July 31, 2016

16 Days and Counting

It's been 16 days since we gave the keys to the renters.
Since Lassen, and the epically awesome stay with friends of family at Lake Almanor, we've had a very busy week.  First, we drove to Bend, staying there for a few days and eating good food, drinking good beer, and catching up with several good friends (and extended family), including one set of friends where the wife was polite enough to wait until after dinner to have their next child (like 5 hours after she patiently managed her 4 year old and ate dinner with us, she had their son).
Tumalo Falls, the start of a great hike.

Stereotypical trail views on the hike.

Yet another falls view as the hike follows the river.

More gorgeous falls.

And more.

Happy Valley, the turn around for the 8 mile out and back hike.
From there, we drove to Seattle and stayed for 5 nights, catching up with too many friends to count and going to a good friend's wedding.

Despite being gone for 16 days, there have been so many details to manage for most of those days.  It hasn't *really* been being on sabbatical.  Sure, we hiked Lassen and Tumalo falls before Seattle, but for the most part, once we got to Seattle, we were just managing driving schedules, sleeping situations, laundry, and planning for the next few weeks.  It was more demanding than I expected -- I thought *not working* or at least *working very little* would be very relaxing, but it turns out it takes a lot of overhead to get to the most relaxed state, and we're still working on it, even now, and it's not relaxing until you're there.

Except in random moments.  When you're on the freeway between sleeping locations and one of the very few clients you are *sort* of working for calls, and you decide, Nahhh, I think I'm already out of service on this one, I'll pick it up when I get back into civilization.

And all of a sudden, you realize you are *actually* on sabbatical.

For this, Seattle was a nice transition point.  Many final logistical issues, including shopping for necessary items we hadn't yet acquired, shipping keys and documents back to clients, re-configuring the car to be more road-trip friendly, generally closing out our relationships with the real corporate world and getting them on board with our future state of availability (while still technically being available 24X7 even if we didn't like it) and also, fully in the city where we could take Lyft to and from events if we wanted to have more than one drink in the evening.  It'll be a while before we can enjoy that particular benefit of balance of dropping out of the corporate world while being surrounded by people who understand the demands and benefits of both worlds again...

Today, we left Seattle for Kamloops, BC, Canada.  The border crossing was more intense than I expected, but I suppose a land entry at a not-common port-of-entry with no committed date of departure, a driver who admits to being a gun owner, and two entrants who both are "not working" is the type of thing that might want to result in some additional questioning...  Spoiler alert -- after additional questioning, Canada still let us in.  The drive from Seattle to Kamloops was breathtakingly gorgeous, and according to the locals, it can't hold a candle to tomorrow's drive to Jasper...
One of many gorgeous views on this drive.

Another unbelievable view, simply beautiful.
Happily, when there's time and we aren't hiking, I'm running (with friends in cities where I have them), or working out.  I'm very happy to report that this week's total mileage (running, hiking and walking where it seemed long enough to record) is just shy of 40.  I hope to keep it in this range.


July 29, 2016

2016 Audiobooks To Date

Like other recent years, I'm consuming audiobooks faster than physical books and enjoying them.  If you're interested in some reviews, here you go:

Jonathan Franzen
A very well done character-heavy story of family and love.  Themes of American conflict between nature and the energy industry, capitalism, fame, and deceny, etc. are woven extremely well into this long dramatic tale.  I sincerely enjoyed it.
Between the World and Me
Ta-Nehisi Coates
I'd been putting off this book.  Frankly, because I was scared of it.  I knew it was great from the reviews and feedback from people I respect.  But I also knew the topic was a difficult one, and I expected to find it depressing and upsetting.  I was not wrong.  It was difficult.  But it's also a beautiful work -- Ta-Nehisi Coates' language is gorgeous.  In many of the sentences covering ugly truths, I can hear the lyrical history of his early "bad poetry" as he calls it.  The book is written as a letter to his son and focuses on the physical reality of living in a black body in America.  I am a very physical person.  As a result of his focus on the body, the fear and frustration experienced by black people in America became more real to me than it ever has been.  I am very glad I put in the work to take in this book, even though at times the subject matter was very painful.
M Train
Patti Smith
I love Patti's voice and speech patterns so much that I'd probably listen to anything she narrated.  But, as with "Just Kids" the writing here is honest, and beautiful and fascinating.  This book is more poetic and dreamlike than Just Kids, with a ton of references to TV and books (and coffee, so much coffee).
Agent to the Stars
John Scalzi
A fun romp.  The narrator is a talent agent in Hollywood and the plot revolves around aliens wanting to be introduced to earth in the most attractive way possible.  Clever and funny.  Less intense than both the Old Man's War series and Lock In.
The Mother Tongue - English And How It Got That Way
Bill Bryson
Typical Bryson--well researched and thorough.  From the Romans, the Germans, the French, the Anglo Saxons and more, this book is a fun historical story of the evolution of the English language.  If you are a word nerd, this is certain to tickle your fancy.  The original publication date was 2001, and so some of the facts and examples were a bit off (as the language continues to evolve...).  Many of the points he was trying to make required spelling by letter, which could probably get annoying in audiobook format if you aren't enthralled with word details... 
Hell Bent
Benjamin Lore
This book explored extreme yoga (mainly Bikram) in depth and in a manner that spoke to me.  Honest.  Balanced.  Much of the good explored along with the bad.  He did a great job of convincing me that maybe I should get over my aversion to Bikram the man and return to a studio that offers Bikram the practice.  Not going to happen anytime soon as I have a multi-class card at another local studio to get through first that expires in 2017, but it speaks to how well done the book is that it made me reconsider my position. 
Neopolitan Novels 2-4
Elena Ferrante
Very enjoyable, distinct style of prose that reads in a way where you are always aware that this story was originally written in Italian. Complex relationship between friends.
On the Road
Gloria Steinem
So wonderful!  I didn't know much about Ms. Steinem's life and history and sincerely enjoyed learning all about her long and impressive list of journalistic and community organizing experiences.
Big Magic
Elizabeth Gilbert
A how-to guide to being open to inspiration and living a life of creative hard work, specifically the hard work of being a writer.  Definitely a little on the woo-woo side of the spectrum, but pragmatic in its own way.
Notorious RBG
Irin Carmon, Shana Knizhnik
Awesome.  Awesome.  Awesome.  RBG really is as likeable as you want her to be and the anecdotes in this one make it clear.  So much great legal and feminist history in this one.  Highly recommended.
Lindy West
Memoirs focused on comedy, fighting misogyny and anti-obesity bias, and just generally a good look at current society from a smart woman.
One Summer, America 1927
Bill Bryson
(Bill Bryson has the coolest job ever.)  A very well researched look at the Summer of Lindbergh's famous cross-Atlantic flight, Babe Ruth's home-run record setting season, and a generally crazy time in American history.
A heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Dave Eggers
I'd never read this one.  It was released in my early 20s, chronicling the 20s of the author, set in the same cities as my early adulthood.  It held up reasonably well, although there's quite a bit of navel-gazing.  The author/narrator has a very high level of comfort with himself, exposing many of his less-than-admirable thoughts.  It's an interesting (and, frankly, to me, brave) approach.  He's very open about his conflicting desires to be known (he auditions for the Real World) and yet, be cool.  I can't quite describe how I feel about this book.  I did enjoy it, and yet, for some reason, while reading I kept an internal checklist of the reasons I (or anyone) could choose not to like it. 
Year of Yes
Shonda Rhimes
Shonda Rhimes is a bad ass.  This memoir chronicles her year of being more vulnerable, trying new things, and opening up to being different than the bad ass who had so successfully owned Thursday Night Television for so long.  Her voice is unique and the anecdotes are inspirational.
The Chris Farley Show
Tom Farley, Tanner Colby
Such a sad, sad, end to Chris Farley's young life.  This book poignantly reports Chris's words, as well as those of his close friends and family.  A very honest look at addiction.
The Heart Goes Last
Margaret Atwood
Typical Atwood.  I tend to read her works with a sense of dread for humanity and this was no different.  If you are looking for hope and love, this book is not for you, but if you're looking for a very smart thought experiment about how humans can be horrific to one another in unique and new ways while alternating time in a prison and in the free world, then this is just the book for you.  Despite my negative tone here, I did enjoy this (and I'll read almost anything Atwood writes), I just need some recovery time after I do.
Bird by Bird
Anne Lamott
A lovely thoughtful explanatory book on the pragmatics of writing.
On Writing
Stephen King
Stephen King's very interesting memoirs on his early career, his marriage, his struggles with addiction, and how to write.  He has a very strong and distinct voice (both written and spoken as he read his own audiobook) and, really, he's just quite the character.  I very much enjoyed this one.
Chrissie Hynde
Musician memoirs are one of my favorite guilty pleasures.  I would never choose to live their lives, but I sincerely enjoy reading about the chaos they choose to live with as well as their view of history and pop culture as they are living in it.  This one was no different except that more of the characters met untimely demises than usual, which made it a bit depressing.
the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying
Marie Kondo
Whimsical.  Useful thought experiment before packing up the whole house for storage.  I do love minimalism, to a point.  Overall, however, the full-blown Kon-Mari method felt a bit too wasteful to me.  There are many useful things in my life that don't necessarily spark joy, but would result in a financial outlay if I had to replace them the next time I wanted to use them.
A Man Called Ove
Fredrik Backman
A fun tale of a curmudgeonly old man and his misadventures in Sweden.  Very similar in tone and feel to Swedish author Jonas Jonasson's tales such as The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, and The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden.
Margaret Atwood
Revisited this one after finishing Oryx and Crake.  It, too, held up well a decade later.  I love the poetic constructions of the tales and chants of the Crakers in this series, as it's so obviously (to me) William Blake inspired (one of my favorite poets).