Adventures in Password Management

In my last post I mentioned the Heartbleed bug that affected much of the web’s traffic. Over the past week I’ve been busy changing my passwords for my various accounts scattered across the web.

First observation: I have a LOT of online accounts. While I’m usually good at remembering if I have an account with a site once on that site, I’m not so good at sitting down and remembering every single site I have. Compound this with my being online for well over ten years, inactive accounts, old accounts that are registered to an inactive email, and this problem quickly becomes a big one.

Second: Password security practices highly recommend using a unique password for each site, one that can’t be easily guessed. I don’t know about you, but I’m terrible at coming up with a unique password for the many sites I use on a regular basis. Off the top of my head I can think of Gmail (x4), NaNoWriMo, Twitter, this site, Wikiwrimo, my webhost, Github, Reddit, Grooveshark, Pandora, Last.fm, Faceburger (okay, this is more like rarely), my banks, my student loan site, my various utilities sites, Amazon, Goodreads, Steepster, … And that’s just scratching the surface. I definitely used the same password on some of those sites because I can’t remember that many passwords. A few folks I know have some success with the xkcd password style, and I’ve used that style a few times, but I’ve never managed to use different ones across a large number of sites.

This is a big problem and it’s not going to get any better.

Enter a password manager.

I’ve known about password managers for a long time but never got around to using one. There were several problems with using a password manager, I thought.

* I use multiple computers regularly and need to sync those passwords across multiple accounts.
* I have a smartphone and an iPod touch and need to sync my passwords to those devices.
* I have Linux computers, so any option would need to be usable on a Linux box
* Ideally this solution would be free of cost as well as open source software.
* Also, I want a pony.

After a little investigating, it turns out that KeePass satisfies all those requirements.

“But wait,” I can hear anyone who clicked that link say. “KeePass looks like it’s just for Windows. What are you on about?”

The original software is just for Windows, but there are contributed packages for just about everything under the sun, including Android and iOS apps and various Linux packages. Perfect. I installed the Arch package, created a database with a long password I can remember, and got to work changing my passwords. Each entry in KeePass is for a separate account, and you can make notes for things like security questions, enter your username, and generate passwords based on almost any parameter you desire. KeePass also has an extensive plugin system that can integrate with Firefox and Chrome, generate xkcd-style passwords, and much more.

Once I got into the password changing flow, I saw a lot of notifications on my phone saying account action was required. My (Android) phone detected that I had changed my Gmail password and told me to change it on the phone. This shouldn’t be a problem, I thought. I’ll just go the Play Store, install KeePassDroid, and… oh. I couldn’t do anything in the Play Store on my phone because my password was wrong/old. Fine. I tried installing the app from the Play Store on my computer. The Play Store said it would install the app shortly… after I updated my password on my phone. Crap.

In the end, I wound up typing my new gibberish-filled password on my phone. That’s not an experience I want to repeat. This allowed me to install KeePassDroid so I could upload my password database online, then download it again. Like KeePass you have to decrypt the database with your master password. KeePassDroid also lets you copy a password to your clipboard so you can paste it into a password field when you’re visiting a site or app. The password is removed from your clipboard a few minutes later. This worked well for my uses. Oh, and I could delete my online upload of the file so it wouldn’t sit around online permanently.

I haven’t tested KeePass on another computer yet, but it should work similarly with the small wrinkle that Fedora has a package for KeePassX instead of KeePass. So far this method of password management is working well for me. I may change some of my most commonly used passwords to xkcd-style memorable ones just in case I find myself using someone else’s computer. But beyond that, I have to remember only my computer logins, SSH key passphrases, master password, root password, and Dropbox password (for uploading that file). That’s not so bad, and I can probably un-remember some of those.

Get yourself a password manager. Doesn’t matter which one; just get one. You won’t regret it.

Upcoming Adventures

Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, that I have a little more spare time in the near future. This would mean more time to work on things that I’ve been putting off doing (changing the dead light bulbs in my kitchen), or things I already do but would like to do more (write), or things I need to do but don’t do. What should I do with that time?

I made a list of those things. In no particular order, they are:

Write. I have multiple unfinished novels, as well as multiple first drafts I want to rewrite. There’s also my Camp NaNoWriMo novel, which is sitting at under 2000 words. This is half-intentional; I know I’ll have a little more time to write, so it almost makes more sense to set a couple of hours aside to write more. And the deadline will motivate me even more.

Blog. This is going under a separate category because I do have specific goals for blogging. I’ve done well with writing something at least once a week, but more time brings more time to blog. Given all the other things on my list and my long list of things to write about (including some indepth post ideas) you can look forward to/dread more posts here.

Read. I have a stack of books waiting to be read, as well as ebooks, a library card, and a 50-book reading goal for 2014. I’m well on track for that goal, but I need to be at 45 books before October because let’s be honest, I’m not going to be doing much reading during NaNo season.

Game. I started playing Pokemon Black in December and am still not finished. I have six gym badges, so surely I can finish the game during this time.

Wikiwrimo. I haven’t updated Wikiwrimo much in awhile, and there are so many things I want to do in updating the site.

Passwords. The Heartbleed bug was announced to the public this week. This affects everyone in some way since most of the web uses OpenSSL. I recommend checking to see if a site has patched its OpenSSL software and then changing your password. Ideally you would change your password everywhere because chances are good you use the same password in multiple places. But don’t change a password if the site hasn’t been patched yet! You can check here or here. The site’s blog may also mention patching the bug.

This means I’m finally installing a password manager to take care of all this. I’m guilty of using one password in multiple places, and it’s a bad habit that needs to stop. Look for a post about this in the near future once I’ve set everything up.

Update computers. There are various tiny things on my computers that are in need of updating and small things that are broken that I just haven’t gotten around to fixing because I could live without them.

This site. This is separate from the Blog area because I’m not talking about the writing. This section is for a redesign and overhaul so I can use the post formats. This also involves me figuring out how I would like to use those post formats, as well as seeing if there’s a way to add all the related features that I want.

Tweet. Okay, this isn’t really a thing, but I noticed last month that I’m very close to 50,000 total tweets–close enough that reaching that goal in April is doable with a chatty month. So the race is on. 50k tweets or 50k Camp NaNoWriMo words. Which will come first?

Code. I fell off the Python train. Time to get back on.

There we go. Anything you want to see from me–more Wikiwrimo, more noveling, more blogging? Let me know.

What I’m reading: Book reviews, February-March 2014

Since my last review post, I’ve read eight more books and am about to start another one. Sounds like it’s time for another big review post. Since there are so many books I’m limiting myself to a few sentences for each. In order by date finished, we have…

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss: I mentioned this book was up next in my last review post. Oh my goodness. This book is just… good. Despite not having read the first book in the series in several years, I fell right back into the book and the world, and Rothfuss does a great job at reintroducing elements of the world to readers like me who don’t remember the little details of the first book. A lot of what I said about the first book is still true: Rothfuss manages to use beautiful prose while not bogging down the story with excessive description, and the characters and storylines are exemplary. Just go read it. So when’s the third book coming out?
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 talents

Silverwing by Kenneth Oppel: This is a middle grade novel that is apparently popular with Canadian middle schools. I didn’t find this out until reading the Goodreads reviews and noticing that everyone on my friends list who had read it was Canadian. Neat. The story itself is about a young bat who gets lost from his family during the trip south for winter, but it gets more complex than this with friends (and friends turned foe), varied explanations for the metal rings some bats have, and the main character questioning what he has always been told. Still, I think kids and adults can enjoy and get value from this book.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 bats

This Vacant Paradise by Victoria Patterson: This book takes place in Orange County in the mid-90s and stars a 30-something woman with no skills or direction in life. Your stereotype-filled mental picture is probably accurate. Despite this, the main things that annoyed me about this book were all the points of view (at least four or five) and the main character’s going right back to where she started at the end. It was almost like this story didn’t need to happen because she wasn’t going to change anyway, and she’s not going to change after the events of the story.
Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 lovers

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson: I know the point of this book is that it goes on and on with an unreliable narrator while he’s on drugs, but I just couldn’t get into it. It wasn’t poorly written by any means. Some of the writing was brilliant, but it wasn’t for me. I do wonder if he wrote this book in a weekend or shorter because it does read like one of my 50k day or 50k weekend works in parts.
Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 trips (Vegas or Acid)

Pack up the Moon by Anna McPartlin: Another book I found in a little library. I was optimistic at first, despite the first scenes featuring a pregnancy test (spoiler: not pregnant) and a party. But then main character Emma has to rebuild her life after her significant other dies. It felt like Emma had nothing in particular that she wanted while the book told her life story after the death, leaving me to wonder “What’s actually happening?” And then the ending wandered and disappointed. I really wanted this book to star just about any other character, to be honest: people with real wants and desires and well-rounded characters.
Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 pregnancy tests

Flying Lessons by Francis Potts: First things first–a friend wrote this book and gave me a copy. That said, this is a very good book. Swann is awkward but oddly charming. Despite this, he seems perfectly normal compared to love interest Alison. Every character in the book is odd in some way, and there are plenty of reasons to like and dislike everyone. The plot is equally strange with plenty of twists and turns so you never know what’s going to happen next. It’s probably the strangest love story I’ve ever read, and that’s a very good thing.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 flights of fancy

Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud: This book was okay. My circumstances in the beginning may have clouded my opinion; I started reading it at a crowded bus stop, then continued on that bus in stop-start traffic on a Friday afternoon, so I never got to fully immerse myself in the book. That said, even after starting to read the book in a comfortable setting, I never really got into the book. It has its good parts, yes. But I found myself skimming a lot to get to those good parts.
Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 heroes

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard: This book should get its own post. Or multiple posts. This book contains the observations of a narrator around her home over the course of a year. There are a lot of thoughts on philosophy, religion, and science, as well as solitude and what it means to see and be and observe and hear. This book won a Pulitzer Prize and it’s easy to see why; the language in this book is beautiful. I can only strive for my journals to contains writing half as eloquent as these. Just go read it now; I need people to rave with about how wonderful this book is. Oh wait, this is my site; I can do that all I want here.
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 philosphical meanderings

Fun fact: these books have Goodreads rankings now! I’ve rounded up or down for many of them, but the ratings are there. Maybe I’ll remember more of these books in a few years.

Up next: Voices by Arnaldur Indridason. This is an Icelandic detective novel, which excites me for multiple reasons, one of them being my past studies in detective fiction. (Really, one of my French major classes was in the detective novel.) It’s also the fifth in a series (third available in English), and while this will be the first book I’ve read, we’ll see how much reading out of order matters. If I do continue reading the series, I’ll try to save the last book for last for sure.

Camp NaNoWriMo is almost here

Camp NaNoWriMo, the lightweight, set-your-own-goal and work on whatever you want version of National Novel Writing Month, starts on Tuesday. Eek! I’ve had mixed luck with Camp NaNoWrimo, mostly because I try to edit during camp and then fail miserably. This year I do have a new idea to write from scratch, so I’m hoping for a win.

What is that idea, you ask? Funny you should ask. I’m considering a third Wrimonia novel. (Haven’t read the other two? Go fix that.

Adventures in Wrimonia: Mia Goes to Camp

Mia Wonnor has never gone to camp before. She’s also never done Camp NaNoWriMo. But when April comes around and Mia finds several unfinished novels taking over, Camp NaNoWriMo looks like a great chance to complete both at once. With Wrimos from all over the world sharing cabins and working on any creative project they want, creativity is in the air at Camp NaNoWriMo. Mia is ready to finish all the novels and maybe decide which one she wants to edit.

The problem is, conflict is in the air. Just as with any camp, there are cabinmate conflicts, character conflicts, and merit badges to be earned. There are nature hikes and the occasional bear. And the Block Ness Monster lurks in the lake, halting progress of anyone who dares approach…

And as always with the Wrimonia novels, I’ll be posting in installments once I’ve finished the book and fixed the typos.

You should join Mia and me at camp! It’ll be a lot of fun. I’ll be back at @NaNoWordSprints on Twitter, leading some word sprints for camp for maximum word count increasing.

And if April isn’t for you, Camp will return in July for more writing fun.

Why I dislike arbitrary star rating systems (and why I should use them anyway)

If you follow me on sites like Goodreads or Steepster, you might notice my lack of numerical ratings. I’ve waffled back and forth on using the numerical rating system on these sites for awhile–whether it was the star system on Goodreads or Steepster’s 1-100 scale–and never could decide how to use them. Could I maintain a consistent judgement based on these stars? Was Steepster’s rating system to be interpreted as a grading scale, something I have a long and complicated history with?

This is something I’ve debated internally long before joining these sites. I went through this while teaching middle school–how many points were worth taking off for a small mistake? What about medium-sized mistakes that didn’t majorly affect solving the problem? One would think math is an easier subject to grade, but the truth is math is full of little mistakes one can make; in fact, most of my mathematical mistakes are small errors like missing a negative sign.

I like Adagio’s star system a lot: one star is awful, two is bad, three is okay, four is good, and five is great. At this point you’re probably thinking, “That’s a perfectly fine scale. Why not use it?” It’s not so easy.

Part of this indecision comes from a desire to remain consistent across all my ratings, especially books that fall in between a star rating. Should I round up or down? What makes a book worthy of being rounded up or down?

Another factor is the scale at Goodreads: one star is “it was awful”, two is “it was okay”, three is “I liked it”, four is “it was great” and five is “it was amazing”. Since when did we live in a world where two stars out of five mean something was okay? No. Two stars do not grant an “it was okay” rating, nor do three stars grant “I liked it”. I sort of understand where Goodreads is coming from: distinguishing between the good books, the great books, and the potentially life-changing ones. But labeling a scale like this leaves less room for really disliking a book, just as shifting the scale in the other direction would leave less room for really liking a work.

Steepster is another monster entirely. What makes an 84 tea different from an 85 tea? Should I bother to differentiate between the two? How many points does it take to show that a tea is better than another? How do I interpret the 100-point scale–like academic grades? Like a 10-star scale?

A lot behind these scales is open to user interpretation, and I welcome that.

And yet…

I looked through my unranked Goodreads books recently, flipping back to books I read three or four years ago. That’s when I realized something.

I had no memory of reading some of those books.

One of these books sounded vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t have told you what it was about before reading the summary. I still couldn’t tell you the main character’s name or the main plot; I’d have to read over the summary again to tell you even a basic summary.

But I knew I read the book. Somewhere in my memory that book was there, but my interactions with the book didn’t cement it in my mind. I never reviewed the book here, thus never forcing me to truly reflect on the book afterward. All those literature classes and papers were good for something: making me reflect on a book and making me like a book more (or less) after writing a paper on it. (And I majored in French, so I wrote a lot of these papers.) Rating and reviewing these works would help me remember what I’ve consumed for my own reference and for my own satisfaction.

There are a lot of unanswered questions in this post, but I might have just successfully changed my own view on using star rating systems. The main question, as always, is how to start using them.

My attempt to archive my tea collection

I’ve mentioned time and time again that I’m a big fan of tea. My current tea collection sits at somewhere around fifty different teas, and that’s not including the teas I have just one bag of, or the teas I’ve received through the NaNo tea swap that didn’t include tea names and companies. My tea drawer and cabinet both overflow with tea, along with the teas that have somehow migrated to the boyperson’s apartment.

And then there are the teas I’ve finished or have drunk only once, like in a coffee or tea shop. I want to remember my reactions to those as well.

Enter Steepster. I’ve known of Steepster for a long time but never joined because I didn’t need yet another social site in my life. That is, until January when my tea collection had finally reached the point of not remembering what I’ve consumed and what I haven’t. This is already happening for books, and I’m not as well-read as some readers out there. I knew the same problem would happen with tea if I didn’t do something.

So I signed up with Steepster. You can view my Steepster profile here. The signup process was simple, and I could immediately start editing my profile and adding teas to the my collection.

How to use Steepster

The easiest way to add a tea is to search for it, keeping in mind you’ll probably get multiple results. This is especially the case if you’re searching for a general tea name like “earl grey” or “jasmine green”. Each tea from a company has a different page on the Steepster site, which means, for example, Twinings Earl Grey and DavidsTea Earl Grey are two different teas on the Steepster site. This is good because you can distinguish between the two when reviewing them. This is not so good when you’ve received teas from tea swaps and don’t know what company the tea’s from, therefore making the archiving process more difficult. Since almost all my teas of unknown origin are from the NaNoWriMo tea swap, I asked my swap partners, but there’s a chance that they won’t remember by the time they get around to checking their messages again.

And if a certain tea isn’t already in Steepster’s site, like many of mine weren’t, you can add it. I must have added at least ten teas to the site in my quest to archive teas.

You can also review teas in what Steepster calls tasting notes: your impressions of the tea, how you prepared it, and a score. You can add a tasting note just once or every time you drink the tea. It’s up to you. I haven’t decided what exactly to do with these tasting notes or scores yet, though I did copy most of my Adagio reviews over to Steepster. Since lots of other folks use Steepster, you can see what other people think of a given tea while deciding what teas to get or whether to buy from a certain company.

The best part of Steepster is the discussion board. Here you can discuss just about anything related to tea. A few of those discussions include specific companies, what teas you received today, tea swaps to participate in, and just about anything on anyone’s mind. Like any community, there are some users more deeply involved with tea than others, but that’s okay. There’s a place for everyone to start talking and reviewing, even if you’re brand new to tea. So join in!

The only problem with Steepster is that it makes me want to buy more tea! Unfortunately this can’t happen right now because of my tea-buying hiatus. This means I have a great excuse to drink more tea and drink that collection down. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Welcome to Night Vale in Atlanta

Some of you may know that I enjoy listening to the Welcome to Night Vale podcast: a fictional community radio program for a tiny town that always has something strange going on. It’s funny, it’s strange, and some lines are eerily realistic.

When the Night Vale producers announced their March tour of the South and Midwest, I immediately checked to see if they’d be stopping by Atlanta. They had to be; Atlanta is a major and centrally located city in the South.

Luckily they were. I grabbed two tickets. It’s a good thing I did; they sold out quickly.

The show itself was wonderful. I’m not going to provide major spoilers on the plot since the show will be available later. But some highlights:

* Cecil’s voice sounds just as wonderful across a theatre as it does on the podcast. I need to get him to narrate all my actions.

* There are horoscopes, and they are wonderful. A choice bit: “Stop picking on Monday.” Also, a mention of Steve Carlsberg. Jerk.

* Carlos is in this one. It was ridiculously adorable.

* There was some audience participation. There was screaming.

* I enjoyed the musical guests for the weather. They played a few songs before the show as well. Very folky.

* I have never seen so much purple. Purple shirts, a few folks with purple hair, one person in front of me with purple tentacles attached to their shirt. So much purple. I have exactly one purple shirt and didn’t think to wear it. Oh well.

The show was great. I’m surprised I didn’t recognize more people given the nerdy crowd. Someone recognized my NaNo shirt. I did see one person from college; this person also happened to be one of the folks involved in the audience participation. Neat.

I also got to meet Cara McGee. If that name sounds familiar, you’re probably in fandom circles on Tumblr or like her tea blends at Adagio. I have two of them myself and want more. (If you do wind up ordering something, let me know before you do and I can get you a $5 certificate if you’ve never gotten anything from there before.)

We talked for a couple of minutes while walking down the stairs to the merch and exit area before we parted ways–her to find the friends she came with, me to find boyperson so we could go back to my place.

And that was the Night Vale show. I laughed, cheered, whooped, and awwwwed my way through. Truly a great way to spend a Friday evening.

Now to listen to all those episodes that I’ve slacked on since Nano.

Every #wrimosagainsttheeatingofsushi related hashtag I’ve tweeted (and a few I haven’t)

A long time ago, a couple of Twitter followers and I were discussing a movement to prevent the eating of me–that is, because my nickname is Sushi and that also happens to be a food. We eventually came up with #wrimosagainsttheeatingofsushi. In the years since, the #wrimosagainsttheeatingofsushi movement has grown, as well as the #wrimosfortheeatingofsushi movement. But more and more semi-related hashtags have cropped up, almost all of them taking the form #___[for/against]the____ingof______.

I’ve tried to search Twitter for them, but online searches don’t usually handle fill-in-the-blank searches very well. Or at all, really. But that’s okay.

You hovered for the alt text, didn't you? Don't worry, I did too when previewing this.
(Image credit: xkcd)

I know (some) regular expressions.

What’s a regular expression?

A regular expression (or regex) is a pattern that matches something. You can think of a word as a regular expression when you search for something–whether you’re searching online or for a file on your computer. Most of your results are going to match the word(s) you type in. But what if you want only the first and last words of your search phrase to match? Or in my case, only certain words within a hashtag to match?

That’s where regular expressions come in.

Here’s a tutorial if you’d like to dig deeper.

But knowing regular expressions doesn’t do me much good if I don’t have a way to search with them. This is why grep exists.

grep is just plain awesome

Grep is amazing. It searches your plaintext files and shows you the results. You can also search across multiple files at once, which makes grep very powerful. I can figure out which novel I wrote that one awesome line in or when I used some made up word in chat… or find Twitter hashtags since grep supports regular expressions.

Sound cool? Good because we’re going to have some greppy fun.

The last tool: the Twitter archive

This is the easiest step. Twitter lets you download a full archive of your tweets from your site settings, so I downloaded mine and unzipped the files to my Backup directory.

The files containing the tweets themselves are Javascript files sorted by month. We can grep our way through these. Sweet.

Putting it all together

Let’s put this together and find all the hashtags. Here’s what I did.

[sushi@marigold ~]$ grep -r -E [a-zA-Z]+the[a-zA-Z]+ingof[a-zA-Z]+ ~/Backup/tweets/data/js/tweets > ~/Documents/wrimosforagainst.csv

Let’s break this down.

[sushi@marigold ~]$: This is my hostname. The ~ says I’m sitting in my home directory, which affects things like where I save files. More on this in a minute.

grep -r -E: grep says to use the grep command. -r means to search recursively–that is, to search all the files in that directory. This is important because we want to search multiple files in the same directory. -E is for extended regular expressions, which let me do some of these exciting things to follow.

[a-zA-Z]+: Check for any letter a through z, capitalized or not. The + means to check and see if a letter appears at least once.

the: Exactly what it says. Look for the letters “the” in order, exactly once.

[a-zA-Z]+: Check for any letter a through z, capitalized or not. The + means to check and see if a letter appears at least once.

ingof: Exactly what it says. Look for the letters “ingof” in order, exactly once.

[a-zA-Z]+: Check for any letter a through z, capitalized or not. The + means to check and see if a letter appears at least once.

This is a lot of information. If I had just hit enter here, my screen would have overflowed with hashtags. That’s where the > (greater than) sign comes in. The > means to send the information from this file somewhere. The rest of that command is telling what to name the file and where to save it. In this case I chose to send this information to a comma separated value file, which I can then open with LibreOffice and do whatever I want with it.

A CSV file is basically a spreadsheet in text form, which is what I saved the file as the first time. When you open the file, you can then tell Excel or LibreOffice what to use to separate the values. LibreOffice chose comma and tag and semicolon; I added colon since colons were useful in separating the hashtags from the rest of the data.

Once I opened the CSV file in LibreOffice I sorted the column with the hashtags. This gave me almost exactly what I wanted, as the majority of these hashtags are at the bottom in the w section.

There are a couple of catches to this. Eeach tweet in the Javascript file includes the hashtags as a separate entity from the tweets, as well as what tweet you’re replying to. This means hashtags can show up multiple times. This also means that hashtags used in tweets I replied to can also show up, even if I never used them. This part is doubly useful, but it means that not every spinoff hashtag is here simply because I didn’t reply to all of those tweets.

Here are those hashtags. There are 118 of them in all, and I have only edited to remove duplicates. Happy reading, and happy hashtagging! Continue reading

Book reviews: What I’ve read so far in 2014

I’ve read more so far in 2014 than I have at this point of the year in, well, a long time. According to my Goodreads profile, I’ve read seven books so far in 2014. Okay, that’s a lie. If we include the night I went on the California Diaries reading binge with the books I haven’t read, then that number goes up from seven to 17. But I won’t count those yet.

Since it’s mid-February and I started book eight of 2014 tonight, this got me thinking. Maybe I can accomplish what feels like a really common reading goal: 50 books in a year. I haven’t done this since middle school, back in the days when I would go through a book every day or two. “Book of the day” was a feature of my journals back then because I really was reading books that quickly.

It will be challenging, I know. For one, I’m a slow reader with limited time and many other things I’d like to do that don’t involve reading. Reading 50 books in a year will also involve keeping up my current momentum, which will involve sitting down to read every day or close to it. Luckily I have plenty of books to read thanks to my physical stack of books, ebooks, and the public library.

My rules for this reading goal:

* At least 50 new books that I haven’t read before
* Baby-Sitters Club books don’t count, but I do reserve the right to count them at the end. Those ten books are books I read in 2014, after all. But I’m thinking of this as taking a scene out of a book and including it again if needed.
* Yes, I know one could argue that short plays, novellas, essay collections, and such don’t count if I’m not counting BSC books. I’m counting them. Them’s the rules.
* This means that as of now, I need to subtract ten for my current true count on Goodreads.

What have I been reading, anyway? Here are some short reviews of each (and I do mean short).

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan: This is the first Wheel of Time book. I’m slightly biased against it because in general, long epic fantasy series just aren’t my thing. I enjoyed the plot, but I also found myself skimming a lot.

The California Diaries books by Ann M. Martin (and various ghostwriters) : I’m lumping these into one review. This is most of the series–all the books except 1, 3, 5, 6, and 8–the ones I previously read and had a memory of before my binge night. These books deal with more mature themes than the BSC books–drinking, depression, eating disorders, death. Yet they can’t come out and say a character’s gay, but to be fair, these books were written what, ten years ago? Fun fact: Amalia’s Nbook is where my Nbook name came from (though mine is Dr. Nbook today).

She’s Such a Geek: Women Write About Science, Technology, and Other Nerdy Stuff edited by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Anders with a ton of contributors: An essay collection by ladies about the lady geek experience, ranging from science to comics to tech. As with most essay collections, the individual essays were hit or miss, though a few of them really resonated with me. One thing that bothered me is the number of essays written by women who were no longer in a geeky field. I may have to write my own post on my geek experience. I promise it won’t end with “and then I left tech to have a bunch of babies THE END”. (I’ll clone them instead)

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen: A play about 19th century marriage norms and working your way out dilemmas. Nora annoyed the crap out of me at first, but she grew on me as the play went on, and I might have whooped out loud at some of her end lines.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes: Guy gets operation to make himself supersmart as part of an experiment, turns superarrogant as well. The story is well-told and enjoyable but left my brain filled with questions marginally related to the story. It also reinforced something I’ve tried to tell myself for years: being smart isn’t everything.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen: A published Nano novel! This book was okay. The characters didn’t feel fully developed and the story dragged on and on before picking up at full speed. I did stay up late to finish reading it, so that says something.

The Killing Sea by Richard Lewis: This book takes place in Indonesia during and after the 2004 south Asia tsumani. The author also happens to live in Indonesia and did some volunteer work after the tsunami in the book’s setting, so a lot of this book is accurate. There are scenes that hit my privileged Western gut, like the scenes with the journalists, but those scenes are supposed to be gut-punching. It’s a quick read (<200 pages) and I recommend it.

The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World’s Most Astonishing Number by Mario Livio: All about phi, or 1.618…, the number known as the golden ratio. For someone of Livio’s qualifications, I was a little disappointed. This book was one part phi Mythbusters and one part talking about actual math. While I did the content with actual math and science (and actual math history), the many parts where he discussed possible uses/discoveries of phi and then said “eh, probably not” dragged the book along.

Up next: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Ruthfoss. It’s been awhile since the first book (2010 if you don’t want to click), but I loved The Name of the Wind and somehow still haven’t read this one yet. Maybe I was waiting for the third book to come out (ha!). I tend to balance out short reads with longer ones; in fact, I read all those California Diaries books while finishing up The Eye of the World. Balance. After this the next few books will be shorter.

Sometimes I don’t finish reading books

I love books. Whether I like a particular book or not, I still find myself reading to the end because gorramit, I started reading the book and had already invested a lot of time into it. Stopping in the middle of the book would kill all that time invested into the book. And besides, the book may get good later.

That’s what I’ve always told myself. If I’m going to start a book, I’m going to finish it, no matter how long it takes.

There are a few exceptions to this rule, but very few. I never did finish reading Wuthering Heights, a book I chose to read for fun in high school. I tried to read it during my 11th grade honors literature’s free reading time. I really did. But after a few chapters all the Heathcliffs confused me more than they helped me, so I put the book down.

And sometimes a book turns into even more of a time commitment, such a very large book or when the book is really part of a series. Committing to reading that one book can feel like committing to reading the whole series. This is how I felt while attempting to read the Game of Thrones books. I read the first book and gave up halfway through the second book because I wasn’t enjoying the series that much and didn’t want to trudge through the rest of the books. The same thing happened with the Wheel of Time series. I finished the first book but I was not going to commit to the rest of the series. Not when so many other books were out there, so many that I wanted to read.

And that’s what happened with the book I started last weekend. It had been on my shelf for awhile, so I figured it was about time I read the book and get on my merry literary way. I started the book and… just couldn’t get into it. I didn’t like the narrative style, the story didn’t grab me, and if I had to put up with 300 more pages of this it better be worth my time.

So I made a big decision. I put the book down and didn’t mark my place, then set the book in my “to give away” pile. The book will probably go in one of the Little Free Libraries near me.

Then I started reading something else because that’s what I do.

(For those wondering what the book was, it was Interview with the Vampire.)