I just finished reading Jane Pauley‘s Skywriting (excerpt online), her very personal memoir about dealing with bipolar disorder induced by medicines being used to treat an outbreak of hives.

I was struck by the sheer openness of Pauley’s writing — some very personal pieces from her journal written at alternating points in time. She’s certainly come to grips with the reality of her illness and her sharing of the experience tells a powerful story.

Late in the book, she quotes Mark Twain:

Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under different conditions.

Indeed! My best work is also my best play.

Pauley also writes movingly about loss, especially about her parents. But I enjoyed this passage more — about taking her twin boys to college.

I put two kids in college in one week. I didn’t cry or make a scene or one of Mom’s famous speeches. I just lingered. First, I folded all of Ross’s T-shirts and lined them up by color; then I went after the chaos of cords and cables from his computer, microwave, CD player, refrigerator, clock radio, lamp, and TV. I got them untangled and began winding them neatly with little twist ties. I was actually underneath the desk when I became aware of an awkward silence that said Anyone here who isn’t somebody’s roommate should go now.

Wow. One moment they’re in your arms as babes and the next thing you know they’re off to college and life beyond.

Books Weblogs

Amazon Real Names

The New York Times comments on Amazon’s new Real Names reviewer policy in an editorial: The Review of Reviews.

In the end, it’s probably easier just to go to the library and browse.

I don’t agree — although I do love browsing in the library too! Actually, I’d like to see a tighter integration of Amazon and our local library — lots of possibilities there that would benefit both, I think.

Books San Francisco/California

Smartest Guys in the Room

While on the road earlier this week, I finally finished reading Bethany McLean’s book The Smartest Guys in the Room. It’s a story of the Enron debacle, told in all of its gory detail.

The book begins with ex-Enron exec Cliff Baxter’s suicide a few weeks following Enron’s bankruptcy filing and then peels back to the early days of Ken Lay before following the story through to the end. An amazing story of arrogant egos gone wild. In particular, the chapter on Enron’s manipulation (along with others) of the California electricity and natural gas markets is downright sickening. it’s one of those books that has you washing your hands after reading.

Update: Tomorrow’s Sunday New York Times has a long article based upon interviews with Ken Lay in which Lay claims he’s innocent of any crimes — but, as CEO, admits he is accountable for what happened at Enron. What a guy!


Innovator’s Dilemma

Kevin Kelly comments on Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma: “It’s the most insightful look into the nature of revolution I’ve seen.” I agree completely!


Present Value

I just finished reading Present Value by Sabin Willett. What a fun book! Revolves around today’s high tech lifestyle and its impact on relationships. Blackberry’s play a central role. Insider trading, life with Napoleon CEO’s, etc. Willet’s a partner at a Boston law firm and it shows in his fiction. Highly recommended!


Timothy Egan’s New Book

While I’ve not read it yet (just ordered it!), Timothy Egan is one of my favorite New York Times reporters. His articles dive deep into whatever subject he’s pursuing — and are delightful to read. The only earlier link I can find quickly is to an article he wrote last summer for the Times’ Travel section about the Chuckanut Drive south of Bellingham, Washington.

Egan’s out with his first novel — The Winemaker’s Daughter — one that combines winemaking in the Pacific northwest with Italy. Sounds great!


Current Reading

Here’s what I’ve been recently reading:


Exploring America from the Air

Earlier today, I picked up a copy of Alex MacLean’s superb book Designs on the Land: Exploring America from the Air. MacLean is both an architect and a private pilot — and he puts both of his skills and interests to work in this superb book of aerial photographs of America.

Not organized by place, this book instead is instead organized by theme — such as agriculter, forest, abandonment, housing, pollution, and sprawl. The book offers a wonderful look at America from a totally unique aerial point of view.

Highly recommended!

Books Carmel/Monterey/Pacific Grove

Headin’ south at the end of the summer…

National Steinbeck CenterThis afternoon, I meandered my way south from the San Francisco Bay Area to Pacific Grove, one of my favorite “home towns”.

Along the way, I stopped at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, Steinbeck’s home town. John Steinbeck is one of my all-time favorite authors and the Center tells the story of his life and times very well. Literary Traveler profiles the Steinbeck Center. This year (2002) is the 100th anniversary of his birth.

At the bookstore, I picked up a copy of a small book titled “Steinbeck Country” by David A. Laws (2002, ISBN 0-09723874-0-4, Windy Hills Press, PO Box 7215, Menlo Park, CA 94026). I was curious about the book because the author must live very close to me. It’s a guide to exploring the settings of Steinbeck’s stories in and around Salinas, Monterey, and environs. The book is very nicely done — obviously Steinbeck and the Monterey/Salinas areas are some of David A. Laws’ favorite subjects!

Had to resist buying any new copies of Steinbeck’s books at the bookstore — even though one of my favorite things to do while in the Salinas/Monterey area is to read one of his local books. At home, I especially enjoy the three volumes of Steinbeck’s works published by the Library of America.

Out in the rotunda of the National Steinbeck Center, I noticed a flyer for “California Stories“, a project sponsored by the California Council for the Humanities. They’re sponsoring a statewide program during the month of October for citizens of California to read Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath“. During a vacation in Hawaii a couple of years ago, I was totally engrossed in reading Steinbeck’s masterpiece – after ignoring it in high school! Highly recommended! I also enjoyed the driving tour of Steinbeck’s Pacific Grove.

Salinas Valley Street Rodders - September 21, 2002Salinas was having a classic car display on the streets surrounding the Steinbeck Center sponsored by the Salinas Valley Street Rodders — the whole thing sorta had that “American Graffiti” feel to it with colorful cars, cool 50-60’s people, great music, all under a glorious northern California end of summer crystal blue sky.

As I was heading southwest out of Salinas on Highway 68 towards Pacific Grove, I discovered KRML at 1410 on the AM dial. I really enjoy finding local radio stations while driving — and this one’s a very special treat. Too many stations are now part of the big conglomerates (Infinity, Clear Channel, etc.) and they all sound the same. KRML is different. Home of Clint Eastwood in “Play Misty for Me”. Local, AM, Jazz. Smooth.

Passionfish - Pacific GroveTonight for dinner it was Passionfish on Lighthouse Avenue in Pacific Grove. Wow. A good friend had recommended Passionfish — saying it wasn’t a fish place. That’s sorta true — about half the menu is fish but not your typical farm-raised Atlantic salmon. The other half is meats of various kinds — slow roasted, grilled.

For dinner, I had the pork tenderloin — it came with sweeps of grainy mustard, sauteed vegetables and a side of classic macaroni and cheese. Delicious. The apppetizer was equally great — seared rare tuna with wasabi slaw (apples sliced into strips with wasabi — yum!) and an amazing ginger sauce. Service was crisp and tight.

Passionfish has an amazing wine list. They price their wines at “retail” — meaning they mark them up 50% above what they pay wholesale for them and then add $1 to cover wine glass breakage costs. The result is the cheapest but most extensive wine list you’ll find anywhere! I had a split of the Rombauer ’00 Carneros Chardonnay — it was just delicious with the pork.

Life doesn’t get much better than this!

Books San Francisco/California

Why Writers Enjoy Living in the San Francisco Bay Area

The San Francisco Chronicle has a great article in its Sunday magazine about why writers enjoy living in the San Francisco Bay Area.