Category Archives: Books

Book Review – “Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do”

Is there anything that is more a part of our everyday lives than driving?   Even if you're a die-hard pedestrian or cyclist living in the city without even owning a car, you still have to deal with them every day.  So isn't about time that someone write a book about driving?  Luckily someone has: Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us).

Even better, it is a good book, though one that just may scare the daylights out of you.   I just finished it and I'm already finding myself analyzing my own driving and becoming more aware of the strange things we do when we drive.   Did you know that traffic circles (aka roundabouts, or a rotary) is safer than a traditional intersection?  But the reason it is safer is because it feels MORE dangerous, so we pay more attention.   It makes sense – you probably wouldn't think twice about driving through a four-way intersection while chatting on a cell phone, but going into a traffic circle?  "Sorry, I gotta go."  Or at least that what you SHOULD be doing.

Basically what it comes down to is this: driving is hard.  Like, ridiculously, amazingly hard.  None of us should be doing it.  There isn't a computer smart enough to handle all the things that need to be done while driving, and here we are, doing it while talking on a phone, sipping coffee, and flipping through radio stations.   We should all be dead, I tell you – DEAD!

Not only did the book appeal to my inner geek of wanting to know how things work, but it also provided some interesting insight into various cultures.  I had no idea that Belgium has such a disregard for authority (fight the power you crazy Belgians!) or that more people get hurt crossing streets LEGALLY in New York City than people who get hurt crossing illegally. 

The book does throw a lot of statistics and numbers at you – you'll never remember them all, unless you practice reading the Yellow Pages for fun, but it doesn't matter.  Vanderbilt's writing allows you to understand what he's trying to get at without having to parse out what the percentages and ratios mean – he's done the work for you and it makes for a fascinating read.

Just don't do it while driving!!!

Travels With Barley – Book Review from Good Reads

Travels With Barley: The Quest for the Perfect Beer Joint Travels With Barley: The Quest for the Perfect Beer Joint by Ken Wells

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Interesting mix of beer novice and beer geekdom. The author starts off as a Bud-drinking everyday kinda beer drinker, but they in his quest to find the ultimate beer joint, discovers the craft brewing industry and becomes a "Hophead" (like myself). This results in a book that is a little schizophrenic – it can be a bit basic for beer geeks like myself that have already taken a dozen tours of breweries and know about microbrews and beer festivals, but probably gets a little too wonkish about beer as it starts to focus more on microbrews. I think my favorite parts of the book were the side trips – reading about yeast smugglers and Dogfish Head brewery, etc.

View all my reviews.

So Let’s See Here…

I haven’t exactly been putting the blogging world on fire here recently.  Things have been busy at work and all, but there are a few things that I would like to point out that I’ve been up to lately:

First of all, I just finished the book Who Are You People? by Shari Caudron.  If you’re a fascinated by the deep recesses of pop culture and how people can be completely obsessed with one thing, then you must read this book.  If you have any interest in human psychology or behavior, you should read this book.  If you just like a good, enjoyable, interesting read, then yes, you should read this book. 

The new Shins album is as good as everyone says it is.

I watched Borat for the third time recently, this time on DVD.   It continues to be as funny and shocking as the first time, though on the third go around, it struck me that the same people who came across as the most bigoted in the movie were some of the most understanding at first.  Watch the dinner party scene carefully and those people put up with a lot of shit (literally) before loosing their temper.  The guy at the rodeo should still be slapped around for being a moron though.  And the extra 30 minutes are golden – rent or buy the DVD to watch it – its worth it.

If you haven’t tried Pink Truck Wine, you’re missing out on one of the best pink wines you’ll ever have.  This isn’t some candy-ish white zin – this is real wine with acid, and flavor, and character.

House of Cards

I just finished reading Bringing Down the House by Ben Mezrich, a story of a group of MIT students who figured out an effective and efficient way of winning at casino blackjack and won millions.  I read it on a recommendation from Meghan, and I have to thank her for that.  It was an easy, entertaining read with a good storyline and fascinating background.  The writing isn’t the greatest prose in the history of literature, but it is easy to read and the topic is so interesting that it easily holds your attention.

The drama that arises at the end of the story makes it particularly interesting and worth the read.  If you like playing blackjack (or even poker), or enjoy going to casinos, this is worth your time.

How Long Until the Next One?

Dammit, why do the Harry Potter books have to be so good?!?!?! I finally had enough time last night to fnish off the latest, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” which was another excellent installment in the series. I especially liked how the book really captured the feelings of young love – how your stomach churns and tightens at the sight of the person you’re infatuated with, the happiness and fear of first loves, seeking approval from friends… She really captured what it is like to be a teenager (or one in a wizarding school, at least), which added great depth to the characters.

Not all that surprised at who dies at the end, but it was still a heart-breaker. (SPOILER ALERT – sort of) And to finally get resolution on Snape’s character was nice as well. Rowling has a hell of a job in the next and final installment… will Hogwarts be closed? Will the book take place there at all? Will Ron and Hermione finally get together? How will Harry face Snape and and how the hell is she going to make the inevitable battle between Harry and Voldemort epic enough? (END OF SPOILER ALERT)

I started reading Harry as the fourth book came out, and all I know is that just like all the fourth and fifth books, I’m just upset that I need to wait another couple of YEARS before reading the next one. I want it NOW!