Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What's Next for Apple?

Apple announced a new product today:
Apple Inc. will sell the newly unveiled tablet-style iPad starting at $499, a price tag far below the $1,000 that some analysts were expecting. The iPad, which is larger in size but similar in design to Apple's popular iPhone, was billed by CEO Steve Jobs on Wednesday as "so much more intimate than a laptop and so much more capable than a smart phone."
First the iPod, then the iPad. I know what's next... the iPud. Whenever you're bored, just pull out your iPud. The iPud is "so much more intimate..." No word yet as to whether Steve Jobs will offer a hand.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book Challenge 2009 Wrap-Up

Being a compulsive data compiler, I couldn't resist analyzing last year's book project.

Hardcover: 39
Paperback: 62

This is a bit of a surprise because I rarely buy new hardcover editions, but many of them were clearance items at Half Price Books that only cost me $1-2.

Books finished by month, based on the month reviewed (usually but not always the same as month read):

Jan: 10
Feb: 8
Mar: 6
Apr: 11
May: 9
Jun: 9
Jul: 8
Aug: 5
Sep: 9
Oct: 7
Nov: 8
Dec: 11 (including one book reviewed 01/01/2010)

Months don't really illustrate the distribution very well. Reviewing a bunch of books at the end of one month can make the next look bad, or reviewing several books at the beginning of a month can make the previous look bad. I should have recorded the day I finished each book, but it's not a big deal. From the above data, I also calculated that I finished 53 books in the first half of the year and 48 in the second half.

Books by subject/genre. I categorized each book myself, and many books are in multiple categories. For example, Harry Caray's book counts as a sports book and as a memoir.

Memoir: 22
Humor: 20
Music: 14
History: 9
Sports (football, pro cycling, baseball): 9
Political Science: 8
Current Events: 6
Trivia/Q&A: 6
Travel: 5
Science: 5
Weight Training: 5
Essays: 4
Writing: 4
Energy, Water, Chicago, Crime, Journalism, Pop Culture Criticism: 3 each
Movies, TV, Psychology, Language, Biography, Advertising, Transportation, Drugs: 2 each

I didn't realize I read so many memoirs. I got on a rock & roll kick for a while and read more about music than I would have predicted. I would have expected more history and less sports, too.

And finally, here are my ten favorite books read in 2009 (no particular order):

What about 2010? That's a question for another blog entry...

Friday, January 01, 2010

2009 Resolutions in Review

This is the first time I've ever seriously attempted to make and keep New Years resolutions. Before I think about 2010, I should review 2009.
  • You all know about Book Challenge 2009: to finish more books than I acquire. I not only succeeded, but I also achieved a secondary goal of finishing at least 100 books in 2009. I haven't kept track before, but I'm sure that's more reading than I've ever done before. It was also a challenge to review every book on this blog. Acquiring only 96 books is a real achievement for me, too; I bought at least 200 in 2008. Of course, since I only came out ahead by five books, this effort has done little to reduce the clutter in our home, but at least I feel like I didn't make it worse in 2009.

  • Another resolution I made was to eat at least one salad every seven days. It sounds lame, but if you knew how badly I eat, you'd have to acknowledge that it is a big improvement. I probably ate less than five salads in 2008, but in 2009 I managed to eat 53. While I didn't strictly adhere to the "every seven days" regime, at least my average was better than once a week.

  • In May 2008, I started weight training regularly again, so I made several resolutions for 2009 based on training goals. My first objective was to deadlift my body weight, which I achieved in March. My next goal was to deadlift my entire weight set, which, to be honest, isn't a whole lot more than my body weight anyway. Although I managed to pull 300 lbs. from the floor in May, I repeatedly failed to lift 305. Since the entire weight set is 310 lbs., I didn't quite make it (I identified grip strength as my weak point in this exercise). Then I changed my workout program for summer and never got back into deadlifting. Another resolution was to do 20 push-ups in a set, which I did several times. I'm sure that sounds like nothing to you skinny bastards out there, but at my weight that's like doing 20 reps of a 180 lb. bench press. My final resolution was to commit to more frequent workouts, but I reconsidered that one. Increasing frequency can be counterproductive because the time between workouts is when muscles grow, and I had found a workout interval that worked well for me. But then I stopped lifting regularly in September, so I'll mark that one as a failure.

  • Almost as an afterthought, I made a resolution to lose 25 lbs., which would be fairly modest given my immense mass. My weight never varied more than five or six lbs. throughout the year. I never made much of an effort to eat less or exercise more, so I can't say I'm surprised or even particularly disappointed by this failure.
All in all, I guess I didn't do too badly. I succeeded at the resolutions where I made the greatest effort and commitment. Throwing away my gains from weight training by blowing it off for the last few months of the year was a big mistake, though. Why did I stop lifting when I was making progress and enjoying it? Who the Hell knows?

Just In Case...

Just in case I counted incorrectly somewhere along the way, I managed to finish a 101st book in the waning hours of 2009.

The Worst Noel: Hellish Holiday Tales - Like Christmas Sucks, this collection of essays had a lot of potential and failed to deliver. My biggest complaint is that it seems like half the essays are written by Jews, which is just weird for a book about Christmas experiences. The conflict between celebrating secular Christmas while religiously respecting Hanukkah is so obvious that including more than one or two takes on that angle is overkill. Alas, most of the Christian writers don't contribute memorable tales either. A few of the essays aren't bad, and most have an amusing moment or two, but this book is not really worth buying or even borrowing. I only paid $4 at Half Price Books, but I wish I had checked the reviews first. I'm glad the Ditka book was number 100, not this waste of time and paper.

Final tally: 101 books finished, 96 books acquired