Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Rail--finished #29

Over the long weekend I finished book #29 for the year.  By the way to mention it again, this really crushes the most books I have read in a year, before this year I had read 18 in 1999 and 18 in 2001, last year was 16.  The one main reason I am figuring this is that I have really started reading 2 or 3 books at a time, before I was always a one book at a time person.  If the book got kind of tough to get through well I just read less and it took me longer, now I switch back and forth between books.  There are probably other smaller reasons as well, like less TV, not as much running and also setting that goal of reading 24 this year--2 a month--back in January.

Well, now onto The Rail, I really kind of liked it.  It was about a former baseball player that had a kind of screwed up life outside of baseball.  Once completely out of baseball, his life went even more downhill.  It was also about his family, that was also just as screwed up.  His birth dad, a well to do in town basically disowned him and his mom was forced to marry a jerk with a business.  Neil--the ballplayer, kind of kept in touch with his step-sister, his real dad's daughter--2nd married kid.  There was a daughter and a son by the son was killed while playing with his sister and their dog after the son ran out in the street.  Blanchard, the sister never really got over this and her life was also screwed up.  Well, there was also Blanchard falling in love with her older step-brother Neil and how Neil protected her thoughout her life.  Well, Neil even went to jail for 2 years for a drunk driving manslaughter charge, that was actually Blanchard driving.  Well, throw this all together along with Neil's son David trying to connect with his dad and you have this book.

I did enjoy how the author only feed the details out piecemeal.  It left the reader trying to guess what blanks were out there and what was still coming.  I had figured early on that Blanchard was the one driving and that Neil took the fall.  I am sure some could have seen this as confusing but I think it added something to a story that might have been hard to swallow all at once.  I don't think the story was all that good, but the characters were interesting. 

I am right now reading The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams.  He also wrote Watership Down and Shardik, both books the really liked.  So far The Plague Dogs hasn't gotten on very fast but I will give it time, Richard Adams has earned that.  As far as the 2nd book, I have pulled out War & Peace.  I might add a 3rd book right away also, a Grisham type--will see about this.


After a few days out of town, it is time to do a little catching up.  First the family went to my parent's home in NE for Thanksgiving.  It was a really good time, kids love spending time with Grandma & Grandpa and some time on the farm.  I am probably going to do a couple/few posts of the long weekend so details on other stuff to come. 

First, I am going to update the many new additions to my book collection.  Last Monday, I didn't run so instead went to the library and picked up a few books.  Q is for Quarry by Sue Grafton, I like reading the series but I know my mom does also.  I had gotten this one to give to her but she already had it so it reverts to me now.  It is a large print book, I guess I am getting old because that also sounded a little appealing too.  Next, On Writing--A Memoir on the Craft by Stephen King.  I thought since the idea of writing a book has crossed my mind, that this is something to spend that quarter on & see if it helps.  Worst case is I read about the life of Stephen King which should also be interesting.  Third is Eyes Wide Open, a Memoir of Stanley Kubrick, by Frederic Raphael.  I don't know much about him so thought this could be a good way to learn a little and also get the throw in about making movies.  Finally, a biography of Mary McLeod Bethune by Catherine Owens Peare.  From the flap, Bethune was a child of slave parents, one of 17 children.  It talks about her success in life and the found of Bethune Cookman College.  She is somebody that I know nothing about, but sounds like a very interesting read.

While in NE, I grabbed 3 books from the ones still at home.  I took a Jack London book with both The Call of the Wild and White Fang.  The Pearl by John Steinbeck and then Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh.  I figure all of these are good for me to do a re-read but also might be books that Rose could read or might have to read in school.

Finally then, on Friday or I guess Black Friday, Debbie had to get at least some shopping in so after hitting normal stores we found a Salvation Army resale shop in Norfolk.  I picked up A Separate Peace by John Knowles--same reason as 3 in above paragraph.  Single & Single by John LeCarre', The Testament by John Grisham and The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough--all 3 for the quick read aspect.  Last was Selected Prose, Poetry and Eureka by Edgar Allan Poe.  This one kind of fits with that earlier paragraph, in that it is good for me to read but also could be something Rose will be reading as well.

A lot of additions to the book case, I will really need to join that Paperbook Swap sight and try to move a few of them if possible.  I am down to one book I am reading right now, but I was looking over my lists of books read and saw that it has been since 1999 that I read War & Peace.  It is time for another reading, only 3rd one.  I hope to be starting that tonight.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


I hadn't given a running update in a while.  I ran 6 miles last weekend, I ran around Forest Park.  I then ran 2.2 miles Monday night, my PSR run.  I didn't run again though until yesterday--Saturday.  It was cold and I didn't have a whole lot of time.  I just did 4.3 around the house.  It was good to run streets again, I should probably do more of that.  The cold and getting dark early though make it tough to inspire myself to get out there.  I am sort of supposed to do a marathon relay in two weeks--I wouldn't mind finding a way out, but not sure I could at this point.

Surviving the Toughest Race on Earth--finished #28

Two books finished this weekend.  I guess with kids being sick last week and being stuck inside most of the weekend while kids got better gave me lots of time to read.  I really took advantage of it this weekend in polishing off the two books I had been reading.  

Surviving the Toughest Race on Earth is basically about adventure racing, something I hadn't heard of before this book.  Since in the US it was first introduced on MTV and then later variations on the X-Games, it is not surprising.  The book is basically about the author himself, Martin Dugard, and how he kind of was inter-wrapped in this sport.  Covering the Raid Gauloises is what gave him the push to quit his day job and become a free lance reporter and writer.  He talks about different people and teams in the early years of adventure racing and then when he catches the bug to do it himself, the 2nd half the book talks about his experiences.

An interesting read, but looking back on it, the whole adventure racing did seem to flame out.  Most of the book was written with the expectation that it would continue on, but there was one point were he kind of hedged it saying it could be a kind of fad like the Dance-a-thons, etc in the past.  I did a quick wikipedia check and don't see where adventure racing is continuing.  I would guess it is still somewhere but the luster is certainly off.

As far as how I see adventure racing, I don't really see any appeal to it for me.  Combining mountain climbing, rafting, kayaking, rappelling, hiking, mountain biking and putting altogether as a team effort, is certainly demanding but I guess I just don't see the point.  Of course most of those are things that don't interest me so that is probably my built in bias as well.  I guess though it is kind of an additional step beyond the triathalon or Iron Man competitions.

Glad I read the book, it certainly opened my eyes to something I wasn't even aware of but overall just an okay book.  It seemed as if it was written almost as much for trying to continue to build up adventure racing, a kind of advertisement as such as for being written for any other reason.  This is a book a friend from work had given to me to read, so it is one that won't be staying in my library.

I did start reading another book a couple of days ago, The Rail by Howard Owens.  About a former professional baseball player after his playing days and just after getting out of jail for some reason.  So far seems to be about how he has screwed up his life.  Need to get that second book figured out yet.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Survival in Auschwitz--finished #27

What an amazing book.  It really allows the reader to understand a small portion of what these many people had to go through in these camps.  This is something that I know I cannot fully grasp, living in America at this time with almost every want or type of food just minutes away.  I think most people believe and had a kind of base understanding of the holocaust but I believe reading a book like this is also needed.  People need to be knocked upside their head and be reminded of this.  I know there is a Holocaust Museum here in St Louis that I need to visit as well.  I am not sure if Rose my oldest at 9 is really ready for it yet though.  I will probably have to check into it first to find out.

Earlier this year I also read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich which talked about the gulags in Siberia under the Stalin times.  There are many similarities between the two camps, like the work being done, the food, the guards, etc.  The one big difference is that these German camps exterminated thousands both before even getting into a camp or once they outlived their usefulness and room was needed for more incoming prisoners.  Levi didn't go into much detail about the exterminations because he did not see it, instead he talks about right off the train being separated from the women & children and never seeing them again.  Later he talks about the selection process in camp where an SS soldier decides in the matter of a few seconds if you stay in the camp or will be taken from the camp.  The prisoners hope it is just moving to another camp, but all know it means death.

The inhuman nature of the people that set these camps up as well everything around them that supported them in one way or another is just mindboggling.  I sit here in my warm home and think that today something like this could not happen, but then I am reminded of the genocides that have gone on in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and still happening in Dafur/Sudan and could easily happen in Somila, it is isn't going on yet.  I certainly don't have answers to solve these problems but just have a faith in God that for whatever reason these things occur that they do not happen in vain.  I believe that people will get their just due in the afterlife and that cuts both ways.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

#26 White River Massacre--finished

I finished up the western novel, White River Massacre by Karl Lassiter on Saturday.  After checking into it, it seems it was based on a true event, which kind of changes the perspective of the book in a good way.  It was a good read, nothing really exciting but made me think about how rough the Indians got it back then and how that has really continued through today.  It was a good kind of quick read.  I don't see myself re-reading it but I think it was worth reading this once.

I have another kind of adventure book from a co-worker that I am starting.  I don't have it in front of me to get the name & author though.  I am still working on the Primo Levi book as well.  I also grabbed my copy of Democracy in America--not sure if I will be starting it yet or not.  I still have the Ayn Rand book Anthem around also--one of those will probably be my 3rd.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A week later

I don't know if it was trying to post every day in Oct, but I am kind of feeling burned out on blogging/posting anything right now.  It has been a week since I typed up anything.  Not much really going on.  Reading White River Massacre by Karl Lassiter and still working on Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz.  Mostly reading White River, it is a much easier read and am trying to push through to finish it.  Somewhere under 100 pages left.  Survival in Auschwitz is also just under 100 pages, but is a much slower read--the type is really small along with just being a kind of depressing book to read.  While I call it depressing I also have to say a very important book to read--I would think almost required reading for college students.  The Holocaust is something almost everyone should be exposed to, too important for people to forget.

My running has been little.  Last night I ran for the first time in a week & a half.  I did a little over 2 miles, 15 minutes on first & just under 14 for the second.  I didn't push it at all since it had been a while since I had run.  I hope to get a good run in this weekend and maybe even 2 if possible.

Well, too late, so I must be off to sleep.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Alexander's Bridge - finished #25

I had kind of sat this book aside for a little while, while I was finishing the McCain book and while the election was taking place.  I liked it, but not as much as other novels by Cather.

It is about the main character Bartley Alexander who is a famous bridge builder.  He is middle aged and married to Winifred a women he loves but still has an almost desire to look elsewhere.  While on a trip to London, he becomes reacquainted with Hilda a former love and he falls back in love with her.  The love he feels for Hilda is not just for her though but also for the sense of youth they had previously and kind of what he sees as missing in his life.

He tries to break it off with Hilda on the 3rd trip to London but is too weak to do so.  Hilda had never married and feels Bartley is her one true love and basically tells him she cannot bear to lose him completely.  She will take whatever he can give her.  He says he has become 2 separate persons and the one that loves Hilda he fears will take over his life.  It is a true struggle for him.

He has returned to the US and is having problems with a couple of bridges being built, one is a labor problem and the other suddenly becomes a structural problem.  Once to the bridge with the structural problem, he examines and starts to pull the workers off the bridge.  While doing so the bridge collaspes and eventually in a struggle to get to shore with the workers while in the river, Bartley drowns.

It is written in Cather's style, where a chapter will explain a point in time and then the next chapter leaps ahead a few months.  This is Cather's first novel so it is interesting that this style of hers was from the beginning of her writing of novels.  I would recommend other Cather novels to a person before this one.  It is a good read but not like a normal novel by her.  To get a real feel for Cather, I think Oh Pioneers or My Antonia would be the ones to start with and then Alexander's Bridge or my favorite Death Comes to the Archbishop.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Night

Barack Obama has won the Presidential election tonight.  I am really left with many feelings about this.  I am just going to throw some of them out there & maybe expand on anything that hits.

--Republicans had this coming.  GWB almost seemed like he quit fighting his low approval numbers.  I don't believe he was an under 20% approval rating bad, but he did enough bad stuff that the Dems & media could pin it on him.  I don't know if he wasn't out in the news because the election/primaries had started and he wanted to stay removed from them or if he had just kind of lost the will to fight back to save his & his administration's repuation. 

--House & Senate Republicans really had this coming by taking on no leadership on cutting spending and pushing the idea of while at war the country should cut back on things.  They instead launched spending well beyond common decency.  They & the administration took no tough stands on saving people's money--the prescription drug bill, getting beat at every turn on NCLB, spending on contractors in Iraq, and throw in a measure of corruption and here we are.  I cannot really argue with people about not trusting Republicans with our economy, they failed us the last 8 years.

--I also expect the Dems to start failing us on the economy almost immediately upon taking control.  I think taxes will go up and job creation will go down.  I expect tariffs and other protective measures will be taken to secure union jobs throughout the country and the cost of our money.

--I expect Obama will have a very very hard time trying to reign in Pelosi and Reid.  Pelosi & Reid are very experienced politicians with many more experienced politicians behind them--Obama will have trouble with them.

--I wonder how quickly our troops will be removed from Iraq.  If left up to Obama I would expect it to be a couple years.  I don't think the Dem party though will accept that and would want a much quicker timetable.  This will be an early fight where Obama might have to reach across the aisle for support from the remenants of Republicans left.

--Biden doesn't scare me.  I have talked to some people who have a real dislike for him and were even more scared of him than Palin.  Now I wasn't scared of Palin at all, I am actually more of a fan, but I think you still get the drift.

--What does the Republican party do now?  When the party cannot even run candidates for state Rep & Senate elections here in MO, you can see the party was hurting.  These local politicians are the ones that become the future stars of the party after cutting their teeth in elections.  This wasn't as big a deal this election season because any Republican was going to get knocked around bad but going forward this would have to change.

--The point above this makes me wonder if I should try to get involved in the County Republicans.  I haven't been very impressed when I have seen them on TV or read about them in news articles though.  I guess it kind of is "don't complain if you are not working to change it" kind of applies.

--How long before John Paul Stevens announces that he is retiring from the Supreme Court & how many others follow him.  Stevens was a Nixon appointee during the Watergate time so I can kind of understand why he ended up more Dem or liberal than what Nixon would have liked.  I just wish and will probably pray that whomever is nominated to replace him becomes the Dems Souter/turncoat justice.  The conservatives have been bitten by this too many times, it is time for this to happen to the libs.

--The above point was of course much to do about Pro-Life and also the genocide of happening with Down Syndrome babies.  I hope that Sarah Palin & Trig are able to stay in the news and help to reverse this genocide that is going on.

--One area that I hope actually gets some kind of plan pushed through is healthcare.  This has been an election issue for too long, it is time for something to get done with it one way or the other already.  It is one that I think the Republicans were wrong on it that some kind of government assistance to healthcare beyond Medicare/Medicaid is needed.  I think our businesses have lost some of the competitive edge against business in foreign countries where the state is providing healthcare.  While I am certainly against universal healthcare, I think there has to be something done to get the uninsured, insured.  I don't know if Romney's plan would work or not but I just want this solved.

Well, time to go back to the TV & see what updates have occurred.

5K 32:46 on 11/2

I ran the St Louis Track Club 5K on Sunday.  It was the smaller race, size & distance wise of the day.  There was also a half marathon that about 1600 people ran.  There was around 200 for the 5k.  

I was hoping to be around 33 minutes and my 32:46 certainly qualifies.  My PR is still 30:55 from the only other 5k that I have run.  I did a training run a couple of years ago at around 29 something though--I was in much better shape since I was in the middle of marathon training.  

The one thing that I really found out was that I need to do more hill training.  They had reversed the course, so instead of ending with a very long hill, you instead started going up that very long hill.  I don't remember my splits but I think the first mile was actually just under 10 minutes--way too fast for going up a long hill.  The uphill was probably for 3/4 of a mile at least.  While I still kicked out times under 11 I think, I was sapped from that first mile effort.  Oh well, live & learn.

There is another 5k coming up in a couple of weeks that I might look to do also.  Still not sure about what distance I will be targeting for the Spring.  Need to start looking at the Frostbite series races also--to do multiple this year.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Faith of My Fathers--finished

I finished off Faith of My Fathers on Thursday, but finally getting around to posting it tonight.  This is my 24th book read this year--a goal I had set at the beginning of the year & still have 2 months to go.

I thought it was a good book.  I didn't know much of the history of John McCain and it filled in a lot of the blanks about growing up and his time as a POW.  It is a very good account in that in many places it shows him in an unfavorable light, a basic punk growing up.  It also gets into how his course in life attending the Naval Academy was almost pre-ordained for him and how that might not have been what he would have choose.  The book also obviously, spends much time talking about his POW experiences and how that in many respects really changed him and made him probably more focused on his life.

The time period of what since getting let free from Vietnam is still blank, just not covered in this book.  I am not sure if it would be as interesting but would like to know, especially if he becomes President.  McCain was also on SNL at the beginning of the show.  I thought he was actually very good and SNL actually took some shots at Obama and the Dems for once.  I tried to watch a little more and just couldn't get through it.  That is probably good in that I am finally down here catching up.

I will not be post every day, October was just a special month.  Another goal of mine was to post at least 10 times each month so I figure I will fall back to somewhere in that range.

Makeup Posts

I missed posting the last 3 days of October for the 31 for 21 DS awareness campaign.  Well, here is something of what I would/should have posted but was too tired to do so.

Wednesday, was a run day.  Rose had VB practice like normal so I ran while she was there.  I got 6 miles in.  Good stuff, I averaged something like 11:40 miles, the last 2 were in the 12's.  A good run all in all.

Thursday, I finished up Faith of My Fathers by McCain.  I will do a separate post of this--I try to do this for each book I finish.  Not sure what else Thursday was about.  I was tired again so I didn't make it down to post then either.

Friday was Halloween.  Rose was Darth Vader, Thomas was Batman and Angie was a Care Bear.  It was dentists appointments for all 3 in the morning.  I was off work, but don't remember getting anything really done.  I took Rose & Thomas to the store, at least I think it was Friday but not sure about much else.

Today was a canvass day for the school district.  I walked a lot putting up flyers on door handles around my neighborhood.  I even grabbed a 2nd folder of streets to hit & still have one street to go--need to do tomorrow.  I also made my Catfish Jambalaya for our church's soup & salad.  My mother in law didn't have time to make her soup so I back her backup.  Debbie was going out right after I got back from church so I don't know how it went over.  Had some left here and it seemed good to me, but I am biased.