Sunday, July 24, 2011

A few book reviews

As mentioned in my previous post, I have been fortunate enough to have a little extra time to catch up on some long sought reading.  In light of the recent announcement that Borders has declared bankruptcy, I thought I would give a quick synopsis of these books in case you might be interested in picking up one or both of these books during the clearance sales.  I promise to give more book synopses as I read further.

License to Pawn by Rick Harrison:  If you are a fan of the History Channel, then you have probably seen the hit tv show Pawn Stars.  In short, the show is Antiques Roadshow with an edge.  The author of the book, Rick, owns a pawn shop in Las Vegas with his father, known as Old Man, where he employs his son, Big Hoss, and Big Hoss's childhood friend, Chumlee.  On the show, all sorts of historical items are brought into the shop, and the four stars use their knowledge and a team of experts to determine the history of the item and negotiate a purchase price.

The book takes a look into the history of "The World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop", its customers, and some of the more interesting items in the shop.  Of particular interest is Rick's relentless desire to build the pawn shop and make a buck anyway he can find.  However, Rick is at his best when describing the many characters the shop has seen over the years, especially the recurring customers who have become as much a part of the shop as the employees.

Other parts of the book also provide a biography into the lives of Rick and the other stars of the show.  As expected, the four stars have each lived rather rough lives at times, and one would not want to pick a fight with any of them.  Additionally, Rick discusses his struggles, and those of Big Hoss and Chumlee, to overcome heavy drug use.  All three have now been sober for many years, and are strong supporters of anti-drug campaigns.

One area in which the book fails, though, is in its look behind the scenes at the production of Pawn Stars.  Although Rick notes that the stars of the show are no longer able to work the counter on a regular business day (they largely shut the store down for filming), Rick gives little other insight into the experts, the time spent filming, and how quickly items purchased on the show are sold.  Personally, I would have enjoyed a deeper look behind the scenes of the show's daily operations.

Overall, the book is a quick read, and one well worth reading if you enjoy the show.  However, if you are not a fan of the show, or only an occasional viewer, you probably want to pass.

The Good Stuff by Joe Posnanski:  For all of you sports lovers out there, this is a book you will really love.  The book is a compilation of columns of former Kansas City Star sports columnist, and current Sports Illustrated writer, Joe Posnanski.  In my opinion, Posnanski is the best sports writer in the business, and this book highlights him at his best.

In 2001, the Kansas City Star and Posnanski decided to compile what they considered his best columns over the past few years.  Thus, although I thoroughly enjoy Posnanski's work, I was concerned this book might be (1) outdated, and (2) too focused on Kansas City sports to be interesting to a St. Louis sports fan.  Despite these concerns, neither became an issue.

As to the outdated part, yes, the columns all covered events at least 10 years old.  However, it was enjoyable to relive events from the 2000 Olympics, Tiger Woods's early years, and many others.  Often, Posnanski's columns quickly made me forget just how long it had been since these events occurred.

Regarding my second concern, this was also rarely an issue.  Yes, some of the columns focused on the Chiefs, the Royals, and Kansas basketball, but again, most of the columns were more national in coverage, and even those focusing on Kansas City area sports were primarily a look into human nature and the power of a person to achieve even in the midst of the most adverse circumstances.

If you have any interest in sports, I would highly recommend this book.  Do not let its age or Kansas City connections fool you into dismissing this great read.  It is a book I am sure you will enjoy.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Back in the SAHDle, back to work...

After a few weeks away from this blog, I have received a number of inquiries as to why I have not posted recently.  The answer is complicated: (1) I have had little time; (2) Nothing exciting has happened; and (3) I have not had a need to post.

Let me start with the first item.  When I started this blog, I thought I would have all of this extra time when the baby was napping, after he went to bed, etc.  Well, the fact of the matter is that I have not had the free time I expected.  My son is a light sleeper when he naps, and almost as soon as I set him down in his crib, he wakes up.  Therefore, I end up holding him during his naps.  So I have about three or four hours a day where he is napping, but it is extremely difficult to compose a blog post with a napping child on your lap.  Thus, that time is not readily available.

My child generally goes to bed about 8:30, which is fairly late for a nine month old.  So by the time he is in bed, we clean up, shower and relax, the night is mostly over.  I have been doing a lot of reading (not much else I can do other than read or watch tv with a napping child on me), so I find myself using my free time in the evening to continue what I was reading during the day.  As a result of this, I have little time or energy left to post on my blog.

Second, nothing exciting has happened lately.  The baby has been extremely good, and him and I have had plenty of visits with family and friends and trips to the store.  I am truly blessed to have such wonderful family and friends supporting me as a SAHD, and through the transition from work to full time SAHD.  Numerous friends have invited me out to lunch, and all have been not only accepting of the fact that I have my child with me, but have played with him and treated him as part of the group.  It has been amazing.

Finally, and most importantly, I started this blog as an outlet, as a way to keep me sane, and allow my creative juices to flow.  When I first began the transition to full time SAHD, I would tell my wife that I had this strange feeling, a feeling of utter loneliness, but at the same time, I felt as though I was never alone.  I guess that comes with the territory of having someone with you all the time, yet having someone with you that you cannot fully interact with.  Yet, because of the support of my family and friends, the transition has been surprisingly smooth, and I have pushed beyond the feelings of loneliness. 

A month has already passed since my last day at the law office, and the time has been flying.  It has been a great transition, and I am really happy with my decision to leave the office.  As mentioned above, I have been reading a lot more.  I've also been jogging (or at least walking) several miles everyday with the baby in the running stroller.  I have also been adding to my collection of NES games (the total now stands at 189 games, only about 600 more to go!).

But alas, all good things must come to an end.  On Monday, I am returning to work.  Ok, not really work, but at least I'll be getting paid for my time.  I will be participating in a bird flu vaccine study at Saint Louis University.  Except for the extended first visit, I should be able to bring the baby along for each of my follow up visits.  I should be able to make about $600-$700 for a mere few hours of my time.  And even better, they claim I cannot get bird flu from this study!  Lucky me!

I do miss working (although not the legal field, per se), and one day plan to reenter the work force.  When that time comes, I want to make sure my resume looks good, and that I can pointedly answer questions about how I spent my time as a SAHD.  A good conversation about my vaccine escapades should entertain any future employer for awhile.  Of course, conversations about good books I've read, my work on the parish council, my maintenance of a blog (hopefully), and successfully raising a toddler should be helpful as well.

With all that said, I hope to keep posting with some frequency.  But then again, if things keep working out as well as they have, maybe I'll just look for a few more vaccine studies to get involved with instead.

Friday, July 1, 2011


Another week in the books.  And it was a great week.  Was fortunate enough to have meals with several amazing friends.  Went to a few stores.  Everything went smoothly, except...

On Wednesday, the baby and I went for a walk in the park.  We are quite lucky to live across from a huge park with a 1.5 mile trail encircling it.  The park includes a huge pond with a large amount of fish, ducks, turtles, and other wildlife.  It is a really great place to bring kids and have a good time.

As the baby and I were walking around the pond, I decided to indulge the baby in one of his favorite activities - chasing the geese.  On this day, because it was so hot, most of the geese were at the top of a big hill underneath some trees that overlook the pond.  I began to push the running stroller down the hill after the now running and honking geese (why they do not fly away, I will never understand). 

As we went under the tree where the geese had been sitting, I suddenly felt something land on my forehead, and as I began to swat it away, I felt it sting me on the top of my forehead.  I flailed violently (seems to be a theme in my life these days), knocked off my glasses, shouted out in pain, and let go of the running stroller that was on the hill leading to the pond.  I was pretty sure my death was imminent.

Thankfully, I am not allergic to bee stings.  More thankfully, however, I composed myself in time to get a grip on the running stroller before it raced down the hill into the pond.  It would not have been a good day if my son had ended up in the pond.  Luckily, I didn't have to explain anything to my wife when she returned home from work.

So the lesson learned:  Do not let go when pushing a running stroller down hill towards a large open body of water.

Have a Happy and Safe 4th of July!