Well Read

Nicole recently posted her responses to a book meme. I tend to shy away from memes, but in the spirit of self-congratulatory smugness, I’ll actually participate in this one. Because I happen to have read a lot of the books in the list, I can feel all proud that I’m more educated than you are! (Actually, for whatever reason, this list has a lot of overlap with our book group reading list, so I’ve read a lot of these books in the past decade, not just in my lifetime.)

In the list below, I’ve bolded books I’ve finished, italicized books I started but did not complete, made blue the books that I particularly love, and used red to indicate books I particularly dislike. The only problem with this list? No Proust.

The Aeneid

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

American Gods

Anansi Boys

Angela’s Ashes : a memoir

Angels & Demons

Anna Karenina

Atlas Shrugged


The Blind Assassin

Brave New World

The Brothers Karamazov

The Canterbury Tales

The Catcher in the Rye


A Clockwork Orange

Cloud Atlas

Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed

A Confederacy of Dunces

The Confusion

The Corrections

The Count of Monte Cristo

Crime and Punishment


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

David Copperfield

Don Quixote




Eats, Shoots & Leaves


Foucault’s Pendulum

The Fountainhead


Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything

The God of Small Things

The Grapes of Wrath

Gravity’s Rainbow

Great Expectations

Gulliver’s Travels

Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

The Historian : a novel

The Hobbit

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Iliad

In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences

The Inferno (and Purgatory and Paradise)

Jane Eyre

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

The Kite Runner

Les Misérables

Life of Pi : a novel


Love in the Time of Cholera

Madame Bovary

Mansfield Park

Memoirs of a Geisha



Mrs. Dalloway

The Mists of Avalon

Moby Dick

The Name of the Rose



Northanger Abbey

The Odyssey

Oliver Twist

The Once and Future King

One Hundred Years of Solitude

On the Road

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Oryx and Crake : a novel

A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present


The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Poisonwood Bible : a novel

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Pride and Prejudice

The Prince


Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books

The Satanic Verses

The Scarlet Letter (reading right now)

Sense and Sensibility

A Short History of Nearly Everything

The Silmarillion


The Sound and the Fury

A Tale of Two Cities

Tess of the D’Urbervilles

The Time Traveler’s Wife

To the Lighthouse

Treasure Island

The Three Musketeers


The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Vanity Fair

War and Peace

Watership Down

White Teeth

Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West

Wuthering Heights

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values

What about you? Has your book group managed to read a lot of these books in the past ten years, too? Or are you just an uneducated little waif?

Lost in the Woods

On Saturday, I got up for a long run in the woods. Normally I would have joined the marathon training group in Portland, but we were on our annual vacation in Sunriver, so I decided to be disciplined and run on my own. While my compatriots were scheduled to do a seven-mile road run, I tried to map out an eight-mile run on forest trails along the Deschutes River.

After a lot of fuss (I can’t seem to get out the door for a run without a lot of fuss), I left the rental house at 6:15. Before I headed out, I posted the following on Twitter:

On a long weekend vacation. Off for a solo 8-mile run in the woods. My biggest fear? Being eaten by a bear. I’m bear-phobic.

I was only half joking. I’m always worried of bears.

It was cold out. There was frost on the windshields of our cars. My breath was puffy. But I was bundled up against the elements, and knew that once I started running, things would be okay. I made my way along the paved roads to the beginning of the hiking path to Benham Falls. I had scrawled a rudimentary version of this Forest Service map to help me navigate the network of trails:

At first the run was difficult. Runs always seem to be difficult for the first ten or twenty minutes. The ground was a curious mix of too hard and too soft. Because it was below freezing, the dirt was crunchy. But the soil was also “airy”, with a lot of compression when I stepped on it. It was confusing &mdahs; my body was forced to make all sorts of micro-adjustments.

I followed my hand-drawn map along FS655 to FS600 and into the old campground. Everything was fine. I found the hiking trail along the river. But then things got a little hairy. There was snow on the ground. I continued along what I believed was the correct path, but found myself completely surrounded by a sea of white. There was not way to tell where I was or where I should be going. Yikes. I backtracked to a known landmark, and tried to figure out what to do. Eventually I found another path that seemed to go in the right direction and resumed my run.

I ran up the hillside and through the woods, occasionally having to deal with patches of old, crusty snow. (This stuff was icy, so I walked over it, and gingerly.) The brush along the side of the trail chewed up my ankles. I couldn’t really tell where I was.

Eventually I came to a long, wide straight path dominated by power lines. “This doesn’t look right,” I told myself. “I don’t think I’ve come far enough.” I pulled out my map. I couldn’t tell if this was the right place to head south or not, but neither did I have any better options. I couldn’t see that my current trail continued further. I followed the power lines south.

About ten minutes later, I encountered FS600 coming in from the side. “That’s strange,” I thought. “Aren’t I already on FS600?” I decided to have faith. I continued south on FS600. When it turned northeast, I continued to follow it. “Aha!” I thought. “This looks familiar.” I had run this path half an hour before. I now began to suspect that I’d taken the mini loop option marked on the map. (I was wrong, but I had the right idea.) But then I took a wrong turn and followed FS600 southeast to paved road 9702.

I was confused.

Ultimately I decided that I should just head north along the paved road, which I knew led to the campground. And it did. I followed the path up the hillside again and then southwest to the powerlines. When I went to pull out my map again, it wasn’t there. It had fallen out of my pocket. “Argh,” I thought. “I’m lost in the woods without my map.”

I wasn’t too worried, though. I knew that if I followed the Deschutes River west and south, I’d eventually come to parts of Sunriver that I knew. I was more concerned with continuing my run. Because I knew the powerline road had been wrong, I searched until I found another trail heading southwest. This trail led me to another confusing junction, but I was able to puzzle out the correct path, and then find my way back to the start.

I had run (and walked when confused) for ninety minutes. “I don’t think I’ve gone eight miles,” I thought. “Maybe I’ve gone five.” So I turned around and ran back the road I’d just travelled until I reached the river again. Then I ran home. It turns out my guess-work was about right.

When I returned to the rental house, I used MapMyRun to determine the distance I’d travelled. I had actually traveled 6-1/2 miles after ninety minutes. With my extra run to the river and back, I had brought the distance to 8.47 miles in one hour and 51 minutes.

Best of all? I hadn’t encountered any bears.

An Interview with Rich Rogers, Cheesemonger

I’m in Trader Joe’s with Rich Rogers. I’m looking for bread. He’s looking at cheese. Rich is in the process of opening an artisan cheese shop in Dallas, Texas, and he never misses a chance to check for cheese in other stores. The past year has been a crash course in retail marketing for him. It’s a harrowing process, but he loves it.

On our way to the cash registers, I stop to grab a jar of clam sauce. “I don’t even know why I’m buying this,” I say. “But it sounds good.”

Rich points to the jars of clam sauce, lined side-by-side. “That’s multiple-face merchandizing,” he says. “You noticed that sauce because the jars were arranged like that. Longer ago, there would have just been one jar in front, and all the other jars lined up behind. But because there was more shelf space devoted to the clam sauce, you noticed it. And now you’re buying it. That’s merchandizing in action.”

Rich hasn’t always been interested in retail merchandizing. For fifteen years, he produced film and video. As a producer, he hired people and put all the pieces together. In post-production, he learned supervision, and he learned to get at what the client wanted. This experience taught him to be organized, and trained him to become a good manager. But now he’s ready to parlay these skills this new venture: he’s going to risk his personal finances on a dream.

I sat down recently with Rich and his brother-in-law Wayne to talk about the risks and rewards of entrepreneurship.

J.D.: Why did you leave film production? What made you want to start a cheese shop?
Rich: We had kids. Shortly after we had kids, our roles changed. My wife’s career got more demanding, and mine wasn’t moving forward. I started cutting back my hours to spend time with my daughters. I began to re-evaluate who I was and what I was doing. I’ve always had a passion for food, and during the process of staying home, I fell in love with cheese. I never wanted to be a chef, but I always wanted to work with food. This was an opportunity to go into the food business.

J.D.: I recently made an entrepreneurial leap myself, and it scares me. Do you feel trepidation at starting your cheese shop?
Rich: Of course. The hard part is your friends and family are excited for you. It’s bold! You’re doing something that many people have wanted to do. But it’s a roller-coaster ride — one moment I’m excited about it, the next I’m nervous and depressed. This is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my life, but it’s the scariest thing I’ve done, too. I’m taking my savings and I’m taking loans from family. It’s the biggest gamble I’ve ever taken. And with where the economy is…But even with where the economy is now, I have to make the leap. This is my only chance.

J.D.: Why is this your only chance?
Rich: Americans in general, and Texans in specific, are scared of foreign things with strange names that smell funny. Tastes are changing, though, and they’re starting to get more interested. Plus there’s another group in Dallas that wants to open a cheese shop about the same time I do. I feel like if I don’t get in now, I’m going to miss this opportunity. Portland has three or four good cheese shops. Dallas doesn’t have any. It has a couple big grocery stores with a wall of cheese and nobody to help.

J.D.: When do you open?
Rich: We hope to open in June. We start paying rent in June. Realistically, it’ll be more like July.

J.D.: Do you have a partner?
Rich: It’s me and my wife. We have equal ownership. She can’t have an active role at the start, so for now I’m doing it by myself. It’s all on me. I need to find a way to make it work.

J.D.: That’s one of the things that scares me about quitting my day job. Before, the web site was just a hobby. Now it’s my only source of income. It’s all on me now, too. I’m nervous about making mistakes. Have you made any mistakes so far getting started?
Rich: Any time I go anywhere, I try to find out if they have a cheese shop, and then I go in and pick their brains. A lot of people have said finding a location is the toughest thing. I almost made a mistake with the location, but we’re really happy with the spot we chose.



It’s a cool location in a great old building, although it hasn’t has any renovation in 35 years. Our landlord really likes the idea, and can’t wait for us to open. There’s a butcher one block over, and a bakery two doors down. There’s a chocolate shop nearby. It’s a good location.

J.D.: I’ve never talked with anyone about leasing a building before. How does that work?
Rich: When we pay our lease, we’re paying the owner’s cost on the building. It’s just like renting a house. When you rent a house, you’re paying the owner’s mortgage. Same with a lease.
J.D.: Some of my readers have a problem with that. They don’t think it’s right that the tenant should pay the owner’s mortgage.
Rich: But that’s the way it is. And the thing that really gets you about renting a commercial space is you not only pay for the owner’s mortgage, you are also assessed charges throughout the year to cover their insurance, taxes, and management of the property. It seems like a racket, but it’s necessary. That’s the way it has to be. Otherwise why would anybody do it? They’d lose money.
Wayne: One thing people don’t realize when they start their own business is that their taxes are going to be higher. Their costs go up. Yeah, you may be selling $600 a day, but most of that goes to taxes.

J.D.: I really like the name and the logo. Where’d that come from?
Rich: It’s named after my grandfather, Pete Scardello. He was a big influence on my life. He taught me a lot about the importance of food. It was weird because in small-town West Texas it wasn’t okay for a guy to cook unless it was on a grill. He taught me that a meal isn’t just a time to feed yourself — it’s a time for friends and family. That’s one of the reasons I love cheese. It’s not just an indulgence — it’s something to share. It’s a way to extend the conversation. Cheese is the perfect food. It has everything except fiber. It has a perfect balance of fat, protein, and carbohydrate. You take a hunk of crusty bread and you’ve got a perfect meal.

J.D.: Yeah. I love that. It’s a great meal. But Kris and I buy most of our cheese at Safeway. Why would anyone go to a cheese shop? Why not just go to the grocery store?
Rich: A specialized shop can offer more than a grocery store. A lot of people who are very successful can take an idea and make it more appealing, even in a flooded market.
Wayne: And Rich knows a lot about cheese. He’s spent a lot of time learning about it. You can get more help from him than at the grocery store.
Rich: Not only did I have to learn about cheese, I had to learn about retail, about gourmet food, about marketing. There are so many factors involved with becoming successful — you have to pull on every scrap of knowledge you have. My father is in retail. We’re in different markets, and have different businesses, but I go to him for advice. Tons of it. He’s a great resource.

J.D.: Does entrepreneurship run in your family? My family, for example, is rife with it. My dad was always starting businesses. Both of my brothers have started businesses. Many of my cousins have, too. Is your family like that?
Rich: Yeah. My father started life with absolutely nothing. They lived in a one-room shack. They had a creek behind the house that acted as their refrigerator. But he went to school. He got an education. He started with a little fuel jobber that he owned a fraction of, but he worked hard and built that into an empire. Now he owns a string of gas stations. I remember when I was little, we’d be on family vacations and he’d stop at random gas stations because he’d see something different. He’d go in and buy some beef jerky just so he could scope the place out. He was always looking for new ideas. My dad’s gone from nothing to being wildly successful. He possesses qualities I someday hope to possess. He knows when to take a risk. He can talk to anybody. To me, he’s a genius. I want to get to that point.

J.D.: That ability to talk to anybody is so important. I can’t do that. Wayne can. I’m envious.
Wayne: It’s not that I’m good at it, either. But I just do it. I had to. In the car business, you have to be able to talk to anybody. Even when I didn’t know what I was doing, I had to fake it.
J.D.: “Fake it ’til you make it.”
Wayne: Yeah.
Rich: I’m not really good at faking it, but you just have to get over that. With this venture, I’ve just learned that I have to move outside my comfort zone. There’s nobody else to do it. I do have to fake it. But you know what? It works. Probably the best piece of advice I ever got from my dad is that happiness is a choice that you make each day. Every day, you get up, and you have the choice whether you’re going to be happy or not. I read a book recently called The Four Agreements, and it made a big impression on me. I’ve learned that you are what you think you are. You make all of these agreements with yourself. If I’d just tell myself I’m outgoing, I’d be outgoing. You are what you tell yourself you are. If you can see yourself as successful, you will be. Take what you’ve got and go with it.

There are two ways to build wealth: spend less or earn more. I write a lot about frugality and cutting costs, but the truth is I believe that the greatest gains come from boosting your income. Business ownership is one way to do this. But it’s not easy. Starting a business can be rewarding, but it carries a lot of risks, including the risk of losing money.

Nobody can know for sure whether Rich’s venture will prosper, but from what I’ve seen, he’s got a damn fine chance. He’s passionate about his product, he’s been methodical in his preparations, and he has a lot of charisma. With just a little bit of luck, I think he’ll become the Big Cheese in Dallas.

Thanks to Rich for letting me speak with him, and thanks to Wayne for a fine meal, fine wine, and fine cigars.

Pool Thugs

As part of my fitness regimen, I’ve been swimming once each week. On Tuesday or Thursday — whichever day happens to follow my upper-body weight-lifting session — I drive an extra fifteen minutes to go the gym in Oregon City. It has a pool. (The gym in Milwaukie has a pool, too, but it’s worthless. It’s more like a backyard frolic pool than a lap pool.)

I had some trouble at first getting the hang of the swimming thing again. Breathing was a real issue. I felt like I was drowning. One of my readers at Get Fit Slowly recommended nose plugs, and much to my surprise, they did the trick. I still sometimes feel short of breath at the end of a lap, but mostly I do okay. (I stop for about ten or twenty seconds after a lap to catch my breath. The guy swimming next to me this morning was doing the same thing.)

So, I’m slowly but surely getting accustomed to the pool. Today I did 1000 meters of mixed freestyle and backstroke in 28:14. Well, it’s not really a backstroke. I don’t know what to call it. I put my arms out wide, like wings, and then pull them to my sides.

Anyhow, all is well and good except for the thugs in the shallow end of the pool. Most of the time when I swim (but not today), there’s a group of surly men and women hogging the shallow end. They’re splashing around, running back and forth across the width of the pool, interfering with my lane.

“Don’t they move when you come through?” Kris asked me when I told her about them.

“Yes,” I said. “But it still bugs me. They’re not very quick.” That’s because these thugs are old thugs. Their average age is probably 70. Usually when I come into the pool, they’re milling around the shallow end as if they own it. I feel like I get resentful stares when I take my lane.

Today the thugs weren’t in the shallow end. Today the thugs were in the jacuzzi nearby. They were complaining about health, about Barack Obama, about local politics. The thugs are a bitter bunch.

Still, I kind of like the thugs. It’s good that they’re at the gym early in the morning exercising. I only hope that when I’m 70, I’ll be down at the gym, in the pool, annoying some young punk by hogging the shallow end.

Barackula: The Musical

Here’s my foldedspace philosophy right now: yes, I know it would be great if I had time to write all sorts of fun little stories, but I don’t really, so I’m just going to post whatever I find that I like. Sound fair?

For example, here’s a hilarious video I found via Airbag:

That’s better than eagles and goats, isn’t it?

Are Golden Eagles the New Dingoes?

Poor Kris. How’s she going to handle this one. She loves both goats and birds, but when you combine the two, which will she root for?

To me, it looks like the eagle is just a little bit spiteful, a little gratuitous in her attacks. But man, how cool is that? She carries off the whole frickin’ goat! Mothers, don’t let your children outside! I’m sure they’re not bigger than the average goat…

8 Miles

As I have for each of the past three Saturdays, I rose early this morning to go running. I’m participating in group training runs, with the goal of finishing the Portland Marathon on October 5th.

During the first two weeks, I ran with the slowest pace group and for the shortest distance. On the first Saturday, we ran four miles in about an hour. Last week we ran five miles in about an hour and fifteen minutes. It was easy. It was too easy. I complained to Pam, who is acting as my coach.

“You should bump up to the next pace group,” she told me. (I had not doubt that would be her recommendation!) “This weekend’s run is a trail run, anyhow,” she said. “Those are generally slower, so you should be fine.”

I rolled out of bed this morning and headed out the door. I looked sporty in my running attire: my old soccer shorts, a long-sleeved exercise shirt worn over my long johns, a stocking cap, and a pair of warm gloves. I was also wearing my brand new water belt (with a pouch for my wallet, keys, and iPhone!) and my new thick woolen “no-show” socks. I almost looked like a runner.

The trail run was held in Portland’s Forest Park, where parking is scarce. In fact, I had to park about a quarter mile from our starting location. It took me five minutes to walk down to where the group was gathering. I was cold! While I waited for the faster pace groups to leave, I pulled out my iPhone and sent the following to Twitter:

So cold! In forest park for 6 mile run. Near freezing. In shorts! At least I brought iPhone. Ha!

As the run began, I was worried. I was really very cold. My legs felt heavy. My stride didn’t feel right. I didn’t like the muddy trail. And I was breathing hard. But as I warmed up, things felt fine. After two miles, I was in great shape. As we continued to run, I felt even better.

When we turned around at the four-mile point, I moved to the front of the single-file line, where I could follow directly behind our group leader, Frank. I asked him how he knew what pace he was going. “I don’t really,” he told me. “I just gauge the speed by you guys. If you’re chattering, I know we’re going at the right speed. If you’re quiet, we’re going to fast.” He explained how to do a similar “talk test” when I’m running on my own. “When you’re training, you always want to be able to talk without gasping.”

I told him I was really enjoying the run. “It’s not hurting my knee,” I said. “I feel like I could do this all day. I may even go for eight.”

“How many miles did you run last week?” he asked.

“Five,” I said.

“Was that the longest run you’ve ever done?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“You should only do six miles today,” Frank said. “Six miles on the trail is like eight miles on the road. You don’t want to overdo it.”

But when he stopped to say farewell to the six-milers, I did not leave. “Are all of you up for eight miles?” he asked the five of us who remained. He looked me in the eyes.

“Yes,” we said.

For the last two miles, Frank picked up the pace, but only a little. That seventh mile was awesome. I wanted to be running by myself. I wanted to be loping along the trail, not jogging. I wanted to speed off on my own. “I can do ten miles,” I thought. “And maybe I will.”

But the eighth mile was more difficult. By the time we’d climbed the hill to our starting point, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor. I can run ten miles some other time. Besides, I had just run eight miles on a dirt trail in bitter cold. That’s three more miles than I’ve ever run at any one time in my life.

Found Photo: Patti’s Wedding 1982

While working a future post for Get Rich Slowly, I stumbled upon this photo by chuckp at Flickr. It’s entitled “Patti’s Wedding 1982”. I find it surreal:

The first thing my eye goes to are the power lines, which seem to be toppling in slow motion. Then I go to the children in the weeds. Then the array of cars by the side of the road. It all seems so…strange.

The photo is tagged: Wisconsin, countryside, wedding, guests, presents, highway, truck, station wagon, wedding guests, and landscape. I’d also tag it “alternate universe”.

Coming Attractions

“You know, I’m usually excited about the summer movie season,” I told Dave at lunch last week. “But this year, I have no idea what’s coming out.”

“There’s Iron Man,” he said.

Iron Man opens May 2nd

“Ugh,” I said. I may be a comic book fan, but there are limits to my enthusiasm. Iron Man seems targeted squarely at junior high boys. I have no desire to see it. “Doesn’t the new Batman movie come out soon?” I asked.

The Dark Knight opens July 18th

“Maybe,” he said. “I don’t know. And isn’t there a Star Trek movie in the works? And another X-Files movie?”

Star Trek opens Christmas 2008

The X-Files 2 opens July 25th
Love the fan reaction in this vid. Makes me want to re-watch the series.

We must be getting old. This morning I did some research. Turns out there are a few movies that look interesting this summer. First up is the Speed Racer film, which Paul J. is skeptical of, but I think looks just like a Mario Kart game. Since I love Mario Kart, I’m all over this…

Speed Racer opens May 9th

My brothers and I loved Speed Racer when we were kids. Loved it. We didn’t have a television, so we didn’t get to watch it very often, but when we did, it was a treat. We also loved Indiana Jones. Can an aging Harrison Ford really pull of a fourth film? We’ll have to wait and see.

That’s the best they have to show us? Looks a little tepid to me. The following week, there’s a movie for my Kris:

Sex and the City opens May 30th

Comic book movies are a dime a dozen today. Too bad so many of them suck. Many people didn’t like Ang Lee’s take on the incredible Hulk — I did. All the same, I’m interested to see the new, revised version of the myth:

The Incredible Hulk opens June 13th

Okay. It looks dumb. Another film for junior high school boys.

Is there any hope for a good summer movie? Why, yes there is. Instead of going to see the new Batman movie on July 18th, I’ll be on my way to see this:

Mamma Mia opens July 18th

Meryl Streep? Pierce Brosnan? Colin Firth? ABBA? Damn straight, I’m there! (Long-time readers know that ABBA is one of my favorite guilty pleasures.)

Finally, I’m really looking forward to the new James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, which is due in theaters November 7th. I thought the last film, Casino Royale was the best of the bunch so far, and I have high hopes for continued excellence from Daniel Craig.

Finding Myself

I’ve been blogging full-time for six weeks now. It’s both good and bad. Obviously, I love the work. But as many people have warned, I’m going a little stir-crazy.

In my former life as a box salesman, I got daily contact with my co-workers, including Jeff and Nick. This is a small universe, to be sure, but it’s a universe. Now I go most days just saying “hello” to the folks at the gym. I need to get out more.

I’m going to look into some sort of class during the summer term. What should I take? Art? Computers? Personal finance? I don’t know. The truth is, I can do anything I want now. But what do I want to do? That’s a tougher question than it sounds.

One thing I know I need to do is work less. I ought to be able to get my blogging done in four to six hours per day. So far, however, I’m allowing myself to be distracted, mostly by e-mail. I stayed up until one o’clock last night, whittling my inbox down to 80 messages. It’s back up to 110. There must be a better way to cope, yet I know this is something that each person has to deal with on his own. I just need to find a system that works.

Part of the problem is that I want to give individual responses to everyone. That’s just not practical, though, especially when I get questions or requests that are longer than my blog posts! I end up shunting those aside to read later, but later turns into weeks, and then months.

I’m not worried, though. From everything I’ve read, the first few months of working from home are difficult. It really is like having a new identity. I just need to fumble around and find out who I am.

(As a postscript, I’ll note that I’m tremendously pleased with how I’ve incorporated exercise into my life. It used to be an afterthought — now it’s my top priority, even over my websites…)