"How Much is Enough?" - a very interesting article on morality which takes a wide number of viewpoints. As usual, I don't fully understand it and I certainly don't have any reasons to pick one viewpoint over another when the competing viewpoints disagree. The argument of "well, I happen to be doing this anyway, and the those think it's right, so I'm with them and don't need to change my behaviour" is clearly one of convenience. (Is it better than nothing?) Thoughts from philosophers, both barroom and formally educated, eagerly solicited.
Transport: as discussed, I'm off to London and later Oxford (in about
Teessiders, don't forget the Evening Gazette offer of limited advance-booking return train travel between Darlington and London for £15 and Darlington and Edinburgh for £10 - tokens are due to be printed until the end of the month, so it's still possible to take advantage. A check reveals that it is possible to book a trip which starts from the London end; theoretically, it ought to be possible to book a return train trip from London to Edinburgh for £25 this way if you get the right GNER operator. Middlesbrough folk - that is, those who are still in Middlesbrough at the time - can likely help you with obtaining the tokens.
I am poorly read and want to do something about it, which is why I resolved to read 50 books in 2004. 2004 progress: 15th January (c. 4%). Books read so far: 0 (c. -0.1%). This is because I am a serial sequentialiser and in my mind "writing about the books I read in 2003" must come first before reading books in 2004. Accordingly I will have to produce a number of quarter-assed summaries rather than even slightly proper reviews, but I can theoretically go back and write proper reviews later. I claim to have probably read 10 books in 2003, though you can definitely argue it down to 4½.
1) Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow - counts as half, arguably, because I read the ebook. Read due to good reviews and because the author is an old-school blogger. Sci-fi set in an immensely conencted, post-scarcity world. I liked the universe that he established; it looks like a fun one in which to play and explore. Unfortunately, I wasn't taken by the characters or the story. However, I wouldn't mind reading fanfic set in the Bitchun Society, if such exists.
2) The Dragon Hunter's Handbook: A Field Guide to the Paranormal by Lori (madlori) Summers - counts as half, arguably, because it's a slim little book aimed at pre-teens. Read at MacT00bage because I've met the author and really enjoy her work. A fine collection of dragon legend with a pleasingly scientific, curious style; I suspect some of it represents Lori's original extension to the mythology and fits in seamlessly. Appropriately and entertainingly illustrated in a style very similar to what we would later know as ready.gov.
3) Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb - counts as half, arguably, because I think I reread it in 2003 after having read it first in 2002. Read because it's set in the familiar world of con fandom and because I read the same zine (Hopscotch) as the author's husband. I enjoyed and recognised the vignettes and the familiar quirks of fandom; lovable characters, but the story takes second place. Hmm - again, scope for good fanfic.
4) Dead Famous by Ben Elton. Counts as whole! Read because hawkida reviewed it unfavourably and it was second-hand to her; in turn, I am prepared to pass it on to a fourth LiveJournalist in a BookCrossing stylee because it really isn't a keeper. The setting is a thinly disguised version of the Big Brother game show; the characters are all very recognisable to those who saw the first two UK BBs. The story is a twisty murder mystery, but the style is snarky rather than affectionate and really not in a good way. Definitely better on second reading and does get bonus points for having its one belly laugh at the very end of the book.
5) Millionaire Moments by Chris Tarrant - counts as half, arguably, because it's not a single story but a collection of wrap-ups of famous UK WWTBAM? contestants with greater background and Chris's perspective. Very interesting concept for a book and very few game shows could support it. If you remember the contestant in question, about half the summaries are fascinating and the other half offer nothing new. If you don't remember the contestant, you can't get any sort of reaction. Curious to know whether Tarrant really wrote the book himself or not; it's consistent with his slightly aloof, not-overtly-keen-to-be-popular style. If you watched early UK Millionaire and liked it, worth picking up in a cheapo shop for £3. Overseas game show fans: not recommended unless you've seen the episodes.
6) Bruce by Bruce Forsyth - definitely counts as half at most because I didn't finish it. :-) I may have registered an interest in Bruce Forsyth, but I could not get through his autobiography - the anecdotes therein weren't relevant, glamorous or entertaining. I really haven't given this a fair go and probably would enjoy the second half of the book more when I have a better chance of remembering the things to which he refers. On the other hand, I've really not enjoyed all five of the autobiographies I've read (Bruce Forsyth, Bob Monkhouse, Nicholas Parsons, Tim Berners-Lee and Richard Branson) despite liking the people involved. On the other hand, I did enjoy daweaver's LJ autobiography (39,000 words of Friends-only posts in October) so much that it could well be that I just cannot relate to people from outside my generation. If I try another autobiography, it will be of someone my age. Perhaps biographies may suit more.
7) The Well-Played Game by Bernie DeKoven - counts as half, arguably, because again I read the .pdf free download. Read because I enjoy his weblog and his views and attitudes on his site. Interesting reflections on the nature of play, but (perhaps due to some prior degree of familiarity with the concepts) I would like to see a follow-up covering the same material in as much depth again to be truly thought-provoking. The part I most enjoyed was that about playing for higher stakes, especially considering spiritual exploration as a play community; unfortunately, this is restricted to about two pages and I have a feeling that Bernie wants to write two hundred on this part alone and is remarkably well qualified to write 200 in a unique way. The style is accessible and fun (while keeping deliberate funniness to one glorious surprise!) and avoids the affected style of his web site. By no means a bad book, but definitely pitched at a low level; either that, or quite possibly I've really missed the point.
8) Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix by J. K. Rowling. Read because... no, can't remember. Haven't written about this on my journal at all and this is deliberate; I saw a review which said "No true Potter fan will be disappointed by this!" and thought "oh, dear". The emotion of disappointment has subtly different nuances, but it really wasn't what I was hoping for - it's another step away from the parts which I enjoy most, which are the day-to-day domestic dramas of school life. I still love and care about the setting and the characters; the character developments and the new characters are wonderful. Definitely a universe I explore for enjoyment; the chapter one metaphor of the wrecked playground was too representative of the rest of the story for me to enjoy this nearly as much as the others in the series. Sorry!
9) TV Nation by Michael Moore. Read because it caught my eye in the library. Fuller review at the time. Effectively raised awareness further and a few entertaining looks behind the scenes, but didn't inspire activism within me.
10) Language Play by David Crystal. Read on a recommendation from j4 and as a kind gift from the top of my wish list from ericklendl, so I was honour-bound to like it; happily, the bulk of the book (chapters on how amateurs, enthusiasts and professionals alike manipulate words for fun) is a clearly-written, witty and wide-ranging exploration of the techniques involved with an excellent collection and analysis of examples. Not a didactic work which directly aims to improve your verbal abilities, but definitely one to deepen your understanding. The rest of the book I found harder going, particularly the part about children's play with language. Many thanks!
And, er, crikey, nothing at all in the last 2-3 months or so. That's not so good, is it?
I will be taking at least three books with me for train journeys on this trip to start the journey towards fifty: Michael Moore's Downsize This!, The Luck Factor (as discussed) - a kind Christmas present from mrstrellis - and (Pete) McCarthy's Bar which I believe to be light and funny and have heard compared to things like Playing the Moldovans at Tennis. Is Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure recommended as a similar bit of fun? I have heard great things about the stage show, but the run of that has finished with no second run in sight. Apparently there's a shock twist to the tale (I may have been partially spoiled - by Dave's own site, grr - but assume not) and I would be interested to know whether it works as well on paper as it does in performance.
Recommendations for next year are most welcome; unfortunately, seeing as I wasn't wildly, screamingly positive about any of the above, recs may be difficult. Apart from the above three, I have heard enough good across the board about pegkerr's Wild Swans and blackholly's Tithe that they're both straight on the list. (Does it help that the authors are on LJ? Why, yes!) I enjoy reading sbisson's recs and he has sold me on Neil Stephenson's Cryptonomicon.
I also aim to read some of the classics, largely because that would be definitely out of character for me; I think we have a complete Dickens downstairs (in about 6-point print on rice paper) and I aim to read one from there. (Not the whole lot!) I also aim to read a Shakespeare play new to me and will count that as a 1. irinaauthor and fruufoo both rave over Dumas' Three Musketeers; on a cold day when we were waiting for a locksmith, I tried reading it out loud, but the first sentence of chapter one alone had as many commas as, well, one of mine and I found this rather off-putting. Nevertheless, if this self-improvement kick teaches me anything, struggling with tough books would be a useful one. I got through LotR, after all, though I really was significantly offput by the style.
Yes, non-fiction, too. Not sure what. Books of rules to games will not count, books about games will count. I need to read much more history because my grasp of history is woefully weak.
I am greatly amused that the USA's best chess player aged under 28 is just-over-16-year-old Hikaru Nakamura. Henceforth he will be known as Hikaru No Chess.
Lastly, if I promote friend_whoring and anti_whoring at the same time, will the two cancel each other out?
Edited to add: Folks on the Eastern Seaboard of the USA, we hear that the temperature where you are is dozens of degrees below freezing, yet I haven't heard any whinging about it on my Friends list because you are evidently all made of very strong stuff. Please take very good care to keep yourselves and your loved ones warm!
OK, now that's yer lot! :-)