With the move to Atlanta, new job, and new routines, it took me an embarrassingly long time to read Bill Bryson’s short little work on Shakespeare (it only just reaches 196 pages). Either way – it was a fun read, and just the type of book that’s easy to pick up and put down frequently. Here’s why…
I grew up about 10 years too late and on the wrong side of the world to fully appreciate Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – but it was a really fun, fresh, and fascinating novel.
The book set in 2030 where everyone spends all their time digitally immersed online to escape the awful dystopia outside.
The economy is dominated by just 2 online firms – and one firm’s eccentric founder dies leaving his fortune to whomever can solve a treasure hunt involving riddles and trivia centered around the 1980s American geek sub-culture.
June 4th, 2014 was the 25th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square protests/massacre in China, immortalized by the Tank Man photo. It was one of the pivotal moments in the 20th Century where, unlike other Communist regimes in Europe, the Chinese Communists were able to keep their hold on power.
The massacre is immortalized everywhere…but China, where it has been actively censored and suppressed to the point where people will literally run away before talking about it.
The Internet was supposed to kill censorship, but China has the “Great Firewall” and one of the most ambitious censorship operations in the world. I had always heard that China actively and successfully censors the Internet, but never understood exactly how it works or what it would feel like to live in a completely censored world a la 1984.
China has banned Twitter because they will not grant access to the sensors, so they have a homegrown version – Sina Weibo. It has 500 million users – including me, an American citizen living in Atlanta, GA.
Yes – unlike some Chinese sites, anyone can sign up for Weibo, granted that you agree to their terms of service (ie, the Chinese government can revise your account).
I’ve had an account for a couple years, but had never used it…mainly because Google Translate has a very hard time with Mandarin Chinese. I have 9 followers (you know the type of people who follow everyone, mixed in with a couple bots).
But on June 4th, I thought I’d do a test of China’s censors. And see exactly what happens.
I received a reader question that basically relates to how to choose what to write about for your blog/book/etc. Here’s the full question I received –
I’ve never thought of memory as skill until I read Moonwalking With Einstein.
The book is Joshua Foer’s exploration into not only mnemonics, but also the subculture of “memory athletes,” and his adventure in experimental journalism where he goes from covering the US Memory Championships (yes, there is such a thing) to participating in – and winning the following year.
Mid-March is thru-hiker’s season on the Appalachian Trail. The most common schedule for anyone planning on hiking all 2,000+ miles is to start in Georgia at Springer Mountain in March and finish in Maine at Mt. Katahdin in September. You get to beat the heat of the South while also beating winter (and the closing of Mt. Katahdin) up North. It was also one of the few times in which my, my brother’s, my Dad’s, and my brother in law’s schedules all aligned for 2 days to hike another section of the Georgia Appalachian Trail. So that’s what we did.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a classic novel that tells the story of Okonkwo, a leader in an Igbocommunity, and his struggles with the intrusion of white missionaries and colonial government into his tribal society.
During the last week of December 2014, my wife Shannon and I went to Boston, Massachusetts on a brief 5-day trip. It was my first trip to a major US city outside of my Atlanta home since my City Stereotypes post went viral last summer.
Boston is a big city for tourists, and you can find generic tourist information all over the Internet. You’ll find no shortage of people who have been to Boston who’ll tell you where to go.
I read all that information, talked to friends who had been there, and friends who live there before the trip. But here’s 11 things in no real order that still stood out to me once I got there, and makes Boston a really worthwhile visit (or home).
During our visit to Boston, we were able to take a day trip to Portland, ME via Amtrak. It was my first time to visit Maine. Despite the cold, the snow, and the early sunset, we had a great trip (thanks in part to solid recommendations from a Boston friend).
Here’s a few observations from the trip.
From 2007 to 2012, I read 263+ books. But I did not stop there. I haven’t kept up the same pace – but have kept on tracking every book I’ve read since. Ideally, I’ve also written a short lessons learned or review of each. Here’s the books I’ve read this past year.
This post covers books read in 2013. You can also read from,
Atlanta is a city founded upon and built by railroads. But unlike a lot of railroad towns around America – Atlanta still is a town with railroads actually running through it. It has several Class I railroads running right through and underneath Downtown Atlanta. Here’s a few pictures I’ve taken of them.
Coal train emerging from underneath Philips Arena.
I took this photo somewhere in the Chattahoochee National Forest along the Appalachian Trail.
There’s a lot of outcrops and views in North Georgia, but I loved this view that highlighted the low, subtle, rolling ridges with the diversity of plant species.
Previously, I had run in 2 competitive road half marathons, 1 marathon, several half-marathon distances on my own during training or recreation. I’m a middle of the pack runner and finished 34th out of 108 in the Mystery Mountain race.
Here’s how I did my trail half marathon training, and some observations on what exactly a trail race entails, what to expect, and how to prepare…
We’ve slept under a tarp during pouring rain with bears strutting around our camp like they own the place. We’ve also woken up on a crisp, clear November morning with clear views of a million shades of autumn leaves while cooking bacon on a smooth granite rock.
So – 3rd time overnight – and the plan is that we’re going to have a gloriously typical hike. Or at least the typical hike that happens when you’re old hat at the mountain hiking deal. The problem (or, the wonder) of the Appalachian Trail is that that never seems to actually happen.
What did end up happening was that we got to start at the actual Start of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain in Georgia – and hike to Coopers Gap Rd…in a veritable downpour that only let up for a couple hours during the entire hike – which is a bit telling since this portion of trail sees the most people attempt to thru-hike each year…only to quit after just a few miles.
Here’s the run down of hiking on the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain to Coopers Gap Rd (near the Gooch Mountain Shelter).
This photo is from a warm summer evening at Turner Field. There are few things nicer than summer baseball.
I always find it really fascinating to find out how people from different places can perceive the same things so differently. And especially how people from other countries, regions, and cities perceive my city, region, and country – what they focus on, and what things stand out in their mind. In other words – people’s country, region, and city stereotypes.
For years – it has always been an interesting conversation to have – but finding out stereotypes has always been anecdotal. But last year – Renee DiResta had the brilliant idea to apply something that we all use everyday – Google AutoSuggest – to find out US State Stereotypes (you can see that post here).
Here’s the same methodology used on the top 50 US cities (by metro area population) to get the top 4 to 5 city stereotypes of each.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver is a story of a family’s journey to the Congo in 1959. The Price family, led by Nathan Price, an overzealous Baptist minister, is determined to bring Christianity to the people of the Congo.
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes is a classic Spanish novel that has been widely regarded as one of the greatest works of literature ever written. It is often cited as the first modern novel and is considered a founding work of Western literature.
I’m a huge fan of time lapse films in general, and of cities in particular. I’ve never been able to find a really good, single list to keep track of – so here’s my attempt to curate and list the best in one place (because there are a ton of mediocre ones floating about on YouTube). Enjoy and let me know of any other ones in the comments!
San Francisco Time Lapse (Empty America)
And there’s a ton more…
Here’s all the trips that I took this year. Find more lists over at my Travel category.
Business, Family & Leisure
St George Island – August 2012
St George Island – August 2011
St George Island – August 2010
Charleston – July 2010
New York City – December 2009
St George Island – August 2009
St George Island – August 2008
Hilton Head – July 2007
Hilton Head – July 2006
Nicaragua – May 2006
The Philippines – May 2005
Guatemala – July 2004
Camping & Hiking
Tesnatee Gap to Unicoi Gap – November 2012 – Overnight
Neels Gap to Tesnatee Gap – August 2012 – Overnight
Woody Gap to Neels Gap – August 2011 – Day Hike
A few months ago when the New York Times wrote about PB&P sandwiches (yes, as in Peanut Butter and Pickle) – it got quite a bit of attention. The article was the most emailed that day, and made it to the Front Page of Reddit.
Apparently there is a whole cohort of people in America who know about all sorts of unlikely pairings with peanut butter. I had never met any of these sandwich anarchists before (everyone I know is a PB&J die-hard) – and was really skeptical as well of the idea of peanut butter paired with pickles.
A few weeks ago, I started drastically paring back all the tools, feeds, news sites, and networks that I use. And the ones that I do use everyday – I started figuring out how to simplify, automate, and gain more control.
It started with reducing the number of task “gathering places” (Getting Things Done parlance) and snowballed into affecting pretty much my entire digital life, and has now become a full-fledged start-2013-off-right kind of deal (and apparently I’m not the only one).
Here’s a few lessons I’ve learned that you can apply to make your digital life a bit better…
Tour guides at the University of Georgia love to talk about how the State of Georgia Botanical Gardens and the State of Georgia Museum of Art are both in Athens…not in Atlanta.
And even though the Botanical Gardens are mainly a great place for walking around and looking at nature – it’s also a good (though not great) place to run in Athens – especially to change things up and get off the roads. Here’s what it’s like…
The last time my brother, brother-in-law, and I hiked a section of the Appalachian Trail – it was an absolute fail. You can read all about that adventure hiking the 5 miles from Neels Gap to Tesnatee Gap in A Bear Walks Into Camp.
But that was back in August – and despite everything that went wrong that time – we’re still hooked on the AT, and want to keep section hiking it.
In Southeast Asia, there’s a jungle cat called the Civet that loves to eat coffee cherries.
The civet’s digestive system uses the fruit of the coffee cherry for nourishment – but only partly begins to break down the coffee cherry pit (what we call the “coffee bean”) before pooping it out.
Someone, and I have no idea how this someone got this idea, but someone thought it would be perfectly splendid to pick the undigested coffee beans out of the Civet cat poop, and proceed to process, roast, grind, brew, and serve them just like any other beans you’d buy from your coffee shop.
In Indonesia – they call it “Kopi Luwak” or “Civet Coffee.”
And it’s one of the most sought after coffees in the world – mainly because of it’s scarcity (you can imagine the hordes of people signing on to harvest it…).
Today – I got to drink some Kopi Luwak. Fresh-brewed in a French Press. Here’s how it all went down (and out).
If you live in or around Athens, GA – you simply must explore the North Oconee Greenway – especially if you are a runner.
The Greenway is one of Athens’ best amenities, but it’s one of those things that you may have heard of…but never really tried out. So here’s what it’s like…
I started running distance when I was 10 years old, and continued throughout high school. I was never particularly fast, but it was enjoyable and something athletic I could do.
I had shin splints, hurt ankles, and all the rest of runner’s woes – to the point that I slowly tapered off in college.
wasted enjoyed thousands of hours staring at maps – especially old maps.
Here are two of the best maps I’ve ever seen.
They are both in the public domain, and interesting both for the map part – and the info surrounding it.
But then I realized, “wait, I’ve done that.”
Since January of 2007, I’ve read about 263 books. I say “about” because I was only half keeping track until September 2008 – when I converted to a spreadsheet and really started tracking.
I’ve decided to start reviewing (nearly) every book I read here. And that means getting caught up.
Unlike Julien (who put everything in 1 ridiculously long post), I’m going to split mine up into 6 ridiculously long blog posts (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012). I’ll also keep going after this initial push to 2013 and beyond.
I’m just going to write a couple sentences for each – and only what I remember about the book, and a short bit of review.
Here we go…
Or, Our Experience On The Appalachian Trail Overnight, And What We Learned
Ever since I read Bill Bryson’s book A Walk In The Woods, I’ve wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. So last year, my brother Jason and my brother-in-law Matt, hiked a short section from Woody Gap to Neel’s Gap along the Georgia Appalachian Trail
It was a short 9 miles or so, up to the stunning views from Blood Mountain…
We were hooked.
But none of us was (or is) in a life position to hike the whole thing. But we decided to keep section hiking in Georgia.
This year, we planned a 20 mi overnight hike from Neel’s Gap to Hogpen Gap and onwards to Unicoi Gap.
We didn’t quite get what we bargained for (including a bear).
Here’s what happened and what we learned…
Even though I think the health benefits of standing are a bit overstated – anything done in moderation is probably going to be better for you.
And in my case – I needed to moderate my sitting.
I generally just did what any normal person would do – stand up every few minutes to stretch, re-focus, drink water, then sit down and go back to work.
But running my own business and working just whatever hours I wanted to work led me to need a small spot at home to talk with clients in a different time zone, and generally have a place out of the way to take care of those tasks that – in an office – would take 10 minutes, but in the home generally end up taking 30 minutes – with a frustrated me and frustrated family members as well.
We have a small place – and I definitely didn’t want to buy or place a desk in my bedroom – or any other room for that matter (we live in a small condo).
And I had the whole standing desk in the back of my mind (very geeky fad) – but they generally cost $$$ and take up wayyyy to much space.
Here’s a career and business idea that seems to be bubbling up in America right now… Your credentials don’t matter. Your career sequence doesn’t matter. And your career choice doesn’t matter.
All that really matters to have a solid, high-paying career is to be really freaking good at whatever you do.
Over at Slate, a pharmaceutical chemist critiqued the idea that “America needs more scientists and engineers.” He argues that we don’t need more scientists – we need better scientists.
Scientists who are really freaking good. Mediocre American scientists don’t have a job – they aren’t needed. Mediocre work doesn’t work anymore – and what remains can be done by cheap Chinese scientists. See the full article here.
Over at The Economist, Babbage discussed a group of programmers who are “tenXers.” In other words, programmers who, through insight, versatility, and sheer productivity create 10x the amount of code that an average programmer can create – in less time, with better accuracy. Read the full article here. Here’s a quote of a quote from the article…
In his delightful guide to recruiting top talent (“Smart and Gets Things Done”), Joel Spolsky, a company founder and ten-x programmer himself, as well as a former paratrooper in the Israeli army, wrote in 2007 that the trouble with using a lot of mediocre programmers instead of a couple of good ones is that no matter how long they strive, they will still produce something mediocre. “Five Antonio Salieris won’t produce Mozart’s Requiem. Ever. Not if they work for 100 years.”
And this trend applies to every field now. Mediocre doesn’t cut it. And if mediocre is needed…well there’a a few million Indians, Chinese, and Filipinos who can do mediocre.
I love the idea that even in the most urban areas – there are still really random trails to explore and use.
I’ve lived in the Riverbend Rd area of Athens, GA for 4 years – and only last week did I stumble across this really cool and useful trail up and down Riverbend Rd.
It runs parallel to the Athens Bypass and Riverbend Rd (which is super-hilly). The trail itself is quite narrow and rooty – but in good enough shape to run on. It’s well-shaded and is way better than trying to run on Riverbend – which might be possibly one of the Top 10 Worst Places to run in Athens, GA.
Here’s a Google map and photos from along the way…
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson is a memoir that takes readers on a journey through Bryson’s childhood in 1950s America. The book follows Bryson’s alter ego, the Thunderbolt Kid, as he navigates his way through family oddities, friendships, and his own rich imagination.
Shopping for invoicing software.
Now that I have your full and rabid attention, here’s why you should not trust free software by default.
The Quick Story
After 6 months of ignoring my invoicing system, and working with a duct-taped system of PayPal and Google Docs templates – I was tired of looking a bit unprofessional and feeling disorganized.
Around Athens, I generally stick to the UGA Intramural Fields. However, if you drive about 10 to 15 minutes north of UGA to the Sandy Creek Nature Center, you’ll find Cook’s Greenway Trail, which is one of the best places to run in Athens, GA. Here’s what it’s like…
Back on March 18th I ran the Georgia Marathon. It was my first marathon – and only my second long-distance race over 5k. Here’s a list of what I learned from a first marathon…
Various photos that I’ve taken around downtown Athens, Georgia before moving to Atlanta.
The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson is an exploration of the history, evolution, and current state of the English language. Bryson blends humor with historical research and linguistics to examine many of the peculiarities of English dialects, pronunciation, grammar, spelling, and syntax. He establishes three themes throughout the book: the role of English in the world, the history of English, and the evolution of language.
Thus Spoke Zarathustra is a philosophical novel written by Friedrich Nietzsche and published in four volumes between 1883 and 1885. The book introduces some of Nietzsche’s most important philosophical ideas, as presented by a fictional ancient prophet named Zarathustra. The protagonist is nominally the historical Zoroaster.
I’ve been commuting around Athens, GA via bike for 3 years now.
It all started with biking the .75 miles to work and back, and has slowly expanded to biking pretty much everywhere within a 6 mile radius.
Here’s several reasons why I’ve kept it up – despite the Georgia heat, the Athens hills, and general vulnerability of cycling.
Blowback by Chalmers Johnson is an incisive and controversial book that examines the dangers of American empire. Johnson argues that the United States’ post-Soviet outlook has transformed it into a hegemonic empire, and that the foreign policy undertaken in its name will lead to blowback from oppressed peoples the world over.
The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-By-Step Guide to Writing Copy That Sells by Robert W. Bly is a comprehensive guide to copywriting for both print and online media.