Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tried some 'Obama Beer'...

Today, for the first time ever, I sampled a bottle of Yuengling Original Black and Tan, the “Dark-Brewed Porter & Premium Beer.”
According to the bottle, D.G. Yuengling & Son, Inc. of Pottsville, Penn. is America’s Oldest Brewery, and a little research backs this up. The Yuengling (pronounced Ying-ling) brewery is the oldest operating brewing company in the U.S. and is the second largest American owned brewery. Founded in 1829 (10 years after Alabama became a state), the company produces 1.2 million barrels of beer each year. There’s 36 gallons in a barrel of beer, making this the equivalent to 43.2 million gallons of milk.
First sold in 1986, Yuengling Original Black and Tan is a tasty mixture of Yuengling Premium Beer (40 percent) and Dark-Brewed Porter (60 percent). Yuengling’s Premium Beer is a standard American pilsner (a type of pale lager beer), and the Dark-Brewed Porter has a very dark cola color and is bottom-fermented, which is unusual because few mainstream breweries produce bottom-fermented porter.
Put short, I have mixed feelings about this beer. It comes with a twist-off cap (which I prefer) and tastes a lot like Guinness Stout (which is also a plus). On the down side, I learned that Yuengling is President Obama’s favorite beer (Does he have to ruin everything?).
According to Wikipedia, Obama sent a case of Yuengling (because it’s his favorite) to Canadian Prime Minster Stephen Harper on March 19 along with a case of Molson Canadian to cover a friendly wager on the outcome of the 2010 Winter Olympics hockey final.
In the end, this beer’s pretty good, but nothing to write home about. One a scale of one to 10, I’d give it a 7.5, which ain’t bad.
(Also, before I wrap this thing up, I’ll leave you with these pearls of wisdom: Don’t be an idiot. Drink responsibly and never drink and drive.)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

WD points way to reading lists for children...

I love reading to my kids, and it’s quite possibly my favorite thing to do. If you’re looking for a new experience that will not only benefit your kids, but will also carry you down memory lane, this activity is hard to beat.
With that said, I present you tonight with another recommended reading list (actually several lists), this time taken from the pages of Writer’s Digest (one of my favorite magazines.)
In the February issue, in the magazine’s regular “Questions and Quandaries” feature, the magazine’s editors directed individuals interested in toddler books, picture books, easy readers, middle grade and young adult books to the Association for Library Service to Children’s list of writing award winners –
On this site, you’ll find complete lists of the winners of the Caldecott Medal (picture books), the Geisel Medal (readers), the Newberry Medal (usually awarded to middle grade books) and the Printz Award (young adult).
You really can’t go wrong by selecting a book off any of these lists, and most public and school libraries carry these titles as part of their general circulation or in their children’s libraries. I know that way back in the day, the library at Frisco City Elementary School had a special section of shelves dedicated just to the Caldecott and Newberry winners. (Raise your hand if you had to read “Johnny Tremain”?)
Just as a sample, here are the most recent winners of these awards. The 2010 Newberry Medal went to “When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead. “The Lion & the Mouse,” which was illustrated and written by Jerry Pinkney won the 2010 Caldecott Medal. The 2010 Geisel Medal went to “Benny and Penny in the Big No-No!,” which was written and illustrated by Geoffrey Hayes. The 2010 winner of the Printz Award was "Going Bovine"
by Libba Bray.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Are you allergic to Sprite Zero?

Before today, I’d never tried a Sprite Zero, and the jury is still out as to whether or not I’ll drink another any time soon.
While buying some gas this morning at the Old Stage Road Grocery between Repton and Excel, I found myself scanning their drink coolers for something new when my eyes settled on a 20-ounce bottle of Sprite Zero. Whereas a regular bottle of Sprite is green, Sprite Zero is clear, looking almost like water (which it mostly is).
I don’t know if Sprite Zero qualifies as a health drink, but it doesn’t contain much in the way of what people expect when they’re looking for a soft drink. Sprite Zero contains no sugar, no caffeine and zero calories.
As it always goes with something to eat or drink, people usually want to know one thing: How does it taste?
The short answer is that it doesn’t taste bad, and it’ll definitely quench your thirst. I’d say that it tastes like water that’s been dosed with a healthy helping of artificial sweetener.
As you might expect the drink’s ingredients include carbonated water, citric acid, “natural flavors” and a long list of other unpronounceable ingredients. The ingredients list also notes that Sprite Zero contains phenylalanine. This ingredient is listed on the bottle in all capital letters and in bold face print (as if it’s some kind of warning).
Having no idea of what phenylalanine actually is, I looked it up. According to Wikipedia, it’s an amino acid found naturally in the breast milk of animals (!).
“It is used in the manufacture of food and drink products and sold as a nutritional supplement for its reputed analgesic and antidepressant effects,” the article says.
Apparently, this chemical is listed specially on drink bottles because some people are born with a rare genetic disorder called phenylketonuria, which makes them unable to properly metabolise phenylalanine and requires them to limit their intake of the chemical.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ever heard of Campmor? Neither had I...

Prior to yesterday, I’d never heard of Campmor, a camping and outdoors retail store in Mahwah, New Jersey that apparently goes the extra mile to drum up business.
Unsolicited, their Spring 2010 catalog arrived in my mailbox yesterday. (All I can figure is that they bought my address and likely thousands of others from Backpacker Magazine, who probably sold their mailing list for a hefty sum.)
The 206-page catalog is a unique item in and of itself. I’d classify it as a throwback catalog. It’s about the size of an Old Farmer’s Almanac, and contains hundreds of black and white drawings of the products they have to sell.
When it comes to the outdoors, you name it, they’ve got it. They offer a wide variety of products, including air mattresses, backpacks, bicycling accessories, bivys, liners, books, children’s clothing, climbing gear, compasses, cots, chairs, day packs, dog accessories, duffel bags, fire starters, first aid gear, food, footwear, gaiters, gloves and mittens, GPS devices, hammocks, hats, headlights, hydration systems, insect repellent, knives, lanterns and flashlights, pack covers, rainwear, sandals, saws, shovels, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, socks, stoves, cooksets, sunglasses, sunscreen, survival gear, tents, toiletries, trekking poles, watches, water bottles, water purifiers and the list goes on and on. They’ve even got four pages dedicated to camping underwear.
As things go, I was naturally drawn to the catalog’s one page of books (and DVDs) and found an interesting selection. Their featured books included “The Barefoot Sisters-Southbound: An Adventure on the Appalachian Trail” by Lucy and Susan Letcher, “How to Hike the AT: The Nitty Gritty Details of a Long Distance Trek” by Michelle Ray, “Trail Life: Ray Jardine’s Lightweight Backpacking – 25,000 Miles of Trail Tested Know How,” “Walking Home” by Lucy and Susan Letcher, “Boy Scouts of America: A Centennial History,” “Native American Survival Skills,” “Merle’s Door,” “The Boy Camper: Old Time Camping Skills and Projects,” “How to Stay Alive in the Woods” by Bradford Angier and “The U.S. Army Survival Handbook.”
In the end, if you would like to check out Campmor on your own, visit their Web site at They’re also on Facebook.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

National Geographic’s 100 Best Adventure Books

It's been a week since I posted my first recommended reading list. Today, I offer up another list of books, and this time many of these books are based on new experiences by their respective authors. Let me know if you've read any of these and which of these books you'd recommend.

National Geographic’s 100 Best Adventure Books
1. The Worst Journey in the World. By Apsley Cherry-Garrard (1922)
2. Journals. By Meriwether Lews and William Clark (1841)
3. Wind, Sand & Stars. By Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1940)
4. Exploration of the Colorado River. By John Wesley Powell (1875)
5. Anapurna. By Maurice Herzog. (1952)
6. Arabian Sands. By Wilfred Thesiger (1959)
7. Desert Solitare. By Edward Abbey (1968)
8. West With the Night. By Beryl Markham (1942)
9. Into Thin Air. By John Kraukauer (1997)
10. Travels. By Marco Polo (1298)
11. Farthest North. By Fridtjof Nansen (1987)
12. The Snow Leopard. By Peter Matthiessen (1978)
13. Roughing It. By Mark Twain (1872)
14. Two Years Before the Mast. By Richard Henry Dana (1840)
15. South. By Ernest Shackleton (1919)
16. A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. By Eric Newby (1958)
17. Kon-Tiki. By Thor Heyerdahl (1950)
18. Travels in West Africa. By Mary Kingsley (1897)
19. The Spirit of St. Louis. By Charles Lindbergh (1953)
20. Seven Years in Tibet. By Heinrich Harrer (1953)
21. Journals. By James Cook (1768-1779)
22. Home of the Blizzard. By Douglas Mawson (1915)
23. The Voyage of the Beagle. By Charles Darwin (1839)
24. The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. By T.E. Lawrence (1926)
25. Travels to the Interior Districts of Africa. By Mungo Park (1799)
26. The Right Stuff. By Tom Wolfe (1979)
27. Sailing Alone Around the World. By Joshua Slocum (1900)
28. The Mountain of My Fear and Deborah: A Wilderness Narrative By David Roberts (1968,1970)
29. First Footsteps in East Africa. By Richard Burton (1856)
30. The Perfect Storm. By Sebastian Junger (1997)
31. The Oregon Trail. By Francis Parkman (1849)
32. Through the Dark Continent. By Henry M. Stanley (1878)
33. A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains. By Isabella Bird (1879)
34. In the Land of White Death. By Valerian Albanov (1817)
35. Endurance. By F. A. Worsley (1931)
36. Scrambles Amongst the Alps. By Edward Whymper (1871)
37. Out of Africa. By Isak Dinesen (1937)
38. Scott's Last Expedition: The Journals. By Robert Falcon Scott (1913)
39. Everest: The West Ridge. By Thomas Hornbein (1965)
40. Journey Without Maps. By Graham Greene (1936)
41. Starlight and Storm. By Gaston Rebuffat (1954)
42. My First Summer in the Sierra. By John Muir (1911)
43. My Life as an Explorer. By Sven Hedin (1925)
44. In Trouble Again. By Redmond O'Hanlon (1988)
45. The Man Who Walked Through Time. By Colin Fletcher (1968)
46. K2--The Savage Mountain. By Charles Houston and Robert Bates (1954)
47. Gipsy Moth Circles the World. By Francis Chichester (1967)
48. Man-Eaters of Kumaon. By Jim Corbett (1944)
49. Alone. By Richard Byrd (1938)
50. Stranger in the Forest. By Eric Hansen (1988)
51. Travels in Arabia Deserta. By Charles M. Doughty (1888)
52. The Royal Road to Romance. By Richard Halliburton (1925)
53. The Long Walk. By Slavomir Ravwicz (1956)
54. Mountaineering in the Sierra Nevada. By Clarence King (1872)
55. My Journey to Lhasa. By Alexandra David-Neel (1927)
56. Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile. By John Hanning Speke (1863).
57. Running the Amazon. By Joe Kane (1989)
58. Alive. By Pier Paul Read (1974)
59. Principall Navigations. By Richard Hakiuyt (1589-90)
60. Incidents of Travel in Yucatan. By John Lloyd Stephens (1843)
61. Shipwreck of the Whaleship Essex. By Owen Chase (1821)
62. Life in the Far West. By George Fredrick Ruxton (1849)
63. My Life as an Explorer. By Roald Amundsen (1927)
64. News from Tartary. By Peter Fleming (1936)
65. Annapurna: A Woman's Place. By Arlene Blum (1980)
66. Bounty Mutiny. By William Bligh (1790)
67. Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea. By Steven Callahan (1886)
68. Castaways. By Alvar Nunex Cabez de Vaca (1555)
69. Touching the Void. By Joe Simpson (1989)
70. Tracks. By Robyn Davidson (1980)
71. The Adventures of Captain Bonneville. By Washington Irving (1837)
72. Cooper's Creek. By Alan Moorehead (1963)
73. The Fearful Void: Across the Implacable Sahara. By Geoffrey Moorhouse (1974)
74. No Picnic on Mount Kenya. By Felice Benuzzi (1953)
75. Through the Brazilian Wilderness. By Theodore Roosevelt (1914)
76. The Road to Oxiana. By Robert Byron (1937)
77. Minus 148. By Art Davidson (1969)
78. Travels. By Ibn Battuta (1354)
79. Jaguars Ripped My Flesh. By Tim Cahill (1987)
80. Journal of a Trapper. By Osborne Russell (1914)
81. Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle. By Dervla Murphy (1965)
82. Terra Incognita. By Sara Wheeler (1996)
83. We Die Alone. By David Howarth (1955)
84. Kabloona. By Gontran de Poncins (1941)
85. Conquistadors of the Useless. By Lionel Terray (1961)
86. Carrying the Fire. By Michael Collins (1974)
87. Adventures in the Wilderness. By William H. H. Murray (1869)
88. The Mountains of My Life. By Walter Bonatti (1998)
89. Great Heart. By James West Davidson and John Rugge (1988)
90. Journal of the Voyage to the Pacific. By Alexander Mackenzie (1801)
91. The Valleys of the Assassins. By Freya Stark (1934)
92. The Silent World. By Jacques Cousteau (1953)
93. Alaska Wilderness. By Robert Marshall (1956)
94. Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Conditions of the North American Indians. By George Catlin (1841)
95. I Married Adventure. By Osa Johnson (1940)
96. The Descent of Pierra Saint-Martin. By Norbert Casteret (1954)
97. The Crystal Horizon. By Reinhold Messner (1982)
98. Narrative of a Journey Across the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River. By John Kirk Townsend (1839)
99. Grizzly Years. By Doug Peacock (1990)
100. One Man's Mountains. By Tom Patey (1971)

Friday, March 26, 2010

How in the wood did that get there?

A weird thing happened yesterday, and I couldn’t help but pass it along as today’s new experience.
My house had two bathrooms, and one of those bathrooms has two washbasins. My wife uses the one on the left, and I use the one on the right. We’ve never had any problems with the water pressure in this house, but yesterday, as I began shaving, the pressure on my side dropped way off. The strong, steady stream that I was accustomed to had been replaced by a limp column of water.
I tried the water on my wife’s side, and it was normal. I finished shaving and during the ensuring shower, I pondered the problem. Bear in mind, that I’m not a plumber by any stretch of the imagination, so there was some bona fide pondering going on at this point.
Later, I screwed the cap off the facet. It was tough to turn barehanded, so I used a washcloth to get it started. When I finally got the cap off – lo and behold – I discovered the problem.
A small sliver of yellowish brown wood, no bigger than a long grain of rice, had gotten lodged in the hole in the center of the backside of the cap. The piece of wood was just big enough to disrupt the flow of water and cause the pressure to drop.
The question remains, though, how did this piece of wood get there in the first place? Again, I’m no expert, but I believe that the facet is the end of a closed pipe system that goes from the sink to the water pipe that leads into the house from outside. That pipe runs to my water meter, which connects to the Town of Excel’s water line that runs down our street. That pipe most likely runs to some sort of pumping station or to the nearest water tower. At some point, though, that piece of wood and likely others like it, had to have entered the system somewhere. In my mind’s eye, I picture it as being a piece of wood that somehow got into the water as it swirls around at the top of one of the town’s water tanks.
In the end, let me hear your thoughts on this. If you can clear up any misconceptions I have about how the water system works, I’d also like to hear that as well.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Better than a vitamin shot?

Today, for the first time ever, I tried a Glaceau Vitamin Water.
These “nutrient enhanced water beverages” come in several flavors, and I opted for the essential (vitamin c + calcium) orange-orange flavor. For the 32-ounce size, it cost about two dollars, which is slightly more than I like to pay for a 32-ounce sports drink. But, then again, I was thirsty, so it seemed like a good idea at the time.
The packaging is what I call minimalist, but it does feature the following somewhat humorous paragraph.
“If you ask us, it’s no coincidence that ‘morning’ and ‘mourning’ are only one letter apart. OK sure, there are a few good things about mornings (we’re looking at you, pancakes). Otherwise, forget it. Not only does a 15-minute snooze pass in what feels like a blink, but let’s be honest, the sound of birds chirping is a bit overrated. So to help get your day started off right, we added calcium and 120 percent of your daily value of vitamin c per serving. We think it’ll brighten your day. But don’t worry, not rip-open-curtains-with-no-warning kind of brighter.”
If nothing else, the good folks at the Glaceau home office in Whitestone, N.Y. seem to have a sense of humor.
In addition to the drink's claims of being a good source for vitamin C, it also claims to be a great source of Vitamin B. Each serving contains 40 percent of your recommended daily values of B3, B5, B6 and B12.
I’ll spare you the long list of ingredients in the drink, but I will tell you that the label says that the drink includes “reverse osmosis water.” I don’t know what this is, but it’s got to be fancy. (No wonder it cost over $2!)
Anytime I try a new drink like this, I look at the Nutrition Facts label to see how many calories it contains. The 32-ounce size contains four servings, which comes to about 200 calories for the whole drink. In other words, you’d have to drink a little over 2-1/2 of them to get the same calories that you’d get in the average Big Mac.
How does it taste? Not bad, but it comes up way short of tasting as good as regular orange juice or even orange flavored Gatorade. It has a tart taste, but it didn’t leave any kind of weird aftertaste like some sports drinks. It also didn’t leave me with that syrupy mouth feeling that I get after a Powerade.
In the end, I would recommend that you try these drinks. You might like it or one of the other flavors that Glaceau offers. In any case, it’s bound to be healthier for you than most soft drinks on the market. Try it and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

An experiment in efficiency...

For today’s new experience, I give you the result of a little experiment I conducted this week. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I drove back and forth from my house in Excel to the Wind Creek Casino and Hotel in Atmore, and I know that I will have to make that trip many times in the future (due to my new full-time job there).
Now, I’ve been to Atmore dozens of times over the years, but earlier this week, I got to wondering: What’s the quickest and most efficient way to get to the casino from my house?
Finding the best route would not only save me time, but for every mile I shave off the trip, I’ll be saving gas and money.
The consensus among folks in Excel is that the quickest way to get to Atmore is to take Butler Street to Escambia County Road 10, which will take you to State Highway 21, passed the prisons, and straight to the casino entrance.
However, if you consult Google Maps, it will tell you to that the quickest route (but not the shortest) is to hit State Highway 41 in Repton, travel south to I-65 and take it south to Exit 57, which will put you on State Highway 21, just down from the casino.
In addition to these two routes, I also tried one other and here are the results. Keep in mind that while this distances are pretty rock solid, your travel time will likely vary. I drove about 60 miles per hour where possible on state and county roads and about 75 on the interstate. Also, as you know, traffic flow, school buses and weather (like the fog we had this morning) will affect your travel time, causing it to likely vary from trip to trip.
Route 1: Left Excel on Wildfork Road, took Butler Street to Escambia County Road 10, and took it to State Highway 21 and down to the casino. Total mileage was 31.2 miles (according to my truck’s odometer) and total travel time from my driveway to the casino employee parking lot was 38 minutes and 5.41 seconds (according to the stopwatch on my trusty, battle-tested Timex).
Route 2: Got on U.S. Highway 84 at Dottelle and traveled west to State Highway 21 at Ollie, from there I took 21 all the way through Frisco City and Uriah to the casino. Distance was 36.9 miles and travel time was 44:54.03.
Route 3: Got on U.S. Highway 84 at Dottelle, traveled east to Repton, where I got on State Highway 41 and traveled south to I-65, which I took to Exit 57, where I got off and traveled the short distance to the casino. Distance was 36.4 miles and travel time was 38:39.81.
In the end, it appears that routes one and three are pretty much the same when it comes to time, but you’ll save on gas by using Butler Street. Route 2 now seems out of the question, but I gave it a shot because the roads are in good condition, traffic usually moves at a good pace and I only had to make a couple of turns.
If you know of any super secret short cuts to Atmore from the Monroeville-Excel area, I’d like to hear it. Leave me a comment below or shoot me an e-mail.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Ma-ma-ma-My Shadorma...

Today I attempted my first shadorma.
Never heard of a shadorma? Neither had I until the February issue of Writer’s Digest, which had the following to say about this rare and unusual poetic form.
“The origins of the shadorma poem are a bit elusive and mysterious, but there’s no denying that this poetic form is highly addictive. The poem, which consists of a six-line stanza (or sestet), is entirely ruled by syllables:
Line 1: 3 syllables
Line 2: 5 syllables
Line 3: 3 syllables
Line 4: 3 syllables
Line 5: 7 syllables
Line 6: 5 syllables
In the spirit of “three strikes, and you’re out,” here are my first three tries at writing a shadorma poem.
Shadorma Poem No. 1:
My lone son
Sleeps with Mickey Mouse
Under head
And is unaware that I’m
Watching over him.
(Crystal called me into the baby’s room earlier tonight to look at James, who was using his Mickey Mouse doll as a pillow, which was the subject behind the above poem.)
Shadorma Poem No. 2:
My daughter
Wore her cowgirl boots
All day long
To fit in
With her friends on Western Day
At the local school.
(It was “Western Day” at Harper’s daycare today. Does anyone remember having theme days like this when they were in preschool? I don’t.)
Shadorma Poem No. 3:
Here I sit
While all are asleep
Writing poems
For people
Who may not ever read them
Or try one themselves.
In the end, this was pretty fun to toy with for a while, and in my down time, I may make a more serious attempt at writing a try and artsy shadorma. I invite you to try you hand at it, and post your original shadormas in the comments section below.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Scottish Rite "Further Reading" List...

Today’s been a busy day, so I’ll offer up this quick item (mainly so that I don’t slide down that slippery slope of missing a day).
Today I give you another recommended reading list, this one a list of books for “FURTHER READING” torn from the back of a public brochure called “Masonry Beyond the Third Degree,” which explains the basics of Scottish Rite freemasonry to the public. (Just as anyone can, I downloaded it off the Scottish Rite’s public Web site.)
Without further ado, here are the books on this interesting list:
1. Heredom, transactions of the Scottish Rite Research Society
2. Is It True What They Say About Freemasonry? By Arturo de Hoyos and S. Brent Morris
3. Pillars of Wisdom: The Writings of Albert Pike by Rex R. Hutchens
4. Symbolism of the Blue Degrees of Freemasonry: Albert Pike’s ESOTERIKA, ed. by Arturo de Hoyos
5. Valley of The Craftsmen: A Pictorial History, Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in America’s Southern Jurisdiction, 1801-2001
6. Vested In Glory: The Regalia Of The Scottish Rite Of Freemasonry, S.J., USA by Jim Tresner
The brochure also makes a passing reference to “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry” by S. Brent Morris.
I’ve never read any of these books, but if you have, I’d like to hear what you have to say about them. In any event, I’m sure that if you take the time to read any one of them, it would provide you with a memorable experience.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spark Notes: How to Write a Short Story

For today’s new experience, I give you “Spark Notes: Ultimate Style: How to Write a Short Story” by John Vorwald and Ethan Wolff.
This book sat on my shelf for over a year, and I finished reading it earlier today. It’s by far one of the best books I’ve ever read on how to write a short story. With clear, concrete instructions, this 187-page book covers finding ideas, creating characters, choosing the right point of view, how to begin with a hook, form lively descriptions, create memorable endings, write convincing dialogue and how to revise your work.
Maybe best of all, throughout the book, the authors used a model short story to illustrate their points. They chose “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce, which many of you have read and will know is set in Alabama during Civil War times.
I’d rank “Spark Notes: Ultimate Style: How to Write a Short Story” among the best books on writing that I’ve read. Others I would recommend would include:
1. The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White
2. How Fiction Works by Oakley Hall
3. The Art and Craft of the Short Story by Rick DeMarinis
4. Creating Short Fiction: The Classic Guide to Writing Short Fiction by Damon Knight
5. The Art and Craft of Feature Writing by William E. Blundell
6. On Writing Well by William Zinsser
7. The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall
8. The Oxford Essential Guide to Writing by Thomas S. Kane
9. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
10. On Writing by Stephen King
Some of these books you may have heard of, others probably not. In any event, you can’t go wrong with any of these if you’re looking for good advice on writing.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Runner's World Reading List

I recently renewed my subscription to Runner’s World magazine, and they sent me a free gift – a 64-page 2010 Training Log.
Written by Budd Coates and the editors of Runner’s World, this handy volume is nice (aside from the fact that it looks like it was printed on recycled toilet paper). With space for each day of the year, there’s room to note your distance, time, course, heart rate, weather information, temperature and even your mood after each run. There’s also a motivational quote or training tip on the bottom of each page, and the book also contains information on stretching, avoiding injury, building speed and RW’s Web site (
To my surprise, the book also contained (on the last three pages) the “Runner’s World Reading List.”
As I mentioned a couple of days ago in my introduction, I’m a big fan of recommended reading lists, and this one is no exception. The opportunity to read a good book is without a doubt a great new experience in and of itself, and it never hurts to have a useful list of recommended books, especially when it comes from an informed, expert source like the good folks at Runner’s World.
Without further ado, here’s the list:
1. Runner’s World Complete Book of Running: Everything You Need to Know to Run for Fun, Fitness and Competition, edited by Amby Burfoot, Editor-At-Large of Runner’s World and Winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon.
2. Runner’s World Guide to Road Racing by Katie McDonald Neitz
3. Runner’s World Complete Book of Beginning Running by Amby Burfoot
4. Run Less, Run Faster by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr and Ray Moss
5. The Runner’s Diet: The Ultimate Eating Plan That Will Make Every Runner (And Walker) Leaner, Faster and Fitter by Madelyn H. Fernstrom, PhD, CNS
6. Bowerman and the Men of Oregon: The Story of Oregon’s Legendary Coach and Nike’s Cofounder by Kenny Moore
7. Runner’s World Complete Book of Women’s Running: The Best Advice to Get Started, Stay Motivated, Lose Weight, Run Injury-Free, Be Safe and Train for Any Distance by Dagny Scott Barrios
8. Going Long: Inspriations, Oddballs, Sublime Athletes and the Best Stories from Runner’s World by the editors of Runner’s World with a foreword by David Willey
9. My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom and Insights of a Road Racing Icon by Bart Yasso with Kathleen Parrish
10. Runner’s World Training Journal by the editors of Runner’s World Magazine
11. The Runner’s Rule Book: Everything a Runner Needs to Know – And Then Some by Mark Remy and the editors of Runner’s World
12. The Runner’s Body: How the Latest Exercise Science Can Help You Run Stronger, Longer and Faster.
I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t read any of these books, but I’d be interested to know if any of you have. If so, tell us about it in the comments below.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Participating in the U.S. Census...

For the first time that I can remember, I did my civic duty yesterday and participated in the U.S. Census.
My family’s census packet arrived in the mail a couple of days ago, and I took a few minutes last night to fill out the questionnaire that was included.
How could I not?
The capitalized, bold-faced words on the front of the envelope said “YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW.” While I’ve never heard of anyone being arrested or sent to prison for blowing off the census, I figured that I had better not mess around. After all, the warning was in boldface type.
I was 24 and living in Montgomery the last time a census was conducted, but I don’t remember participating. As far as I know that would have been the only time that I would have had an opportunity to take part in the census, aside from being counted in my parents’ household when I was 14 and age 4.
According to the enclosed letter of instructions, your census answers are confidential.
“This means the census bureau cannot give out information that identifies you or your household,” the letter said. “Your answers will only be used for statistical purposes, and no other purpose.”
It goes on to say that “the answers you give on the census form cannot be obtained by law enforcement or tax collection agencies. Your answers cannot be used in court. They cannot be obtained with a Freedom of Information Act request.”
At this point in the process, I can’t help but roll my eyes and mutter “Yeah, right” under my breath. They ask you to denote the name, sex, age, birth date and race of every person living in your house, and I can’t beat back that little sliver of paranoia that whispers to me that all of that information about me, the wife and kids is being recorded by some “Big Computer in the Sky.”
Then again, maybe I’ve seen too many old, episodes of the X-Files. I figure that by the time I hear the black helicopters landing in my back yard it’ll be too late anyway.
The letter from the Census Bureau goes on to say that census data does become public after 72 years, so that the information can be used for family history and other types of historical research. This reason alone, in my book, is reason enough to send the form back.
I imagine some descendant of mine, a person I’ll never meet, maybe my son’s grandson, using the information to learn more about my family and the brief window of time we called our lives, way back in the early days of the 21st Century.
I understand how useful information like this can be because I’ve used it myself during the little bit of genealogical research I’ve conducted. Census data collected a century or more ago is often the only official information that remains about my ancestors and probably many of yours.
In the end, all that’s left to do is to drop the “No Postage Necessary If Mailed in the United States” envelope back in the mail. Once the mail lady picks it up, it’ll go to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration Census Data Capture Center in Essex, Maryland.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


To be perfectly honest, above all other things, I’ve always viewed myself as a collector of new experiences. That’s one of the reasons that I’ve been drawn to some of the things I’ve done in the past: working at the newspaper, working on the ambulance, serving in the military, being in the fire department, etc., etc.
We’ve all heard that variety is the spice of life, and I heard someone say once that a person is the sum total of all the people they’ve met, places they’ve been and the books they’ve read. Somewhere along the way, I took all of that to heart and have made it a point to actively seek out new experiences. (My Facebook friends won’t find this hard to believe.)
While it’s not always possible, I try to do or experience something new every day. Not only is it educational, but doing so adds a lot to life. While this might sound odd at first, I assure you that I’m not talking about trying to have daily experiences like attempting to climb Mount Everest (even though that would be awesome). When I speak of doing something new, it could be something as mundane as ordering something you’ve never eaten before from the menu of a restaurant you visit often.
I’m making a job change this week and while I’ll continue to write a weekly sports column for The Evergreen Courant, I’ll be getting away from the full-time writing life for the time being. With that said, the main purpose of this new blog is to help me keep and maintain the meager writing skills that I have and journalistically document some of my new experiences. I hope you’ll find it interesting.
My intention is to keep the content light-hearted and informative, and I hope it’ll encourage others to have and share their own experiences. When I speak of new experiences I’m talking about meeting people I’ve never met before, going places I’ve never gone and doing things that I’ve never done. Much of what you’ll find here will be information about new books that I’ve read, restaurants I’ve never visited, celebrities that I happen to meet (if any), food I’ve never tried, events I’ve never attended (like festivals and sporting events), places (like state parks and hiking trails) and movies I’ve seen for the first time.
You’ll also find that I’m big on lists. I’ve always been drawn to “bucket” lists, top 10 lists of things to do, go, eat and see, as well as recommended reading lists and best-of lists. If you run across any lists like these, feel free to share them.
In the end, I hope that none of you find this blog to be boring or too self-indulgent. If so, then I’ve failed in what I’ve set out to do, and I’ll need to tighten up.
P.S. At this point, the biggest challenge in setting up this blog is selecting an appropriate name or title for it. In a weird attempt at humor, you see what I’ve selected. Feel free to send me your suggestions.