August 27, 2013


I discovered audiobooks in 2012.

But 2013 is the year when I took them into my life and made them part of the routine.

Now, I listen to audiobooks while running, walking, doing dishes, laundry, chores, driving.  You name it: if the MP3 player has batteries and I'm not otherwise intellectually engaged, I've probably got an audiobook in my ears.

So far this year, I've given audible a small fortune and listened my way through all of the titles in the following table.  I can honestly say that my life is better because of audiobooks.  I am better "read" and I think about ideas in a more cohesive manner because I have the option of exploring them in time periods when I otherwise would not be free.

Sure, they aren't a technological advance that one normally thinks of when considering how technology makes the world a better place.  But for me, that's trivial.  I once lamented that one of my biggest sorrows was that there was no way I could read every book ever written, so I had to make choices, and I was bound to make some wrong ones.  I feel like adding audiobooks to my life has given me additional minutes/hours/days in my life to make extra right (and wrong) decisions about books.

Just Kids
Patti Smith
A lifelong love story and a beautiful tale of the artistic lives of Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe.  Read in Patti's tell-tale raspy voice, with her New Jersey accent, this story was so enjoyable.  It's not just a history of their life together, it's also a history of American Culture at the time and the artistic culture of New York during the 60s and the 70s.
Blood, Bones, & Butter
Gabrielle Hamilton
The honest and riveting memoirs of the owner of NYC's Prune, starting with her French mother's meals and their family's parties and going through the years she was a dishwasher, line cook, waitress with a coke problem, multiple-time-college enrollee, catering chef, getting an MFA in lit, breaking up with her lesbian girlfriend, getting married into an Italian-Italian family, and growing into being a mother in a not-so-perfect marriage.
Under Their Thumb: How A Nice Kid From Brooklyn Got Mixed Up With the Rolling Stones and Lived To Tell About It
Bill German
A great insider tale from the author of Beggar's Banquet.
The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones
Stanley Booth
Epic.  Sad.  A great historical snapshot.
The Last Chinese Chef
Nicole Mones
Deep, textured insight into Chinese culture and food all shared in the envelope of a grieving widow, a Chinese mistress, a Chinese national food competition, and an unexpected love story.
Lost In Translation
Nicole Mones
The writing was not as mature as the Last Chinese Chef, but the speaker could actually pronounce the Mandarin.  There was much more actual Mandarin languge in this story than in the Chinese Chef, which made for a great study guide.  The story meandered at times and was a bit slow, but overall, it was an enjoyable insight into a foreign woman's experience in China, even with perfect Mandarin.
Laura Hillenbrandt
An amazing and awesome tale of survival.  12 lives in one man's very long lifetime.  An epic real-world story.
Let's pretend this never happened, a mostly true memoire.
Jenny Lawson
Autobiographical tales from Texas.  No doubt some tall tales.  But most relatable in their absurdity.  A very entertaining offering from the Blogess.
Dreaming in Chinese
Deborah Fallows
A linguist's tale of immersion in China.  How could I not love it.  Only one complaint, a narrator who could pronounce Mandarin properly would have made this infinitely better.
The Elephant to Hollywood
Michael Caine
Supremely enjoyable 2nd (Second!) autobiography from a hollywood workaholic who started in an outer-London Slum and made it to Hollywood.  As a result of his upbringing, he's a workaholic who's been in more movies than just about anyone.  I loved learning history through his personal stories.  It doesn't hurt that he's a great storyteller, an awesome impersonator (all the characters seemed to be speaking), and a big lover of life.  His laughter at his own puns and silly jokes was, for me, the best part of the audiobook.
Born Standing Up
Steve Martin
A parallel (but different) tale to Elephant to Hollywood.  Less slums, but more neurosis and family drama.  A great story of hard work, self-determination, and getting back up after falling down.
Golden Mountain
Irene Kai
Wonderful memoire of a 15-yr-old immigrant to New York from Hong Kong and her cultural and personal growth throughout her life until she returns to her childhood home 36 years after leaving.
Maya's Notebook
Isabelle Allende
Told in two time-tables, one a memory of the last year-plus of delinquency, and another a year-plus of moving to a desolate island off of Chile -- this is a glorious tale.  It may be one of Allende's best.  She claims to have listened to her grandchildren to hone her control of Maya's voice, and it is convincing.  The narrator is capricious, hormonal, flighty, and naive in an unaware way that makes you believe you are truly reading the words of an intelligent, but youthful girl.  I may go back and read it on paper just to enjoy it again in a different form.  Definitely my favorite book so far this year.
Seriously...I'm Kidding (Unabridged)
Ellen DeGeneres
Okay.  Just Okay.
My Mother Was Nuts (Unabridged)
Penny Marshall
Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir
Amanda Knox
Interesting.  Clear and detailed.  Ms. Knox is still developing her writing voice.
Then Again (Unabridged)
Diane Keaton
The Reversal: Harry Bosch, Book 16 (Mickey Haller, Book 3)
Michael Connelly
Third in the addictive legal thriller series.
The Brass Verdict: A Novel
Michael Connelly
Second in the addictive legal thriller series.  Sucked me in.
The Lincoln Lawyer
Michael Connelly
First in the addictive legal thriller series.  Sucked me in.
Second Nature: A Gardener's Education
Michael Pollan
Very academic.  Literary references strewn throughout.  It reads as if trying so, so hard.  But it's a great compilation of useful thoughts on gardening, and interesting to see where Mr. Pollan's fascination originally began.
Is everyone hanging out without me?
Mindy Kaling
Light and breezy autobiographical book by one of the producers of the office.
Life on the Mississippi
Mark Twain
Mark Twain is such a great writer than he can rope you in and enthrall you with hours upon hours of descriptions of a river you've never seen and a time you never will see, filled with steamships and more.  I've never felt bored by a topic but so thrilled by the words, that I just had to keep listening/reading.
Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn
This book was described to me, mid-way through as "a terrible tale of horrid, miserable people."  I thought I understood what the speaker meant.  But, no.  It took me 'til the very end to understand.  And there was no exaggeration.  But it was very well written and kept me engaged and hoping for a sudden turn 'til the very end.
The Fifth Witness
Michael Connelly
The latest in the Mickey Haller books.  A great, fun, suspenseful tale.  He gets the law about 80% right, which is fun to watch.
The Bedwetter
Sarah Silverman
Fun and fascinating tales from the Jewish American comediene featuring hilarious perspectives on Americans, juvenile humor, and, of course, the fascination that everyone except Sarah seems to have with her Jewish ancestry and how it must be so important to her identity and actions.
Stories I Only Tell My Friends
Rob Lowe
It must be difficult to be so pretty and also so smart.  I never knew Rob Lowe was such a cerebral, thoughtful, and complex dude.  (I suppose that's probably true of many from Hollywood.)  This audiobook entertained me with stories and frank openness about some unique life experiences (which I expected), but it also introduced me to Mr. Lowe's prowess at impersonation, character voices, and, of course, the surprising (to me) fact that he's a great writer and a brilliant businessman (He's behind the fund that bought out Miramax!  Way to go pretty boy.)

Last Week's Version of Success

I am just not that hard on myself.  It's true.  When I fall short of my goals, rather than beating myself up, I generally look at how far above zero I am while striving for 100% and call it success.

So, this is how we get last week.  I managed to clear a *ton* of work from my todo list.  The work list at the end of the week (before the weekend) was much smaller than the one at the beginning.  This almost never happens, so I was thrilled.  Also, E's sister and husband were coming in to town for a weekend of awesome debauchery in Napa and I knew I wouldn't be able to (or at least be motivated to) squeeze in any work, so it was very nice to go into the weekend without work stress looming in the horizon.

Napa was amazing and over the top. We started with a shared adorable house within walking distance of downtown Napa and added in visits to Morimoto, Oenotri, Elyse Winery, Outpost Estate Wines, RoccaWines, Elizabeth Spencer Wines, Oxbow Public Market, the Model Bakery, Ehlers Estate, an amazing tasting menu at Redd (Best meal of the trip!), and... on the way back home, in case we hadn't had enough, we finished it all off with a magnum from the tasting trip at House of Prime Rib.

So, it was a great work and social week.  And the running/fitness?  Well, I'm super proud of myself because I actually managed to do *most* of what was scheduled.

M: Bikram.  Took Cynthia's class, and while I made it through more poses than the week before, I did end up needing to leave for some cool air once we were on the ground.  I was not remotely mentally tough enough to stay in that heat for another 45 minutes.  Oh well.  I still had a great Bikram workout.

T: 51:22 minutes with 10 X (1 min fast/1 min slow) in the middle.  4.81 miles -- slow, but done.

W: Track day with the ladies, which I love and usually can't attend, so I was very happy.  Short intervals, so I pushed it and surprised myself with my relative speed (1.5 jog; 3X100 pickup; 100 walk; drills; 200/47; 2:00 RI; 200/47; 2:00 RI; 400/1:51; 2:00 RI; 600/3:01; 2:40 RI; 400/1:54; 2:00 RI; 200/45; 3:00 RI; 200/48; 2:48 RI; 100/20; 0:19 RI; 100/24; 0:30 RI; 100/21; 0:29 RI; 100/20; 400 walk recovery (3.6 miles total)

Th: The schedule said off or 40-60 minutes easy.  I settled for 20 minutes easy. 2.05 miles w/ 0.25 walk c/d.  Some might call this failure.  I call it compromise.

F:  The surprisingly great tempo run.

Sa: 82:30 alone and slow along the Napa Valley River.  Last 20:00 with E, slightly faster.  This run was all about time on my feet.  I'm up to 102 minutes.  I need to get in a couple of 130+ minute runs before SJRNR.  gmap-pedometer informs me I did 8.08 miles for a tortoise-like average pace of 11:28.  You might think I'd be disappointed at how slow this is.  But, no.  I'm just not that hard on myself.  I'm impressed that I did 102 minutes on a wine weekend after a big blowout pre-run night of food and sake at Morimoto.

Su: 0.5 mile jog to coffee.  0.4 mile jog to bathroom.  3.81 on the Napa Valley River trail in 41:22 for a blistering 10:50 average pace -- we'll call this the wine weekend post tasting menu PR pace.  Rewarded myself with more wine tasting and a big steak dinner with all the sides.

Total mileage: 27.99.  Average increase in weight over the week? Approximately 6 pounds.  Again, you might think I'd be hard on myself about this.  But you'd be wrong.  I had a fabulous week. 

August 23, 2013

I Needed That One

Today's scheduled run was a tempo run from 3-5 miles.  Since I'm starting from such a low fitness point, I made a deal with myself -- I'd warm-up, then I'd only have to do 3 miles, but I had to do them at the hardest sustainable pace I could find.

First, I did an easy 3/4 mile jog.  Then, I set my broken garmin to zero time, hit start, and ran by effort for 3 miles, pushing as hard as I reasonably thought I could maintain for 3 miles, and definitely pushing harder than I'd done in a long while on any run.

I hit the 3 mile fire hydrant (thanks gmap-pedometer) at 26:00 exactly.

And then, I walked 10 minutes to get home.

Ahhhhh... there we go -- what a perfect workout.  I'd almost forgotten what a great sense of accomplishment I can get from a run like today's.

I think it's going to be a great weekend!

August 18, 2013

San Jose Rock 'n Roll week -7

A week ago I finally got serious about the fact that I have paid the very expensive registration fee for the Rock 'n Roll San Jose half marathon, so I should probably start training.  I pulled together a training program loosely based on Greg McMillan's You (Only Faster) 4-5 day/week plan and this week was my first week of trying to be somewhat more serious.

I missed many of the marks I'd set for myself as work and life were a bit crazier and with more travel than I hoped.  But, compared to my previous effort levels, this week was okay.

M:  As promised, Bikram.  It kicked my ass but started me in the right direction.  I'm committed to going back tomorrow and will do my best to complete at least one of every of the 26 poses in the sequence, and, ideally, two of most of them.  And, of course, I will do my best to stay in the room for the entire 90 minutes.

T: 4 miles easy in 40 minutes with no stops in the 87F heat.  Much higher effort level than it looks like it should have been.  Best workout of the week. 

W: 40 minutes easy on the Embarcadero.  Dodging tourists has to develop some lateral stablizing strength to compensate for the slowing, right?

Th: headed to the track for what looked like a *very* difficult workout.  Forces combined to kill it, so I bailed after 1 mile warm-up and an 800 that was slower than target pace for the 2000s I was supposed to do.  My track shoes (Brooks T7s) were brand new and, somehow, much too small, cramming my toes and causing numbness, despite being the same size as all of my other Brooks shoes.  Also, my right ankle was still grumpy at me from rolling it last week in SF.

F:  4.61 easy miles at home.

Sa: 3.2 mile run along the river in Spokane.  Progression effort.  The last 5 minutes I was pushing it quite a bit, but I started *very* slow and easy.  Avg pace 10:06.  Most enjoyable run of the week.  The riverfront trails in Spokane are gorgeous.

Su: Super slow and easy 85 minute long run.  7.35 miles for an AVG pace of 11:34.  In my defense it was almost 90F when I finished.

Total Mileage:  27.06.  Execution: C-.  Missed the long track intervals and the 85 minute long run was much slower and shorter in time than I would have liked.  This second item I can only blame on the lack of a Garmin and sleeping in (which felt awesome).  So, since I rarely sleep in, the real question is whether I should buy a Garmin or complete the training cycle for SJRNR without one.  I'm leaning towards doing the training cycle without a GPS pace watch just to see how it treats me.  Perhaps I'd benefit more than I realize by doing a cycle running solely by self-assessed effort.  Only one way to find out...

August 13, 2013


I've always felt like I don't have much in common with other women, by default. And, I often find women confusing and hard to understand.

Today, the wonderfully entertaining Penelope sent me here.

As for my Myers-Briggs type -- I am definitely NTJ. Depending on the test, I turn up barely I or barely E. If the test gives percentages, I'll usually be in the 80-90% for NTJ and 51% or 52% for either I or E.

So, I'm strongly NT.   And if you look at this chart, visually, it's so obvious -- for those two personality characteristics (intuitive/thinking) vs (sensing/feeling) I *don't* have much in common with most women (most people, actually).

But, more than half of men are T on the T/F scale, so I am more likely to have at least *one* of these two personality characteristics in common with a man.  Interestingly, while it's not common in either gender, women are more likely to be N than men, so I'm more likely to have that particular personality trait in common with a woman than a man.

**Red=F, Blue=M, Grey=All.

August 12, 2013



Part of the explanation for the low mileage and lack of disciplined fitness commitment the last few months is how much work and how enjoyable it is to do gardening (and slow roasting, and sauce-canning, and gift-giving) when this is the weekend harvest:


Last week, I managed a lackluster 21.68 miles and it was clear that I needed to buckle down.  So, I drafted a training plan for SJ RNR. It required that I commit on a few levels.  I started with a difficult one for me, first thing -- Back to Bikram.

As scheduled on the plan, today, I sucked it up and returned to the Bikram hot room for the first time in almost 4 months.  On the drive in, I realized I was actually *scared*.  This studio is no joke, and they keep the room at a much hotter temperature than anywhere else I've ever practiced Bikram.

It was very interesting to recognize that I was scared but I was still going to do my best to execute on my plan -- I was going to walk in, buy a 10 class (3 month card), and I was going to do my best to stay in that damn hellish room for the full 90 minutes even if it felt like I was going to die.  (Let's be clear -- despite seriously considering an exit on multiple occasions during the class, I never actually felt anything like I was going to die, and if I did, I would have stood up and gotten the fuck out of there so quickly they wouldn't have known what happened. Sorry about the "do my best" hyperbole, but I had to engage in it to psych myself up for today's return to the hot room.  Forgive me.)  Also, I opted out of a ridiculous percentage of the poses, and, as per the Bikram thing -- I got hot enough to take off my shirt and I had to look straight into mirror and contemplate the current reality of my body in a sports bra and boy shorts while sweating and contorting.  Yup.  Bikram is hard-core on every axis.  I'm not sure if this is good or bad.  But it's true.

Somehow, while almost leaving at minute 44, I managed to stick it out for the remaining 46 and I left proud.  Exhausted.  Sweat-covered and ready to attack the rest of my day, which, frankly, seemed super easy after that madness.

Oh.  Right.  That's why I do this.

Also, in a magical coincidence, the rest of my day was super easy.  Thanks, clients! (Or Bikram-God.  Whatever.)


He continues to grow and he is super cute.  That is all.


If you know someone who regularly does canning, they probably have plenty of jars (and if they don't, new ones come with bands and lids), and they *definitely* have plenty of bands.

So, Public Service Announcement: LIDS ARE THE ONLY DISPOSABLE COMPONENT OF CANNING SUPPLIES! -- these are the gifts you should give your canning friends. (From me, with a cupboard full of bands and jars.  And a dearth of new lids in the midst of the canning madness that this Summer's prolific garden is causing...)

August 7, 2013


The last week or two has been interesting for me.

The love of my life and I have chosen not to have children (caveat, required by science -- thus far.  Someday we may be able to clone ourselves and take an army to another planet in which case, I'm pretty certain E will overrule me and we'll have *TONS* of kids.  But today, we've decided it's not in our plans).

We are odd.  It is clear.  Our fridge is covered with the family holiday photos and birth announcements of all of our friends and family in our general age cohort who've all chosen to have children.  We're married.  We're happy.  We're more or less financially stable.  And, typically, people like us have kids.  Yet, we've opted out.  So, we are weird. (To those who know either of us well, this is not remotely surprising.)

We also maintain close friendships with people who don't have the option of having children, other couples like us, single folks, etc, and the variety of our relationships with these folks is defintely rewarding.

In the last couple of weeks, the US media has taken this (the "non-reproducing, otherwise relatively normal couple") up as a cause of some sort.  So we've got our most recent Time magazine as shown at the top, and this article.

And all I can think is,  why the fuck is it us versus them?

I have many children in my life -- nieces, a nephew, and all of my friends' kids.  I am grateful for all of them making my life richer.  I don't feel that my close friends and family feel that our choice somehow hurts them.  I am lucky.  So maybe we can all get to a place someday where it's okay to choose whatever you choose with  respect to reproduction (preferably when you can provide for your offspring...), but we all agree that, no matter what, all kids need support, and we should all support them.

In the meantime, headsup -- If you are youthful and fit enough that you can pose in a bathing suit on the cover of a magazine, then you are too young to have actually made any final decisions about anything.  Just saying.

August 6, 2013


It's been almost a month since my Garmin died.

And, in a way, it's been kind of nice.  I'd fallen into a bit of a running funk, and running solely for time without any distance or speed data has been an interesting way to mix things up.

Last week, I'd hoped to do the Summer Breeze 10K, but work had other plans.  By 9 PM on Friday night, I still had 2 contracts left to mark-up and *all* of my timesheets to finalize for the month.  I owed my bookkeeper timesheets so she could complete my books and invoices (ideally, I'm supposed to get them to her on the last day of the month, so I was already 2 days late).  I owed my clients the contract mark-ups, and both of them were supposed to be completed "by the end of the week".


So, Friday night, I accepted the reality, and bailed on the race.  Saturday AM, I got up, finished the two last contracts for the week, and headed out for a nice 3 mile loop with E.  Not quite the 10K I'd hoped for, but enjoyable in its own way.

And, bonus, I wasn't under water by the time my mom and her husband showed up for a late afternoon brunch.

We enjoyed a typical summer meal on our patio under our umbrella in the perfect weather.  Eating outside from the garden is such a pleasure.  I didn't take a picture of the food we ate that day, but here are some colorful examples of what we've been enjoying outside on weekends and evenings:

That evening, I finished my timesheets and promised myself that I'd take all of Sunday off from all work.  Instead, I started the day with a lazy medium long run.  I ran 40:55 out, and 39:45 back.  gmap-pedometer says it was 7.2 miles.  So, a slow effort, but a steady one, decreasing in pace.

Despite a complete lack of commitment to distance, thanks to the weekend's efforts plus many walks, a run on Monday with T, a medium solo effort on Tuesday, and track day with the ladies on Wednesday (very short intervals 200s and 100s -- I was sore for two days!) I managed to hit 27.97 miles.  Not bad for a GPS and discipline free week.