Thursday, September 8, 2016

2016 Personal Goals - Month 8 Update

Eight months in, taken quite a large break between posts.

1. Finish 1st Draft of my Novel
Start - Again on the list.

2. Drop weight to 167
Start - This has also been on the list since the beginning. Starting at 179.7
Month 1 - 179.0
Month 8 - 189.6

3. Read 1 of the Top Ten Books on Zane's List
Start - In the middle of The Stories of Anton Chekhov.

4. Read 6 books on the Sybervision Book List (including 2 in the Science or Philosophy sections)
Start - Current count is at 89.
Month 1 - In the middle of The World as Will and Idea
Month 8 - Finished The World as Will and Idea and The Three Musketeers. 4 to go.

5. Read a total of 12 books on my book list. (need to get to 200 books by my 40th birthday)
Start - Currently my total count is at 131.
Month 1 - Finished Artemis Fowl. 11 to go.
Month 2 - Finished Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 10 to go.
Month 3 - Finished Mort. 9 to go.
Month 8 - Finished Guards Guards!, The World as Will and Idea, and The Three Musketeers. 6 to go.

6. Finish 1 more Geological Movie Review
Start - Earthquake still looks like the best bet.

7. Watch 10 of the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time
Start - Current count is at 75.
Month 8 - Watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. 9 to go.

8. Finish 50 things on the Blog/Website, with 25 specifically on my To Do list.
Start - My To Do list currently has ~150 things on it.
Month 1 - Finished 5. 45 to go.
Month 2 - Finished 6. 44 to go.
Month 3 - Finished 8. 42 to go.
Month 4 - Finished 10. 40 to go.

9. Finish 8 things on the House Things to do List
Start - The list currently has 27 things on it.
Month 1 - In the middle of the kitchen remodel still.
Month 2 - Finished 1 item, installing new furnace. 7 to go.

10. Finish skinning the top of the hovercraft
Start - Hopefully I can make some time to get to it this year.

11. Get my 5K time under 25 minutes
Start - My current best is 28:32

12. Collect and photograph all of the Star Wars Comics
Start - I got most of this done last year. It's time to finish this up and move on this year.
Month 1 - Only one comic left to go. Photographed box 5.
Month 8 - I have almost everything collected and photographed. I have 1 box left to go.

13. Submit my Masters Thesis for Publication
Start - Last year was actually spent getting a chapter of my dissertation published. Let's move on and get this done this year. This was the last big thing I had left to get published which I wrote before.

14. Get caught up on my Star Wars to read pile
Start -  Right now I have more than a bookshelf full of books that I am behind on reading.
Month 1 - Slowly working through my pile of stuff to read when I get the chance.
Month 2 - Still reading through the pile.

15. Watch and re-review an entire list of one of the 10 Top Ten Movies
Start - I finished one set of 10 last year. I plan on doing another set this year.
Month 8 - Watched/rewatched Back to the Future and 2001: A Space Odyssey on the Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies list. 8 to go.

16. Collect, photograph, and organize my Star Wars novel collection
Start - I have it mostly set with paperbacks but I would like to get the collection organized and get the first release hardcovers.

-----------------------------------------------Other items of note-------------------------------------------------

The biggest thing in my life is that I have quit my job to be a stay at home dad as of the beginning of August. My daughter was off of school until the last week of August so most of my "free" time was spent with her. Otherwise I have been working on getting the house into a "clean" shape where it will be easy to maintain. Currently I am starting to get there and have had more time to work on my own stuff lately. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

The 306 Greatest Books #138 - The Three Musketeers

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. This book can be found on the Sybervision Book List and My Book List.

After having read several books on the list that were either partially or entirely a drag to read, it was a tremendous surprise to find out how much I really liked this book. The Three Musketeers is actually very easy to read and I swear, it feels as if it could have been written today. However, this is not one of those books that has a higher intellectual purpose. This is an action/adventure flick in book form. It goes from one action "scene" to the next all the way to the end. The story follows a man named D'Artanian, who, at the being of the story, was not a musketeer. Shortly he befriends three men who go by the names Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, which are the entitled Three Musketeers. The funny thing about this story though is that it really isn't about the three musketeers at all. They are supporting characters at best, and in the case of Porthos, he is even called out in the story as almost superfluous. Even with this, it doesn't detract from the story at all, and there are several instances where different character's fates were not what I was expecting at all (and if this was written today would have been completely different in my opinion). There were a couple of things that didn't work for me. The main one was the long winded section where Milady is describing her past and how she got to where she was at that point in the book. The problem is, all of that story was a lie, and the reader knew it was a lie while she was giving the story. So, it felt like a complete waste of the reader's time, which is already being taken up for a while with this >600 page book. But besides that, I ripped through this book faster than I have read a book in a long time. This is a must read that I'm adding onto my must-read list.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The 100 Greatest Movies - #22: 2001: A Space Odyssey

I am in the process of watching all of the Top 10 Science Fiction movies according to AFI and reviewing them for my list (

The current film I just watched is 2001: A Space Odyssey, which is #1

This movie is also on the 100 Greatest Movies list (#22), the 10th Anniversary List (#15), the 100 Greatest Thrillers list (#40), and the 100 Most Inspirational Movies (#47).

Having never seen 2001: A Space Odyssey before, I wasn't sure exactly what I was getting myself into. I had known only a few scant details of the plot and/or images of the movie but in reality I knew nothing. I'll probably spoil the plot going over the details, so if you wish to go in spoiler free, I wouldn't read any further. We start off in the distant past, when hominids first started tool use. These hominids are "visited (?)" by a monolith (one of the few things I knew about the movie was the presence of these monoliths). The monolith appears to have jump started mankind into tool use. We flash forward to the distant future (2000 or 2001) where a scientist is heading out to a dig site on the moon. Within a pit on the moon another monolith has been uncovered (I have no idea what happened to the first one on Earth). The moon monolith transmits a signal to Jupiter upon being discovered but other than that is silent. This prompts an expedition to Jupiter 18 months later (maybe this is 2001?) with one of the most well known sci-fi computers in history, HAL, leading the way (I love his unsettling design and voice). Upon arrival at Jupiter we find another monolith and all hell breaks loose because I don't have a clue as to what is going on. There's a baby and...the end. 

For the most part this movie is visually breathtaking, but ploddingly slow. My wife would look up at the screen every couple of minutes to see if anything new had happened. It didn't. The visuals could almost make up for it, but I feel that Kubrick purposely drug out the scenes to emphasize the slowness (much to the detriment of the modern audience I am sure). The entire movie is rather slow up until the end, when everything kicks into psychedelic. Truthfully, I was rather interested in the movie, wondering from the get go if would we get a reason for the monoliths. My feelings wavered throughout the movie, sometimes thinking we were going to get no answers at all and sometimes thinking we would get answers to everything. However, at the end of everything, I have no clue what we got, besides a WTF. The ending definitely felt like something pulled straight from Contact (or I guess vice versa based on creation dates). But no, I don't think we got an answer. This is the type of movie that film schools thrive on I'm sure, trying to piece out the meaning behind everything. I prefer an answer though. Overall my thoughts on the movie were that, besides the slowness, I was in for most of it. The monolith music was suitably unsettling, and everything about the movie from the sound design to the visuals had me. But my big problem with the movie was that I wanted to know what was going on. I needed to know. Unfortunately, I never found out. I feel like I should watch this movie again to possibly discover an answer hidden in it, however I don't think I can do it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The 306 Greatest Books #137 - The World as Will and Presentation

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is The World as Will and Presentation (AKA The World as Will and Idea or The World as Will and Representation) by Arthur Schopenhauer. This book can be found on the Sybervision Book List.

At long last I have finished the more than 1300 page drudge that is The World as Will and Presentation. This is the last philosophical books that are on the list and I am the more happy because of it. Schopenhauer states in the intro to the book that to truly understand the work, you should read it twice. I am not going to do that because honestly, it didn't interest me nearly that much. The premise of the book is that everything in life can be broken down into two categories, the Will and the Presentation (or the Idea, or Representation, all based on translation). The Will is the desire that resides in all of us. It is the will to live, the will to eat, the will to want what we (and everything) wants. The Will is everything inside us. The Presentation is how everything appears to us from the outside. It is how the world looks through our eyes. It is everything outside of us. Like most philosophical works, Schopenhauer proceeds from the small and works to the larger, until he is trying to explain everything from religion to science within the concepts he has stated. The problem with the work, and one that he seems to fail to notice, is that the book is way over bloated. He states almost identical phrases on numerous occasions and has a tendency to use 100 words to state something, when 10 would have done the job just fine. This book could easily be condensed down to a quarter it's actual size and have had all the depth and meaning that the original had. He needed an editor. That's not saying that the book isn't any good, it is, but only in parts. I occasionally found sections that I was deeply enraptured in but, but they were few and far between. It was like eating a bowl of cheap Raisin Bran, there were occasionally instances of delicious raisins, but mostly it was just bran. Also, one thing needs to be understood about this book. It is a product of it's times. Just like The Origin of Species, the science in The World as Will and Presentation is outdated and often insulting to the reader, where he makes general assumptions and runs with them (like everyone gets their intelligence only from their mother and that women are obviously the weaker sex that needs a man for everything). Reading this as a historical philosophy work and not a scientifically modern text is essential for getting the most out of the text.

In order to get the "full experience" from this book, it seemed that there needed to be some prerequisite reading. His entire philosophy is based on the works of Immanuel Kant. Luckily I had happened to read The Critique of Pure Reason before reading this book, but if I hadn't, I likely would have been mildly lost. He also mentions Descartes (Meditations) a lot, which again is useful to read beforehand. The one thing though that he insufferably keeps mentioning is his other "prize essays". It's rather sickening the amount that he mentions them, however the one true drawback was that he wrote this book with the assumption that the reader is fully acquainted with his essay "The Principle of Sufficient Ground", which obviously I had not read but apparently should have. The organization of the book is divided up into the main text, an appendix, and supplements to the text, totaling over 1300 pages. The main text only makes up about 475 pages of the document with the appendix finishing out the 600 page Volume 1. Volume 2 (all 700+ pages of it) is entirely made up of the supplements to the text. I wish I had known that the supplements are directly related to the chapters in the main text and broken up as such, otherwise I would not have read through the text cover to cover.  If I had to do it over again, I would read the supplements in relation to the chapters as I was going through each chapter. Reading the book cover to cover, it felt as if I had read the main text twice. Once the first time, then again as an over bloated version in the supplemental chapters. 

In general, the translation of the text can make or break this work. I am using the most up to date translation (Richard E Aquila's) and I believe it had made the difference. Often German to English translations feel rather clunky, however this one is remarkably easy to understand and process the information. A worse translation could have made this from a drudge to downright incomprehensible. Also, even though the author is extremely arrogant, he is also rather amusing by frequently insulting and mocking his contemporaries. It adds a bit of levity where this could be considered a very dry text. All in all, I would only recommend this text if you can get (1) A good translation and (2) a good abridgment of the text and (3) if you are into philosophical texts. The full version is not worth the effort of wading though, however the bits of wisdom sprinkled throughout the text did pique my interest sufficiently that I will go back to those specific section when I have more time.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The 306 Greatest Books - #136 Guards! Guards!

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett. This book can be found on the BBC Book List.

Guards! Guards! is the 8th book in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series and the third to be featured on the BBC's 100 Greatest Books list. That should tell you something about the quality of writing that appears in the Discworld series. However, since the BBC 100 Greatest Book list is a reader chosen list, this could just mean that he is popular in England, but not really worthy of being placed on the list (I'm looking at you Wilson), however that is not the case. Each of Prat
chett's entries into the Discworld series (as of the first eight entries that I have read) have been works of literary art. He crafts language in such a way that many authors try to imitate but never get the full gist of. Of the first eight novels, six have been a standalone stories (Books 1 and 2 form one continuous story-line). However, the way that Pratchett crafts his novels, produces a reading experience that does not force you to read the stories in order. This is also a draw back for the series as well though, where one story does not have many (if any) impact on future stories. Even world altering events, which can occur in one book, are barely referenced, if at all, in future novels. For this reason, the timeline is also very difficult to pin down, even though several characters appear throughout different story-lines within the overall series. The Discworld series broken up into character subsets, where every few books he returns to a character or group of characters (i.e. Rincewind, or the Witches) and focuses on them. And it seems that for the first few books, that kick off stories seem to be his most popular, with all three out of the four Discworld books on the 100 Greatest Books listed being a kickoff story.

Guards! Guards! takes place following the Night Watch of Ankh-Morpork, a group that basically has gone defunct since the Patrician came into power some couple hundred years ago, but the group still persists. The story begins as a sect of people are trying to take over the government by calling a dragon from who-knows-where, to scare the city. This will allow a long lost heir to the throne to come, save the city, and be crowned king, therefore kicking the Patrician out of power. Things obviously don't go as planned and the Night Watch is left to save the day. Out of the three current Discworld stories on the list (that I have read), I would say this one has the most plot, which is definitely a great thing in a book to have. I felt in Pratchett's other books, the story-line could be summed up in just a couple of pages. It was the satire and the way Pratchett describes things though that really made those books worth reading. But with the addition of a worthwhile plot, it elevates this story to one of his better among great stories. His humor, as always, is spot on in this story, with nothing lost through his continuing to write in this series. If anything, his books have become better and better. I would have to say, out of the three books, this book is my second favorite after the first in the series, The Colour of Magic. And that's only because nothing has come close to the humor in that book, of which I don't think he has even tried since. With Pratchett's approach of changing his writing style and character focus through the Discworld series, he has continually made the series feel fresh with each entry. So far, I would say that if for some reason you don't like one book in the Discworld series, try a different book, it is likely going to feel completely different.