- Doing well on the “do some exercise every day” thing. I’ve been able to fit in some Switch Fitness Boxing for 18 days in a row (bar one, the election day… I just couldn’t bring myself to do something nice).
- I’m very weak but I’m now scoring better on the fitness games, so maybe becoming less so?
- I wrote an article for 24ways about mobile web users. It’s actually my second article for 24ways – I wrote another about documentation approximately 1 million years ago.
- From the library, I read The Girl With All The Gifts (yes, I’ve seen the movie) and Lies, Incorporated. The former is quite good and I’ve got The Boy On The Bridge, set in the same universe, to follow-up with. The latter, well, I had read The Unteleported Man at some point in the past and didn’t realise this was the “complete” version of that story with the mad LSD trip in the middle until after I’d finished it. It’s… confusing.
- My boss asked me to read The Advantage which is a bit of a haha business book, but I might learn a thing, so I also snagged that from the library.
Snuck up into the 300s while I wasn’t paying attention. For those new here, the weeks are the number of weeks since I emigrated to the USA. The idea being that one day I’ll un-emigrate and I’ll have known how many weeks I’ve spent in the mad place.
We’re just leaving Norway right now – a much less mad place that is over 98% powered by hydro energy whilst it’s main export is oil.
Alex wanted to come and see the midnight sun, and so far we have seen the actual sun only once in Oslo. It has been daylight the whole time though and boy, that’s awful on the jet lag. Nice people, nice place, though. It’s a bit like IRL Skyrim.
I finished reading “Why We Sleep” by Dr Matthew Walker. Super fascinating overview of the scientific literature on how and why we sleep and dream as well as the ramifications of not sleeping enough. It’s a really refreshing view and the antithesis of the typical silicon valley attitude to rest vs working as much as humanely possible. This quote caught my eye regarding a gene they’ve found that seems to allow some folks to do just fine on less than 6 hours sleep (exactly the kind of thing every tech CEO claims):
Having learned this, I imagine that some readers now believe that they are one of these individuals. That is very, very unlikely. The gene is remarkably rare, with but a soupçon of individuals in the world estimated to carry this anomaly. To impress this fact further, I quote one of my research colleagues, Dr. Thomas Roth at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, who once said, “The number of people who can survive on five hours of sleep or less without any impairment, expressed as a percent of the population, and rounded to a whole number, is zero.”
I’m now reading “Who Goes There? by John W Campbell Jr. It’s better know by it’s movie name: The Thing.
This time last year, I was at Chrome Dev Summit. I ran into Jason Grigsby, who I am always glad to chat with. He mentioned, slightly off-hand, that he was writing a new book about Progressive Web Apps and jokingly suggested that I would be a good person to contribute to a foreword.
Well. He wasn’t joking.
His wonderful new book is out now, published by A Book Apart.
The foreword is written by myself and Alex, and we mean every word we say in it. We couldn’t be happier with how Jason’s book turned out and it’s really the only book you need if you want to understand why, and how, you should be building PWAs.
I’m very thankful for his kindness and the opportunity to contribute in a tiny way to his amazing work.
A couple of months ago I read Jenny Odell’s transcript of a keynote she gave at a conference. It’s a good talk and well worth a read/watch, but the part about her bird encounters caught my attention the most.
I ended up reading “The Genius of Birds“, which she mentions and that book referenced some sections of “Gifts of the Crow” which I read immediately after. The latter covers a lot of the same topics as the first, but focuses on Corvid research. Since reading them, I’d say I’ve become mildly obsessed with crows and their kin – I generally have nuts in my bag now just in case I meet a friendly one.
I highly recommend at least reading The Genius of Birds – it’s an easy-going read in a light-hearted tone and just generally full of fascinating little stories about bird research and their obvious intelligence and charm.
I just moved house, and it turns out that a member of the corvid family already frequents my yard – a pair of bright blue Scrub Jays. On just the first day of my hanging out with them, they already know what the deal is. So happy about my new neighbours!
As I mentioned, I wrote for the Pastry Box Project for all of 2012.
Now, it’s hopefully going to be printed in dead tree form with the royalties going to the Red Cross. That’s kind of nice, as are many of the fancier offerings at the higher tiers (hand press? illustrations? all sorts!).
So, if you’re a fan of paper and of the folks that wrote last year, the details are all available here.
It’s being crowd sourced, so it’ll only be as successful as your interest allows. That’s how the internet works now, or something.
Films (at the cinema, in seen order):
- The Road
- A Single Man
- The Wolfman
- The Crazies
- Alice in Wonderland
- Shutter Island
- Perrier’s Bounty
- Kick Ass
- I Am Love
- Double Take
- Four Lions
- The White Ribbon
- The Bad Lieutenant
- Rec 2
- Down Terrace
- The Illustionist
- Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
- The Maid
- Certified Copy
- Winter’s Bone
- Made in Dagenham
- Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
- Let Me In
- The Light Thief
- Black Swan
- We Are What We Are
- Tron: Legacy
- The Town
- Love and Other Drugs
- The Way Back
Again, they’re OO5ed
Again, super lucky to get to put some sci-fi in the top of my list. The Road is captivating, if in an entirely bleak, looking at your pets and wondering if you’d eat them in a crisis, kind of way. My favourite was Monsters. It felt like an antidote to all those silly explosion, chase driven, gun-ho monster movies. It’s delicate and subtle, and looks frankly amazing and ultra-detailed, and it doesn’t treat the viewer like a complete idiot. It’s just lovely. I guess Inception is the big one for everyone else – I liked it a lot, but I’ve kind of forgotten it already.
I had anticipated Splice as being a winner this year, but it totally missed the mark – Womb turned out to be the much more interesting, in depth, film about cloning and genetics (and it’s got Matt Smith in it – what’s not to go crazy for?). Tron should have been a massive disappointment, but I managed to keep expectations deliriously low and came out entertained. The film I failed to not get excited about before I saw it was Scott Pilgrim, given the sentimental place that I hold the graphic novels in, and fortunately it is really excellent fun.
I also loved The Illusionist and Ponyo. The former is beautiful, and although it’s French it doesn’t matter – they hardly utter a word, and when they do it sounds like a Sim – it’s totally carried by the perfect animation style. And Ponyo is just adorable (sing the Ponyo song!).
The big marmite film for 2011 is definitely going to be Black Swan. It’s a ballet drama? Really? Yeah. It is entirely a must-see film. It’s an intensely paced psychological thriller and the ballet bit really shouldn’t put anyone off. It’s probably one of the best crafted films I’ve seen this year, if not for a few years.
Also loved lots of others, particularly Down Terrace, Dogtooth and Winter’s Bone – all share the commonality of being a bit bleak (or, actually, totally screwed up – don’t watch Dogtooth with your family, okay?).
It’s only when compiling this list that I’m reminded of all the complete movie mishaps I’ve suffered this year. Not least, Alice in Wonderland. I’m a massive fan of the story, as many people know, and I was a fool to even think that a new film would capture everything I love about it. Oh, so disappointed. I rated it more highly at the time than I feel about it now. Damn you, Burton.
Other let downs include a whole slew of films that have brilliant concepts, but they were just half-heartedly or plainly executed – The Crazies springs to mind, as does Four Lions (controversial, I know, but it’s a bit meh, to be honest – Chris Morris has a long way to go before he’s back in “paedophile dressed as a school” territory), We Are What We Are and Daybreakers.
Mostly this year, there has been some severely pretentious nonsense. I Am Love, Certified Copy, The Light Thief, Double Take and A Single Man – all fairly decent concepts, but unfortunately completely boring. I struggled to stay awake in a couple of those. Mostly designed as fodder for film reviewers to fawn over, but actually, totally ridiculous and unwatchable.
I’ve given up any semblance of attempting to record what I read. I did, however, buy a 3rd edition Kindle 3G, which I love. Surprisingly. Digital books completely lack everything I love about a beaten-up old paperback, particularly the digging through a dusty bookshop and finding random left-overs of previous owner’ lives (ticket stubs, receipts… postcards are my particular favourite), but the convenience and the form factor of this thing is amazing. It’s also caused me to re-read or find a bunch of classics, for free from manybooks (released through Project Gutenberg), that I would otherwise never have given the time to. I’ve read the complete Sherlock Holmes adventures, almost all of Robert Louis Stevenson, a bunch of H.G.Wells, and all sorts of other odds and ends. Metamorphosis struck me as an instant favourite of the classic selection.
Of non-ebooks, I read Philip Pullman’s newest book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, early in the year. Thoroughly disappointing. More hype than substance, in my mind, and felt a little like a cash-in on his controversial position (I enjoyed the His Dark Materials trilogy). I also read my usual fill of science fiction and re-read some favourites. I read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road after seeing it at the start of the year – which is unusual, since I’ll generally rush to read a book before I see the film – but it’s pretty much identical. Definitely recommend it if you’re lacking that stark, miserable, hopeless feeling at the beginning of your new year. :)
If you’re feeling charitable, this year you can buy my article and the other brilliant 23 as an annual from Five Simple Steps: 24ways 2010 Annual, with the proceeds going to UNICEF. Yay!
For no other reason than to have something to blog at the end of the year, I kept a list of films I’ve seen and books I’ve read from Jan 1st 2008 until the end of the year.
Films (at the cinema, in seen order)
- I Am Legend
- Sie, Jie (Lust, Caution)
- No Country for Old Men
- Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead
- Sweeney Todd
- The Savages
- There Will Be Blood
- Be Kind Rewind
- My Blueberry Nights
- 10,000 BC
- El Orfanato
- Funny Games U.S.
- In Bruges
- Iron Man
- Smart People
- Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull
- Gone Baby Gone
- The Incredible Hulk
- Kung Fu Panda
- The Dark Knight
- Hellboy II: The Golden Army
- The Strangers
- Pineapple Express
- How To Lose Friends and Alienate People
- Burn After Reading
- Easy Virtue
- What Just Happened?
- The Fall
- The Day The Earth Stood Still
- The Reader
Fortunately, there were many I really enjoyed. Juno, Wall-E, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Funny Games U.S (or the original – it really is an identical shot for shot remake), El Orfanato, In Bruges, Easy Virtue and The Reader (on general release in 2009) are all ones I’d especially recommend, though.
Least favourites (or just plain terrible films):
10,000 BC (just awful on every level), The Day The Earth Stood Still, Be Kind Rewind (good concept, bad screenplay), Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead (incredibly boring).
The Day The Earth Stood Still deserves special mention. I was willing to give this film a chance if it stood up as a film in it’s own right, rather than as a remake, since they couldn’t really make an accurate one set in today’s world. Such an utter disappointment.
This film is remarkably not ruined by Keanu Reeves. He actually suits his role. The film is ruined by an incredibly bad screenplay that makes half-hearted references to the amazing original, includes terrible dialog and unbelievable situations which lead all the main characters to constantly and whimsically change their allegiances so as to suit the ridiculous “human beings are wonderful” love-fest and unnecessary patriotism. Oh, and the CGI sucks too.
Books (fiction and non, plus some graphic novels – in finished order):
- The Unteleported Man / The Mind Monsters – Philip K. Dick / Howard L. Cory
- Scott Pilgrim Vol. 4 – Bryan O’Mally
- The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman
- Star Maker – Olaf Stapledon
- The Penultimate Truth – Philip K Dick
- Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson
- A Handful of Darkness – Philip K Dick*
- Dr Bloodmoney – Philip K Dick
- Love and Limerence – Dorothy Tennov
- Ubik – Philip K Dick*
- Dark Stars – ed. Robert Silverberg
- Bonjour Tristesse – Francoise Sagan**
- Lost at Sea – Bryan O’Mally
- Through a Glass, Clearly – Isaac Asimov*
- The Gryb (and other stories) – E. A. van Vogt
- Fear and Trembling – Søren Kierkegaard
- The Game Players of Titan – Philip K Dick**
- On The Genealogy of Morals – Friedrich Nietzsche
- Watchmen – Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons***
- The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck****
I’ve certainly been on a short-stories kick this year, having read 5 collections. I really like the medium, actually, and it’s a shame that the form seems to be dying. I only tend to come across good short stories, especially of the sci-fi variety, in now out-of-print editions in musty second-hand bookshops. The Blackwells and Foyles seem to push and stock mostly the latest full-length pop novels and not a whole lot else. Shame.
The other clear trend is my continuing appreciation for Philip K Dick. The man was prolific, but I find almost all of his books interesting to read. I really do recommend him if you’re interested in concepts of alternative realities, trust and philosophy of the mind.
I wanted to read as much as I saw, but, as pointed out to me, a film is just a couple hours out of the day, but a book is a lot more. Maybe next year I’ll do better (or watch less).