I Read 50 Books Last Year
I actually read 41 books and listened to 8 audio books last year. I read 50 books within the last year, starting on January 7th, 2018 and finishing the last book on the 6th of 2019. I had started it on the 31st but decided that New Years celebrations with my new wife and stepson would be more fun than trying to speed-read a book I was relatively interested in for the whole night. I also got married last year. Maybe I should have put that in the title instead… but I like the snappy round number of the current title.
The previous year, in 2017, I had consumed 44 books. I took a bit of a different approach this year and tried to make the goal of the reading about the books themselves rather than just trying to read a certain number of books. As a result, I spent a lot more time reading since I generally read more slowly to get as much as I could out of the books. I would say I enjoyed and learned a lot more about the experience last year. I don’t think that everyone has the time or ability to consume 50 books a year, but I would recommend that everyone tries to read at least a little bit every day at their own pace. Don’t be afraid to stop reading books you don’t like and to start books you’re really interested in even if you haven’t finished a previous book on your list.
My biggest achievement last year was certainly getting married to my beautiful wife in April and starting a family. I also accomplished a few other goals that I had set out to do in 2018 as well as some things that I hadn’t. I also failed to complete some things that I wanted, but overall I think it was a successful year for me. I also watched 50 movies and did some software development things of interest.
One thing that I didn’t do that I wish I could have done was reach 150,000 rep on Stackoverflow. I’m still hovering around 148K. I didn’t take the time or push myself as much as I could have to get 150K, but I also feel like it’s become more difficult since I’m interested in more complicated questions, earning medals, and I don’t have as much time to participate as I used to.
At any rate, as with last year I’ll talk a bit about each of the books I read. I don’t think I ever retain as much as I would like. I’m interested in possibly taking notes after periodic readings of books in the future. This might be something I do a bit of in 2019.
Football for Dummies: I’m very interested in American Football and particularly college football. I actually started reading this in late 2018. I learned a little bit here and there, but I didn’t quite pick up what I wanted to. I would have to watch a lot more games than the few that I watch during college football season. I read this book a lot faster than I should have as well. I might revisit it at some point, especially during football season. While it does have a lot of good content and certainly a lot more than I know, the book is still relatively basic. I was interested in higher level football strategy.
Wonder (audio): This is a children’s book that I listened to with my wife (girlfriend at the time). I enjoyed the story although I wouldn’t say that the book was particularly profound. It has a good but predictable message about tolerance and not judging a book by its cover.
Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension: I have a very amateur interest in mathematics, and this book by Matt Parker definitely kept my attention although I think a lot of it went over my head. I don’t remember many of the details, but there are blips of interesting points about the book that go through my head from time to time. I’d recommend this for people who are fascinated by mathematics.
The Botany of Desire: This book by Michael Pollan talks about how four plants shaped parts of our history: the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato. The book is very interesting, and I particularly enjoyed learning about the Dutch Tulip Mania. While I enjoyed the scientific and historical aspects of the book, there’s something about Pollan’s writing that slows down my ability to read. I wish his style were a bit simpler at times — it doesn’t need to be so complex for this sort of educationally informative book.
How to Draw a Straight Line: This is a short, somewhat snarky book that I presume is used to teach some university mechanics courses. I learned about this book from Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension. I learned about the Peaucellier–Lipkin linkage and some other approaches and linkages for creating movement in a straight line. One thing that bothered me about the whole deal is that any linkage required to draw a straight line has to be constructed in part from straight lines … so how do you get the original straight line?
The Cases That Haunt Us (audio): John Douglas’ book about very famous murder cases: Lizzie Borden, Jack the Ripper, Black Dahlia, the Lindbergh baby, the Zodiac Killer, the Boston Strangler, and the death of JonBenét Ramsey. This book really captured my attention. It was not only interesting, but I feel that I also learned quite a lot about forensics.
Kill All Normies: I picked up this book on a whim — it was an analysis of the political landscape of the Internet that helped the rise in Trumpism. I honestly don’t remember a lot of the details of this book. I don’t think I got a lot out of it, but it wasn’t bad.
Endless Forms Most Beautiful: This is a book about evolutionary biology that is a deep dive into how organisms form. I learned about homeotic genes such as Sonic Hedgehog and the fact that there’s something like a dark matter in our DNA — unexplained blank spaces that presumably tell things when to stop growing and help us take the shape that we’re ultimately supposed to take. The book was fascinating and enjoyable, but also complex.
A Book of Surrealist Games: I can’t remember what prompted me to buy this, but it’s actually a book of games with surrealist themes that also includes a little bit of the history of surrealist thought and the people that participated in it. It was fun, and some of the games seem like they would be interesting to play.
Breaking Bad 101: I didn’t love Breaking Bad as much as a lot of people did, although I did still enjoy it somewhat. This effusive book goes in depth analyzing every episode of the show. It only has some negative things to say about the ending — more or less that it kept going on slightly longer than it should have. If you’re a big Breaking Bad fan, you might like this one.
A Wrinkle In Time: I really enjoyed these Madeleine L’Engle books as a child, and the movie that came out in 2018 reminded me that it exists. It was a nice read, and I actually picked up quite a few vocabulary words even though it’s a book aimed at children.
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (audio): My wife and I listened to this book together. She didn’t seem to enjoy it that much, but I liked it to some degree. I wouldn’t say we necessarily practice a lot of what we might have learned, but I still think about some of the tidbits from time-to-time. Avoiding contempt and getting your routine down should be considered necessities.
A Wind in the Door: The second book in the “time quintet” after A Wrinkle In Time. If you like that sort of children’s fiction, I think you’ll like this one too. One thing that bugged me is the principal’s reaction to seeing his doppelgängers. He didn’t seem to care nearly enough.
A Confederacy of Dunces: This has a reputation as one of the funniest books of all time. I very rarely laugh at books, and this book has the distinction of actually making me chuckle out loud at least twice, although I don’t remember exactly why. It’s a nice read that will definitely keep you engaged.
Flatland: This was a wedding present from my brother-in-law. I had actually read this in Geometry class in high school. It’s an interesting mathematically-grounded story.
Animal Farm: I hadn’t read this book until last year. I really enjoyed it and its critique of socialism although I’m aware Orwell was a socialist or part of socialist groups. I also felt some emotion for some of the characters in the book. It’s a good story with a message that I appreciated.
Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (audio): I listened to this with my wife. It was definitely interesting although I don’t remember much of any of the lessons except that the shape of our universe is apparently a spiral. I also appreciated Carlo Rovelli’s musings on free will with respect to the physical world.
The Man Who Heard Voices: This is a biography of M. Night Shyamalan mostly while he was working on the movie Lady in the Water. You might thing it strange to read this particular biography, but it was incredibly entertaining. Shyamalan definitely comes off as your classic hubristic genius. If you like or even particularly dislike Shyamalan, or you just like reading about zany people, this is the book for you.
A Swiftly Tilting Planet: This is the third book in the time quintet. This one was my least favorite. The remaining two are apparently with the children or a future generation of the characters. I thought that this book was a little silly, and I don’t like what happened to the Meg character. I really liked her in the original book, and I felt she became a lot weaker in this one. It also didn’t create the same fantastical original world and creatures instead focusing more on seemingly mundane fictionally historical events.
The Metamorphosis: A short book by Kafka. My wife hated this book, but I thought that it was okay. If you like Kafka or stories about the futility of humanity, this is a nice, short book for you.
Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: I read this book last year, and I wanted to reread it because of my constant struggles with procrastination. I’ll probably read it next year. Some of the best lessons I think are that procrastination is the space between intent and action, and I learned some good techniques to help mitigate procrastination such as If I X then I will Y. These helped with my reading and more.
At the Water’s Edge: I learned about this book from Endless Forms Most Beautiful. That talked about evolutionary development generally. This book talked about evolutionary development of marine creatures and mostly marine mammals. I think that the most interesting thing I learned from this book is apparently that marine mammals evolved from land mammals (which had evolved from water dwelling animals long ago, as we all know).
Factfulness: The now deceased Hans Roslings’ book about how we don’t know how to properly perceive the world and that actually things are better than we think. I’ve always been a bit of an optimist, so this book was a nice break in a way. I think a good lesson from the book is that if you’re presented with a positive or negative trend with respect to progress and asked to choose the correct one, there’s a pretty good although not total chance that the positive trend is correct. Either way, careful analysis of data is the only real way to know the truth, and your perceptions can easily warp this even if you have a negative perception and want to help.
James K. Polk and the Expansionist Impulse: My wife has this book, and it’s relatively short, so I thought I’d give it a read. I learned more about James Polk than I probably would have under any other circumstance. Polk was a Jacksonian, expansionist president who paved the way for America’s continuing expansion into the west (for better or for worse, ultimately). He was one of the hardest working and most disciplined people I’ve ever read about apparently devoting his entire presidency to his work and scoffing at any opportunities for entertainment or respite. He chose not to run for a second term, and I think it probably would have killed him. This decision was apparently part of a a deal with the non-Jacksonian Democrats that originally secured his candidacy.
Your Five-Year-Old: These books were recommended to me as a series for books on parenting. They go up to Your Fourteen-Year Old, I think. I chose to read this one first because my stepson is five. It was interesting to see how my stepson matched the book in some ways and completely diverged in others. I think I learned some small but important lessons from the book.
Your One-Year-Old: By the way… I’m having a baby this year. There is no “Your Zero-Year Old.” I suppose dealing with the personality of babies isn’t something that comes up much, but I was really hoping for some advice there. Oh well. I enjoyed this book, and I think the biggest thing I took from it was that one-year-olds go through quite a progression of different personalities, and there’s a bit difference between a 1 year old and an 18 month old. Seems like they can be pretty ornery once they learn the concept of “no” which apparently happens first.
Bad Blood: This was one of my favorite books last year in more or less the same vein as Dan Harmon’s Disrupted that I read last year. It’s a critical profile and look at the history of Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes. I would recommend this book to anyone. The story keeps getting weirder and weirder, and it’s a reminder that we should always be skeptical about grand new ideas and opaque business practices.
The Wealth of Nations Book 1: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations is a work by Adam Smith that can be inelegantly described as the history of the emergence of capitalism. It’s split into five books, and I treated each as a separate book. This was definitely my favorite read last year. The book is obviously very long, dense, and it has a lot of sesquipedalian old-timey flowery language, but the concepts it comprises are relatively simple in a way that most should be able to understand them similar to Darwin’s Origin of Species. This was done intentionally. Book 1 focuses on labor and the division of labor. I’ll restate that many of the books concept’s seem obvious, but of course everything is obvious once you know it. I learned too much to remember and write down here, and it’s difficult to summarize. A couple of my favorite points are the fact that the value of precious metals comes from their reusability and durability. The frivolities that can be constructed from them become more valuable to wealthier societies whereby resources such as food are more valuable to the less well-off. The book also brought up one of my favorite points: people overvalue risk and undervalue loss.
The Lean Startup: This book talks about what you really want to get out of a startup, which is education, and how that’s difficult to monetize. It describes strategies for iterating on ideas that may not always work out. It maintains that every organization, no matter how large, can and should employ a startup mentality of having a cadre of entrepreneurs who gather and iterate on information as quickly as possible. I really liked the ideas in the book in general, and particularly their potential for employment under a larger umbrella since it pertains to me.
The Wealth of Nations Book 2: This book discusses profits and stocks, and the employment of capital. My favorite point from the book is that societies where profits are highest are moving fastest to ruin. Reinvestment is key.
How to Change Your Mind: Another Michael Pollan book. This is about psychedelics and particularly LSD and psilocybin mushrooms. I enjoyed both the historical and scientific aspects of the book and the autobiographical stories about Pollan’s experiences. It was a bit of a shame to learn that Timothy Leary essentially set back or ruined psychedelic exploration for everyone for such a long period of time. If you have any passing interest in psychedelics (not even necessarily to use them, but even an academic curiosity), I would definitely recommend reading this book.
The Number Devil: This is an old German book (I read an English translation) teaching what I would say are middle-to-high-school level mathematics concepts. It was fun to go over these concepts again since I certainly don’t remember their details or use most of them day-to-day, and it they were captured in a cute story. I didn’t really care for the changing of math terms to silly names (e.g. root to rutabaga) and felt it was a distraction, but otherwise I think this is an excellent book for people of all ages to read if they’re interested in math.
Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (audio): To be honest, I struggled to focus on this book for some reason. I think it was in part due to the fact that the sentences really go on and on, and that’s really tough to wrap your head around when it’s being read to you. One thing I remember the most is that you should be pooping once a day at an appropriate time. Bear yourself with equanimity, and act as if the gods exist.
Portnoy’s Complaint: Philip Roth died this year, and I was curious about this book since it was in a Family Guy joke about a port noise complaint. It’s a book presented as a rant from a narcissistic, nihilistic, socialist, sex-addicted man with a Messiah complex to his therapist about everything leading up to his apparent sexual dysfunction. I can certainly see this as a pioneering book in some way, but it didn’t personally shock me at all.
Bullshit Jobs: David Graeber’s anti-capitalist screed has some points that are difficult to ignore: “capitalism” as he refers to in the book does not breed out inefficiency. He also posits that people shouldn’t have to work for a living if they don’t want to, or that there shouldn’t be a stigma around people who don’t work.
Graeber is an anarcho communist which is very far off from my own viewpoints, but I do have to admit that he brings up some good points in the book, and I particularly agree that there is a lot of money being given to people to do a job that takes them substantially fewer than 40 hours to do — but I much prefer the progressive (in terms of seeking progress) mentality in something like Eric Reis’ The Lean Startup for improving the spiritual achievement of people than the nihilistic reproach of work in general.
However, I think that his attitude of pointing the finger at “capitalism” which essentially seems to boil down to people having to do things they don’t want to do to subsist, is at the core of the spiritual problems of human experience is categorically wrong. Graeber presents the problem: people are doing things they don’t want to do or even wasting time they don’t need to, we’re paying for it, and it’s having a negative psychological impact on them. I don’t buy that if people in general were freer to do whatever they wanted that it would make a substantial improvement to society as such — when we were mostly agriculturalists there was a lot more free time, especially seasonal free time, than there is now, and people still suffered from a lack of meaning. People also readily moved to the slums of large cities and lived in that hardship instead of continuing to live as agriculturalists. It’s a tough problem to solve, but letting people do whatever they want to do isn’t much of a solution. What’s the spiritual difference between paying someone to waste time creating a plan that won’t be implemented, and giving them enough to subsist so they can spend time writing a play that no one will see? This also ignores the economic reality of wealth creation: we can’t make jobs more economically viable because we want to or because we think they should be.
Graeber ends the book by saying that he doesn’t like to offer policy solutions to problems like these, but then he offers one anyway: universal basic income. He posits that this will heal the spiritual deficit of people for having to do work they don’t want to do by allowing them to live while doing the things they do want to do even though they wouldn’t get paid for them (ignoring that people might want to make more than UBI regardless), give people the opportunity to create more works of art for the enhancement of our culture, and cure cancer (yes, that’s really in there)! He talks to feminist scholars who say that universal basic income has been a big improvement for the lives of women in India where it’s been implemented by allowing them the freedom to make their own choices and escape from what is common patriarchal abuse. I couldn’t find any information about that — I’m not saying it’s wrong, but another data point to consider is the effective UBI in Alaska that leads to increased domestic violence against women because of increased alcohol consumption fueled by the additional availability of this money.
No matter what I think of Graeber or his politics, though, I have to admit this book definitely had an impact on me. After all, I’ve written several paragraphs about it. He does present an interesting problem, and I hope I can be part of a positive solution.
Speaking of India: This book was recommended to me by someone I work with in HR. It’s written for both non-Indians who work with Indians, and Indians who work with non-Indians (mainly in the US and Europe). I have some familiarity with some Indian cultural norms and how they differ from the US, and this book definitely filled in some gaps. I wouldn’t call it a “must read” for anyone working with an Indian team. Still, if you are curious about Indian working culture, or if you want to do whatever you can do improve your communication with Indian team members or vice versa, this book is a good starting point.
The Wealth of Nations Book 3: This book discussions the accumulations of wealth, the desire for nations and families to continue to accumulate wealth, and the impacts that economic impacts thereof. I find some notions of the book particularly interesting… rather than “too big to fail,” there is “so big it will fail.” The ownership of large properties and the subsequent inability to improve on them is offered as an example. This is (although I think they pretty much all are) the anti-regulation book. Yeoman benefit more from their freedom to do commerce than from any governmental regulations, particularly restrictions on commerce.
The Wealth of Nations Book 4: This book talks about the origins of money, colonialism, and trade. Staunch anti-capitalists may be surprised to hear Adam Smith’s reproach of most of Europe’s approach to colonialism on the false basis of spreading Christianity. He points out that the discovery of additional raw materials will mainly serve to devalue existing raw material — particularly durables such as metals. He talks about the negative impacts of any governmental or other restrictor of trade such as the Dutch East India company. No love is lost for that company which he calls worse than useless. He points out that increased restrictions on international trade lead to an increase in the crime of smuggling. This is because if you make something illegal that a generally reasonable person would naturally do as a matter of course, you make a criminal.
Notes from Underground: This is a relatively short Dostoevsky novel told from the point of view of a reprehensible former Russian government worker in the 1860s. Dostoevsky is an amazing psychologist, and I found this book very unusual and interesting. Without a better way to explain it, it told a story that would otherwise be uninteresting or even disgusting in some ways, but I was enthralled by it. The toughest spots were where I said “yes, I am that guy” about the narrator’s behavior. It’s good to learn about yourself, and I think that Dostoevsky can help you do that in ways that may surprise you.
Hello World: Mathematician Hannah Fry’s book that attempts to demystify the future of artificial intelligence on society. I learned a lot of interesting things in this book like the basics of Bayes, and there are a lot of great stories about the past and future of AI. I liked the books ultimate message: that AI is a tool that’s largely going to improve humanity rather than get in anyone’s way in the way that some people are predicting. We just have to learn to integrate it properly, and we’re frankly a long way off from it solving anything close to all of our problems.
The Secret: This book was given to my wife by her mother. I read it on a bit of a whim, and it was a relatively easy read. I’m not the kind of person who’s into metaphysical self help, and I was hoping I would find this book funnier in an ironic sense than I actually did. To be honest, the book is fine. There’s something to be said for positive thinking, and I suppose this book says some of it.
The Wealth of Nations Book 5: This book focuses on public policy, and it’s actually my least favorite of The Wealth of Nations books. I was enraptured by the other four, but I felt that this was the weakest. Adam Smith spends the first four books talking about the negative impacts of public policy, but in this book he makes an attempt to theorize about public policy. I also feel like this book has the fewest modern applications. The Wealth of Nations was written around 1776, and I do enjoy Smith’s allusions to the “present disturbances,” referencing the American Revolution. Even though it’s my least favorite, this book does bring up interesting historical points such as the formation of a military and other public works in large, prosperous nations.
The Fatal Conceit: This book was given to me by a libertarian friend of mine when I told him I was reading The Wealth of Nations. The subtitle of the book is “The Errors of Socialism,” so I think it should be easy for most people to predict where this book goes. At the risk of revealing too much about myself, I really enjoyed this book, and I thought that it made a lot of excellent points. Vices can turn into virtues in surprising ways.
On The Wealth of Nations: Modern author P. J. O’Rourke’s informative and humorous analysis of The Wealth of Nations. This was given to me by the same friend. I really enjoyed this book, and I definitely got some information out of it that I had missed in my original read-through of Wealth. If you’ve read The Wealth of Nations or you want to but don’t have time to read such a long book, I’d highly recommend this one.
Small Fry: Lisa Brennan-Jobs’ (Steve Jobs’ daughter with Chrisann Brennan) autobiography. I really enjoyed this book — it painted a picture, and there were tastes, scents, feelings, and different artistic motifs that I could feel myself in throughout the book. It was a very interesting profile of Steve Jobs and a good story in general about a somewhat dispossessed child of a highly successful person. I wish that the book hadn’t focused so much on Lisa’s relationship with her father and been more personal. Most of Lisa’s adulthood is omitted from the book. However, it was already relatively long, so I suppose this is the choice that was made. It’s an excellent book regardless.
The Possessed: This is also called Demons and The Devils, but this is the title of the version that I read. This is another book by Dostoevsky that’s more or less about the rise of Russian nihilism in the 1860s. Apparently this is a good book to read alongside The Gulag Archipelago since the attitudes of 1860s nihilism and liberalism led to the Russian Communist revolution and created the gulags. Dostoevsky is a very psychological writer who can make you see things in yourself that you might not have known about. These can be terrifying things. This book is very long, but it would be hard for me to say that any particular part of it should be taken out.
The Gulag Archipelago Book 1: This is the first book of the full-length Gulag Archipelago which is divided into three books. I really love how this book starts. It gave me a vision of a period piece movie from the 1940s and World War II. This book is very dense, and it moves around very quickly. Alexandr Solzhenitsyn wrote it while in the gulags which explains the continuous jumping between stories and themes even within the same chapter. Book 1 is largely focused on how people were brought to the archipelago. It is much too dense to go into a lot of detail for the purposes of this post, but there were a couple of things that stood out to me. The book actually managed to make me cringe when Solzhenitsyn described some interrogation tactics and specifically physical beating on the buttocks with a truncheon that goes straight through to a starved zek’s sciatic nerve and explodes into pain at the top of their head. Solzhenitsyn also doesn’t hold back his criticism of modern political figures such as Churchill and Roosevelt and some of their ineffectual handling of the Russian political situation.
The Gulag Archipelago Book 2: This second book goes into a lot of detail about life in the archipelago and its genesis and spread using the analogy of a cancer. I was surprised by the number of exclamation points used in the book — it’s basically a book about a man shouting at the blind tyranny of the state. Everything in the book is shocking, and my emotions reading it ranged from disgust to humor… Apparently in order to meet Soviet quotas, people had to lie about the amount of lumber generated by the gulags. Even though there was a shortage, the recorded surplus resulted in the disposal of a large amount of lumber — a Sisyphusian waste of human beings’ productive time.
The Gulag Archipelago Book 3: The final book talks more about life in the archipelago and ends with Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s exile and ultimate release. He goes into detail about how he wrote this tome while still imprisoned in the Gulag and includes some close calls. One of my favorites stories from all three books is in this one: the story of an attempted zek escape. Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel Prize in Literature and helped expose and speed the demise of the USSR with The Gulag Archipelago. I wasn’t a fan of the USSR before reading this book, and I think it teaches a lesson that intention towards morality doesn’t have any relationship to moral outcomes. It’s also surprisingly easy for terrible things to spread quickly and for huge groups of people to be complicit in them.
The Cheese Bible: This is a book that talks about all different kinds of cheese. The second half is a recipe book for preparing cheese dishes. I skipped most of the recipes, but I love cheese and cheese facts. This was a pleasant way to cap off my reading for the year. I’ll have to read this one again someday.
Watch 50 Movies
I consider movies to be culturally significant. I also watched about 50 movies last year. I could watch 50 movies a year for the rest of my life and never finish watching all of the classic movies I would want to see. I’m always shocked at how many movies there actually are and even how many movies come out each year that I would want to see. I didn’t discriminate, and many of the movies in this list were not chosen by me.
For better or for worse, the majority of movies that I ended up watching last year were kid’s movies. I suppose that’s a consequence of having a five-year-old. Many of the movies could still be considered as classics nonetheless.
When Animals Dream: My wife picked this out thinking that it would be a funny B horror movie. The movie was actually higher quality than any of us expected, but it still fell a bit short and the pacing and story were very odd. I think that we didn’t like it much since it wasn’t what we were expecting.
Desire: This was a very silly Argentinian Bollywood-esque movie from 2017 that was set in the 1970s. It’s a ridiculous and over-the-top romantic/sexual comedy/drama. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit in part because of and not in spite of the ridiculousness.
Monsters Vs. Aliens: A friend and I actually had an idea for a movie like this in high school. I don’t remember a ton of details about this movie, so I guess it didn’t have a big impact on me after all. That being said, I do remember liking it quite a bit. I think it’s probably a bit underrated as a fun kid’s movie.
Sahara: This is a 2017 French-Canadian CGI kid’s movie. We watched the English dub. I’m not sure if the dub itself diminished my perception of the quality, but I thought this movie was very bad. It seemed like the studio was a little bit behind in terms of story writing, and the animation was also of mediocre quality.
Let the Right One In: My wife really likes this movie and book. I enjoyed it although I thought the beginning was a bit tough to get through and moved slowly. Once the boy and the vampire start hanging out, things get fun and interesting.
The Cloverfield Paradox: We watched this movie after we saw it advertised during the Superbowl… some strange guerilla advertising. I thought that this movie was pretty bad. I didn’t find it particularly entertaining except for some of the visuals. The story was convoluted, and its injection into the Cloverfield universe was blatantly contrived. My wife liked it, though.
The LEGO Ninjago Movie: I have barely any memory of this movie that I watched at a kids birthday party. I remember that a cat was the final enemy of the movie … a real-world cat fighting against cartoon lego people. Maybe skip this one unless you’re a young child.
Open House: A quintessential nothing happens horror movie. I don’t usually put links in my blog posts, but if you haven’t seen this yet I recommend you stop to watch it first: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSEqVqmYhrk — I thought that most of this movie was boring, dumb, not scary, and ultimately pointless. I actually kind of liked the ending though.
Gerald’s Game: This movie is based on a Steven King short story, I think. I liked this movie a lot — it managed to tell an engaging story that only takes place in one spot. The premise seems silly to me, and the ending is just nutso, but I enjoyed the movie overall.
Moon: A fun sci-fi movie that explores the consequences of personality cloning, if such a thing could exist. This is another movie that only takes place in one spot although it has a lot of interesting visuals. I liked this movie.
Emoji Movie: This movie has garnered a lot of hatred, and although the premise is very stupid I actually don’t think the movie is that bad. It’s basically every kid’s movie cliche put together with emojis pasted on top, but it’s not awful for a kid’s movie. I think a lot of the backlash is from hatred for emojis in general or misguided attempts to use Internet culture as a theme in movies.
Cube: I’d seen this movie before. I showed it to my wife, and she really liked it. It’s an interesting concept for a thriller sci-fi movie, and considering it only takes place on one set it’s actually really well-done. If I have one criticism of the movie, it’s that the cop character didn’t need to be a pedophile or whatever. I think it would have been better if he had been a good guy who just snapped at the end.
Cube 2: Hypercube: This isn’t really a sequel to Cube. It’s just Cube again except that they attempted to make the traps in the cube structure more outlandish. I thought that the story was very stupid. It’s a not much more than a worse version of Cube. It does introduce some fictional lore with respect to the Cube universe, but I really didn’t need that.
Happy Anniversary: I didn’t remember this movie, so I had to look it up to get a refresher. I don’t remember many of the details of this movie, and I can’t remember whether I liked it or thought it was stupid. I think that I did like it, and it does have a sweet ending.
Friend Request: This is a horror movie that my wife and I actually had to stop watching one night because it was freaking us out a bit too much, but we finished it later. It’s really not that scary though, but it does have some spooky visuals. It’s a decent B horror movie.
The Week Of: I didn’t remember this movie either. I guess there’s something about Netflix movies that makes them not very memorable. I think that this one was mildly funny, and it does have some sweet moments too. There are far better movies to watch.
Desolation: I remembered this movie, but I didn’t remember that this was the title. This is actually a decent thriller movie. If you like movies where people go on hikes and bad things happen to them, it’s a good choice.
Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay: This movie is as stupid as you would expect, but it does have some funny moments. I didn’t really like the first Harold and Kumar that much, but if you liked it, I think you would like this movie too.
Dr. Strange: I’m not a huge fan of superhero or marvel movies. I only knew Dr. Strange from the Spider-Man cartoon that I watched what I was a kid. I liked him in the show, but his origin story made him kind of lame to me. The movie is fine, I guess.
Leap!: A French children’s movie originally titled Ballerina. We watched an English dub on Netflix. There’s something about the dubs of these animated movies that makes them kind of silly to me. I feel like it detracted from the movie. It’s a decent movie with good animation and a good story that’s a little silly at times. I’d put it in the upper-half of kid’s movies I watched last year, though.
The 40 Year Old Virgin: I had never seen this movie before. I didn’t like it. Sorry.
Coco: I have to admit that I didn’t get to see the beginning of this movie. I really liked the animation and the story even though I thought that the bad guy was unnecessarily bad for no reason.
The Clapper: This was a fun romantic comedy. It’s also a cautionary tale about what can happen to a person who gets too much public exposure. Ed Helms plays Ed Helms.
The Incredibles 2: I wouldn’t say that this movie was disappointing, but if Disney’s implication is that they were working on this movie for 14 years that definitely didn’t come through. It didn’t have any real emotional elements to it that so many great Disney and Pixar movies have.
47 Meters: This is a B horror movie about a couple of girls stuck in a shark cage after something goes wrong on a trip to Mexico. I can’t really remember if I liked it much or not, but I think I thought it was pretty silly.
Bolt: This was the first time I’d seen Bolt, and it was actually much different than I expected. I really liked the movie quite a bit. This is one of my favorite kid’s movies that I saw last year.
The Flash (LEGO): There’s something about all the LEGO movies and shows that makes them silly. I think they’re written that way on purpose. This is a very silly superhero movie. It’s all right for kids who like LEGOs and superheroes I’d imagine.
Father of the Year: Another Netflix movie starring David Spade as a terrible father more or less. This movie is exactly what you would expect, and it’s as bad as you’d expect.
The Greatest Showman: A semi-fictionalized musical biography of P. T. Barnum starring Hugh Jackman. My wife loves this movie, and I really liked it too. The music is good, the dancing is great, and the story and visuals are charming and engaging. I’d recommend this one, especially if you like musicals.
Avengers the Age of Ultron: I’d seen this movie before, but my wife hadn’t seen it. As I said earlier, I don’t really care much for the Marvel movies and superhero movies in general. I thought that making Ultron snarky was an odd choice, but maybe that’s how he is in the comics. I do like the Vision character, though.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2: There was something about this movie that I didn’t really like. It seemed way too coincidental that Star Lord and his father got back together, and at least as far as I could tell his father wasn’t seeking him out in any particular way. Anyway, I liked the first of these movies okay, but again the Marvel movies in general aren’t really my thing.
The Imitation Game: This is a biopic of Alan Turing. I guess you could say Alan Turing is one of my heroes being a software developer and all, and I really liked this movie. If you’re interested in Alan Turing or some WWII history this is definitely one to check out. It’s also a good movie in general with a good story and good performances.
Coraline: I had never seen Coraline before. I think that this is my favorite kid’s movie that I saw last year. I’ve watched it again since, and I still enjoy it quite a bit. I love the animation, and I hold the story, themes, and lesson in high esteem.
Spider-Man: Homecoming: I thought it was kind of funny that Michael Keaton was in Birdman and then also plays a bird-themed supervillain in this movie. This movie wasn’t memorable enough to me for me to really care about it.
Unbreakable: I hadn’t seen this movie before, but reading the M. Night Shyamalan biography got me interested in it. I really enjoyed this movie. It’s a unique and refreshing take on superhero movies, and I hope that the sequel that comes out this year is good.
Peter Rabbit: This is a mediocre-at-best kid’s movie. I think it’s a little bit too silly, and I don’t think that anyone really cares about Peter Rabbit anymore.
Next Gen: This is second only to Coraline for my favorite kid’s movie of last year. I liked everything about this movie.
The Giant King: A Thai CGI movie from 2012. I don’t know why it’s called The Giant King since that’s never referenced anywhere in the movie that I remember. Apparently this is based on a Thai myth. Again, the dub and the lower-quality animation make this movie seem very silly. I liked some elements of it, but I rolled my eyes a lot more.
The Land Before Time IV: I suppose all of The Land Before Time movies are beloved by young children. This one was okay, but I don’t really see why it needs to exist in addition to the first movie. I’m not sure which of those movies I’ve seen. I thought it was funny hearing Tress MacNeille do her Agnes Skinner voice in this movie.
The Nightmare Before Christmas: It had been a while since I’d seen this movie. It’s tough for me to pick this movie vs. Coraline. I think I like Coraline better, but this movie definitely has the edge in music. I think it may be better for younger children — Coraline is better for older children.
Bee Movie: I love Jerry Seinfeld. This movie is incredibly silly in all the good ways. You can skip it, but if you want a mildly entertaining movie that’s a bit different, I’d recommend it.
The Swan Princess: I honestly didn’t pay a ton of attention to this movie. It was okay.
Fantasia 2000: Classical music with entertaining artwork to match and celebrity guest appearances. It’s great for what it is.
Crumb: A documentary about cartoonist Robert Crumb. This movie is a bit scary in a way. It’s hard to believe how some people think and live, and it’s a chilling psychological profile of R. Crumb and his brothers and their relationship with their overbearing mother. I think that this might have been my favorite movie of last year. It’s a must if you like documentaries.
Bohemian Rhapsody: I thought that Rami Malek killed it as Freddie Mercury. If you like Queen, I think that you’ll probably love this movie. My wife did. I’ve heard that there was some backlash about it, but I’m not really sure why unless they got something biographical that was really wrong… but to that I say “come on people, it’s just a movie.” You could get upset about the same sorts of things with respect to The Imitation Game. Earlier in the day before we saw this movie, my wife watched Freddie Mercury’s top 10 performances or something like that on YouTube, so I got to see the movie’s recreation of those performances. They definitely paid attention to detail.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000): This movie is okay I guess… but it really bothers me that there’s an explanation for The Grinch’s cynicism. I preferred him as being crotchety for no good reason.
Toy Story: I haven’t seen this movie in a very long time. One thing that I noticed is that the plot is incredibly simple. That isn’t strictly bad, and I think that it really works for the purposes of this movie. It deserves to be the classic that it is. I like other kid’s movies better now… I think Coraline is better, but Toy Story will always be great. One thing that bugged me that I had forgotten about is the black dot on Woody’s forehead for most of the movie.
Wreck It Ralph: We saw this movie in anticipation of seeing its sequel. I like video games, and I liked this movie. One thing I didn’t really get is that Vanellope is glitched in the game, but this glitch is apparently also her intended special power. The movie’s okay.
Ralph Breaks the Internet: This is similar to the Emoji Movie in a lot of ways. I thought that the movie itself was all right, and the story was fine. However, there was a lot about the movie that made me roll my eyes… I’m not sure why anyone would care to watch old viral videos with an old video game character in them over and over. Also, my understanding of eBay auctions is that they’re second price auctions, so they wouldn’t have had to pay much more than the original bid anyway.
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs: I always loved this book as a child, and I got it for my stepson who also loves it. The movie is quite different from the book, but that’s to be expected since the book is very short and isn’t structured in a way that would make sense for a movie. I liked this movie okay. It’s got a lot of fun animation, and it got a couple of laughs out of me.
I was a little bit more flexible in my goals for 2018 than I was for 2017 where I had set out a lot of specifics. I got married in 2018. That was kind of a big deal. Other than that, I didn’t do anything too interesting.
I had wanted to get to 150,000 rep on Stackoverflow. I might have been able to do it if I had worked at it, but I ended up doing other things. I have less time for Stackoverflow nowadays which is too bad because I’ve already really enjoyed participating in it. It doesn’t have the same impact for me anymore, though.
I also wanted to make 1500 commits on GitHub the previous year (I didn’t), and I had the same goal for this year. I’ll reiterate that this isn’t a great metric for tracking progress, but it’s at least a general indicator of progress. I definitely did a lot better this year in terms of contributions with 1,839 last year. However, those were contributions which also includes code reviews and pull requests in addition to commits. I think this might be a better metric.
I had set a goal to walk for 30 minutes a day in 2018. I definitely didn’t do that. There are lots of reasons for it: chief among them is that I don’t often have time to go on these walks until after my stepson goes to bed. My wife would feel left out if I went alone, but we can’t leave him alone either. This isn’t a very good excuse for skipping the walks, and I’d like to try to do more of them in 2019 although I won’t set such a hard goal.
The previous year (2017) I had set a goal to make 5 apps that were not related to work. I also set a more general but similar goal for 2018 — to make apps not related to work. I think that I did better in 2018, although it depends on how you measure making an app. I didn’t really complete any apps to my satisfaction, but I made a lot of progress on a few apps and other projects. I definitely didn’t do as much of this as I would have liked, though. Finally, I set a goal to brew beer twice which I didn’t do. I succeeded in many other culinary exploits at least.
Overall, I think that I accomplished more in 2018 than in 2017. In addition to the obvious achievement of getting married, I actually consumed 50 books as I set out to do. I think I got more out of the books in 2018 and read for longer overall. I watched 50 movies, and I definitely did a lot more software development work even though it still wasn’t enough compared to what I wanted to do. I’m just happy that I’m making progress.
My Goals for 2019
I was very ambitious last year, and I think that I’ll have to tone down my ambition a bit for this year if I want to succeed. On the other hand, it’s good to set goals beyond what you can normally achieve… at least by a little bit.
I’m having a baby in 2019, so that will be something.
- Exercise more often. This is a very vague goal, and due to its vagueness I’ll probably fail. I’d like to incorporate more walking and other activity into my life. Once my wife has our baby, I’m hoping we can do this together.
- Read 50 Books. I’ll definitely try to do this again, although I’ll still have to temper my book choices somewhat since there are some very long books I want to read. There are a few relatively short books I want to read as well. Of course, the baby will be a much higher priority than the reading.
- Watch 50 Movies. I think that this is a pretty easy goal to reach naturally, but looking back on the 2018 list I didn’t really watch many particularly impactful movies. I’ll have to make sure to include at least some classics that I haven’t seen in my 2019 catalog.
- Make 2,000 Contributions on GitHub. I almost got to 2,000 last year, so I shouldn’t have to push myself too hard to get to 2,000 this year.
- Keep Making Apps. This isn’t much of a goal per se, but I don’t want to abandon my goal of working on apps non-professionally. I just don’t think I can set a particular number, and measuring completion of the apps will be difficult to do. I plan to make a lot more progress on this front this year.