Monday, December 31, 2012

BC2012: Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine by Eric Weiner

I enjoyed Weiner's The Geography of Bliss, wherein he visited numerous countries in search of happiness, so I was excited to spot this book at Barnes & Noble in Green Bay, WI last June. Unfortunately, it was hardcover and I didn't feel like spending that much, so I took a picture of it with my cell phone as a reminder. In November I got an offer for 30% off one book at B&N, and I discovered that this had just been released in paperback.

This book is somewhat similar to The Geography of Bliss in that Weiner again visits different countries, but this time he is searching for a religion. This book offers a lot to both believers and non-believers (Weiner describes himself as a "confusionist") because religion and philosophy are so intertwined. Here are just a couple of the lines that made me stop and think for a moment:
A Franciscan friar says, "When in doubt, be thankful."
A Kabbalah teacher says, "The opposite of sadness is not happiness but clarity."
Weiner admits that he sampled only a tiny percentage of the world's religions, but I think depth is more interesting than breadth so that didn't bother me. His chapter on shamanism is noticeably weak compared to the others, however. He should have explored it more thoroughly or chosen a different religion entirely (I vote for Hinduism, easily the largest religion omitted from the book).

This book deserves a more lengthy review, but frankly it's 2013 already so I have to move on. I had to bend the rules to fit Man Seeks God into Book Challenge 2012; I finished it before midnight in Honolulu but not Chicago (I'm still going to backdate this post as I have with others at month-end--you didn't really think I cranked out all those book reviews between 11:30 and midnight, did you?). As I said before, I needed a better finish than Gilbert Gottfried!

NYE Killjoys

Just in time for New Year's Eve, a local news radio station reported today on the dangers of walking after drinking. This isn't news. Anyone who has ever consumed a large quantity of alcohol already knows that walking can be challenging and potentially dangerous. Isn't walking straight the most common--and therefore I presume the most difficult--field sobriety test administered by police officers when you get pulled over for drunk driving?

I am not one to let the killjoys get the best of me, though. This afternoon, purely in the name of science, I consumed a large quantity (I didn't measure, but it was a couple inches of the bottle) of Skyy citrus vodka. Then I went downtown for dinner. Walking to the train station was uneventful aside from an especially hearty "Happy New Year" wish to an older but attractive neighbor walking her dog. The vodka didn't really hit me until I got on the train. For a moment I pondered the likelihood of getting sick on board, but this concern was unfounded. Actually, my greater worry was falling asleep and missing my transfer stop. But when the time came, I successfully rose to my feet and stepped out of the train in a more-or-less straight line, though I may have swayed a bit while waiting for the next train.

After successfully boarding the train and riding to my destination, I sought the ease of the escalator out of the station as opposed to the coordination-requiring stairs. On the walk from the station to a restaurant, I was especially careful at intersections. I sure would look foolish getting run over while walking after drinking after making fun of a news report about walking after drinking. My bigger concern as someone who doesn't drink a lot very often was whether every single approaching pedestrian could recognize my intoxicated state. Not likely, I figured, unless I walked into a parking meter or puked on someone's boots. At the restaurant I waited for my table, eyes slightly glazed. Then I sat down and started sucking up Cokes (I'm too cheap to drink alcohol when I'm out). Slowly my sobriety returned and the New Year's Eve drunken walking experiment drew to a close.

Admittedly, my results were influenced by the report I had heard earlier as well as my awareness of being part of an experiment. My innate cautiousness is only slightly impaired by alcohol, so I suppose that makes walking around drunk a little less dangerous for me.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

BC2012: Rubber Balls and Liquor by Gilbert Gottfried

Wow, a book without a lengthy subtitle! How retro! I got this cheap in the waning days of the Borders bankruptcy. I read it out loud to my wife, who is a big fan of the celebrity roasts for which Gottfried is famous. Aside from being famous for general obnoxiousness, I guess. And being the voice of an insurance-pushing duck. Anyway, my wife was relieved when I told her I would not attempt to read in the author's grating voice.

I have to admit that I wasn't expecting a lot from this book, and it delivered. Parts are entertaining, parts are funny, parts are dumb, parts are boring, little is memorable. I wish he had written about more roasts than just Hugh Hefner's. I wish he had mentioned his appearances on USA cable late night, which is where I first became aware of him. But he did mention the only time I found him worthy of blogging about, when he was named The Unsexiest Man in the World!

So, I guess if you're a huge fan of Gottfried (is anyone?) then you'll like this book, but otherwise you can probably skip it. And you probably didn't need me to tell you that, either.

Now please excuse me. I have some reading to do because I don't want Book Challenge 2012 to end this way...

BC2012: Route 66 Still Kicks by Rick Antonson

In 1990 I drove old Route 66 out to Los Angeles in my first solo cross-country trip. I wrote a long essay/short book about that trip after I got home, and I hope to finally put it online in 2013. Perhaps it was in anticipation of publishing my own story that I picked up Route 66 Still Kicks: Driving America's Main Street at the Book Cellar last month.

This book is framed as a road trip travelogue of Antonson's drive on Route 66 with a friend, but he weaves many historical tales about the road into the narrative. I've read a lot of books about Route 66 over the past 20-odd years, and I am always amazed at how many new stories each writer finds there. Certain famous people are always mentioned, such as John Steinbeck, Bobby Troup, and Will Rogers, and Antonson somehow teases out new details about these legends and their connection to the old road (ditto for oft-noted places like Times Beach). But he also finds other stories along the way, such as the kidnapping of Olive Oatman and a grisly murder in a small Oklahoma town. And of course there are the characters they encounter in their own journey.

This is the second book I've read this year about a Canadian driving through America. The first, Breakfast at the Exit Cafe, left a sour taste in my mouth, perhaps in part because the authors were constantly reminding the reader that they were Canadian (as well as constantly reminding the reader that the U.S. once had slavery). This book is quite the opposite. I think Antonson's residence in Vancouver is only mentioned outside of the story (the "about the author" page and back cover blurb), and I don't think I ever learned his friend's nationality. Perhaps the author recognized that on a highway beloved and traveled by thousands of Europeans and Japanese every year, nationality is irrelevant.

I enjoyed this book even more than I expected and learned quite a bit, which is saying something for a topic I already knew a lot about. I still consider Michael Wallis' Route 66: The Mother Road to be the best book about the highway, an exceptional combination of rich storytelling and dazzling color photography (as well as the book that led to the route's revival), but Route 66 Still Kicks is one of the better runners-up.

Friday, December 28, 2012

This Scares The Hell Out Of Me

From the Chicago Tribune:
A man was crushed to death Thursday night in New York after a woman shoved him into the path of an oncoming subway train, the second time this month that a commuter was killed after being pushed onto the tracks.
This is one of those persistent fears I have, much like my fear of being hooked by a casting fisherman while bicycling through Busse Woods Forest Preserve (the bike path crosses several dams that are popular with fishermen). Like that fear, I hoped that my fear of being pushed onto the subway tracks--particularly by a random stranger--was unreasonable, perhaps a bit paranoid. Apparently not.*

Knowing New York, these two incidents will lead to a jackbooted crackdown on homeless and/or crazy people in subway stations by NYPD. Then liberals will protest to protect the rights of these mostly harmless folks. I'm not sure which side I'd be on, considering that I've been afraid of being pushed onto the tracks for quite some time.**

If this happened in Chicago, probably nothing would change except that I'd wait for the train with my back up against the subway station wall.

* I don't mean to make too much of this fear. It's not like it paralyzes me or anything, just that I try to be aware of whether anyone is behind me on the platform (always good to know if only for the safety of one's wallet) and especially vigilant if someone is. Actually, I'm way more scared of being hooked by a fisherman at Busse Woods. Especially on the ear.

** Incidentally, the fear has worsened a bit since I stopped commuting regularly. I'm not sure whether I'm at greater risk now or not. On the one hand, I used to stand on train platforms two to four times a day (depending on whether I transferred) where now at most it's a few times a week. On the other hand, I used to ride when the platforms were more crowded, meaning that if some random person got pushed onto the tracks, it was less likely to be me.

BC2012: It's All Too Much by Peter Walsh

Often I buy a book long before I decide to read it. This book was a different situation. I looked at it many times in 2010 (there was one copy in the clearance section of Borders in Schaumburg for months), but it never seemed like anything I wanted to read. Maybe I was tricked into picking it up over and over by the Beatle-esque title. Anyway, last month I saw it at Half Price Books for $2, flipped through it, and suddenly it seemed very relevant. The experience reminded me of the Tom Waits song "San Diego Serenade" which includes the line "I never heard the melody until I needed the song." You don't notice something until you really need it.

Loyal readers may recall that I read The Secret Lives of Hoarders by Matt Paxton six months ago. Out of nearly 120 books I've read this year, that is the one I would describe as "life-changing." I have devoted many hours and many garbage bags to the task of decluttering our house this year. But it's hard to stay committed and enthusiastic about a project for a long time, especially one so daunting and far-reaching. When I started reading It's All Too Much a few weeks ago, I hadn't made noticeable progress in six weeks. This book turned out to be the kick in the butt I needed to get back to work. I've been focusing on the attic since we're having some work done there soon, and I've been emptying out box after box of stuff, compacting nine boxes of junk into two boxes of things worth keeping.

While The Secret Lives of Hoarders is more of a "case study" book, It's All Too Much is more of a "how-to" guide. There is a certain stigma attached to hoarding, but this book seems oriented toward milder cases--"people with too much stuff" rather than "people with a debilitating mental illness." Walsh leads the reader through the decluttering process room by room, and then he offers advice to maintain balance in the home. My wife and I both need to change our  behavior if we are going to successfully manage this house.

Walsh stresses that the stuff isn't the real problem. There are almost always underlying emotional or psychological issues involved (though they may not be as severe as those of "hoarders"). I'm a little uneasy because I can't identify what those issues are in our case. I found something unsettling in one of the boxes in the attic, though: file folders for my business, ending in early 1998 when I moved out of my condo and eventually into our house (after a layover of a few months at my then-fiancĂ©e's apartment). There it was, proof that at one time I was extremely well-organized. My business records from 1998 to the present, on the other hand, were in piles and boxes. What happened? Did I just get lazy? I guess that's something I need to figure out in 2013.

He also believes that removing the clutter from your home can lead to a better life in all areas. It's as if you can't see how to improve your relationships, your career, or your body until you get the clutter out of the way.

Paxton's book was a great inspiration to me, but It's All Too Much is a more practical, tactical guide to dealing with clutter. I'd have a hard time recommending one over the other. If you're dealing with hoarding and/or clutter, you'll probably benefit from both.

Year-End Follow-Through

Finally, I can say there's something good about the I.R.S. If not for their deadlines, I'd have bags and boxes full of former clutter indefinitely. With December 31 rapidly approaching, I'm trying to get stuff delivered to the appropriate charities.

Today my wife helped me out. She was going to volunteer at Chicago Animal Care & Control, which is just a few blocks away from Working Bikes. I loaded the car with one old bike, one box, three big bags, and a couple of tires. I had been resisting the drive to the other side of town for months. She stopped by there, dropped off the stuff, and got a donation receipt. I figure it's about $400 worth including lots of new or gently used parts (notably suspension seatposts, saddles, and fenders) and assorted bags (not the Arkels). I know my Cannondale hybrid should have gone, too, but I'm not quite ready to part with it yet.

Next I have to finish boxing up and documenting a bunch of clothes and stuff for the Salvation Army or Goodwill. I need to drop off at least one carload by December 31.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Most Popular Christmas Gift

Based on my observations of drivers today, the most popular Christmas gift this year was lobotomies.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Have a CTA Holiday!

Today I got to ride for the first time in one of those new CTA traincars where all the seats face inward (they've been around for a while, but I've been lucky). It's like someone wondered "Hmm, how could we make public transportation more awkward and uncomfortable?"

They claim these new cars are better because they can accommodate more standees. But if their only objective is to increase capacity, why not just stack us in boxcars? Think of all that wasted space between riders' heads and the ceiling!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Appropriate Find

Going through the attic today, I found a Sammy Sosa doll. It was covered with dirt and mouse turds. That's pretty much how most Cubs fans feel about their former hero these days.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Media Fear Mongering

As most people around Chicago probably already know, two bank robbers escaped yesterday from the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago*. The triangular building with narrow slits for windows** should be familiar to anyone who has visited the Skydeck observation level of the Sears/Willis Tower.

One of the robbers is likely to have over $500,000 stashed somewhere***, so the escapees are probably planning to use that cash. They were sighted in Tinley Park, a southwest suburb where the guy with the cash lived. Here's where the fear mongering starts:
In the wake of the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Tinley Park officials notified local schools and dispatched police officers to school buildings closest to where the search was under way.
I know if I escaped from a prison and had $500K stashed somewhere, the first thing I'd do is go shoot up a school. Sometimes I think modern Americans are addicted to fear and paranoia. Anytime something bad happens, we remind ourselves of it over and over. It doesn't take a psychology degree to recognize how mentally unhealthy this is.

Truthfully, notifying the schools and sending officers there is probably a standard precautionary measure anyway. But if that is the case, the reporters had no business invoking "the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn." The two situations have nothing in common.

* The obvious question is Why would the feds put a prison right in the middle of the nation's biggest transportation hub? Logically it's for the feds' convenience when trying people at the federal courthouse, though it also houses inmates serving short sentences. At least it's hard to break out, this being the second successful escape since it opened in 1975.

** The Tribune reporters describe it as hulking, which is absolutely the wrong word for the building unless maybe you're standing in the middle of the block with your nose six inches from the wall. If I were architect Harry Weese and still alive, I'd sue the bastards for defaming my design.

*** The Tribune article misses the mark here as well. It says
Banks could have as much as $500,000 stashed away, according to testimony at his trial. He stole a combined $589,000 in two robberies, but only about $80,000 had been recovered or accounted for through Banks' purchases, prosecutors said. 
The FBI called Banks one of the most prolific bank robbers in Chicago history, saying at the time of his arrest in 2008 that he was suspected in about 20 heists. However, he was charged in only two bank robberies and two attempted holdups. A jury convicted him on all counts last week.
It sounds to me like Banks could have a whole lot more than $500K depending on whether he did any of the 18 other robberies. The reporters are assuming that just because he wasn't charged, he didn't commit any of them. I know reporters use "innocent until proven guilty" language, but I believe this is a different context.

Monday, December 17, 2012

BC2012: As Good as Gold by Kathryn Bertine

I first saw this book at Borders in Wilmette, but I didn't want to pay the hardcover price. I looked for it throughout the bankruptcy sales last year, but I never saw it (apparently it sold out when the discounts were still only 20-40%). I finally came across an used copy at Barnes & Noble in Minnesota for only $6 last October. I was going to read it around the time of the Olympics this year, but my wife took it (and didn't read it). Last week I took it back.

Some ESPN editors were wondering how difficult it really is to make it into the Olympics so they made Bertine, a professional triathlete and writer, an offer she couldn't refuse: they covered her expenses for two years as she chased the dream of qualifying for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and wrote about it online, culminating in this book.

Bertine begins by trying a variety of sports. Though she is a triathlete, she is better suited to Ironmans, so she can't race competitively in the much shorter Olympic triathlon event. She attempts obscure (particularly in America) sports like pentathlon, team handball, and race walking. She discovers those sports require skills she doesn't have. Part of the problem is her age--a national team may be willing to invest in developing a gifted young athlete, but it's pretty much too late for someone over 30 to master the techniques and be competitive at an international level.

After checking out luge (it's a winter event, of course, but USA Luge challenges her after her ESPN editors belittle the sport) and rowing (which she had done successfully in college), she tries to leverage her triathlon skills in open water swimming and track cycling. Though those events aren't right for her, she learns that she might have an outside shot as a road cyclist. Thus begins her quest to go from Category 4 to the Olympics in too little time. She admirably advances to Category 2 within months so she can race the US championships, but she places in the middle of the field in both the time trial and road race.

Her US Olympic hopes snuffed out, she takes the advice of her ESPN editors and goes shopping for another country where she can get dual citizenship and compete. This draws harsh criticism from some people (including Amazon reviewers), and Bertine has her own misgivings about it, but she ultimately proceeds in the best way possible. Since many smaller nations don't have women's cycling programs, she commits to helping them get started in exchange for being able to compete under their flag. The Caribbean island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis accepts her offer, but time becomes her most formidable enemy.

I enjoyed reading As Good as Gold. Bertine gets a chance to pursue her dream, and she has the commitment and determination to overcome many obstacles. She introduces readers to sports that don't get much attention (can you name the five events in the modern pentathlon?) before finally settling into one that I am familiar with. I could have done without a few of her between-chapter "water breaks", but overall this book is a pleasing mixture of entertainment and inspiration.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

BC2012: Just How Stupid Are We?: Facing the Truth about the American Voter by Rick Shenkman

I'm not sure why I bought this book. I suppose I agreed with its premise, or maybe I recognized the author from another book of his that I enjoyed, Legends, Lies & Cherished Myths of American History. I don't know why I chose to read it now either. I usually have a handful of books in a sort of "on deck circle" that I select from, plus another dozen or two that bubble up to the tops of my unread stacks (I sort through and prioritize my unread books regularly, even though it's a complete waste of time). This book was buried in the middle of a pile, and I just pulled it out on a whim and started reading.

This isn't a bad book, but it didn't really excite me. Like I said, I already agreed with its premise, and that tends to make for so-so reading. There are some good anecdotes, such as the one about Lesley Stahl reporting on how Reagan posed with people who were being hurt by his policies, giving the false impression that he was on their side. Someone from the Reagan White House called, but instead of complaining, they said they appreciated all the great images Stahl showed during her story, the bottom line being that people would remember only those positive images, not the negative words Stahl had said while showing them.

One thing I disagree with is Shenkman's assertion that local television news doesn't cover politics. That may be true for his experience in Seattle, but I can't imagine any Chicagoan would agree with that. Maybe we're just lucky, though I would guess that our politics are also more interesting.* I do agree that local TV news doesn't really give a clear picture of what has happened in the local community that day, but in Chicago's case the problem is skewed news values rather than the omission of political coverage. I still blame TV news for the negative impression I had of Chicago while growing up in the suburbs (i.e., a place where poor people live and everybody gets killed).

If you need convincing that American voters are flawed in many ways, this book will probably do the trick. But if you're a cynical bastard like me who is already fairly certain of being surrounded by idiots, you can probably pass on this one.

* Come on, just last month we reelected a state representative who had been indicted on federal bribery charges. You couldn't make up more interesting political news than that.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Difficult Men

Are that many guys really such assholes, or does every woman who has a close relationship with an asshole write a book? (Or a blog?) It seems like so many of these guys do things I wouldn't even think of, much less do, and I have a pretty twisted imagination (I've always felt that I should get some sort of credit for all the awful plans I think up but don't carry out).

Thursday, December 13, 2012

BC2012: Barack Like Me: The Chocolate-Covered Truth by David Alan Grier

This book was a pleasant surprise courtesy of the Borders bankruptcy sale. I had never heard of Grier—apparently I should know him from In Living Color or Dancing with the Stars, but I didn't watch either show—but I saw this book at the Oak Brook store as a $4.99 remainder when Humor was reduced 80 or 90%. It looked like it might be funny, so it was worth risking less than a dollar on it.

I was buzzed on countless refills of Coca-Cola on Monday night so I read the entire book out loud to my wife from 9 PM to 2:30 AM (with one bathroom break).

I expected this book to be funny, but I was surprised how choked up I got reading it (literally since I was reading aloud). Grier weaves his own story with the story of Barack Obama's ascent to the presidency, particularly his attendance at Obama's inauguration. Millions of blacks could tell a similar story, but Grier does it pretty well (with help from co-writer Alan Eisenstock) without over-dramatizing it.

Grier had a middle class upbringing in Detroit. His stories are mostly typical adolescent experiences, aside from the time he and a friend tried to join the Black Panthers. The stories from his professional life are a little weaker, although I liked his discussion with Lawrence Taylor about pounding on the DWTS judges. The Preface about being in the process of divorcing his wife (who appears many times in the book) kind of casts a pall over everything; I wish he had put that info in an Afterword instead.

My wife and I both enjoyed this book. Obviously it was good enough to hold our attention for more than five hours in a row, and it was also easier to read out loud than most books.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

BC2012: How to be a Person

This book caught my eye at the Book Cellar when I saw Dan Savage's name on the cover. Best known for his long-running "Savage Love" sex advice column, he is also editorial director of The Stranger, a Seattle alternative weekly newspaper. How to be a Person, which Savage co-authored with three others, is ambitiously subtitled "The Stranger's Guide to College, Sex, Intoxicants, Tacos and Life Itself", and it contains advice compiled from the paper's annual college issue.

I guess the best way to sum up How to be a Person is that it's a compilation of information from an alternative weekly newspaper. I know I wrote that in the previous paragraph, but it really does describe the quality and value of the book well. There are many helpful items, but there is also a lot of fluff. Sometimes it's pretty funny but other times it falls flat. Doesn't that describe the writing one finds in most alternative weekly newspapers?

I read this book aloud to my wife mainly because we both enjoy "Savage Love", a collegian-targeted edition of which takes up about one fifth of the book. We were mostly looking for entertainment rather than advice, which is good because I think How to be a Person offers more of the former. Overall I'd rate it just okay. If I knew someone going into college, I could probably find a better book for him or her.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Areas of Inexpertise

I was about to give a friend some advice about how to balance career and children. Then I remembered that I have neither.

BC2012: The Rock Snob*s Dictionary by David Kamp and Steven Daly

I bought this when it came out seven years ago, but I only made it to the letter E. I recently unearthed it while cleaning the bedroom, and I decided to start over at the beginning.

Do you have a friend who says Macca instead of "Paul McCartney"? Does your friend rave about groups like Big Star and Badfinger and use words like seminal? If so, you need this "Essential Lexicon of Rockological Knowledge" to figure out what the heck he/she (most likely he, in my experience) is talking about.

This book covers all the obscure-but-lauded bands, specialized sub-genres, "lost classic" albums, misunderstood geniuses, and other elements of the rock snob's world. I particularly love the entries where the authors use the word in a sentence, usually a painfully pretentious and condescending one!

This is great stuff, especially for those looking to explore the dusty corners of rock history or trying to comprehend the perspective of rock critics (critics being the best-known of rock snobs--and of course Lester Bangs gets an entry in this book).

BC2012: Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians But Were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer

I read this aloud to my wife after purchasing it at the Book Cellar last month.

Treuer answers all sorts of common questions about Columbus, Thanksgiving, schools, casinos, AIM, taxes, Leonard Peltier, and anything else you can think of about native American life past and present. He clearly has an underlying agenda, which is to promote the preservation of tribal culture and language (not that that's a bad thing). That is his solution for a number of problems in modern Indian life. I don't know enough to say whether he's right.

Treuer is an Ojibwe from Minnesota, and that made this book especially interesting to me. Although I had seen the reservations on maps, this is the first time I've ever read anything about Minnesota tribes. Plus it is easier for me to identify with the Upper Midwest versus the Southwest and West. There are also many native Americans here in Chicago--they even have a cultural center just two miles from my home--but I don't know anything about them.

Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians But Were Afraid to Ask is a very informative book that largely delivers on its promise. The only caveat, as Treuer notes, is that many of the responses in this book are the opinions of one Indian, and he does not pretend to speak for all the native peoples of North America or even for his own tribe. In fact, he encourages the reader to engage with other Indians to learn different perspectives. This book is a great starting point for understanding.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Alcohol and Stairs

Has anyone else out there experienced unexpected difficulty climbing stairs after drinking? I'm not talking about being too drunk to navigate the steps. I mean my legs feel dead, and climbing stairs is noticeably harder than it should be. Walking doesn't feel any different, just going up stairs. CTA train station stairs are the worst, but then those concrete and/or steel steps never feel that great.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

The $65 Nap

My wife's work Christmas party was tonight. She wasn't planning to go, mainly because $65 per ticket seemed exorbitant. That's why I stopped going years ago--$130 per couple is a pretty expensive night out. But around 4:30 this afternoon she said she might go just to get a break from me. She's been on vacation for two weeks, so we've been seeing a lot of each other, maybe too much (we've established our limit as 18.5 days).

Then I went in the bedroom to read a book, and as often happens, I fell asleep. I awoke at 8 PM to find that my wife had not gone to the party. So that means taking a nap this evening saved us $65!

Saturday, December 08, 2012

The Winner is Obvious

I've done a bit of lurking at Goodreads this year, trying to decide whether I want to actually participate. In a recent e-mail, they announced the Goodreads Choice Awards for 2012 as voted by site users. I had to laugh when I saw the winner for Best Nonfiction 2012.

Drumroll please... By a sizable margin, the winner for Best Nonfiction 2012 as selected by a community of avid book readers is... Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I should have seen that coming.

Clean Slate

Imagine what it would be like to wipe your brain clean of all the tired, overplayed songs on classic rock radio. Wouldn't it be awesome to hear all those songs for the very first time again?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

How I Regret Your Mother

I used to look forward to How I Met Your Mother every week. Unfortunately, the show has pretty much run its course. The writers seem to be out of ideas, falling back on sitcom cliches more and more. I may be forgetting something, but as far as I can recall, there hasn't been a really great episode of this show since the ones following Marshall's dad's death. After seven years, I've gone from wondering How will it end? to pleading When will it end? Still I'm determined to see it through even though, aside from the titular mystery, the only unresolved plot line I'm remotely concerned about anymore is whether Lily's repeatedly expressed desire to make out with Robin will go unrequited.

I read a few months ago that all of the principal actors' contracts expire at the end of this season. That has given me some hope that the end is coming soon, and all will be revealed. I don't know if I can sit through another season of recycled or ever-more-ridiculous plots. With that hope comes conjecture. Here are some of my ideas for how the show will end:
  • Anyone familiar with the show would not be surprised if the kids found a way to bribe or trick one of their "uncles" or "aunts" into wrapping up the story approximately ten years before rambling dad Ted would.
  • At the beginning of the final episode, future Ted actor Bob Saget says, "Kids, enough of this crap. Let me tell you another story..." and launches into a 22-minute rendition of "The Aristocrats."
  • "Kids, back in 2012 there were lots of ads on the Internet for eastern European women wanting to meet American men. Let me tell you how I ordered your mother..."
  • "Kids, the truth is... I never met your mother. You're adopted."
  • "Kids, back in 2012 we all thought the world was going to end on December 21 because of some Mayan calendar b.s. So on December 20, I decided to bang every sentient, consenting female I could find. And one of them was your mother. Just don't tell her she was number five."
Any other ideas?

Saturday, December 01, 2012

November - BC2012 and Other Goals

November was a pretty good month for some goals, but I lost track of others. There is a saying that if you focus on everything, you focus on nothing. It has become clear that 10 goals is too many to work on consistently. That's a lesson learned for next year. I will happily drop a few goals I've accomplished, and I will shed a few more that are less important and/or harder to quantify. I haven't decided what to do regarding books, but in general it has worked out well for me this year, both pushing me to read more and forcing me to be more judicious about my purchases. But enough about 2013; I still have one more month to go in 2012.

1. Book Challenge 2012: I read 13 books in November, more than twice as many as in October. That puts my total well beyond the number I read in 2009, and I still have another month to go. Alas, I also bought a lot of books so I won't "win" by much. November totals: 13 books finished, 12 acquired. Overall totals: 112 books finished, 110 books acquired.

2. Cut down on e-mail: I finally bit the bullet and cancelled daily subscriptions to AdAge, YouSwoop, Eversave, Google Offers, and most LivingSocial lists. I bought a 2013 Entertainment Book that I will mine for savings in lieu of daily deals sites. I'm still on the fence about a couple of Yahoo Groups that I read in digest form.

3. Drive less: This wasn't one of my best months. I drove a lot one weekend when my wife was out of town, so I guess that means I can't be trusted without supervision.

4. Physical activity: Besides walking to Lincoln Square to shop once or twice a week, I haven't been doing much. I have to straighten out a couple of other issues before I can properly address this.

5. Drink more: I finished off the UV pink lemonade vodka and a bottle of Pinnacle plain vodka. The UV cake vodka is almost gone, and the Sobieski plain vodka is half finished. By the end of the year, I should have only one bottle left of the six vodkas I got with a Groupon deal last December. Too bad the "drink more water" part of this goal hasn't worked out as well as the "drink more booze" part has.

6. Dine and shop locally: Costello's and Rockwell's have had some great specials this month so I've been to both a lot. I also bought four books at the Book Cellar (one is a gift) to make up for not buying any in October, and I shopped at Gene's Sausage Shop as well. Unfortunately, I haven't had much luck finding Christmas gifts locally.

7. Clean and declutter: Not much progress lately, though I keep chipping away at the clutter in the kitchen and the dining room. I still need to take a carload to Goodwill plus several bags of stuff to Working Bikes.

8. Enhance and expand my web presence: I finally ordered and received my new website development and management software, but I probably won't do anything with it until 2013.

9. Figure out my professional future: This one is officially resolved: I'm a homemaker.

10. Floss regularly: This one is officially resolved as well: eight months without missing a day.