Book Review – Survivor

SurvivorSurvivor by Chuck Palahniuk

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars, but I’ll round up. I didn’t quite know what to make of this book as I listened to it. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting, but in hindsight, it’s typical of Palahniuk’s work. It’s very dark and has some very extreme twists and turns. The narration added a ton of bias to it, though, which makes me wonder if I’d prefer to read this as opposed to listen to it.

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Book Review – Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer

Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's KillerManhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I haven’t read much history in my time, but this was a really fascinating read. The author did a great job of weaving the tale together with a mix of storytelling and direct quotes from various sources (apparently, there were a ton!). I really enjoyed getting to know John Wilkes Booth and got a real sense for the “vibe” in the DC area as the Civil War ended. I learned a lot about the sentiments of the time, and the anguish that people were experiencing as our people and country continued to evolve. Highly recommend.

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I have never been a fan of shopping.

But my mom seemed to really enjoy it. When we were small, my younger brother and I went with her frequently on shopping trips to Belk (department store) and Waccamaw ( When she went back to work, she upgraded our visits to Nordstrom and Dillards. I was 12, and by this time, loved going with her because she always helped me figure out what to pick out. I was never very good at that. She was always very understanding and let me do my own thing, even if it meant wearing men’s Reebok sneakers (I had big feet lol) with a dress. I valued comfort over fashion, and she never made me feel weird about that.

As I got older, I didn’t pick up any new shopping habits or fashion sense. I tried shopping with friends, but I could never get into it. I always felt inadequate about my preferences and tastes. While my relationship with my mom was often strained as I transitioned into my 20s, we could still go shopping and have a good chat. She always listened even if she didn’t agree with all of my choices (clothing or otherwise).

I got to go shopping with her only a few weeks before she died. We were shopping for earrings at JCPenny (a random stop in the mall). Mom was giving me input and asking questions as I tried to narrow down my choices for earrings. She was always supportive, and offered her experiences and opinions. As I paid for a set of earrings I had picked out, I noticed a sale on some blouses that would be work appropriate.

Mom continued to offer feedback (“that’s pretty” or “that would go well with this”) and went so far as to offer to pay for the clothes. I’m well into my 30s now, and she’s still trying to take care of me! The blouses weren’t even that expensive. She insisted, but I pushed back this time. I ended up buying an entire suit and 2 blouses for less than $70. It was really sweet that she wanted to buy me clothes.

It will be hard shopping without her. I might go back to stitch fix or other online services. I’ve never been a fan of shopping.


Today, my visit to California ends. It’s been an emotional 9 days, not to mention the week leading up to it. This was my first time to Sacramento since my mom died. It’s also the first time back in the Bay Area since my friend Dan died. I have so many memories of them in these places. I’ve definitely cried more this week than I have in the last few.

I rented a convertible to drive around Sacramento on my quick weekend visit, and drove everywhere with the top down. I spent time with my cousins, aunts, uncles, and my Grandmother. We swam in my aunt’s pool, laughed over coffee, and shared a few tears as we shared memories of my Mom. This was her family…where she grew up. I ate Jim Boy Tacos in her honor. They were her favorite tacos, and whenever we visited, we ate there every other day.


On Sunday, I drove to San Jose to attend Apple’s WorldWide Developer Conference (WWDC). This was particularly emotional because Dan worked for Apple on the team that runs the live events. I last saw Dan in “meat space” when I was out for the Apple conference 2 years ago. He had just moved out to San Fran for the job, and was really excited about it. We discussed San Francisco life (and all his crazy encounters), and watched the Warriors in the playoffs (he was a huge basketball fan). I took him to some of my favorite spots in Haight-Ashbury, and he took me to some places his friends recommended. We had a great time.

WWDC Bash 2017

The day I “won the lottery” and got a WWDC ticket was the day Dan died. I knew I had to go. I didn’t realize I would cry every day of the conference. Or that I would randomly break down in sessions where I’d think Dan probably would’ve given me clues about the upcoming releases (he never broke the NDA though).

I also met some really cool people. WWDC does not disappoint in bringing the amazing developer community together. From Ireland to Ohio to Australia, once again I met people from around the world of all backgrounds and upbringings. Once again, I have been enlightened and educated, and hopefully made a little better by the people I’ve connected with.

Castle Rock

And today, I went hiking with Kim (Dan’s wife) to see Dan’s grove in Castle Rock (Los Gatos, CA). It was an amazing hike. The 7.5mi trek wound through groves of trees, across ridges of the mountains, and near trickling streams of water. It was beautiful.

I cried a lot today. But that’s okay. I’ll move forward.

I’ll be back.

Music Follows Mood

The most interesting thing about the Spotify Discovery Weekly playlist is how it follows my mood. I really should capture the lists over time because you could probably guess a little bit about what’s going on in my life during each week based on the musical styles represented.

For instance: last summer, I was writing code for the better part of 8 hours a day, and my “Coding Tunes” playlist was getting all the play, tweaking, and tuning. My Discovery Weekly was subsequently filled with ambient electronica of all kinds. Fast forward to today, and you’ll find the tracks are much darker, edgier, and hard…a reflection of the sadness and anger that I’m feeling as a result of the loss of Dan & my mom.

Book Review — The Castle by Franz Kafka

The Castle (Classics of World Literature)The Castle by Franz Kafka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. It’s really tough to rate/review a book this is unfinished, but I definitely have an opinion on it. After visiting the Kafka museum in Prague, I became intrigued by his struggle of being in the corporate world but longing to be an artist. Despite being really good at his job at an insurance company, he really disliked it and it appeared to greatly impact his health. His struggle is real to me. I couldn’t help but read that struggle when reading The Castle. All throughout the book there are parallels to the human behavior of the people who work in The Castle and the people who long to be in the Castle. The way K. talks about wanting access to Klamm and anyone of importance reminded me of how we climb the ladder. The way Olga described the messengers, including her brother Barnabas, and how they worked in tiny offices with so much red tape made me think of (in hyperbole) large companies and all the bureaucracy that exists. Or perhaps I’m jaded.

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Book Review – The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid's TaleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holy hell this book was way better than I was expecting. In fact, it was completely different from what I expected. I hadn’t read any of Atwood’s work before, so I didn’t really know much about how she approaches books. Her writing style is fascinating, especially when you know that she writes a lot of poetry. But her storytelling is really what got me. I got completely absorbed with the narrating character and the various people in her story. It was one of those books I wanted to rush through because I thought the answers to all my questions were on the next page or in the next chapter. “Surely, this is the chapter I’ll get more info!” And when I finally got to the end…I almost wanted to throw my Kindle across the room. In other words, it was fantastic.

Be sure to read the “Historical Facts” bit too!

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Book Review — Gone Girl

Gone GirlGone Girl by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a great beach/airplane book, though it’s pretty dark, which is why I enjoyed it. It wasn’t full of complicated characters, but the plot twisted in interesting directions, which kept me entertained. I definitely went through hating and loving Nick and Amy, and I though Flynn did a good job of making the characters real enough and exploring a lot of the relationships (parents especially). The ending fell kind of flat though…like there was all this interesting stuff happening, and then Nick just folds…WTF?

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Book Review — The Restuarant at the End of the Universe

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (Hitchhiker's Guide, #2)The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed Hitchiker’s Guide, so I finally picked this one up on Audible. I really enjoyed it, both the narration and the story. The writing is a bit funny sometimes — not funny “ha ha” but funny “man, where is he going with this” funny — and I found myself caught up in the endless conversation. There are many digs at modern culture and how it might’ve played out, and it’s aged well (it’s 26yrs old at the time of this review). Highly recommend, but some might not enjoy the writing style as much as I do.

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Book Review — The Stars My Destination

The Stars My DestinationThe Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fantastic recommendation from a buddy, and I don’t regret picking it up immediately. It was full of complex characters, and a storyline that twisted and turned. In some ways, it reminded me of the Count of Monte Cristo and I’m sure Bester borrowed techniques from other classic literature that I can’t immediately recall. It had everything you could want from a good sci-fi book: oddball (extreme) characters, space travel, interstellar war, romance, and revenge!

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Book Review – Interrupt

InterruptInterrupt by Jeff Carlson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an interesting look at how our ancestors and ancestors’ cousins might have evolved throughout thousands of years, and how some primal “inclinations” might reappear under certain circumstances. The characters were really interesting in this book, and the story is pretty fast paced. It’s an easy read (beach book), and entertaining at the same time. Nothing hugely notable, and some of the theories and suppositions were a bit of a stretch. Sometimes, I feel like most authors just glance over certain aspects of characters, which always leaves me unsatisfied. I got a little bit of that in this book, but not a bad vacation book.

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Book Review — The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really struggled to get into it at first as Rothfuss takes his time developing the story. In fact, I can’t believe he ended this book where he did, but it’s effective. I’m really looking forward to reading the next one. It’s not the typical book I’d be interested in, but the story keeps me fully engaged. I feel like I escape a bit when I read it. Quite nice.

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