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Damn you, Jack Bauer.  Damn you.  How am I supposed to reach my goal of 150 books in one year if hours of my life are being sucked away by 24?  Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Joe, don’t worry, the season will be over soon enough.  Plus it’s only an hour, one night a week.”

            Well, sportsfans, that’s where you are wrong.  Somehow, and I’ll blame it on the haze otherwise known as college, I missed out on the phenomenon of 24.   I just started watching the show last month, and I already ache for it more than a long-haul trucker yearns for crystal meth.

I’m halfway through Season 3 right now.  If I recall correctly, Season 7 is currently running right now, so I still have three and a half more seasons to watch before I’m somewhat caught up.  That’s three and a half days of reading time down the tubes.  Something’s gonna have to give to make up for that.  Probably work.  Or sleep.  Giving up on Jack is certainly not an option.

 

 

One concept that seems to baffle people when I tell them about being in the military is the idea of “duty.”  Duty, in this case, is not something that I am expected to do due to moral or legal obligation; rather, it is referring to having to spend one day out of every six on the ship (for a full twenty-four hours).  Basically, the ship has to be ready to get underway at a moment’s notice; therefore, it is always manned with the sufficient complement of personnel needed to head out to sea.  If you take the total complement of personnel on the ship and divide that by the minimum amount needed to get the ship underway, you will get a number (most likely single digit) that indicates the number of sections the ship should be broken down into.  For example, if a ship has 300 people and the Captain feels that he needs at least 50 people to get the ship underway safely, then there will be six duty sections.  If you have a CO that’s particularly conservative and feels that they need 60 people to get underway, then there will be five duty sections.  Pretty simple, right?  Oh, and this isn’t like elementary school, we always round down.  So if there are 300 people on board and the CO feels that only 45 personnel are needed to get underway, we would still be in 6 section duty, though 300/45 is 6.66.

            So what does that mean?  It means that if you have duty, you need to spend the night on the ship until you relieve the following day.  Think of how firemen do it.  It pretty much works the same way for us, except we don’t have any greased poles to slide down (I understand that I just set myself up for a rather crude joke- possibly related to submarines. Please see past this).  So every six days I have to spend the night on the ship.  During the week, it’s not awful, but when you have duty on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, it can be pretty miserable.

            One of the positives is that it does leave quite a bit of time for reading (there’s not a whole lot else to do) and many of the books I’ve read in the past two and a half years were hammered out while I was stuck on the ship.

write it in a blog.  Ok, so perhaps that isn’t the philosophy that Mom prescribed to, but desperate times call for desperate measures and out of concern for public safety, I need to warn against reading Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond.  That is, unless you desire a soporific infinitely more potent than a cocktail of liquor, ‘ludes, and Ambien.  This book should come with the warning, “Do Not Operate Heavy Equipment While this Text is in Your Possession.”

Not only was I not blown away by this “life-altering”, “all-encompassing”, “important” book, I was downright bored.  I derived no pleasure from reading this book.  It felt more like work than my actual job does, and that’s saying something. 

I am not saying that this book is worthless.  It isn’t.  With an endless supply of coffee and a Ritalin prescription, you can probably read this book in a week, and you might actually learn something useful.  Or you might just want to wet your fingers, dip them in rock salt, and gouge your eyes out. 

The other night I completed A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson. The book details the author’s trek along the Appalachian Trail, with a history and ecology of the trail thrown in as well.
To be perfectly honest, I was amazed at how interesting this book was. Some authors have the ability to make some of the most uninteresting activities (see: hiking) enthralling. I was legitimately laughing out loud during the first half of this book, and while the remainder of the account was somewhat sobering, there was still a chuckle every few pages.
This book made me want to go out and hike…and I don’t like hiking.I am currently reading Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond. I’m afraid I won’t have as many nice things to say about this one tomorrow. This books has been the bane of my existence for months now.

Was crack the worst thing to hit Black Americans since Jim Crow?

Do police actually lower crime rates?

Is a swimming pool more dangerous than a gun?

What’s the blackest name? What’s the whitest name?  Does it matter?

The answers to some of those questions might surprise you…at least if you put a lot of stock in common sense and age-old adages.

This morning I finished reading my first book, Freakonomics, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, and above were some of the questions that were posed throughout the text.  

This was easily one of the most interesting books that I have ever read.  I cannot recall being so taken in with a work of non-fiction before.  While there may not be a unifying theme to the book, the text is nonetheless engaging and extremely thought provoking.  Levitt and Dubner pull no punches and make no apologies for their ideas, and the book is unabashedly politically incorrect.   For example, as if abortion weren’t an incendiary enough topic, they claim that it is the main contributing factor in the rapid fall of crime in the 1990’s. 

What’s most intriguing about this book is that it doesn’t have an agenda.  The authors take an open-minded consideration of all the facts and come to conclusions which often fly in the face of “conventional wisdom.”

This blog is going to chronicle my attempt to read 150 books in the next year.  I am not sure if I can achieve this or not; however, I know that there’s at least a chance I could do it, so I might as well set aim high.  My intention is to provide updates during the course of my reading, letting you know what I think of the books, as well as providing some observations on the everyday life of a voracious reader. 

In order to prevent chaos, I’m establishing some rules for myself:

  1. I have been known to reread books on occasion.  These will not count towards the total.  
  2. At least 1/3 of the books (that’s 50 for those of you who are counting) must be non-fiction.
  3. While not every book needs to be of Dickensian length, on average, they must be of a respectable size.

Some things working in my favor:

  • I already read a lot, so this isn’t exactly going to be a shock to my system
  • My fiancee is also an avid reader, so there’s quality time (sort of…) that we can spend together
  • There’s a library down the street and two used bookstores within a ten minute walk.  Lack of reading material will not be a problem
  • I have to travel to Texas for work next month and will be there, by myself, for two months.  I will have nothing better to do than sit around and read most of the time (at least during the week).

Some things working against me:

  • We are in the midst of wedding planning.  That is sure to eat up some time.
  • I have to make two solo cross country trips (by car).  That is going to eat up some days.
  • I’m transitioning to a new job and am not sure how much of my free time that is going to take- at least while I’m learning the ropes.

 

All in all, I think that they probably are going to even out and shouldn’t have too much of an impact on the overall outcome of this endeavor.

I’m going to start tomorrow,  19 January 2009.   Hopefully, a year from now, you will be able to scroll through and see my thoughts/reviews of more than 150 books.  Let the fun begin.