Confession: I’m terrible at keeping in touch

Confession: I’m incredibly lazy at keeping in touch with friends.

This is for a few reasons.

One, I’m just generally bad at being the first one to reach out. Part of this is because of laziness, but there’s another small part where I don’t want to be rejected or am afraid they won’t reply or any number of other things.

Most of my friends from high school and college use Facebook as their primary social network. I do not like Facebook, much preferring Twitter. My preference stems from several reasons that go beyond the scope of this post, but my dislike of Facebook goes as far as refusing to provide regular updates of my own, even avoiding the site unless absolutely necessary.

The problem is, a lot of my friends from years past are on Facebook and only Facebook. I’d still like to keep in touch with them, but I don’t want to use Facebook to do it. This presents a problem, and now I’m trying to think of solutions.

For me, keeping in touch becomes much easier when I like the interface.

I’ve pondered a few solutions to this problem.

1) Convince them to join Twitter. Problem: This isn’t something everyone wants to do.

2) Convince them to do NaNoWriMo. Again, not something everyone wants to do (even if I do think everyone has a story to tell).

It turns out convincing my friends to change their Internet habits isn’t the best way to go about doing this. How about changing my habits?

3) Make one feed for friends (as opposed to casual acquaintances I went to school with), then read just that feed. There are a couple of problems with this. The first is that Facebook doesn’t provide RSS feeds for groups of friends. The second is that even if it did, I’ve gotten worse at checking my feeds ever since Google Reader shut down. Side note: if you know of any feed readers that are software free and beer free, let me know. I’ve been using Commafeed and haven’t gotten into it.

So RSS is apparently out of the picture. But then I realized something. I’m already reading my email all the time, and my few Facebook notifications automatically go to the trash. This is my way of filtering through emails like “So-and-so’s birthday is this week!” and “So-and-so liked your post”. Since I already get these emails, why not use them better? I added more people to my email notification list and started checking the trash folder for Facebook messages. The problem is, I never replied to them even though they were showing up in my inbox, despite Facebook letting you reply to posts via email. Oops.

But then last week I found myself brushing my teeth and wondering what a couple of high school friends were up to. Since they’re not on Twitter and don’t do NaNo, Facebook was the primary message of keeping in touch. After a little bit of anxiety over whether they’d reply or even wanted to see me, I messaged both of them. It turned out they were both in Atlanta. Yay! We set a date and time to meet up, and the rest happened last night over pizza and drinks. (And a guy hitting on me at the bar we went to. But that’s another story.)

Since that turned out well, and since I do want to keep in touch with others more, I present an experiment. I’d call it the Facebook experiment, but that’s already taken.

The Rules:

1. Each day for the next seven days (today through 31 July), comment on the posts of three different people. Likes do not count for the purpose of this experiment. Also, commenting multiple times on one status (or multiple updates for one person) does not count multiple times. The idea is that at the end of seven days, I should have reached out to 21 distinct people.

2. Update my own Facebook at least once a day for the next seven days.

Will I find myself in the lives of more people? Will more impromptu social shenanigans happen? Stay tuned.

What I’m reading, July 2014 (now with a bingo)

Remember that summer reading bingo card I mentioned awhile back?

I finally got a bingo.

Summer Reading Bingo 2014. The bingo is on the top row.

Hooray, bingo across the top row!

The bingo is across the top row, where I connected Author’s Newest Book, Humor, Fantasy, Young Adult, and Nonhuman Main Character. I’m open to recommendations for the spots that aren’t colored in, so recommend away.

And now, on to what else I’ve been reading lately.

Son by Lois Lowry: Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful ending to the Giver. This book fills in the backstory of the characters in the previous books. And even though the ending wasn’t one that tied everything together, it was still realistic and touching.
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 deals

Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, eBooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business by Ann Hadley and C.C. Chapman: I read this as job research. I’m also pretty experienced at making online content, both here and for professional purposes, so a lot of stuff in this book was “well, duh”. A lot of chapters could be summarized by “tl;dr don’t be boring”. That said, I did get a lot out of the parts I wasn’t so experienced in. If you’re new to making content online, it’ll probably be a big help to you. Otherwise, just read the chapters you really need help on.
Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 content posts

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk: First, a confession–I’ve never seen the movie. But I knew the general premise and the rules of Fight Club, so I picked this book up at a used book sale and got to reading. And even though it’s confusing at first (due to a twist later in the book that explains all), I liked it. I’ll watch the movie sometime.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 review club rules

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo: I met Leigh at the Decatur Book Festival last year, then promptly forgot about this until her new book came out a few weeks ago and everyone on Twitter was talking about it. That was when I decided to grab the first book. It has a lot of the same tropes as many YA fantasies, but for the most part they work well. I’ve already picked up the second book.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 Darkling encounters

Flatterland: Like Flatland, Only More So by Ian Stewart: I’ve been planning a mathverse for years, so this book was of particular interest to me. It’s brilliant. All the mathematical puns, the humor, the lighthearted storytelling. It’s almost everything I want in a mathverse, just written a few years before I started planning the idea. The math gets advanced at times, but the storytelling makes everything understandable and beautifully so.
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 noneuclidean geometries

The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams: This is a posthumous collection of essays and stories and other things written by DNA. Because of this, there’s a lot of jumping around from topic to topic every few pages. Learning more about Douglas Adams and reading more of his works was wonderful despite the jumping around. I just wish he were still around.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 salmon

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: Another confession. Okay a set of confessions. First, I started this book in eighth grade when the guy I liked recommended it. I didn’t get into it. I’ve also seen only the second movie and have never read the LOTR books. I did enjoy this book, though. The writing style is clear and conversational, and the story moves along at a good clip. That said, I’m not sure about committing to the LOTR books anytime soon.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 dwarves

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo: Pretty much everything I said about Shadow and Bone above is true here, though I like this book a tiny bit better than the first one. Time to get a hold of the third book.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 collars

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau: If you’ve wanted to start a business or side project without a lot of money (or even with), this is your book. Seriously. It’s that good, and now I want to make all the things.
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 startups

Up next: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. That’s right, I’ve never read this book. I remember my seventh grade homeroom’s literature/reading class read this book, but I was in the gifted class, where this book wasn’t part of the curriculum. So now I’m fixing that.

Why I stopped lifeblogging so much

Way back in 2001 I started a blog on Diaryland. Blogging wasn’t quite as big as it is now, and I poured my heart out into it. All my high school dramas, angsts, and achievements appeared there, and this being the early 2000s, there was even a guestbook for visitors to sign. While most of my entries consisted of everyday life, there was the occasional pensive entry, and sometimes I actually wrote things that weren’t about my everyday life or online quizzes. (The latter made me sick and tired of “What X are you?” quizzes that were popular a few months back, which were also popular in my early blogging days.)

I moved from Diaryland to Xanga to LiveJournal to this site, almost coinciding with going from high school to college and beyond. Back then, my life was interesting to write about. I interacted with lots of people on a daily basis thanks to being in school, in classes, in a tutoring job with others my age. The interactions were, if not noteworthy for future self, idea launchers for blog posts and stories.

That isn’t to say that I don’t interact now. I do. But working remotely means a lot of that conversation, even with friends, is online. Remember those IM logs people would post for blog posts? I did that occasionally, whether for better or worse.

At some point, I stopped writing about my life. Not just with the IM logs, but with lifeblogging as well. It wasn’t a sudden stop. My life eventually contained fewer interactions than during my school days, and writing yet another blog post saying “I looked for jobs and read some interesting things” became boring even for me. At a time when my life, quite frankly, wasn’t all that interesting, the things I wanted to share became links and thoughts and short observations. Part of this was because fewer people were lifeblogging in general, what with the arrivals of Facebook and Twitter and all those other sites that encourage shorter, more immediate updates. I’m active on Twitter and can attest to this.

But this kind of instant, bite-sized update doesn’t lend itself very well to truly keeping up with people. Sure, the big things get updates, and short-form updates are a good way to glimpse parts of one’s life that one may not ordinarily share. But takes a lot of putting together pieces to figure out if, say, someone hasn’t been doing so great, or if there are exciting plans in the works. The things we choose to share on social sites aren’t often major life events like what Facebook wants you to share. They’re bite-sized pieces that take more context to get a full picture of one’s life.

Sometimes I miss blogging about my life. I still keep a paper journal that contains what would normally be lifeblogging, a combination of feelings and events and other exciting things. And sometimes I ponder writing more about my life on here, especially for big events that would be of general interest to others. Who knows? Only time will tell.

Lifeblogging is dead. Long live lifeblogging.

Weird Al’s new “Word Crimes” is awesome

Seriously, I’ve listened to it at least three times today alone, and I’m convinced this is the only good thing to come out of that “Blurred Lines” song. You know, the one with the rapey lyrics. I’ve never heard the original myself, but I looked up the lyrics to see why people were complaning. NOPE, not listening to it.

But Weird Al’s parody is wonderful and should be played in every English classroom. It’s like Schoolhouse Rock for the 21st century. (Now there’s something I’d throw a ton of money at.) I can’t listen to this song without singing and dancing along because it’s Weird Al and grammar and making a terrible song awesome.

Also, there are dancing punctuation marks. Sweet.

Go. Just go watch it. And thank me later.

Sushi’s Adulting Sticker Chart

I have a lifestyle that gives me a lot of flexibility, a lot of interests, and only 24 hours in a day to pursue them. After working, reading, writing, and just about anything else, I don’t have much time for things like making sure my house isn’t a pigsty.

Since I live alone and no one else will clean my house for me, this is a problem. The house doesn’t clean itself and will only become clean if I put in the effort. I’m not a neat freak, but I do like some sense of order. And since the last few months in particular have seen me do less and less housework, I knew I needed to do something to motivate myself a little more.

There are already lots of ways to track one’s progress. One of my friends uses Beeminder, where you pay to continue tracking your progress if you get off track. (Okay, the first slip-up is free, but after that you pay up. The amount increases if you get off track more often.) I know a few folks who use HabitRPG, which turns your to-do lists into a game. (You get a character and everything.) And someone else alerted me to Epic Win, a habit-building game app for iOS. There are probably more out there.

All of these techniques are good–if their incentives/punishments motivate you. I used HabitRPG when it was brand new, and my main problem was actually logging into the site and marking my progress. That’s a lot of work for me. My ideal method, I eventually figured out, needed to stay in my line of vision all the time.

After a long discussion about my procrastination, motivation, and love of stickers, Sushi’s Adulting Sticker Chart was born.

Instead of giving myself a sticker for doing a major thing, I broke down the chores I tend to put off into small parts, then assigned points to them. The more effort and time the task takes, and the longer I tend to put that thing off, the more points it gets. The chart hangs next to my desk so it stares at me during the day.

Here’s what my list looks like:
* Wipe down and organize a surface (1)
* Clean the sink (1)
* Empty the sink (1)
* Unload the dishwasher (1)
* Sweep a floor (2)
* Vacuum a room (3)
* Take out trash (1)
* Take out recycling (1)
* Clean toilet (1)
* Clean bathtub (3)
* Wash one load of clothes (1)
* Dry one load of clothes (2)
* Fold one load of clothes (2)
* Check mail (1)
* Dispose of old papers/junk mail (2)
* Get groceries (3)
* Return all dirty clothes to laundry basket (1)
* Clean out a food-containing area (1)
* Clean/organize a pile of stuff (2)
* Make bed after washing sheets (2)
* Floss (1)

There’s also a separate list with things that need to be done less regularly, or items that I normally don’t have as much trouble doing, or items that I do have trouble doing but have been putting off for a long time. Think of this as a one-off to-do list. (In case you’re wondering, this post is two points since I haven’t updated in awhile.)

Next I added up all the points on my regular to-do list, divided by seven days in a week, and rounded down. This number is how many points I need to earn a sticker that day. My number happens to be four, which isn’t too difficult.

Sushi's Adulting Sticker Chart

The Sticker Calendar. Click for full size.

Every day I add up what I’ve done, and if those things give me four or more points total, that day gets a sticker. I started this on Thursday and have two stickers so far. Even two days in, the stickers have motivated me to earn my sticker for the day. If I’m one point short, surely I can do one small thing to earn the sticker.

The stickers themselves are great, but the real purpose of the sticker chart is to stop treating cleaning as an all-day thing. That might still happen sometimes, especially on laundry day when I have time. But training myself to do a little bit every day, even if those things feel really small, will go further than cleaning all the things once every few weeks.

Once I start doing smaller things regularly, the marathon cleaning days won’t be as exhausting, the house will be more organized, and I’ll have more time to do enjoyable things. And that’s the best thing of all.

What I’m Reading, June 2014

Here goes!

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling: First, it’s not Harry Potter. Despite that, this is still a good read with complex characters and storylines. The first half moves slowly since this book features a large cast of characters and a lot of story to tell across multiple points of view. But once the story really gets going, it gets juicy. And of course, JKR’s brilliant writing and plotting are still there.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 election candidates

An Imaginary Tale: The Story of sqrt(-1) by Paul J. Nahin: A lot of folks barely understand complex numbers, seeing them for about a week in high school math, if that. Sadly, this is not the book for them. I wanted it to be, but the reading is so dense that I felt like I was reading a textbook at times–and I have a math degree! That said, it is a good (though dense) read if you’re mathematically inclined.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 mathematical fancies

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: This is a published NaNo novel about a late 1800s circus. I went in expecting a lot about the competition mentioned on the back cover, but honestly, the competition plotline wasn’t all that prominent. I’d keep reading, half forgetting about the competition and half wondering when it would show up throughout the middle. Despite this, it’s a good read with an interesting premise, competition aside.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 red items

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: I have a thing with stories about people living in wartime, World War 2 in particular. This one is beautiful, telling the story of a girl’s childhood in Nazi Germany after losing her family. It’s a very quick read despite its 500+ pages; I finished it in a day. And I’m not sure what else to say about this book besides being beautifully written with a compelling main character (and narrator).
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 stolen books

The Typewriter Girl by Alison Atlee: I chose this for the title and back cover. Despite the book being about a woman fighting to make it in Victorian England, I couldn’t get into it. Betsey is crass and spunky and lots of other things I like in my female main characters. The problem is that the rest of the cast were your typical Victorian fare. Most of them also sound the same, which got really confusing with the lack of dialogue tags during long conversations.
Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 typewriters

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman: Someone on Twitter recommended this to me, and I couldn’t resist because come on, mathematical dragons. The beginning was a little confusing with the introduction of a lot of terms and people at once, but the plot gets good quickly. There’s also lots of talk on art and philosophy and love and other topics, and none of it felt dumbed down for a YA audience. And the cast is quite lovable with their deep characterization.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 dragons

Messenger by Lois Lowry: Did you know The Giver is part of a quartet? I didn’t either. I read the second book a few years ago but never knew about books 3 and 4. This is the third book in that quartet, and it connects the characters in the first and second books. My only complaint is the narration falls apart a little toward the end. Still, I enjoyed this book and have already requested the fourth book.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle: The last unicorn goes out in search of other unicorns. Beagle’s prose is beautiful, and the story is no different. It practically reads like a fairy tale, and how could it not because unicorns. If you want a quick read, here’s one–I started it one night on the train and then finished the rest in an afternoon. P.S. UNICORNS.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 unicorns

Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman: If the name sounds familiar, that may be because Tupelo is a past NaNo staffer. This is a story about Rory’s childhood–her world growing up in a trailer park in Nevada, her family, and her experiences. The book is more like a collection of memories told in a nonlinear fashion. This was confusing at first, but I got used to it. I laughed, I gaped in horror, and at the end I felt like I was leaving a good friend behind. I just want to know: what happened to Rory?
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 Girl Scout badges

The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail–But Some Don’t by Nate Silver: The point of this book is to make you think probabilistically and critically about data. You know the ones: “60% of people blahblah”, “Scientists Say [some result here]“, the ones that so many people (including me at times) accept without digging into how that result arrived. And Silver explains all this clearly to even those who have no background in the field.
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 predictions

Bossypants by Tina Fey: I read a copy of the physical book (as opposed to the audiobook, which Tina herself narrated). It was still very funny–Tina Fey’s wit and observation are just as present in the book as in her TV works. I flew through this book. My only complaint is that the writing did seem less punchy in places, almost as if someone else was writing those parts (which could be true).
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 impersonations

Up next: Son by Lois Lowry. This is book four of The Giver’s series, and I’m really looking forward to it.

A few of my current blog post drafts

Sometimes I start blog posts and don’t finish them. This happens for a variety of reasons. I may find that I don’t have enough ideas to write a full-fledged coherent post. Or I start a post, get interrupted (or distracted, let’s be honest), and never finish. There are fourteen drafts sitting in my WordPress admin area at the moment, and let’s be honest. I’m never going to finish some of them.

Without further ado, here are a few of those drafts.

Post Title: The English Language and ‘Get’
Body: …nothing. Really. Nothing. I think the original plan was to discuss how ‘get’ has so many meanings and compare that to other languages. That was a hard part about learning French. I’d ask how to say ‘get’ and my French teacher would ask which meaning I meant. Turns out there are a lot of ways we use that word. Still, I’m not sure why this post never happened.

Post Title: (no title)

There’s a saying in the world of business that it’s not what you know; it’s who you know. This is especially true in the the world of small business. When you’re just getting started, knowing folks who can promote your business or give you advice or funding or any other things that a small business needs is extremely valuable. Since I follow web startups and have been trying to keep up with the local scene, hearing

This one’s another confusing one. I must have started this one while job searching, but where was I going with it? The value of getting to know people? How to annoy someone into hiring you?

Post Title: (no title)

My very first blog was on a site called Diaryland.

But I’m not asking you to ditch Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and Flickr and Instagram.

I’m just asking you to consider how much you’d miss your info if any of them shut down.

The message behind this one is pretty clear even to me. Internet services aren’t going to be around forever, and it’s a good idea in general not to rely on them, to keep your data portable in case something does shut down (or in my blogging cases, when I moved sites).

Post Title: Netflix for Books

You’re probably familiar with Netflix, the website where you pay a set fee every month in exchange for access to a large library of movies and TV shows. It was only a matter of time before someone adapted the Netflix model to other media.

There are several examples of this for music. Spotify, Grooveshark, and Rdio are the truest to the Netflix model. While you can access Spotify and Grooveshark for free, the paid plans offer things like mobile apps and unlimited access (and in Spotify’s case, ad removal).

But what about an equivalent version for books, where you pay a certain amount per month and get access to a large ebook collection?

This one I do vaguely remember. I was going to write about how sites like Oyster that claim to be Netflix for books aren’t the end of the book industry. Didn’t get very far, though.

Post Title: Let’s Talk About Spoilers

Note: This post doesn’t contain spoilers for any recently released media, but if you really want to know, spoilers for

I’m also a few hundred words into about five more drafts, so I’ll spare showing you the whole thing right now. Topics include Night of Writing Dangerously on a budget, 50k day and why I’m not doing it again, minimizing Internet annoyances, and one of my college math professors (who retired last year).

And there we have it, some of the posts I’ve never finished. Any of these you want to see?

tweetwc knows how many words you’ve tweeted

I passed 50,000 tweets recently. Because my life really is NaNoWriMo, I found myself wondering how many words these 50,000 tweets make. It turns out the Twitter archive gives you a CSV (comma separated values) file, something I can work with easily.

So I got to work writing a script that would do just this. The result is available on Github, and any comments/feedback are welcome. The script is licensed under the MIT license, so use it for whatever you want–just give credit and don’t blame me/sue me if things go wrong.

The tweetwc script looks at each row in your CSV file and first checks to see if the tweet in that row is a retweet. This is done by looking at the CSV file’s columns that are only filled if the tweet in question is a retweet. If the tweet is a retweet, the script skips that row and keeps going. But if the tweet isn’t a retweet, then the contents of the tweet are added to a separate plaintext file, along with a linebreak for ease of reading.

Once the script has executed, you can then count the words of this plaintext file or do other exciting things.

Of course, there are a few things I’d like to change about this script. tweetwc doesn’t currently count the words for you, instead relying on an external word counter of your choice to do so. I’d like to fix this. Also, you currently have to create the text file to write to before running the script. This should be an easy improvement. The big improvement is that the script doesn’t take into account old-school RTs and counts the full text of the tweet as part of your tweet word count.

What you need

Getting started with tweetwc is easy. You just need a few things:

* Your Twitter archive. You can request this from your Twitter profile. Unzip it and save the files somewhere you can remember.
* Python 2.7 (this may work with Python 3, but I haven’t confirmed.) Chances are good you already have Python on your computer if you use Linux or Mac OSX. But if you don’t, or if you run Windows, follow Zed Shaw’s instructions on installing Python.
* A terminal that accepts command line prompts. If you’re a Mac or Linux user, you probably already have one.
* a method of counting words. This may be the wc command or a word processor (like LibreOffice of MS Office) that can count words.
* The code itself. Get the source on Github.

Got those? Let’s get started.

1. Unzip your Twitter archive.
If you haven’t already, use winrar, unzip, or whatever you use to unzip files. Once you have, find your Twitter archive. The directory structure will look like this:

—a few files like index.html and the file we want, tweets.csv
—folders like css, data, img, js, and lib. Look around them if you like, but we don’t need them here.

If you like, you can open index.html in a browser for a pretty version of your archive. Today we’re using a different version of the archive. Find the file named tweets.csv. Make a note of what folder it’s in.

Example: my tweets.csv file is stored in /home/sushi/Backup/tweets/tweets.csv

2. Edit the path to your tweets.csv file.
Remember how you found the path to your tweets.csv file? Now open the file in a text editor of your choice and change the path to the file MY_FILE will refer to.

3. Open a terminal and run that code
Got a terminal open? Now go to the directory with your code with cd /path/to/that/directory. Enter python yourtweetfile.txt. The yourtweetfile.txt file is where this script will write your tweets. You can then use a word counter to count these words.

And you’re done! Questions? Let me know.

2014 Summer Reading Bingo

Lately I’ve been thinking about how I miss summer reading programs. You know, you go to the library, check out a bunch of books, and read read read. When I was a kid there were prizes and fun times involved, and I seem to remember winning something for reading the most books or something.

But now that I’m an adult, summer reading programs for me are rare if they exist at all. Maybe it’s because the adults who do like reading are reading all year long. Or maybe libraries don’t have the funds (probably true). Or because most adults don’t have a summer off like kids do.

Whatever the case, I miss them, and my local library doesn’t have one for adults. So I decided to make one.

Enter Summer Reading Bingo.

Someone on Twitter mentioned a summer reading bingo, so I decided to make my own. Here’s the card I plan on using:


(Uh, I accidentally included a category twice and didn’t notice, hence the new font. Oops.)

Want your own card? It’s easy. I used this bingo card generator. Create a 5×5 bingo card with a free space. Here’s the word list I used; feel free to add or suggest some:

Science Fiction,Fantasy,Horror,Romance,Banned Book,Award-Winning Book,Self-Published,NYT Bestseller,Historical Novel,Nonfiction,First Book in a Series,LGBT,Set Somewhere You’d Like to Visit,Set where you live,Set Outside of Earth,New (to you) genre,Young Adult,In the Public Domain,Made into a Movie,Mystery,Recommended to You,(Auto)biography,Humor,Poetry,Released in the last year,Nonhuman main character,Author’s first book,Topic you’re new to,Chose it for the cover,Short story collection,Contemporary,Author’s newest book,Minority main character,Set in the future,You met the author,From the library,From an indie bookstore

Once you’ve created a card you can print it out or draw it on paper the old-fashioned way. Get five in a row to make a bingo!

There’s no real deadline for this, but if you’d like one, I suggest Labor Day [insert applicable end-of-summer holiday for your country]. And of course, you can read books that don’t count toward your bingo card as well. This challenge is just to push you outside your literary comfort zone a little. And that’s something all of us could use.

Happy reading!

Book reviews: (almost) everything I read in May

I set a goal to read fifteen books in May. Today’s the 29th and I’m about to start number seventeen. Here’s what I’ve been reading, now with shorter reviews because I don’t feel like writing longer ones (and you probably don’t want to read this many long reviews).

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer: I didn’t really like this book. The multiple points of view added more confusion than clarity, and to be honest, I only found myself caring about the actual quest, not the backstory that led to the quest.
Goodreads rating: 2 out of 5 photographs

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins: I enjoyed The Hunger Games and finally gave this book a shot. While the Hunger Games concentrated on well, the Games, this book tells the story of the aftermath of Katniss and her actions. The narrative is for the
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 survivors

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins: The last Hunger Games book. This book was… okay. The narrative isn’t quite as tight as in the first two books, dragging on in points. I’m also not a fan of the ending. No, it’s not because I shipped Katniss with the other guy.
Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 revolutionaries

Coraline by Neil Gaiman: Okay, I didn’t find this as delightfully creepy as the book is touted to be, but it was still a good and quick read.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 other parents

Once Upon a Number by John Allen Paulos: On the relationship between statistics and stories. He rambles sometimes, but I found the book easily digestible. You don’t need to know advanced math to read it, though!
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 mathematical stories

Spellbound by Janet McDonald: I’m a sucker for spelling bee stories. Sure, this one’s a little campy, but I enjoyed the different perspective, one I might not have sought out on my own.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 spelling bees

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson: I’ve heard great things about this book, so when I saw it, I grabbed it. And it doesn’t disappoint. Fair warning: it’s not a happy book by any means.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 utterances

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner: This book is just good. It doesn’t have a central theme but instead explores many cultural phenomena and how sometimes unrelated things can in fact be related. This thinking outside the box skill is one everyone needs to learn.
Goodreads rating: 5 out of 5 correlations

Language, Culture, and Society: An Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology by Zdenek Salzmann: Informative, easily readable, and written at a good pace. I read an older edition of the book, but I’d imagine this applies to future editions.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 languages

Storm Front by Jim Butcher: I’ve heard a lot about ths Dresden Files, and the first book was worth the read. Not sure if I’ll commit to the series yet, but if I stumble across the second book, I’ll grab it.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 wizards

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins: I’m an ex-Christian, so this book mostly reaffirmed that belief. (I now feel obligated to read a book on a topic I don’t agree with.) Dawkins tears down just about every argument that one might use to establish one’s belief, along with religion and what it does to culture.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 arguments

Redshirts by John Scalzi: A bunch of folks on a ship that turns out to be stranger than it sounds… It’s a quick and fun read, but I had a hard time telling some of the characters apart. Which is kind of the point in a way… but spoilers.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 redshirts

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz: I tried to like this book, and not just because I fistbumped the author once. But in the end it was just okay. Yes, Diaz has a way with words, but I couldn’t find the ability to care about the characters mentioned in the past.
Goodreads rating: 3 out of 5 curses

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow: This book is scary real, and I zoomed my way through it in one evening. Good plot, good characters, good (though sometimes scary) message. Sometimes the technical bits (which are well-explained) feel like infodumps, and the ending felt rushed. But oveall a fun read.
Goodreads rating: 4 out of 5 hacks

Up next: J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. I know it’s not going to be Harry Potter. But still, I’m looking forward to reading something else by JKR.