Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

We are back; man are we all wiped out. That was a whirlwind of a trip, but completely worth the effort. Today's highlight was stopping in Big Sur and going to for a little hike to the waterfall. It was very cool and I am fairly certain that BIg Sur is the prettiest place in the continental US.

The pictures here, in order, are: the famous Bixby Bridge in Big Sure; the aforementioned waterfall; the $40 million painting in William Randolph Hearst's room that I referenced in yesterday's post; a shot of his office; the outdoor pool, and the Kids.

Anyway, a short post tonight. Gotta get ready for our big night, which includes a lot of nothing. I wish you all nothing but peace, good health, and happiness in the New Year. And a big thank you for coming back to this blog on a regular basis. I don't have many readers, but I love the ones I have and appreciate this little community more than you know.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hearst Castle Redux

I don't know what to say: I am borderline obsessed with this damn house. It truly is one of the most amazing places I have ever visited. We opted for a different tour than last year; this one took us upstairs, where we saw multiple guest suites, Mr. Hearst's bedroom, his private study, the library and guest library, the kitchen, indoor and outdoor pool. My favorite part fo the day was when I told the tour guide (who, I might add, was also our tour guide last year) that I was surprised how modest his bedroom was, given the expanse of the rest of the room. He said to me "yes, it's modest, but in rather good taste. See that picture over there? It's worth in excess of $40 million dollars." See bad picture, attached. Being a year older, the kids were into this and were very good.I bought "The Chief," the definitive autobiography of William Randolph Hearst, and look forward to reading it. It's pretty dense and I expect I will be finished around this time next year.

After visiting the castle, we went to see the Elephant Lions. I accidently slipped while taking pictures with the kids and slied my finger pretty badly on the ground. If I was closer to civilization, I would likely have gone for stitches. Instead, I sucked it up and we cruised around downtown Cambria. I really dig this place; if it was practical, and I could afford it, I'd buy a place here in a heartbeat. As is, we are considering renting for a week or so. After that, we headed to the beach: I neglected to mention that the weather here is about 67 and just about perfect, I ever managed to get a mini sunburn.

All in all a great day. Tomorrow we will head home but not before stopping in Big Sur to check out a 80 foot waterfall and take a little hike.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Back to Cambria

The natives (read: Kids) were getting a bit restless and given that we have another week together cooped up in the house, action needed to be taken. So, the Wife extraordinaire sprang into action, made a few reservations and by noon we were in the car headed to Cambria. Unlike last year, we are only going away for two nights as we want to be relatively close to town for a good friend who's due to give birth any day/hour/moment now.

Riding on Highway 1 through Big Sur is something everyone should do at least once a year (or, one in a lifetime if you live in the East Coast); it's just that remarkably beautiful. Words really don't begin to describe the coastline from half moon bay up through Cambria, which is where we are now. All I can say is that it's good for the soul and it is so astonishing that it makes you believe in a higher power (in the event you don't!).

Tomorrow morning we will go back to Hearst Castle; I enjoyed it so much last year (as did the family) we are returning to check out the upper floors: library, master bedroom, kitchen and more. I will be sure to post pictures. That place is fascinating and once i get back I intend to do some reading on Mr. Hearst. He was quite the fascinating character. After that, the plan is to walk around the quaint town of Cambria, and hopefully go on a hike. We will head home on Wednesday late afternoon, after hopefully stopping in Big Sur for yet another hike.

Man I love California.

More tomorrow.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Top Ten Albums of 2008

Ok, here goes nothing: my list of top albums for 2008. A few caveats that bear repeating. One: I like music that rocks. There is plenty of interesting, artsy bands out there that are creating great music, but I'm not into the "beta band" thing, to borrow a phrase from my boy Beno. The other thing worth mentioning is that about 90 percent of the time in which I am listening to music, I am doing so while running (the other 10 percent is while traveling), and generally when I run I prefer music that has a more aggressive, faster beat. Thus, "slow" music doesn't end up being terribly high on my list(s).

Anyway, with that being said and without further ado, I present to you:

10. Guns n Roses, Chinese Democracy

I don't care what the critics say (you will find this to be a recurring sentiment in this post), this album is solid, and I find myself going to it with increasing frequency. Yes, it's a bit overproduced, yes it is a bit over the topic in terms of its ambition, but Axl has a voice like no other and several songs on this album absolutely rock and are up there with some of his earlier classics. I think it's easy to cast aspersion given how long it took, which I agree is a bit of a joke, but just focusing on the record itself, one has to admit it's pretty darn good. Plus, Pitchfork hated it, which is so utterly predictable yet makes me like it even more.

9. Kanye West, 808's & Heartbreak

Ok, two very important caveats. One: I have owned this album for less than 24 hours. Two: I think Kanye is a pompous, arrogant ass. I find him and his self indulgent antics borderline despicable. That being said, as stated above, I think you have to judge an artist singularly on his/her merits, and guess what: this album is amazing. I listened to it straight through during my two hour run today and then I immediately listened to it again, which is something I never, ever do. This album is interesting, inventive and unlike nearly anything I have heard this year. I suspect with the benefit of more time, this one could have moved even higher on my list.

8. The Bug, London Zoo

This is hard to explain. I am not entirely in love with this album per se but I do admire it's ambition. I find dubstep to be very interesting; perhaps the most interesting new genre to emerge over the past several years. This is one reason why I had Burial on my list last year, and I think The Bug's London Zoo is an even better effort. It's got a heavier reggae beat, which appeals and it's very listenable, particularly if you are in a dark mood or find yourself running on a track in the dark of night.

7. Blitzen Trapper, Furr

The critics loved this one (Pitchfork gave it an 8.5) and for good reason: it's wildly eclectic, has a good sense of continuity throughout and it touches on multiple genres. It also features what might possibly be my song of the year: Black River Killer. If you are afraid to try the entire album, buy this track. The other thing I like about this album is that I keep discovering new elements; it is most definitely a "grower."

6. Coldplay, Viva La Vida

I don't care if I catch flack for this one. Much like Kanye, yes, Chris Martin is a bit of a tool, and yes, I agree that they are unoriginal and somewhat derivative, but you know what? They make awfully good, listenable songs that are arguably timeless (though I guess only time will tell if that statement holds true). Fact is, they are today's "Supergroup"" for good reason; they keep putting out solid material. And while I am at it, their accompanying EP, Prospekts March, is also pretty darn good in its own right.

5. Deerhunter, Microcastle

One of those bands that I don't know a lot about and find hard to describe, but I know that my favorite artists are ones who get me on first listen and this one grabbed me at the outset. Their lead singer, Brandon Cox, strikes me as one seriously talented -- and interesting -- dude. This is another one of those albums, similiar to Blitzen Trappen, that continually reveals itself with successive listens.

4. Frightened Rabbit, The Modern Leper

I think this is Beno's favorite album of the year so I will let him describe this one: he could do it far greater justice. LIke a lot of Scottish bands, they have a lot of soul yet at the same time are pretty rocking. In certain respects, they remind me of 60's mod bands, ala The Jam. Every song on this one is good. It's just a flat out enjoyable listen, all the way through.

3. The Killers, Day & Age

I don't understand why the critics ripped Sam's Town and I don't understand why they were so hard on this one either. Yes, Brandon can at times fall into the Chris Martin, Kanye West school of tools, but there's no denying he creates catchy pop songs. I love that this one is an homage to the 80's, and it's, dare I say, a fun and light album that gets eminently better with each successive listen. Even my six year old, who's boasting her very own ipod Nano, is singing songs from this one and I don't necessarily thing that's a bad thing.

2. TV on the Radio, Dear Science

The critics were right about this one: it straight up rocks, it's inventive annd it grabs you from the outset and never lets go. I believe that these guys have the potential to become as popular as they want to: in certain ways, they remind me when I saw U2 play back in the early 80's. Note there music isn't even remotely comparable, but I knew when i saw U2 that they would ultimately be an important band and I feel the same way about TVOTR.

1. Girl Talk, Feed the Animals

This probably isn't the "best" album of the year: I would probably defer that to TVOTR, above, but in my opinion, it is certainly the most fun. I declared this my album of the year when I first heard it about six months ago, and haven't heard anything since to change my mind. I never even heard of this dude before getting this album and it blew my mind upon first listen. It's completely original yet in an unoriginal kind of way: it melds together countless songs from the sixties to today's raps and even as it crosses genres and generations, its transitions are utterly seamless. I can see myself going back to this one years from now, which makes it my "winner."

A special shout out goes to several others that didn't make the cut, but were definitely noteworthy, including Cut Copy, Helio Sequence, MIA, Beck, Santogold, DJ Rupture, Metallica, Fleet Foxes and KInds of Leon.

Friday, December 26, 2008


A nice past few days. We had dinner at friends house the past two nights and hosted other friends this evening. Last night the Kids got their "big" Hanukah gift; "his" and "hers" Nano ipods. To say they are stoked would be an understatement. They are going absolutely bananas and don't know what to do first: listen to music, watch movies, or play games. Or in the case of all The Girl, attempt all three at once.

Today was a fair weathered day and we kept busy. This morning we went hiking up Ring Mountain, which has some of the best views in the entire Bay Area. It's about a mile up to the peak and a mile down and the kids seem to like this one; might have had something to do with their ipods. Later in the afternoon I went for a run and the girl accompanied me on her bike. As I have said before, this kid is an amazing athlete and I am thinking that her secret is that she's impervious to pain. We were out for an hour and she was cruising the entire time; on several occasions I had to have her wait up for me. My favorite part of our little jaunt was when I was listening to Notorious B.I.G. on my ipod, and she was singing rudolph to herself and any and all passerby's. About as disparate as it gets in terms of music, but it seemed to work for the two of us.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays

We just celebrated our first ever Christmas eve at our friend's the Hughes, and it was awesome. We even integrated a little Hanukah into the mix. All in all, it made for a terrific evening. I'm looking forward to Christmas day; more than anything, I like the stillness of the day; the (rare) feeling that there's nothing to get stressed about. If the weather is accomodating, I plan to take the kids to the track; I have given them each their first "official" track workouts. We will see how that goes. After that, we plan to chill out, relax and then to a friends house for Christmas dinner. I have to say that us Jews are pretty popular this holiday season.

Anyway, regardless of your religion, happy holidays, all. I hope that your New Year is filled with health, happiness and prosperity.

Monday, December 22, 2008


I am going to sound horribly obnoxious in this post, but so be it.

As a relative newcomer to California, people ask me all the time whether I miss the four seasons of the East Coast, snow in Chicago in December etc. etc. My answer? A resounding freaking no.

Honestly, if I never saw snow again in this lifetime, I am not sure I'd care. Sure it's pretty to look at, sure it's fun to cross country ski, sure it's fun to play in (if you are under the age of 10, that is) but there's one major issue: by definition, it is accompanied by cold weather. And cold weather, ladies and gentlemen, blows. Sorry, but I have to say it.

This morning I woke up to the news, where the report was live from Chi-town, where with wind chill it was thirty below zero.
We turned the channel and reports were coming in live from the Northeast, Pacific Northwest, Midwest, replete with major snowstorms, freezing colder weather, plane cancellations, etc. etc. With this in mind I did what I had to do: grabbed the boy, threw our bikes in the car (actually, just his bike) and went for a bike/run. You'll note the boy is wearing a sweatshirt and gloves; it was a brisk 57 today but he took this all off at mile 2 of our six mile bike/run. Afterwards, we went mini golfing for a few hours.

All that being said, I will state for the record that Bay Area Weather isn't exactly all that, but man: I will take 57 any day over minus 30. Sorry, but human beings simply aren't supposed to live like that. Again, apologies for being obnoxious, and for ending so many sentences with prepositions, but I gotta tell it like it is.

(Plus, I am waging a massive California-recruiting campaign in regards to one of my buddies, so consider this a not-so-thinly veiled message at him in particular).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Hanukah

This video says it all.


Happy 40th birthday to The Wife. She is a great wife and an even better mom, and I hope she's having a good day.

To celebrate, we woke up early - if not a bit slowly- this morning after a terrific holiday party at our friends house. We immediately headed into the City, so that the kids could run a mile race and the Wife, a 5k. I was reduced to bystander, which was just fine by me.

Warning that I am going to sound like an obnoxious parent for a paragraph or two, but I cannot express how impressed I am with my Kids. I ran the mile with them and the Boy started off so fast I literally could not keep up, so I sat back with the Girl. At the half mile mark I noticed faltering a bit, so I sped up and ran with him. He picked it up big time at the end and finished in an amazing time of 6:56. That's fast for an adult, let alone a kid. He ended up winning the 12 and under division (and he's only nine!) by more than a minute. The Girl cruised it in and as she was approaching the finish, people were going bananas for her; she's so tiny and cute. She ended up finishing second in the female 12 and under, in an time of 8:07, which is pretty amazing considering she is only six!

I think they have discovered their sport; two people came up to me after the race to tell me that I had to get her in a junior track program. And to close off a nice morning, the Wife finished in 29 minutes, which for her is a great time. And she did it in a driving rain to boot. All in all, a good, fun day for the Solomon's.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I haven't been a big fan of Twitter: I find it kind of self indulgent, to be honest. I say this of course with all due respect to my fellow twitter-ers (tweets?).

That being said, it is interesting to follow various reporters and tech cognescenti. I am also getting a kick out of following Lance, too. Though I have had an account for the past seven months, it's been relatively dormant. Until now; figure I will give it a whirl. Part of my job responsibility is to stay on top of new technology, so that's what I will do. You can follow me at

If you use Twitter, I'd greatly appreciate if you'd follow me (even that sounded terribly self indulgent; it would be kind of sad though to be talking to myself). Maybe Senor Beno can help me figure out a way to send my "tweets" directly to these pages. That could be quasi interesting.

In other news .. well, I don't have much news to report. The holidays are upon us and work has slowed down, which is good. Family is all good and the weather was really nice today; so much so that we were able to take a nice two mile family hike and barely needed jackets.

Anyway, more later this weekend. I'm compiling my thoughts for 2008 albums of the year. Stay tuned......

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New Things for the New Year

I've been giving a bit of thought about some goals for the New Year, all of which are non work-related. Work related ones would probably require a separate post altogether. In no particular order, I hope to:

1. Cut back on travel and spend even more time with the family

2. Pick up an interesting, non-endurance sport or hobby that I can share with the the kids. Two thoughts that come to mind: rock climbing (with the Boy) and/or guitar lesson with the Girl. The Girl definitely is definitely rocker material, so may as well get her started early.

3. Do something epic in the world of endurance sports. Leading candidates include some sort of epic swim, the 6 day, 120 race across the rockies, or the biggie of them all, a 100 miler. And who knows: maybe I'll throw my hat in the lottery ring for Ironman Hawaii.

4. Read more books. I have always been a voracious readers and I still read a ton, but mostly in the form of magazines, mostly due to lack of time. This year I'm hoping to forego some of the magazines in favor of books. Five and five is the goal: five fiction, five non-fiction.

5. Have no major health issues whatsoever. This one is obviously a goal all the same.

4. Travel somewhere really interesting. Machu Piccu is the early favorite; this has long been on my list of places to visit and I think the kids are old enough. Hopefully.

3. I am sure there is more but that's what comes to mind at the moment. Any suggestions in regards to others?

Monday, December 15, 2008


My Kids are at the fun age where they can play "real" games and I'm not talking Chutes and Ladders et al. The Little Girl struggles a little as she's only in first grade, but she puts forth a noble effort. The Boy? Let's say he's a very quick study. Thus far our three favorite "go to" games are Yatzee (great for the entire family; helps hone strategy and math skills), Monopoly (my person favorite; a little long for the Kids, though the Little Boy loves horse trading properties) and Stratego, which is a timeless classic. And yes, I will once again go on record saying I dominated Stratego in the 80's. Fire away, Michigan boys.

Anyway, those are our three stalwarts, but I am absolutely open to other suggestions. Feel free to offer up any other recommendations; we need activities for the upcoming holidays.

(And oh, my least favorite? Anything having to do with the Wii?. Not that I am opposed to Wii -- it's a ton of fun -- but The Boy in particular is consumed by it, to the point where it's become a bit of a problem as relates to him homework. For all you on-the-fence Wii buyers: my personal recommendation is to proceed with caution)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lazy Weekend

A Lazy Weekend here at the old homestead; something I haven't had in a long, long while. Had to do with a combination of utter exhaustion coupled with a few rainy days.

Couple of things in no particular order:

-- took the Little Boy to see James Bond. I deliberated as to whether he was ready to see a PG-13 movie but he followed the storyline just fine, wasn't too fazed by the violence and was generally pretty stoked. Too bad the movie itself kind of sucked.

-- Speaking of suckie movies, I watched I am Legend last night on HBO. Absolutely stunk; even worse than the Pacquio vs. De la Hoya fight that I watched afterwards. Time to pack it in, Oscar.

-- I am typing this posting and simultaneously watching House of Saddam on HBO. I enjoyed it immensely; if you have HBO, I recommend checking it out. Interesting perspective and very well done.

-- After a long, long hiatus, Michigan basketball appears to be back. I am cautiously optimistic, but we are definitely looking pretty good thus far this yea.r We run a complicated offense, but when it clicks it is a sight to behold.

-- I signed up for the Phoenix Rock and Roll marathon. My rationale is that it's only five more weeks of training and according to Coach Phil, the training shouldn't be that egregious. I believe I have the five minutes in me - that five minutes necessary to qualify for Boston -- and I figure I might as well give it one last go. After this I won't be running a competitive marathon for at least two years, so it's kind of my last hurrah. Note I will probably run the occasional trail ultra, but generally speaking, they are a lot easier on the body than these fast road marathons.

-- I am still obsessed about the Governor Blagojevitch story and am amazed -- and proud of -- my good friend who is an Illinois state legislator who is front and center in the maelstrom -- in a good way (to the extent of course that there's anything good about this story).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Governor Blagojevitch

I'm a fervent consumer of media, but every so often a story comes along that utterly obsesses me; that happened this week with the breaking news about Governor Rod's arrest.

A little background. I have a close friend who's a fairly major player in Illinois politics. As a result, having lived in Chicago for nearly ten years, I have some to become somewhat of a student of Illinois politics, for no other reason than it's so darn interesting. And as a result of my relationship with my friend, I have also come to meet several of the players, including our President Elect and Governor Rod.

I met Rod twice. The first time I was a sponsor of a fundraiser in his honor, back when he was a Congressman. The second time I met him was at his inauguration; I was actually in the VIP area sitting not for than a few feet away from him and his family for a good portion of the night. It was a very exciting evening.

Over the years, though, I've heard the whispers -- hushed and not so hushed -- from a number of different people, all claiming that he was a tier one jerk (my word, not theirs).

And then this news breaks, yesterday. If you haven't read the indictment, I suggest you do. It reads like a modern day greek tragedy and if true, is one of the more astonishing stories that I have ever read and a black mark on the face of Illinois politics that will last for a very long time, despite even the halo effect of our new President-elect.

I could go on for a long time on this subject and I probably will write on this again, but the lesson here is that regardless the man or his or station in life, hubris and greed truly are the great equalizers in life. It is astonishing to me how they can reduce a man from Governor in one day, to abhorred monster the next.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


It was pretty ironic that after defending the (relatively) new Garmin 405 to Wiley and Nick for three consecutive days, it failed me most by locking up completely at mile 18 and failing to reboot.

In the grand scheme of life, it's obviously not a big deal, but when you are using something to pace yourself through a race you have prepared for meticulously for three damn months, it's not a lot of fun when technology fails you completely. I probably sound whiny, I get that, but I was using this thing to pace myself and keep an eye on my time and I had no backup, short of Wiley. I don't want to say it ruined my race - my legs failed me worse -- but it surely didn't help matters.
As Wiley can attest it knocked me completely off my game mentally and energy-wise, and I was *very* close to taking it off my wrist and pitching it into the concrete.

Just not sure how a product - and a fairly expensive one at that -- designed for a specific sport can fail so miserably .. while doing that sport.

Anyone at Garmin care to offer an explanation?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Well, That's Over

So, the bottom line is I didn't qualify. I was on a pretty good pace up through mile 21 when the wheels came off, and when the wheels come off, there isn't anything you can do. I finished in 3:25, which, all things considered is a pretty good time and the best part about the day was that I finished holding hands with my buddy Wiley (yes, I know how that sounds, but when you run 26.2 miles together, prodding each other through highs and lows - and we both had plenty - it's like you become a band of brothers).

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend and I have no regrets whatsoever. I've become very zen about all this stuff in my post-cancer world and all that matters is that you give it your best effort, and there's no doubt I did so.

I think Nick and Wiley would agree that we had a kick ass weekend; in fact, we had more fun than I expected. Those two didn't even know one another but left fast friends. Everything was totally cool from the hotel in Sacramento, to meeting up with a colleague for dinner, to hanging out at the Expo, to taking the bus the 26 miles to Folson to the race and post race. I suspect I will remember the weekend much longer than I will my race time.

Wiley did exceptionally, finishing his first marathon in ten years, as noted, in a time of 3:25, which best his previous best by more than a half hour. I coach Nick and he had a disappointing Chicago marathon, whoch had everything to do with the hot weather and nothing to do with his running ability. He came into this race with something to prove, which is exactly what he did with a fine time of 3:56. I am very proud of both of them.

I was very well trained thanks to coach Phil, but probably could have benefitted from one more 20 miler. Not to make excuses, but this fall was difficult with sundry weddings and bachelor parties, and I think my legs were lacking one more long one (my last one was more than four weeks ago, which is a tad too long). Considering that, I am happy.

And though I absolutely hobbling today -- and I mean hobbling -- I am giving VERY strong consideration to running the Phoenix Rock N Roll marathon next month. I know how that makes me sound but here's my rationale: it's only five weeks away (and hopefully I should be recovered by then) and I think I still can go a few minutes faster. I think a tough long run such as yesterday would make a huge difference and I have free Southwest flights to burn. Given my fitness level and what I have invested in all this training already, what's a few more weeks and a little more suffering?

I know ... crazy.

Anyway, that's that. Tomorrow stay tuned for a little diatribe about my Garmin 405, which failed me miserably. Will be interesting to see if they pay attention to this posting.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Off to Sacramento

This has got to be a short post. First and foremost, thanks everyone for the nice notes in regards to the blood test. Much appreciated.

My boys Nick, Wiley and myself are getting set to head to Sacramento for the California International Marathon; wish us luck. Should be a good day weather wise and all systems are go. Wish us luck. Note to Danielle by the way, if you are out there: I love your husband - I consider him one of my closest friends in the world -- but let's just say you are destined for Sainthood. I suspect you know what I am talking about.

Anyway, full race report some time tomorrow.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Blood Test Results -- Clean!

I just got back the call anyone would want to get under the cicumstances: blood work was clean, with no indication of antibodies! Even my doctor was surprised.

But here's the thing (there's always a thing): my last blood work was sent to a different lab (I believe Mayo Clinic). Prior to that, all my bloodwork was done at UCSF. Blood work is very dependent on the particular assay used. This latest round -- the clean one -- was done at UCSF.

So, just to make certain, he wants to do what my father called a "rubber round": one more test next month which gets sent back to Mayo Clinic, just to make sure everything is indeed clean. That all make sense? I am pretty much processing this in real time too as I just got the call a few moments ago.

Regardless, I am stoked. Super stoked, actually. Thank you everyone for all the good wishes and positive vibes. They were put to good use.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Blood Test Redux

I've been kind of putting off my blood test of late, but decided today was the day. So, I will likely get results by Friday or so. I have my head around the fact that in all likelihood the antibodies will still be present, which will result in my having to have another full body scan. This would necessitate going hypo again (off my synthroid) and back on the diet from hell, but if that's the case, so be it. Such is life. Not trying to be negative and deeply hope I am wrong, but my point being I will try not to be disappointed if it's not the outcome I am looking for. I've learned this is the best way to deal with the uncertainty that constantly surrounds cancer. Anyway, will let you know on Friday.

In other news, I have a long ass work week but I did manage to get a pre-marathon massage in tonight. Every time I get a massage I wonder why I don't do that more frequently. There's nothing better than a good massage.

Lastly, I want to send a shout out to my main man, Dave M who's having some medical issues of his own. He'll be fine but has had a rough few days, so please send good vibes his way. He's an off the chart good friend who had my back like no one else when I was going through my cancer stuff, short of The Wife.

Feel better, homie.