Black Money

An exquisitely crafted mystery, my favorite of the Lew Archer variety. Each chapter was a delicious morsel.
Quick synopsis: Archer’s hired by the young, 3rd generationly rich Peter, to find out who Ginny Fablon’s pseudo French lover Martel was. (He was Panamanian). Taps, the French teacher, and his wife who has a crush on Archer; the ladies at the country club, the receptionist at the club. An unknown murderer kills Ginny’s dad first (blamed as suicide: dead body washed up on shore, death by drowning, and body chewed up by sharks), then 7 years later kills her mom and husband (Martel).

Continue reading “Black Money”

Why Girls Are Weird

I devoured this book on my flight home to SF from ATL. I laughed, I cried, truthfully. The rawness of her father’s death stung me; as Anna arrives hours late to the hospital and finds her dad died while she was flying there, she feels a rustling and says her goodbyes to her father’s spirit. As for laughing, I admit to being unable to control my outbursts, meaning people around me thought I found Pirates of the Carribean (our inflight movie) hilarious in all the wrong places. Tiny wooden hand? I’m laughing now as I remember this section.
{off topic:}
I stumbled onto pamie.com last year and spent a day reading through the archives, doubled over with laughter. I’d never written a fan email to a website prior to pamie, and she responded kindly, just like the book. After joining her mailinglist, I found myself driving 6 hours south to LA to see her play “Call Us Crazy: The Anne Heche Monologues”. It was worth the drive and fighting LA traffic. Quick summary: a troupe of actors re-enacting Anne Heche’s autobiographical “Call Me Crazy”.
Scott Thompson was slated to guest star in the Valentine’s Day show, but had to cancel at the last minute after Touched by an Angel picked him up for two shows. Instead, we were treated to Edie McClurg (Mrs. Poole of Valerie, or Mrs. Beeker of 7th heaven fame). Thirteen other actors rounded out the cast. Each performed her reading of Call Us Crazy in a unique way, be it belting out a song about Mexican Lady Hands (Anne’s topless Fresno ecstacy trip was alleviated by a Mexican lady who took her in) or simply reading out the Table of Contents with special emphasis (“Love SLASH Other things”). Anne certainly set herself up for mockery with this book. I need to read it again to freshen my mind to the enormity of the humor. I think when I first read it I skimmed most to plow through the inanity. Pamie took the humor and made it bloom onstage. Bravo, Pamie!
{/off topic}
After finishing WGAW, I took out a pen and dropped some words of my own on paper for the first time in ages. I’m dying to post the tiny wooden hand story in our reprints section, but gotta ask Pamie’s permission first. Overall, I loved the book; not great literature, but a worthy addition to any library.

Continue reading “Why Girls Are Weird”

The South Beach Diet

It was a little strange finally reading this book a few months after beginning the South Beach Diet. I got most of my information on the web on how to cut bad carbs out of my diet and go through the 3 phases. The wait list at the library finally brought this book to me, so I skimmed through and solidified some of the points that have been incorporated in my diet since late September. I was able to lose 6 lbs. during Phase 1, and have been keeping a steady weight since then, drinking wine & whiskey (but no beer), and dropping a lot of carbs from my intake. I also dropped caffeine from my diet, and am feeling healthier. Lately, I’ve been pretty bad, making full-on lasagna & chocolate souffles, but my beer belly is still much smaller than before.

Continue reading “The South Beach Diet”

Cold Beer and Crocodiles

An expat journalist takes it upon himself to explore his adopted continent by bicycle. Through dust and wind and storms he trudges, dropping tales of chance meetings along the way. From Sydney, up the Gold Coast to Brisbane, across to Darwin, through the Kimberley to Broome (great beach town), around to Perth, through the Nullarbour Plain to Adelaide and Melbourne. Even a jaunt over to Tasmania, then circling back to Sydney. Sleeping outdoors or in roadside hostels, picking fruit, shearing sheep, conserving water for the desolate 100 mile stretches of 120 degree heat, cycling through the flu and road rash, meeting kind and unkind people along the way.
Quick read of an adventure story-sort.

Continue reading “Cold Beer and Crocodiles”

Moneyball

I could read this book all over again, starting tonight, when I just finished it. An insightful look into Billy Beane’s madness with the Oakland A’s. Bill James’ theory of baseball, taking luck out of the pitching stats equation (Voros McCracken). Scott Hatteburg’s lack of holes and incredible plate discipline, Chad Bradford’s unhittable underhand pitching. The tension between the front office and Art Howe, tension over allowing Ray Durham to steal bases (unnecessary risk which doesn’t lead to much of a reward). The supremacy of on base percentage and the rise of OPS. The valuing of ‘defective’ players by the A’s in order to get bargains. The 20 game winning streak of 2002. The insight into the Rincon trade, Billy playing other owners off each other. The future of baseball shaping up to include more teams that model themselves on the A’s strategy of more with less money (BoSox & Blue Jays). Most of all, the force of Billy Beane.
I want to read more books like this.

Continue reading “Moneyball”

Samuel Pepys

Thankfully, Claire Tomalin translates Pepys’ shorthand into distinct words for us and provides a glimpse into life in the 1660’s. Pepys public speaking training as a child helped him in his career; he would mock the king for his inability to speak publicly. Had to skim the last few chapters of post-diary section. Pepys recorded the dialog of his life, including “wind-fucker” for someone who pissed off his friend.

http://www.pepysdiary.com/

Continue reading “Samuel Pepys”

One Up on Wall Street

Yeah, I never thought I’d be reading books about the stock market, much less admitting this publicly. Yet here I am, shouting “Hooray for Peter Lynch” from the rooftop of my SF flat. If you’re thinking about investing, read this book. If you already are investing and feel slightly clueless about your actions, read this book. If you’re confident in your abilities as an investor, read this book. Nothing dry and boring in this classic; the tone is friendly, engaging, and extremely readable.
Notes:
Individual investors have advantage over Wall St. b/c they can buy companies they see in their daily lives as up-and-comers. (i.e. The Limited clothing store circa 1982)
Final Checklist
Stocks in General
– P/E ratio: high or low for this company, compare it to similar cos in same industry
– % institutional ownership: lower the better
– are insiders buying? is company buying back own shares? good sign
– record of earnings growth to date, are earnings sporadic or consistent?
– strong balance sheet (debt to equity ratio)
– cash position

Continue reading “One Up on Wall Street”

21 dog years

A fluffy commentary on dot com grunt work. Since I am still in the midst of this dot com rush, I would expect there to be more details I could identify with. But Amazon.com appears very different from the .com I’ve slaved for the last 3 years. They build their desks out of doors, man. Wow.
Memorable parts: the sharing of desk space in the CS arena. The 12 hour shifts that would allow others to use ‘your’ desk area for their shift. The 2 hour delivery of items you ordered from the Amazon website. Talking the talk and getting out of CS and into Biz Dev. Imploding the Kingdome as a metaphor for the economic implosion.
Not recommended.

Continue reading “21 dog years”

1421

Aren’t we lucky that Menzies is confident in his ability to reconstruct 400 year old history based solely on his ability to read old maps? I read 150 pages of this crap then skimmed the rest, looking at the maps and photo inserts. Due to its blahness, I won’t bother to come up with original comments, but leave criticism in the hands of the experts:
From Publisher’s Weekly:
“The amateur historian’s lightly footnoted, heavily speculative re-creation of little-known voyages made by Chinese ships in the early 1400s goes far beyond what most experts in and outside of China are willing to assert and will surely set tongues wagging. According to Menzies’s brazen but dull account of the Middle Kingdom’s exploits at sea, Magellan, Dias, da Gama, Cabral and Cook only “discovered” lands the Chinese had already visited, and they sailed with maps drawn from Chinese charts. Menzies alleges that the Chinese not only discovered America, but also established colonies here long before Columbus set out to sea. Because China burned the records of its historic expeditions led by Zheng He, the famed eunuch admiral and the focus of this account, Menzies is forced to defend his argument by compiling a tedious package of circumstantial evidence that ranges from reasonable to ridiculous. While the book does contain some compelling claims-for example, that the Chinese were able to calculate longitude long before Western explorers-drawn from Menzies’s experiences at sea, his overall credibility is undermined by dubious research methods. In just one instance, when confounded by the derivation of cryptic words on a Venetian map, Menzies first consults an expert at crossword puzzles rather than an etymologist. Such an approach to scholarship, along with a promise of more proof to come in the paperback edition, casts a shadow of doubt over Menzies’s discoveries.”
In case you want more, Gavin’s set up a website.

Continue reading “1421”

The Devil in the White City

Daniel Burnham’s extraordinary effort to build the White City for the Columbian Exposition, Chicago’s answer to the Parisian First World’s Fair. H. H. Holmes (nee Herman Mudgett) and his murder castle, luring single young women to their deaths by chloroform and gas. The Chicago fair of 1893 brought hordes of people to the city, keeping the Chicago police too busy to notice the disappearance of the women.
Larson does a good job weaving the Holmes story in between the tale of the building of the Fair. Olmstead’s landscaping dreams, Walt Disney’s father working as a carpenter for the fair (and his stories no doubt influencing Walt’s later Dreamword of Disney), the first elevator unveiled, the Ferris wheel’s introduction to society.
Average wordsmithing keeps this book off my recommended list, but it is intriguing at times. To think, my high-school paper on HH Holmes and his murderous ways broached this subject 10 years ago.

Continue reading “The Devil in the White City”