After the whipsaw between 2019 and 2020, I'm happy 2021 came out within a standard deviation of the mean on most measures:
- In 2020, I flew the fewest air miles ever. In 2021, my 11,868 miles and five segments came in 3rd lowest, ahead of only 2020 and 1999.
- I only visited one other country (the UK) and two other states (Wisconsin and California) during 2021. What a change from 2014.
- In 2020, I posted a record 609 times on The Daily Parker; 2021's 537 posts came in about average for the modern era.
- Cassie got almost 422 hours of walks in 2021, a number I don't think I ever achieved with Parker. And given I only had her for 291 days of 2021, that's an average of 1:27 of walks per day. According to my Garmin, she and I covered over 684 km just on walks that I recorded with my watch. A young, high-energy dog plus working from home most of the time will do that, I suppose.
- Speaking of walks, in 2021 I got 4,926,000 steps and walked 3,900 km—about the straight-line distance from New York to Seattle. Those numbers came within 2% of 2020 and 4% of 2019. I also hit new personal records for distance and steps when I walked over 51 km on September 3rd. And I hit my step goal 355 times (cf. 359 times in 2020), though not all in a row.
- I drove 4,242 km in 2021, almost exactly the same amount as in 2020 (4,265 km), but I used a bit more fuel (116 L to 79 L).
- I spent 1365 hours working from home and 521 in the office in 2021, about the same (1327 and 560) as in 2020. I expect about the same in 2022.
- Personal software development took up another 184 hours, almost all on the really cool thing I'm going to soft-launch tomorrow.
- The Apollo Chorus took up 222 hours of my time, including 100 in rehearsals and performances and about the same amount on my duties as president. In 2020, that was 57 and 71 hours respectively, mainly because we didn't have any in-person performances.
- Finally, I started only 28 books in 2021 and finished 23, after dropping a couple that dogged me for a while. That's more than in my worst-ever year, 2017 (18 and 13), but down a bit from the last two years. That said, my average numbers for the past 10 years are 28.2 and 23.3, making 2021...average. I also watched 51 movies and 48 TV shows, which just means I need to get out more.
So, will 2022 return to normal (-ish)? Or will some of the trends that started in March 2020 continue even after the pandemic has long become something we scare children with?
Redu, Belgium, has more books than people, but people don't buy many books these days:
[I]n the mid-1980s, a band of booksellers moved into the empty barns and transformed the place into a literary lodestone. The village of about 400 became home to more than two dozen bookstores — more shops than cows, its boosters liked to say — and thousands of tourists thronged the winsome streets.
Now, though, more than half the bookstores have closed. Some of the storekeepers died, others left when they could no longer make a living. Many who remain are in their 70s and aren’t sure what’ll happen after they’re gone.
On Easter weekend in 1984, roughly 15,000 people descended on Redu, perusing the used and antiquarian volumes vendors sold out of abandoned stables and sidewalk stalls. The booksellers decided to stay. Others soon followed, along with an illustrator, a bookbinder and a paper maker. It was an eclectic, countercultural crowd. Young families arrived, too, and new students trickled into the faded schoolhouse.
Now there are 12 or fewer bookshops, depending on how one counts — and, perhaps, who is doing the counting. Those who are more optimistic about the future of the bookstores tend to cite a higher number.
In an odd twist, though, Redu is also home of the European Space Agency Security and Education Centre.
I officially gave up on a couple of books this week, with mixed feelings about both. Both are massive biographies; both are considered outstanding examples of their craft; and both started putting me to sleep somewhere between page 257 (Ron Chernow's Hamilton) and 632 (Robert Caro's The Power Broker). And man, I really tried with Caro, but seeing that huge book sitting on my bedside table for more than two years with a bookmark just past the half-way point made me sad.
I don't drop books often. I gave up on Kim Stanley Robinson's New York 2140 after 132 pages and his Blue Mars at about the same point, in both cases because I just kept feeling like they were stuck in first gear. (I liked Robinson's other Mars books, so I'm not sure what happened with those two.) And in no small irony, I shelved Mark Manson's The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck because I just didn't give a fuck—and I found his writing style sloppy and facile.
None of them (with the possible exception of Manson's) is bad, exactly; I just got...bored.
I love reading. Just last night I started the 5th Expanse novel only four months after reading the first one. I read four books (including the 4th Expanse novel) on my last trip to the UK. Something about those two biographies, though...
I will probably pick most of them up again at some point, the Caro especially. But for now, my reading list just has too many interesting books on it to struggle with ones that feel like a chore.
I just started Sprint 52 in my day job, after working right up to the last possible minute yesterday to (unsuccessfully) finish one more story before ending Sprint 51. Then I went to a 3-hour movie that you absolutely must see.
Consequently a few things have backed up over at Inner Drive Technology World Headquarters.
Before I get into that, take a look at this:
That 17.1°C reading at IDTWHQ comes in a shade lower than the official reading at O'Hare of 17.8°, which ties the record high maximum set in 1971. The forecast says it'll hang out here for a few hours before gale-force winds drive the temperature down to more seasonal levels overnight. I've even opened a few windows.
So what else is new?
So what really is new?
But Sprint 52 at my office, that's incredibly new, and I must go back to it.
Just two of note. First, on this day 21 years ago, Al Gore conceded the 2000 election to George W Bush. Good thing that made almost no difference at all in world events.
Another anniversary is the one that happens every January 1st to works of art created a certain point in the past. A whole bunch of books, films, and musical compositions pass into the public domain as their copyrights expire, including:
- The Sun Also Rises and Winnie-the-Pooh, both published in 1926;
- The works of Louis Armstrong and Jim Morrison, who died in 1971 (except in the U.S.); and
- All musical recordings made before January 1, 1923.
Have fun adapting!
Just a few:
And finally, atheist sci-fi author John Scalzi...bought a church?
I had to pause the really tricky refactoring I worked on yesterday because we discovered a new performance issue that obscured an old throttling issue. It took me most of the morning to find the performance bottleneck, but after removing it a process went from 270 seconds to 80. Then I started looking into getting the 80 down to, say, 0.8, and discovered that because we're using an API limit with a request limit (180 requests in 15 minutes), I put in a 5-second delay between requests.
So now I've got all this to read...someday:
Finally, the economics of workers vs employers has taken an odd turn as job applicants have started simply ghosting interviewers. But, as Slate says, "employers have been doing this to workers for years, and their hand-wringing didn’t start until the tables were turned."
Writing in The Atlantic, Ian Bogost explains better than I could why I stopped using my Kindle a few years back:
A particular reader’s receptivity to ebooks...depends on the degree to which these objects conform to, or at least fail to flout, one’s idea of bookiness. But if you look back at the list of features that underlie that idea, ebooks embrace surprisingly few of them.
An ebook doesn’t have pages, for one. The Kindle-type book does have text, and that text might still be organized into sections and chapters and the like. But the basic unit of text in an ebook does not correspond with a page, because the text can be made to reflow at different sizes and in various fonts, as the user prefers. That’s why Amazon invented “locations” to track progress and orientation in a book. You’d think the matter displayed on an iPad screen would feel more familiar—it’s just pictures of actual pages—but oddly it often feels less like leaves of paper than its e-ink brethren does. The weird way you tap or push a whole image of a page to the side—it’s the uncanny valley of page turning, not a simulation or replacement of it.
Ebook devices are extremely compatible with an idea of bookiness that values holding and carrying a potentially large number of books at once; that prefers direct flow from start to finish over random access; that reads for the meaning and force of the words as text first, if not primarily; and that isn’t concerned with the use of books as stores of reader-added information or as memory palaces. Some of the reading that corresponds particularly well with this conception of bookiness includes fiction in general and genre fiction—such as mysteries, sci-fi, young-adult fiction, and romance—in particular.
I guess I have my answer, then: I hate ebooks because I don’t read much genre fiction, but I read a lot of scholarly and trade nonfiction. I also buy a lot of books on art, architecture, and design, whose subjects work best—or feel most bookish—when they are large-format, open-spread, and richly illustrated. As a somewhat haughty book person, I also can’t quite wrap my spleen around every book looking and feeling the same, like they do on an ebook reader. For me, bookiness partly entails the uniqueness of each volume—its cover, shape, typography, and layout.
If you like ebooks, great. Enjoy your dim, gray screen in peace. If you hate them, don’t worry about it. Who says everything must involve a computer? Maybe it’s better, even, to protect the print-book market by building a firewall against ebooks’ expansion beyond their rule over genre fiction. Just give up and read normal books, like humankind has done for 2,000 years.
I read dozens of books on Kindles while traveling for school and work, and I remember very little of them. Yet I can often recall the place on the page where I read a particular line in a book.
Having finished Hard Times, I started a new book last night, and realized right away it will take me a year to read. The book, Shit Went Down (On This Day in History) by James Fell relates an historical event for each day of the year. The recommendation came from John Scalzi's blog. I have about 60 recommendations from Scalzi's blog now, and someday I might read a fraction of those books.
Fell's book reminds me that on this day in 1925, a jury in Dayton, Tennessee, convicted John Scopes of teaching human evolution in a state-funded school. Despite the wonderful things that have come out of Tennessee, the state's constant competition with neighboring Mississippi and Alabama for the "stupidest legislation of the decade" award always entertains. My friends from the state assure me that smart people actually do live there, but their protestations have less of a persuasive effect given they left Tennessee at the first opportunity.
In any event, I really need to carve out more time for reading. Come on, UK, open up to vaccinated visitors already! I need the airplane time.
The Niles, Ill., public library topped lists around the world for its best-in-class offerings. As part of the North Suburban Library System, it shares resources with other world-class public libraries, including the one I grew up in. But following the Library Board elections this past April, the Niles Public Library has become noteworthy for something completely different:
Over the course of the next few months and the installation of a new Board of Directors, the library’s funding has been deeply slashed, hours reduced to below-state-standard levels, the library director quit, and essential services to the community shuttered.
Three new Board members — Joe Makula, Susan Schoenfeldt, and Olivia Hanusiak — were elected, allowing for a return to a conservative, tax-conscious voting block. All three were candidates [Board member Carolyn] Drblik sought, and now she had enough support to be elected Board president. It’s rumored they spent up to $15,000 on this small local election. Makula himself is a Trump donor, and the group, Dove Lempke believes, is working to install themselves on taxing bodies across the state and country in order to gut public institutions from the inside.
Immediately upon the board being installed, they hired a technology consultant to investigate the library’s processes and procedures. This consultant, a wedding videographer with no auditing credentials, is simply a friend of Drblik and the rest of her new Board block and campaigned for their election.
He was hired at $100 an hour with no experience and no cap.
Consequence? The Niles Public Library is on its way to not being a world-class library. And in an odd turn of events, the entire library staff joined AFSCME Local 31 in June.
The moral of the story: vote, people! Especially in local elections.