Gate of Ivrel
Gate of Ivrel by C.J. Cherryh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A friend recommended this to me as the basis of Stargate. The concept of using a system of gates to reach other worlds certainly resembles Stargate.

I like C.J.’s The Dreaming Tree, so this was obvious for me to try.

I kept hoping to discover Arthur and Merlin as Morgaine sounded like she would be tied to tales of them. With three more in the series there is still hope.

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One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: ‘To rise above little things’. ― John Burroughs

    1. Read 52 books. Yeah, I know. In 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, I read more than this same exact amount. I like the number because it is a book a week.
      • Read 50% by female authors. After reading “Readers prefer authors of their own sex, survey finds“, I did an analysis of my own books for the past 2012, 2013, and 2014. My best year was 17% female authors. So I’ll push for at least 50% this year. Ideally, I would do even 90% female but that might mean buying a lot more books. That best year? Most of the books by female authors came from participating in a book club with most female members.
    2. Biking was an abysmal failure last year. Weight lifting is my new health and exercise thing. Based on some stuff I’ve read, these should be reasonable achievements for someone who has reached novice level. As I understand, someone who is my height takes longer to reach them, so with three months now adding another year, I think I can reach these by the end of next year. Looking to do something like a 4 day rotation of chest, back, legs, cardio (bike).
      1. Bench 185 pounds (1RM equivalent). Benchmark lift Tuesday was 80 at 10 reps which by my phone app was a 107 1RM equivalent. This puts the goal at 78 more.
      2. Squat 245 pounds (1RM eq). Benchmark lift Saturday was 80 at 10 reps which by that calculator was 107. This puts the goal at 138 more.
      3. Deadlift xxx pounds. Do not have a benchmark lift yet. According to one resource this should be 305, but I should probably look to see what I can do before committing to something.
      4. Drop to about 15% body fat. I think I am closer to 25-30% at the moment. Setting a specific target weight seems like a bad idea because I’ll need to add several pounds of muscle in order to achieve the above, so I will likely gain weight even while dropping fat. Setting the body fat target should achieve the real purpose.
      5. Bring HIIT up to about 50-50. Muscle is good, but I think I have been so lazy for so long that I have major stamina issues. Bike day is high intensity interval training (HIIT). Right now, I am struggling with 30 seconds high with 120 seconds slow. This goal is to get this closer to 60 seconds high with 60 seconds slow.
    3. Take a trip at least 300 miles away from home. Work conference does not count. It might be to visit family, but the distance ensures my home town does not count. Yes, this is the same as last year’s failed. I use up my vacation time for work and this seems like a good way to encourage that.
    4. Declutter Part II. Continue the progress made from last year. Shred and trash more unneeded paper. Get all statements to be kept in folders. One last closet is still a mess and needs to be emptied of stuff.

Old resolutions: 20142013, 2012201120102009.

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This year was a mixed bag. Sorry for the lack of updates.

    1. Read 52 books. Today, at the end of the year, I should be at 52 books read. I reached that point back on October 12th. (A few days earlier than last year.) My total for the year is 74. (142%) SUCCEEDED.
    2. Ride 10 miles a week April to October. I bought a bike and got up to 3 miles in the few weeks I was trying in March to build up for starting in April. Some unexpected complications were 1) getting sick and 2) the hills in neighborhood are beyond my capability. FAILED.
    3. Declutter. Reorganized enough to be somewhat presentable that lasted for a while. Removed about 4 trash bags of clothes from the closets for donation. Threw out about 10 trash bags of broken down boxes, shredded receipts, or junk mail. Setup laundry bag carts so no longer in piles. Setup new shelving units so stuff is not sitting in piles anymore. SUCCEEDED.
    4. Take a trip 300 miles away from home. No trips taken that qualify. The one trip to Seattle was for work. FAILED.

Somewhere around February I decided to work on financial goals. I managed to reorganize some things, fully fund a goal, and get an idea of where I want to go in the future.

Tomorrow I should post 2015’s goals.

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Dataclysm: Who We Are
Dataclysm: Who We Are by Christian Rudder
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe really 2.5 stars, but I rounded up.

I have read the OkTrends blog since its inception. Human behavior fascinates me, so I take any opportunity to read on it. The We Experiment On Human Beings post ensnared my attention since it flubs its nose at academic sensibilities at what is ethical experimentation. But, this review is not about Rudder’s ethics, so I will move on to the book.

The writing engaged a technologist interested in Big Data, interesting links, and how data can be used in interesting ways. (Hardly surprising.) Many references made me laugh out loud. I highlighted 32 places according to my Kindle stats. Much more were worthy. The writing alone would make me give it 5 stars.

My first problem manifested in the lack of details in the main text. Where I expected to read about how conclusions were reached, the details were light. Where it all fell apart for me fell in the Coda section where he delved further into the methods used. Suddenly the assumptions, based on nothing but super wild ass guesses (SWAGs) came into complete view. For example, his conservative estimate is that active OkCupid users go on at least one date every two months and uses this with active users/month to arrive at 30,000 dates will happen tonight because of OkCupid. This number is used for other calculations. I would give this aspect no stars.

So an average of 2.5 stars rounded up is the reviewed 3.

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I was challenged by a friend to list 10 books that have stayed with me in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and do not overthink it. Not necessarily classics, but ones that have affected you in some way.

There are so many other books I ought to have included on this list. Oh, well. What is done, is done.

I think for next year’s books I am going to try to read some of the books friends included on their lists. (The collection.)

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On the Internet, nobody knows if you’re a dog… but everybody knows if you’re a jackass. — stevemb

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Nor has Youtube.

I have several problems with Amazon Isn’t Killing Writing, The Market Is. The article is about the Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription for $9.95/month for unlimited access to the Kindle eBook library.

First, Amazon already offers borrowing from some of the Kindle library as part of their Prime service. I borrowed a book from it which I probably was not going to buy otherwise. (That was a good move because the book kind of sucked.) Only being able to read the book on a couple of my Kindle devices was really offputting, so unless there is a very compelling reason to do so, I probably will not borrow another book.

For authors, my library aficionado patron friends are terrible. They check out books from a library instead of buying them. These friends also tend to rent videos instead of buying Blurays or DVDs. They prefer music streaming services or listening to the radio over buying music. They are not into building collections of media. All of these are terrible for content creators. A library buying a physical book means the author gets royalties for the single purchase not each person who checks out the book. Under newer library eBook subscription model, I suspect a book will need to be checked out many times for a book to equal one physical book’s purchase. So, bestsellers may do better and everyone else do worse.

Back on Memorial Day, I had a momentary bout of guilt. The owner of a Five Guys restaurant and I talked about the newspapers having trouble figuring out online distribution. He made the comment that we as consumers should pay the people who create the content we like. Mom spent a lot of time shopping in and selling to the used book store back where I grew up, so I have no fear of buying used. (I’ve bought 22 used books since Memorial Day from betterworldbooks alone. Another 11 used and 2 new on Amazon.) Buying a used book earns authors no royalties. So, authors should hate people like me. Before shifting to buying so much online, most in person purchases were off sales racks. The only books I bought new were novel series where I waited for a long time for it to drop.

The other piece of guilt was a shift in my reading to public domain books. Edgar Rice Burroughs, L. Frank Baum, and Alexandre Dumas are all fantastic for publishing so much years and years ago. I can read them all for free through the Kindle because they are dead and volunteer efforts like Project Gutenberg.

Just like Netflix did not kill cable or movie theaters, Amazon Kindle Unlimited will not kill book publishing. Sure, some small number of people will shift from buying books to subscribing, but these are likely people who were not going to be be buying many books anyway.

Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt
Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is really the story of why and how IEX was created. Humans made bad decisions. So, to protect people from other people, we moved the operation of the stock market to being run by computers. The natural consequence was for people to game the system with computer code. Rather than stay vigilant against new exploitations, we just redefined fair. The team behind IEX created it to eliminate these problems and establish a fair place for trading to occur.

About halfway through the book, I watched a commercial where an investment company touted their guaranteed one second trades. To the average person, this probably sounds amazing. The thing is that companies like this operate in milliseconds (1/1,000) and nanoseconds (1/1,000,000). Plus, they operate Dark Pools where the trade is obfuscated from independent review. Your trade could get executed where it benefits them and not you.

The overarching theme is that complexity and obfuscation created an environment where bad things can happen. As a technologist in education, I fight against this every day. We desire simplicity. Yet every change and especially those we execute without a good understanding of the business case creates complexity which will result in a failure. When no one fully understands how all the components work together, it exists to fail. Funnily enough, my team, the database administrators (really application administrators) sit at the intersection of the analysts, vendors, operating system admins, storage admins, network admins, and others. So this is familiar territory.

Zoran Perkov and Sergey Aleynikov are unsung heroes I am sure about whom I will spend more time reading.

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Had a conversation with a restaurant manager when he said he hates computers. His life has gone from 90% working with food to maybe 60%. Naturally he did not get into this kind of work to spend so much time dealing with computers.

GeorgiaVIEW Admin Retreat

At first I thought the issue was empowerment. A few decades ago, important people had assistants to do all their minutia. They did not write letters so much as quickly express what it should say, someone else wrote, and had it approved before going off to send it. Now, important people write an email themselves. Well, more so than they used to do. Technology has made minutia easier and changed assistant jobs into accomplishing more complex tasks.

As it turns out the issue was more organizational complexity. The manager’s accountant found a mistake and told him to talk to another department who sent him to third who sent him to a fourth. Each admitted the mistake should be fixed, but none could correct it.

Sound familiar? You might have encountered it dealing with customer support with a utility or government agency. The organization is so big and so complex individuals within it are not capable of knowing where to direct customers to have the problem solved. Only the most tenacious can force the difficult issues. When employees are empowered with autonomy to make decisions and solve problems, they make things move along and keep customers happy.

Still sad computers take the blame for people designing organizations.

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When Amazon bought Goodreads, the main hope for me was a tighter integration.

Many of the books I read have a variety of editions, so I have to figure out which one to select on Goodreads. Different editions might even have the same cover, so it can be a challenge. If the book is an ebook, then the ASIN is definitive.

Importing my purchases into Goodreads would be easier on me. So I do love the new Add Your Amazon Books to Goodreads. It only shows those books I’ve purchased on Amazon but not added to Goodreads, so I do not have to scroll through hundreds of books to find the new purchases. They are also organized so the newest purchase sits first. Finally, it does not automatically add books which means I have to mark them as to-read, currently-reading, or read one-by-one. That is fine, as I have some sets I bought on Amazon that I list individually on Goodreads.

Overall, I am pretty pleased and caught up on some listings I missed.

A listing of oddities…

  • If Goodreads librarians did not add books correctly, then the there might be a mismatch in editions.

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