halfway point on book reading challenge and ideas that I use to increase the number of books I read

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.” — Ernest Hemmingway

I read that Stephen King reads around 80 books a year and in one of my favorite books by him (On Writing), he states, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

As I get older, I notice when I don’t read as much that my memory and cognitive skills decline. I thought I would post this update in part to somehow encourage myself to continue on to the finish line by reading 100 books for the year, my highest pledge/goal yet, and so I could mention a few pointers that help increase the number of books I read.

I’ll start with mentioning that my top 3 reasons for voracious reading are 1) exercise for my brain, 2) to become better at writing and 3) because books are fun, entertaining and educational.

Because I do include comics and cookbooks in my list, I try to limit those to roughly one per month. This is just a personal decision and if I wanted to read more comics, I would just increase my overall goal to compensate. I like reading cookbooks because I cook quite often and cookbooks help me find new recipes, ideas, and techniques but the internet and youtube are giving cookbooks a real challenge. I also add in occasional classics with a goal of at least one or two per year – think Frankenstein, The Jungle, The Illiad, and/or Thomas Jefferson. While a majority of the books I read are non-fiction, I include several in the genre that I’m interested in writing, Science Fiction. I also try to read genres and areas that I don’t know as much about and on topics where I may disagree with what I think the book is promoting especially in the area of politics.

Regarding formats, I read the lowest number of physical copies of books but I try to read at least a few of those per year. The number of ebooks versus audiobooks that I read are more evenly split but with ebooks I use TTS (Text To Speech) for many of those so it’s still similar to audiobooks.

I think reading a varied number of formats helps one in different ways. For instance listening to audiobooks or ebooks read via TTS, I believe helps with active listening skills. One thing I do continuously while listening to books being read is quiz myself on what I just heard. If I don’t know because I was distracted or wasn’t properly tuned in then I’ll sometimes stop and go back to an earlier part of the book. Otherwise, I’m reinforcing an unwanted skill and that’s one of tuning out that which I’m trying to hear. A similiar thing can happen with visual reading, but it doesn’t seem to be as common.

Using goodreads.com is a good way to keep up with what you’ve read and possibly, if you have a lot of friends on there, may encourage you to read more. It’s taken me many years to get to the reading level I’m at now so I usually don’t need the motivation from others but I do find keeping track of what I’ve read helps out a lot.

Here are the top five ideas that I used to increase my reading goals:

  1. Leverage technology and devices. I use a kindle fire HD 10 for reading ebooks visually, audiobooks, and listening to ebooks via text to speech. In my opinion, it has one of the best voice engines for text to speech – it doesn’t sound as robotic as other devices. I’ve used apple iPhones, IPOD touch, and IPOD Nano and these work fairly well for audiobooks but you may run out of memory if you stuff a lot of audiobooks on it. I recently bought a Samsung A51 phone for $200 and I added a 512 GB card to it so it’s my new favorite phone/mobile device. With the large borderless screen, I can even read the occasional ebook chapter visually. I use it with Straight Talk but if you didn’t activate the services on it, it would probably be better than most mp3 players you could buy. I still use the Apple devices so I have access to the apple ecosystem but not as much as before and for my two older iPhones, I don’t activate service on them and primarily use them on wifi. If you want to mix things up and you like to spend time outside during the day, the Kindle Paperwhite is a good cheap option. I bought one for around $100 that uses the e-ink technology so there is almost no glare if you’re in direct sunlight or if it’s bright out. They also have backlights for night or indoor reading. A couple of other nice things about the paper white are long battery life (possibly in weeks) and they are very thin and light and comfortable to hold. Additionally, with a high contrast sharp screen it should cut down on eye strain. Just keep in mind that e-ink technology is still mostly b&w for cheap devices but this is ok for high-contrast visual reading. You can also pair a bluetooth headset with the newer kindle paperwhites for audiobooks or text to speech but it doesn’t have a headphone jack since it is water resistant. It also has a good TTS engine that is better than Apple and Samsung to me. Note, newer devices like the Kindle paper white, iPhone, and Samsung phones typically use it’s Accessibility features for vision impaired users to activate text to speech. This takes some getting used and the touch screen gestures vary among devices. I’ve been able to learn them all but it wasn’t easy. You’ll also want to activate a feature called “continuous reading” on those devices so the visual screen reader doesn’t stop at the end of each page while reading a book. And last but not least don’t forget about your laptop or PC. It can handle any of the book formats and can be a convenient option for some people.
  2. Keep it interesting by reading various formats even physical paperback and hardback editions. Find a book that you’ve always wanted to read and start it. Some people like the tangible feel of a book while reading it and if that works for you go for it. If you’re on the go a lot and need more convenient options use your existing phone to read visually or listen to audiobooks or even text to speech. Or pickup some of the cheap devices depending on you want to read.
  3. Use audiobooks or Text To Speech applications to listen to books while doing other activities. I’ll listen to audiobooks or text to speech while cooking and washing dishes. It sometimes takes some practice and if you’re doing a new complicated recipe or listening to a book on Physics then you may not be able to multitask very effectively. I’ll usually have 10 or 20 books that I’m rotating around so I choose the right book for the task I’m doing. Listening while exercising, or doing yard-work is another option. Of course if you have a long commute then that could be a great time to listen to audiobooks as long as you’re not distracted from driving.
  4. In addition to item 3, find new and creative ways to multitask. I’ve actually read print books while on the treadmill and elliptical but you have to make sure you keep it safe. In other words, if you’re just starting to use a treadmill, it may not be a good idea to multitask by reading visually. Make sure you are very familiar with the treadmill before trying to read on it. Also, reading on the treadmill works best at lower speeds such as a brisk walk or slower. If you’re running you probably won’t be able to read visually. However, audiobooks or text to speech may be an option even at higher running speeds as long as your able to do it comfortably and retain what you’ve heard. When you have a spare minute set up audiobooks or ebooks on your existing phone. Then later while you’re waiting in a Dr’s office lobby read or listen to books. I often find that I’ll do a combination of reading visually and listening to a book before I finish it.
  5. Set monthly and annual reading goals. Use something like goodreads annual reading challenge if interested. Initially don’t be over-ambitious with your goals. Keep them reasonable where you can comfortably meet the goal and then increase it over time. It’s also ok to surpass your goals by reading extra and then you can start pushing yourself a little more to increase your reading.

I’ll likely do another post on finding good deals on books, audiobooks and devices. But until then here are a few pointers to saving money. Keep an eye out when you’re at a flea market, yard sale or second hand store. They’ll usually have used books for pocket change. If there is a specific book or genre you want sometimes Amazon or other online retailers are a good option. Don’t overlook the used books on those sites. On more than one occasion, a somewhat hard-to-find book I was looking for was over $20 for the digital and print version, but I found a used copy for 99 cents plus $4 to $5 shipping. I rarely pay over $10 for books, ebooks, or audiobooks. Most ebooks and print books I buy are around $2. Audiobooks tend to be more but even then there are good deals to be found and most I buy are around 5 to 6 bucks. Older classic ebooks and audiobooks can often be found for free with the latter being read by volunteers. But if you don’t have time to stop and read and need to multitask then letting a device read an ebook to you is a good option. Even if the voice quality isn’t great, you may still be able to adapt to it.

One last thing to note is that I notice many people who don’t like to read and gripe about reading is they find excuses why they don’t read. For instance, they’re too busy or it’s a big waste of time. I would hope that these same people wouldn’t say that physical exercise is a waste of time. At any rate, keep an open mind on reading and what you read – occasionally veer outside of your comfort zone and read something you wouldn’t normally agree with or like. Reading is a mental exercise for your brain and if you do it enough to make it a habit and give it a chance you just might enjoy it – the same phenomenon is true with walking or working out nearly everyday – at some point it gets easier and seems normal and when you don’t do it something feels missing. And like physical exercise, reading can be a good stress relief and as I mentioned earlier you can even multitask and do both at the same time. It’s educational in many ways whether you read fiction or non-fiction. For me, reading increases my memory, vocabulary, and cognitive skills. I’m almost 50 now and the more I read the better I feel and the easier it is to think through complex problems on my job even though most books I read aren’t directly related to my day job of computer programming.

Whatever path your take whether it’s reading more or not, I wish you the best of luck. Here are the books I’ve read this year.

Recipe – Sweet n Sour Chicken

My first attempt at Sweet n Sour Chicken

Sweet n Sour Chicken

1 Boneless skinless chicken breast1 tbs White Cooking Wine
1 tsp garlic powder1 tsp salt
1 dash white pepper (or black)1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp onion powder
**** Breading****
1 1/4 cup general purpose flour1/4 cup corn starch
1 tsp salt1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder1 tbs baking powder
2 tbs vegetable oil1 egg
1 cup water

The first 7 ingredients will be prepared, covered and allowed to marinate for 1 hour in fridge. This would probably work just as well with dark meat but the marinade step will make sure the breast meat will be very juicy. If you don’t have boneless skinless breast, you can remove the skin and bone, but if you’re like me you’ll probably waste a little bit of meat. Either way, you’ll want to ensure that your meat cutting knife is sharp. I usually sharpen mine almost every time before preparing meat. There are some quick sharpeners that are cost effective and only takes a few motions to give the blade a good edge. If using split breast, be sure to find that tiny hidden bone in there somewhere or you’ll have to treat it like you’re eating bone-in fish later. Also, use this time to remove any extra fat, skin, or anything that looks undesirable. Cutting doesn’t have to be perfect but to make it look more like a restaurant meal, cut the breast into 3 or 4 vertical strips depending on size. Then cut the vertical strips into smaller pieces. If you want to make it all fancy-pants make the cuts at a 45 degree angle.

Once you finish preparing the chicken then put it in a bowl and add the additional six marinade ingredients and mix well with your hand, spoon, or chopsticks. I use a glass bowl with a lid but you can use any bowl and put plastic wrap on top and put it in the fridge for at least an hour. Most of the liquid will be absorbed by the meat when you get ready to bread and cook it.

I don’t use a mixer often but I’d recommend using one for this. You want the batter to have a good consistency so the end result will be of higher quality. I used a kitchen aid stand mixer (buy them during black friday sales to save a bunch) but you could use a small cheap electric hand mixer if needed. Technically you could just use a wire whisk or fork and count it toward your daily work-out but sometimes you may not want to spend an entire day in the kitchen. It may not be obvious, but this recipe requires little attended/prepare time and effort as long as you don’t dilly dally. Many Chinese dishes actually prepare and cook fairly quickly.

I apologize this is wordy but I’m trying to include a lot of things that I’ve learned. I often get annoyed while watching you-tube cooking videos b/c of slow pacing and i wind up speeding them up to 2x and assuming it’s cooking with the Alvin and the Chipmunks. But anyway, after the chicken has marinated in the fridge for at least an hour and you’re ready to finish it up you can move on to next paragraph.

Mixing the batter is pretty straight forward but there are a couple of pointers here. One is to hold some of the flour (maybe 1/4 cup) and add it in last when the mixture is already combined well. If you’re not familiar with cooking with batter and not sure what the consistency should look like you can check out some you-tube videos. It’s not necessary to over-complicate things, but being able to recognize the right thickness and consistency whether making a batter for this or making pancakes or other breads to me is more important than getting precise measurements. That way you can make tiny adjustments by adding more liquid or dry ingredients needed to fix the consistency. Some of this will come from trial and error and you’ll also learn to adjust and tweak recipes to improve them to your own tastes. Anyway, mix the batter ingredients on low and eventually increasing mixer speed and you should have a shiny glimmering batter that isn’t too thick or thin. The batter should be thin enough that when you lift a piece of chicken out of the mixture that the batter strings off slowly but not so thick that it doesn’t drip. Notice in the picture above that there is little beads of batter that’s from the batter drizzling off a little bit when i transferred it to the fryer.

Go ahead and heat up your deep fryer with vegetable oil. The temp should be around 350 to 375 or whatever you normally use for deep frying. You’ll want to use a large somewhat deep fryer so you can comfortably have at least a few inches of vegetable oil in it. Once the batter is mixed well and has right consistency add in the marinated chicken and mix it well using your hand, spoon, or chopsticks. You can use your hand or tongs to transfer it to the hot oil but i find it’s best to use a tooth pick or chop sticks. Just make sure the temp is right and when you drop the first piece in that it starts frying. Then transfer the other pieces making sure you don’t over crowd them. Once in the frying pan the pieces shouldn’t touch so you’ll probably have to do more than one batch. Once they cook a minute or two, you’ll want to flip them over with metal tongs or long chopsticks so they brown evenly. After 3 to 5 minutes and they have the right golden brown look remove them to a plate with a paper towel for draining. Check the internal temp to make sure it’s at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

For dipping sauce you can use any sweet n sour sauce or other dipping sauce you prefer or they are quite flavorful without any sauce. I’m still experimenting with making sweet n sour sauce from scratch or at least from ketchup and other ingredient and i haven’t found the perfect mix yet. Once I have found a good recipe for restaurant quality sweet n sour for this dish, i’ll post it.

Oh, one other thing. This batter can be used to make sweet n sour shrimp or fish or many other options. I quickly thawed some frozen peeled and tailless jumbo shrimp and prepared them in this batter recipe. They turned out as good as any I’ve had from Chinese restaurants and better than most restaurants. I even forgot to season the shrimp but they still turned out flavorful just from the seasonings in the batter. For the fish, i thawed out a frozen boneless swai fillet and cut it into small pieces and added it to the batter and deep fried it again without seasoning the fish directly. It turned out excellent also.

I don’t batter and deep fry foods very often as I try to use healthier low carb and lower fat options but for a rare occasion, I don’t see a problem with preparing a good meal at home and not having to go to a restaurant. In other recipes, I have been using alternatives to flour and corn starch for lower carb options. At some point, I’ll probably adapt this recipe to a lower carb option and post it here.

Enjoy.

Recipe – Crab Rangoon aka Cheese Wontons

They may look a little overcooked but my family likes them crispy.

Crab Rangoon

Cream Cheese 12 ozWorcester sauce (dash) (optional)
Crab meat (or imitation) up to 8 ozBlack pepper (dash) (optional)
Green onion x 2 stalks choppedSalt (dash) (optional)
Soy sauce (dash)Sugar (to taste) (optional)
Minced Garlic (to taste) Cayenne (dash) (optional)
Toasted sesame oil (dash) (optional)Wonton Wrappers
KetchupBrown sugar
Sirachi Hot SauceRice Vinegar 

For sauce which is optional, mix last four ingredients and set aside.  Mix all other ingredients except for wonton wrappers – place in fridge to chill if desired but not necessary.  Add spoon of filling to middle of wrapper and moisten edge of wrapper using water and fold into triangle or other desired shape. Fry in 350 degree oil for 3 minutes until golden brown.

All of these measurements are approximate. I left some measurements off so you can experiment with what works for you. I normally experiment with ingredients and ratios to find the right balance my family likes.

Toasted sesame oil is optional and should be used sparingly – a little goes a long way. It’s best to have just enough you don’t recognize that it’s there but it’ll give it a slight nutty flavor. It’s easy to get too much and overpower the rest of the flavors.

You may want to keep a wet paper towel over the stack of wontons while you separate and prepare to fold the ones you are working with. This keeps them from drying out. They can be annoying to peel apart and fold until you get used to it but if I can do it anyone can. You can watch some videos on youtube to see how it’s done but I find that just folding them over once into a simple triangle works well then you don’t have to use much oil and you can flip them over easily.

trying out two new abstract art programs

There was a time in my life where I had no idea what the word mandala meant. But enough about yesterday let’s focus on today and this totally weird application called Inspirit. I did the middle part of this image with Inspirit which lets you create mandalas. I then copy pasta’ed it into a program called Flame Painter 4 and did the outer swirls. I got them from a previous bundle on the cheap from a site called HumbleBundle.com (no longer available there). It’s a great place to get cheap software but the bundles only last from a couple of weeks to the occasional four weeks so you have to act fast to get them. The software is sometimes a prior version but you save so much money, it’s totally worth it. I left the edges of one of the layers visible on purpose because it reminded me of a splicing effect in some Nasa photos where they pieced images from satellites together. Yeah, I’m geeky like that. It also gives it a flawed look like I don’t know what I’m doing which is usually a safe assumption.

If you’re into art whether digital or physical media don’t forget what that silly guy Shia says. “Don’t let your dreams be dreams, Just Do It!” Translated – stop procrastinating and grab your favorite art set and blow the dust off of it and open it up. Don’t have an art set, use your kid’s crayons, markers, or a pencil or pen. Don’t worry about being perfect just put <insert favorite drawing thingy device here> to paper. If digital art is your thing then use an art program and if nothing else use Microsoft paint or whatever came free on your PC. Just look around and draw something you see in the space around you or first thing comes to mind or if you’re too skeerd just scribble and mix colors – go abstract. Draw the kind of thing you made fun of other people who call themself artist for doing. You know the ones that just threw paint in random splotches against paper or canvas. Go fer it. JUST DO IT…

And dont’ forget about the legendary one and only you know who?

Ha. Sorry about that Mr. B. Seriously this time, here he is in all his glory. The real super hero…

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxcnsr1R5Ge_fbTu5ajt8DQ

And not that you should be but if you’re intimidated by the master then take a pill or better yet don’t forget you have the power of the Internet at your finger tips and there are tons more how-to videos on youtube for painting instructions on all levels just a simple search away.

Still think art is a waste of time. It can reduce stress which is something I think we can all use this day and time. If none of this interests you then grab a coloring book (normally just a buck) and some color crayons or colored pencils or markers (2 or 3 bucks usually) at the dollar store and if they ask tell them you’re buying them for your kids even if you dont’ have kids – they’ll never know. It’ll be ok. Don’t be afraid to take the plunge and have a little fun drawing and/or painting. Hey, you never know it may wake up some primal gene inside of you that you inherited from your cave painting extraordinaire ancestors.

Enjoy.

some tunes for trying times

It’s been a few months since I posted some music. I know everyone has different taste so if these aren’t your style feel free to skip them. Actually, I would be quite shocked if they were anybody’s style but mine. I personally listen to practically all genres. But even then I still feel kind of guilty mixing country and these others in the same list. LOL. I tried to start it slow and slowly build up the tempo.

Ok. I know that I can’t say anything about the current times in the US without sounding biased and preachy but that is really not my goal here. And I practically never talk about politics on my blog and almost never on my fb page. I’m quite an anomaly when it comes to American politics. I went from growing up in poverty and becoming a high school dropout at a young age to later in life taking out a fortune in student loans and earning a graduate degree. On most political tests I score a perfect 50/50 for liberal and conservative. I always took that to mean I’m equally hated by both sides. I’m not going to take a political side here but I will take the side of humanity and compassion at least as far as advocating for them for what its worth.

I think everyone on both sides should stop and take a step back and look at themselves and their choices and try to remember the importance of being kind to each other and respecting other peoples opinions even if they are different than ones own. The following tunes and videos represent in very abstract ways how I’ve felt over the past year or so regarding the virus, political storms, and my own health problems and pain. Some of the videos also represent how I can imagine others including children feeling when experiencing 2020. In my mind, some references here are serious and some are just playful and some I just threw in because of how the music made me feel. There is no scientific way to analyze the list so just enjoy if you like the tunes and videos. Regardless of which side of the political divide you’re on, I hope 2021 is a better, safer, and healthier year for everyone.

If you made it this far your endurance is impeccable. I ended with Paint it Black only because of the death, grief, and loss we’ve all experienced and with the virus numbers surging we’re not out of the woods yet. I heard on a recent news podcast that the total deaths are nearing the total losses from WW2. Take care of yourself and others. The virus has hit everyone hard in 2020 and is packing quite a wallop in 2021 but we have to continue to be strong. Have a happy 2021. Be safe.

like an artsy challenge? try pixel art

So my first at home game console was tv pong from sears in the 70s. From there it wasn’t long before I was totally blown away by the awesome power and graphics of the Atari 2600. It’s pretty laughable now but during the day it was many many hours of great fun. It was almost like a book with no pictures or should I say it had pictures but of stick men err umm stick people and aliens; needless to say you really had to use your imagination with the games – that’s why back then they focused on the box art so you could see what you were really supposed to be controlling in the game. I developed some video games starting when I was 17 in the 80s and it’s pretty funny but one is on youtube. One day I’ll post it here for everyone to laugh at like I did when I first saw that someone posted it on the Internet. The game posted on the Internet is one I developed in a week that I put an Ad in it for my other games and they took from 3 to 6 months each to develop. It was before the Internet was fully mainstream and I didn’t have any money for advertising my games so that was an advertising model I came up with. I uploaded it to one of the few online services at the time which was called GEnie. It was General Electric’s service that was competing with CompuServe and later with AOL I think – if I have my computer history facts straight.

With pixel art like the Atari 2600 and other earlier consoles, designers really had to reach to come up with abstract art. It’s a different challenge than doing art with modern art programs. I remember a few years ago reading up on a college course for video game development that actually used the specs of the 2600 to have students make a game for the class. This forced students to focus on abstractions and game play for their creation rather than realism. At any rate, if you try pixel art you’ll quickly see the challenge with creating the abstraction. I think abstract concepts are a very important part of art. Here is my little mini project using pixel art.

Cat on a Fence was my first attempt at doing pixel art today.

I was sitting in the back yard today and watching my black cat midnight. He was on his tall feeding platform instead of the chain link fence but in the image i skipped the platform. He kind of looks like a monster instead of a cat and i increased his size at the last minute which probably didn’t help with the scale. But pixel art is pretty abstract and often whimsical. He was sitting down and facing me when i sketched him out. The free application I used is on iPhone called Divoom. The company sells digital pixel art frames and products which I would like to buy at some point. I was waiting for them to go on sale b/c I’m cheap especially with pure vanity items. LOL.

My second drawing was of a tiny horse carousel figurine.

I used a tiny figurine as a reference for this one. Horses can be challenging to draw even if you had a lot of pixels.
The horse carousel figurine that i used for reference is on the bottom shelf on the left. The digital picture frame for pixel art is the one with a whale on it in the monitor image. The Dalmatian in the image is a little wooden 3D figurine project me an my daughter made from scratch using a scroll saw.

If you want to play around with digital art you can download the Divoom app for free and draw and post your artwork online. You don’t have to own any of the company’s products to use it but if you do you can transfer the images to those products. I’ve already got 3 likes for Cat on a Fence. Yay. LOL.

This is what the Divoom app looks like on the iPhone. I think it may also be available for Android.

If you want to try pixel art but don’t want to use the application i mention above you can use many art programs just by setting your canvas size to really small like 16×16 for most art programs. If you need help setting up your art program you can check out videos on youtube. There are many that show you how to use various art programs to do pixel art.

trying out an art set and a new graphics tablet

As it usually happens, Amazon enticed me to buy something from their lightening sale. It’s actually something I’ve been wanting for a while, a wireless graphics tablet for doing art on a PC. I got it for 35% off and it was an older model so cost me $58 instead of $140ish for the newer model. The one I got is a Huion Q11K. Also, it gave me an excuse to open an art set I got from Sam’s club on closeout for $20. I decided I would do a quick simple test drive of each. Here are the results of my little novice artwork adventure. I’ve been watching Star Wars Mandalorian on Disney+ and this is baby yoda (ok not technically his name but that’s what everyone calls the little green dude) from that series. I’m not making any money from this poorly done fan art so Disney obviously owns this character – ok that was my disclaimer.

This is just me playing around with the art set – markers and colored pencils.
This is what the art set looks like. It’s not the best quality but for the price is huge set and worth doing simple projects.
This is the wireless tablet which is 11 inches. I used Clip Studio Paint EX to draw the image. I could have used any other art program though including free ones. Clip Studio was on sale around $100 this past Christmas.
This was my first attempt. I made several mistakes with the drawing and color choices.

getting serious about reading

Wow, it’s a new year and with everything that has happened this year there is one good thing I can say about 2020 – I read the most books ever. LOL. I had set my goal to 60 but I read 70 so yay. At least it wasn’t like 2018 when I lost track of my reading time the last few days of the year because of other life happenings and I missed my goal by 3 books (I had read 49 of 52 books) which I could have easily finished the last 3 because at any one time I usually have 30 to 40 books that I’m reading and usually have at least a few that are nearly completed to choose from. This may seem like a lot of books to queue up at once for reading in parallel but I tend to read some art books, cookbooks, self-help, etc. and I don’t usually read those from cover to cover before starting and reading other books. I also read comics but I try to limit those to 1 or 2 a month. A majority of what I read is non-fiction but I do try to read classic literature and plenty of modern fiction and sci-fi too. I have a lot of tricks I’ve developed over the years for memory, comprehension and organization which I hope to write about at some point. I try to ensure that I read some of all genres as well as formats such as physical books, digital e-books, and audio books on many different devices (tablets, phone, e-ink, pc) depending on setting and my hectic schedule. I have developed various methods of taking notes and highlighting important areas across the various formats and devices – whether sitting at a desk reading, jogging, or listening to audio books while working in the yard or driving, etc. I didn’t start out reading 40 books in parallel but worked my way up to that over many years. Here are the results of the goodreads.com reading challenge from my last few years:

So I may regret it but for 2021 my pledge is 100 books. I had some nearly completed from last year so I finished those up today and I have an early boost of 4 books read as of day 1. I have two widgets on the right hand column of this page if you want to check out the links to what I’m reading or what I’ve read. I use goodreads.com for tracking my reading progress.

.Well that’s it for now. I hope you have a safe and happy new year.

recurring memories of art

I find it strange how certain memories from my childhood keep finding their way to the surface over and over. One memory in particular comes to mind. I think I was around 11 or 12 years old riding in the back of an old pickup truck miles down an old logging road, uninhabited and far away from civilization. There were no power lines or houses to be found here and it was late evening. I have always loved art from a young age and on this particular day I had brought an art pad and some pens and markers that I had purchased with money I had made on the farm. It was late evening and I remembered the colors of the sky were a certain vivid purple and orange. I sketched several pages during the hours long trip. All of them of trees and beautiful colored painted skies.

Some years later during the late 80s and my teenage years I bought an early drawing pad for my Atari computer I owned at the time also bought with money I had saved while working on the farm. I created colorful digital paintings using those same colors. More recently, a little over a year ago before the virus, after work I was driving home in the late evening through country roads with miles and miles of peanut fields on both sides of the highway and I saw a sunset painted with the same color palette.

Fast forward a little bit more till today, Christmas Eve 2020, and I saw the same colors and I thought of all those connected memories. I took some photos that I was going to post but the colors didn’t come out right. I may edit the color in the images or paint some new ones now that I have more drawing and painting options than those old days when I worked on a farm. Now I work in technology as a computer programmer so I’m not as broke as the decades I worked on a farm and later the decades I spent in factories.

Metallica: Nothing Else Matters (Piano cover) – YouTube

Hans Zimmer. Amazing Czarina Russel in Now we are free (Gladiator) – YouTube

I just finished a big project at work so I hope to have more time for my hobbies and updating my blog. 🙂 Stay safe and hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year or what it is that you may celebrate this time of year.

it’s late so music…

Like many nights sleep isn’t easy so I figured I’d post some music…

While I generally use this site to post my favorite tunes, I usually arrange them in such a way that hides a personal message in them usually based on what I’m thinking and feeling or it may not be about me at all and may be about a misstep I feel someone else has made when maybe they missed an opportunity to be understanding and supportive of another person . It may be from a recent event or experience or it may have been from a very old memory that I experienced or I observed someone else go through. The meaning may be from a simple interpretation of the title or deeper meaning from the song itself or just how the music makes me feel and almost always the order the songs are in is an important aspect. Surely in most cases you’d never guess or interpret the meaning I’ve hidden but maybe you’ll enjoy the tunes and/or find your own meaning in them. One day possibly on a future post I may do a detailed analysis of the meaning and how I encoded it. It’s really nothing profound it’s just a little trick I’ve used in video games I’ve developed and short fiction that I’ve written and one day I hope to arrange my own music with many hidden meanings until then I’ll take the easier route and just post links to other music videos. 🙂

Hope you are surviving the virus and your friends and family are as well. Be alive, safe and healthy.