A Struggling Update

July 6th, 2009 - written by

I’m struggling. With reading. Somehow I’ve lost track of the hours in a day, or perhaps life is catching up with me. Either way, I’m no longer soaring, breezing, drifting casually hundreds of hundreds of pages at a time. Each page is a laborious, energy draining TASK.

I read the two SQL books, and since then I’ve started and stopped a couple books. The CSS book was not read, way too much like a reference text. February, March, maybe. But not now, not in these circumstances.

I’m reading two books right now, which is a bad sign. It’s not a sign of studious reading, it’s a sign of non-commitment.

Today is the start of week #28. I’ve read 28 books. So, in a way, I’m right on target. But I know myself better than to rest on that. I’m behind, mentally, in my reading.

Despite being “right on track”, I haven’t completed a book since June 13th. That is a long time. Since then I’ve dropped 1 book, and started 2 others.

That “high” I would get from reading has gone away. My mind is still alive and active as it was when reading vehemently, but it has a new focus, something more important right now, my career. Not that reading was a distraction, because I often read late at night before bed, instead of watching T.V.. But the books, particularly the ones on SQL took me in a new direction, and it’s hard to read something else besides programming books when your mind wraps itself around a new topic that excites you. Luckily, the knowledge I gained from those two books has helped my career, which took an unexpected turn a couple weeks ago and now I’m doing much more amateur “database development” than I was ever required to do. I’m able to solve problems and streamline workflow much easier now.

So now I’m reading a book called “The Book” which is essentially a textbook on statistics centered around the game of baseball. It’s highly technical and mathematical and … dry.

I’m also reading “Predictably Irrational”, which discusses a developing field called “Behavioral Economics”. It’s a great book, and has helped get some of the excitement back.

I’m nowhere near completing either one.

So I’m on track, as far as numbers, but I’m lagging. And conversely, work is getting more and more interesting and my mind is focused almost singularly on that. Which for now is a great thing.

It’s July now, the Fall will soon be here. How then, will my resolution be?

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Completed SQL Circuit – Book #29

June 23rd, 2009 - written by

Done with the two database books. *phew*. Sidenote: SQL is awesome. I’m going to tackle a little CSS next and learn how to design properly. I suppose I’m a bit hesitant to read three straight technical books, but lately these topics have been on my mind and I wanted to learn. So I started. Eventually I’ll stop. Maybe.

Book Thoughts ,

Break From Literature For Technical Books

June 12th, 2009 - written by

I started reading Beginning Database Design thinking that it would probably be the greatest book read so far.

And I was pretty much right.

I’m heading to San Francisco this weekend for a little getaway and I’ll be starting a new book. Most likely it will be the companion volume to Beginning Database Design, titled Beginning SQL Queries, but I haven’t made up my mind.

Still ahead of schedule.

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Database Design

June 3rd, 2009 - written by

I’m jumping the shark a little here and tackling a computer book for book #27. I’ve been using databases for a couple years but have never taken the time to really learn more about the design, implementation, and maintenance of them. Databases excite me, so sue me. 😉

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Asperger’s Syndrome and Page Count Statistics

May 29th, 2009 - written by

I took a few days off reading and it was wonderful. I’ve been able to clear my head and, after 3 days, I’m ready to roll again.

I’ve chosen Look Me In The Eye to read next. It’s by John Elder Robison, the brother of Augusten Burroughs. Robison has Asperger’s syndrome, a less severe version of autism. It’s a memoir. I’m very excited.

This will be my last “regular” book for a couple weeks because I have a couple computer books en route about MySQL databases. I’ll write more about that in the coming weeks, my recent fascination with data storage and retrieval and all the neat little things I’ve been using databases for lately, ranging from baseball statistics to tracking my daughters cellphone usage. Good stuff. And she’s grounded.

This past week, since I haven’t been reading, I’ve been thinking a lot about reading. I’ve been looking at a few different aspects of my reading so far. Something that I track, but don’t show on the website, are my ratings. I rate each and every book on a 0-10 scale. I also track the number of pages and a rough estimation of word count based on a sample page.

But I started getting curious about certain statistics, mainly if there was any correlation between the size of the book and the rating it received. Would it be more likely that a smaller book would get a better rating because I could read it faster, retain more information, and the idea that smaller books might be more focused on an individual subject, and thus was chosen more carefully? Or would larger books get higher ratings? After all, I’m not going to tackle a longer book unless I know for sure that I’m going to enjoy it throughout, and give it a more analytical inspection before I purchase. Or, because it’s a longer book, I dive into it with more dedication, knowing it will require more commitment than previous books, and in turn, have an emotional buy-in before I even begin reading. I couldn’t see myself spending 12 hours during a given week on a certain book, finish it, and then say, “that was a piece of crap.”

So I decided to take my ratings and the page count, and stick it into a formula called Pearson’s Correlation Coefficient. This formula can measure the correlation between two data sets and tell you how much correlation there is. I had a small sample size, only 25 books, but I plugged in the numbers anyway. The “score” ranges from -1.0 to 1.0, with zero being no correlation and as you move to either side of zero, you get closer to having a correlation (that was very crude but I’m not a mathematician). A -1.0 score would mean as the page count decreases, the rating increases, and a +1.0 would mean as page count increases, rating increases. Everything in between shows a smaller and smaller correlation between the two sets of numbers. If you were to plot these numbers on a graph, you would see the points forming a shape going upwards, left to right. The opposite for a negative correlation.

So I’ve described, roughly, correlation (to the best of my ability). All this only to tell you that there was no correlation at all between the length of the books and the ratings I’ve given them. My Pearson’s score was 0.27 which is no correlation at all. And on a graph it looks like a totally random placement of data points creating no shape at all. X is my rating, and Y is page count.

Based on the numbers, I like and dislike books big and small, with no pattern either way. Wasn’t that fun?

Now I’m going to learn more about Asperger’s syndrome. Laters.

tip: if this wasn’t fun to read, you’re not alone, but reread it anyways while listening to Flaming Lips’ Free Radicals. it will be much better.

Book Thoughts ,

Possible Side Effects

May 25th, 2009 - written by

This weekend I started, and finished, Possible Side Effects by Augusten Burroughs. It was much longer than Tribes, but because of the flu I was able to lie in bed for a large part of the holiday weekend and read (as much as you can lie in bed with 4 children). Now I’m faced with choosing a new book and I have a few to choose from that have been sitting around for a bit. I really don’t know what to read next. I’m a few weeks ahead so I may take my time with choosing the next book.

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Tribes – The End

May 22nd, 2009 - written by

Tribes was excellent as well as a quick read. It’s time to think about what’s next!

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Tribes, Taking Breaks, and Persuasion

May 21st, 2009 - written by

The Wisdom of Crowds was a true bear of a book. The parts that I was able to follow were great. The group experiments, how they apply to groups in general, blahblahblah. It was all good. But then…I started reading a page, looking at the page number, reading a page, looking at the page number. I did this for the last 100 pages at least. Reading for the sake of reading. I realized this, and two quotes bounced around in my head for those last 100 pages, contradictory ones.

“Never read a book through merely because you have begun it.”
– John Witherspoon

“A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.”
– Samuel Johnson

In this case, Samuel Johnson, sitting on my right shoulder, was of greater persuasion and I finished the book.

So now begins book #24. I’m way ahead of schedule, and that was the plan. I wanted to get ahead of schedule so that I could take a break and spend a few weeks doing other things, like maybe catching up on some television. But then I finish a book, and usually that last day I’m really starting to think about what book I’m going to tackle next. And that familiar feeling of anticipation starts to build, the desire to end and to begin again.

Today as I waited for my daughter to finish gymnastics I finished the last page of Crowds, placed the book into my bag and in virtually the same motion pulled out Tribes, book #24, by Seth Godin. 40 pages later, roughly 1/4 of the book, I realized that after I finished this one, I’d be almost a full month ahead of schedule. So now may be the time to tackle that history book I bought earlier this year. The 700 page one. And spend June learning about the history of my country. But you never know. I could just take the month off and catch up on The Mentalist. But then Groucho Marx whispers in my ear…

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

Catch you in a few days…

Ever wondered how to make Chocolate Tuxedo Strawberries?

Book Thoughts ,

Wolfram|Alpha – Total Words Read

May 18th, 2009 - written by

Thanks to the new “computational knowledge engine” at http://wolframalpha.com, my 22 books, or 6000+ pages, read so far this year equals about 3 million words, based on the average page word-count. That’s a lot of words.

Which leads me to think about the human brain and how much I’m able to actually absorb. Then I start breaking that down into energy consumed, “storage space”, recall, knowledge accrued, and the general neuron activity in my brain that is occurring, but going almost completely unnoticed by me. And then I get a headache.

What do you think the intake of 3 million words (in subjects you pursued) over a 4 1/2 month span would do for you?

Book Thoughts

The Wisdom of Crowds

May 14th, 2009 - written by

The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. Just when Gilbert was starting to get me all into meditation and insane egocentricity, I thrust myself back into business literature. You know, like Bali, Balance. Patience. I’ll have plenty of time for labeling things from God, then crediting myself for it, later. I have things to write about our friend Elizabeth Gilbert, but that will come later. I rarely write a blog post about one book while reading another, but right now I want to read and writing is just getting in the way!

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Eat. Pray. Love. Done.

May 14th, 2009 - written by

Lots of thoughts about this one. I may or may not put them here.

Stay tuned.

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Quick Update – Eat Pray Love

May 10th, 2009 - written by

I finished Quirkology obviously, and told myself that since I was a couple weeks ahead I was going to take a little break. Then immediately after that I went downstairs and picked another book to read and began reading. (See obsession post earlier) I read A Sense of Urgency by John P. Kotter. I breezed through that in a couple days and it was good at times. Some books you read you have to be in the mood for. This was one of those “beer-goggle” books, it looked really good at the time, but later, under different circumstances, not so much.

But I was able to get some good ideas about work and pace and urgency and all in all, I’m glad I read it.

So again, I’m very much ahead of schedule but have chosen a book to read that is a no-doubter. It’s Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book has appeared everywhere, but most recently I watched the author’s presentation at the most recent TEDTalk. And it was really good. It even included a Tom Waits anecdote which is a very quick path to my heart. So book #22 is starting and this is beginning of week #20.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s TEDTalk:

Author Video, Book Thoughts ,

Book #20 – Quirkology and The Obsession

May 4th, 2009 - written by

So I decided, because I was ahead of schedule, that I would read a much larger book. So I started that and got about 100 pages in when I decided to start a different book, and that book is Quirkology by Richard Wiseman. I’m going to continue to read both books, the other being a 600-page book on Search Marketing, but only track the main book, or in other words, the weekly book. Some books are meant to be absorbed slowly, as is the case with a 600-page educational text on marketing. I will take my time reading that one, while still maintaining my weekly pace with much more manageable sub-500 page books.

So I started Quirkology yesterday and I’m almost finished with it. I gave it a “casual” glance Sunday afternoon and found myself in no time at all reading about a third of it. It’s good. But a lot of the studies and experiments that are talked about were talked about in a different book I’ve read this year (and published earlier) called Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. I would say that of the 25 or so psychological studies that the book has covered so far, about 10 of them I was already familiar with from Gladwell’s book. So that is a little disappointing.

I should finish this book tomorrow, and be about 20 days ahead of schedule.

20 books in and I’m noticing that this is quickly turning into an obsession. I can’t stop reading, I can’t stop shopping for books, I read with an almost manic fever, the consuming of information, of stories, the feeling of accomplishment. It’s like a drug, the opening of a new book, the creasing of the spine, the consumption and placement of the book on the “finished” shelf (which is becoming rather full).

I have 13 books in my “library” that haven’t been opened yet, that I can’t wait to get to. It’s almost as if I’m reading for the sole purpose of getting to the next one, and not because it’s a numbers game, but because the rate in which I read has dramatically increased, and my ability to retain information is increasing as well, so it’s the need, the thirst for words, for information. My brain is slowly being conditioned in this way. And I like it.

And all it takes is canceling cable and 90 minutes a day. SO worth it. I’ll cover my TV/Movie intake in a later post.

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Finished With Midnight Disease

May 1st, 2009 - written by

I breezed through that book fairly quick, not an enjoyable read like I had hoped. I gave it a 5/10. Some passages were really interesting, but they were few and far between.

I’m now 16 days ahead of schedule so this is an opportunity to either take a break, or read a much larger book. I’m going to decided today what to do.

Book Thoughts ,

The Midnight Disease

April 27th, 2009 - written by

So. Book #19 and I’m rolling along quite nicely. One week ahead of schedule. I saw this book a long time ago, thought it was about the problem of being nocturnally creative. Not so. Even better, it’s a scientific approach to what drives people to write, and takes a historical approach. From Kafka’s hypergraphia to Robert Louis Stevenson’s 5 day cocaine binge when he wrote Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, so far the spectrum of examples are extraordinary. It’s highly scientific and wordy, but after Eno, it’s an easy read.

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Finished With Eno’s Diary

April 26th, 2009 - written by

Spent 4 hours Saturday/Sunday morning hurtling through the book….

I found it at times to be an uncomfortable read, like I was using “reading muscles” that had never before been flexed. Always sore, wanting to go back to using my usual muscles that were already toned and flexible. The subject matter was foreign, the person someone I couldn’t relate to in any way. I felt trapped in a foreign country with no money, no map, and all I could do was pick an arbitrary direction and start walking, but always curious about what was around the next corner…. And I kept walking, all the way to the last page. I saw and heard amazing things, and very much enjoyed the hardship. But I’m glad it’s over.

My own journal writing is more frequent and reads better.

Amazed at Eno’s ability to transfer his thoughts to the written word. It seems nothing is lost in translation. Whereas my mind and my pen don’t hear each other at all (in certain areas), let alone proper translation. I have the same problem with drawing and penmanship. Mind/Body disconnect.

I listen to music differently.

It transformed a very minor part of me, but completely.

Book Thoughts ,

A Life Recorded Is A Life Twice Lived…?

April 19th, 2009 - written by

I’m not even 30 pages into Brian Eno’s diary and I’m blown away. I’m blown away by how much detail is in his writing. It wasn’t until October of that year that he considered publishing the diary and already, it being the 3rd week of January, he’s writing as if the world will read it. But in his mind I’m sure he believed nobody would ever see it.

He hangs out almost daily with David Bowie. I’m not a big Bowie fan, but the conversations and descriptions of the work they do in the studio and how Bowie thinks creatively is really amazing.

It seems like on a daily basis he has so much free time. He’ll work 3-4 hours in the studio then spend of the rest of the day shopping, or at museums, art galleries, parks, friend’s houses. And the way he writes about it, he’s so insightful about people, so active. Everyday he writes and everyday the energy and profundity jumps off the page. To read, it’s exciting and draining at the same time as my own fatigue has overwhelmed me these last few days.

It’s not a book to use as a comparison to one’s own life, that is for sure. What is an average day for him I’ll have only a few times a year. And I don’t mean what happens during the day, I speak mainly of the energy, the creative spark, the ability to create something out of nothing. It’s fantastic.

A Year With Swollen Appendices, Brian Eno

Refining My Journal Writing

April 18th, 2009 - written by

A couple recent books have got me thinking about my journal. I’ve kept a steady journal for about 3 years now. But no matter how hard I try it always seems to turn into a “comment box” that only gets negative responses, or complaints. Reading my journal is not something I do much. Lots of negative crap in there.

Anything I write that has any depth or meaning behind it, usually goes on one of my blogs. So if you follow my blogs at all, and have seen the “good stuff”, you can see how badly I need to learn to write, and keeping a better more profound journal is the simplest way to begin that process.

With that in mind I purchased the seemingly rare A Year With Swollen Appendices by Brian Eno. It’s his diary. It’s out of print so I paid a pretty penny, but something tells me it will be worth it. Brian Eno is many things, but most notably a producer, having worked with David Bowie, David Byrne, U2 (including producing Joshua Tree), James, Coldplay, etc… As his Wiki page states, he is known as the “father of ambient music”

It’s a long book, over 400 pages. But I know I’ll enjoy it, and I’ll TAKE MY TIME (which has been difficult lately). At the same time, I’ll write in my journal things that happen that are important, not petty and easily forgotten, and thus, Brian Eno’s book has already had an effect.

A Year With Swollen Appendices, Book Thoughts, Brian Eno

Update On Recent “Irritation”

April 16th, 2009 - written by

Just a quick update: an email I received from Daniel Nettle. See post http://resolution52.com/irritated-by-this-little-tidbit for initial post.

Hi Brian
To my embarrassment I have no idea what I meant either. My excuse is that I am away from home and don’t have access to my copy to check the context, but off the top of my head, who knows? Perhaps it was a pretentious way of emphasising that art creates a shared experience (between Stefan and us, the viewer). On the other hand, don’t underestimate my ability to have just written it down wrong or something. However, in the event that I work out something deeper that I meant, I’ll let you know.
Best wishes

It’s cool that he took time out of his schedule to address my email, and even cooler that he gave a simple shrug and the “I have no idea either”. But still keeping the option that there may be a deeper answer that without the context of the essay itself he has forgotten.

Stefan Sagmeister, Things I Have Learned So Far

The Fresh Breeze of David Sedaris

April 13th, 2009 - written by

So I’m through with Things I Have Learned So Far and all the related correspondence. We’ll see what answers we can get there.

My next book is David Sedaris’s When You Are Engulfed In Flames. I don’t have to be at work for 4 hours, since it’s 5 AM right now, so I’m starting the book now.

Previous Sedaris favorites include:

  • Me Talk Pretty One Day
  • Naked
  • Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim

All were a joy to read. I’m expecting nothing less from this one.

David Sedaris, When You Are Engulfed In Flames