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New Language Project

Hi all, if you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know about my language addiction. Every year I’m committing to breaking into a new language with daily study, while trying not to let the others backslide too much.

I speak and read great Spanish, serviceable French, and now I’m in the midst of adding Japanese to the mix. I’m much farther into spoken Japanese than I am into learning the Kanji characters, but am committed to a couple of years of studying both.

If you’re into this, the best source for spoken Japanese that I’ve found is the Michele Thomas Japanese CDs.

For Kanji, so far I’m doing well (I think) with the Sticky Study Kanji app on my phone, and a book called Remembering The Kanji.

Any Japanese speakers here? Any tips would be appreciated. Join me! There are few things I enjoy more than learning languages.




If you’re on Twitter, or online for that matter, you’ve probably seen the discussion of the hashtag #yesallwomen. This was a response to the hashtag #notallmen.

If none of that makes sense to you, I kind of envy you. An ignorance of social media would be a very nice thing once in a while. But if you’ve been following it, I’m interested in your thoughts. #yesallwomen has generated an enormous amount of discussion about women, sexism, abuse, misogyny, misandry (depending on who you ask), entitlement, sex, and on and on.

I don’t have much to add, but I’ll say this:

I am largely the man I am today because of the strong, kind women I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life. I owe them almost everything (love you too, dad, but I think you’d agree that we both lucked out!).

As to the harassment, sexism, and fear that women have to deal with every day, I won’t even pretend I can understand what it’s like.

But I will do my best to empathize and try not to contribute to the problem.

Grateful to all kind, decent, strong women today. Keep at it.




“You Don’t Have A Cigarette, maybe?”

Yesterday Max (my 6 year old) and I were walking across a crosswalk. The heat beat down and all was shimmering misery. Then a woman in a purple T shirt appeared. “You don’t have a cigarette, maybe?”

Max looked at her and said, “We don’t have cigarettes. We have Tourette’s.”

If you’re new to the blog, you might not know, but my son and I both have Tourette Syndrome. Mine is extreme, his is currently mild. But wow, this made me laugh.




I visited a local book club last night. Whenever I visit as an author, I get many of the same questions, but there are always a couple that surprise me. The surprising ones tend to be things like “Do you think you could ever be a shaman?” and “So just what is it about you?” Neither of which are as specific as the askers seem to think.

To the first: No, probably not going to ever be a shaman.

To the second: beats me. I’m a well-meaning lummox who reads a lot.

I did get a question last night that I’d like to address, and it’s something I’ve written about before.

Q. With the way your Tourette’s is, how can you be so confident? How can you stand to be out in public? [click to continue…]


The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

The Yellow Birds is about a young veteran of the Iraq war. Everyone I knew who had read it was comparing it to Tim Obrien’s imperishable novel The Things They Carried.

I can safely say that I love them both. Things is a book I wouldn’t ever want to do without, but Kevin Powers is a writer with real gifts.

The story unfolds in fragments. What we know at the outset is that the young narrator survived the battle of Al Tafar, but something happened. An eighteen year old named Murph is dead. We don’t know how. I don’t want to say more than that; the method by which Powers lets the story unfold–with subtlety, something missing from far too many books about wars–is one of the novel’s greatest pleasures.

The Yellow Birds isn’t a lot of fun, but it’s a powerful story, and there are innumerable tragedies just like the one it describes. There are lines and pieces and scenes that I’ll remember for a long time.

Give it a try!


On Not Receiving Prom Invitations

Joe Biden just got invited to prom by someone. He said no, but sent a corsage.

Seems like this happened last year as well, but it was someone else. Some celebrity.

I just drove by a Chili’s this weekend and saw about fifty kids with optimistic mustaches and pastel colored vests killing it with their frilled and corsaged ladies.

Prom season is here. There’s no way around it.

Someone at the library recently told me I’m totally a celebrity. “I know,” I said, “and the best part of that is that I’ll finally get to go to prom again.” And yet…no invites.

What does Joe Biden have that I don’t?

Do not answer if you are Leslie Knope



Happy Weekend, Reading Update

Hey folks, I finally got done with a round of server migrations, so all is back online, running smoothly, and I’m happy to back for the foreseeable future.

I’ll have a longer post coming on Monday, but for now I wanted to check back in and tell you what I’ve been reading:

Watership Down by Richard Adams

It’s been too long, which in this case only means two years. No surprise here, but WD is every bit as beautiful as I remembered. The appearance of Cowslip still gave me the chills, I still love the rabbits’ lore, and General Woundwort remains a great villain.

The Unpersuadables by Will Storr

Interesting look at various elements of pseudoscience. I thought this book would have an anti-religious bias, but, while it is an appeal to reason, it’s not a screed that should be off putting to people of faith.  Some of the most interesting stories about mental breakdowns and mishaps in recent memory.

The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution In Our Time by Jonathan Weiner

This book proved to me that there reading about a scientist who observes a few hundred finches on the Galapagos Islands for twenty years is way more fascinating then I ever could have guessed. Also, this book won a Pulitzer.

That’s it for now! Happy to be back.






Paperback Release Date

Hi all, the paperback of The World’s Strongest Librarian will be released next Tuesday. The designers at Gotham Books did a lovely job and it’s a good-looking pile of pages.

You can view it over in the sidebar on the right side of this very screen. You can even click on it. And then, if it is the will of Odin, you can even buy it. 

And it’s totally less than the hardcover!

Also, a thought for today. Someone recently asked me what I thought would make the world better. As if I know.

But I tried my best.

Here’s what I wish I had said.

If every single one of us was just a little bit nicer, more often, I don’t think it would hurt the situation any. It might even help. It might even help a lot.

An easy experiment to try!

I’m going to try.



Catching Up On Reading

Hey all, just popping back in between a mountain of travel and work.

Here’s what I’ve been reading.

Some of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer books. If you like tough guys and dames, this’ll do.

Just read Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut again. Never get tired of Bokonon and those calypsos.

Roughing It by Mark Twain. This time through I’ve been paying more attention to the many illustrations, which I have just glanced at before. Worth it.

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. Beyond bizarre, beyond irresistible (not possible, but I wrote that anyway and can’t figure out how to edit it to just “irresistible”)

How about you? Any gems you’ve encountered recently?