Saturday, January 02, 2016

100 Books: The beginning

I don't go in for New Year's resolutions. When I think of something I want to do I just start doing it, rather than waiting for January 1 to try to achieve something.

But last week I was listing all the books I've read this year to do a ranking of them, and I realized I'd read a lot of books last year.  It got me to thinking. I said to Sweetie "Do you think I could read 100 books in a year?"

"Sure," she said because Sweetie believes in me, which is both gratifying and requires that she ignore 19 years of knowing me.

So I thought about it a few days and today was doing the math: I'd have to read a book every 3.65 days, or two books a week. That's a pretty big task.

I decided to try it. I spend a lot of time frittering around on the Internet, and I sometimes feel like I'm wasting my time on it, just reading stuff that I won't even remember later. So if I were to use that time to read a book instead, I figure I could do it.

So that's what I'm going to do this year. Hopefully it will work out better than my ill-fated quest to do 2,014 pushups in a single year a few years back. At least this one shouldn't set off an asthma attack. *crosses fingers, throws salt over his shoulders.*

I'll list the books and talk about them as I finish them. If you want to join me in this, let me know in the comments and talk about it on your own blog, and we can all help each other. Also, Andrew Leon will probably read 100 books in the first week.

If your decision to vote for someone depends in any way on who they root for in college football then you don't deserve the right to vote.

Carly Fiorina is a Stanford graduate who ran Hewlett-Packard into the ground and was rewarded with $42,000,000 in severance pay. On Friday she tweeted this:
Carly Fiorina figures Iowans are dumb enough to vote for her based on who she claimed to be rooting for in a college bowl game.
Oh,, and Hewlett-Packard still pays her $200,000 a year in pensions.  One-half of Iowans make under $51,000 a year. That's actually among the highest median incomes in America.

Friday, January 01, 2016

$25 for a doorstop? No thanks I'm not dumb.

I just read about this book, Barbara The Slut And Other Stories on Gawker and they said it was a great book.
So I clicked over to Amazon, where I saw that the book is being sold, in hardcover, for $24.85 on Amazon.
That’s just the book. Shipping is extra.
$24.85 for a book.
Ever wonder why there are so many articles extolling the virtues of “real” books?
$24.85 for a book that cost $3.50 to get to you.
Books should cost $9.99. 

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 In Pictures: January and February

it's all in how you look at it i guess but still i'd like some coffee

This morning, Mr F managed to dump my coffee.  He does that most days -- every morning is a battle between me and him: I try to make my coffee, he tries to get into the kitchen when I'm not paying attention and dump the coffee out.

Today I'd brewed a pot of coffee and poured one cup, and was sitting on the couch reading the news and drinking it.  Mr F wandered away from where he was playing the piano and into the kitchen and by the time I realized it he was at the coffee pot, pouring the rest of it out.

I wiped up the bit of mess and said "Well I guess you won today," as he wandered out of the kitchen.

I came out and sat back down on the couch and said to Mr Bunches "I get only the one cup of coffee today," and he said:

"You are a lucky man, Dad."

He's right.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

10 Minutes About The Books I ALMOST Read in 2015

I'm going to do a ranking of all the books I read or tried to in 2015, with a bit of discussion of them. The list is incomplete, because my audiobooks have a history that only goes back a month or two -- so I may not remember all those. Although, that probably means they weren't very good. While my memory isn't very great -- and seems to be getting worse almost minute-by-minute -- if a book is really good it probably sticks in my mind.

I'll begin with the first set of

The Ones I Didn't Bother Finishing: 

One of the things I realized as I made this list was how awesome most of the books on the list were.  The fact that some are near the bottom of the list doesn't mean they were bad, it just means that in comparison to the other books they didn't finish as high. "Someone's gotta be last, right?" -- every gym teacher I ever had, by way of... encouragement? Sure let's go with that.

The reason the books are almost uniformly good is that I mostly get my books from the library on my Kindle, so they're free -- and hence I can start reading almost anything, but because I didn't pay for it, I can stop if it's not interesting to me without feeling I wasted my money. Which means the books I did finish were a higher grade of book overall.

Here are the bottom-ranked ones I stopped reading:

36. The Islanders, Christopher Priest. This guy wrote The Prestige, which I liked, and his books sound amazing. Then, the first one of them I got was this, and I started reading it Thanksgiving weekend. I was a chapter into it when I found out it's written like an almanac or something and that slowly the story is revealed. I was so disappointed I stopped reading, then I thought I should challenge myself but I stopped again, and then I deleted it. I later downloaded The Adjacent by him but couldn't bring myself to start it.

35. Dissident Gardens, Jonathan Lethem: Lethem appears on here three times and he has written a book I am dying (almost literally) to read: As She Climbed Across The Table, which is about a woman in love with a black hole. This wasn't the FIRST book I read by him; it was actually the third and it was the first I gave up on. The story starts off so slowly, with so much blather. It's something about communists or something. Pleh. There's better books by him, two on this list.

34. Food: A Love Story, Jim Gaffigan. I am a big fan of Gaffigan's, and I can rewatch his comedy specials over and over. But I was disappointed in his first book, Dad Is Fat, not because it wasn't funny but because so much of it was simply his actual jokes, just in book form. I get it: comedians want to make money, but if you're going to write a book, at least warn people not to buy it if they've seen your specials.  Then this one started out feeling like the version of his jokes that didn't make the cut for the stage show, and about 10 pages in I gave it up.

33. An Arsonist's Guide to Writers Homes In New England, Brock Clarke: Stephen King said that readers look for voice, that the actual first line or chapter of a story, even the story, isn't as important as the voice, the way the story is told. I don't think that's 100% true, but this book suffered from the voice problem, among others. I picked it up because of the title, but the book goes downhill from there. It's like the author had this great title and then had to pack a story into it. The first chapter or two whip through the guy burning down Emily Dickinson's house, going to prison, getting out, going to college, getting married, having the son of the people who died in the fire show up, and him getting kicked out of his house. I had no idea where the rest of the story would go, but the book felt like a summary of 10 other books. And the main character was just sort of drifting through. You know how in third-person narrator stories, the narrator is kind of there with the characters but not really there? That's how this book felt -- only the story was told in the first person. So it had the feeling of the narrator watching a short film that summarized his life, and explaining it. I gave up on it about where he goes home to find his dad had a stroke.

32. I Was Told There'd Be Cake, Sloane Crosley: This is a book of semiautobiographical essays along the lines of David Sedaris, and while the one or two I listened to were well-enough done, here is the problem with everyone having a blog/writing a semiautobiographical book: so often the stories feel like they exist just to justify the book. I call this "The Chicken Problem," after an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

"The Chicken Problem" stems from an episode of the Kardashians where they decided that they would raise chickens in the house, for some reason they gave on the show but the real reason being that it was presumably fun to watch rich vapid people chase chickens around their house. Chickens have showed up on lots of other reality shows since then, or their equivalent. Reality shows tend to encourage people to do dumb/interesting stuff because honestly most of our lives are interesting only to ourselves. I have no doubt this blog would get better hits if I bought a chicken and chased it around.

So this book began with a fairly interesting essay about why the author had a  bunch of toy ponies (it has to do with a line she says on dates), and then sort of drifted off. I think I listened to the second essay but I gave up pretty quickly thereafter. It was both uninteresting and trying too hard.

31. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, Mindy Kaling: This one, too. I like The Mindy Project, although that series has gone downhill in the last two seasons as Mindy and Danny just lie to each other and fight. If I wanted to see that I'd play my old home movies from growing up.  (Frowny face with tear.) So I thought this might be a funny book. It wasn't, really. Much of it was sort of uninspired would-be funny stuff. The story of how she got famous doing a two-person play in which she played Ben Affleck was interesting but I stopped listening after that.

That's it for this time. more to come.

Monday, December 28, 2015

I was going to post some pictures of snow but thought this was more important.

There is a post on Gawker that spells out a very simple end to poverty without raising the minimum wage. I like the idea it spells out. It begins this way:
"These are the solutions you're looking for."
The working poor need more money. “But retail stores can’t raise wages very much—their profit margins are too small,” say conservatives. Aha—but there is a solution!
GO READ THE REST it's like four paragraphs and won't kill you.

Here are all the medications I take every day to breathe.

Longtime readers may remember my fitful efforts over the past few years to try to get back into shape, as well as some trips to the hospital.  Turns out I have exercise-induced asthma, which sounds like a thing that's made up specifically for Americans like me, but is an actual thing in that I can get out of breath just walking up our three stairs to the next level. Jogging, swimming, even yoga have set off asthma attacks in me.

So to help control it, here's everything I take each day:

That's morning and night. The antacid is to help with the heartburn all those steroids cause.  With this stuff, I can even take the boys sledding, provided I have my rescue inhaler with me to use before each walk up the hill.

Each of those things costs about $70-$300 per month; I have insurance that helps pay for it, of course, but the out-of-pocket cost -- to breathe-- is $4,000 a year.  OBAMACARE FIXED EVERYTHING. Thank god we never need to do anything about health care again for the remainder of time, except repeal that law, of course, to replace it with the old system where insurance was even more expensive.

I bring this up because after we pay the $4,000 per year -- our 'high deductible' that means that health care is FIXED FOREVER EVERYONE OKAY -- we don't have to pay anything else for health insurance for the rest of the calendar year (other than the roughly $2000 per month premium I also pay because I am essentially self-insured). So we are in the free period right now where all my medicines can be picked up even if I have no cash. But on January 1, I have to start writing (even more) checks until I burn through the deductible again.

So it costs me about $28,000 per year to breathe enough to walk across Capitol Square in Madison (slowly, and with one break).

Things Americans are okay with providing free to people no matter what:

1. Education (so long as they don't teach dangerous things like science)

2. Houses to middle class people (the mortgage interest deduction is a dollar-for-dollar deduction from income. It primarily benefits people making $200,000 or more a year because those people save about $5,000 a year on taxes, while low-income earners save only about $51 a month.)

3. Money. (Remember George W. "Worst President Ever" Bush's tax rebates where the government just sent you money?)

Things Americans don't want other Americans to have unless they can afford it:

1. Breath.