The Emperor’s Soul

I found myself at the local library, waiting for a computer to do the things computers are suppose to do and take a while to accomplish. I decided this would be a perfect time to find a new book to read and stumbled onto a novella by Brandon Sanderson.

The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson is a wonderful little story. I don’t think I’ve read anything by Sanderson that doesn’t make Lord of the Rings look brief and I was very interested to see how his style worked for smaller tales–it works quite well.

Plot-wise, the story a simple tale about a young thief who was caught stealing and now must complete a difficult task for her captors to be let go. Will she be able to tackle this impossible task? Will she be able to escape? Will they kill her anyway? The story kept me guessing till the end.

I am continually impressed with Sanderson’s magical constructs. The magic in the world of The Stormlight Archive series filled me with longing to experience Stormlight. Despite being a lighteyes, I never will, because that magic doesn’t exist in the real world. But I can imagine that it actually might. When I moved on to the Mistborn Trilogy, I was enthralled by how different the magic was. By the end of those books I wished I was Mistborn.

Within each universe Sanderson creates, there’s a different set of magical principals, yet each is as solid as the laws of physics. They are well thought out and consistent, it feels like it could be real.

That said, the magic within this book, does seem the most fuzzy to me. The idea of rewriting an objects history to forge an object into a different version of itself can be difficult to wrap your mind around. But then, isn’t that what magic is suppose to be? Mind bending? Not-logical? Supernatural? Exciting?

Sanderson is a prolific writer and quickly becoming one of my favorite authors of all time. If you’re at all into the fantasy genre and haven’t picked up one of his books, The Emperor’s Soul might be a good place to start. It will give you a good feel for his style and the world’s he creates. If you find it enjoyable, I would definitely recommend moving on to some of this other work.

A crime against humanity–and a few logical fallacies.

I like to think myself a reasonable person. I like kittens, I’ve never punched an infant. Not everyone is levelheaded though, and I can respect that. What I have trouble respecting, however, is the concept of daylight savings time.

Time Out

I don’t understand it. It’s crazy to me. In my mind, it is the perfect example of the wrong solution to a “might be a” problem.

The whole concept of time is so that we can all be one the same page when we want to meet together. It’s a reference for collaboration. It makes travel easier. It makes communication easier. It’s a standard… and a standard is most useful when it’s not in flux.

standard: noun stan·dard \?stan-d?rd\
4: something set up and established by authority as a rule for the measure of quantity, weight, extent, value, or quality – Merriam-Webster

Presumably, there are people who claim DST has “benefits.” I have yet to be convinced.

Here’s the thing that I find most irritating.

Many publications credit DST’s proposal to the prominent English builder and outdoorsman William Willett, who independently conceived DST in 1905 during a pre-breakfast ride, when he observed with dismay how many Londoners slept through a large part of a summer’s day. An avid golfer, he also disliked cutting short his round at dusk. His solution was to advance the clock during the summer months, a proposal he published two years later. – Wikipedia (emphasis added)

If I understand this correctly… rather than find a way to start his golf game earlier… he instead advocates that a billion other people change their clocks. Meaning: Willett has the political influence to inconvenience the world’s current and future population, but somehow doesn’t have enough control over his own schedule to change his tee time.

I… have no words for this. (Just kidding, I have lots of words on this.) It’s crazy making.

He has the ear of the governmental leaders and rather than suggest that maybe business, factories, and schools change the time they start and stop each day he suggests that everyone (in perpetuity) change their clocks twice a year.

What great piece of utopia-creating legislation did we (as a human race) fail to think about and pass because someone wanted to spend a little more time on the golf course? Thanks a lot Willett.

Progress Reviews

So, it’s March already, which is almost one-sixth of the way through the year, 16%–give or take, and I’m sitting around moping because I don’t feel like I’m making any progress on any of my projects. It’s too cold and I’m too poor to do the fun woodworking projects I want to do. The writing project I started back in October is still on hold, mainly because I keep writing myself in circles. I don’t know where to go from here, my other four or five writing projects are also on hold because I wanted to do this other one first. Even my projects at work are taking significantly longer than I feel they should–I’m figuratively spinning my wheels on the winter ice that’s fallen on my Roadway to Success™.

In Getting Things Done, David Allen talks about a review system. Every few months, weeks, days, you’re suppose to look at all your open projects and figure out where they are. Are you still doing them? What’s the next action item? How is it coming along. This can be super depressing when nearly all of your projects are in a “waiting” stage, waiting on warm weather, waiting on money, waiting on inspiration, waiting for someone to do the thing they said they would do.

I just want to see progress and when there is no progress to see, it can be frustrating. Maybe the reason I don’t see progress is because I’m looking in the wrong spot.

If I’m looking at what I want to still accomplish, I’m looking forward, I’m not going to see behind me. I’m not seeing the stuff I’ve already done.

That’s the second half of the review process. That’s something I think we forget about, at least, I know I forget about it.

It’s only day 59 of 2015, but it’s actually been a busy year, if I stop to think about it. I did just finish building a small bookshelf for my dining room. The water filter and new faucet in my kitchen have truly improved my standard of living. I don’t have any good way to track my word count right now, but I spent a fair amount of time writing this year, even if it feels I don’t have anything to show for it. I don’t want to count my work projects, but I did have that business trip… and there was that event I ran camera for. Somehow in the past eight weeks I’ve managed to watch 17 movies and finish reading 12 books. When did I find time for that?

“People overestimate what they can do in a day and underestimate what they can do in a year.” – Bill Gates

The point is, as important as it is to look forward, it’s also good to look back. Looking back we can remember the things we have done, learn from our mistakes, and make sure we’re still headed on the path we want to be on.

There’s fulfillment that comes from looking back on your accomplishments, but you only get it if you take time to reminisce. A few weeks back a friend and I were discussing the balance between doing awesome things and telling everyone about the awesome things you are doing. If you spend too much time doing one of those you won’t have time for the other.

I don’t know if it’s really important to try to balance these things, I think it’s a futile battle for most of us. The reason we talk about balance is because we regret spending too much time on this thing or that, and then we feel guilty about it. Which is really just crazy. We need to accept that we will spend time on the things we think are important. When there are other important things we need to pay attention to, then we decide what takes precedence. Rather than give everything a set percent all the time, why can’t we give some things 100% some of the time?

Truthfully, we can. We’re adults. (Most of us.) Being an adult just means that we’re expected to take responsibility for our actions, own up, do what we think is right, and live with the consequences. Welcome to life.

Take some time to review the first two months of your year. There’s probably a few things you did that you forgot about. And if there’s things you planned to get to, but didn’t, well, you still got ten more months to go, and this review can help give you the motivation to make it happen.

2014 Reading List – Top 10

In January of 2014 I noticed my reading list had 52 books on it so I decided I was going to read a book a week for the year. 52 weeks later I am happy to say that I read 55 books this year, though I still have a few that need to be finished, and my reading list is now inexplicably over 87 books long.

I would be amiss if I did not look back on this extremely literary year and share some of my thoughts with other readers, what good is a story if you are unable to share it?

10: Influx by Daniel Suarez

I have been a fan of Daniel Suarez since he captured my imagination with Daemon a few years back. The technology within Daemon blew me away. The technology in Influx is significantly more fantastic and futuristic.

What really drew me into Daemon is how realistic and plausible the tech was. Suarez takes a piece of technology or a concept and takes it to the logical conclusion. Even with Kill Decision, the concept was real enough to be slightly terrifying. Influx treads deeper into fiction than his previous books and part of me rebelled at the idea of suspending more disbelief.

Altogether, I loved the book. It’s clear that Suarez loves technology and it’s easy for me to relate to the characters and get excited about the things they get excited about. In many ways I really consider this a “guy” book because in the same way that a “guy movie” is full of action and explosions Suarez punches the action to full throttle and doesn’t skimp on any of the important details.

I devoured the book within a few days of its release in February. Each of Daniel Suarez books is read on Audible by Jeff Gurner, one of my favorite readers and I ended up purchasing both the kindle and audible versions of the book. This was my first chance to use the Whisper Sync feature which seamlessly synced the audio and kindle versions of the book. It worked great. I put down my kindle to head to work and could keep listening from where I left off on my short commute. I was quite impressed. Continue reading

4 Quick Tips for Better Resolutions

Breaking Bad habits and creating good habits is a challenge. Habits by definition are tendencies, unconscious actions, things you do without thinking about it. Which is great if it’s good like washing hands or saying thank you and not so good if they are bad.

Not all resolutions need to be habits but both habits and life style changes require conscious effort to change. Here are some tips and tricks for creating and following through with your new New Years Resolutions.

1. Make resolutions active.

“Watch less Netflix” and “play less video games” are bad resolutions because they are poorly worded. Rather than try to do less of something, a resolution should actively try to do more of a thing.

The reason we sit down and watch hours of TV is because we can. Sure there’s other things we could or maybe even “should” be doing, but we either don’t “need” to or we don’t want to. A resolution like “read more books” is better than “watch less TV” because it gives you an alternative to watching TV. Next time you sit down and reach for the remote you have a mental trigger with something else you could do on the couch.

It’s easier to NOT do something if you have another thing that you can be doing instead.

2. Make resolutions specific.

“Exercise more” is a bad resolution. Not because exercise is bad, but because it doesn’t mean anything. What is more? More than what, last year? Then I only need to exercise once! What constitutes exercise?

“Run three times a week” is a better resolution because it gives you a specific goal you need to try to meet. Something to track and a standard to hold yourself against.

3. Track your progress.

“Eat four salads a week” is a great resolution, but how will you know if you’re keeping it? Tracking past events my memory is not a viable long term solution. We forget stuff all the time, how often do we forget what we ate for breakfast?

Once you have a specific and active resolution, you need to make sure you are on track. Find a calendar, start a journal, it doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to be easy. Tracking your progress is important because it reminds you about your goal and provides emotional support when you are feeling tired. Yes, it sounds a bit silly, but when you can look back at a few weeks worth of accomplishment you feel really good about what you can do.

If this journal or calendar is in an easy to see location it’s also a continual reminder about the thing you have resolved to do.

Explode on Contact4. Don’t give up when you slip

Life is hectic. Life is crazy. Life is inconsistent. Don’t let a single failure or slip ruin your resolution. You’re better than that. Don’t dwell on it, don’t regret it, just pick up where you left off and keep going. There’s no way anyone is able to be 100% consistent with something for the rest of their lives. Humans just don’t work like that. So just shrug it off and keep going.

I hope these tips and tricks help you become the better person you are trying to be.

Have a great year.

An Interesting Connection of Sleepy Apple Bugs

I love being on the cutting edge of technology. At least, I use to. I’m not so sure I do anymore.

It’s hard to say if this is the consequence of growing up or the result of technology never quite living up to the perfection it is hyped under.

Today my annoyance is iOS 8, “the biggest iOS release ever.” As Apple touts, it has “exciting new apps with capabilities that were never possible before.”

I can only assume, quite critically, that these capabilities include having the emoticon keyboard pop-up as default instead of the third-party one I installed. I dragged the new keyboard to the top of the preference list, I mean, I’ve had multiple built-in keyboards activated for years without issue. Apple claimed 8.0.2 would fix that issue, but it didn’t.

There doesn’t seem to be any documentation on Apple’s site, but I’ve noticed that several of my apps will occasionally refuse to load and I will stare at a white screen or mostly white screen long enough to forget which app I just tried to open. Granted, I will take the blame for having such short memory retention, and to Apple’s credit, I am inclined to believe this actually is a feature I’ll wonder how I ever did without.

This sentiment is certainly nothing original, progress is measured in new features not in bug fixes.

Which leads me to two articles I ran across this week.

A blog post by Rusty called It Just Works did a fantastic job of summing up the same sentiments that I have.

“Tim Cook keeps telling us that ‘Only Apple’ could do the amazing things it does. I just wish that Apple would slow down their breakneck pace and spend the time required to build stable software that their hardware so desperately needs. The yearly release cycles of OS X, iOS, iPhone & iPad are resulting in too many things seeing the light of day that aren’t finished yet. Perhaps the world wouldn’t let them, perhaps the expectations are now too high, but I’d kill for Snow iOS 8 and Snow Yosemite next year. I’m fairly confident I’m not alone in that feeling.”

Now any major OS release is going to have some problems, that should go without saying. I hesitate to say that this latest update contains more bugs than iOS7, but it does feel that things haven’t gotten any easier for me.

Business Insider recently ran an article titled ‘These People Are Nuts': 2 Former Managers Reveal What Working For Apple Is Really Like. The article cites the Debug 47 podcast, and links to a partial transcript of the interview.

In the article the former Apple managers talk about the high pressure work environment and the long day s and short nights that went along with it. I’m curious how much of this mentality trickles down to the engineers and developers working on the different projects as well.

When the original Macintosh was being created the story is told that the team made t-shirts that said “90 hours a week and loving it!” In general developers and people interested in technology are often portrayed as hard working people who value solving problems over sleep regularly. If this is really how the company is working on the inside, I’m not really surprised that there are such obvious bugs and mistakes. Actually, I’m a little surprised there are not more.

That said, Apple sets their own release schedule. A company built on the principle of “Think Different” has no requirement to release a new phone OS at the same time every year. When your product is being pre-ordered by 4 million people, it’s hard to say if that is more or less incentive to make sure everything works correctly right out of the box. For sure, Apple has a reputation for making good stuff, but if there are 4 million people willing to buy your product no questions asked, maybe good enough is good enough.

More telling, at least to me, is how giddy and excited everyone seems on stage at the recent Apple Events. I’d like to think that everyone going up on stage has been up for 36 hours and took a 15 minute shower in coffee shortly before going on stage.

In light of all of this, it feels a little naive of me to hope that the next version of iOS or even Yosemite will be more polished, but hope springs eternal. Here’s to new technology.