don’t those basic outline points will really jump out at you and ruin your reading experience.

Mormon Mentions

Author Biography

Nora Roberts has published more than 130 novels, which has been translated into more than 25 languages. She writes romances under her own name and futuristic crime novels under the pseudonym of J. D. Robb. She has been given the Romance Writers of America Lifetime Achievement Award and has been inducted into their Hall of Fame.

When Will There Be Good News? – Book #25

| Title | When Will There Be Good News? |
| Author |Kate Atkinson |
| Genre |Mystery |
| Pages |388 |
| Publisher |Little Brown & Company |
| Copyright |2008 |

Synopsis (from web-site)
On a hot summer day, Joanna Mason's family slowly wanders home along a country lane. A moment later, Joanna's life is changed forever... On a dark night thirty years later, ex-detective Jackson Brodie finds himself on a train that is both crowded and late. Lost in his thoughts, he suddenly hears a shocking sound... At the end of a long day, 16-year-old Reggie is looking forward to watching a little TV. Then a terrifying noise shatters her peaceful evening. Luckily, Reggie makes it a point to be prepared for an emergency...

Why I read It
I enjoyed Case Histories and I am now slowly working my way through Kate Atkinson’s back list.

What I Thought About It
Followed the same pattern of bring several seemingly unrelated cases together in a unifying finish. Solid writing and the mysteries were pretty good. The pacing was a little slower than Case Histories, but in that book it was phenomenal.

Mormon Mentions

Author Biography

Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the critically acclaimed novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories, and One Good Turn.

Case Histories introduced her readers to Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, and won the Saltire Book of the Year Award and the Prix Westminster. Her latest novel, the Richard & Judy Book Club and Galaxy British Book Awards 2009 shortlisted When Will There Be Good News?, also features Jackson Brodie and is out now in paperback.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lady Gaga Christmas

My Commute is ...

almost identical to this :-)

If you have never seen this Danny MacAskill video before please watch it. Absolutely amazing and it changed his life. He had his mates film him as he rode to work at the bicycle shop - he now is an international (fully sponsored) rider.

Black Water Rising – Book #24

| Title | Black Water Rising |
| Author |Attica Locke |
| Genre |Mystery (Houston, Texas) |
| Pages |427 |
| Publisher |Harper Collins |
| Copyright |2009 |

Synopsis (from web-site)
When Houston lawyer Jay Porter responds to pressure from his wife and jumps into the bayou to rescue a drowning white woman during a birthday dinner cruise he'd planned, he has no idea of the hell he's about to enter. There's a murder nearby that same night. Jay suspects that the drowning woman was involved. Ominous threats convince him that it's bigger than just a simple murder and that the players go all the way to the top of Houston's business and political elite. Only by facing down the racially charged past that's been haunting him for years can Jay find it in himself to overcome his long-standing belief in keeping quiet instead of speaking up. Despite a slow start and a measured pace that fail to give the narrative the expected intensity, Locke's debut thriller ends in a satisfying whirlwind of drama. Deftly exploring social and economic themes during the turbulent 1960s and 1970s, she balances Jay's current situation with flashbacks to his past as a student activist fighting for racial equality.

Why I read It
It was on every short list for Mystery of the year (for new authors) that I saw. Plus it was written by a woman (Always trying to read more female authors).

What I Thought About It
It was okay and made Houston seem like a hot and depressing city (maybe it is – so job well done). While I enjoyed it I did not connect with the lead character, which is not surprising given it was a first novel. I will be interested to see if she develops him more with subsequent books. I also realized how few books I read by black authors, or with black protagonists. It hasn’t been a conscious decision and I had never noticed before. I think I will try to correct that going forward.

Mormon Mentions

Author Biography

Attica Locke is a writer who has worked in both film and television for over ten years. A graduate of Northwestern University, she has written movie scripts for Paramount, Warner Bros., Disney, Twentieth Century Fox and Jerry Bruckheimer films, as well as television pilots for HBO, Dreamworks and Silver Pictures. She was a fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmaker’s Lab and most recently completed an adaptation of Stephen Carter’s The Emperor of Ocean Park. She is member of the Writers Guild of America, west, and is currently at work on an HBO miniseries about the civil rights movement, based on the writings of historian Taylor Branch. A native of Houston, Texas, Attica lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and daughter.

Child 44 – Book #23

| Title | Child 44 |
| Author |Tom Rob Smith |
| Genre |Mystery (Russia) |
| Pages |436 |
| Publisher |Grand Central Publishing |
| Copyright |2008 |

Synopsis (from web-site)
A propulsive, relentless page-turner. A terrifying evocation of a paranoid world where no one can be trusted. A surprising, unexpected story of love and family, of hope and resilience. CHILD 44 is a thriller unlike any you have ever read. "There is no crime." Stalin's Soviet Union strives to be a paradise for its workers, providing for all of their needs. One of its fundamental pillars is that its citizens live free from the fear of ordinary crime and criminals. But in this society, millions do live in fear . . . of the State. Death is a whisper away. The mere suspicion of ideological disloyalty-owning a book from the decadent West, the wrong word at the wrong time-sends millions of innocents into the Gulags or to their executions. Defending the system from its citizens is the MGB, the State Security Force. And no MGB officer is more courageous, conscientious, or idealistic than Leo Demidov. A war hero with a beautiful wife, Leo lives in relative luxury in Moscow , even providing a decent apartment for his parents. His only ambition has been to serve his country. For this greater good, he has arrested and interrogated. Then the impossible happens. A different kind of criminal-a murderer-is on the loose, killing at will. At the same time, Leo finds himself demoted and denounced by his enemies, his world turned upside down, and every belief he's ever held shattered. The only way to save his life and the lives of his family is to uncover this criminal. But in a society that is officially paradise, it's a crime against the State to suggest that a murderer-much less a serial killer-is in their midst. Exiled from his home, with only his wife, Raisa, remaining at his side, Leo must confront the vast resources and reach of the MBG to find and stop a criminal that the State won't admit even exists.

Why I read It
I saw it on a lot of “Best of” lists and decided to give it a try.

What I Thought About It
While the mystery was quite good (and it is the second book I have read this year with the same theme – cannibal serial killer), I actually enjoyed the historical aspect of the book more. It is set in newly communist Russia shortly after WWII and how the secret police treated crime and its citizens. For example, you couldn’t say you had a murderer, let alone a serial killer on the loose because such things did not happen in a perfect society comrade. To do so, even as a cop figuratively standing on a stack of bodies, would be a crime against the state and earn you a trip to the gulag. I spent a lot of time contemplating societies (and by default organizations) that enforce a strict compliance to a set of arbitrary rules, and how that ultimately leads to abuse of power and self destruction. A lot to read into our modern society there, from terrorists to religion to families; good stuff.

Mormon Mentions

Author Biography

Tom Rob Smith graduated from Cambridge in 2001 and lives in London . Child 44 is his first novel.

The Case of the Missing Servant – Book #22

| Title |The Case of the Missing Servant |
| Author |Tarquin Hall |
| Genre |Mystery (India) |
| Pages |310 |
| Publisher |Simon & Schuster |
| Copyright |2009 |

Synopsis (from web-site)
Vish Puri's New Delhi detective agency has never been busier, often doing background checks on persons selected for arranged marriages. With his keen skills of observation and deduction, a network of personal contacts, and some modern communication devices, Punjabi Puri claims to be his country's top detective, citing his Super Sleuth award from the World Federation of Detectives for solving the Case of the Missing Polo Elephant in 1999. (He also has an appetite for pakoras and 30 excess pounds and is known to family and friends as Chubby.) A prominent lawyer who asks Puri to find a missing servant is arrested for the young woman's murder when her body is found, requiring complex work by Puri's staff. Meanwhile, he must check out the squeaky-clean fiance of the granddaughter of a revered war hero. And Puri's visiting Mummy-ji undertakes her own search when her son is shot at.

Why I read It
It was in the new section of my library as I was browsing. A mystery that takes place in India was enough for me to pick it up.

What I Thought About It
It was pretty standard fair and nothing really stood out. I will be interested in the author’s second effort to see if it improves, but I am otherwise uncommitted to the book.

Mormon Mentions

Author Biography

Tarquin Hall is a British writer and Journalist. He was born in London in 1969 and has livied in the United States, Pakistan, India, Kenya and Turkey, and traveled extensively in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. He is the author of three books and dozens of articles that have appeared in many British newspapers and magazines. He lives in the UK and India and is married to BBC reporter and presenter Anu Anand.