Unreasonable People

Listening to Kate Taylor tell stories this morning about how she founded The 2H Project reminded me of something George Bernard Shaw wrote:

The reasonable person adapts themself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to themself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable person.*

I am glad there are unreasonable people like Kate in this world.

* Paraphrased to be gender neutral.

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Reading Habits of 2015

So 2015 was very similar to 2014 in terms of book reading, which clocked in at 72 books and a total of 20,909 pages for the year. Or 57 pages per day, or a book every a book every 5 days on average.

There was only one book I gave up on (it was an early novel from an author I usually enjoy, so that was unusual). My average rating was 2.94, against a Goodreads average of 3.89 for the same set of books. Last year my average was 2.79 so perhaps I am getting a bit kinder in my ratings.

I also read a whopping 789 articles and blog entries (most done via my ereader’s integration with Pocket). A word count of about 1.15 million. (Looking at the month by month, there’s a big spike in May when I was doing a lot of bus travel.)

Cover image for Unforgettable

My favourite book for the year is Unforgettable by Eric James Stone. Second place is The Devil’s Only Friend which is a good launch into a second trilogy based on the horror series that started with I Am Not A Serial Killer.

Two books rated with five starts, 18 with four stars, and 28 with three. That’s 60% of books with a three star rating or better (which is a 5% drop from last year). This year all 72 books were read as ebook format on my Aura HD.

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Reading Habits of 2014

In 2014 I read 72 books, a total of 20,572 pages for the year. That works out to about 56 pages a day, or a book every 5 days on average. That’s a 14% increase over the previous year, so I’m definitely becoming more of a shut-in, if there was ever any doubt.

This does not include four books that I didn’t finish as I found them not to my taste, or two audio books I listened to this year.

This also does not include 882 various articles and blog entries that I also read via my ereader. This naturally includes a lot of computer programming related articles, as well as the occasional movie review, something about coffee, diversity in tech, stoicism, or anything else that captures my interest.

I’ve been tracking my book reading via Goodreads. My average rating is 2.79, which is about on par with last year. The average community rating of the same books is 3.87, which is also about the same as last year. Interesting to see the consistency there.

All in all my year old reading glasses got a very good workout.

Cover image for The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

My favourite book for the year would have to be The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Catherine Webb under one of her several pen names, Claire North. It’s on my list of books to read again sometime. Special mention would also have to go to Rubbernecker as the second runner. All in all, I rated sixteen books with four stars and the bulk, thirty-one, with three stars. That’s 65% of the books I read with a three star rating or better. Of these books, I read six on paper (pbooks), the rest were ebooks.

I also plowed through a few series, including the four books in Gregg Hurwitz’s Tim Rackley series, and fifteen books in Craig Johnson’s Longmire series.

Special mention also has to go to the audiobook version of Dune that I listened to. It was a very good production. I’ve read Dune at lest three or four times previously, but probably hadn’t picked it up in over a decade. Listening to this reminded me how much I enjoyed this book (and loathed the rest of the series).

I started the year with an Icarus Pocket six inch ereader. It was okay, and the firmware had some nice features, but it never really played well with plugging it into my Linux desktop computer and loading stuff with Calibre. Hard restarts were required regularly. Then some of the buttons stopped working, so it was time for an update.

I ended up going with Kobo’s Aura HD and am really happy with it. I always found the six inch e-ink screens a little cramped, so the 6.8 inch gave me the bit extra room I needed. I was also surprised to find the higher resolution screen a big difference to me, and was just that much more comfortable to read with.

With regard to using my ereader to read articles and blog entries, for the last few years I’ve been using a program I wrote called Erudite that downloads articles saved via Instapaper, Readability, or Pocket, convert them to an appropriate format such as EPUB or MOBI, and add them to my Calibre ebook library. If you think that all sounds too complex, please see here.

However, one feature of the Aura HD ereader I purchased this year turned out very handy. It has the ability to synchronise with Pocket. So if I saved all the articles I want to read with Pocket, then they are wirelessly synchronised onto my ereader, saving me having to plug it via USB into by desktop and run through my Erudite → Calibre → ereader pipeline all the time. (I still use this for articles Pocket doesn’t deal with, or that I want to keep a copy of.) And if you think that all sounds too complex, please see here.

However, I still wanted to track my article reading habits, plus follow up on articles in related forums such as Hacker News after I’d read them and such, so I wrote a litte PHP browser based application that interfaces with the Pocket API to help me manage all that.

Naturally I called it Pocket Lint.

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My Sit/Stand Desk

I’ve been interested in having a sit/stand desk in my home office for quite some time. There have been lots of articles in the last few years about the health risks of sitting at a desk all day, and it is something I’ve wanted to put in place for quite some time.

I had a modified desk with a three tonne hydraulic automotive jack under it for a while which made one thing clear. You have to be able to adjust the height very easily, with little fuss, or you wont adjust as often as you would like. To that end, a motorised desk was clearly the order of the day.

After playing around with some electric car jacks as a lift mechanism, and a rocky frame that didn’t travel smoothly, I finally said, “screw it,” to the DIY project and ordered a QDOS desk frame.

Here’s the end result, my new desk, currently set at standing height. (Click on any image to see a larger version.)

Desk at standing height.

I reused the desktop from my old desk, although it was quite wide so I cut it down a bit so it could sit closer to the wall. I also wanted some nicer monitor stands as I was tired of plastic boxes and phone books, and wanted all the monitors at the same height.

I like my monitors sitting quite high above the desk, and pretty much vertical, not tilted back, which became a problem as I found most suitable monitor stands were not tall enough unless I was going to buy one that would mount two monitors vertically. So instead I bought some wall mount brackets and then wandered down to the local hardware store to figure out how I was going to use them. This is what I came up with in the end:

Bracket side-view. Bracket end-view.

A bolt is run though the desk from underneath, screwing into the bottom of the shaft. An angle bracket provides additional stability. Placement was a very fiddly process as you don’t want to go drilling holes in your desk in the wrong spot, but it turned out alright in the end.

Placing the centre bracket. All three brackets done.

Pulling the old desk out also provided an opportunity for a good clean-up, and I think you could agree the final result is a lot neater than before.

Old desktop. New and improved desk.

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Reading Habits of 2013

So I’ve been tracking the books I’ve been reading (via GoodReads) for the last year (started mid-January). In 2013 I read 52 books, or a total of 17,213 pages in around 341 days. That works out to about 50 pages a day, or a book every 6.5 days on average. (Mind you, those numbers are a little high as there are two books in that list I know I wasn’t enjoying enough to finish.)

My average rating is 2.81, compared to the community average of 3.84 for the same set of books, so that perhaps makes me a hard critic.

All 52 books are fiction — I’ve started but not finished a few non-fiction books this year, and none of this includes the copious amounts of technical and other articles I read from the Internet. (I even wrote a program to make it easy to download and convert web-site articles to a format suitable for my ereader for that very purpose.)

Yesterday’s check-up at the optometrist verified something I had long suspected: I now require reading glasses.

God I need a life.

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