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The Art of Travel

 

One of my goals for 2015 was to read 36 books outright.

That didn’t happen. I powered through a mere 32. Nothing to complain about, I suppose. I am mortal, but I was within spitting distance! Ptui

I put my feet up and partook in a healthy amount of science fiction last year. Nine books to be precise. Three of them made my list below. Are you screaming in joy yet?

I also nimbly vetted four Agatha Christie novels because it smacked of the thing to do. Or at least something I had never done before.

5. (Tie) Ready Player One (Ernest Cline, 2011) – The future is bleak. But the inventor of the all encompassing virtual world that everyone escapes to, develops a treasure hunt, where the victor is the supreme ruler of that world. And infinitely rich. The inventor loves all things from the 1980’s. So the quest is a geektastic exploration of nostalgia from the music, video games, TV and movies from that era. Our hero is an expert on all things the inventor likes. But so are many others. Some not so nice. Who will win? Oh yeah, Steven Spielberg’s movie adaption comes out in 2017.

5. (Tie) Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy Book 1) (Pierce Brown, 2014) – The sort of story someone might like if they enjoyed the Hunger Games or Total Recall or Greek mythology. It’s about a young man from Mars who seeks revenge for the death of his wife by infiltrating the ruling upper class, that style themselves after Greek Gods. He joins their training school, which is an expansive and glorified version of capture the flag. It reads fast and you will be entertained.

4. Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life (George Monbiot, 2013) – The ideas this book spark and the possibilities of how to live and let live are incredible. My favorite is that we often try to preserve the wrong thing in nature. We try to save or reconstruct what we know from our lifetimes (or parent’s lifetimes), but often those habitats and wildlife are not the original way of things. 100 years ago is not that long in the grand scheme of things. So much has happened in that time, yet humans and nature can co-exist. The book slogs at certain points, but the overall picture is worth an occasional slow spot.

3. The Martian (Andy Weir, 2014) – Read it now and you will certainly picture Matt Damon navigating the Martian landscape. You will certainly hear his voice narrating and explaining thorny nuggets of science theory. There is a big element of technical science, but it’s never too hard to grasp and is done with a smidgen of humor. And if you didn’t hear, The Golden Globes gave the movie adaptation the award for Best Comedy/Musical. What the…? It is not a comedy and the only music is disco.

2. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (Daniel James Brown, 2014) – I would posit that the title alone should be instructive on the topic of this book. Outside that, this is the story of the University of Washington (UW) rowing team and their journey to be the best in the world. Most of the story is about the life of one of the boys, the Nazi PR machine leading up the Olympics and the epic rowing rivalry between the UW and the University of California – Berkeley, in a time when rowing was among the biggest and most prestigious sports in America. Hard to believe when you look at today’s sporting world, but true. My favorite part was when the UW rowing team clandestinely went to visit President Roosevelt’s actual home. They snuck in the back, knocked and were welcomed in to the house by his son, James, who was a huge rowing fanatic and had rowed himself. Imagine what would have happened today. I highly recommend you put down what you’re reading now, and read this instead.

1. The Art of Travel (Alain de Botton, 2004) – There are books that enrich your thinking. There are books that drop ideas into your brain that open wide all new possibilities. There are books that give you pause, just long enough to exclaim ‘Ah ha! and shake your head with a smile. Then there is this book that does all of those things, but goes beyond. What is travel? Why do we do it? And what perspective is the most important? This is an exploration of perspective, using the concepts and work of artists and authors as a key to unlocking the truth. The truth for you. I will only fail to describe the effect, so just read it. That is the best advice I can give.

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In 2015, I predict I will…

…visit three new baseball stadiums. Surprised?

…do something crazy. Climb a mountain crazy. Run a half-marathon crazy. Crazy like that.

…read at least 35 books. I haven’t read that much the past few years. Doubling down.

…read seven books I own that I haven’t read. I estimate I have over 30 unread books lying around!

…run 300 miles. That’s 25 miles per month. That sucks.

…get myself to at least one new country. I haven’t been to a new country since 2012.

…write more.

…volunteer to be a commissioner of a sports league. (Hint: I already did this for volleyball…victory! 1-0 already!)

…win a championship with one of the sports teams I play on. Let’s do this!

…play with a puppy.

 

________________

Let’s look at how I fared from my 2014 list:

Success rate: 7.5/10

…read four ‘classic’ science fiction novels. From this listDone! See the which ones here.

…participate in three races. Maybe even a sprint triathlon? 1/2 credit for this one. I paid for three races, but was out-of-town for one and hurt my back for another. I did run the Army Ten-Miler however.

…prance about in at least one new country. Maybe Croatia? Nope. I went to Malaysia and Thailand this year, but I’d been to both countries before.

…visit 2-3 new baseball stadiums. Yes! Went to Globe Life Stadium (Texas Rangers) and Minute Maid Park (Houston Astros).

…attend another music festival. Maybe the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware? Oh yeah! I made it to the 3rd annual Firefly Music Festival.

…find a new job. True. I started working on e-learning for WV’s information management system.

…hike more than last year. Benchmark: 17 hikes/177.5 miles. Fail. I did a scant 14 hikes/154.75 miles.

…finish watching the American Film Institute’s (AFI) Top 100 movies and all the Oscar Best Picture winners. Don’t get too excited, I only have 18 movies remaining. Boom! Done!

…cook more. I got a CSA share of veggies and cooked lots of new things. And I slapped together mucho sloppy tacos.

…win. I played on six different sports teams throughout the year (volleyball x 3, soccer, softball and flag football). We won 29 games I played in. Oh yeah. (But not because of me…). Plus the Seattle Seahawks went 3-0 in games I attended.

Out!

bold

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2014 proved to be a weak year for good books. Well, among the books I read.

One of my goals this year was to read four science fiction novels off a ‘Best of’ list. So in honor of the science fiction genre, I plan on hosting a book burning bonfire to forget 2014. Invitations are in the mail.

What science fiction novels did I read in 2014?

  1. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
  2. Hyperion (Dan Simmons)
  3. The Fall of Hyperion (Dan Simmons)
  4. The Martian Chronicles (Ray Bradbury)
  5. Children of Dune (Frank Herbert)

 

Without fanfare, read about the top five books I read in 2014:

5. Police (Jo Nesbø, 2014) – The Harry Hole books from Swedish author, Jo Nesbø, are highly entertaining murder mysteries. This is neither the best nor the worst of the ten book series thus far. I suggest The Snowman or The Leopard if you must read one. But in a weak year of reading, I struggled to find my top five. I toyed with including John Grisham’s Sycamore Row (the follow-up to A Time To Kill), despite it being just okay, but after reading his Gray Mountain, which was just terrible, they cancelled each other off my list.

4. A Dance With Dragons (Fire & Ice Book 5) (George R. R. Martin, 2011) – Not the best book of the series, but a vast improvement over Book 4. Could it be true? Another major character dies? No!!!! I don’t believe Mr. Martin will write fast enough to keep up with The Game of Thrones TV series, but the journey will be fun. In an everybody dies horribly so why did we invest all this time on these characters sort of way.

3. What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (Randall Munroe, 2014) – Some of these questions are silly, some are weird. Some are way over my head. Yet you can’t walk away without a few chuckles and the deep satisfaction that you are now somehow smarter than the next guy or gal.

2. Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn, 2012)– Read it. Watch it. Discuss. If you are not entertained, check for a pulse. If you don’t have a pulse, I suggest reading CPR for Dummies.

1. Hyperion (Dan Simmons, 1989) – The interlocking story of seven pilgrims journeying to Hyperion to save the galaxy. Or are they? One narrative brings them together, but each individual back story is what makes the book amazing. The Fall of Hyperion is the ‘sequel’. Actually, it is the conclusion of the story, so it you have to read it, but it’s not quite as good as its better half. If you like anything about science fiction, even if only the latter word fiction, than read this.

I’m planning on reading more this upcoming year.

Give me your best suggestions!

Silence is not golden here.

 

burn

 

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I made a bunch of bold predictions for 2014. I’ve still got some work to do, so I’ll get cracking over the next couple months.

I also need to do more projects around the apartment – cleaning, sorting, disposing (of bodies) and other minutiae of minor pertinency.

Let’s get bold! Let’s get dirty!

Goal for October/November: Knock enough things off my 2014 Bold Predictions list and do enough projects so they total 19

 

Here are some of the Bold Predictions I can work on:

…read four ‘classic’ science fiction novels. From this list. Progress to date: 2/4 books read

…participate in three races. Maybe even a sprint triathlon? Progress to date: 0/3 races

…hike more than last year. Benchmark: 17 hikes/177.5 miles. Progress to date: 11/17 hikes (132.25 miles)

…finish watching the American Film Institute’s (AFI) Top 100 movies and all the Oscar Best Picture winners. Don’t get too excited, I only have 18 movies remaining. Progress to date: 6/18 movies watched

dirty

 

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In 2014, I predict I will…

…read four ‘classic’ science fiction novels. From this list.

…participate in three races. Maybe even a sprint triathlon?

…prance about in at least one new country. Maybe Croatia?

…visit 2-3 new baseball stadiums.

…attend another music festival. Maybe the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware?

…find a new job.

…hike more than last year. Benchmark: 17 hikes/177.5 miles.

…finish watching the American Film Institute’s (AFI) Top 100 movies and all the Oscar Best Picture winners. Don’t get too excited, I only have 18 movies remaining.

…cook more.

…win.

________________

Let’s look at how I fared from my 2013 list:

Success rate: 8.5/10

…go river rafting. It’s been awhile. Nope. Fail. Boo.

…read four ‘classic novels’. You know War and Peace and the like. I did. ‘Read‘ about it.

…turn a certain age. Yes! It was so easy.

…play some tennis. Indeed. I managed to play 10 matches (4-6 record) in the Summer and Fall.

…run in two races. Like a 5K, 8K or other. I ran the Semper Fi 5K and the Prevent Cancer 5K. I also did the 50K One Day Hike (I ran and walked).

…go to three new major league baseball stadiums. Thinking of Boston and Pittsburgh to start. I went to Fenway Park (Boston) and PNC Park (Pittsburgh). It wasn’t three, but I’m calling it success. Sue me!

…visit a new state (not the state of denial, but one of those US States) and a new country. I went to Rhode Island for the first time. No new country for old men. .5 credit.

…explore Washington, D.C. more. Even though I’ve seen a lot, there is always something new to discover. Yes. In fact I spent a whole month on this.

…publish more blog posts than last year (45 is the number to reach). Boom! 51!

…do something crazy. I am crazy, so everything I do is crazy.

boom

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My goal in December was to finish reading Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. And do some running.

Did. Not. Happen.

That’s the miserable news.

The bad news, by contrast, is I can continue to give you updates on my Le Miz progress! Aren’t you excited? It may last another year.

December Goal: Read the last 820 pages (out of 1463) of Les Misérables and run 11 miles.

Stats

  • Actually read: 423 pages (52% of goal)
  • Actually ran: 3 miles (38% of goal)

Result: Fail!

I did read quite a lot. Then there came a five-day stretch where I just couldn’t pick up the book. I avoided it. I went out of my way not to see Cosette’s dour face staring at me. With about seven days left, I thought ‘I can pull this off – if I read all day and night!’ But I decided not to hurt myself.

Highlights of those 423 pages: Thénardier escapes prison. Marius and Cosette finally meet and stare at each other for 200 pages. France is flawed but awesome. An epic history lesson on the June Rebellion of 1832. Quality time with the rats inside the Elephant of the Bastille. 600 Parisian street names mentioned and 700 name checks of ‘famous’ French people (rough estimates).

Hugh Jackman’s Jean Valjean is not amused.

Fin. (aka the good news)

Not amused

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I read. I read.

Let’s have a moment of silence as we look back on a year of books.

One of my goals for 2013 was to read four ‘classic’ novels. I did that. From The Great Gatsby (Riveting) to The Sound and the Fury (Unflinching) to A Farewell to Arms (Sweeping) to Les Misérables (Poignant), I read it. I might have read a couple more…but I got stuck on the epic tome called…

5. Les Misérables (Victor Hugo, 1862) – I read 75% of this in 2013. It was like reading three actual novels. Since I didn’t quite finish, I can’t rate it higher than #5. It has its moments. It’s a book AND a French history lesson.

4. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (Malcolm Gladwell, 2013) – Maybe not as good as his other books (like Blink or Outliers) but I enjoyed the numerous anecdotes that illustrated the point of the book – that it’s no surprise underdogs succeed often.

3. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work (Chip Heath and Dan Heath, 2013) – I went to their lecture and book signing (I got a free autographed book!). Very practical and useful advice. Like their other books (Made to Stick and Switch), it’s an easy read. Recommended.

2. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Cheryl Strayed, 2013) – A women takes on the mighty Pacific Crest Trail to find herself. It’s about the journey.

1. The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925) – What it lacks in length (218 pages) it makes up in prose. Sometimes you want to re-read passages to figure out how he wrote like that.

Read long and prosper.

Read2013

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