Sunday, June 21, 2009

Summer is for Reading

Friday was the last day of school, and I'm looking forward to the time off. One of the things I hope to do a fair amount of is reading, exercise and yard work this summer. I really hope to lose fifteen pounds this summer, and I may have a post or two about that.

However, the purpose of this post is to talk about books on my summer reading list. I'm going to have a mix of fiction and non-fiction-some of it work related, some for fun. Here is my list:

Innocent Abroad by Martin Indyk-Indyk was the first Jewish ambassador to Israel during the Clinton administration. I'm about two-thirds through this thoughtful, interesting memoir of Clinton's peace-making efforts in the Middle East as well as his containment strategies toward Iraq and Iran.

Ulysses by James Joyce-I gave myself a copy of the Joyce classic for Father's Day. I dunno if I can actually pull this off. My recollection of trying to read Ulysses years ago aren't pretty, but I'm going to give it my patient, best shot.

Law of the Student Press by the Student Press Law Center-This is my required reading for the Reynolds Institute this summer. God knows I can use it.

The Associated Press Guide to Newswriting-This is another book that came in the Reynolds pile o' stuff. I've never read a book on newswriting before, and I only know that this can't hurt. Maybe I can glean some stuff to share with my kids.

The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke-I loved Rendezvous With Rama, and purchased a copy of Clarke's short stories in anticipation of their being equally wonderful.

America in the Gilded Age by Sean David Cashman-Pretty textbook analysis of America in the Gilded Age. This is just a bit more background for what I need to share with my kids.

One Minute 'til Midnight by Michael Dobbs and One Hell of a Gamble by Alexsandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali-these two examinations of the Cuban Missile Crisis including declassified American and Soviet documents will provide a clearer view of the what happened in October 1962, and perhaps become the basis for an indepth project next year.

The Price of Vigilance by Joan M. Jensen-examines the activities of the American Protective League, the civilian spy network formed during WWI to root out "un-American activities" during that conflict.

That's probably enough for now. There are some others I'd also like to squeeze in:
The Road to Crecy by Marilyn Livingston
Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis
The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights by John Steinbeck
The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon S. Wood
Thirteen Days by Robert F. Kennedy
The Post-American World by Fareed Zakariah

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Foothills Trail: First time

Yesterday I took my bike down to the Foothills trail and traveled from the Meeker Junction to the McMillan Station. Altogether, it was a round trip of just over nine miles. It was pretty enjoyable. The weather was perfect, high seventies. Not much of a grade anywhere. I did have a bit of physical trouble--cramp behind my right knee, which was a bit scary. I did my best to make it stop, which was to slow down, and it concerns me a bit for future rides.

Foothills Trail is a great local resource. It actually took me less time to ride than to drive to and from. I'd like to go down there again, maybe on Sunday and try to ride from Meeker to Orting and back. That would be about fifteen miles.

No, the picture is not of me. It's from the Tour de Pierce, which will be held on the 28th. I'm looking at maybe riding the thirty mile course if that's possible.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Last Jagwire

It's the end of the school year, and I am really burned out. There are pile of reasons for this, many having to do with my inability to get a decent night's sleep more than one night out of seven. Even so, the school year is winding down, and with it comes our last JagWire deadline of the school year.

It's actually been a good year. I've enjoyed the paper a lot, chiefly due to the great work of the editorial board. While I've dreaded the late nights (and the loss of even more sleep,) I'm happy to give the time because the board works so hard. They are good students and great kids and I'll miss them all. New board looks good if a bit under-manned.

Even so, I am looking forward to four months without a deadline, and a little more time to get some exercise, lose some weight, and find a way to catch a little more sleep.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bike Adventures Day One

I dragged my bike out of the garage today, donned my various gear-lycra pants, helmet and gloves and went off on fairly brief jaunt on South Hill. Yes, I actually knew where I was going to go, and planned something that was short and fairly flat. Funny though, when driving a car the small wrinkles in the street don't seem quite so steep, but when you're old, portly and in less than optimum bike shape it doesn't seem quite that way.

While I imagined myself a bit like Lance Armstrong below,it simply wasn't to be. I went as fast as I could, which wasn't very. Nevertheless I did manage to do a bit better than the poor chap who looked to have plunked his two-wheeler in the Sunrise pond (I merely rode by and waved at the surrounding Canada geese.) Ah, me.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Refreshing Voice of Sarah Vowell

I've made a couple of recent changes in my life recently. One important change is my current vow of frugality. I don't know that I've really stuck to it all that well. I've bought a lot of Starbucks and terrain-making materials for my Lewis and Clark game, but I haven't invested much money in my two biggest black holes, books and miniatures.

In fact I've gone so far as to get a library card. Yes, I'm shocked too. I stopped by the South Hill Branch of the Pierce County Library in February and got a card. I waited until May to actually check out my first books. They are "The Language of God," by Francis Collins, and "The Wordy Shipmates," by Sarah Vowell.

I'm reading "The Wordy Shipmates" first. I was intrigued with the subject, the Puritan settlers of Massachussetts, as well as Vowell's unique writing style and observation of her subject. I heard Ms. Sarah speak on CSPAN-2, my weekend station of choice. In her Betty Boop-like voice she was discussing one of her previous books, "Assassination Vacation," on presidential assassinations. Though the subject wasn't my gig, her approach to the topic, her tart wit, interesting observations was intriguing and refreshing.

I've begun reading Shipmates, and am about 80 pages or a third of the way through the book. I must say that my instincts were correct. Thus far, Vowell has focused mainly John Winthrop's amazing "A Model of Christian Charity," in which the Puritan founder of Massachussetts Colony likens the new colony to "a city on a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us . . ." which is the model for the time-held view of American exceptionalism. Vowell explores the historical and biblical roots for these ideas, which seem to originate from Christ's Sermon on the Mount.

What follows, however, is an application of these rules for Christian Charity as they apply to the recent past and present. First, Vowell compares the sentiment of Winthrop's writing to its appropriation of the "city on a hill" metaphor by Ronald Reagan. She also applies this to 9/11 and our recent actions in Iraq. What the reader gets is an interesting, sometimes moving, sometimes angering perspective of the words of this early American writer juxtaposed against the often inspiring, sometimes repulsive actions of our leaders and our nation.

Thus far Vowell comes across as a person who believes that America is exceptional, imperfect, but with the correct instincts to do the right thing a great deal of the time. Her writing does not proceed in a straight line, but is filled with interjection, sometimes amusing, sometimes ironic, sometimes tragic.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Junior is a Mariner

I don't think I've ever been so excited about a Mariner season as I am about this one. It's not that I expect the M's to be great--they're not going to win the American League West, let alone the World Series. But there is something magical about Ken Griffey, Jr., or just Junior for those of us who love him.

Junior's best days are gone, the legacy of his injury riddled nine years in Cincinnati-likely more the legacy of playing on the Kingdome's unforgiving artificial surface. Yet, he brings something special back to this city-a sunny optimism that win or lose, baseball is good, playing hard is important, and the harder one plays the better the team will perform.

I am not a believer the Ken Griffey Jr. or any other single player will make the Mariners a pennant winner. My hope is that he can do the following things:
  • 400 at bats
  • 20-25 home runs
  • 70-80 rbi's
  • .270 batting average (.340 obp)
I also hope he can bring a sense of unity to the Mariners, perhaps divert some of the attention from Ichiro Suzuki, whom I also admire greatly, and make this year a fun year. Last year was horrible, not only because of all the losing, but because they just looked terrible, like they didn't care and didn't belong in the majors. I believe they are better than that.

I know that the M's won't be the Mariners of 2001, or 1995, but I believe they'll be better than they were in 2008. I also believe that Junior is our Last Lion, and that he's come home to make us better.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


We finished deadline on Wednesday, and we were dead. I am incredibly proud of our Editorial board. They work so hard and without and drama. They take their work extremely seriously and they really produce. The third issue of JagWire is out and it's very well done. The focus topic is serious, most of the articles are good.

A couple of weeks ago I found out that Tim Harrower was offering a workshop on newspaper design. The cost was almost nothing, $15.00 that included lunch at Pierce College in Steilacoom. Harrower is the premier voice on newspaper design. I confess that I know next to nothing about designing. I am pretty ignorant of how to use Photoshop and Indesign. It leaves me feeling less than adequate. But I am committed to figuring it out before school gets out so I can help my kids and feel more confident especially for next year's staff.

The Harrower workshop was fun-he is really amusing, not pretentious at all. My kids, though they were exhausted, were wonderful. I learned a lot and I'd really like to try to put the Maestro design method Harrower suggested to work, if for no other reason than to try and motivate staff.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Deadline weeks are difficult. They take up a lot of time and throw off my schedule. Needless to say, I've allowed this to happen with my workout schedule too. I'll try to get back on the wagon on Thursday.

We've had a bit of a surprise snowfall this morning, so I've got a little bit of extra time. I'll use it for painting and correcting student projects that appear on semester grades.

Monday, January 12, 2009

You Gotta Change Yer Life!!

During Christmas break I promised myself I'd begin living more healthfully. Yeah, I get that. Everyone takes that pledge about the time of the New Year don't they. Number one resolution is to lose weight. So here I am doing the same thing-publicly.

I've had a hard time getting started. It doesn't do me much good to diet, I have to do the diet and exercise combo. On Sunday I started back to L.A. Fitness. I've had a membership at the new gym that opened near our house since May, and have found a way to regularly avoid it. I last went in October. Tells you something.

I've gone every day since Sunday (today is Wednesday the 14th), and set fairly moderate goals for myself-chiefly that I go each day for at least thirty minutes, or total three and a half hours of exercise per week. So far I'm off to a good start but I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

In Search of Floodwaters

I set off on a little search this afternoon, to find the raging floodwaters of the Puyallup. School was closed today because of the danger of these waters, but I had a hard time finding 'em. Actually the decision to close came last night on the prediction of historically high flooding on the river which neatly bisects our district.

Fortunately, the river crested this morning slightly below flood level which is a very good thing. My travels through the valley to Orting didn't find roads closed this afternoon, or people hurriedly barricading their homes against the rising waters. However there was clear evidence that water had been there with fields inundated around Alderton and McMillan.

The picture is of I-5 which is the main interstate artery running north and south through Washington State at Centralia, about sixty miles south of here. It is underwater, by as much as ten feet. Currently the freeway is closed and will remain so, likely through at least Friday, and perhaps longer. All east west corridors through the mountains are also closed, so the state has effectively had road commerce shut off for the next few days until the nasty weather and its aftermath resolves itself.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Weather Doom

From December 16-23rd the Puget Sound area was hit by successive snow storms followed by unusually cold air. It didn't drop anything like huge snow quantities, but each probably piled several inches each atop one another, bringing the area to a standstill.

Hard on the snow's heels are some ferocious rainstorms. It isn't that we're unused to rain here, but not like this. We've had eight inches in the past 36 hours or so, and temperatures that have warmed up to well above freezing in the mountains. This means mucho rain (10-20 inches) in the mountains that has also led to rapid snow melt, filling virtually every river in Western Washington.

The two pictures, downloaded from, show the Puyallup River rising. Though I live on the hill and am not threatened by flooding, tens of thousands of residents were evacuated from the town of Orting, which lies between two flooding rivers-the Carbon and the Puyallup.