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

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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

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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

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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

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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

Sunday, November 02, 2014

2014 Chicago Day 3

Downtown Chicago -

With the time change and the six plus miles of walking on Saturday, Wallen and I were up early. We headed up to the exercise room. I ended up running five miles on the treadmill.

After getting cleaned up, we met the rest of the group for breakfast in the hotel. Nooter caught a shuttle after breakfast and started home.

The rest of us {Tomasin, Geselbracht, Wallen, Swedberg and I} started out on a walkabout. We stopped at El Hefe near the hotel for the NFL pre-game shows. From there, we walked down Michigan Ave to the lake. Circling back, we found Jake Melnick's Corner Tap to watch the early NFL games.

I rolled from there about 2:00 pm. I walked back to the hotel, grabbed my bags and caught the Orange Line back to Midway Airport. After some adventures on the train (delayed due to an unauthorized person on the tracks), I had a late lunch at the airport.

I caught a 5:30 pm flight to Los Angeles that continued to Sacramento. I had exit rows on both legs. I was back in Sacramento at 10:30 pm and home in bed about 11:30 pm.

It was a great weekend. I really enjoyed spending time with the group. I have known these guys for almost forty years. Unfortunately, it looks like there are some shifts in the group dynamics. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next year…

Saturday, November 01, 2014

2014 Chicago Day 2 - All Blacks versus Eagles

New Zealand All Blacks versus USA Eagles

Another long day… With lots of walking… I estimate that I walked more than 6 miles over the course of the day. The main event was the New Zealand All Blacks versus the USA Eagles Rugby game at Soldier Field.

After the early morning and late night on Friday, I ended up sleeping until after 8:30 am.

The group eventually rallied and had breakfast at the hotel. From there we decided to walk towards Soldier Field. Nooter led us to The Gage, a place that his niece had recommended. This turned out to be a fortuitous stop; Nooter ran into some guys he knew from a DC rugby club who invited us to a private party after the game.

From there, we headed to the parking lot behind the stadium. Swedberg's son plays rugby for St. John's in St Joseph, Minnesota. We joined their tailgate party.

Finally, we headed to the game and took our seats well before the 3:00 pm kick-off. I was amazed that the stadium was sold out with 61,000 rugby fans. Unfortunately, the All Blacks jumped on the Eagles early. The final score was 74 to 6. The game didn't even feel that close.

A number of us saw New Zealand play Tonga in the opening games of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. The All Blacks won that game by the score of 41 to 10.

After the game, we walked back to The Gage. With 61,000 rugby fans roaming the downtown, we were lucky to be able to get into the private party in the basement.

The group made a decision to look for Chicago pizza for dinner. We walked another mile and a half and eventually ended up at Lou Malnati's Pizzeria. The place was packed; we ended up waiting a little over an hour.

Tomasin, Nooter, Hunter plus one and I ended the night listening to music at Buddy Guy's Legends. Tomasin, Nooter and I walked back to the hotel trying to wrap our brains around an enigma. We failed.

Tailgating at Soldier Field

Tailgating at Soldier Field

Friday, October 31, 2014

2014 Chicago Day 1

Up about 4 am, I caught a 6:30 am flight from Sacramento to Midway Airport in Chicago. Snipes was originally supposed to fly with me, but he was still under the weather. After an easy four hour flight, I was on the ground in Chicago just before 12:30 pm. I am meeting up with a group to see the New Zealand All Blacks play the USA Eagles on Saturday at Soldier Field.

I caught the Orange Line train from Midway to Downtown. I was surprised by how easy and cheap it was; the inbound trip cost $3.00. I was also amazed by the amount of brick buildings that we passed as I rode the train into the city center; brick buildings of all shapes and sizes.

Nooter had flown in on Thursday to visit with his niece. I met him at the hotel and we walked about a block from the hotel to the Rockit Bar & Grill for a late lunch. He and I had a great chance to sit and catch up. I really enjoyed the afternoon.

The rest of the group rolled up in a couple of waves in the late afternoon. Swedberg was followed by Wallen and Geselbracht. Hunter plus one, Chabrier plus one and Tomasin rolled in last. Swedberg had made a dinner reservation for the group at Gibsons Steakhouse. I ended up wandering down the block to scoop up Tomasin and jumping into a cab to catch up with the group.

After dinner, we walked back to the hotel from the restaurant. Walking turned out to be a common theme for the weekend. A group of us finished the night at Hub 21 around the corner from the hotel. It was about 12:30 am by the time Wallen and I got back to the room.