How To Read 3650 Pages In A Year

I’ve been doing a little bit of research lately to try and get more eyeballs onto my blog, and one of the things I’ve been trying to do is read what other people are writing.  That’s something I’ve been neglecting for some time.

One of the articles that I found was from the blog Flight Headed (www.flightheaded.com).  It was called, “How and Why You Should Read 3650 Pages  Worth of Books A Year“.  It is as the title suggests – an article suggesting that you should read 3650 pages of books in a year.

That honestly sounds like a lot.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows hovers around 500 pages.  A Game of Thrones is 873 pages, and A Dance With Dragons clocks in at 1200+.  If you’re adding with me, that’s 2573, leaving 1077 pages to go and that’s only 3 books.

Author Chris Flores breaks it down a bit more reasonably.  Flores suggests reading just 10 pages a day, which is where the number 3650 comes from (365 days x 10 pages = 3650).  If even that seems daunting, the suggestion is to read 5 pages a day – which is still 1825 pages!

But the point isn’t really the amount of pages you should read.  The number, like I said, simply comes from being something that is manageable on a per-day level.  10 pages?  That takes 15-20 minutes, depending on your reading speed.  Sure, you can find time out of your day to do that.  You probably read that much in online articles and blogs.  It’s a much easier ask than throwing a book at someone and telling them to read it in two weeks.

I won’t re-hash the benefits of reading that Flores outlines (check out his blog post, he really does a good job describing the benefits).  Instead, what sparked me to write this was what clicked in my head after reading the article.  I often lament that I don’t have time (or don’t make time) to read, and as a result have many books just sitting on the shelf.

To look at things in a “10 page a day” pace, it makes things much more manageable.  I’m currently reading Catalyst by James Luceno; its length is 288 pages and I’m on page 177.  111 pages?  If I read just 10 pages a day I’ll be done in 10 days.

Update: Actually, I wrote this last week – since then I just finished reading Catalyst last night – see my Goodreads entry on it if you’re interested!

Currently I have a goal to read 25 books this year (including comic books / graphic novels); I’ve read 11 so far.  I plan on getting as close to 25 as I can using this new-found reading spark.  I’ve got a lot of good books waiting to be read, and I keep finding more!

Historical Inaccuracies in Hidden Figures

I missed the boat when Hidden Figures was first in theatres, and finally caught up with it when I picked up the Blu-Ray in July.  I really liked the movie!  The cast was really good, and even though I recognized a lot of the bigger names, they took a back seat to the persona of the characters they were playing.

One of the bigger nitpicks in this movie – and 2012’s Argo – is that it’s historically inaccurate.  Critics of the film complain that in Hidden Figures, it’s silly to show Katherine Johnson racing the clock to complete some calculations so that John Glenn’s historic flight can take place.  Other complaints were that the issue of segregated bathrooms was partially invented by the movie to create a challenge.

I’m okay with all of that.  I am aware that I am watching a movie, which has to contain certain elements in order to function as a movie.  I feel that the purpose of movies such as this are to show people an overview of what happened – as long as they are sticking mostly to the facts of the life they’re telling, it’s understandable they take some liberties.  One of the functions – at least that’s my belief – is that they jump start curiosity and get people to look up the full story.

That’s exactly what I do, almost every time I watch a movie based on actual events.  I look up what really happened.  I don’t mind learning about several inaccuracies along the way.  It’s only really a problem if the movie creates falsehoods that obscure the real story.  In writing that, I realize that technically Hidden Figures and Argo create some falsehoods – but the difference is that they do so to raise tension for a story, but are still telling the underlying truth.

I can think of similar movies that probably have many historical inaccuracies, but still work.  Apollo 13, for one.  42.  The Blind Side.  Moneyball.  Coach Carter.  The Martian.  (I kid).  If you look up the events they’re based on, you often find paragraphs that go something like, “In the movie, this event happened, but in reality…”

Why is this a problem?  A lot of these movies are made for a dual purpose – entertainment as well as education.  But in order to get made, they need to bring in money, so they need to bend the truth a little bit in order to be successful.

There will always be little embellishments of the truth in movies based on true events – life is never as perfect as a 3-act movie will have you believe.  Just sit back, enjoy it, and then relish in the fun of reading about the true events afterward.

I’ve Had Enough of You, Yoast SEO

When I started this new blog in January, my number one goal – and today it’s still the number one goal – was to engage readers.  That hasn’t exactly happened.  But that’s okay, and I’m still working on it.

But one of the reasons I pushed forward and bought a domain name with a WordPress installation was because I kept getting told I needed to be able to use plugins!  And that I’d never get anywhere without a domain name!

Sadly, I think I was oversold on the domain name.  Nonetheless, one of the plugins that kept getting pushed over on Reddit’s blogging subreddit was “Yoast SEO”.  The long and short of it is that Yoast SEO is designed to help you craft your posts to optimize them for SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

I’ve had enough of Yoast SEO intruding in my writing.

I’ve definitely noticed since activating the plugin that I’m changing the way I might traditionally write a post, and that my own personal voice is marginalized.  I don’t like it anymore, and tailoring my posts to perform well with search engines isn’t doing me any favours, anyway.

So I’m ditching it, officially.  Consider this a negative review, and not just a pat on my own back.

If you’ve never used it before, Yoast SEO prompts you for a keyword (apparently several keywords if you have premium) and scans your post for SEO efficiency, giving you a red, yellow, or green light based on what you’ve written.

You get more points for adding images, headings, etc.  Some of it makes sense to me.  But some of it absolutely doesn’t – and maybe that’s a fault of my not understanding SEO, but I can tell you with certainty that I don’t feel like searching for or creating a random image to insert just because it increases my Yoast rating.

I think this is just my personal use-case showing through here; I believe that for people with focused, niche-oriented blogs, Yoast SEO might in fact be extremely beneficial for them.  It’s just not for me.

If you’ve had better experience with Yoast, let me know in the comments!  I’d love to be proven wrong, and given a lesson or two on how to use it and avoid losing my writing voice.

Adding to the Family

Well, August was certainly a busy month.  I didn’t get to all of the comic books that I meant to write about.  I’m still going to read them, and put reviews up, but I really dropped the ball.  In fact, over the entire summer, I feel like I’ve dropped the ball with the consistent posting.  So timing things with everyone going back to school, I’m getting back to consistency.

New Addition

This past Labour Day weekend, we made a last minute decision to adopt a new puppy.  You’ll remember back in April we lost our dog Hank; it was hard going through these last few months without little feet following behind us, and we grew used to a quieter house (sort of).

Bailey with her new toy on her way to her new home.
Bailey with her new toy on her way to her new home.

Enter Bailey: a 1-year-old puppy who has loads of energy.  All we knew about her was that she was a beagle mix, and her vet records were kept up to date.  We’re not sure what she’s mixed with, but based on observation we think she’s part boxer.

We’re both learning – for Vanessa and I, we’ve learned that she still needs a lot of training and learning about her personality.  Bailey is learning the same about our particular life rhythms.

One thing is for certain – she’s not going anywhere.  She’s super cute, and despite needing some additional training, we know that we’re going to get along fine.  I know that I certainly can’t complain, especially when I’m going to hit my FitBit step goal with no problems two days in a row.

Bailey hard at work in the home office
Bailey hard at work in the home office

I can proudly say that she’s only destroyed objects of minimal importance so far – and we take responsibility for leaving her on her own for too long.  Other than that, she isn’t doing too bad.

I look forward to writing more about her, but for now, enjoy another picture of her sleeping.

Bailey Sleeping
Bailey Sleeping

Adventures Into Darkness #10 – Review

This comic was a complete surprise to me, and not at all on my initial list of comic books to review.  I found it by complete surprise, when I was looking for creative commons images to use on my initial blog post introducing the comic book review series I was about to write.

Adventures Into Darkness #10
Adventures Into Darkness #10

Adventures Into Darkness #10 was originally published in June 1953, and rather than being one complete story, is an anthology book featuring about 9 different stories in the horror-suspense genre.

The cover story, The Man Who Could Not Die, is the longest of the bunch and is front and centre in the book as the first story.  The cover actually depicts a different story – The Man Who Could Not Die is a story about a 5000-year-old man hiring a hitman to kill himself – because he is unable to die due to a pact made with Death.

I got a really good kick out of this book.  The writing is clever, if not a bit predictable (it hits on a lot of tropes that have been done to death – excuse the pun – at this point, but would have been fresh in 1953).

Most of the stories in the book are short, the shortest lasting one page at the end of the book.  Definitely worth checking out for a quick read; I think I may have a look at the rest of the stories in this particular collection!

Batman – A Word to the Wise – Review

Batman – “A Word to the Wise” – Review

Batman - A Word to the Wise
Batman – A Word to the Wise

Branded content has been around for a long time.  It’s usually pretty good for marketing.  You provide content that people will enjoy and attach your name to it.  Branded podcasts are starting to pop up now.

But never before have I seen a branded comic book, apart from Batman “A Word to the Wise”.  Here’s an excerpt from the fine print on the first page:

This comic book has been sponsored by Zellers Inc. to support and promote the cause for literacy in Canada.

No kidding on the fine print here – I actually used a magnifying glass to read it.

The Story

The comic begins in Montreal, Quebec, where some kids are trying to get a good view of fireworks.  Batman swoops in to save the day when one such kid ignores warning signs on a rickety fire escape, suggesting that a little bit of reading goes a long way!

We turn to Toronto, where Joey is trying to convince Joanie to ditch the boring library and go to the Canadian National Exhibition – which apparently won’t wait forever, you know.

Batman drives in the middle of the road.
Batman drives in the middle of the road.

Meanwhile, Batman, driving in the middle of the road between Montreal and Toronto, comments on how nice the drive is, and that it’s no wonder The Joker would make his way down to Toronto.  I guess there’s logic there?  The Joker likes farmhouses and country side?  Moving on.

Apparently The Joker is after a rare 1867 edition of “The Geography of Canada”, and was making his way across the country, starting in Newfoundland.  He’s made his way to Toronto, and that’s where Batman is headed (thanks to insight from his Bat-Computer).  Thanks to the wonders of 90’s technology, Batman is able to immediately fax a copy of his reports to the RCMP!

Batman tracks down Joker to a library, but he escapes.  But the book The Joker is after is with Joanie – who is now in danger!  Batman tracks down Joanie, but The Joker follows Batman and traps them all in the CNE.

The Joker gets his hand on the rare geography book, and tears it in half – disappointed that “it” isn’t in the book.  Apparently, there’s something inside this rare geography book that he’s looking for.  What could it be?

Zellers!
Zellers!

Batman, using Joanie and Joey’s help (after all, they know more about Canada than Batman does!), head west after the Joker to Alberta, and make stop “at the local Zellers store just outside Edmonton.”  They proceed to note that it’s “terrific that there’s always a Zellers nearby when you need one”.

Batman is too late, as the Joker found the parchment in the binding of the geography book he was looking for.  It looks like Joker’s headed to the Calgary Stampede (or perhaps, just a rodeo?) to make some sort of announcement to the world.

Joker claims that the parchment he found was a land grant, giving him full legal claim to all of North America west of Cape Spear.  He demands to be proclaimed rightful ruler of the entire continent within 24 hours or have the entire populace evicted.

Batman hog-ties The Joker in record time, and saves the day.  The RCMP arrive to deal with everything else Batman leaves behind, leaving the issue of this strange land grant!

Apparently the option on the deed had to be exercised within 125 years of the date of signing, but this very day happens to be 125 years and ONE day after the signing!  So Joker’s claim is void.  His henchmen tell him he should have read the fine print, and Joey realizes that reading DOES have its uses after all!

Fantastic Lines

This book is as cheesy as it gets, and definitely follows the mold of Adam West’s Batman with lines like:

“You heard the lady!  This is a library – and your card’s just been cancelled!”

There are some other gems, like:

“Look, can we just shelve this reading stuff for the time being?”

The writing is actually not that bad, for a commercial tie-in.  I think the best moment in the book is when Batman hog ties The Joker, and yells out, “Clear!” – clearly knowing exactly what to do in a rodeo.  You see, children, Batman is well-read.  See how useful reading is?

My takeaway

Throughout the entire book, there are double-sided, single page ads with coupons advertising various products sold only at Zellers.  As an adult, it’s fairly obvious that this comic book was designed completely to advertise, but if you were a kid reading it, it would just be a fun Batman story.

And for a piece of branded content, this was actually quite good.  The Joker seems to be very much in character (he has some cheesy tricks up his sleeve – literally – and dresses up like a cowboy).  The plot, while simple, doesn’t seem to have any holes in it.  I think that’s BECAUSE it’s so simple.

Anyway, if you ever come across this book – it’s worth picking up for some of the strange appearances in it; I mean, seeing a big Zellers store front show up on one of the pages is something you don’t normally see (and naturally, will never see again).

2.5 out of 5!

Comic Book Review Series

Comic books, man.

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is create an online comic, or write a comic book.  The only problem is that I can’t draw worth a hill of beans.  And I’m not a super avid reader of comics, but there are a select few that I’ve found that I enjoy.

These aren't the comic books I'm talking about, but they look cool!
These aren’t the comic books I’m talking about, but they look cool!

So I thought I would spend the month of August reading and reviewing comic books – both physical and online.  I have a bit of a backlog building on my shelf that I want to power through.  Posts are going to come out at least weekly, but I will likely have some bonus posts to throw up because I think I have more comics to talk about than there are weeks in the month.

This one is also pretty cool.  Now I wish I could add it to my list.
This one is also pretty cool. Now I wish I could add it to my list.

Here’s a preview of some of the comics I’m going to review, in no particular order:
– Atomic Robo Volume 1
– Universe Vol 01 (from http://panelsyndicate.com/)
– The Private Eye Vol 01 (from http://panelsyndicate.com/)
– Barrier (from http://panelsyndicate.com/)
– Batman “A Word to the Wise” (Strange Zellers tie-in from 1992)
– Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn
– Poe Dameron: Black Squadron (Vol 1, issues 1-6)
– Suicide Squad “Blood & Snow” Part Two (near as I can tell, issue 12 from April 1988)

That list in itself grew as I was typing up this entry as I find more things to read.  This is not ideal but also great at the same time.  Anyway, I have a lot of reading to do (and this is on top of trying to finish a bunch of novels) so I’d better get cracking!

Long Journey

I was going to post something about a Batman comic I found in my collection the other day (it’s pretty great, ironically).  But I haven’t gotten to writing that up yet.

Instead I’ve been thinking about my weight loss progress a lot lately.  I haven’t really made any progress, at least not on the scale.  I haven’t taken any measurements lately, but I will be doing that at the end of the month.  I’ve been hovering around the same weight for the last month or so, again according to the scale.

The only thing is that I have no other data to back up what I’m doing.  I still log my weight every day in MyFitnessPal, even when I don’t weight myself.  I think I decided to do this because I’ve got a Google Spreadsheet updating automatically every day with my weight, so not having an entry every day creates gaps.  It’s all about the data!

But I haven’t been logging any food in MFP.  As far as I can see, the last date I entered my food for a full day was Wednesday June 28th.  Woops.  I go through this kind of cycle every now and then – I enter my food rigorously for a short period, and then I get tired of doing it.  Either because I’m not seeing any results, or else it’s too difficult to be accurate with my entries.

It’s fine to take a break – weight loss is a hard, long journey.  At some point I feel like you need to give yourself a break.  Don’t go hog wild and reverse your progress – just take it easy with the careful logging of everything.  I feel like my eating habits are ingrained enough that I’m able to keep my calories in mostly maintenance mode, and I know that I’ve been active enough to offset anything extra.

Is that something normal people do though?  Maybe I’m doing it wrong.  Maybe that’s why I’m having such a tough time since my successes 3-4 years ago.

Well, for the umpteenth time I’m going to start everything over August 1st.  And I mean everything.  Today, I’m going to stop my automatic weight loss logging (which if you’re curious, is being done via a combination of IFTTT / FitBit / Google Drive).  I’m going to let my 100-day MFP streak die, and only let it continue if I truly make an entry.

On July 31st, I’m going to get a new starting weight and measurements.  Beyond that I haven’t set any goals.  That’s something I need to think about.

Story Idea Up For Grabs

I got a story idea a few weeks ago, but I haven’t really bothered to put pen to paper to develop it at all.  So it’s now up for grabs!

Take them.
Take them.

I was listening to Almost Educational Episode 131 about time travel.  At some point while I was listening, the idea for a piece of flash fiction popped into my head.  Unfortunately, as is usually the case with my ideas, if I don’t act on it fast, the motivation to do it fades pretty quickly.

The main premise is this: The phenomenon known as “frequency illusion” (also known as the “Baader-Meinhof phenomenon”) is actually a ripple effect caused by some kind of change to the timeline in the past.

That’s about as far as I got with the idea, so I’d love to see what someone can come up with here.  If it’s already been done, point me in the right direction!

Favourite 80’s Mythical Monster Movies

I watched 1984’s Splash (starring Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah and John Candy) last weekend, finally crossing that comedy off my list.  It got me thinking about my favourite movies growing up, and a lot of them had the same theme: mythical monsters.

I’m not sure if there’s actually a genre for these movies, but this fits best as far as I can tell.  If you weren’t familiar with Splash before, it’s about a man searching for love who finds it in the form of a mermaid, temporarily granted legs for a short pe

riod.

 

We had a lot of movies taped off TV growing up, and one of the tapes that got repeat views was a little-known movie called Bigfoot.  It was one of ABC’s “Wonderful World of Disney” presentations, but other than that, until looking it up on IMDB, I knew nothing about it.  I assumed it was either made for TV or had a small theatrical release – apparently it was part of “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color”.

Bigfoot (1987)
Bigfoot (1987)

This movie had some pretty great production value for a made-for-TV movie, if you ask me.  Sure, Harry and the Hendersons is probably the most recognized Sasquatch film out there from the 80’s, but Bigfoot is my favourite.  It’s got comedy moments and even a little bit of suspense.  If you’re young enough, it can even be scary at times.

Some other mythical monster movies I remember watching – Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (which I should re-visit, one day).  Actually, that’s about all I remember.  What are some other good ones from the 80s?