Unread Shelf: June 30, 2021

There are only three books on this shelf that were there at the beginning of the month, which tells you two things: 1) I got a lot of reading done in June, and 2) I ordered way too many damn books in June. The weird thing is I’m super excited about all three of the books.

#Readaroundtheworld: June update

Looks a little different from last time, doesn’t it?

The Project is continuing apace, and since I doubt I’m going to finish reading the book I’m working on right now by the end of the month, I may as well go ahead and do this update now. The numbers are always kept up-to-date on the spreadsheet to the right there– because nothing good can exist without a spreadsheet, but let’s take a halfway-through-2021 (no, seriously, we are) snapshot of the numbers:

  • Twenty-nine separate countries, counting Antarctica as a country (I read a book by Ernest Shackleton; it counts because I say so)
  • Twenty-eight different US states, which includes Washington DC, again because I say so
  • Which accounts for 33,628,900 square miles, or 58.47% of the Earth’s land surface.

This means that technically I’m on pace– slightly ahead, in fact– to complete all 50 states by the end of the year, but it’s definitely getting more difficult across the board. I was at 17 countries and 15 states at the end of March, so you’ll notice neither of those numbers have doubled; I’ve pretty well plucked all the low-hanging fruit by now, and while there’s a few new countries represented on my Unread Shelf right now I don’t think there are any new states. More authors than I would have guessed live in Texas, and while there’s at least a couple of easy states left (I can always read a Stephen King book to get Maine, and, well, I live in Indiana) most of what’s left are going to have to be states that I specifically Google “authors from XXX” to find something to read.

I’m also starting to run low on countries where it’s easy to find authors whose work has been translated into English. This, in turn, leads to me ordering books that it’s less likely that I’m going to enjoy, simply because a lot of the time I’m just grabbing what I can find, and while there have definitely been some exceptions, I’m not finding that I’m discovering a huge number of hidden gems with this particular project the way I might have wanted to. I’m also backlogging books that “don’t count,” and probably 3/4 of my Unread Shelf right now is books that are repeat states or repeat countries. I got a lot of new places done in June, but July is going to have to be a month with not a lot of progress.

That said, filling in the map is still super fun. Ultimately I am going to finish this, because I’m that guy, it just remains to be seen how much of a slog those last few states create. I’m hoping for 40 countries right now, which actually ought to be manageable since I’ll be at 32 or so just with the books I’m due to read right now. And I’ve still got a solid six weeks of summer left, when my reading rate shoots way up. We’ll update again in September, but you can always check the links to the right if you’re curious.

First World Problems

This is not a post about my stupid YouTube channel, although I’m not gonna lie: it’s related. Part of the reason I started the channel with Little Nightmares II specifically is that LNII is a game that isn’t especially challenging on either my PS5 or my computer. I wanted to start off with Sekiro, but I couldn’t get the Elgato and the computer to play nice with each other, and any time I tried to stream or record anything complicated it came off really blurry and ugly with tons of frame drops and stuff like that. Little Nightmares II recorded very smoothly, so I figured I’d start with that, and then I embarked upon this ridiculous stream of minor and major upgrades to my system to get everything working the way I wanted. New HDMI cables were the first move– I have learned so much about cables in the last two weeks that it’s flat-out absurd. I had already been looking for an excuse to upgrade my desktop’s memory, since it shipped with only 8gb, so I fixed that next, upgrading to 40gb. When that didn’t make any difference, I spent last night researching the USB standard.

And … Christ.

Long story short: there are a mess of overlapping standards for USB, both the ports and the cables, and then there’s Apple’s own answer to USB, which is the Thunderbolt standard, and even that has a couple of different versions out there. As it works out, my computer has a spare Thunderbolt port available, which supposedly can push 40gb a second? That’s … a lot, so I decided to upgrade the USB cable today.

And I don’t think the story’s funny enough to recount in full, but doing that required the following steps:

  • Ordering a proper 6′ cable from Target to pick up in-store, then getting an email an hour later that they didn’t have the cable after all, sorry about that;
  • Ordering the same cable in 3′ length from Target to pick up in-store, then getting an email an hour later that they didn’t have the cable after all, sorry about that;
  • Ordering a 6′ cable from Staples to pick up in-store, then buying it and noticing in the parking lot that it was clearly not the right cable, as it advertised “up to” 500mb per second, and I don’t know how much you know about computer measurements but 40gb is literally eighty times faster than that;
  • Deciding I did not have the willpower to return the cable today (I’ll do it tomorrow) and checking Target again to see if they had a specifically Thunderbolt cable, as I realized that that was going to be something completely different;
  • Getting a yes, according to their website;
  • Going to Target and discovering that 1) they did have the cable I wanted; 2) the cable I wanted wasn’t the cable I wanted, as Apple sells both a USB-C male-male cable that isn’t rated for Thunderbolt speeds and one that is, and that one of those is called a USB-C cable and the other is called a Thunderbolt (USB-C) cable;
  • Ordering one from the Apple store on the other side of town for pick up in-store, then realizing they want appointments for in-store pick up and calling the store to 1) make sure they had the cable before driving across town and 2) making sure that I can actually come get the damn thing before my appointment, because I was doing all this while the boy was at camp and the earliest available appointment was right when I’d have to be picking him up;
  • Driving to the mall and picking up my cable, and then getting home and having just enough time to make sure it worked and did what I wanted it to before having to go pick the boy up. I’m quite happy to report that it looks like I’m going to be able to stream and/or record basically anything I want now, although there’s still some weird color issues with Sekiro that I haven’t figured out yet.

Slightly separate issue: the Apple store also has curbside pick-up, and in fact has designated parking spots in the mall parking lot for same, but the Apple store itself is deep enough inside the mall that getting to it from (I think) the closest available external door(*) is a 5-minute walk. Not a lot in the long term, but I wouldn’t want to be the employee who got tasked with spending all fucking day lugging shit from the store to those two parking spots. Not without, like, a Segway or something like that. It’s not remotely as hot here as it is in a lot of the country (particularly the West Coast) right now, but it’s about as humid as I’ve ever experienced, and that would be an “I quit” moment real quick for me, particularly since you know those curbside pick-up people are going to be impatient as hell.

(*) I mean, it would have to be, right? That’s where the parking spaces were. Surely they wouldn’t put their designated curbside spots next to the second closest door, although that might be giving mall management too much credit.

Blecchhhhh

Both my wife and I slept like utter shit last night; I think every time one of us drifted off the other one did something, and we both kept each other up all damn night, and as a result we’ve both been just oozing around the house and moaning all day. We have three episodes of Avatar left and God damn it, if I get through all three of them, I’m going to call today a victory and not worry about it. It’s Sunday, I ain’t gotta do nothing I don’t want to.

You, on the other hand, should go watch my stupid vidya gaemz videos instead of reading a post.

#Review: Sharks in the Time of Saviors, by Kawai Strong Washburn

This is one of those times where I admit that I’m never really sure what I consider an “official” book review; there have been times when I labeled something a reviewlet and then talked about it more than I did in full “reviews,” and I want y’all to know that I read this book and I like it and I recommend it but having finished it I’m not sure what to say about it.

In a way, this book is a triumph of the #readaroundtheworld project; I picked it up on the recommendation of a (white, or perhaps I should say haole) friend in Hawai’i because I needed a book written by a Hawaiian and I wanted one written by an Indigenous Hawaiian specifically. She tossed me a few titles and I grabbed this one because it seemed the most up my alley: a family saga that begins with a seven-year-old falling off a boat in the middle of the ocean and being actually rescued and delivered back to his parents by the sharks. Then he touches a friend at a Fourth of July party who has blown part of his hand off with a firecracker and heals the wound.

And then you think you have an idea where the book is going, and there’s a big twist in the middle and you were wrong, and then you think you know where the book is going, and you’re probably still wrong, because ultimately this book is about what a weight The Future can be, when you think you’re being raised to be one thing and then you’re not that thing anymore, and it’s also about what happens to a family when all of their futures get taken away from them at once. The book follows four characters– the mom and the three kids– in a sort of first-person rotating chapters sort of thing, and the father of the family gets to be the POV character a time or two but not very often. There’s a lot of Hawaiian vocabulary sprinkled into the book, but not so much that it’s a problem for people who aren’t familiar with the language or the islands themselves, which I’ve never visited. It’s about the same amount as the Diné you see sprinkled throughout Rebecca Roanhorse’s Sixth World books, with the advantage that Hawaiian is a lot easier to parse and read for a native English speaker than Diné is. Washburn’s prose is lovely throughout, and the voices of the main characters are distinct enough that after a while you can pick out who’s talking from just a couple of paragraphs, which is definitely something you want in a book structured this way.

I’ll talk about this more in a few days when I do the June update for #readaroundtheworld, but this book is exactly what I was looking for when I started this project. There’s not really anything I’m learning or being exposed to when I read a book by someone from Michigan or New York or Texas, y’know? I have a pretty good idea of what those places are like already. Hawai’i is a little different, for obvious reasons, and this is definitely an author and a book I wouldn’t have come across were I not deliberately looking for it. I probably missed some cultural nuances here and there, of course, but the book was still plenty accessible for all that. If you’re looking for something new on your reading list, definitely check it out.