my book reading pledge for 2020 and some, ok, many simple ideas for a detailed annual reading plan

I’ve been a member of goodreads for many years even  before Amazon bought them out.  I enjoy their Reading Challenge they do each year which gets members to pledge a certain number of books that they’ll read for the year.  I had set similiar goals even before I joined goodreads as I’ve always valued the power of reading – at both the entertainment level and health level due to it’s positive benefit on cognitive skills.  This year I’m trying some new ideas in an attempt to get my total books-read count higher and to make my reading more effective.

Here are some of my personal motivations for working on a new plan.  These may not fit with your interests and schedule but they may give you ideas to customize your own plan if you have an interest in putting one together for reading more books.  Now something else to keep in mind, some people prefer spontaneity over planning when it comes to reading a good book and that’s quite alright.  To some the act of putting a lot of thought and planning into the activity of reading would potentially diminish the enjoyment of it.  You would need to evaluate your own personality type to know if that is you or you prefer planning such as I do.  I do sometimes have days where I’ll pick a random book for spontaneity and possibly read the whole book just for something different.  And if I only read one or two books a year, I’d likely skip all the planning, however, with my goal of reading many books over the course of a year, an organized plan makes more sense to me.  I’ve been doing a reading plan for well over a decade and I know from experience without a plan, I will not read many books during any year – I would be lucky to read six books in a year without planning.

Ok with all that out of the way here are my main objectives/motivations/ideas for a reading plan and ways to increase my book reading count.  Keep in mind that I developed these over many years of reading plans and for many years were unwritten and mostly inside my head:

  1. Increase overall reading count for books especially for it’s positive effects that I’ve personally noticed regarding my memory, cognitive skills, reading, writing, and communication skills.  I believe there are many more and this is just a few areas that I’ve personally experienced improvements with when reading large amounts of material.
  2. Ensure that across all books read to include a mixture of formats such as digital e-books, print (hardcopy), and audiobooks.  This is because I own and actively collect additional material in all these formats.  You wouldn’t have go spend a lot of money on this if you didn’t already own them or better yet, you could visit your local library and/or utilize online libraries to borrow for free additional content in any of these formats if necessary.  There are also free resources on the Internet and even Amazon has a lot of free or cheap (less than a dollar) material depending on what genres interest you.
  3. Find additional ways to get two birds with one stone to increase reading/listening opportunities for books.  Read e-books or listen to audiobooks while on a treadmill.  Listen to audiobooks while on a walk or jog or while cutting the grass or certain household chores such as dishes, laundry, or cleaning.
  4. It may be necessary to set certain goals on specific formats.  For instance, I have a 2.5 hour commute each day so including lunch I may be able to listen to 3 hours of audiobooks per day just from my commute and lunch times.  With visual reading however, my time is much more limited and I’m lucky to get a chapter a day reading visually but I try to get at least that much and more on weekends.
  5. Some formats such as audiobooks utilize a very different skillset when reading.  It took me years to get adept at listening to audiobooks with full comprehension and retention.  But I think developing that skill helped my communication skills when listening to other people talk to me.  I recognize the same skill that helps me effectively consume audiobooks helps me in business meetings or just with personal communications when listening to a friend.
  6. I have procured a lot of cookbooks (digital and print copies) since I enjoy cooking and I’d like to put them to better use.  Set a goal of 1 cookbook per month so that I can queue up new ideas for future meals.  While reading these cookbooks set bookmarks (digital bookmark if ebook, and a color coded tab if the cookbook is a physical book) so that I may go back to the recipes that interest me when I get closer to being ready to get the ingredients and prepare the meal at a future date.
  7. I have an interest in writing my own books including comic books and possibly scriptwriting for shows/movies and I enjoy painting/art/etc. so I’d like to read more comics to understand the medium more thoroughly and to see more of the visual art styles used in main stream and indie comics.  Therefore, setting a goal of at least if not more than 1 comic per month is my plan.
  8. Since I have an interest in writing short stories and getting published and truth is often stranger than fiction, I’d like to read a high percentage of non-fiction books during the year and potentially weave real-world weirdness into my stories.
  9. I very much enjoy music whether listening or learning to play new instruments.  I already have a uke, acoustic and electric guitar, and keyboards (synth and midi types) so I’d let to set small goals each week of practicing and getting better at playing those instruments – mastery isn’t the goal just baby step improvements in my skills and understanding of those instruments and to have fun playing.
  10. Also, I’m interesting in composing music which adds in music theory books to the mix.  These books would likely be paralleled meaning I would be reading up to five or more books at once over a longer period of time rather than completing them one at a time.  That way I could choose to study music theory or various instruments week to week – again mastery isn’t the goal only small incremental improvements.
  11. I enjoy many forms of visual art across the whole spectrum including physical and digital mediums.  Having a decent ability to create my own artwork plays into my other interests for a type of cross pollination effect so I could create my own artwork for a book cover or for any future indie comics I might create or less likely an album cover if I ever put together a music collection.  For this genre, I’ll set a goal of working through one artbook every 1 or two months since these books tend to be shorter around 120 pages but they require following along with the art exercises.
  12. Talking about cross pollination, the big one is creating video games.  I started a video game company when I was 17 and developed a total of 5 full scale games and sold them around the late 80s/early 90s.  These weren’t as great as they could have been but I did sell some copies and I learned a lot in the process.  With video games all types of art is used from visual art, to music, to story line and game design and everything in between.  While now-a-days very large teams (artists, musicians, animators, story writers, game designers and developers, etc.) may build a single game costing millions and millions of development cost, it is still possible for one person to make interesting and fun games maybe for the mobile market (like phones, tablets or even web browsers).  So I could in theory tie all of the skills together if I decided to write video games.  This idea adds in books on game development and programming.
  13. Ending with the core reading count is basically filling in the remaining slots.  This is done by choosing books from several genres top 3 of which I prefer and 2 more of subject areas which I don’t listen to as much.  The idea is to improve areas which I’m strong in and also become more acquainted with areas I’m less familiar with.  The goal isn’t really to predetermine all books for the year but just to have a general idea of where to choose the next book from.  Here is how my personal choices look:
    1. NonFiction (Business, Corporate, Science, History (World not just Western Civ), Government, Technical, How-to, Personal Development, Psychology)
    2. NonFiction (Biographies and Memoires)
    3. Fiction (Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror (Steven King, Coontz), Classics (Greek, Poe, HP Lovecraft, Twain)
    4. Fiction (Any not mentioned in item 3 that I wouldn’t normally read)
    5. NonFiction (Areas where my knowledge is limited)
      1. From subject areas that may not be my preference such as socialism, vegan, certain political views.  All to often I see conservatives who don’t try to understand the liberals point of view and vice versa.  I think both sides should understand the complete picture even if they don’t agree with the other side’s ideas.
      2. From subject areas I vehemently oppose – extremism, hate groups, Hitler, Nazis, Serial Killers, etc. (I’m not trying to empathize here but seek to better understand evil and why some people make such terrible and evil choices.  Whether by reading case studies, analysis, or sometimes directly from the hater’s own messed up head such at Hitler’s Mein Kampf, I prefer not to ignore hatred and evil people but instead approach it without hesitation.)
      3. From subject areas where I have holes in my knowledge – certain religious beliefs, certain lifestyle choices, alternate political beliefs, etc.  I feel like there are areas I could use a little more knowledge in such as libertarianism, humanism, utilitarianism, and those pesky anarchists. Just kidding I don’t know if they’re pesky or not.

 

https://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/20108162

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Good luck with whatever direction you choose.  Either way, plan or no plan, I hope you find time to read good books and enjoy the reading experience as much as I do.

my required walking goal and a treadmill acrobatics story

Ok.  I’m finally getting serious about meeting my 10,000 step per day goal again.  It’s almost literally do or die time so I have no choice due to serious health reasons.  Me and my daughter played some basketball this morning and with all the tasks I had to do outside such as feeding the chickens, cats, and dogs and cleaning up I already had just over 5000 steps before getting on the treadmill tonight.  My treadmill has been feeling neglected I’m sure because it’s probably been over a month since I got on it.  I walk at a local park during my lunch break at work or go to the gym, and play tennis once or twice a week but my home treadmill has been collecting dust and I haven’t been meeting my fitbit 10k step goal.  Tonight is probably the first time in weeks outside of my tennis days that I actually met the goal.  I almost always meet it on tennis days but the weather lately has been insane.    Tonight, I combined walking on the treadmill with reading, chatting, and updating my goodreads status so I wasn’t walking fast and thus spent over an hour on the treadmill.

 

Ok.  For the treadmill acrobatics story, this unfortunate incident happened to me at Planet Fitness a little over a year ago.  I try to walk 1 to 2 miles during my lunch break at work.  I have a commute time of an hour and fifteen minutes one way and I live and work in different states so I can’t go to my house during an hour lunch break.  In cooler weather, I like walking at the local botanical gardens but in warmer weather I have to go to a mall or Planet Fitness.  On this particular day I was chillin’ in the Judgement Free zone at Planet Fitness on one of their comfy treadmills.  I had a small towel on the treadmill bar to the left and I had my work phone and personal phone on the treadmill in front of me and I was listening to wireless headphones while watching a ted talk.  I try to find a treadmill in a cool area with good airflow so I don’t sweat as much since I don’t have time to shower and for some reason on this day for the first time ever (or since for that matter) I had picked one in front of the employee station.  My goal is just to get 1 to 2 miles at a brisk walk around 3.5 mph and I’ll usually push my pulse to 150+ using the incline setting towards the end of the workout with the idea I can cool down quickly using my car’s AC.  On this day, however, I had pushed the speed up to 4 mph which isn’t a problem it just increases the risk of me sweating more.

I had probably been on the treadmill for 15 to 20 minutes and I had just used the towel to dry a little bit of sweat from my face.  I guess in the moment with me using multiple gadgets (maybe my work phone to order ahead for a salad at Marco’s Pizza) and watching the ted talk I didn’t do a great job of positioning the towel on the hand rail because it had fallen down.  For some reason that I surely can’t explain, I stopped running so that I could reach down to pick up the towel but the silly thing was I was still on the treadmill which was still running at 4 mph.  In case you’re wondering how long it takes you to get ejected from a treadmill running at 4 mph if you stop running, it’s not long at all.  So off the back of the treadmill I went in front of the employee station and in front of people walking to and fro but fortunately no one walking on the row i was on.  In some sheer streak of what had to have been luck, I landed on the floor on both feet in what I can only describe as my best spiderman pose.  I looked around briefly trying to figure out how I did it and feeling just a lit bit impressed with myself but with the treadmill still running I decided I better get back on so as to not draw any more attention to myself than I had already done.  So then my 2nd bad mistake was not stopping the treadmill to get on and it was still running at 4mph and until this day I had never stepped on a treadmill already running at 4 mph.  Finally then in a very ungraceful move, I had to get up to speed with my legs which are now at the back of the treadmill and the top half of my body at the front of the treadmill, I’m sure looking very distorted but quite comical to everyone but me.  And just in case anyone in the entire building hadn’t noticed this whole fiasco up until this point, as if by some cruel joke at my expense, the machine started squealing very loudly because the belt was slipping because of my heavy erratic steps.  It took me several seconds during this with the belt screaming and loud stomping sounds from me and my pathetic maneuvering, but I was finally able to right myself back into a normal running position.  I couldn’t bring myself to look around at anyone around me so I looked straight ahead as if none of it happened.  I was thinking certainly they had the whole thing on video and I’ll likely be in some Planet Fitnetness employee training video and one day probably even see myself on you-tube.  But until that day, I’ll post these funny videos of other people having bad treadmill days who weren’t as lucky as I was.  I’m hoping no one got seriously hurt in these videos.

 

 

 

i saw a jawa at the gym

In cooler weather I try to go to the botanical gardens and walk the trails on my lunch break but with the temps getting into the mid 90’s and blasting towards triple digits, I’ve been going to the gym more often on my lunch break.  I always manage to see someone or something interesting at the gym each visit and yesterday it was a jawa.

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You know those pesky little scavengers from Starwars that young vader hated so much.  The guy must have been about 4 foot tall with an oversized hoodie and I could only see his eyes when he walked by.  Lucky for him he was on planet fitness rather than his home planet and thus in the judgement free zone which disallowed me to take pictures of him or I would have put his mug on my blog.

It may have not been as strange as seeing a tall old slender guy walking on the sidewalk in Campbellton, FL in a spiderman suit on the way to work one morning but I suppose seeing a jawa is still noteworthy.

I’ve been a member of several gyms over the years and I have to say planet fitness is among the best and most value priced.  It’s $10 a month with a $30ish annual equipment fee so it’s really hard to beat that deal.  There is something about their treadmills that seems more comfortable than most other treadmills that I’ve walked on.  And with the AC and giant ceiling fans they have good airflow so I don’t sweat quite as bad.  Their free wifi is also a plus.  So if you’ve been wanting to join a gym and never go, then they are most likely your cheapest way out.

 

My somewhat inchoate diet and my new fitbit badge.

My somewhat inchoate diet and my new fitbit badge.

I have type 2 diabetes and though I’ve been able to hold my current weight without gaining, my blood sugar has been slowly creeping upwards so I’ve been ramping up my diet strategy yet again.  I’m probably on version 42 of my diet (and a long ways to go) and I feel like by the time I get to version 100 there will be nothing left I can actually eat except maybe an avocado and celery both of which i want to like but currently find yucky.

Here are a couple of tricks I’ve learned recently to help eat healthier.  In the past, I’ve used these square containers like in the images below for two turkey sandwiches – one for lunch and one for supper.  I can’t consume two sandwiches in one meal and control my blood sugar or weight.  Even though I get pretty hungry throughout the day by just eating one sandwich I’ve learned that I have to get used to being hungry.

Instead of putting the turkey meat on bread, I put it in a salad and fill the sandwich container with salad.  Ingredients I typically use in the salad are lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, sweet onion and green onion, green pepper, two jalapeno slices (finely chopped), broccoli, cauliflower (both of which i cut up fairly small so it’s not big chunks), green or black olives, dill pickle slices, banana pepper rings, and a little bit of shredded cheese.  I put a small amount of salad dressing in a small container and keep it in the cooler with a salad.  I generally put black pepper on it when i prepare it but don’t salt it ahead of time or it’ll turn the lettuce to mush because salt leaches the moisture out of veggies in a short amount of time.   The green olives, banana peppers, and sliced dills from a jar typically have a lot of salt so I find that I don’t have to add more salt with those and those don’t turn the salad to mush.

I also like to experiment with other dry seasonings such as McCormick’s salad supreme or even Cajun spices such as Tony Cachere’s or Zatarain’s sometimes to keep from getting so bored with salads.  If the lettuce is pretty fresh I have been able to get away with preparing the salad in the container the night before but I usually prepare it the morning if I’m going to have it for lunch.  Since it can be a bit time consuming I try to have all the ingredients washed and chopped in containers in the fridge so I just have to combine them in the morning.

There are a lot of other ways to make a salad including using sliced or chopped boiled eggs or other sandwich meats.  Or if you’re worried about processed sandwich meats, I like boiling split chicken breast with seasonings and pulling the meat from the bone and putting it in a container in the fridge.  It can then be used as a topping on a salad, in chicken salad, chicken pasta, chicken chilli, chicken pizza, or home made chicken soup just to name a few.  Boiled chicken if done right can be very tasty and healthier than fried (but if you have fried chicken leftovers you can pull the meat from the bone on it and use it in same recipes i mentioned above).  I’ll post the seasonings and some other tricks I use for boiled chicken in another post.

Cashews in moderation from what I’ve read have a beneficial affect on blood sugar so I’ve been taking those in my lunch.  They can be eat as a snack or put in the salad.  I’ve also been eating a lot of oranges lately so I’m not sure if that’s why I haven’t caught the cold or flu bugs that everyone else keeps getting but I’m sure the vitamin C helps.  The halo brand oranges are easy to peel and they’re pretty tiny so just right for peeling at my office cube without making a mess.

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Salad, cashews, and an orange. Yummi.

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I put pickle slices and green olives in there which takes the place of salt.

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Instead of putting the turkey meat on bread I put it in a salad.

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This is what I’m not supposed to eat. 🙂  This was the first time I bought fresh seafood from Publix and brought it home and cooked.  The shrimp and catfish were on sale half off.  I make the shrimp scampi by drizzling it with olive oil and putting a small amount of butter in it.  Then I add garlic salt and some pepper and then bake or broil it for about 6 minutes.  The corn nuggets are just bad all the way around when it comes to health.  LOL.  This is at least 4 servings maybe more.   

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Yay. This is since January of 2017.  I’m still too heavy to run much so most of this is brisk walk.

I’ve experimented with a lot of containers for salads to take them to work and eat at lunch but the square plastic container above seems to work pretty good so far.  I’ve also thought about glass mason jars.  With the mason jars you put salad dressing on the bottom and then when you’re ready to eat it just pour it into a bowl.  You can find the book below on Amazon and other places.

Image result for 150 best meals in a mason jar book

Well good luck if you are trying to eat healthier and/or lose weight.  It’s a constant struggle for me but I’ve lost around 40lbs with many more to go but I’m getting there slowly but surely.  🙂

 

the timely refrain from life’s domain

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The Timely Refrain from Life’s Domain

walk, speak, run but don’t no don’t look back
the dry grass high the distance far
the wind soft the trees stretch high

walk, speak, run but don’t no don’t look back
time creeps no sneaks elusive it peaks
from behind every valley atop every hill

walk, speak, run but don’t no don’t look back
you can’t escape fate life bestows
don’t try you’ll fail then weep so deep

time time hide hide not now not now
not ever not ever one more day one more day
old frail silent heart i miss thy song
old frail silent heart i miss thy song


Whew.  Didn’t mean to go all existential and such.  Not sure if it’s grammatically correct and makes sense but decided to play with words today.  I had a hard time coming up with something with the word “timely” geez.  🙂  I started not to add a picture because i wanted everyone to read it in their own way.  Hopefully I’m not plagiarizing any of it because I kept thinking some of it sounded familiar but I googled several parts of it and didn’t find any hits.

 

 

The shoulder injury that could.

So I’ve played a lot of sports (informal not professional in anyway – although if coach would have only put me in the game in the finals, I could have went pro, lol, just kidding we didn’t actually have bench warmers due to always having just enough players to make a team) over the years and did a lot of dumb things so I know a thing or two about injury.   So about four months ago, I’ll label it as a sports injury since I was moving a sleeper sofa by myself to an extra bedroom in the middle of the house, when behold I felt a slight discomfort in my left shoulder.  I’ll call it a sports injury since the extra bedroom is becoming a music/game room and me and my daughter will likely play sports games on PS2 (and the 27″ CRT) at some point.  And since anyone that knows me and my body type knows I’m not playing a lot of real sports lately.  But as the legendary Chris Farley and hopefurry my new Blue FitBit Blaze would say, I’m working on it!  Anyway, back to our story, so the shoulder discomfort quickly morphed into something more analogous to a writhing pain like i envisioned would happen if a happy-go-lucky boa swallowed a nice big plump unsuspecting porcupine (and if you’re thinking to yourself wait self, I’ve heard that boa/porcupine story before then you and yourself would be right but hopefully you didn’t click the click-bait link where you saw it or if you did stop reading now and run a system scan.)  So for four months, it’s been this mild pain followed by occasional writhing sick boa.  So I finally told me doctor about it and he ordered an x-ray which obviously came back normal because modern medicine sucks.  No just kidding modern medicine is ok mostly especially since it’s saved my life more than once, it’s really just my luck that sucks.  Anyway, so he said since the x-ray was ok then obviously the pain is merely a figment of my imagination and I need some prozac or to take up alcohol.  Just kidding again, for the record I don’t think he believes in Prozac or it’s happy friends or he’d have probably put me on one of them a long time ago.  What he really said is he was going to give me a steroid shot and I quickly reminded him for the umpteenth time, that I’ve been allergic to steroids for many years and they will either kill me or make me blind or both because of something called CSCR which no one has ever heard of.  So then he said well that complicates things and gives me an RX for Etodolac which I thought was cool because maybe it was named after a mountain range called the Etodolacs or was it Adirondacks.   So after reading the 500 page warning pamphlet that came with it and which outlined the 10,000 maniac ways it can either kill you or make you wish you were dead because it’s 400 MG of NSAID afterall,  I was back to wishing he had just gave me Prozac instead.  But alas, I took just one yesterday morning (after a self-imposed and prescribed 5000 calorie meal to make sure it doesn’t cause stomach bleeding or upset) instead of the two pills he asked me to take each day.  So last night unlike every other night, the past four months, my shoulder hurt a lot less.  So thanks to my doctor and modern medicine, I may be on the road to recovery from shoulder pain and hopefully I can avoid the road of 10,000 deaths although I know it’s way too early to say yet.  And if you’re thinking (as my English professor in college would) did I really use that many words to describe something I could have said in 2 or 3 sentences then oh yes, yes I did.  🙂