Reading List

May 28, 2007

I was an English literature major in college. While many of my friends were studying practical subjects – business, accounting, pre-med – I spent four years immersed in great works of fiction.  Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, Keats, Blake, Yeats, Melville, Faulkner, Hemingway, Frost, and dozens more – I read, wrote about, dissected, compared and contrasted them all.

My reading list has changed quite a bit in the 21 years since I graduated from college. I took a glance at the books stacked up on the floor underneath my nightstand and was taken aback to realize that there is not a work of fiction among them. I haven’t lost my appreciation for literature – although Chaucer and Milton aren’t exactly what I’d call pleasure reading – but my book list these days is more a reflection of what is happening in my life. Here’s what I read in my spare time these days (or perhaps more accurately – what I would be reading if I had spare time):

Coaching Youth Lacrosse by the American Sport Education Program. This has been a helpful reference for me as I’ve been assisting with coaching my daughters’ Y-League team.

Get Off My Honor: The Assault on the Boy Scouts of America, by Hans Zeiger. Despite the Foreword by Oliver North, I’ve found that much of this book resonates with me. While the author and I find ourselves on different sides of the political fence, as a fellow Eagle Scout I have long shared his dismay with ACLU-driven attempts to emasculate and secularize the Boy Scouts. It is, after all, a private organization – if you don’t like what it stands for, don’t join.

Now, having lost or at least antagonized my liberal readership, let me tell you about the next book in my stack: Take it Back: A Battle Plan for Democratic Victory, by James Carville and Paul Begala. This is an entertaining political how-to manual by a couple of the sharpest minds in the business.  Carville and Begala pull no punches, and suggest that the reason we’ve had 8 years of George W.  in the White House is because Democrats simply stood by and handed him the keys to the front door.

The Way of Aikido: Life Lessons From an American Sensei by George Leonard was a gift from my brother. I probably wouldn’t have picked this one up on my own, but it’s a fascinating read – aikido is an amazing martial art, but the book’s focus is on how you can apply its principles of composure and self-sufficiency to everyday life.

Following Jesus Without Embarrassing God by Tony Campolo is a text that we used in Sunday School a couple of years ago, but it still hasn’t made its way from the active reading pile under my nightstand to the bookshelf.  This book is classic Campolo practical theology, with representative chapters including: “How to Get Ready to Die Without Pretending That It’s No Problem”, “How to Hold on to That Old-Time Religion Without Letting Go of the Post-Modern World”, and “How to be Politically Involved Without Losing Your Soul.”

Running Through the Wall: Personal Encounters With the Ultramarathon by Neal Jamison is another book that I’ve had for a while but haven’t shelved yet. When I need inspiration to get up and out for a run, as I too often do these days, I’m apt to read one of the 39 personal stories from ultramarathoners in this book. These folks are flat-out studs.

I have one work-related book in my stack: The New Strategic Selling by Robert B. Miller and Stephan E. Heiman. We had a consultant come in and give us a day-long training session on the Miller Heiman sales methodology a few weeks ago. Intriguing stuff – I’m hoping that I’ll be able to absorb it by osmosis if I keep the book close enough to my bedside, kind of like I did with my Calculus textbook in college.  Actually, I’m hoping that it will work better for me than it did with Calculus.

Finally, the Bible. I read more of this than I do any of the others these days, if for no other reason than I have a Sunday School lesson to prepare each week. That’s not the only reason, though. Every time I open it, I take something from it.


Don’t Think

May 26, 2007

The church league softball season continues.

I had a batter’s box epiphany the other week:  don’t think.  Somehow, someway, I managed to shut out all the “I really am a decent athlete and should be able to hit a freakin’ softball except I’ve gotten up here before and struck out to the amusement/consternation/disbelief of everyone watching because you’re not supposed to strike out in slow pitch softball and I really don’t want to go through that again why can’t I just focus focus focus focus….”

As I said, somehow I managed to stop thinking and shut it out.  I didn’t so much focus as I did calm down.  And I went 4-for-4 with good solid hits.  When one of my teammates congratulated me on the hitting, I shared the secret of my success.  He gave me an incredulous look and said “well sure – any ballplayer will tell you that you’re not supposed to think up there.”  Too bad it took me 43 years to figure that one out!

If only I could do the same thing with a glove….

Epilogue:  Last night’s outing wasn’t quite as successful.  I went 2-for-3, with the 2 being dribblers where I made it to 1st base only because I ran faster than the catcher threw.  The third was a line drive right into the shortstop’s glove.  Felt good, anyway.

Tell Us What You Really Think

May 20, 2007

An AP story yesterday showed that former President Carter has taken off the gloves.

Calling the Bush administration “the worst in history” in international relations (talk about stating the obvious!), Carter also had this to say about British prime minister Tony Blair’s support of Bush: “Abominable. Loyal. Blind. Apparently subservient.”

Remember the clip of Bush holding court at the G8 Summit with his dinner roll falling out of his mouth? Here’s a link to the video to refresh your recollection. What is striking to me about this video is not Bush’s poor table manners or his use of the s-word (the guy is human, after all), but what it clearly shows about the nature of the Bush-Blair relationship. Blair comes off as nothing more than a lapdog – as Carter says, “subservient”. 

It will be interesting to see how the global landscape changes in the post-Blair era.  If only it could have happened a few years ago. 

Wrong Turn

May 20, 2007

Apart from a runner dying on the course, this has to be a race director’s worst nightmare.

So Much for Albuquerque

May 16, 2007

I’m writing this from the Albuquerque airport. I’m sure Albuquerque is a nice place. Same goes for Santa Fe, where I was yesterday.

But honestly, I wouldn’t know.

I left Charlottesville early Monday morning battling an allergy-induced upper respiratory infection that had turned into a sinus infection. (Thanks, by the way, to James our airline pilot friend who recommended Afrin so my eardrums wouldn’t burst!) I muddled through my Monday afternoon meetings in Albuquerque, sounding like Froggy from the Little Rascals. I retreated to the hotel and crashed, hoping that a night’s sleep would cure what ailed me. Tuesday morning I drove to Santa Fe for a day of meetings with state agency contacts there and made it to mid-afternoon before my voice gave out entirely. I headed back to Albuquerque and the hotel, wondering why my eyes were bothering me on top of everything else, and by the time I got back to my room and looked in the mirror, realized that I could add conjunctivitis to the list.

I realized that my trip was over. Phoenix, where I was supposed to be today and tomorrow, would have to wait.

So now I’m homeward bound, which is a good thing, although it’s going to be a bit of a pain doing business long-distance that I was planning on doing in person. Much of my work is relationship-based, and it’s a lot easier to do it sitting across a table from someone that it is over the phone or email.

But what I really regret is not being able to run in the desert….

City Creek Canyon

May 3, 2007

Add another to the “Rave Runs” list.

I parked my car at the entrance gate to City Creek Canyon, intent on following the winding road uphill through the canyon for as far as I could while still reserving enough leg and lung to be able to make it back down. As I chugged my way uphill, I was passed by a fair number of cyclists (and even passed a few!), but I didn’t see many other runners. After a mile or so, I realized why. Between the constant uphill, and the altitude, it’s one tough run! I made it up 3.5 miles, covering 734 feet of elevation change, before I turned around and headed back downhill.  The second 3.5 mile leg was considerably easier than the first!

I was a geek and mapped out the run when I got back to the hotel.  Here’s a link.

Unlike a past post-worthy run in Florida, there were no alligator warnings on this route. The bulletin board at the entrance gate did suggest keeping an eye out for some other critters, though. 

Only in Utah…

May 2, 2007