Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

In the car riding back from Los Angeles, I finished reading Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie. Looking for some science fiction after reading Bully Pulpit and Grisham's Gray Mountain, I started searching for recent award winners and this book stood out. Ancillary Justice won the 2014 Hugo Award, 2014 Nebula Award, the BSFA Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Locus Award.

Set in the distance future, the plot revolves around an empire that uses artificially intelligent space ships. The ships control human bodies, known as ancillaries, used as soldiers. The ships are staffed by human captains and lieutenants. A ship and one of the ancillaries are the main characters.

In the book, the ruling society does not distinguish people by gender. This is conveyed by using female personal pronouns for everybody. Gender and gender specific characteristics are also completely absent from the book.

I enjoyed the story. It is apparently part of a trilogy. I will read the next book. While it was much, much better than the 2013 Hugo Award Winner [Redshirts] that I read earlier this year, I am still fascinated that Ancillary Justice won so many awards. It is a good book, but I am not sure that it is a great book.

As a footnote, I read this book as an e-book on the Kindle app on my iPad.

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Sturgill Simpson - Just Let Go

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Sturgill Simpson - Just Let Go

Code Expiration: February 17, 2015

Monday, November 24, 2014

Illinois! - Virtually Biking Across America - Day 105

Virtually Biking Across America - Day 105

On Day 105, I rode 20.7 miles from Missouri into Illinois. I started the ride at the junction of Highway 100 (Manchester Avenue) and South Big Bend Boulevard. I followed Highway 100 into the downtown. I turned left on North Broadway, left on Clark Avenue past Busch Stadium, right South 8th Street, right on Chestnut Street toward the St. Louis Arch and left Memorial Drive. I followed Memorial Drive to Eads Bridge across the Mississippi River into Illinois. Across the River, I took Riverpark Drive to Collinsiville Ave to St. Clair Avenue. St. Clair Avenue eventually turns into the Lincoln Highway. I finished the ride at the junction of the Lincoln Highway and Highway 159 [North Illinois Avenue] in Fairview Heights.

The trip log for Virtually Biking Across America is here.

I got a good view of Busch Stadium as I was riding along. Jack is a huge Cardinals fan; we need to make a trip to St. Louis.


I was also able to see the St. Louis Arch from a number of different angles.

Virtually Biking Across America - Day 105

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Back from Los Angeles

at the JW Marriott at LA Live

Sharon's plan for the day was starting early towards home. We were up before 7 am. Sharon and I wandered down to a Starbucks in LA Live for some breakfast.

Packing up the room and loading the car, we were on the road by 7:50 am. I drove two plus hours to Lost Hills at the junction of I-5 and Highway 46. Gassing up the car, Sharon drove the next leg to the Westley Rest Area near the junction of I-5 and I-580. I drove from there until Eight Mile Road in Stockon.

After a quick lunch in the car at Sonic, Jack drove the rest of the way home. We were home about 2 pm.

With three drivers, it was a much easier drive than the trip to San Diego and back in 2011 or the trip to San Fernando and back in 2007.

I was very glad we went to Drew's birthday party!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

To Drew's Surprise 30th Birthday Party!

Up fairly early, Sharon swam in the pool while I ran 3.6 miles on the treadmill. After packing up the room, we grabbed some breakfast sandwiches at Subway and gassed up the car. We were on the road about 10 am.

Sharon had made a hotel reservation for the JW Marriot for Saturday night. I didn't realize until that morning that this was at LA Live next to the Staples Center.

I drove this leg. The traffic was great until we got about 10 miles from the hotel. It took about 40 minutes to go the last ten miles to the hotel... I am always amazed at the amount of traffic in Southern California. We got to the hotel about 1:40 pm.

Checking into the hotel, Jack studied and got a room service pizza. Sharon and I wandered around LA Live. We ended up having a nice light lunch at Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill. Afterwards, I wandered towards the old downtown to get a birthday card and some wrapping paper.

We took off about 4:30 pm for Nicki and Drew's bungalow. Nicki had organized a surprise birthday party for Drew. Everyone was supposed to get there at 5 pm with Drew arriving at 6 pm.

Drew ended up arriving at about 6:15 pm. I think he was somewhat surprised. In a bizarre twist of fate, Drew ended up parking Bruce right behind my car on the street. He noticed the Jesuit Marauders license plate frame and took a picture. I am not sure what he was actually thinking at that point.

There was a nice group of about 25 to 30 people for the party. I ended up talking to Max, Graham and Kyle and his girlfriend [a professional volley player in Europe!?!] for a long time. Nicki had a buffet of Mexican food.

After dinner and cake, they did presents. We gave Drew Sharon's empty iPhone 6 box with the money to get a new phone.


We ended up staying until about 10:30 pm before heading back to the hotel.


It was a very nice evening. I was glad that we had made the effort to come down for the party.

Friday, November 21, 2014

To Harris Ranch


Rushing back from working in Sonora, we loaded the car. We left Carmichael about 3:40 pm into the heart of the Friday afternoon traffic. With Jack driving, we stopped in Elk Grove for a quick visit at the Foys. Back on the road, Jack drove until Stockton. Sharon took over and drove the next hour to Santa Nella. I drove from there to Harris Ranch. We got to the hotel about 7:35 pm. Sharon had booked a mini-suite with a view overlooking the pool and a discount voucher for dinner.

After getting checked-in and settled into the room, we walked across the parking lot and had a late dinner at the Harris Ranch Restaurant. Jack had Beef Wellington, Sharon had a filet and I had prime rib.

We crashed hard about 11 pm. Looking forward, Saturday and Sunday are going to be long days...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Gray Mountain by John Grisham

I finished reading Gray Mountain by John Grisham. Somewhat unbelievably, this is the 28th book by John Grisham that I have read in the last twenty-two years.

The most striking aspect of this book is the portrayal of the coal companies. Gray Mountain explores mountain top removal mining practices, black lung disease, and coal slurry. The coal companies behind these issues are painted as pure evil.

The poverty of the Appalachian region also plays a major role in the book. I have not had a chance to travel through this part of the United States. It is difficult for me to envision the abject poverty described.

The story follows Samantha Kofer, a third-year associate in a major New York Law firm. After the Bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, she becomes a legal clinic intern in Virginia's coal mining country. As I have said before, I don't remember Grisham ever portraying working at a big legal firm in an attractive light.

Gray Mountain is not as good as Sycamore Row. Sycamore felt different than the pile of legal thrillers that Grisham has turned out; maybe it was the connection with a A Time to Kill. Except for the betrayal of the coal companies, the plot Grey Mountain will eventually blur together with the pile of Grisham's legal thrillers. Nevertheless, it was a nice light change of pace from the Bully Pulpit. I gave the book a "C+."

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

California Historical Landmark #271

Back working in Sonora in June, July, August, September, October and November, I started exploring the California Historial Landmarks in Calaveras County. Sites that I visited included: San Andreas [#252], I.O.O.F. Hall [#256], Fourth Crossing #258, Congregational Church [#261], Chili Gulch [#265], Pioneer Cemetery [#271], Carson Hill [#274], Robinson's Ferry [#276], Angels Camp [#287], Altaville [#288], Red Brick Grammar School [#499], Angels Hotel [#734] and Birthplace of Archie Stevenot [#769].

Pioneer Cemetery
California State Historical Landmark #271

See this location on Yahoo Maps in Flickr
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This landmark is located on State Highway 12, 0.7 miles west of junction with State Highway 49, 1.8 miles west of San Andreas, California in Calaveras County. There are 40 other California State Historical Landmarks in Calaveras County. The GPS coordinates for this location are N 38° 12.497 W 120° 42.467.

You can log your visit to this landmark at waymark.com.

California Historical Landmark #271

This pioneer cemetery was said to have been established in 1851. Most of the graves are unmarked - stones appeared over only three of them in 1936. This cemetery is located almost opposite where the town of North Branch originally stood, before the site was mined for gold.

California Historical Landmark #271

Starbuck iTunes Pick of the Week - Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!

Starbucks iTunes

Code Expiration: February 10, 2015

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Vance Joy - Mess is Mine

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Vance Joy - Mess is Mine

Code Expiration: February 10, 2015

Monday, November 17, 2014

Virtually Biking Across America - Day 104

Day 104

On Day 104, I rode 15.03 miles across Eastern Missouri. I started ride at the junction of Highway 50 and Highway 141. I headed north on Highway 141 to Highway 100. I rode east on Highway 100 (Manchester Avenue) to the intersection with South Big Bend Boulevard.

The trip log for Virtually Biking Across America is here.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Star Trek: First Contact

Sharon, Jack and I watched Star Trek: First Contact on Saturday night. Released in November of 1996, I can remember going to see the film in the theater by myself, while Sharon was traveling for work; it may be the only movie I have ever seen in the theater by myself. After seeing Star Trek into Darkness, we have started a loose project to go back and see all of the other Star Trek films in order like we did with the James Bond films.

Star Trek: First Contact is the eighth feature film in the Star Trek science fiction franchise. It is the first film to feature no cast members from the original Star Trek television series of the 1960s. The primary cast for First Contact is from the Star Trek: The Next Generation television series.

The plot of the film involves the crew of the USS Enterprise-E traveling from the 24th to 21st century to save their future after the cybernetic Borg conquered Earth by changing the timeline. The Enterprise arrives in the past, on April 4, 2063, the day before humanity's first encounter with alien life after Zefram Cochrane's historic warp drive flight.

While the special effects are much better than most of the previous Star Trek films, I am just not a fan of time travel movies...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Liz for Dinner

Friday night, we had Liz over for dinner. Sharon made cornflake chicken.

We spent the night talking about Liz's trip on the Camino de Santiago. She covered the distance in 47 days with a number of multiple day stops along the way. The one thing that surprised me was that after about two weeks Liz and her traveling companion (Anne from New Zealand) would have their backpacks picked up and shipped to the next stop everyday. Sharon mentioned that this is true in the book that she is currently reading.

Sharon and I would like to do the pilgrimage someday...

Heringer and Larkin at the Fall Dinner Party


2014 Fall Dinner Party

Friday, November 14, 2014

Heringers at the Fall Dinner Party

Untitled

ESPN 30 for 30 Soccer Stories - Ceasefire Massacre

Running on the treadmill, I watched Ceasefire Massacre. This is one of the 30 for 30 soccer stories that ESPN was running leading up to the 2014 World Cup. An episode guide is here.


On June 18, 1994 in Giants Stadium in New Jersey, Ireland had its opening World Cup match against Italy. At the half, the Irish have taken a surprising 1-0.

The electrifying mood of the Irish fans in the stadium is shared by the supporters watching the match in the Heights Bar, a tiny pub in the tiny Northern Irish village of Loughinisland, 24 miles south of Belfast. Shortly after the second half begins, two masked gunmen belonging to a Protestant terror group burst into the Heights Bar. Thirty rounds are fired and six innocent men watching a soccer match were killed.

Twenty years later, the killers have not been found. Additionally, the film suggests that there are lingering questions about the British Governments role in the attack.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sanborns at the Fall Dinner Party

Untitled

California Historical Landmark #288

Back working in Sonora in June, July, August, September, October and November, I started exploring the California Historial Landmarks in Calaveras County. Sites that I visited included: San Andreas [#252], I.O.O.F. Hall [#256], Fourth Crossing #258, Congregational Church [#261], Chili Gulch [#265], Pioneer Cemetery [#271], Carson Hill [#274], Robinson's Ferry [#276], Angels Camp [#287], Altaville [#288], Red Brick Grammar School [#499], Angels Hotel [#734] and Birthplace of Archie Stevenot [#769].

Altaville
California State Historical Landmark #288

See this location on Yahoo Maps in Flickr
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This landmark is located at the intersection of State Highways 49 and 4, Altaville, California in Calaveras County. There are 40 other California State Historical Landmarks in Calaveras County. The GPS coordinates for this location are N 38° 04.775 W 120° 33.308.

You can log your visit to this landmark at waymark.com.

California Historical Landmark #288

The history of Altaville is closely identified with that of Angels Camp. Altaville has been the foundry town of Calaveras County since D. D. Demerest established a foundry there in 1854. Most of the stamp mills and a large part of the mining machinery erected in Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties were built at the Altaville Foundry. A brick schoolhouse was built at Altaville in 1858 and the townsite was established in 1873.

California Historical Landmark #288


Altaville Foundry & Machine Works
Founded by J.M. Wooster
EST. 1854

Is the site of the longest running continuously operated foundry west of the Mississippi River. All quartz machinery needed for the numerous mines surrounding the Altaville Angels Camp area was cast here. It previously known as Altaville Foundry and Machine Works, Angels Iron Works, Calaveras Iron & Steel Co., and last California Electric Steel Co. Previous owners: D.D. Demarest & T.H. Fullen 1860, Lawrence Monte Verda & Demarest Family 1892, Lawrence Monte Verda Family 1928.


California Historical Landmark

Monday, November 10, 2014

Larkins at the Fall Dinner Party Pic #1

Untitled

Larkins at the Fall Dinner Party Pic #2

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Virtually Biking Across American - Day 103

Day 103

On Day 103, I rode 21.0 miles across Missouri. I started the ride on Historic Route 66 at the point that it passes over Interstate 44. I took Historic Route 66 to West Osage Street. This turned into Business Loop 44. I jumped back on Highway 50 at Allenton Road. I finished at the junction of Highway 50 and Highway 141. I made a mistake; I probably should have stayed on Historic Route 66.

The trip log for Virtually Biking Across America is here.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Dinner with the Gainsleys and Wongs

We had dinner at Mikunis downtown with the Gainsleys and Wongs. The group finished the night at Mix.

Winter Baseball


I spent Saturday morning watching a Jesuit intersquad scrimmage. Rather than play fall baseball like they did last year, Jesuit has switched the program to winter baseball. This is something that Coach P talked about last February.

At the bat, Jack was 1 for 2 with a walk and a single. In his first plate appearance, he walked. Staying to continue the bat, Jack had a nice single into right center off of Wolger. Jack struck out swinging against Child in his second plate appearance.

In the field, Jack was playing left field. He had one put-out. Jack made a nice play on a ball hit to the fence in left center. Getting to the ball quickly, he made a nice relay to Mikey playing shortstop. Mikey made a throw to home to get the runner trying to score.

Friday, November 07, 2014

ESPN Films 30 for 30 Vol II: Playing for the Mob

Flying back from Chicago, I watched Playing for the Mob on my iPad. This is the twentieth installment of ESPN's 30 for 30 Vol II. An episode guide for Vol II is here.

Playing For The Mob is the story of how mobster Henry Hill -- played by Ray Liotta in the 1990 Martin Scorsese classic film Goodfellas -- helped orchestrate the fixing of Boston College basketball games in the 1978-79 season. The film includes interviews with the players, the federal investigators and the actual fixers, including Hill, who died shortly after he was interviewed.

Goodfellas was centered on the notorious mobster-turned-rat, Henry Hill. It told about Hill's criminal life and also about members of his "crew" who were involved in the Lufthansa cargo heist at JFK airport, which at the time was the biggest cash robbery in U.S. history. Hill and others pulled off Lufthansa heist at the same time they were working to fix the Boston College basketball games.

Playing for the Mob is a solid documentary. They mixed scenes from the Goodfellas movie into the story. This is another of the 30 for 30 stories that I really knew little or nothing about... I need to go back and watch Goodfellas.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism

On the plane to Chicago in late October, I finished reading The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Jim Dunn gave it to me last Christmas and I finally got around to reading it. It fits nicely into my ongoing project to read books about all of the presidents.

This is probably one of the most ambitious books that I have ever read. It traces the life stories of both Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, as well as their wives and a handful of journalists. It was also a very different book than I expected. Picking the book up earlier in the year and reading the first few pages, I had expected it would focus on the period from when Roosevelt returned from his Africa safari to his running for a third term. Instead the book looks at the whole arc of Roosevelt's and Taft's lives and how their lives were intertwined.

I really enjoyed the three volume biography of Roosevelt by Edwin Morris. This book paints a little different picture of Roosevelt. It paints him as more of a politician and less of a reformer. It also attributes a lot of his legislative success to a group of crusading journalist.

I have never read anything about Taft. I found him a compelling figure. His resume included a Superior Court Judge, Solicitor General of the United States, Governor-General of the Philippines, Secretary of the War under Roosevelt, President of the United States and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Taft's wife is an interesting character; she is one of the key factors that pushed him towards the presidency. I need to find another more focused book on Taft.

Overall, I give the book a solid "B+." It contains an enormous amount of information, but Doris Kearns Goodwin has done an amazing job of showing the lives of Roosevelt, Taft, their wives and a handful of journalists were tied together.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Dinner with the Larkins

I had dinner with the Larkins in their fifth-wheel trailer at the Angels Camp RV Resort. Cindy made a great dinner of salmon, rice, vegetables and salad. It was nice to have a chance to visit with them in a quieter environment than the fall dinner party!

[Note to self], I need to download the pictures from the fall dinner party this weekend.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

California Historical Landmark #261

Back working in Sonora in June, July, August, September, October and November, I started exploring the California Historial Landmarks in Calaveras County. Sites that I visited included: San Andreas [#252], I.O.O.F. Hall [#256], Fourth Crossing #258, Congregational Church [#261], Chili Gulch [#265], Pioneer Cemetery [#271], Carson Hill [#274], Robinson's Ferry [#276], Angels Camp [#287], Altaville [#288], Red Brick Grammar School [#499], Angels Hotel [#734] and Birthplace of Archie Stevenot [#769].

Congregational Church
California State Historical Landmark #261

See this location on Yahoo Maps in Flickr
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This landmark is located at northeast corner of Main and Church Streets, Mokelumne Hill, California in Calaveras County. There are 40 other California State Historical Landmarks in Calaveras County. The GPS coordinates for this location are N 38° 18.019 W 120° 42.387.

You can log your visit to this landmark at waymark.com.

California Historical Landmark #261

The Congregational Church in Mokelumne Hill was organized August 28, 1853. The church building, erected in 1856, is the oldest Congregational Church building in the state.

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Perfect Paths

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Perfect Paths

Code Expiration: January 27, 2015

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Mariachi El Bronx - Wildfires

The complete list of Starbucks iTunes picks of the week is here!

Starbucks iTunes Pick of the Week - Mariachi El Bronx - Wildfires

Code Expiration: January 27, 2015