Thursday, February 26, 2009


Charlotte and Susan Cushman (the Cushman siste...Image via Wikipedia

So last week was my birthday and this year is my 20th reunion. As a result of the two I ended up getting into this loop or rut or something where I spent a lot of time last week thinking about high school. So Saturday night I'm out at a play (Romeo and Juliet, not bad, I think the actress playing Juliet really nailed the 14 year old girl vibe) and when it's over I leave out a door I don't normally take. And there standing next to the water fountain is the first girl I ever dated. Because of all the time I'd spent thinking about high school I wasn't sure if I'd summoned her by force of will, or (more likely) seeing someone who resembled her and because of my state of mind I'd mistaken that person for this girl from high school.

Just on the off chance it was the first I walked up to her and sure enough that's who it was. You have to understand that I don't believe I've bumped into a single person from my high school (that I'm not still in contact with) in 10 years (since the last reunion) even though my high school is only an hour away from here. So after spending the week thinking about it to bump into someone in that fashion seemed like an amazing coincidence.

We talked which was a little awkward as you might imagine. Partially because it took a lot of brain power to even remember the threads of a relationship which had ended nearly 20 years ago (I had seen her at my 5 year reunion, but that hardly counts), but overall pleasant. One bonus to the whole event is that (all modesty aside) I looked good. I had on my nice Nordstrom sport's coat (which hides my gut...) with a turtle neck. My beard had just been trimmed earlier in the day, and overall I think if I was going to bump into someone you once dated I couldn't have dressed nicer if I had known in advance.

Next... The Robberies!!!

I'll be good...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Kobe Beef in Japan. There are four filets pict...Image via Wikipedia

Well it's my birthday today. I'm 38. That sounds pretty old. I don't feel that old. I still feel kind of young, but I know I'm not anymore. I don't think I'm having a midlife crisis, possibly because I already had one, possibly because I'm too busy to get that introspective (yesterday I said that work feels like being eaten by ants, but I added that the last week or so when I've dared to open my eye, I've liked the scenery). I graduated from high school nearly 20 years ago. And yes high school does seem like a long time ago, but not 20 years long. I've been married for 13 going on 14 years and that seems like it's flown by. I guess the sobering thing is that if the last 13-20 years went by so fast it means that the next 13-20 years are going to go by as fast if not faster. To put some numbers out there.

In 13 years I'll be 51, all of my kids will have graduated from high school. I've always hoped that I'd be semi-retired by that point, but really? In 13 years?

In 20 years I'll be pushing 60, It's entirely possible that all of my kids will be married. My parents will be in their 80's. My time in the 21st century will be equal to the time I spent in the 20th...

So what freaks me out is how soon all of that is going to happen based on how soon all the last stuff happened...

Anyway whatever, it will happen when it happens and I imagine I won't be any more prepared for the future than I was for the past or present, so I guess I'll continue to play it by ear and hope to keep from screwing up too much. On a more celebratory note I went out for a various nice dinner with my wife and my two business partners. I ended up having a $70+ piece of Kobe Beef. I spent so long savoring it, that when I got near the end it was no longer warm, and I was getting too full to fully appreciate it, but there were some bites in the middle which may have been the best bites I've ever had. So even if nothing else fun/exciting happens for my birthday I think I'll have done pretty well.

If youth only knew: if age only could

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Book Reading Update

John Tenniel illustrated the first editions of...Image via Wikipedia

I'm doing pretty good on my book reading. I started the month off by reading "Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't" by Jim Collins, a business book about how businesses made the transition from merely doing as well as the rest of the market to beating it by more than 3 times. Very few business books age well (except for "Parkinson's Law") and there are already companies featured in the book who have not turned out very well (Circuit City and Fannie Mae being the two chief examples.) But I think this one does as well as any of them. It's short and if you're interested in books like that you could do a lot worse.

The second book I read already this month was "The Looking Glass Wars" by Frank Beddor. My #1 daughter wanted me to read it and I was interested in seeing what he had done with the world. In case you're not familiar with the book, the conceit is that it wasn't Lewis Carroll making up the stories of Alice, but rather Alice telling them to Lewis Carroll, and that he got them all wrong. Let me start out with the good points. It kept me engaged, I was never bored and I definitely wanted to see how it ended. Also, where a typical fantasy author might spend an entire trilogy covering the amount of time and narrative ground he does, but he covers each scene pretty fast, sometimes too fast, which brings us to the negatives.

For someone who's work would not really exist without him, and who wouldn't have achieved nearly the success even if somehow it did, he's really unkind to Carroll. Also one of the pleasures of this sort of book is taking something from the original and explaining it in a clever new light, there's almost none of that going on here. Every connection is really done in a very cursory fashion only a very tenuous link to the original story. Finally as I mentioned one some levels I liked the pacing, but I really could have used more detail, at some points it felt like he was just trying to through the scene as quickly as possible.

Audio book wise I'm working through "The Lives of the Kings and Queens of England, Revised and Updated." I'm finding that history books don't go done quite as easy as novels in the audio format. I'm having the urge to flip back to re-acquaint myself with the various people. I think I'll still get plenty out of it, but this time I don't think I'm actually going to experience an increase in comprehension with the audiobook.

Also I've been watching "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" while composing this entry, and it's actually quite good. If you're into quirky teen movies I'd definitely recommend it.

Lame, Literally

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Broken Toe

Players in a glass-backed squash courtImage via Wikipedia

Yesterday we had initially agreed to play squash at 9:30 that morning. But one of the guys I was going to play with decided that because he had an important project he was trying to finish up that night that 9:30 was too early. So I took it off the calendar. By later in the day it looked like we might be able to play at around 4:30. Unfortunately the other guy I was going to play with ended up being on a call he couldn't get out of and we missed that window (all six courts were booked solid starting at 5:00). Fortunately things opened up again around 7:00 and we headed down then.

I was playing with my two business partners, one of whom had just moved back into town, and hadn't played squash in many years. I myself had only played a few times since picking it up again, and this guy is younger and in overall better shape. The first game I played with him he was still getting the hang of it and I beat him pretty handily, but by the second game with him it was apparent I was really going to have to play hard to keep up with him. As a result I ended up going for some shots that I might otherwise not have. Including one soft shot that dropped really close to the front wall. I did manage to get that shot, but I had to sprint to the front of the court to get to it, and I wasn't quite able to stop in time and I ended up essentially kicking the front wall with my right foot.

I could tell I'd slammed it pretty good, but I initially I just chalked it up as another minor bump in the course of playing. And I played out the rest of the game. I'm pretty sure I didn't exacerbate the injury by doing that, but who knows. The point was that initially it didn't seem that bad. Once I got off the court I could start to sense that it was hurt pretty bad. I considered the idea that it might be broken, but I thought I'd wait and see how I did. My two partners played another game, and then we went and grabbed a bite to eat. I ended up getting home around 10:30. As soon as I told my wife what had happened she started looking up stuff on the internet and quickly assembled a mountain of evidence indicating that I should go get it looked at. Faced with that, and my wife's concern I decided to go to the emergency room.

Overall the ER wasn't too bad. I was out by around 1:30 or maybe even a little bit earlier. The X-Rays confirmed (or revealed) that it was in fact broken, A fracture down the center of the first bone from the tip down to the joint. That latter fact means that there's some risk of developing arthritis later, so they want to send me to a podiatrist, because I guess there's some things that can be done to mitigate the risk. I took me quite a while of tossing and turning before finding a position I could sleep in without making my toe hurt, and overall, while my toe feels better than last night, I'm definitely feeling out of sorts. Supposedly it should take about three weeks to heal, I'm optimistic that it won't be a huge inconvenience, but who knows, I've never broken a toe.

I'm older than I've ever been and now I'm even older...

PS I'm trying this blog add on called zemanta which suggests links and images. So far it's pretty cool.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The General

I donate platelets today. This time, rather than watching one of their movies I brought my own. I've had "The General", the well-regarded 1927 Buster Keaton movie, out from Netflix for a couple of weeks, but I hadn't found time to watch it because, as a silent movie I figured I would need to give it my full attention (as opposed to a "talkie" where the sound can help you keep up with the story). So I figured watching it while donating platelets was perfect.

It wasn't quite what I expected. I expected it to be funnier, with more really outrageous physical comedy. It did have quite a bit, but I guess I'm so used to the really over the top physical comedy of more recent fair that the more restrained and realistic physical stunts of "The General" took awhile to get into. But once I got over that and started to really enjoy Keaton's amazing expressiveness I really enjoyed it. My suggestion if you happen to decide to watch it go into it with the attitude that it's a classic, and not a comedy.

One scene in particular killed me. (Minor spoiler) He's rescued the girl and he's racing back towards safety and while he operates the engine he has the girl adding wood to the boiler so that they can stay ahead of their pursuers. As she's doing that she notices that the cabin is untidy and she starts sweeping. It takes him a second to notice, so intent is he on the the following train. Obviously he's a little upset and he throws the broom over the side of the train and tells her to keep putting wood in. So she picks up a stick maybe 2 inches in diameter and maybe a couple of feet long, more of a twig, really. Opens up the boiler and tosses it in. At this point he's at a loss and he bends down a picks up a large splinter, the size of couple of toothpicks. She looks at it, like "great idea" and tosses it in as well. At that point he loses it and sort of throttles her, then in the fashion of Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction he realize there's really no point and kisses her. The toothpick part was particularly funny.

#130 on IMDB above "The Sixth Sense" but below "Die Hard"

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

500th Post

This is my 500th post on blogspot, so it should be something epic right? Well what could be more epic than discussing that gigantic volume of libertarian thought and objectivist philosophy, "Atlas Shrugged", which I just finished, as an audio book... Yep I listened as someone read the entire thing to me. That was 52 hours and 22 minutes of talking, and it did take awhile, two or three months (I did take a big break around the holidays though).

Before I get into a discussion of the actual book I should take a moment to comment on audio books. I will admit to being anti-audio books for most of my life. It just didn't seem like real reading. That was the elitist front I presented to the rest of the world, but secretly I was also worried that I wouldn't be able to follow an audio book, that I would get distracted and miss some critical piece of information. Once I actually gave one a chance I found the opposite, I think that I probably retained more of the book listening to it then I would have had I read it. Of course Atlas Shrugged is a gigantic polemic where most things are repeated three times so maybe it's not the best test of that particular point. But overall I would say that I'm sold on the idea. In particular I think it's a great way to get through fairly dense classics. I plan on rounding out my Dostoevsky reading once I have powered through some shorter works.

Okay the actual book. Any discussion of a 1200 page book is going to be long, and even though this is the 500th post I feel that I still need to keep it to a size where I can pretend people are going to read it, so I'm going to do some rapid fire bullet points:

-As I mentioned it is a polemic. It is not subtle and I think this fact more than any is what puts people off.

-That said I think there are some really interesting ideas in there, ideas that aren't in wide enough circulation. And I'm not talking about adoption, just comprehension.

-The first half was much better than than latter half.

-The three hour speech at the end was in fact three hours on the audio book, and yeah it was a little long, but probably more bearable split up over several listening sessions than read in one sitting.

-Her theory of love and the romantic episodes in the book are... distracting. And some of the super-human stuff at the end bordered on being silly.

-Given the strong female protagonist at the core of the book I would think that Feminists would be more excited about Rand, but she was never mentioned in any of the feminist literature classes I took as part of my English Major. And most of the references I see online describe the relationship as "conflicted".

-I understand some of the libertarian core beliefs much better now. Some, like the oath to renounce the "Initiation of Violence". Are well worth adopting, others, like the gold standard are more questionable.

-People who casually dismiss this book (and the larger Rand canon) do so at their peril and to their detriment. (Check out the Praise and Influence section on Wikipedia)

-I liked Francisco d'Anconia better than John Galt.

-Her vision of unbridled capitalism is much closer to reality than Marx's view of fully-implemented communism.

I have a hard time recommending the book because it's so long, but if you were leaning that way perhaps this will push you over. I would recommend, however, if you're not going to read it then you should avoid making generalizations (good or bad) about it. A sin I think I was guilty of on more than one occasion. As you might imagine something that is ~1200 pages is going to have lots of nooks and crannies which resist easy categorization

Who is John Galt?