1001 Movies, Part 4.

There are no rule-breakers in this list, unless one of them won an obscure Oscar that I missed. Seems that abiding by the rules is still not enough to guarantee quality. The 1001 Movies guy has some unusual choices …

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane: Bette Davis and Joan Crawford play out their hatred for each other on-screen, for us all to enjoy.

Secret Beyond The Door: Michael Redgrave takes his new bride, Joan Bennett, to his (their) home, a huge mansion which turns out to be a murder museum. As the foundation for any long-lasting marriage, he has thoughtfully set one room aside especially for her. Disappointingly, this strategy works better than you might expect.

The Last Picture Show: A star-studded coming-of-age movie that is worth it just to see Cybill Shepherd (her film debut) and Jeff Bridges in their early 20s as the small-town Texa on-again off-again couple. It’s also just a really good movie.

The Man With The Golden Arm: Frank Sinatra is addicted to heroin, but Kim Novak is here to save him. First, though, he needs to foil the plans of his crippled wife who wants to keep him gambling and under her control, and those of his dealer, the delightful Darren McGavin, who I expected at any moment to announce that his heroin was “a major award”.

Man of the West: Gary Cooper is a rehabilitated bad guy who’s now good. At least he is until his old gang pulls a train-job to capture him and force him into helping them rob a bank while they molest his girlfriend. That kind of behaviour just leads to everyone getting shot, as befits a western. Gary and his GF then ride off together into the sunset. Or something like that.

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1001 Movies, Part 3. Drinking Edition

During a pandemic, it goes without saying that movies will have alcoholic accompaniments, and I thought it would be helpful to share some of mine.

The Wizard of Oz is a movie about a girl trapped in a strange land full of weird people. She takes up with three emotionally challenged friends and they go seeking help from a wizard who turns out to be an ordinary dude who hides behind a curtain while making himself look more powerful than he actually is. So, pretty much a parable for corporate life. Pair with: Emerald Isle (1.5 oz gin, 1 tsp green crème de menthe, 2 dashes bitters.)

Night of the Living Dead is literally the original zombie movie, and establishes much of the canon for all zombie movies and TV shows for the next 52 years (and counting). In it, a group of strangers wind up hiding from zombies in a farmhouse and then fight about how best to defend themselves. Then they all die. It’s fantastic! Pair with: Zombie (1 oz each of white rum, golden rum, dark rum, apricot brandy, pineapple juice, papaya juice, 1/2 oz 151-proof rum, dash of grenadine.)

Dawn of the Dead is, of course, a sequel to Night of the Living Dead. We watched the 1978 George Romero version, but I’m told with confidence that the 2004 Zack Snyder remake is at least as good, and maybe even better. This time around, our heroes hunker down in a shopping mall and settle into a routine of raiding stores for survival supplies. This works well until and motorcycle gang shows up and a pie fight breaks out. So predictable. Pair with: Bloody Mary (2 oz Vodka, 4 oz Tomato juice, dashes of horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt, pepper, smoked paprika. Garnish with assorted body parts left behind by the zombies.)

Withnail & I is a delightfully dark comedy about two unemployed actors who decide to go on a country holiday where things hilariously derail. In a modified version of an actual movie drinking game, take a sip every time a character in the movie drinks. Pair with: Pimm’s Cup (2 oz Pimm’s Cup No. 1, 2 oz Ginger Ale, slices of orange, lemon, and cucumber. Garnish with sprig of mint.)

In Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, Catherine Deneuve faces a difficult decision when her lover is sent off to war. So far, it sounds pretty basic, but every word of dialogue in the movie is sung. Not like a big-production musical, it’s just ordinary dialogue, except that they sing it. Before you judge, it’s a beautiful and bittersweet movie that is absolutely worth watching. If the singing drives you crazy, mute it and just read the subtitles 🙂 Pair with: Mimosa (1 part orange juice, 1 part Champagne. Garnish with paper umbrellas.)

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1001 Movies, Part 2

Last night was a two-fer. We watched The Ox-Box Incident, and then, with time to spare, I decided to sneak in a non-list movie and watched the documentary 13th. WELL …. turns out 13th is one of the 1001 after all!

It might be important to mention now that I have a total disregard for spoilers, so if these movies are on your must-see list, you might want to watch them first.

In The Ox-Bow Incident, Peter Fonda and Harry Morgan (of M*A*S*H fame) inadvertently get caught up in a posse who are heading out to capture a group of cattle rustlers and murderers. Despite orders from the sheriff to bring the men back for a fair trial, it’s clear the posse can’t be bothered with things like “justice” and “innocence”, and are actually just itching for a lynching. Peter and Harry scrape up some morals and stand in opposition, along with (not surprisingly) the only black man in the crowd, but the posse is hungry for vengeance and proceeds with their executions. It’s easy to think this movie could have taken place in the 80’s, when one of the last reported lynchings took place in the US, and you would be right. Except it was the 1880’s, not the 1980’s. The important clue is that the victims were white and hispanic, and not black like Michael Donald (murdered by the KKK in Mobile, AB in 1981).

13th is a scathing indictment of the US prison system, effectively arguing that a loophole of the 13th amendment allowed for black people to continue to be kept as slaves as long as they were in prison. There is no doubt there is a staggering number of black people in US jails compared to the overall population, and laws such as Three Strikes and Mandatory Minimum sentencing disproportionately impacts the black (and poor) populations. A compelling must-see documentary, especially as a gateway to understanding the Black relationship with police in the US, and the inevitable emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement.

In keeping with this general theme, we had also already watched In The Heat Of The Night. Five minutes into this movie, a white cop arrests Sidney Poitier for the crime of sitting in a train station waiting for a train and then accuses him of murder and theft based on the evidence of him having a wallet containing (gasp) money. Turns out Sidney Poitier is a cop, not a murderer. This movie, which seemingly could have been made yesterday, was made in 1967. *Nothing has changed!*. (Unrelated aside: proving a complete disregard for the rules, this movie won FIVE Oscars including the second-worst one, Best Picture. In Rule lore, the worst Oscar is Cinematography.) One tidbit from the IMDB trivia of this movie: Sidney Poitier, one of the best actors of his day, insisted the movie be filmed in the north because of fear of the KKK. Read the trivia here.

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1001 Movies, Part I

COVID19 certainly has done a number on my ability to concentrate on reading a book, let alone write a blog about it. I read Michelle Obama’s Becoming (fantastic!) and then a trashy mystery as a kick start. I liked the trashy mystery enough that I bought the second book in the series, but it is still sitting unread on the coffee table.

TV has proven to be a more useful mindless activity, and in solidarity, my husband has been knocking off movies from Steven Jay Schneider’s 1001 Movies to See Before You Die. Prior to COVID lockdown, Jeff had list of 5 rules that dictated his movie choices:

  1. No movies over 2 hours
  2. No sequels
  3. No Oscar winners
  4. No movies starring Kevin Costner
  5. No movies where the title character is an animal

It’s worth stating that I’m pretty sure 4 of the 5 rules were devised after I took him to see Dances With Wolves. It’s startling that he even kept dating me after that, TBH. More on the Rules in a later post.

Then, on March 16, COVID lockdown went into place in BC. Fast forward 12 weeks and we have checked off over 35 movies (well, Jeff is up to 35. I skipped about 5 of those for assorted reasons such as “oh my god we’re not watching ANOTHER movie are we? can’t we just take ONE night off?”) Meanwhile, the Rules, which guided 30 years of movie-watching, are gone, or at least on pause. On one memorable occasion we spent 3 hours and 49 minutes watching the horrible Once Upon a Time in America. 3 hours and 49 minutes!!!

We also watched three more movies of a somewhat similar nature, albeit much, much shorter:

King Of New York – Lots and lots of people die, but Christopher Walken insists he “never killed anyone who didn’t deserve it” which makes it okay.

French Connection – Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider realize the car weighs 120 pounds too much, giving away the hidden drugs.

Five Easy Pieces – Jack Nicholson gives up the piano, treats his pregnant girlfriend like shit, and bores the crap out of me, all at once.

Posted in Movies | 4 Comments

Because the world kind of sucks.

Are you, like me, a privileged white person looking for something you can do to make a difference? Are you, like me, a Karen, looking for a way to make amends for all the idiot Karens out there?

I won’t say “look no further”. In face, look further. Look much further. But here’s a place to start. There is a LOT to consume, and with that in mind, I recommend picking a few things you can honestly commit to doing, and then building from there. As for me, I will commit to donating money to BLM, every other book I read will be from an anti-racism reading list for at least the next year or 12 books (whichever comes last) and I will actively look for POC-owned businesses to support.

This is a small list to start – I will keep updating it as I find more.

Anti-racism resources

Vancouver Resources & businesses to support

A White Woman’s Guide

A White Guyde

Resources supporting BLM

Heartbreaking videos you need to watch

  • How to teach your children how not to be murdered by the police:

https://www.facebook.com/rahmatallahi/videos/3091903507537223

  • Trevor Noah’s moving message:

 https://www.theloop.ca/trevor-noah-delivers-powerful-daily-show-monologue-about-george-floyd-protests/

 

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Peak Performance

Peak Performance; Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success. By Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness

I started this self-help book a long time ago (a long, long, loooonnnnnnng time ago in today’s world). I was pleasantly surprised to find it chock full of practical and useful advice (unlike most self-help books) on how to get the most out of your daily life.

Then, just as I was about to start getting more out of *my* daily life, along came COVID-19 and of my precious waking hours I now spend about 95% of them on my phone, looking at the same damn reports and advice over and over again. Thus, in an attempt to break that terrible habit, I give you what I learned from Peak Performance, or tips for living your best life.

Tip #1: Multitasking is not a thing.

Don’t believe me? The science says so. Multitasking is actually just singletasking with really fast gear-changing. There are two problems with this. One is that changing gears to refocus on a different task wastes valuable and potentially productive energy. Another is that you are not allowing yourself to fully concentrate on one task, which maximizes your productivity. It’s a hard habit to break, but seems like it might be worth it.

(Put your phone away … the COVID news will still be there in an hour)

Tip #2: Singletask in time blocks of less than 2 hours each.

Turns out a lot of studies show that we can’t maintain peak concentration on a single task for more than about 90 mins. Two hours, tops. So plan on taking a nice break for 15 or 20 minutes if you successfully focus for this long on a task. These days, I’m pretty happy if I stay focused for 9 mins, let along 90, but this just gives me a stretch goal to strive for.

(Don’t check your phone for COVID news on your 15 min break. Take an actual break.)

Tip #3: Distractions steal energy.

Not very surprisingly, your phone is a distraction (a BIG one these days). More surprisingly, setting your phone off to the side is still a distraction if it’s still visible to you. And it takes energy to ignore distractions while you are trying to concentrate on an important task.  I personally used this helpful tip by hiding my Tardis candy jar at work when I was cutting out desserts and chocolate for a month. Hiding the candy is better than having it sit out in plain sight, but actually it turns out your brain still knows it’s there, so best is to either toss it out (NEVER!) or have someone else take it away for as long as needed.

(Seriously. Put your phone away.)

Tip #4: MEDITATE.

Blah Blah Blah. EVERY self-improvement and personal health book recommends that you meditate. It’s like a conspiracy! Unless they are actually all onto something ….

(MEDITATE)

Tip #5: Get enough sleep.

Totally do this! It’s not a badge of honour to brag about how little sleep you are getting because of your “hard work” or your “active lifestyle”. You may be doing a lot of things, but you’re not really doing a lot things efficiently or effectively. Again, there’s tons of science here. Plus, there are lots of benefits to getting enough sleep that people spend lots of waking hours trying to achieve – weight loss, improved health, increased mental acuity, increased energy. Honestly, is there anything easier than just going to bed?

(STAY HOME. That’s also easy!)

Tip #6: Minimize extraneous decisions.

This tip is not for me, but apparently many extremely successful people (men) have elected to wear the exact same outfit every day (Jobs, Zuckerberg) in order to reduce the number of decisions they have to make per day. Seems extreme. That said, when I’m really, really tired I can attest that making decisions seems like a lot of unnecessary energy. Decisions like “where should we go for dinner” or “do you want to watch reruns of Friends or The Big Band Theory tonight”? Maybe making decisions does take more energy than I thought!

(Wash your hands all the time. And STAY HOME.)

Tip #7: Transcend your “self”

This tip, the book argues, will help you to create core values and a purpose that are more motivating and that will allow you to break through self-imposed limits set to protect your ego. I suppoooossse that’s possible.

(Self-isolate! Help other people by staying away from them!)

There are LOTS of other tips in this book that are actually useful and helpful. Surprisingly, I liked and would recommend this one.

Rating: Buy it from Kindle, or wait until we can safely move about and then pick up a copy from a local bookstore who is surely suffering by now.

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Humble Pi

Humble Pi, by Matt Parker

Matt Parker is a ginormous* math nerd who has compiled together a collection of entertaining accounts of Math Gone Wrong. Stories of mathematical mistakes range from fuel-depleted airplanes to computer memory leaks, and for the most part, nobody gets hurt. But, to be fair, it’s pretty much impossible not to suffer a few losses when bridges and buildings collapse, so a few tragedies manage to slip on the back of more sombre cautionary tales about the dangerous of treading close to limits of our current body of knowledge.

What follows are a few of my favourite anecdotes for your personal enjoyment!

Y2K, The Sequel

Calendars create all sorts of opportunities for mathematical anomalies and mistakes. When Britain adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, they had to move forward 11 days to align correctly with the other Gregorian countries (British calendars that year jumped from Sept 2 to Sept 14 overnight!). A more contemporary concern with calendars was the “Y2K Bug”, which was actually a computer problem at heart. Simply put, before the year 2000 it was common to shortcut year numbers to their last two digits: we went to the moon in ’69, I was born in ’65, the Challenger disaster was in ’86 and so on (Prince broke the pattern when he partied like it was 1999.) Computers were similarly programmed to shortcut the years as 2 digit numbers, either because programming space was precious in those days or because programmers are lazy. The concern was that when the date/time clicked over on New Years Eve of 1999, computer clocks would roll over from ’99 to ’00 (the 2 digit version of 100) and world-wide disasters would unfold. Of course, this never happened, mostly due to the extremely under-appreciate effort of thousands of programmers hired to fix the problem before it occurred.

However, a lessor-known but equally as disastrous computer deficiency still lurks out there. This deficiency is due to detonate on January 19, 2038 at exactly 3:14:07 am. This computer bomb lives in Unix operating systems and has to do with how these systems keep track of time. For unknown reasons (and I say unknown because I’m too lazy to look them up – see the above reference to programmer apathy), Unix programmers decided to keep track of time by “counting” the number of seconds that have passed since a common start time, and they initiated this counter on January 1, 1970. Seems arbitrary, yet safe enough! However, Unix computers use 32 “bits” to store binary numbers, which are long strings of ones and zeros, and on Jan 19, 2038 3:14:07, exactly 2,147,483,647 will have passed. This very big number looks like this in binary:  1111111111111111111111111111111.**  The bomb goes off when the computer tries to add one more second, at which point the number changes to 10000000000000000000000000000000. The leading 1 in this case exceeds the available space and pushes into the adjacent spot in the computer’s memory. Writing numbers to random spots in computer memory is, generally speaking, something you want to avoid, and we really have no idea what the results of this will be. The bad news is that a lot of transportation and communication systems use a Unix operating system. The good news is that there is lots of time to make the necessary fixes. Let’s hope we do!

The Wobbly Bridge

Bridge mistakes have been a favourite of mine since my first year engineering professor treated us to this video of the Tacoma Narrows bridge collapsing (skip ahead to 1:38). The bridge was built across the (surprise) Tacoma Narrows and on the fateful day, wind blowing down the narrows caused the bridge to flutter, and a subsequent feedback loop amplified this wind+flutter effect. Eventually the excessive flutter caused the bridge to collapse spectacularly.

Another bridge in London, known as the Millennium Bridge, was built with cutting-edge, side-suspension  technology. Unfortunately, this design had a resonant frequency of about 1 Hz, very similar to the walking gate of an average person. The result was that, with enough pedestrian traffic walking synchronously (which happened more often than you might think), the bridge would start to sway side to side, earning it the illustrious nickname of “The Wobbly Bridge”. The wobble has since been fixed through dampening, but the nickname has stuck to this day.

A Tale of Two Monties

Coincidentally, there are two fascinating mathematical mistakes in statistics and probability which, respectively, are known as the Monte Carlo fallacy and the Monty Hall Problem. The first, the Monte Carlo fallacy, is based on the mistaken belief that a series of independent events somehow influence the outcome of the next event in the sequence. The tossing of coins provides a common example. If a coin is tossed 9 times in a row and lands heads every time, it is a common mistake to believe that there is a greater chance that the 10th toss will result in tails because it is very unlikely that heads would turn up 10 times in a row (in other words, tails is “due”). In fact, the 10th toss is unaffected by any prior tosses, and the chance of the coin landing as tails is 50%, as it is with every other toss. (Note that it is possible to calculate the probability of tossing a coin to heads 10 times in a row, and this probability is absolutely different than the probability of a tenth toss being heads or tails. Not at all confusing!)

The Monty Hall problem is named after the host of the 1960’s popular game show Let’s Make a Deal. In this situation, you are asked to pick between three doors, one of which contains a grand prize. Spoiler alert – at this point you have a 1 in 3, or 33.3%, chance of picking the correct door. Things change, however, when the game master opens one of the remaining two doors to show you that it does not contain the prize, and then gives you the option to stick with your original selection or to switch to the other remaining closed door. Should you stick, or should you switch? In fact, switching doors increases your probability of winning from 33.3 % to 66.7%. The internet lost its collective mind when presented with this mathematical nugget, but it’s absolutely true, and there are explanations galore if you care to google it. Math works in mysterious ways!

The Office Space Gambit

Rounding is a mathematical trick that allows you to get rid of excess decimals in a number. For example, if you and your friend want to split a treat that costs $2.25, you would each have to pay exactly $1.125. But since there is no such thing as 0.125 of a dollar, you can round the $1.125 up to $1.13 or down to $1.12 (when you and your friend share the cost of this treat, one of you is getting hosed for a penny). A fun idea is figuring out how to exploit the concept of rounding to your financial benefit. Consider the treat-splitting calculation another way – if I were the one selling the treat, I could tell you that half the cost was $1.13 (rounded up from $1.125) and then tell your friend that her share of the cost was also $1.13 (rounded up from $1.125). Unless you and your friend compared notes, neither of you has any real reason to suspect a problem with my math, and I can collect $2.26 and conveniently pocket $0.01. If I did this to 100 people in a day, I would make a cool one dollar. Not exactly enough to retire to that villa in Tuscany, but what if I could apply this trick to the millions of transactions that a bank or an investment firm makes every day? Would that be enough? In fact, this is the plot of the delightful 1999 (’99) movie Office Space, where a group of cubicle-hating employees exploit this very loophole hoping to make a few bucks off the company they despise and miscalculate their proceeds by a factor of about 100,000. Math is important in crime!

Conversion Matters

The Gimli Glider is one of my favourite stories of all time. It’s a Canadian bad math story where crazy good luck wins out in the end. In 1983 (’83), Canada was making the switch from the Imperial system of measurement (yuck) to Metric (yay!). The pilots and maintenance crew of an Air Canada 767 made a series of bad mistakes that included miscalculating the conversion from pounds to kilograms of fuel and inadvertently ended up with half the fuel they needed to fly from Montreal to Edmonton. As a result, the plane ran out of fuel over Manitoba, just about halfway to it’s destination. At this point, a series of good luck events intervened and the pilot was was able to miraculously glide the plane to a safe landing at an abandoned air field in Gimli, Manitoba. This story is so magnificent that I strongly recommend you read about it in full here. It turns out you can buy luggage tags made from the fuselage of the airplane, for good luck. It’s up to you what kind of luck you choose to believe that running out of fuel at 41,000 feet counts as!

The Statistics of Large Numbers

The last thing I’ll say in reference to this book is that if you have enough data points, even the most unlikely-seeming event is likely to happen. So the next time someone tells you how amazing it is that just as they were thinking of a specific person, that person suddenly called them out of the blue, remember this. In a world of 7.8 billion people, even if the odds were a million to one that the person you are thinking of suddenly calls you in that exact same moment, this would still happen 7,800 times!

Rating: Buy this book, it’s sooo good!

* It’s a perfectly cromulent word

** If you took the time to count, you probably noticed this is only 31 ones, and this is because the 32nd bit is reserved to indicate +/- sign.

Posted in Books, Nonfiction | 2 Comments

Reminiscing about The Far Side

The Complete Far Side, by Gary Larsen

The weighty collection

The Complete Far Side was a Christmas gift from my nephew, perhaps the highest weight-to-size ratio of any gift ever! I secretly believe this was to get me back for my giving him Neil Stephenson’s Reamde a few years ago.

This amazingly huge collection contains every Far Side cartoon that was ever syndicated, with few bonus panels at the end, which I can only assume are a reward for making it that far.

By way of introduction, in case you aren’t the huge fan that I am, the cartoon below is perhaps one of the most famous, and is also, conveniently, generally representative of his work.

hahahaha 🙂

I read The Far Side religiously when it was being published, and would cut out my favourites to post on my office door (alongside the best Dilbert and Calvin & Hobbes, of course). Despite the near impossible nature of the task, I have managed to select what I consider to be some of the best Far Side cartoons to share with you here.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Dogs v Cats

Each cartoon of this pair is, frankly, only mildly funny, and neither on their own, would have bubbled up to my relatively small list of faves. But together they are hilarious. Comedy genius! I’m not wrong!!

  

God v Satan

A classic Larson move is to present God or Satan in an everyday situation. For example, God killing it on Jeopardy, or Satan getting irritated by a Hell-bound nerd asking “hot enough for you?” God making the snake makes me laugh out loud every time. Maybe it’s how he calls it a “cinch”. And I just love this Hell cartoon – the expression on Satan’s face as he realizes his mom (his MOM!!!) is giving treats to the accursed … brilliant!

   

Dogs v Dogs

Larson is a huge fan of cows. A HUGE fan. But I am partial to his dog cartoons. Trouble Brewing happens to be a favourite because I read it not long after seeing the movie “A Dingo Ate My Baby” (okay, okay, that wasn’t the actual name of the movie … but I challenge you to come up with the real title.) Meanwhile, Life Raft Dog embodies all of the brilliance of The Far Side in one panel – hilarious animal facial expression, naive humans, and a subtle reference to the actual joke. But really, it’s just the look on that dog’s face.

   

Exploration v Exploitation

Sometimes it’s just the wording of a minor expression in the overall text of the comic. “God, I hate him”. Hahahahaha!!!! “As usual” on the other hand … stingingly on point.

   

Aliens v People

Last, but definitely not least, I leave you with my absolute favourite Far Side of all time! I refuse to spoil it by explaining why.

Rating: I can’t believe you don’t already have this on your bookshelf!

 

Posted in Books, Humour | 1 Comment

Eifelheim Ancient Aliens

Eifelheim, by Michael Flynn (not to be confused with retired United States Army Lieutenant General and convicted felon Michael Flynn)

On the surface, this would seem like a book that’s right up my alley. An alien ship crash-lands in 14th century rural Germany, while in the current-day 21st century a new kind of multi-dimensional physics is discovered. Ooooh, fun!

Except the book seems to get everything wrong.

The 21st century discoverer of the new physics is dating a 21st century student of ancient civilizations who is studying, of course, the 14th century community where the aliens crash landed. Although these two are dating, they don’t seem to like each other very much. This is probably because neither of them is very likeable.  She doesn’t know why he keeps talking to her in German (actually, neither do I) and he doesn’t know why she isn’t more excited about his ancient German village.  Therapy would not be wasted on these two.

We also spend WAAAYYYYYY too much time learning about the minutia of life styles and religious rituals of 1348. I admit to skimming through a lot of this detail because !!ugh!! and also, I wanted to get back to 2009 to see what was up even though I didn’t really like the 2009 characters. By contrast, the modern story raced along and was very light on details (in hindsight, this was probably for the best).

A key element of what sparked interest in the study of the ancient village was a gap in an expected evolutionary pattern of modern day village settlements. Interesting! This sounds like a super-fun idea! Was it because the ancient site was cursed by an invasion of stranded aliens? Did the area somehow get flagged as taboo? Did an evil tiki idol place a curse anyone who tried to settle there? The most interesting question raised at the beginning of the book is actually never answered! Disappointing! Unless, of course, I skimmed over that part…..

Just a final note. I borrowed this from a friend of mine – we’ll call him John Waterunder – and I dread him asking me how I liked it. Just another reason not to borrow beloved books from friends!!

Rating: skip it (although “John” would tell you to buy it immediately and read it multiple times)

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Better Late Than Never – 2019 un fait accompli

2019 was not a stellar year for reading. It was, however, a good year for learning about reading. Or, should I say, learning about not reading. Here are a few of my 2019 insights if I really want to read more in 2020:

  1. Take a break from other people’s recommendations. This includes book clubs, which are designed to maximize your time spent reading other people’s book choices. It also includes friend recommendations that you are told you “absolutely have to read”. Also business books, which I would almost never pick out of a lineup as something I really want to read. And most definitely books about “happiness”.  Goal for 2020: look for a few neglected authors and series from the past few years and pick them back up.
  2. Overworking is not sustainable. Due to a high-profile project on a very tight timeline, and my role as lead project manager, I spent more than half the year working 10-11 hour days and then would spend the evening in a state of exhaustion watching reruns of Seinfeld (this is true). Any books I read during this time were likely on airplanes if I wasn’t clearing out my email.  Goal for 2020: regular work hours. That is all. As a corollary, regular work hours are set to Pacific Time.
  3. Social media kills! It kills time. It kills creativity. It kills motivation. It kills conversation. I spent WAY too much time skulking around on Facebook and Twitter in 2019. However, here’s my dilemma in terms of a goal for 2020. My extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins are all on Facebook. My local friends are primarily on Instagram. My carefully curated follows designed to maximize my enjoyment and happiness is on Twitter. What is the best way to reduce my social media time? Set a social-media-free day per week? Limit each day to under 3o mins? Limit apps to days of the week, i.e. Twitter Tuesdays, Facebook Fridays, and so on? Ack!!

So that’s what 2020 is going to look like. We’ll see what kind of impact it has on the reading list. Meanwhile, here is my somewhat lacklustre 2019:

  1. in a dark, dark wood, by Ruth Ware
  2. A Briefer History of Time, by Stephen Hawking
  3. Essentialism, by Greg McKeown
  4. The Disappeared, by Kim Echlin
  5. Leave me, by Gayle Forman
  6. A Brightness Long Ago, Guy Gavriel Kay *
  7. To Heaven and Back, Mary C. Neal, MD
  8. The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware
  9. Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney
  10. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
  11. The Other Einstein, by Marie Benedict
  12. The Difference, by Marina Endicott *
  13. Haunted Ground, by Erin Hart

 * My two favourite books of 2019

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