New Big Project

For quite a long time, I have wanted to write a book and try to sell it. For a multitude of reasons, I haven't. As of yesterday, no more! I signed up for 30x500 to get started. I'm hoping to find out ways to determine if my idea will actually help people, thus making it worth doing. Am I sure about this? Absolutely not. Who do I think I am to write a book? I'm not an expert at anything. It will probably be the worst book ever and will sell zero copies. However, I've decided that this is something I want to try. I've decided that being afraid of failure is worse than failure itself. I want to give it a try. And the 30x500 class is a way to help me hedge my bets. It cost me $1900 and my goal is to make that back within the next three years. (Official date: March 8, 2020) Doable? I have no idea. But I'm going to put in the work on it. I've deleted everyone I follow on Twitter, except people that I know personally. So I shouldn't be wasting any time there. I've also deleted all the bookmarks for blogs I like to read and youtube videos I like to watch. Again to not waste time. Lastly, I've created a new account on my laptop to use for studying and writing. So all of the programs and things that I have on my laptop aren't available to this second account and thus I can't have them open while I'm working. I've created a website for it. http://www.pickabout.com Let's get started!

First Book Down

I started it last year, but finished it in 2017. So "Thank You for Being Late" by Thomas Friedman is the first book I read this year. It's all about how so many aspects of life are speeding up and how that's affecting people in different ways. I'm not sure that I agree with many of his ideas, but it was an interesting read. I have to say my favorite part of the book was when he described the town in Minnesota that he grew up in. I'm sure everyone didn't get the same sense of it that he did. But it was nice to hear about a place where different people worked together and weren't all just looking out for themselves. I like to think that most of the country is still like that, but it's getting harder and harder to do so. If nothing else, this book got me to go to a neighborhood advisory meeting and join the group. I'm happy about that.

I had another book from the library that I took back after reading about 10 pages. There are too many books that I want to read for me to suffer with one I don't find interesting. Now I'm reading another book by the same author of the one I just returned. This one is "Thinking in Systems" by Donella Meadows. I'm on page 17 and so far find this one much more interesting.

Birthday Project Result

I took my book out of the press this morning. It's not perfect, but it's not at all bad for my first attempt.

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The cover looks good.

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This is my first mistake. I glued the cover paper too much to the text block. I think I maybe did 1/4" of glue. It should have been much less.

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Here you can see a bit better that I glued too high on the cover.

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And I made the same mistake on the back cover.

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The back looks good. But the cover overhangs the pages of the book too much. I think instead of adding and extra inch of leather for the cover, I should have just added and extra 1/2" to fold over.

But, by and large, I'm happy with the result. And now, I'm going to start using it as my own cookbook.

Birthday Project Part 2

My post yesterday wasn't accurate. I hadn't yet finished my text block. I still had to put the cover pages on it and the reinforcing paper. Before that though, I had to glue the binding. I made a book press out of a couple of pieces of wood and some clamps.

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I put two coats of glue on the binding. Then I pressed the book. I just put it back between the wood and put some weights on it. In the picture below, this is not nearly enough weight. The pages were a little wrinkly.

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Next, I glued my orange cover pieces on. This is a little heavier paper.

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After that, another piece of paper is added for extra support.

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At this point, my text block was done. Now I just had to figure out how to make a cover. I didn't really want this to have a thick, hard cover, but something thinner. Then I remembered that I bought a piece of leather to play around with, so why not use that. I traced the book outline, then added 1/2 inch extra for the cover to go beyond the paper and then another 1" to fold over. And I cut it out.

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This is the point where I actually realized that my weights on wood wasn't going to work. So I ran to Ace Hardware and bought some bolts, washers and wingnuts and built a sort of press. I then put the text block in there to try to flatten all the pages.

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Back to the cover. I was supposed to trim the corners sort of like below for folding. I'm not exactly sure how they were supposed to be cut, but I was close. (Though in the end not close enough.)

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Next I had to glue the parts of the cover to fold over. In the video, the person used hot glue. I don't have a hot glue gun, so I just used the pva glue I had been using. In the photo below, I can tell you that I used WAY too much glue. It made a big mess.

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Since the leather was sort of thick, I tried putting my weights on the edge to hold it down.

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That really didn't work, so I got a board and some clamps and used them. This worked much better.

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On the last edge, I finally figured out how much glue I should be putting down. Below shows how much I squeezed out of the jar and then how it looked after I smoothed it with my finger.

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And here is my final cover. Note that the corners are not near square, which fits with my inability to make anything square. But it's not horrible for my first attempt ever.

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Now, because I'm just like Cowboy X from Sesame Street, I had to use my brand.

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Based on the horrible smell that the brand made on the leather, I never want to be on a farm when they are branding cows.

Now the last step is to glue the text block to the cover. Here I'm laying it out to make sure I know where to put glue and where to put down the text block.

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I didn't take a picture of it with the glue on it, but here's how it looked before putting it in the press.

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And here it is, drying in the press. I added a couple more clamps to try to make it as smooth as possible.

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I'll leave it to dry overnight and see how it all turns out tomorrow. Fingers crossed that it's not too horrible.

Along with the YouTube video I posted yesterday for how to create the text block, I also referenced these videos.

Citizen by Louise W. Knight

I just finished the book Citizen by Louise W. Knight. The subtitle is "Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy". It's basically a biography of Jane Addams. Honestly, I didn't really know much about her, except that she founded Hull House and that there's a grade school near where I grew up that was named after her. I knew Hull House was a settlement house, but didn't really know what a settlement house was. The book was good in that it detailed the start of the settlement house and her life up to around 1899. The weird part was that Jane Addams died in 1935 or so. The years from the end of the book until she died were where she had become quite well-known and influential. I thought it weird that the author would end in the middle of her life. But I think she was trying to show how she went from wealthy little girl to one of the best-known social crusaders. I'll have to find another biography about her to get the rest of the story.

Since I grew up just outside Chicago, I had heard of many of the people and places in the book. I've been by Hull House many times, just never knew what really happened there. One of these days I'll have to go in. I'd also heard of George Pullman. In fact, I visited the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago over the summer. It was very interesting to hear the story of the strike and the different opinions that people had. The weirdest connection I found in the book was that Jane Addams father was a close associate of Luther Guiteau. Luther Guiteau was the father of Charles Julius Guiteau, the assassin of President James Garfield. I'm pretty sure that this was touched on in Sarah Vowell's book Assassination Vacation, that I read years ago. John Addams (Jane's father) took in the Guiteau family after the assassination to basically shield them from the press. It was an interesting connection to read about. Another was that Jane Addams and John Dewey were pretty good friends. This connection makes sense, as I can see that they were both interested in many of the same things. The book was full of interesting characters who were very involved in trying to make democracy work in Chicago.

The book was quite enjoyable, but I would have liked it better if it had covered her whole life. I think the next thing to read would be some of Jane Addams' own writings, like 20 Years at Hull House and maybe some of her other speeches. And I really should visit Hull House itself one of these days.

Reading Again

Work was fast becoming overwhelming of late, so I have taken to quitting email when I leave work and not checking it again until I get back to the office to keep my sanity. And I've been trying to close my laptop up more and stay offline. For a short time, I feared I was addicted to the internet, but I'm pretty sure I'm not. I just like to read and I was reading a lot of stuff online. These days, I've started up my weekly (or every other weekly) visit to my local library. I've read a number of books and it makes me happy. Now that I've fully accepted that I should wear reading glasses, I'm happy again reading books.

This morning, I just finished on called "Resilience" by Eric Greitens. The guy is a former (are you not supposed to say former?) Navy Seal who is writing letters to a fellow seal who is having a tough time. This is the second time that I've read a book of letters and the format is growing on me. (The first was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which I loved.) Anyway, the tag line is hard-won wisdom for living a better life. It's basically a bunch of philosophy, but pretty easy to understand. And while I'm not nor ever had any desire to be a Navy Seal or even in the military, I thought it was interesting. Plus, I'm a sucker for anything that will "help you live a better life", since I'm forever wondering if I'm doing it wrong.

What I wanted to note here were two lines from the book that really struck me. The first is this:

People who think you weak will offer you an excuse. People who respect you will offer you a challenge.

People who leave the military, especially those who are hurt in some way, are often never asked again to do anything for others. It seems like everyone thinks they've already given enough and shouldn't ask any more of them. But this then leaves the former soldiers or sailors aimless. They don't really have a purpose and no one is asking anything of them. The author says that this is why a lot of former military get messed up with drinking and doing nothing. I'm not that familiar with people in the military, but the line made a lot of sense to me (I love a good challenge, just ask my Mom.) and I couldn't stop thinking about it for quite a while.

The other bit was a passage about work/life that he says he sees in the entrance to his building. He says it's by an english minister from the 1930s. I googled it and found that it's from a guy Lawrence Pearsall Jacks (or L.P. Jacks as he's usually known).

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.

I completely agree with this. This is why I've always said that I love my job. It's really no different than what I'd be doing for fun. (Despite the recent onslaught of email I'm dealing with.) I'm starting to try to not to make a distinction between my mind and my body, which I think is good. My weeks of therapy on my knee are starting to pay off and I feel like doing more things again. I think I might like to print this out and hang it somewhere in my house. It makes me happy when I read it.

Winter Biking

Chicago had it's first snowfall of the year yesterday. A few inches. But then it got quite cold and while roads were plowed and salted, the remaining water froze to ice. Since I have been biking all year and loving it, I wanted to keep the commute to work for as long as I can. I was a bit nervous about biking in the snow, so I decided to get up early this morning and bike to the grocery store, four blocks away. It was 14 degrees when I left. I was dressed well, so the cold wasn't a concern at all. All I was worried about was the ice.

I live on a side street, so it gets plowed after all the main streets. It doesn't have a ton of traffic, but it has enough that the snow gets compacted pretty quickly into ice. I started by taking the bike right out into the street and going very slowly. I had read someplace that when you're on ice, putting your foot down usually is a very bad idea. So I rode really slowly because it was all ice until I got to Ashland. Since that's a main street, it was completely clear and dry. I had no problems there. Normally though I wouldn't ride on Ashland because it has a lot of traffic and people drive fast. But I was pretty sure that the side street I normally take was a sheet of ice, so Ashland seemed to be the better option. All was good until I got to the parking lot for the store. Again, a sheet of ice. Fortunately, there was hardly any traffic out, so I could take my time and the whole road to make my turn. So I made it there and back ok, but I wouldn't ride in that to work. Mainly because on a weekday morning, there's much more traffic around and I wouldn't feel safe at all.

The good news is that I should be able to use my own street as a gauge. If it's clear, the ride in should be fine. If it's icy, I probably shouldn't take the bike. The temperature only comes into play when it gets cold enough that the salt won't melt the ice. That's right around 15 degrees I think. So if it's colder than that, I'll check for ice. If not, I should be ok.

I also just finished this book called Frostbike by Tom Babin. He's a guy who lives is Calgary who wanted to continue biking year round. He went all over the world to find places where people do and don't bike in the winter and why. It was very interesting. But the main thing that I took away from it is that, like all things, it's all about your attitude. We've pretty much demonized winter so that all we do is complain about it. This is stupid. If you live in a northern climate, winter has always been around. What's the point of complaining about it? He also gave some good backup data to my new favorite saying (which is not in the book), "There is no inappropriate weather, there's only inappropriate clothing." I had actually been thinking that I want to take advantage of winter this year. I had been ice skating past winters and really liked it. I'd like to do that more and even just go out for a nightly walk in the cold. That's one of the things that I love about biking anytime...being in touch with the weather.

George’s Challenge

My 10 (about to be 11) year old nephew George told me that he has to read 40 books this school year. Each book needs to be at least 200 pages long. He was not looking forward to this and thought that nothing could possibly be worse. Since we are a very competitive family, I told him that it was easy and I could do it no problem. Not only that I could read 40 books twice as long as the ones he was reading. Result of my boast is that I now have to read 40 books by the end of the school year. Each of my books has to be at least 400 pages long. Stupidly, I didn't get the details of his assignment before I agreed to this. After we shook on it, I found out that I don't necessarily get to choose all the books, but that they have to be in some specific genres. So, here's what I have to read this year:

Realistic fiction - 5
Historical fiction - 5
Fantasy - 4
Science fiction - 2
Biography - 2
Nonfiction - 4
Poetry - 2 (shoot me now)
Traditional Lit - 5
Graphic novels - 1
Mystery - 2
Free choice - 8

I have to say that the challenge worked, since as George was leaving he said he was going home to read. I, on the other hand, will be visiting the library soon to get some books. And if anyone can recommend a 400 page or greater book, let me know. I'm going to be looking for ideas. And when I'm trying to get through 400 pages of poetry, I will probably not be someone anyone wants to hang out with. I'll try to warn people in advance.

Vacation!

It's rare, but every so often I take a real vacation. By this I mean, I take off at least a week from work, go someplace and just relax. In my case, that means riding my bike around and reading. This time, I spent just over a week in New York City. I went for the Five Boro Bike Tour and stayed to go to a friend's reading of his play. During my trip, I ended up biking over 130 miles and read six books. I could have done more of both. It was one of the best vacations I've ever taken.

Pictures are here: http://www.coldandheartless.com/pictures/2015-NYC/

I took Amtrak from Chicago to NYC. It's really a terrible way to travel, especially when you've been on the great trains in Europe. But since I wanted to take my folding bike and it would have cost me an extra $250 at least to fly with the bike, I took the train to save money. The money saved covered the cost of a hotel room for a night in Manhattan. So while it's an unpleasant way to travel, it was great with my bike.

My first night (Friday) was spent at a hotel pretty close to the train station. I was pretty sure that I wasn't going to want to do much after 20 hours on a train and I was right. I put the bike together at Penn Station and biked a few blocks to the hotel. Time for a shower and a piece of pizza and I was out for the night.

Saturday was all about me going to pick up my packet for the ride. I basically biked down to near the second hotel I was going to stay at to pick up my packet. I decided not to check out of the first hotel before doing this because the weather was great and the riding felt good. Plus, once I checked out, I'd be carrying my heavy backpack wherever I went. So after coming back to the hotel, I took the scenic route around Manhattan to get to the South Seaport area and my hotel. Had a small issue at the tip of Manhattan where I biked into a Lupus 5k walk. So I had to walk the bike a bit there, but it was ok. Easy to grab a hot dog from a vendor for lunch and keep moving.

Saturday rides:
http://cyclemeter.com/7dd8b7bec357e3ac/Cycle-20150502-0932
http://cyclemeter.com/7dd8b7bec357e3ac/Cycle-20150502-1036
http://cyclemeter.com/7dd8b7bec357e3ac/Cycle-20150502-1312
http://cyclemeter.com/7dd8b7bec357e3ac/Cycle-20150502-1416
http://cyclemeter.com/7dd8b7bec357e3ac/Cycle-20150502-1416

Sunday was the bike ride. I've done it twice before and really like it. However, I do think this will be the last time I do it. While it is fun, there are quite a few sections that are so crowded that you have to walk the bike. That's not really fun. I'm actually fine riding in traffic, so I don't need to be just on closed streets. So while I'm happy to have done it, I don't know that I'll sign up again.

Sunday ride:
http://cyclemeter.com/7dd8b7bec357e3ac/Cycle-20150503-0802

Monday was my day to try to save a bit of money and stay in Brooklyn. So after a couple of hours reading under the Brooklyn Bridge, I biked across the bridge to go to Brooklyn. I stayed at a hotel in the Gowanus area of Brooklyn. Since I had time before checkin, I biked to Prospect Park, which I heard was a nice park in Brooklyn. It did not disappoint. I relaxed there for a few hours reading a book before biking around to get something to eat. Then to the hotel, a shower, some more reading and hockey playoffs on tv.

Monday ride:
http://cyclemeter.com/7dd8b7bec357e3ac/Cycle-20150504-1024

Tuesday was about riding around Brooklyn. I had read that the oldest bike path in the United States was in Brooklyn, along Ocean Boulevard and it took you right to Coney Island. This seemed like the perfect ride to do, so I biked to Coney Island and then around Brooklyn. Ended the day with reading and hockey playoffs.

Tuesday ride:
http://cyclemeter.com/7dd8b7bec357e3ac/Cycle-20150505-0802

Wednesday I moved back to Manhattan, but was also the day the my pal Shadla and her husband came to NYC. They were staying in Brooklyn, so I met up with them for a late breakfast before heading back to Brooklyn. I wanted to ride over the Williamsburg Bridge to get back to Manhattan for a change of pace. I got a little lost on my way to the bridge, but eventually found it. Then we all met up back in Manhattan for dinner and the play Skylight, which was quite good.

Wednesday rides:
http://cyclemeter.com/7dd8b7bec357e3ac/Cycle-20150506-0945
http://cyclemeter.com/7dd8b7bec357e3ac/Cycle-20150506-1431

Thursday was a day to hang out in the Village, which I really didn't know until Shadla told me where we were. This made me feel incredibly cool. We had lunch and eventually found a great place (Molly's Cupcakes) for a celebratory cupcake. (The cupcakes I got in Manhattan after the ride were pathetic.) We then head up to the High Line and met up with Garin. We walked the High Line a bit, people watched and checked out the new Whitney Museum. (My take on the Whitney is to skip it. But then again, I'm not a big modern art fan.)

Thursday ride:
http://cyclemeter.com/7dd8b7bec357e3ac/Cycle-20150507-0831

Friday was a bit more riding around and then taking the subway out to Brooklyn to walk around and get lunch with Shadla and Garin. Then I finished another book in Prospect Park before coming back to Manhattan to get ready for Garin's reading. The reading was at a building, literally on Broadway in Times Square. I'd also never been to a reading before, so I found it
all pretty cool.

Friday ride:
http://cyclemeter.com/7dd8b7bec357e3ac/Cycle-20150508-0822

Saturday was just about hanging in Manhattan until my train left. It was also the only day that was a bit cooler with some rain. But it was still pretty pleasant.

Saturday ride:
http://cyclemeter.com/7dd8b7bec357e3ac/Cycle-20150509-1003

Books read:
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan--Loved the book
The World Beyond Your Head by Matthew Crawford--Liked it, but need to read it again to get all the ideas
The Tiger Wife by Téa Obreht--started off pretty good, but thought it was kind of dumb by the end. Only book from the trip that I don't recommend
Zodiac by Neal Stephenson--Picked up off clearance table at NYC Bookstore for $5. Loved it. Hard time putting it down.
Straphanger by Taras Grescoe--Fascinating book about public transit around the world. Loved it.
The Wright Brothers by David McCullough--Loved it, but I am completely fascinated by the Wright Brothers.

The Magic of Thinking Big

The title of this blog post is the name of a book that I just finished reading. It was recommended by a blog I read, though I no longer remember which one. It's a basic self-help book by David Schwartz about believing in yourself. However, it's clearly written for people in business and especially for salespeople. Note how I said salespeople there. One of the first things I noticed in the book was how it was pretty much geared toward men. In reading the first few chapters, I noticed that women were only talked about as wives for business men. This made me look at the publication date and unsurprisingly, it was 1959. I decided to continue to read and just made a mental note remember that date when I found little things that bugged me.

The good news is that I already do many of the things that the book recommends. I'm a big planner and I do think I look at myself critically and try to improve. I know I only have one life, so I try to make it the best I can. One of the points the author makes though is about luck. He doesn't think luck has anything to do with success and I think it has a lot to do with it. Granted, I have to remind myself he wrote it in 1959. At that time I guess that heads of businesses were more concerned with regular employees and their progression than people are now. And how hard-working employees would be suitably rewarded and promoted. I almost laughed out loud when I read his line about how companies all have 10-year plans. I'm thinking that a lot of business people now are more concerned about the share price in the next quarter, much less the next year.

Would this be a book that I recommend to people now? Probably not. There are definitely better books to read about living a good life, which think is more important than thinking big. I'd probably recommend "A Guide to the Good Life" by William Irvine and "Turn the Ship Around!" by L. David Marquet. These cover the same information as "The Magic of Thinking Big", but in a way more relevant to life today.