Hiking, San Francisco

Getting ready for a 2 week backpacking trip to Philmont (http://www.scouting.org/philmont/) in Cimarron, NM this fall. Went to REI with my son. Woof – can you say “4 digit$”?!. Got some really cool gear (superlight, breathable Marmot raingear, 3lbs, 20 degree sleeping bag, nice Osprey 4500ci backpack). Trip’s gonna be a lot of fun, but a bear – two weeks in the backcountry. Next up: new hiking boots…

Got out to San Francisco for some work stuff – ended up staying right near the Moscone Center. Haven’t been there in 15 years probably – interesting to see how things have changed. Cleaner and more built up, but still largely the same. Was on the 36th floor of One Market Street (need to figure out if I can make Google earth replicate the view!) – unbelievable view of the bridge and bay – why didn’t I bring my camera?? Had dinner with old friend and colleague D-, he mentioned an interesting web dev framework (jenga?) – you can throw together a pretty interesting website in a few weeks. Also he is having an interesting re-entry into the California work culture – much less argumentative and more concensus driven than the east coast. I wonder how warped I am by ten years of Boston culture 8)

Ysabel and Labyrinth

One of the things that goes with Travel is Books (in fact Books go with just about anything). On the recent trip to SLC, I brought along Ysabel by Kay and Labyrinth by Mosse. They both sounded interesting, although I was more interested in Ysabel, having previously read Kay’s excellent Last Light of the Sun (you know, that Viking thing!).

Somewhat to my surprise, after finishing Ysabel, and getting started on Labyrinth, I noticed that they shared a common thread, in that they had strong roots in France (I guess I had not read the blurbs closely enough!). Ysabel is set in Provence, Labyrinth in the Languedoc. The books are an interesting contrast – Ysabel is bound up with the history of the region (in particular the conflicts between the Celts and the Romans), but the central storyline is based on what appears to be an entirely fictional thematic element. Labyrinth heavily leverages the Grail legend, and the conflict between the Cathars and the Catholic Church. In fact, the books briefly cross paths with the mention of the (in)famous quote from Arnaud-Amaury, the Papal Legate to the Crusaders, during the seige of Beziers: “Kill them all. God will know his own”. Ysabel is also a “coming of age” story, as the main protagonist is a 15 year old boy. Parts of this aspect of the book are cloying, yet Kay’s evocation of the history and atmosphere of Provence is primeval and richly rendered. Overall I found the book enjoyable but not especially deep. Labyrinth I also enjoyed, but the Grail legend is getting a bit tiresome for me as fictional backdrop, and I did not find much novel (no pun intended) in Mosse’s handling of that aspect. I found the last half of the book to be a bit Liszt-ian in that is seemed to go on and on….although, as my flights were delayed and I did not land in Boston until 2am in the morning, this was not all bad 8). Mosse provides a bit more historical backdrop than Kay, although much of it comes in the last 30 pages when the reader is anxious to get to the dénouement. Kay’s characters are rendered with a bit more motivation and backdrop as well. Both are good airplane reads, but neither will change your perspective on life, the way that say, Gates of Fire will. If you have time for only one, go with Ysabel.

Traveling

Returned home from a recent trip to Salt Lake City….did a little skiing, saw old friends T- and L-, G- and A-, and sister-in-law – it’s been far too long since we’ve seen any of them…Came back with a renewed desire to capture more of my travel in a more permanent form…hence the motivation to finally get this blog set up…

Got sidetracked into setting up various callouts to things like Librarything and Flickr – eventually I hope to weave the pictures, books and stories into more of a travelog…

The trip to SLC was good fun. Got a chance to ski/board with K- and E-, for the first time in a long time. All of us took some good spills, but nobody got hurt. We skied Brighton – they’ve opened up the western-most side of the mountain since I was last there 10 years ago (the Great Western lift). Some very nice terrain in there. Bluebird day, 6 or 8 inches of snow the day before, so there was a bit left by the time we got up there, even though the base was pretty light at around 70″. By Utah standards, only so-so skiiing; compared to east coast skiing, heaven!

Books, Search, Startups, Music, Travel