Review: Bleachers

After Rake left they named it after him. Neely was gone by then, of course, long gone with no plans to return. Why he was returning now wasn’t completely clear, but deep in his soul he’d always known this day would come, the day somewhere out there in the future when he was called back. He’d always known that Rake would eventually die, and of course there would be a funeral with hundreds of former players packed around the casket, all wearing their Spartan green, all mourning the loss of a legend they loved and hate.

Over the course of the last few years I’ve come to the realization that I mostly don’t review fiction titles. They rarely stick with me in the way non-fiction titles do. However, this one is one of the few exceptions.

One of John Grisham’s non “Southern law” titles, Bleachers (like Calico Joe) is set in the world of sports. Unlike all or mostly all of his titles, it wasn’t clear whether this was set in the south. If not for his multiple Packers’ references, I’d have assumed it was.

Neely Crenshaw, all American everything. A promising football career cut short by an injury in college. Eddie Rake, local hero football coach. Hero to everyone but Neely Crenshaw, yet it’s the news of Rake’s impending death that brings Crenshaw back to Messina for the first time in 15 years.

Paul. Nat. Rabbit. The Screamer. Silo. Hubcap. Jesse.<

Small town heroes. Small town issues.

In light of the news of the last few years, it’s impossible not to see Joe Paterno in Eddie Rake. Due to the Sandusky scandal taking place during the time that Paterno’s health failed vs.the time that has passed since Rake caused Scotty Reardon’s death, time hadn’t healed as many wounds. That mostly happened this year with the NCAA restoring “Joe Pa”‘s wins. State College wasn’t small town Messina, but it was the kind of school Rake might want to send his boys too.

Rake’s Boys. They came home for him,they listened to a broadcast of the ’87 Championship Game while waiting for the news. Rabbit maintains Rake Field and lights serve as a vigil. They’ll always be Rake’s Boys and it will always be Rake Field. I think the same will ultimately be true of Joe Paterno in Penn State.

A quick, one day read that served as a nice change up between reads. Some authors can’t diversify from their primary topic (thinking Patterson and romance), but Grisham handles sports well.

It wasn’t my original “B” book, but it work and it’s title #7 in the 2015 Alphabet Challenge. 7 books in January is not bad at all.

Steven A. Shaw vs. Food

This originally started as a review of his first book Turning the Tables, which I realized two-thirds of the way in that I had indeed read it. My LibraryThing confirmed it.  Oh well, it was still a good and quick re-read and I needed the “T” for the challenge. And then I read Asian Dining Rules in two days after and decided to combine the two.

As I noted from re-reading my review, the book was dated in 2010 and is even more so now. Neither being “the Internet food guy” nor experiencing high end dining is that unique. The Time Warner Center isn’t new and the “famous” chefs have lost media ground to the latest crop of “famous” chefs due to the growth of Food Network and its cousins. In fact, some of Shaw’s subjects and favorites are no more:

  • Gray Kunz is back in exile ala his time after Lespinasse with the closing of Cafe Gray (discussed in the book) and Grayz, which followed
  • His eagerly anticipated Time Warner restaurants struggled
  • Tabla was a victim of the recession
  • Starwich closed following a bankruptcy

In fact, Shaw himself is gone. He passed away in April 2014 and was mourned by some of those he wrote of in Turning the Table.

While some of that was exacerbated by the recession of 2007-10, some also has to do with NYC’s changing dining culture. Shaw’s eGullet lives on despite a state of the 90s web design, but the internet has drastically changed food writing just as technology changed food availability.

A central tenet of both of his books (2005, 2008) discussed the theory that each restaurant is two: one for the public and the other for the regulars. And I agree with him that  “There are few things more comforting in life than hearing a waiter say, “The usual?”” but I think he overestimates the wow factor of that now. 

I enjoy Shaw’s writing style, he feels like someone I would have enjoyed having a meal with even though I’m not a fine dining person.


Asian Dining Rules  was written three years after Table and as with his previous one, it’s dedicated to getting an inside view. While its chapter on Japan was a nice complement to my recent sushi reading, I think the book came from a point of Mr. Know it All. Some of what he hated in Zagat (which formed a chapter of his book, nearly verbatim) came through in his analysis of the restaurants. Ditto with his dislike of critics.

That said, he added some additional info to that which is typically known of “ethnic” food. In fact, he has some interesting thoughts on what American diners really mean when they say “ethnic”.

Indian restaurant owners have told me that, time and again, their non-Indian customers order mostly the same five dishes. Thai restaurants seem to sell more pad Thai than everything else put together; sushi restaurants serve up an alarming number of California rolls; and many Americans assume that Korean cuisine equals and is limited to Korean barbecue—if they’ve even had Korean cuisine.

That was true when he was researching the book and is, with broad generalizations, still true in 2015. With eGullet full steam by the time he wrote this, some of the chapters are available online in condensed versions, but this was still a good read with them well-edited together.

Some other funny moments/interesting takeaways:

  •  Just as Masa was in the news while he researched these two titles, it is again at the time of this reading with the opening of Kappo Masa. The latter of which has broken the Internet.
  • “Chances are, your friend who doesn’t eat Japanese food will at least enjoy tempura. When cooked properly, tempura is the lightest, least greasy fried food imaginable. Unfortunately, most tempura served in Japanese restaurants in North America isn’t particularly good.” Sadly still true.
  • I really enjoyed his insight on off the beaten path places like Indochine in North Carolina. Truly shows the impact of  immigrants, but his comments on the lack of Filipino restaurants are sad.

An enjoyable if light read. Shaw’s beloved Empire Szechwan is still there on the UWS. Maybe I should go in honor of him.

Review: Kid Me Not

Now, listen—if you put a baby in front of me, rest assured: that baby is gonna get cuddled, spoiled and adored. But even as I’m loving on that beautiful infant, I know in my heart: This is not my destiny. It never was

KID ME NOT: An anthology by child-free women of the ’60s now in their 60s grabbed me by the title and then further grabbed me by that intro from Elizabeth GIlbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame. In less than one day of reading time, it became my 3rd book of 2015 and “K” in the A to Z challenge. So far I’m not doing well with reading the planned books. Oh well.

I’m 35. I’ve been hearing about having children for 20 years and I’m sure I’ll be hearing about it for at least another ten years. I love being an aunt and a godmother because I can give them back. Oh, and I don’t do diapers. I really like that this short anthology was given context by not only the women’s own stories of their lives but also chapter introductions that set the historical context for the year(s) in which the women were writing.

Born in 1979 I have no context of a life without the birth control pill and my entire life, let alone my reproductive years, is in the post Roe vs. Wade era. While the free love of the 60s wasn’t my life, nor was the AIDS crisis of the early 1980s.  It’s almost as if the not quite Gen X, not quite Millennials live in an era of safe sex which, in the context of this book, made the question of whether to have children a different one. It’s a choice (mostly), not a social issue or political statement or fear of a communicable disease.

God forbid, I should grow up to be an old maid. Yet as an adult, my experiences as aunt to my brother’s three children, a junior high teacher, and a witness to the dubious behavior of most of my friends’ children, made me grateful for my freedom. I found little appealing in the prospect of making an 18-year commitment, as they had, to a life I regarded as tumultuous.

It’s not that my life is tumultuous, but this is what hits closest to my personal decision as to why I don’t want or have children. I can’t make a long term commitment to a relationship, a city or an apartment, I can’t imagine 18 years to another human being. Plenty of woman eager to be a mother? Me? I’ll take being an aunt.

And Kathleen who closed the book? Yeah, she’s me to a tee.

Old enough to know better, young enough to do it anyway

Review: The Story of Sushi

The author has no affiliation with the California Sushi Academy. He paid for all sushi consumed in the course of his research

This book made me crave sushi for the entire week that I was reading it. I’m a sushi fiend so this isn’t surprising, but it was a little odd when I was reading at 8 AM. This had been on my wish list for a long time. According to my Library Thing I got a copy in 2009, but I have no recollection of owning it. I know I didn’t read it. So I was happy to find a copy on Amazon for .99 and it also hits “Z” on the ABC Challenge.

As much as I enjoyed the info that I learned about sushi through Zoran, Kate, Marcos, Toshi and the others, I enjoyed the people. Although this was a work of documentary non-fiction, it read like a novel at times and the central figures were key. Toshi, the pioneer of American sushi; Kate the unsettled student; Zoran the teacher who is disappeared back to Australia midway through the semester; Takumi the former JPop singer.

Luckily for this sushi fiend, little beyond the author’s explanation of mold’s role in miso and sushi rice made me think twice about the food I devour. I fell in love with sushi at the tale end of my first stint in Japan but never really had a huge interest in its creation. I don’t think I’ve made sushi since a friend’s obon party in August… 2002! This book made me curious about some of the behind the scenes and probably made me a more educated consumer at the sushi bar.

Disease isn’t the only problem. Humans like to eat yellowtail, but yellowtail also like to eat yellowtail.

Of the author’s comments on fish that’s the one I loved the most. I’m picturing carnivorous yellowtail on the sushi bar. I really enjoyed the background on the rice as its status in the US is so different to its standing in Japan.

I’m glad to see the Toshi’s California Sushi Academy is still going (despite an awful website) and to “see” Kate and company on Corson’s site.

GoTheDist: 2015 week 1

I hate you Mother Nature. I’m probably not going to get 285K steps this month due to the polar vortices/Alberta clippers/whatever you want to call it. I’m OK with that because:

  • I’ve been to the gym 4x this year including 3x while sick and am en route to obliterating my bike goals
  • I’ll get as close to 285K as I can and make it up later in the warmer months
  • I brought lunch 4x this week. OK, that slightly contributed to steps fall off. I wasn’t walking to get lunch and it was too cold to go out just for a walk. But, yay not spending $9/day on lunch.
  • I’m onto my 3rd book. all of which have been non fiction.

A good start (minus the cold) to what will be a good year.

Review: 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived

On the one hand, I’m thrilled that I’m finished with one book and actually reviewing it less than two days  in to 2015. On the other hand, I’m tempted to call this book at least 91 people too long, although that’s probably not fair.
I once overheard  someone I work with say that a website designed by a committee is a camel. I think the same can be said for a book about a subjective matter written by this many people. The more I think about it, I think “influential” might be the wrong word. To me, influence means they inspire people to act like them? Did some have an impact? Yes. But does anyone actually want to *be* Godzilla?
The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived by Allan Lazar, Dan Karlan, Jeremy Salter. A library book I started eagerly on December 31, 2014 and I finished today at the gym. Normally when I’m adding time to a workout it means I’m hooked into the book and want to finish it. This time I just wanted to finish it.

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#GoTheDist: 2015 goals

And I ran out of room in that post…

2015 goals:

  • Steps: 3,400,000 steps
  • Miles Walked: 1,500
  • Miles Biked: 400

and some explanation:

  • I really wanted my steps goal to be 300,000/month but I’m really not sure that’s attainable in shorter months and don’t want to fall short of my goal. I actually think 3,500,000 might be achievable but not sure on the math so 3.4m it is. This works out to ~283K/month.
  • Miles walked: I like this number and I think it’s achievable. No wizardry
  • Bike: this seems to be in line with an increase over 2013 (335.83) where I had a reasonable year at the gym. In order to get gym reimbursement I need to go 100x/year (50/6 months) and I average between 4-5m when I go, so I think this is reasonable.

Now to set up my spreadsheet

#GoTheDist 2014: Complete

Despite starting 2015 with a day of complete sloth, I’m very proud of myself.

Totals for December:

  • 269,271 steps
  • 110.97 miles walked
  • 31.99 miles biked

Totals for Q4

  • 826,110 steps
  • 340.76 miles walked
  • 31.99 miles biked

Totals for 2014

  • 3,262,378 steps
  • 1355.08 miles walked
  • 200.09 miles biked

Nope, the bike didn’t get over 200 on purpose because if it had I would have gotten December (and therefore Q4) to 32. But it did start a good trend that I hope to continue and improve in 2015.

How did I do vis-a-vis my 2014 goals?

  • Meet or exceed my #GoTheDist goals. Done
  • Specifically, exceed my Q4 2013 GTD totals. Done
  • I’m not sure LoseIt’s 147 days is realistic, but 2014 is the last year I will start overweight. Not done. But I’m in a place where I’ve set steps to make this happen for 2015 so I’m OK with this.
  • Learn to cook. I’m already laughing at myself for this one, but I really wish I could. I think it would make some food choices better. This isn’t goin to happen, but as part of a general saving money effort, I’m going back to bringing lunch and may try to incorporate cooking.
  • Get back to a regular gym schedule. It sounds cliche, but I feel good when I go. So I need to GO. Not done. But I’m in a place where I’ve set steps to make this happen for 2015 so I’m OK with this. See below for more detail.
  • Relax. Keep doing what I did last year. It (mostly) worked and I’m on the right track. Done

So on to 2015

I’m really making it the year of me and want to be better about going to the gym. I have a new app (Runkeeper) and some non numeric goals.  But I also want to keep up walking. Decisions, decisions. While rereading posts here to find some reasonable gym/biking goals (see below) I remembered mini goals help me so back to that.

Some thoughts/mini goals:

  • The 3,262,378 steps is an average of nearly 275K steps per month. That’s amazing considering a few months where I really struggled. Mileage wise that works out to nearly 113 miles which is about what I figured. My personal goals were 1100 miles and 2.5m steps so I am more than thrilled with that.
    • My spreadsheet was a great in motivating me to walk more. So I’m doing it again in 2015
  • I want to finish C25K. I don’t think it will happen, but I want to try it again.
  • I want to hit my goal weight. I’ve finally set one to make that happen. Not sure yet if I’m going to stick with LoseIt or go back to Weight Watchers. My target date is December 31, 2015 but I think I might be able to hit it sooner.
  • Achievmint is great bribery.
  • Speaking of bribery and money, in addition to spending money at the gym and not going, I’m missing on the gym reimbursement from work so I’m going to the gym 100x this year.

On to 2015 goals….

2014 Year in Review: Bookworm Edition

I fully accept that I’ll never be as good as Liz at book reviews, but I want to do better in 2015 than I am in 2014 which is five finished reviews and 27/30 Tumblr drafts that were unfinished book reviews. So for 2015 I’m “stealing” Sally’s year end template and will keep that as a working draft.

In the mean time, here’s my look at 2014

Books read: 54

Unfinished books: 9

Currently reading: 7 (one truly active, three semi active, three that likely need to go to the dead letter file)

I’m thrilled with those and already looking forward to my 2015 challenge. Will I read 54 again? No. Will I complete the A-Z challenge and then some? I think so. One of my 2015 resolutions is more time reading and I look forward to that.

Some more thoughts:

  • In breaking it out as I did below, I realized two things:
    • I’m missing a few titles. Ill try to edit the post when I find them
    • My non fiction/fiction splits weren’t as bad as I feared. That said, I read too much crap
    • Those I didn’t finish had about the same genre splits, but some interesting reasons:


  • Against Football– that wasn’t a book, it was a poorly written and edited rant
  • All the Centurions – good stories, not a good writer. Got bored
  • Christmas Miscellany – nothing new here, got bored quickly despite reading in December
  • Happy Hour is for Amateurs – don’t remember
  • Inside the Dream Palace – tried to read too many about the Chelsea in too short a time.  Not a binge subject
  • The Social Employee – don’t remember
  • Wedding Babylon – don’t remember
  • Brooklyn Noir – don’t remember at all
  • Chasing the Dime – no idea as I love Connelly, but I tried this one 3x

On to those I did read, with notes in bold….

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mini goals met

Who says a  week of sloth at the beach isn’t a wonderful thing. Sometime during the week I:

  • destroyed my 2014 reading goal. At 52 as of today with one in the works and other likely to come. And then 7 unfinished. Good run in 2014.
  • Miles: beat my personal and #GoTheDist Q4 goals, My December #GoTheDist goal
  • Steps: On track for 250K and maybe even 275K steps.

Life is Good.