What I’m re/reading in 2014: The Crazy Man Chronicles

As you might be aware, I read 201 books in 2013.  That’s a lot of books, and while I think I did respectably in keeping my average-pages-per-book number high, I’m kinda tired of reading short books right now.  I don’t plan on hitting half of the number of books read for the year in 2014 that I did in 2013.  What I do plan on doing is reading long shit.  And series.  Lots and lots of series fiction.  Here’s some stuff on the list for this year:

2014-01-12 10.21.41First plan:  read the entire Wheel of Time series.  The final volume finally came out in paperback, so this is actually possible now.  Note that I’ve only read about half of these; I did those all at a gulp and then realized just how much Jordan still planned to write and stopped, and then Jordan died, and Brandon Sanderson finally finished the series.  I’m going to start these pretty soon, actually.

2014-01-12 10.33.32Speaking of Brandon Sanderson, now that he’s done with Robert Jordan’s twenty-book megaseries, he’s got time to go back and work on his own.  The second volume of The Stormlight Archive comes out in… March, I think?  So I’ve got until then to reread the first book.

2014-01-12 10.34.23The third volume of Robert Durling’s magnificent translation of The Divine Comedy finally came out in paperback in December, which means that I can finally finish reading it.  This isn’t as intimidating as it looks; there’s a lot of endnotes and backmatter and such so these aren’t as big reads as they seem to be initially.  On the other hand…

2014-01-12 10.35.44Michael Burlingame’s Abraham Lincoln: A Life cost my mother something like a hundred bucks when she bought it for me for Christmas a few years ago, and I haven’t read it yet– mostly because I can’t figure out how to hold the big sumbitch to read it.  I will be fixing that this year if I have to invest in a lap desk to do it.

Speaking of books with bible-thin pages…

2014-01-12 10.23.34Yeah, I know, fuck Ayn Rand.  But I’ve got a bunch of her books in this neat Centennial Edition on a shelf together, and I got through everything but Atlas Shrugged before deciding I was done reading books by dumb crazy people, and it’s been sitting on the shelf mocking me ever since.  Over a thousand pages, maybe six-point font.  I’m coming for you, goddammit.

And after that, a palate cleanser:

2014-01-12 10.31.43Disney has decided now that they own the Star Wars license that none of the books that are set in the future of the movies matter any more.  That’s… rather upsetting to those of us who have been reading them forever.  This is the New Jedi Order series.  That’s not all of them— there are a couple of never-made-it-to-print ebooks and I own the very last volume in hardcover because I was too impatient to wait for paperback.  I can read a Star Wars book in a day, though, so this isn’t the time investment it looks like.

2014-01-12 10.19.46Kevin J. Anderson’s Saga of Seven Suns is the best science fiction maxi-series that you’ve never heard of; he keeps ratcheting up the tension and making you think that there’s no way the human race is going to survive the latest bit of terror he’s thrown at it and then he throws a monkey wrench into his entire series.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Great action and drama and the plot just keeps twisting and turning throughout the entire series.    Plus they make a pleasing orange block when shelved together.  I haven’t reread this series; I think I’ll do that this year.

Oh, and this is my current unread shelf, which has gotten entirely out of control and is probably only going to get worse since I’m planning on doing so many rereads this year:

2014-01-12 10.37.13That Mencken collection in the middle, in particular, scares the hell out of me– it doesn’t look like much, but again with the bible-thin pages on those two books.  It’ll take a while.

I almost put George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire on the reread list, but fuckit– A Dance with Dragons pissed me off so much that… well, who am I kidding, I’m not gonna not buy the next volume when it comes out, but I’ll scowl fiercely at it when I do.  Take that, George R. R. Martin!  Along with my money!

That reread can wait until the next book comes out, which will probably be sometime in the 2030s.


Stuff what I wanna do in 2014

I don’t do resolutions. Resolutions are promises; promises get broken. That doesn’t say that I don’t have projects and goals; sometimes I get to them, sometimes I don’t. Last year I did a post like this at the previous incarnation of this blog over at Xanga; I’ve got that post archived somewhere, I think, but I remember the two big ones were to write more and to cook more often. Both of those goals were definitely achieved; I write just about every damn day here and I’m a much better cook than I was at the beginning of the year.

So what’s on deck for 2014?

Keep writing. This ought not to be a problem; getting back into regular blogging again was one of the best things about 2013; I’m just flat-out happier when I’m writing a lot. As always, I want to bend more toward fiction, but I always want to write more fiction. That’s not new.

Still a writing goal, but a bit more specific:

Self-publish Skylights officially. This book is already written although it could probably use one more editing pass. Technically it’s available on Lulu– I put it there so I could have them print one author’s copy and buy it for myself– but I want it on Amazon. Plans are in the works to commission a local artist friend to do the cover if I get the teacher creativity grant I applied for earlier this year. I may suck it up and do that anyway. Even if I don’t get the grant, I want this book available on Amazon by the end of the year.

Finish the bathroom renovation in a timely fashion. The boy’s home sick with me right now, which has slowed us down a bit, but I still think we can get the tub done by the end of break. The fear is that once that’s done the rest of the stuff will just sit in the damn living room for months because of the amount of work to be done and the lack of several contiguous days off of work. I’m going to DC over Spring Break with my kids, so it’s not like I can even back it up to that. MLK weekend is gonna be real busy around here.

Read big books. Spending last year trying to read 200 books led to me focusing on shorter fiction. I miss nonfiction a lot right now, and I’ve got a lot of stuff built up that’s gonna take me a while– for example, a 2600-page no-that-is-not-a-typo biography of Abraham Lincoln that is so big I can’t figure out how to read it in a physical sense– ie, how to hold the book while I read it. I’m reading it this year. I’m about 60% through Gone with the Wind right now, which is over a thousand. I also want to read through the Wheel of Time books; there are something like twelve or thirteen of them and they’re all close to or over a thousand pages each. I read about half the series before realizing how much Jordan had left to write and then bailed– and then Jordan died, and Brandon Sanderson took over, but now that they’re finally all written I can actually finish reading them.

Other reading goals: 1) Read every Stephen King book, in order (I’ve already started this, but The Stand is next, which is– again– a million pages long, so I put it off; and 2) I’m 1/3 of the way through The List and I want to be much closer to finishing that by the end of the year. That oughtta keep me busy.

(Have I talked about The List on here? I don’t remember. I’ll fill y’all in later if you want to know.)

Make it to Bloomington for a weekend sometime this summer. Also, Louisville, where I have some friends who I haven’t seen in forever. I haven’t been to Bloomington since 2005; it’s one of my favorite cities and it’s crazy that it’s been that long since I’ve been there. In addition, I’d like to go somewhere– and I’ll leave that generic– that I’ve never been to before. The boy’s old enough now that we can travel with him. Just come up with a place and go. (NOTE: This is the least likely of all goals thus far to actually happen. Overcoming my own inertia is insanely challenging.)

Buy a decent telescope, finally. Use it.

Learn piano, or at least learn a few songs I’m comfortable with. This is more achievable than it sounds because we actually own a piano; my wife plays. I failed spectacularly at learning ukulele this year, but I have some reason to believe that achieving at least moderate competence on piano will be easier.

Be a better teacher during the second half of the school year than I was during the first. Blah blah blah teaching sucks because reasons. Stop whining; do better anyway.

Watch less Sesame Street. Because gaaaah.

I’ll likely add to this as the day goes on. Feel free to check back ceaselessly if you like.

In which I am ignorant: also, blogwanking


As of today I’m halfway through Winter Break.  Thus far I’m not– at least as far as I know– making myself or anyone else crazy, which is a good thing, because I’m bad at vacations.  On the other hand, other than the big renovation project, you may have noticed that I’m kiiiinda starting to run low on viable interesting blog topics since all I’m doing with my life lately is lazing about my house with a book in my hand and occasionally whacking something with a hammer or a saw.  I went to work yesterday; it was the first time I’d left the house for longer than two minutes since Christmas.

So, uh, let’s talk about… geography?  Sure.

I am, as I’ve already discussed this week, a data nerd.  I’m a math teacher in the real world, remember, and apparently I come by that shit honestly.  One of the unexpected fun bonuses of running a blog is that it provides me with a never-ending sea of data to play with:  how many hits did I get today?  Followers?  Likes?  What’s the ratio of unique visitors to page views today?  Have I set any records lately? I posted a comment on that site, it brought me over a dozen visitors!

Stuff, in other words, that is entirely meaningless in any real-world fashion but is fun for me to play with in my head. While I wouldn’t mind more detail, WordPress does a decent job of giving me my site statistics in a nicely visual, manipulable way and I spend more time than I probably should each day staring at my stats.

Way more time, if I’m being honest.  Way, way more time.

I said I was a nerd; shuddup.

That said, looky here:

Screen Shot 2013-12-29 at 10.21.33 AMAnybody with a WordPress blog reading this has seen this map already; it’s how WordPress shows you where your traffic is coming from.  I’m fascinated by this, and days where I get a new country (six hits from Guernsey today!  Finally picked up Thailand yesterday!) never fail to give me a little thrill in my jibbly parts.  WordPress is kinda weird about how they determine what is a country or not.  For example, I have no hits from China, which does not surprise me given China’s policy on censoring the internet.  I do, however, have a number of hits from Taiwan and Hong Kong, which are both part of China, so apparently WordPress is distinguishing the mainland from former territories, or something; I’m not sure.   Similarly, to use today’s example, from looking at Wikipedia I get the impression that no one from Guernsey would assert that Guernsey is its own country– yet there it is in my “countries” list.

Some interesting (to me) facts about my traffic:

  • The biggest countries are entirely unsurprising: the United States, followed by the other three English-speaking democracies:  the UK, Canada, and Australia.  Fourth and fifth place are Norway and Switzerland.
  • I have no traffic whatsoever from anywhere in Central America.  Not one damn country.
  • Most of Europe is represented except for some bits of Eastern Europe, mostly former Soviet republics and, annoyingly, Finland.  I don’t know why not having a hit from Finland annoys me except for the fact that Sweden and Norway are so well represented.  I know Finland was Soviet-dominated to a degree that Norway and Sweden never were, and all of the rest of the European countries I’m missing are former Soviet Union or at least Soviet bloc countries; that might have something to do with it but I’m not sure what.
  • Way more African countries are represented than I might have expected:  Sudan, for instance, which is probably the single most surprising country I’ve gotten traffic from.  Ethiopia, also.
  • Macedonia shows up as “Macedonia, the Former Yugoslav Republic.”  Its official name according to the UN is “The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.”  I’m sure that there’s some history behind that that I’m currently ignorant of (mental note: research) but it seems rrrreeeallly weird.  That said I may start a movement to rename the US as The Former British and French and Spanish Colony and Before That Indigenous Peoples-Occupied Land of the United States of America.  Sounds more fun that way.
  • I really want someone from Greenland to visit my blog, because Greenland is so damn big.  🙂

One thing that all this has brought to mind is that my geography isn’t what it used to be.  I had a teacher in seventh grade who insisted that every kid who passed his class memorize the globe.  Which I did, happily.  The problem is that that means my geography froze in about 1988– and the Soviet Union didn’t fall apart until 1991.  My Eastern Europe and Asia geography is therefore not nearly as good as I want it to be.

Don’t get me wrong:  the classical stereotype of Americans ignorant about geography is that they “can’t find XXX on a map.”  So long as we’re talking about countries, at least, there’s no place on Earth I can’t find on a map within a few seconds, and I suspect I’d do pretty damn well with capitals and major cities even if I hadn’t heard of them beforehand; I know enough about what languages sound like to be able to pin most places down to a region quickly and after that it won’t take long.  What I’m talking about is handing me a blank map and asking me to fill it in.  I’m not as good at that as I want to be, and I’ve been reminded of it enough lately (Slovenia!  Latvia!  Which ones are those, again?) that I need to fix it.

That’ll give me something to do over the next week or so while I’m not pounding on things, right?


This is as interesting as I can be right now

My day began with pork.  As it should.

My big goal for today is that when I go to bed I’m going to be able to feel like I got a lot done today.  Right now, as of 1:30, I’ve accomplished some stuff for school (not a lot, mind you) and managed to shower and get dressed.  Which isn’t much, but is more than nothing.  My to-do list for the rest of the day is mostly cleaning and organization, with some additional school stuff thrown in for good measure, because it’s not actually possible to go 24 hours without doing anything for school during the school year.

I really really really want a burger for dinner.  Or… meatloaf.  Something decadent and greasy, we’ll see.

Random griping:  The Walking Dead starts Season Four tonight, and on account of having kicked cable to the curb I’m not going to be able to watch it tonight.  I have an Apple TV, mind you, and I’ve already ordered the season on iTunes, so I’ll be able to watch it– but either through official policy or simple laziness on somebody’s part an episode on iTunes generally doesn’t become available until several hours after it actually airs, meaning that if I wanted to watch the premiere tonight I’d have to stay up until around 1 or 2 in the morning to do it.  This isn’t going to get me to add cable back– we’ve paid for entire seasons of The Walking Dead, American Horror Story and Sons of Anarchy for only slightly more than a single month of cable would have cost, and those three shows represent about 90% of what we were actually watching on cable channels– but it would be nice, since I’m paying directly for the show, if I could watch it when everybody else does rather than having to put myself on Twitter/Facebook lockdown until tomorrow evening when I can actually get to the damn show.   I’ll just have to get my zombie fix elsewhere– maybe from this huge stack of comic books next to me— until then.

Anyway.  I think I said something about getting things done and I’ve been staring at this screen for ten minutes, so… yeah.  Off to cleaning!  Woohoo!

Parenting fail of the day


True fact:  George H. W. Bush is my favorite Republican president of my lifetime.  Which, I admit, isn’t saying a whole lot, but unlike Ford, Reagan, and Bush II I at least feel like the evil old nut-cutting CIA sumbitch had a little bit of a soul.    (Well, OK, I’ve got nothing against Ford.  But he was only president for a couple of months of my life anyway so I can safely disregard him.)  “George H. W. Bush is witness at gay wedding” means precisely nothing meaningful to anybody who wasn’t at the wedding.  It doesn’t really signal any change in the zeitgeist that wasn’t already happening no matter how much I want it to– Republicans have always been for rights for their people, and some of them– like, say, Satan— are pro gay marriage because there are acknowledged gay people in their family.  This has been true for a while.

I really only posted the picture because I want someone to explain the socks.  There is no way the former President of the United States leaves the house in mismatched socks unless he wants to, and I want to know why. Someone tell me.

Long intro to a very short anecdote, but I think it’s funny anyway:  I had to put the boy in his high chair earlier, and decided before I did so that I would lift him way above my head.  He loves this, like all little kids do.  I’m never doing it again, because this time he chose to take advantage of his added height by kicking me in the chest with both feet.  For which he was nearly dropped on his head.  Which would somehow have been my fault.  I think I have bruises.

Pointless griping time– As anyone who knows me IRL is already aware, I started a stupid little project on January 1 where I decided to keep track of all the books I read for a year.  I’m using Facebook to track everything– in fact, book posts are the only thing that I let stick around on Facebook for more than a couple of days.  I’m also keeping track in a spreadsheet, which you would think would make Facebook irrelevant but it’s not.

You knew I was a data nerd, right?  So of course I have numbers.  I have, as of right now, September 26th, reading my 145th book of the year.  That’s not a typo.  145 books, at an average of 336 pages each.  Sometime in the next few weeks I’ll cross 50,000 pages on the year; I read approximately 175 pages a day.  This does not count comic books (at least four or five a week, sometimes more) or anything online, although it’s included a handful of ebooks.  That’s every day.

I’m not bragging.  I suspect this may qualify as mental illness.

At some point, it became clear that it was within the realm of possibility for me to read 200 books in 2013.  I am, right now, five books off that pace– I’d need to have read 150 by the end of September; there are four days left to read those five books– which is actually possible if I’m careful about what books I choose, but probably won’t happen.

Here’s the problem:  As soon as I realized I could conceivably read 200 books in a year, the list became about reading 200 books in a year, and despite my respectable per-book average, I’m really starting to tilt my reading toward shorter books and rereads that I can get through quickly so that I can get “caught up” to this meaningless goal that only I know about and absolutely no one cares about so that at the end of the year I can brag to no one at all about how I read 200 books a year.  This even though I could easily justify telling people I read 175 books a year without fear of contradiction and without altering my reading habits.  The median number of books read by Americans?  Six.  The average is twelve, but that’s inflated by psychotics like myself.  Either way, right now I’ve squared the number of books the average American read last year and I still have three months left in 2013.  200 is not more impressive than 175; it’s just rounder.

I have a problem.  I have four or five hefty nonfiction books and Gone with the Wind (did you know that book is a thousand goddamn pages long?) on my shelf waiting for me and I’m not reading them because I know I can’t finish them in a day or two.  That’s fucked up, and the fact that I want to do something about it but apparently can’t is weird even for me.