Saturday, July 31, 2010

Summer Reading

It's moving on day. This afternoon we're getting on a flight at Newark and heading back home.

We are both very excited to begin setting up our new house, and are looking forward to the work and challenges after almost six months of not doing much work at all. But, as happens every time we come back to see our families and friends, it's always a little sad to be saying good-bye one more time. At least we have the comfort of knowing we'll be back during the holiday season at the end of the year.

This has been a wonderful week with Walt and Terry. They are great friends and perfect hosts, and probably the only regret we have is that we can never reciprocate because I don't think they will ever take the long haul to Oz.

There haven't been a lot of posts this week because there wasn't a lot to post about. It has been an absolutely lazy time with near-perfect summer weather, a big pool and beer in the fridge. I've taken advantage of the time to devour some books on the Kindle.

In fact, since we got the Kindles we have both read far more than we did in the past. We've downloaded more than 70 books since November and have already read more than half of them. It's like getting back to where I was when I was younger and read constantly.

In one sense I am a little surprised to find that the e-reader makes such a difference, but on the other hand the same thing happened with iPods. Suddenly, I started to listening to so much more music now that it was easy to get, easy to carry and easy to listen to. Publishers who worry about smaller profits on books for the Kindle, iPad and Nook are crazy. I am sure they are going to sell so many more books now that these devices are pervasive.

But enough analysis of the electronics industry. Since just about all I have done this week is eat, drink, swim, read and play online poker, let me wrap up this wonderful week (and wonderful trip) with three of my favorite quotes from the books I read here.

Michael Lewis has written a fascinating inside look at what went wrong in the financial industry leading to the Global Financial Crisis. His book is "The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine" and it's not just a dry work about finance. Check out this quote about when one of the few people who saw the train wreck coming started analyzing Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO) that helped bring down so much of Wall Street:

Looking for bad bonds inside a CDO was like fishing for crap in a Port-o-Let. The question wasn't whether you'd catch some but how quickly you'd be satisfied you'd caught enough.

One my favorite TV chefs, Anthony Bourdain, has written a fun book that is really a series of essays about various topics related to his life - and not always his restaurant life. In "Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook It," he has a hilarious description of the ultra-rich "beautiful people" he encountered on a Caribbean island:

. . . They're so ugly, these "beautiful people They wear the same ugly clothes, designed by the same misogynistic old queens - who must privately piss themselves with laughter seeing their older, richer clientele squeezing into these outfits . . . leading one to the observation that the style-makers themselves, the people who decide what the world will wear next year, who's pretty, what's "hot" and what's "not", are uniformly hideous beyond the lurid imaginings of Cub Scouts round a campfire. Just look at the guest judges on Project Runway or America's Next Top Model - or at the front row of any fashion show - and you'll get the idea: a dumpier, less attractive more badly dressed bunch of customers would be hard to find outside a suburban Dress Barn. Rick James - in the 70's - could never have gotten away with what Karl Lagerfeld wears every day.

And to think he can cook, too.

And finally, after an unnatural dose of non-fiction I went for light fare. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum mysteries are some of my favorites. I can never read them without laughing out loud at several points. In "Sizzling Sixteen" the best character in the series, overweight ex-prostitute Lula, comes up with her new recipe to shed some pounds. It sounds so good that I think I may try it.

I'm only getting one doughnut, Lula said, getting out of the Firebird. I'm on a new diet where I only have one of anything. Like I can have one pea. And I can have one piece of asparagus. And I can have one load of bread.

Time to get moving. Next post from Sydney.

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