Book #31, 2010 Review (fitness edition)

Book #31 for 2010, posted yesterday at Reading Notes:
The Burial at Thebes, a version of Sophocles’ Antigone by Seamus Heaney

I adore Heaney’s translation of Beowulf, so the lit-geek in me squeed when I saw that he’d done translations of two of Sophocles’ plays.

I read Antigone in college. That was over ten years ago, but I don’t recall being unhappy with the translation I read. Not like Beowulf. With Beowulf, I was required to read an utterly dry prose version. I might be wrong about this, but I’m not sure it’s ever a good idea to turn poetry into prose when translating a work. When I came across Heaney’s Beowulf, it was like a breath of frosty Viking sea air. Since I lacked the utter disappointment of hearing a bad cover of Antigone first, Heaney’s version had to stand strong on its own.

It certainly does. Each character is given a cadence to their speech which gives more indication of mood than any stage direction could. Heaney does not shrink from emphasizing the parallels between this story and modern arguments of patriotism. Love of country shouldn’t be defined by disdain for others, Creon’s mistake. And I’m reminded of the interesting relationship the Greek authors had with their female characters. Antigone continually states that she’s doing her duty as a woman and will stand up for it. Creon belittles her for being just a woman, while everyone around him seems to state, "Doesn’t matter what she is. She’s right."

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Fitness stuff:

Average daily calories consumed: 1839
Average daily calories expended: 1878
Considering that my weight hasn’t changed, that sounds about right. I should up my activity.

According to FitDay, I played 70 hours of ultimate frisbee (expending just over 28,000 calories) and ran 100 miles (18hrs 50min, expending 9600 calories).

In general, it’s difficult to say whether my body has deteriorated. I still haven’t come up with a satisfactory way of tracking pain. I also need to be aware that fatigue is a symptom. In February, around the time of the Skirt Chaser 5K, I had a bit of a flare up. After I returned from Omaha, I threw my back out. I don’t even remember how or when, exactly, but the pain was different than other times, extending into my quads. I used some stretches for sciatica to relieve that. Had a bad cold in the summer. Took me about a week to shake the cough. Felt pretty good during fall league. Made it through finals with no problems at all. Been a little creaky since then.

Book #30 & 2010 Reading Review

Book #30 – Staying Sane in the Arts by Eric Maisel

I am vaguely dissatisfied with this book. Many writers I know think very highly of Eric Maisel and I wanted to see what he was about.

Maybe this isn’t a good representative work. I don’t know. It’s light on philosophy. Honestly, it’s light on everything. The breadth of this book is enormous. It strives to encompass artists of all natures at every stage in their careers. It wants to offer advice to the struggling unknown and the superstar. To the concert musician, the painter, and the poet. All in 250 pages.

Also, there are a few basic tenants that don’t agree with. I don’t believe there is a fundamental difference between "artists" & "non-artists" and "art" & "genre art." I believe it takes as much creativity to be a great engineer as a great novelist. Granted, there is a difference in what abilities people have and how their jobs are structured, but it’s a disservice to view "art" in vaguely mythological terms. And while it’s good to talk about the compromises one might make in an effort to make a living in art, commercial art is kind of bad-mouthed. Which doesn’t fly when your audience is a "genre" writer.

Maybe I shouldn’t have read it all at once. Do people read self-help books straight through? There are a few good suggestions for guided writing exercises, but nothing ever truly gelled for me.

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So, ending on a down note considering a primarily good reading experience in 2010. This has been a stand-out year, mostly because I quit reading books I didn’t care for. There are too many books in the world to waste time reading ones I don’t like. Two high points: Tyler recommending Erik Larson to me and Chris loaning me the Horus Heresy books. Yay, for being social, I guess. The breakdown:

30 books read.
16 by authors that were new to me.
5 by female authors.
6 nonfiction.
2 rereads.
5 read in electronic form (and I don’t even have an e-reader!)
3 from the library.
3 loaned to me.

Plus a bunch of short stories. I plan on keeping better track of them in 2011.

Acquired 24 books in 2010.
6 purchased used via the library sale and Book Maze.
3 were gifts.
13 were acquired from PaperBack Swap.

Plus there are a few on the way that I don’t think are going to make it here by the end of the year:
5 from Amazon.com – gifts.
2 from PaperBackSwap.

Vague plan for 2011 is posted at Reading Notes.

Negative Fractional Giraffes and the Rest of my 2010 Task List

This is what I want to do with the rest of the year:

Write two 52|250 pieces. Keith sent me a link to a The Atlantic article about EtherPad, a word processor that will record work in real time. And then play it back! If I write with it, you will be able to see every finger fumble and questionable phrase. I mean, the ones I do catch before publication.

Finish reading Returning My Sister’s Face by  and Staying Sane in the Arts by Eric Maisel. Thus, finishing 30 books in 2010.

Watch both seasons of Intelligence. Eric does go on about TV shows he likes. He found this one on Netflix Instant and thinks highly of it.

Learn some linear algebra. This started with a conversation between Eric and I about Flixster’s compatibility test and how ratings are weighted and compared between two people. Eric started working on a matrix which lead me to a "dude, show me" moment. He jauntily passed me his old linear algebra textbook.  I’ve learned about Gaussian elimination and Gauss-Jordan elimination and done enough problems to dream about it. Except, in my dreams, I’m trying to do Gauss-Jordan eliminations with words and objects. Negative fractional giraffes are a pain in arse.

Run 4.5 miles. To make an even 100 miles for the year. Which is up from last year, but less than half of what I ran in 2008.

Finish updating social networks/webpages. I am all over the place…

Have a good long talk with Eric about Luck for Hire in anticipation of RoW80. The other night at dinner Tyler asked if I had a writing challenge or some such planned and RoW80 completely slipped my mind. I’m not sure whether that was because I hadn’t talked to Eric about it (thus making it more "real") or if I didn’t consider it a "challenge." To me, it’s meant to be an aggressive though sensible plan, not NaNoWriMo insane.

Thing I want to do in 2011: play in a beach ultimate tournament. I haven’t. I want to. Preferably with the funnest group of players possible because my body will probably pay for it later.

FridayFlash, What I’m not reading, Plans, Being semi-social

I have flash fiction, posted on a Friday: 129 Southbound at 52|250. There’s an odd formatting thing going on with this story. A few letters and parts of letters have been truncated.

Been cleaning-up my "currently reading" list. Reading Notes has details about why I abandoned Machine of Death and Strangers on a Train.

In general, I’m getting excited about starting new "plans" in the new year. Yeah, my track record with "plans" isn’t great, but it’s probably not harmful to use them to be productive for a while. The reading end is outlined over at Reading Notes. As for the writing, I’ll be participating in A Round of Words in 80 Days. My goal will be 50K words on Luck for Hire. I’ll post specifics closer to the date.

I’ve also been sorting through some of my social networks in an effort streamline. In the meantime, I’ve been pretty hermit-y. Online at least. Eric and I had dinner at La Grande Orange on Sunday with Tyler, Reif and Jeff. Tasty, interesting pizza. I think my favorite of what we had was the Rocket Man: occasionally spicy red fresno chiles, broccolini, roasted garlic and oven-dried tomatoes. We’ll be having dinner with Eric’s family this weekend in honor of Eric’s graduation, followed by Christmas festivities, and Chris being in town until January.

Book #28 – Galaxy in Flames

Book #28 – Galaxy in Flames by Ben Counter

This is the last of a beginning trilogy, although I think the series has expanded well past original expectations. Horus Rising and False Gods set the ground work for the Horus Heresy, and Galaxy in Flames extends into the first battles of it. To be spoilery, there are quite a few deaths. To Ben Counter’s credit (as well as Dan Abnett’s and Graham McNeill’s) I cared about these deaths *and* I care about this world. Which leaves me conflicted about the next book. How can we go on without these characters (and I truly hope there are no thought-he-was-dead-but-he’s-not shenanigans)? And yet, how’s this going to turn out for the world at large?

This series continues to impress me. My only criticism is that occasionally, the descriptions of battles and armor go on a little too long. Even still there are quite a few very good passages that I can learn from.

More at Reading Notes

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My body seems to be going back and forth on a daily basis between feeling fine and barely tolerable aching. Wanted to go play some disc tonight. Not gonna happen.

Book #27a and 27b

Book #27a – Doctor Illuminatus by Martin Booth

Received an ARC of this way-back-when at a convention. It’s "Middle Grade Fiction" and part one of two. The premise: When a family moves into an old English estate, they wake Sebastian, the son of an alchemist, who has been in suspended animation for the last 600 years. The archenemy of Sebastian’s father is still in the world as well and is bent on creating a homunculus. Despite some hand-wavy things (like the whole suspended animation bit), homunculi and historically based alchemy are pretty cool concepts. Unfortunately the book is somewhat tedious. There are pastoral descriptions of the English countryside. There is a great deal of exposition as Sebastian explains what’s going on to Tim and Pip, our young protagonists. (At one point, I wished that this book were not about the kids in the present day, but the backstory involving Henry VI, the Duke of Gloucester and Henry Beaufort. Now, there’s a story with some breadth!) What the book lacks is a system for alchemy and characters that I cared about. Despite assurances that a homunculus would be the End of the World as We Know It, I never felt like anyone was in peril because the mysterious Sebastian will solve every problems. It’s deus ex machina in a 10-year-old body with a 600-year-old mind. Plot-wise, I felt more suspense about whether this book was going to be somewhat self-contained (knowing that there is a sequel) or a cliff-hanger. (Self-contained, in fact. And there doesn’t seem to be much over-arching plot.)

Book #27b – Fairy School Dropout by Meredith Badger

I went on Christmas book scouting mission last week and saw this on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. I figured Hannah would probably enjoy it. It’s a fun book about a fairy that is not very good at being a fairy. She is fairly certain she wants to give up on the whole concept of fairy-dom until she helps her next door neighbor fulfill a wish. The asides about the "truth about fairies" are a bit sly and the situations are appropriately amusing for an eight-year-old.

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In the land of Reverb:

December 5 – Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley)
I spent some time yesterday contemplating this. Honestly, I can’t come up with anything. If I’ve let things go, I’ve let them go to such an extent that they are gone from my mind. What’s more likely is that I never really let go of anything. On the plus side, my grip is never that tight.

December 6 – Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)
Made aside from writing? Made aside from coffee? Probably putting together the Halloween prizes for the VOTS costume contest. It was an artful arrangement of candy and silly toys in a dish, though I did make little tags warning people not to eat the glow sticks. I haven’t done much in the way of visual arts this year. I think working on smaller writing pieces has taken up that time. That’s not a bad thing.

Wonder & Book #26

Reverb10: December 4 – Wonder.
How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)

Is a sense of wonder something you can cultivate? Maybe, I guess. I did an exercise earlier in the year in which I listed things I’m drawn to, which is really a list of things that I find to be wonderful. I suppose that’s a good way for anyone to cultivate a sense of wonder. I didn’t do it with that intent, it just happened that way. Otherwise, I think it’s a matter of taking a step back and saying, "Dude, that’s kinda cool."

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Book #26 – The Return of the King by J. R. R. Tolkien

There. I did it. I made my way through the entirety of the Lord of the Rings saga. I started about two years ago with Tor’s read-through. I finished ahead of schedule because I wanted to finish by the end of the year. Here are my impressions of The Return of the King: In light of the tension of "Shelob’s Lair," it’s a bit slow. I loath Denethor. "The Scourging of the Shire" is bizarrely Orwellian in light of the high fantasy of the rest.

Other reading:
"The Price" by Neil Gaiman – No deep notes on this one. It’s just a solid, enjoyable story.
"Ponies" by Kij Johnson – A parable of icky, squirmy truth.