Book Review: The Road

The RoadThe Road by Cormac McCarthy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All I knew going into this book was that it was bleak. And indeed, it delivered on that characterization. Strangely enough, I generally hate these kind of books - very few characters, no names for them, very little punctuation, no chapters and not much of a plot - I get bored quick. This book, however, reads very quickly. The dialog is short and sweet - I mean, what the heck are you gonna' talk about when it's the end of the world? There are brief moments of recall and random reflections, but they appear on maybe every fiftieth page and they are not that deep. Practically nothing happens, but I did not get frustrated. I wasn't even upset that you don't find out what happened to the world. The intense gloom and quick pace of this book made it just right. Just what the doctor ordered for the winter.

If you want a quick ride through a post-apocalyptic nightmare, this book is for you. Bleak. It is definitely that.

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5 Insights Into Nonprofit Boards

My new job has me working with all levels of volunteers. While not earth-shattering, this infographic on volunteer boards still provides good insight on these groups.


On being a lady...at the ballpark...by yourself.

Each year I purchase a lot of baseball tickets. Like 42 games to be exact. Every year, I like to pick up a couple extra loner games. I get a single ticket and go do whatever the heck I want by myself. Tonight, for example, I decided to walk around the entire park, stopping only for beer, pizza or nachos. In general, these adventures are relatively harmless and some good me-time, but today something was off.

Some observations.
  • When you don't have a bud who has your attention, your listening drifts to those around you. Yikes. All day I thought I was surrounded by 16-year-old boys. It turned out, not once was I in the company of a minor. Just bozos. Maybe kids day isn't so bad after all.
  • When alone and a lady at the ballpark, direct eye contact is not suggested. I make eye contact with everyone. Everyone. This is mostly because people shy away from you when you make direct eye contact. I love that. However, there's a select handful of slow pokes that feel direct eye contact indicates an interest in interacting. Quite the opposite, but there you have it. Please, let me eat my nachos in peace. I don't want to have a conversation. I came to the game alone for a reason... it's me-time, dang it!
  • To me, there's not a bad seat in Comerica Park. Tonight, I used a ticket-exchange ticket and sat in the upper deck, to the right of home plate. So far, my exchange tickets have been very nice, like the first row in the upper deck. I love getting a different look at the park. Friends, let's talk about something. If you've never been to the 300s section, especially to the top, don't be a d-bag by uttering something like this: "Wow, I've never been this high before." Grow the hell up. No one is impressed that you have ventured your privileged ass up to where normal folks sit. Yippy flippin' skippy, you're too good for the upper deck. Stop being a jerk and have a seat so the people that showed up on time can watch the game without you in the way, yuppie.
  • Don't be the drunk person on the ground floor that can be clearly identified as drunk from the top of the stadium by others.
  • While I don't like Little Caesar's pizza in general, at the ballpark, it's pretty dang good. 
  • In general, I do like Garden Fresh Gourmet products, but the salsa they serve at Comerica tastes like it has added sugar in it. That's gross.
  • Those guys playing the bucket drums all around the perimeter of the park are annoying! People still give them money, though. You know, cause they play the buckets.
  • If you try, you can get a free parking space two or three blocks from the ballpark.
  • No matter what, people think you are weird when you take score. I met Noah today, a fellow score keep with 5th row seats in my section. I was his captive audience as he told me about what a bad manager Ausmus was. We also bagged on Avila together. That was nice. 
  • No matter what, I think people that feel scorekeepers are weird can shove off.
  • And finally, it doesn't matter the Tigers are in a pennant race. When a tragedy like the White Sux or Minnesota Twins come to town, the Tigers find a way to poo the bed. Not cool.


Book Review: Bossypants

BossypantsBossypants by Tina Fey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tina Fey's Bossypants is one of my favorite memoirs to date. It started slow and I didn't particularly enjoy the first few chapters, but once she started talking about her career, I couldn't put the book down. This book amazed me by how absolutely funny it was while covering pretty serious issues. How do you do that, Tina Fey? There are a lot of jokes, but I truly enjoy her perspective as a working woman and mom. She is quick to make fun of herself and it comes off quite genuine. She's also a good storyteller.

Fey definitely is my kind of feminist, pointing out some pretty plain hypocrisies that I never really noticed until she pointed them out. The best example of this was when she was crucified for playing Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. What can I say - I thought Fey was brilliant as Palin and the resemblance was simply uncanny. And before Fey, plenty of male SNL cast members made fun of plenty of politicians. Some were much, much more harsher than Fey's Palin impression and jokes. Yet, that campaign got pretty ugly and Fey described herself as becoming a lightening bolt. She caught some nasty stuff and she simply pointed out that it the same kind of comedy bit was was reacted to very differently when a male did it than when a female did it (think Chevy Chase playing a clumsy Gerald Ford, Will Ferrell playing a perfectly wonderful George W. Bush or Darryl Hammond nailing the smooth-talking Bill Clinton).

This book really spoke to my inner feminist in a way that I can relate to, though luckily I haven't experienced nearly the kind of crazy stuff she shared about showbiz. What I could relate to was the fact that many people have a very hard time why a woman makes work a top priority. People can't understand why woman wouldn't want to be a mommy, preferably a mommy of two or more. I realize there has to be a balance, but as Fey points out, when you love your job, you want to do it all the time. I consider myself very fortunate to working in the professions that I love. Fey made me feel okay about not wanting kids and focusing on my career. Yet I still loved hearing about the joy parenthood brought her. Fey is definitely a cool mom and not one of those obnoxities that demand all parents follow the same playbook or their kids will grow up inferior.

Pretty great book. I started reading it on September 11, a day I always reflect on and feel gloomy during. This was good to get my spirit up and it was great to finish with her message. Goodreads is a good tool and it's helped me get back into taking some notes. Even so, sometimes there's no time for notes. Sometimes you just gotta' read read read. Here's what I managed:
page 24 "Droopy brown eyes designed to confuse predators into thinking I'm just on the verge of sleep and they should come back tomorrow and eat me."

page 144 "We don't fucking care if you like it."

page 207 "(By the way, when Oprah Winfrey is suggesting you may have overextended yourself, you need to examine your f*cking life.)"

page 234 "I am not mean and Mrs. Palin is not fragile. To imply otherwise is a disservice to us both."

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Book Review: Life Is Meals: A Food Lover's Book of Days

Life Is Meals: A Food Lover's Book of DaysLife Is Meals: A Food Lover's Book of Days by James Salter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wish I could give this book a hundred and five stars. Cover to cover, it was one of my favorite books. First, you can't go wrong with the subject: food. The authors are married, adorably in love and very knowledgeable about meals. The book reads in short spurts, one or two passages for each day of the year. Some days cover history, others recipes and yet other personal anecdotes. Every day, every month, is a delight to read. It made me interested in wine for the first time in my life. The book also contains a thorough index and lovely illustrations.

This is a book that I would definitely want to have in my personal library. The only downside to this book is that I was constantly hungry. Even so, I found myself more inspired to explore, make and share food.

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Book Review: The Paris Wife

The Paris WifeThe Paris Wife by Paula McLain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Love stories aren't really my thing. Love stories that have a tragic ending are totally my thing. This book lands right in the middle of those two distinctions. This book was a fictional portrayal of Ernest Hemingway's first wife, Hadley. As she was depicted in this book, I really didn't love Hadley as the narrator and protagonist. At no point did I feel she was remarkable and therefor I found it hard to understand why someone like Hemingway would have have fallen so hard for her. Perhaps that was the author's intent? Yet, even though the love story wasn't really my thing and I felt Hadley was a bit of a lame-o jellyfish, I really liked this book.

The reading was easy; Paula McLain is a good writer. She really takes you on an amazing journey through the time of the Lost Generation and really got me interested in Hemingway as a person. Reading about Hemingway's struggle as a writer really hit home. After getting a peek at this struggle, I'd love to make Hemingway the next classic I read, specifically The Sun Also Rises. I also would be interested in reading a biography or memoir about him. Even though I am not interested in anything that he was - boxing, bullfighting, skiing, etc. - I was still very interested in the man. I think it'd be interesting to get into the head of someone that was so bold and arrogant. And obviously mental.

It was great reading about Paris, the Swiss Alps, the Riviera, and Pamploma. Life is short, so it's always such a treat when a book helps you see places in your imagination when you might not get to them in real life. The book really painted the picture of these locations well without going Lord-of-the-Rings overboard on the surroundings. This was really the first time I feel I got a good long look into the Lost Generation. I was having trouble wrapping my head around how the heck a new, struggling writer and his new, non-working wife could afford all this travel and vacation time. As I pondered this question, I realized that the answer was: have a bunch of rich buddies. Also, that it was a way, way different time. It's good to blast 90 years into the past.

This is the kind of book that makes me like fiction. It's a good story, told during an amazing time, with characters that revolve around writing. Even when I was reading something I didn't like or agree with (like all the unseemly relationships and arrangements that were rampant), I still was compelled to finish and was very happy that I did.

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Book Review: You Are Not So Smart

You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding YourselfYou Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself by David McRaney
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. It took a lot of psychological concepts and put them into understandable terminology without being painfully boring. The authors tone is a bit condescending and he lets his atheist flag fly, but the book is still solid. I'd recommend this book for anyone that thinks life is not fair, thinks they are special, believes in magical coincidence or conspiracy theories, watches Fox News, feels they have original thoughts, thinks they make rational decisions based on information or at all thinks that they are operating on something more than a high-powered monkey brain. Good stuff and the first time psychology hasn't bored me to tears.

My notes:

page 28 "Punditry is an industry built on confirmation bias."
page 38"If any of this seems too amazing to be coincidence, too odd to be random, too similar to be chance, you are not so smart."
page 39 "With meaning, you overlook randomness, but meaning is a human construction."
page 49 "The stupid monkey part of your brain wants to gobble up candy bars and go deeply into debt."
page 127 Chapter 23 - Groupthink My favorite chapter by the end of the first sentence.
page 193 "You learn quickly to avoid that which may harm you and seek out that which makes you happy, just like an amoeba."
page 213 The embodied cognition chapter talks about how we translate the physical world into words and then we make ourselves believe and make decisions on the words we manifest. This made me think about the TED talk about how designers need to design with all the senses in mind. This chapter supports that talk.

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The Art of FieldingThe Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this book well enough, but I thought the end was sort of lazy and unrealistic. Actually, very unrealistic now that I think back on it. Also, there were a couple character interactions that I felt really didn't contribute to the story and felt forced. However, I did actually like most of the characters and the slippery plot they were involved with. The dialogue was good and this book really had a good mix of humor and darkness - all the ingredients for a good baseball story.

The story was set in a Midwestern college town in Wisconsin, so it was definitely a setting I enjoyed. It was also a tale told in the modern era, something that I'm not accustomed to in my fiction baseball readings. There were tales of heroes, forbidden love, casual love and, of course, baseball. There's a trip to Nationals and then the ending, which as I've mentioned, I wasn't crazy about. I didn't get through this book quickly, but I probably should have. The reading was quick and the chapters were short. The book was good, but not as good as most of my other baseball reads.

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Red Onion Relish

Normally I don't post recipes, yet this recipe is one of the most delicious additions to my kitchen and it is also one of the simplest to make. This relish is great to put on nearly anything, but my favorite is adding it to salads as a dressing, scrambled eggs or to any taco or burrito. I'm looking forward to having it on a shredded beef or pulled pork sandwich. I'm usually only making it for myself, so you can definitely double or triple the recipe depending on how much you plan to use it. Also, I'm told it has a nice shelf life, but mine get eaten too quick for me to be able to confirm that.

1/2 red onion
3 limes
salt to taste

Yeah, that's it. See? It's already great. You can chop the onion or cut it into longer strips (I prefer chopped.) Put your cut onion into a jar or Tupperware. Squeeze the juice of the limes on the onions. The juice should cover most of the onions. Salt to your liking, mix it up and chill in the fridge. Put it on everything.


Book Review: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave & Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
By Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs

Near the end of African American history month, February, I took a look around my library and found many posters of great African Americans. The library did a great job and it inspired me to read a few books about the African American experience. At that time, there was a lot of buzz surrounding the narrative turned movie 12 Years a Slave. I decided it was time to finally read Frederick Douglass's narrative. While there was a second narrative in all the copies at the library, I didn't start the book expecting to read Harriet Jacobs's story. Yet, both of these narratives were so compelling, so shocking, that I knew I had to finish both.

It was very clear very early in the book that this would be one of the most important historical books I'd ever read. Slavery has so many tragic and horrifying layers, but I think that sometimes the broad view of this period loses some of the mundane details of a slave's life - things we take for granted. As a slave, there was a chance your mother never really knew if you survived beyond a year old because of the systematic separation of slave families. Children born into slavery wouldn't know when their birth dates actually were. Most of the time they only had a ballpark number.

In the past, I've touched on how grateful I am to be able to read. These two narratives really reinvigorated that gratitude. Not only were all odds against these two people learning how to read and write, but their writing came to be spectacular. It just comes to show how great writing survives through the decades for us to learn from.

In Douglass's narrative, something reminded me of that Duck Dynasty creep, who said that when he was a kid, black people in the South were happy and singing all the time. Slaves didn't sing because they were happy, Douglass said. Oftentimes slave owners mistook their singing for joy and would spread propaganda that slaves LOVED slavery. Douglas wrote, "Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears. At least, such is my experience."

There were two other quotes in the Douglass narrative that really spoke to me:
"I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence." (42)
"The silver trumpet of freedom had aroused my soul to the eternal wakefulness." (50)
Also learned that a dearborn was a vehicle, a kind of light four-wheeled wagon used in country district parts of the United States. Who knew? Not I.

I didn't take any notes on the Jacobs because I hadn't expected to read it. Yet once I did, I read it quickly and in pretty big chunks. My reading slowed a bit toward the end, but I powered through it. The struggle for freedom and equality is one with incredible people woven into it. These are both very important narratives. All Americans should read this part of our country's history. It wasn't that long ago.