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The Bookshelf

Doug's bookshelf: read

AntwerpWarsaw BikiniIcelandHow the Soldier Repairs the GramophoneThe Original of LauraBrief Interviews with Hideous Men

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Time Since Reboot

  • 1216 days, 2 hours, 30 minutes, 58 seconds ago

The 2018 Reading List

Guess who’s not dead. It’s me!

Amongst the annual nebulous thoughts on what my new year’s resolutions should be is the idea (prompted by Blu… hi Blu!) of starting the year off with a book number goal comprised of a list of to-read books plus open slots to fill with spur-of-the-moment decisions. My reading in 2017 was dreadful, and it almost seems like my thoughts have become fat and lazy because of it. Time to establish a rhythm again. My number goal is 30: 10 fiction, 10 non-fiction, 10 open slots. Let’s go.

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
Moby-Dick – Herman Melville
The Death of Virgil – Hermann Broch
Suttree – Cormac McCarthy
The Adventures of Augie March – Saul Bellow
Absalom, Absalom! – William Faulkner
The Satanic Verses – Salman Rushdie
Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami
John Dies at the End – David Wong
Tenth of December – George Saunders

Black Lamb and Grey Falcon – Rebecca West
Running With the Mind of Meditation – Sakyong Mipham
The Endurance Diet – Matt Fitzgerald
Future Sex – Emily Witt
Inside of a Dog – Alexandra Horowitz
Meditations – Marcus Aurelius
The Discoverers – Daniel J. Boorstin
The Gift: Imagination & the Erotic Life of Property – Lewis Hyde
Seeing Like a State – James C. Scott
Finite and Infinite Games – James Carse

The 2011 Resolutions

Resolution SpreadsheetThe line of thought goes something like: a public declaration = greater accountability. 

Here we are at the beginning of another year, where tradition says you are supposed to re-evaluate your lives and resolve to better yourselves via the "new year’s resolutions" you will make and subsequently conveniently forget about in a month.  I have never had much luck with the resolution thing, but self-evaluation is always good and what better time to do that than at the glaring break in the calendar year?  So, in the spirit of greater accountability, here we go.  What follows is a description of this year’s self-betterment system: obsessively over-thought, needlessly compartmentalized and impossibly complicated (i.e., new year’s resolutions: grammaticaster-style!).

This year I have divided my resolutions into quantitative and qualitative categories.  For the first, I have devised a spreadsheet (because that’s what we accountants do) by which I will keep track of my progress toward six weekly goals.  They are:

  1. Write at least 500 words (or, alternatively, conduct a photo session or develop a batch of photographs) per day.  I believe I read somewhere that, at some point in his career, Ernest Hemingway would not allow himself to start his day until he had written 500 words.  Then, I presume, he could commence the drinking.
  2. Read at least 60 pages per day.  Again, I cannot recall the source, but I think this was the number some literature blogger or another came up with as a goal for him/herself.  Arbitrary goals.  Gotta love ’em.
  3. Do at least 200 reps of some sort of exercise or run 5 kilometers every day.  Again, arbitrary… based a little on what my routine used to be in college, when I was at least a tiny bit disciplined about my physical fitness.
  4. Publish at least one article a week.  The word ‘article’ is used extremely loosely.  For example, this piece of shit is an ‘article’.
  5. Publish at least one photograph.  As above, quality of work is not necessarily a consideration.
  6. Write a letter (or letter-length e-mail) at least twice a week.  Similar in spirit to #3, this was a correspondence-as-writing-practice habit I developed in college and subsequently have allowed to lapse.  My final year at Alabama is what I consider to be my highest-functioning period as far as creating art and feeling good about myself.  Dating young coeds and taking advantage of an unnaturally high metabolism might be things of the past, but I can try to get some of the magic back, dammit.

The beauty of the spreadsheet is my grading system.  If I hit all of my goals for the entire week, it adds up to 100%.  Each goal has a box that gets a check if completed.  But everything is interchangeable – in other words, if I run 10 kilometers (and assuming that doesn’t kill me) one day, then that counts as much as having run 5 kilometers and written 500 words.  And so on.  So my real goal is not necessarily to check every box, but to have done enough to add up to 100% for the week.  Taken to the extreme: if I write 21,000 words in a week, I don’t have to worry about meeting any other goals.

The qualitative resolutions are the more nebulous ones I cannot keep track of via my system.  They include a) eating as little processed food as possible, b) forcing myself to overcome my telephone anxiety by calling people more readily and more often, c) paying down my credit card debt (thanks for derailing that one last year, Auburn), d) living more mindfully, e) getting more sleep at night, f) starting the day earlier and more alertly, and g) working toward ‘goal x’ – a deep, secret goal that I promise to reveal if I ever achieve it. 

There you have it.  If you have any interesting resolutions or have contrived a wacky way of keeping track of them, give me a slap in the comments.

My Progress (or lack thereof)

Today, I finally got off my lazy ass and went to the gym for the first time in months. My New Year’s resolutions are kind of sputtering to life over the waning January days, but they are very much alive. It feels good to set and accomplish a goal — even a small one such as "do 45 minutes of cardio after work today." Now to see if I can keep it up for the rest of the week.

To that end, I have added a new little sidebar widget under the heading "My Progress" (see bottom right). Joe’s Goals is a free website that tracks your daily objectives and gives you a numerical score based on how well you are doing. I like they way it assigns both an overall daily score and weekly average while incorporating the OCD feel-goodness of checking off individual goals in little boxes. It is here on the front page not because I necessarily have anything interesting there to communicate to the world, but so that I may derive some additional motivation from the fact that my progress chart is out there for anyone to look at (and quietly judge).

Ugh. I just made the horrible observation that my score for the past week is negative. Sounds about right.

Resolution #2009

The gifts just keep coming.  It was back to the office today after a nearly two-week break.  And yeah, it always sucks going back to work.  But I was greeted by three year-end checks (a Christmas bonus and unused sick leave pay in addition to my normal paycheck) and a brand-spanking new Dell desktop computer, complete with widescreen flat-panel monitor.  Goodbye cheerless beige monstrosity from 1995, hello sleek black professional office accessory.  I have so much desk space now.  I spent all day setting up all my software and configuring everything to my liking.  It is so nice.  It is so fast.  Happy New Year to me. 

It is going to be an immense aid in keeping a couple of my work-related New Year’s resolutions, which include such classics as “be more assertive and confident in your own knowledge” and “be more efficient; less procrastinating; Mr. Productivity” and so forth.  I have also resolved to be at the office 5 minutes early every day.  Living a mere 7 minutes away from work has led to my habit of being right on time, which I would ordinarily trumpet as indicative of my punctuality.  But when the rest of the guys are always in the office before I am, it just plain looks bad.  Plus, since we all have the door locked behind us at 4:30 every day, I cannot score my points by staying late. 

On the personal side of things, the resolutions are all about getting back into shape.  I was doing well last year until we faced the Great Pork Chop Poisoning of 2008.  I never got back in the exercise routine after that knocked me out of it.  Now I’m rocking the love-handles something fierce.  This year will be different (I probably said the exact same thing every January prior to this one, of course).  I intend to do pushups and crunches in the mornings – every morning – before work, and then run or hit the elliptical machine at the Y every other afternoon.  The afternoons off will be reserved for housework. 

That ought to carry me through to about 6 PM, since I can usually make it to the house or to the gym by 4:45.  An hour’s workout or an hour devoted to keeping stuff organized around here, and then I have the rest of the night to myself.  That will be spent reading a lot more books, alternating between posting here or on my photoblog, and canoodling with the wife.  Add to that regimen some healthier eating habits (more salads, smaller portions, less gummy bears) and I ought to have an easy-to-stick-to personal and professional success plan for this new year. 

I kickstarted the exercising tonight, in fact – by taking a 2-mile jog in the pouring January rain.  It is always interesting to see how far I can push myself.  Hitting the wall is always exhilarating, and tonight was no different.  It was miserable out there.  Every street I crossed I was tempted to just say “screw it” and head back to the house.  Pushing on past those little shortcuts felt really good, even though I was cold and drenched to the bone.  By the time I crested the last hill, I wanted to keep going.  It’s really all about making myself start these things.  Once I’m in the groove, it isn’t that difficult.

So, here’s to a new set of resolutions.  Keep an eye out for my photos in the coming weeks – I took about a thousand while we were out at the lake over the holidays.