Recent Reading

I haven’t really kept up on posting anything about what’s on my reading stack, but I actually have been reading quite a bit lately. Part of it is a release from the stress of work (and specifically, the stress of trying to make sure that when I disappear to go to China in the immediate future that I don’t leave a mess of unfinished major tasks for Jeff) and part of it is to keep from going crazy as we wait…

I’m currently in the middle of two books: Barça: A People’s Passion by Jimmy Burns (an unexpected Christmas gift from Chuck) and The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten (loaned to me by Mark). Steingarten is hilarious, and I knew I was in for a treat when he opens the book by touching on his food aversions and how he (mostly) got past them — those aversions include some of my favorites: Greek food, anchovies, Indian desserts, and clams. Right now, however, Steingarten is playing second fiddle to Burns. Barça is rich in the history of one of the great football clubs in the world, a club with a unique history interwoven with the politics of Spain and a club whose history is populated with some of the greatest players in the history of the game. The book is about much more than just the sporting side of the club, and has been a real eye-opener. Understanding the history of the club within the 20th century history of Spain and Catalonia puts a completely different stamp on the nature of the rivalry between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. I am within 25 pages of the end of the book and, although it has not necessarily been an easy read, it has been both worthwhile and very enjoyable in terms of both the history and the football.

Over Christmas, I also read The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig (probably my favorite contemporary writer) and Playing for Pizza by John Grisham. Pizza is fluff but enjoyable; sort of the the futbol Americano version of Joe McGinness’ The Miracle of Castel di Sangro but not as filling and without the twist at the end. The Whistling Season did not disappoint at all; it had been a couple of years since I last read anything by Doig, so this was a real treat. Vintage Doig, but with a touch more humor (or perhaps the humor is closer to the surface?); I don’t remember laughing out loud with Doig in the past, but I did in several passages here. The book follows a pair of threads separated in time by 40-ish years in the life of a young man in western Montana and more than just touches on the ways in which school and teachers can influence life. Definitely worth reading, and if you aren’t yet a fan of Doig, this one would serve as a great introduction to an extraordinary Western US writer.

Back from Orlando

I made it home from a week in Orlando without incident yesterday (although it was a pretty long day, factoring in a 3:45am pick-up for the shuttle to the airport and the two-hour timezone difference). After spending a week there, I will reiterate my feeling that Orlando is not a place that holds much of an attraction for me. No plans at present to return unless I have to for work…

The conference itself went reasonably well. Our presentations were well attended and seemed to be fairly well-received. As always, it will be good to get the feedback from the conference group from the evaluation forms all of the session attendees were requested to provide.

As for food, we had what I felt to be one very good meal (surprisingly, one of the hotel’s restaurants is a top-notch steakhouse called “A Land Remembered”; I had the 8 oz. fillet and it was very, very good and the service there was excellent), and two good meals (one at a little Indian restaurant called “Passage to India”, and the second at a little hole-in-the-wall Brazilian barbeque called “Crazy Grill” — both on International Drive). Other than that, what we found was average at best.

By the end of the week, I was so tired of being in air-conditioned buildings that it was wonderful to return to the warm, but dry, West. There were times that I had to go outside in Orlando just to warm up, and the warmth — even if almost unbearably humid — felt wonderful. Waking up this morning at home with the windows wide open and temperatures in the upper 50s felt like heaven.

Home Again, Home Again…

After a hectic week in DC, it is good to be home again…

  • Dinner on Thursday evening at the Lebanese Taverna down in Pentagon City: shawarma, a glass of Ksara cabernet, um ali and Turkish coffee. Still one of my favorite places to eat.
  • Uneventful trip home; despite having very close connections in both Cincinnati and Salt Lake City (particularly SLC, like dash from one plane to the second which has already boarded) my bag made both connections. Ironically — given my flight into SLC earlier in the week — I sat next to guy who would not stop talking.
  • The best part of the whole trip, though, was seeing Deb waiting for me when I came through the airport.

I am so glad to be home!

We spent most of the weekend working on Christmas preparations, and despite the complete lack of snow or anything else that would lead you to believe we are now in late December, it is at least starting to feel a bit like Christmas. We got our tree up and decorated on Saturday, and then all three of us went to see the movie “Stranger than Fiction” — different and wonderful, a real treat. We don’t see many movies in the theater, but this is definitely worth seeing (and this, in spite of the fact that I am definitely not a Will Farrell fan).

Dense Fog

The past couple of days back here in DC have been interesting, to say the least. Dense fog could describe yesterday’s weather as well as my own mindset…

  • After a couple days of amazing weather — or at least it seemed amazing from what I could see from occasional glimpses out the window — with high temperatures in the upper 50’s, yesterday was cool, wet, and very grey. On the Metro in yesterday, crossing the Potomac, the clouds and fog were right down on the water which was a stark contrast to the sun and mirror smooth water on Monday morning.
  • Dense fog would also describe how I felt the past couple of days. Work back here has not gone well — some very visible and important areas of the system I am back here to demonstrate and train users on simply are not working. I am also missing home, family, and friends, and generally feeling a bit Grinchish. Yesterday and today were the services for my friend’s son that died last week, and I am still wrestling a bit with that, and I know that is a big contributor.
  • Greek food for dinner on Tuesday at Athena Pallas in Crystal City: salad, broiled bass (the whole fish!), rice, vegatables, a glass of Greek red, rice pudding, espresso. Very good.
  • Italian last night at Cafe Italiano, also down in Crystal City: minestrone, bruschetta, chianti, coconut ice cream, and an espresso. Also very good — I had forgotten that I had been in there in the past, and the food is very good.
  • The Metro ride out of DC back to the hotel was pretty amazing. For a period of about 30 minutes there were no yellow-line trains; this was rush hour, so you can well imagine the crush of people trying to get on that first train that came through. The car was more than just packed to the point of people being squashed together. Luckily, it is a pretty short ride back to my stop, and once we got past the Pentagon stop and a few people got off, it wasn’t too bad. I am not normally claustrophopic, but the first few minutes were a bit much even for me. It makes me appreciate my 15 minute “commute” to work each day at home.

More Bits from DC

  • Dinner Monday evening at Tutto Italiano in Crystal City: great lasagne, a salad, bread, a class of chianti, a canoli and a an espresso to finish things off. It’s a tiny little place on 23rd but the food was very good, the service decent, and the price incredibly low. I will admit that it wasn’t my first choice, or even my second, but when I found that both of the places that I had planned on going were either out of business or being remodeled, I had to find something else. I was not disappointed…
  • Physically I may be here in DC this week, but my heart is home. We found out late last week that the son of a close friend had died unexpectedly. The funeral is this afternoon.
  • I generally enjoy traveling, and I kind of like DC as a place to visit, but I’m really not all that excited about being here this time. I think part of it is that I don’t like traveling this close to Christmas. This is a time of year where there is so much going on at home, and work is incredibly busy these days… and being away on both fronts right now doesn’t feel like a good thing.