Every year, I do the GoodReads reading challenge – setting myself a target of number of books to read, and then keeping track of it through GoodReads.  I usually blast through the target – for example 2023’s target was 100, and I ended up with 153 – but I’d rather aim low(ish) and succeed rather than shoot for the moon and fail.

It’s worth pointing out that there are lots of things I don’t like about GoodReads – their controversies this year about fake reviews and so on in particular – but for this kind of basic usage, they’re fine and I’m yet to find a similarly comprehensive setup to manage it. So… it’ll do.

I also rarely bother writing reviews etc. (unless it’s a particularly awful thing I’ve just read)

Anyway. This year I’ve decided that I’m going to try and reduce the number of new book purchases, and instead to carve through a decent swathe of my stuff that’s bought-but-still-unread. (Which is a huge pile, and I daren’t actually count how many things are in it)  I’m not going to say “I’m not going to buy any new books” – mainly because that would be a) ridiculous, and b) unachievable (plus I’d have already failed on that score) – but I’m going to try and reduce that count a bit and get through older stuff instead.

As a result, I’m setting my target this year to be 120 books. (It was originally 100, but I changed it up a bit) I know there are some I re-read that I can race through because they’re familiar, but I think if I make new ones the majority this year, that might slow me down a bit, so 120 is realistic. (Ish. I’ll almost certainly exceed it, but it’s a number I’m happy with)

Now it just remains to see how I do with it!

Kindling Discontent

Last weekend, while down in Devon, I lost my Kindle. Entirely my own fault, and primarily due to being a dickhead – but still, bloody annoying.

I ordered a replacement pretty much immediately, and hoped that Amazon had improved the method for restoring all the books I’ve got onto the device. It’s been a bloody awful experience the last couple of times, but the last time was three years ago. So, knowing how swiftly they release new stuff on AWS/Cloud, it’s got to have been worked on, surely?

Welllllll, yes and no.

The experience is a bit better – at least now it keeps a record of what books have been put into Collections (think of each Collection as a bookshelf) which sort of makes things easier. But not much – because you can’t actually select, for example, a set of Collections and say “Deliver these”.

Instead, it’s still horrifically manual, and dirt-slow. You have to go to the Amazon site, and then “Manage Content and Devices”. If you only have a few books, then great, that’s fine. I haven’t – I’ve got about 600.  So even selecting the maximum of 200 books at a time – which is sort-of easy, although still involves scrolling the page down until it’s got that full 200 listed, and then “select all” – then takes forever to actually push them to the Kindle.

With the Collections, once the books have been pushed to the Kindle, it should then put them into the right places – so that’s at least a small improvement. Last time, I had to re-add books to the Collections as well, which made the entire thing a massive pain in the arse.

The thing is, none of this should be difficult. So long as one does backups of the device (and the Sync process is actively encouraged by Amazon, so one can read a book on one device and then continue it on another) then it should be a simple matter of going “Copy the stuff from this backup onto that machine”, in the same way it does for my iPhones.

All told, even with the improvements, it’s a rotten first experience with a new device. It surprises me just how bad it actually is – the entire thing seems to be something that Amazon doesn’t expect to happen, or that’s only been tested with five or ten books. I wonder if it’s something Amazon will ever get round to fixing…


A long, long time ago, someone on Twitter repeatedly introduced me to the chemically geeky “Things I Won’t Work With” blog, which basically did what it said on the tin.  Chemical compounds and experiments that were… on the energetic side, shall we say?  The way it was written made me laugh, and I loved seeing the sporadic updates.

Then it disappeared, and I pretty much forgot about it.

Only it turns out to have been (still sporadically) updated, but on a different site – something I found out this week. I’d been on The Twitter to mention to that original someone about a newly reprinted copy of “Ignition!” (which , from memory, had been one of the inspirations for “Things I Won’t Work With”)  and then other Twitterers reminded me of the name of the blog.

Ignition! An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants” is fascinating.  Originally written in the early 70s, it hadn’t been reprinted in decades – (but there’s obviously been some demand for it, as the publishers weren’t going to go to the effort if there weren’t) but it was on my ‘want to read’ list if I ever found a copy.  When I saw earlier this year that it was being re-printed, and available as an eBook as well, I pre-ordered immediately, and it arrived this week.

The book itself has an irreverent style to it, which is fine – and even understandable, considering that the author was part of a very select group involved in all this stuff.  I’m not a full-on chemistry geek, so some of it is a bit mind-boggling, but it’s been a great read.  I’m really glad I managed to get it in the end.

ReKindled (Again)

Just to top off a pretty expensive fortnight, while I was away over the weekend the Kindle broke. As with previous ones, the screen film cracked, so half of it is working and the other half isn’t. In short, fucked.

As it turns out though, I can’t be too annoyed (annoyed, sure, but not too annoyed) as it turns out I’ve had this one just short of three years. Considering that before that I had a spate of broken screens in less than a year, it could’ve lasted a lot less time.

Yes, I’d rather these things were more resilient, were designed to last longer than 18 months.

Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see how things have progressed with Kindles, and whether they’ve improved the ways to reload content onto a new device. It was horrific three years ago, so I’m hoping for improvements, it’s fair to say. (And if that doesn’t happen, I’ve got a backup from the old device – so maybe I’ll just be able to roll that onto the new one.)

We’ll see.

Early Justifications

Whenever I’m going somewhere, whether to meet friends, or just for a timed event, I tend to be pretty early. Stupidly early, in some cases – mainly because I just figure “Well, once I’m there, I can find something to do“.  At worst, I have a Kindle and a phone, so I’ll always be able to do something with that time.

I don’t expect others to follow the same thing, though – that’s just a world of hurt, because then I’d still be earlier than the expected early time,  and it can get stupid. (I have one friend who’s of a similar mind-set, and we ended up being – unconsciously – competitively early for a while, ’til we realised it was just getting dumb)

Sometimes, though, it turns out that there’s a good reason for being early to things. Saturday was one of those times.

I was going in to London for a concert in the evening, and then booked a lunch at Hibiscus as well.  My plan was to park up at an Underground station I knew well, Tube into Central London (well, kinda – I still wanted to walk as well), go for lunch, wander around London a bit/lot, get back up to the concert venue, meet up with another friend, go to the gig, and then get back to the car and drive us both home.   That plan survived until the first stage…

What I hadn’t realised was that the Northern Line (the only line from the station in question) was shut for the weekend. No trains at all.  Of course, London Underground being the useless shitbricks they are, there were no signs at the entrance to the station or car-park, so I’d paid for parking (fortunately only £2 for the day), walked into the station, to be faced with “Nope, no trains”.  The useless bell-end outside had no idea how I’d get back from the gig at all – well, he suggested taking no less than four buses, at midnight on  Saturday-into-Sunday. So that was no use.

But, I’m well early at this point. So it’s time for a replan.  Drive down to the concert venue, find somewhere close-ish to park, and juggle things from there.

And that’s what happened. Drive down (only about four miles, in fairness) and find a side-road with parking. Permits only, but only Monday-Friday. It’s a Saturday, so I’ll go for that. Check the parking meter. Nope, that Mon-Fri only too. Double-check with the online-app for paying, and nope, can’t take any money for that parking, sir.

Then start walking to find where the hell I am – I know I’m closeish, but not exactly where – turn the corner, and oh look, there’s the venue. Literally two minutes, car-to-venue.  Wander past to find a bus into central London, oh look, there’s one that’ll do it, hop on, and job done.

That entire re-plan and reorganisation, and I was still at Hibiscus 45 minutes early…

So sometimes there’s a really good reason for being idiotically early to things. If I’d been cutting things fine already, that change would’ve completely chiffed me for the day, and been uber-stressful all the way. As it was, it was still an absolute doddle, and everything went well.

Indeed, it actually made life easier – because coming out of the gig, we were in the car and out of London before we’d probably have even got to the original station…

2014 Media – Books

In 2014 I read 105 books.

I know this because for the books I recorded it all on GoodReads, where I’d set myself the challenge of ready 100 books in a year. I did the same in 2013 and cleared the total easily, ending up at about 130 for the year.

This year I read less – mainly because I had three months while working for The Twat in London where I didn’t have the time to read much at all, due to excessive work and travel times. If it hadn’t been for that, I’d have been up around the same level again this year. As it was, I just scraped over the bar.

I’ve set the same target again for this year, and expect to do it, but probably by a similar margin to this year. The reason? I want to read some more of the classics, some stuff that makes me think more – and thus is perhaps a bit harder to get into.

There’s also going to be – probably – less reading time, as I want to be doing the other stuff on the project list as well. I don’t know if it’ll work out that way, but that’s the general intention.  If I don’t make the target number, I’ll be OK with it this time, because there’s a lot of other stuff happening too.

Come Jan 2016, we’ll see how I did on all of it.


What Kind Of Year Has It Been?

(With apologies to Aaron Sorkin for nicking/appropriating a title he’s used in every series he’s written)

2014 hasn’t been an easy year, with some real ups and downs. Some of the downs have been pretty bloody down, and back in August/September was about as low as I’ve been in a long time, with the finances right back to Ground Zero. The last couple of months of the year have been a massive improvement, a real resurgence that’s left things on a very positive note, and that’s nothing but good.

But man alive, there’s been a lot going on.


I’ve had two spectacularly bad jobs – both permanent roles – this year, the second of which took three months to escape from, cost me a buggerload of money (the owner decided to arbitrarily cut my offered salary by £10K, a drop of just under a thousand a month, with no warning or notification) and affected me a lot more than I’d ever have acknowledged.  In small ways it’s still ongoing – I’ve invoiced the dickhead for the money he screwed me for, and my New Year’s present to him will be a claim through Small Claims Court (well, now Money Claim Online, but who’s counting?) so that should be fun.

I’ve also had three contracts (plus one that over-ran into the start of 2014) with two being OK and one being less so. That one was an easy life, which was more about being a bum on a seat “in case anything happened”, rather than actually doing stuff. Easy, but not my kind of thing, as has been written about elsewhere.

The final contract of the year – which flows into the start of 2015 – has been the catalyst for getting things on a more positive footing. It’s been work that suits me, as well as being one where I’m able to work from home for the majority of the time, which also suits me.


As per the work notes, the London job cost me a lot of money, with the savings I’d made up ’til then getting used for keeping things afloat while I still believed that The Dickhead would actually pay what was owed. Even while everything was down at lowest possible, I still got through – no borrowings, no late payments etc. So it’s not as bad as it could’ve been, and yet again showed how far I’ve actually come – but it’s still annoying to have been knocked back after a year of being successful on it all.

I’m back on the up now, things in credit and so on. I still need to build up the funds again, but that’s happening, and will continue to do so through into 2015.

Creative / Writing

This year’s writing and so on hasn’t been great – because of everything else going on, it just hasn’t happened as much as I wanted it to.

Writing-wise, I have done some stuff. I’ve entered some small pieces to some competitions, although without any decent results. However, at least it’s been about getting things done and submitted – which is more than I managed in 2013.

Photography’s been a lot slacker. Along the way I’ve got out of the habit of carrying a camera all the time, and it’s proving harder to get back into doing it. I love the SLR I’ve got, but it’s a pain in the chuff for most of the time.

The daytrips of late have been partly about taking photos again as well, although they’ve all ‘only’ been taken on the iPhone, but at least I’ve been taking photos again, and they’ve been pretty decent.


So while 2014’s been a ropy old year in many ways, it’s ending up with a lot of promise, and lot of optimism for 2015.  Whether that will be justified or not, who knows? But I’m going to give it my best.

And really, what more can anyone ask than that?