December 31, 2012

2012: End of Year Check-In

Looking back at 2012's resolutions, I'm clearly batting more than .500.

 In other words, success!

As I've mentioned before, discipline is in the eye of the beholder.

This year, I resolved and met a few of my commitments:

- I read 12,485 pages of pleasure reading books (slightly more than 34 pages per day, killing the original goal of 9,000 pages for the year)

- I ran 2 marathons (The Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks and CIM in all of its crazy weather glory.)

- I studied Mandarin.  So fun.  Big Mandarin group has been one of the best things to come out of this year.  To confirm that my studies have been somewhat effective, I instant messaged some pinyin to a friend in Shanghai yesterday.  She was impressed and less worried about my trip once she realized I could at least type non-tonally identified syllables that bordered on comprehensible Mandarin.  I also accosted a group of Mandarin speaking tourists in Key West and offered to take their picture.  The look of surprise was well worth the mistakes I no doubt made. Good times!

But, like all years, I also missed some of my resolutions.  Despite a goal of weight loss to improve my running performance, I'm heavier (and slower) than when the year started.  And, as I predicted, we missed the healthy veggie yoga night goal, too. 

Oh well 3/5 isn't half bad!

Happy 2013!

2012: Audiobooks

What I talk about when I talk about running
Haruki Murakami
A great memoir from one of my favorite authors discussing running and writing.
Wild: From Lost To Found On The Pacific Crest Trail
Cheryl Strayed
One of the best books I've ever experienced.  Period.
Adrift: 76 Days At Sea
Steven Callahan
Nothing like listening to the tales of someone struggling to survive on an inflatable raft at sea to convince you that the privilege of running miles on land is something you should enjoy.  A great tale of human triumph.
You are an Ironman
Jacques Steinberg
5 non-elites sign up for the Ford Ironman AZ 2009 and this book follows each of them through the ups and downs, injuries and life setbacks and eventual final results.
Keith Richards, James Fox
I love autobiographies and this one was one of the best.  Johnny Depp's voice and ability to mimic verbal tics, accents, and personalities for various characters made this nothing but a pleasure to enjoy.  The mid-book switch to Joe Hurley as the narrator is a bit confusing, but quickly, his British accent make you believe you're actually listening to Keith describe all the chaos of the hard rock life.  It's a fun ride as a spectator but it sounds horrific to have actually experienced it.
The Power of Habit
Charles Duhigg
Fascinating summary of the science of habit and anecdotal application of habits to areas of life as varied as survival, health, marketing/purchasing decisions, and communication within a business.  A great insight into how to change your own as well as any organization's habits.

2012: Books 28 - 33(ish)

Spook Country
William Gibson
The second in the trilogy started by Pattern Recognition and Zero History.  I read this after Zero History and it helped fill in the characters that seemed to appear without any background or fullness in Zero History.  Enjoyable, but not quite as enthralling as Zero History.  Tempting to go back and re-read Pattern Recognition.
Anita Shreve
A typical "National Bestseller" paperback airport purchase.  Fast read.  Tugs at your heartstrings in that predictable formulaic and occasionally brain-candy satisfying way: Good guy saves girl, they fall in love, problems and children ensue, they break up, time passes, it appears that they may make it in the end.
China in Ten Words
Yu Hua
10 essays on modern China, each centered on a theme of a particular word.  Very educational and unexpectedly funny.
Distrust That Particular Flavor
William Gibson
A collection of Gibson's non-fiction essays written from the mid 90s until today.  His insights are impressively unique and often make it obvious how he arrived at some of the more famous places and ideas of his fiction works.  His open discomfort with non-fiction writing as opposed to fiction is a bit too strong and occasionally distracts from what would otherwise be a great analysis and perspective.  Even so, I very much enjoyed his snapshot in time analysis of various technical and cultural memes over the last 2 decades.
Ghost In the Wires
Kevin Mitnick
A fascinating story told from the viewpoint of the hacker himself.  Obviously addicted to hacking and psychopathic about his life choices on his family and others, he makes believable claims that he never delved into any hacking activities that brought him any financial gain.  By far, the most interesting bits described just how effective social engineering can be if you have absolutely no concern about lying.
Mile Zero (half-finished)
Thomas Sanchez
This was a promising book.  I loved the transitive narration between characters with different dialects.  But, I accidentally left it on the plane on our way back from Key West (where it is set), and I didn't love the book so much that I had to order another copy.

December 29, 2012

2012: Books 22 - 27

The Time In Between
Maria Duenas
This gripping quick-twisting plot stole the majority of my waking hours over labor day weekend.  A well-researched novel telling tales of struggle, war, love loss, spies and personal triumph despite the adversity of Franco's Spain, Portugal, and the Spanish Protectorate in Morroco.
A Deepness In The Sky
Vernor Vinge
A great escape in the hard-core sci-fi tradition.  Space travel, aliens, mind control, linguistics between species, anthropology.  All wrapped in a gripping tale of war, long term planning, trading, and love.
The Best Of Me
Nicholas Sparks
A quick read cheeseball love story where all variables and characters are wrapped up in a perfect ending before page 300.  Sometimes you just want brain candy, and if so, this is a great option.
Sing You Home
Jodi Picoult
A gift from my mother written by her favorite author, which I sincerely enjoyed.  A great story of love and loss and family in all of its forms.
Zero History
William Gibson
Gibson at his modern day finest.  Proper nouns are laced with sparse language and dialog that leaves you struggling to understand and filling in the missing details with your own imagination.  His morphing take on modern day culture, technology, and the intermingling between the two is, as always fascinating.  This book was enjoyable enough that I have ordered Spook Country. I am a sucker for good plot, and Spook Country was roundly criticized for its failings in that area.  But Gibson's take on modern day culture in Zero History is enjoyable enough that I can't help but want to give it a try.
A fire upon the Deep
Vernor Vinge
Pham Nuyen returns.  Humans, aliens, interstellar war and general hard sci-fi nerdery.  Enjoyable, but not quite as good as "A Deepness In the Sky"

December 26, 2012


I've been battling a sinus infection for the last few days.

This is a fairly common pattern for me.  Every couple of years or so, I run myself ragged, and then, when I finally can stop and slow down to recover, my body just goes into full on melt-down mode.

Last night, I slept 9 hours, fitfully.  Woke this AM, had some coffee and orange juice, then slept again 'til 12:30, had some lunch and lazed about in bed reading and sleeping intermittently 'til 5:30 PM.

I'm about ready to call it a night after the second day of completely bailing on any pretext of a workout.

The sinus pressure is pretty intense, my hips ache, my lower back is sore, my head hurts, my stomach is not right, and I'm exhausted.  And yet, by all big picture measurements, I'm fine.

I've been dressing up and going to social events with friends and family for the holidays every day this week.

I'm not suffering from any debilitating illness, or chronic pain, or undergoing any serious recovery or treatment.

I have so much to be thankful for (not the least of which being a warm place to sleep and recover from this mild illness between overly indulgent meals).

And yet, it took the mild discomfort of the last few days to remind me of that fact.

I look forward to returning to my ordinary level of health and life-enjoyment.  I also look forward to remembering to be grateful and mindful of my blessings when in full health.

2012: Books 17 - 21

The Sum of Our Days
Isabelle Allende
A memoir of love, chaos, and drama that shows the interminable power of love of family, and more importantly, the mates we commit to. 
When We Were Orphans
Kazuo Ishiguro
Storytelling at its finest.  Slight comments from third parties give more context and background than the narator could possibly add, because the narrator is so convincingly human and biased.  This is the story of a british boy raised in the International Settlement in Shanghai who is sent to London after his parents disappear and are unable to be found.  His memories of his time in Shanghai and his desire to solve the mystery of their disappearance invade all plot lines and eventually, he goes back to Shanghai to finalize the reality of the mystery, all in the middle of the Japanese attacks and the impending war.
The Crossing
Cormac McCarthy
Stark English and Spanish dialogue between lengthy descriptions of the southern American and Mexican landscape frame this simple sad tale of boys becoming men, horses, dogs, and the way of the road for those with no home.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Alan Bradley
A charming british murder mystery with an 11 year old female sleuth and heroine.  Lighthearted and completely enjoyable. 
The Sense of an Ending
Julian Barnes
A compelling tale of the maleability of time and memory by a 70 year old who learns of the realities that challenge his assumptions about his early adult companions.  Sideways, through the murky memory membrane, he slowly comes to new conclusions of who he was, and is.